Tag Archives: voluntary control

Chuck’s Place: Tell Your Body What To Do

Image by Jan Ketchel

I would like to say that, yes, it is that simple. By telling your heart to beat slower, it will beat slower. By telling your blood pressure to flow more calmly, it will flow more calmly. By telling your breathing to calm down, it will calm down. By telling your body to relax, it will relax.

And though I know from personal experience that these things are true, I  also know that our internal programming, largely molded by our social conditioning and education, tells us that such things are not possible.

The rational mind either rejects such a simplistic possibility and refuses to do it or makes half-hearted attempts a couple of times and proves its absurdity.

If we allow our accepted beliefs to control our actions without honestly testing out possibilities beyond those beliefs, we will be slow to evolve. Evolution requires that we allow life to progress through its changes. If we grasp too tightly to old beliefs without testing new possibilities we create roadblocks to our own growth and evolution.

The true scientist is not offended when the outcome of an experiment disproves the stated hypothesis. To the contrary, there is the thrill of the discovery of a new truth. Science, at its purest, is a lover of truth. Beliefs that refuse to yield to an unprejudiced experiment are no lovers of true science.

It is true that many of our cognitive, emotional and behavioral actions happen outside the control of consciousness. Our subconscious minds are the home of the programs that automatically operate our physical and mental systems.

We should be quite thankful that the subconscious automatically shoulders the directing of these systems. Imagine if we had to tell ourselves to breathe every breath we inhale throughout the day! We’d have little energy and focus to do any other activity. Yet, it is a fact that at times, when we do assume conscious control of our breathing, it can have a deeply calming effect upon our body and state of mind.

The science behind the efficacy of conscious self-regulation can be traced to the pioneering research of German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz in what he called autogenic training. The marvels of hypnosis were in deep display in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. No one could deny that the subconscious mind could be influenced to vastly change the condition of the body.

What Schultz advanced was the possibility of a direct relationship between the conscious mind and the state of the body. Rather than put the conscious mind to sleep in a state of trance and then have the subconscious controlled by the suggestions of the hypnotist, in autogenic training the conscious mind is fully awake, talking with conviction to the body and the underlying subconscious, consciously directing physical changes.

The mind, at the level of the ego, the chief navigator of daily life, can decide at any time to direct thinking and behavior. This means volitionally, with conscious intent, interrupting and overriding the currently active program operating from the center of the subconscious mind.

With calm, unbiased perseverance, one can discover, for themselves, the power they have to directly influence the state of their central nervous system. Of course there are many other ways to influence this relationship, such as through the use of medications, whose chemicals exert direct influence over the automatic programs running the body.

Energy therapies such as acupuncture also directly impact the energy channels in the body, by overriding subconscious programs causing energy blockages. Massage therapy deals with the relaxing and redistributing of energy at the level of the densest concentrations of energy, the physical body.

All these methods have their benefits and may be helpful to creating harmony within the CNS. Statements made directly to the body empower an individual to directly impact their state of being. Of course, one should always investigate the reason behind an uncomfortable body condition, as there may be a message behind it to the psyche from the body, asking it to change a dysfunctional behavior or to investigate some deeper issue.

Nonetheless, even that kind of investigation requires a calm state of being to allow for clear mental processing. For this, the simple directive from the conscious mind, telling the heart to beat slower, may prove extremely useful.

Try it. See what happens. Be a true scientist.

My heart beats slower,


Chuck’s Place: The Mastery of Terror

How to transmute terror…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Terror registers in the body as uncontrollable heart-thumping anxiety. Mastery of terror is the resumption of voluntary control over the short-circuited nervous system. This mastery involves a transmutation of powerful energies that creates highly resilient nervous system circuitry to handle the emotional impact of the greatest stressors in life.

Voluntary control requires the participation of one’s conscious ego in directing one’s response to terror. Though the order of actions to be taken are unique to one’s personal experience, each of the following are likely to be part of one’s process.

