The Japanese Yogi and healer M. Kawakami sat in a half lotus position in front of the audience while numerous sensors were attached. His skin conductivity, pulse, breathing, hand temperature and EEG were projected onto a screen behind him which the audience could observe. He began with a slow breathing meditation and the physiological recording showed slow diaphragmatic breathing–his internal physiological experience– you could see his stomach moving slightly in and out. Even though everyone was staring and waiting for him to pierce the skewers through his throat and tongue, he appeared calm. Even when a reporter asked to inspect his tongue to be sure that there was not a hole in it already, it did not bother him. He just stuck out his tongue to be inspected. He was calm in a situation where anyone else would usually be nervous. It seemed as if he really didn’t mind and did not experience performance anxiety. After a minute, he took the first unsterilised skewer and while exhaling he stuck it through the skin in front of his Adam’s apple, he paused while inhaling, and then continued pushing the skewer through the skin during the next exhalation. He then took the second skewer and pushed it through his tongue, again only pushing during exhalation and pausing during inhalation. He was relaxed and looked into the camera. After a while he removed the skewers in the same way he had inserted them. There was no bleeding from his tongue or throat. The puncture wound closed rapidly and the next day there was no inflammation in fact the puncture wounds had healed. He reported no pain during the piercing nor did his physiology show any reaction that would normally be associated with pain. During the piercing his physiology showed a predominance of alpha EEG activity, rapid heart rate that was not different from the baseline and minimal skin conductance activity.
At the same time a volunteer from the audience was monitored simultaneously while observing Mr. Kawakami’s piercing his throat and tongue. In her case there was an observable physiological response to the demonstration as indicated by an increase in breathing rate, skin conductance level, muscle tension and lowering of her peripheral temperature. She appeared to be watching with bated breath possibly anticipating the potential pain and bleeding and showed no reduction in physiological arousal even after the skewers were removed.
She commented afterwards: “I couldn’t believe my eyes. The time seemed to pass very slowly and I could almost feel the pain myself. How could he do that?”