Can anyone advise on experiences of "kundalini" (energy rushing up the spine and out the crown of the head) during meditation? I have experienced this for years and am wondering if it has an understanding/meaning in the Theravada tradition. The energy has a physical effect (jolting the body) and a mental one (like temporarily cleaning out the conscious mind). Thank you greatly.
I've experienced this myself on a number of occasions though I never heard it called kundalini. Sometimes the experience has been exactly as you describe it. Sometimes it's a tingling feeling all over the body. Sometimes it feels like electric jolts. Sometimes the jolts manifest in physical movement.
I was advised that this was probably a manifestation of piti (rapture). This would be in the context of the rupa-jhana factors going from
- applied thought (vitakka)
- sustained thought (vicāra)
- joy/rapture/happiness (pīti)
- happiness/pleasure/bliss (sukha)
- equanimity (upekkhā)
- one-pointedness (ekaggatā)
So you could expect this to be proceeded by strengthening concentration and perhaps develop into a calmer more pleasurable state (sukka). Here is a further breakdown of piti which again feels familiar to me. Yours might fit into the last two classification - exalting and fulfilling rapture.
From conversations I had with other people the exact manifestations of these very much depend on the type of person. I'm more the anxious, type A type of person so I feel a lot of energy. I often feel it trapped in me then it comes out in great surges. Other people never feel this.
I think the important thing with these kind of experiences is not to get attached to them and not to pursue them. They are as they are and they come and go. In the experience themselves there is no insight nor is there lasting benefit. Like everything these things are ultimately impermanent and unsatisfactory.
For years I have experienced the jolts of energy rushing up my spine and releasing through my skull, giving the sensation of hair being pulled upwards during anapana sati meditation from time to time and found that it was the result of a strong positive emotion in the field of meditation practice in general and the benefits of the practice in my life. Recently I experienced , after decades of meditation practice, with great intervals though, a sudden very tangible feeling of cold air blowing slightly into my face. At first I felt somewhat stunned and distracted by it and struggled not to look for explanations for it. I am not much of a reader about theoretical elucidation on meditation practice since it became clear to me that there are many different views and interpretations about the subject and that the only way to know is to experience. Personally I never heard from my former teacher about any relation between anapana sati and prana (chi). I see this experience now as just one of those things that happen during meditation practice. The most important lesson I derive from this experience is not to let it distract me during meditation practice and around it by wanting to rationalize it. It will pass eventually. Be well.