Redirect the racing mind: Oftentimes, the mind responds to anxiety by projecting and imagining scenarios that invite intensified fear to the body. This can generate repetitive cycles of overpowering future projections and ever-heightening anxiety.

The mind, in an attempt to bring order into chaos, gets helplessly trapped on the mental plane, seeking a mental narrative that will extinguish the fire in the body. In so doing, the mind dissociates from the body’s experience, and actually contributes to its distress through its mental imaginings.

Shut down mental processing by redirecting attention to the body.

Direct the breath. Breathe into the abdominal cavity. Allow the stomach to expand, like filling up a balloon. Keep the focus on the breath; refuse to engage thought. Be accepting of any amount of breath that enters the lower part of the body.

Keep breathing into the abdomen, noticing its ability to take in more air. When possible, begin to introduce counting. Occupy the mind with this task: Breathe in to the count of 4. Hold the breath for a count of 8. Exhale to the count of 8. Repeat this cycle, incessantly. Gradually this breathing exercise will shift one’s brainwaves into a more relaxed alpha state.

The Recapitulation Breath. Turn your head as much as you comfortably can to the left. Fully exhale, then immediately begin a full inhalation as you turn your head, in pace with your breath, all the way to the right side. Pause slightly as you reverse direction and begin a complete exhalation, fanning your head back to the left side. Pause, ever so slightly, and begin again a full inhalation as you turn your head back to the right, then exhaling back again to the left. Repeat this pattern as long as you wish, adjusting the pace to what feels right.

Send direct commands to the subconscious. The subconscious is command central for the CNS and all the organs of the body. It operates with default programs on automatic pilot unless redirected by the conscious mind to do otherwise. Speak directly to the heart: “Heart, slow down your beating.” State this command with the cadence you intend it to beat at. Restate this suggestion rotely, adjusting the pace and intensity of the words to the needs of your experience.

Broaden attention and suggestions to the entire body. If possible lie down, allowing the body to be fully supported and able to release. Bring attention to the feet. State: “my feet are calming, my feet are relaxed.” Restate this suggestion. Notice the release of tension, the tingling of warmth in your feet.

Proceed to the legs. Bring present awareness to the sensations in the calf muscles. State the direction: “My calf muscles are calming, my calf muscles are relaxed.” Repeat this suggestion. Notice the body’s response. Move on to the thigh muscles, torso, stomach, heart, shoulders, arms, fingers, back, neck, head, face, eyes, and jaw. When finished, start over again.

At bedtime, direct the mind to place its concerns on the shelf of tomorrow. Now is the time for restorative sleep. Refuse thoughts that tempt reentry into processing. Trust the powers of deep restorative sleep to care for the overall needs of the self. Let go to the higher power of sleep.

If sleep is not possible, or if it is the time to be awake, direct the self to be fully present and engaged in the task it is undertaking. Refuse the mind’s slip into trancelike imaginative thoughts that reactivate fears. Decide when the time will be in the day to take the issue of concern off the shelf for consideration. Remind the self throughout the day to stay present to now, and that one’s appointment with thoughtful consideration of the issue will take place later, at the designated appropriate time.

Show up for your appointment. You have successfully strengthened your CNS circuitry through the above practices. Nonetheless, the completion of mastery requires that you reenter the experience that first generated terror. Valarie Kaur, in her book See No Stranger, presents many examples of successful entry into challenging encounters despite a somewhat accelerated heartbeat.

Oftentimes, terror occurs on the cusp of recapitulating an activated trauma from earlier in life. Mastery of that trauma ultimately requires that we reenter the fullness of that unprocessed experience and tame it. Armed with the above mentioned tools, as well as other needed supports, one’s present-self gradually calms the CNS and neutralizes the emotional intensity of the trauma.

This is mastery. The trauma becomes merely a fact of one’s life that no longer holds one captive to its terror. The energy of terror is now transmuted into the maturity of mastery.