Much has been written about the mind-body connection. Studies have shown that people can learn to control involuntary body functions consciously, using the power of their minds. But so much of the research has been challenged on the one side, and exaggerated on the other, that many of us are justifiably skeptical of claims for this kind of "mind power."
Just how much can we control our bodies using the power of our minds? Let's find out. There are simple and safe ways to experiment in this area.
Mind Power Over Autonomic Body Functions
When I was a child, my mother was studying yoga, and she taught me and my brothers how to relax and enter a meditative state. While in this state, we also found that we could "order" the blood to flow to one arm or the other, causing a noticeable increase in the warmth of that arm. These little experiments were the first time that I realized how much control our minds really can have.
We normally assume that things like where our blood flows and how our hearts beat are outside of our conscious control. This is certainly true, in part. A person can't necessarily choose right now to change their heart rate or blood flow, or brain wave frequency. However, with the right techniques and some practice, all of these involuntary body functions can be consciously controlled.
For example, your pupils get bigger automatically when it is dark. Interestingly, they also get larger when you see something you like, or just vividly imagine something you like. Once you understand this, you can quickly learn to control your pupil size with just your mind. Go watch your eyes in a mirror right now, and see what happens when you imagine someone you like, a favorite food, or anything you would like to see.
If the desire is strong and the imagined scene vivid, your pupils quickly grow in size. Try different scenes to see which work best. After an hour of practice, you should be able to consciously change your pupil size at will. Larger pupils, by the way, are a sign of receptivity that is picked up unconsciously by the person in front of you. The sense that you like that person will often make him or her feel similarly towards you. There are other uses for this trick that are beyond the scope of this article.
Using Feedback To Develop Control
Biofeedback machines, which monitor perspiration, heart rate, and breathing, can be used to learn how to control many normally involuntary body functions. Without one of these expensive machines, we have to find other ways to get feedback. Notice that in the pupil experiment above you have instant feedback by way of the mirror.
To measure heart rate, you can simply take your pulse, or have someone else do it. To speed up imagine stepping on a nail that goes through your foot. The more you develop your ability to imagine things vividly, the better this will work. Take your pulse immediately before and then during this exercise in imagination. Some use this trick to beat polygraph machines (lie detector tests), by consciously increasing both heart rate and perspiration during the "control" questions.
Meditators can eventually learn how to slow their heart and relax at will. Practice is needed, the feedback you get is what keeps you on the right path. You may not know exactly what you are doing to slow down your heart or relax your muscles, or increase your body temperature. That's okay. It is like learning to ride a bicycle. You learn how by trying and practicing, but in the end you're still not able to explain to someone how you use your muscles to balance. In a similar way you can learn to control many body functions it if you have proper feedback.
Need physical energy? You could use caffeine or other drugs, but this is area is also susceptible to mind power. Ever notice how talking about something you are passionate about "wakes" you up? There are real chemical changes that happen. With a vivid enough imagination, you can get some of the same effect by imagining such a conversation. In a more extreme example, you can create a flow of adrenaline - normally an involuntary body function - by imagining a fight with a bear, or whatever gets you going.
Clearly there are many ways to control the autonomic nervous system, or "involuntary body functions" using mind power.
By: Steve Gillman
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