Editor’s note: More than twenty years ago, I learned to counteract the stress-induced “fight-or-flight response,” which causes your blood to rush to your heart and which, if unrelieved, raises your pulse rate and creates tension or anxiety.
A psychologist taught me this simple biofeedback exercise: You simply hold a small thermometer between your fingers and wait a few minutes until the mercury reaches your current temperature; then you purposefully raise the temperature. It’s easier than it might seem. Resting your attention on a part of your body can induce the blood to flow there, and away from the heart. It doesn’t take much practice to feel the blood flowing into your fingers, to feel them warming and tingling. Pretty soon you can toss the thermometer.
This exercise calms you in at least two ways: by relieving the pressure of blood in the chest and by making you focus on something other than the source of stress. Variations of this technique are used in many forms of meditation.
In guided meditation, you’re often instructed to focus on your breathing and to feel your breath circulate throughout your body. I’ve done this for years, and I’ve found it especially useful in relieving headaches and muscle pain. Today, however, I practiced this technique while listening to music through a particularly good set of earphones. The music, called “Meditative Music Collection,” was composed by Kevin MacLeod, and I found it at theChristianMeditator.com.
“White bread” was my initial response to the music. “Hypnotic” is more accurate, I now realize. I’m hooked. Listening to this music, breathing from the diaphragm in rhythm with it, and feeling my breath flow from the center of my forehead to the tips of my fingers and toes—it was a magic-carpet ride. I never wanted it to end. It seemed a bit like cheating—Is meditation supposed to feel better than sex? And this was pure hedonism. But maybe the reason so many of us need so desperately to meditate is that we take ourselves and our responsibilities too seriously. We all need to lighten up.
I’ve done the best I could to translate the experience into words, but I highly recommend that you not take my “words” for it. Try it. You’ll like it.
Transported by the Music of the Ancients
I’m not sure exactly where I’ve been, but I can
hardly wait to go again—I, the one who lightly
treads because the brittle crust of earth might
shatter at my step, who hesitates to breathe, in
case I use more than my share of precious air—
just now that very I, the same, leaned back
against the sky, and what a ride, oh, what a
ride, it gave me. Such a glutton I became for
earth and air and light. Why, I inhaled a
hundred million stars, I do believe, and felt
them penetrate the scaly cells within that I’ve
maltreated through the years and in a shudder
of vibration make them smooth and firm and
youthful once again… oh, healing river,
sweet rejuvenation, current running through
the wires, and then I know the motion isn’t just
inside… at first a cradle sways, then by a
chariot I’m borne, and suddenly I’m like a
mermaid gliding in the warm, clear sea, where
I can breathe, I find, and I don’t mind the near
proximity of squid or shark, or fear what might
be hidden in the dark. The rhythm’s
irresistible, the sense of being borne to safety,
safe in transit, pure contentment mixed with
longing for unspecified delights, and I can
wait, because the song is getting stronger, I
can’t steer it with my breath or bones, and yet I
have no fear: I’m not alone; the wind that
carries me and whispers in my ear is wiser far
than I, the spirit is benign, and I am satisfied;
the destination doesn’t matter—I’m already
Submit prayer requests, pray for others at http://www.zgravweb.net/59prayer_requests.html.