An Experiment in Control

How much control do you have over your body? Let’s do an experiment.

First let me say that I take no responsibility for anything whatsoever. If you feel funny, stop. I am not a doctor or anything – Just a chick who likes to figure our random biology things.

Photo by cottonbro on

C’mon… You know you want to …

You will need:

  • a chair with a back that can support you
  • a pen and paper
  • maybe a calculator at the end, depending on how you are at multiplying things by four
  • a way to measure your pulse for 15 seconds, like a timer app or a second-hand on a watch

1. Make sure you are seated. Then take your pulse. Just a 15-second check will do. Write it down.

Okay. You have your baseline. Time for the experiment. We aren’t going to do any “go to your happy place” imagery. That would be cheating.

2. Focus on your heart.

Can you feel it? Hear it? Try covering your ear. Listening works best in my experience but if you need to, you can put your fingers back on your pulse so you can feel it.

Did you know you have the power to speed it up or slow it down? Sure, imagery is one way. Another is altering the depth and length of your breathing. But again – that would be cheating. And no putting your hand in ice – that is both cheating and kind of dangerous.

3. Are you tuned in? Can you hear or feel it? Be aware of it. Really follow it for a bit.

Your pulse regulates itself in conjunction with your blood-pressure to make sure the oxygen in your blood gets to each of your veins – each tiny capillary. It pumps from one heart chamber to the next, through the lungs where it picks up oxygen, and then shuttles that O2 around where it is needed. It’s all automatic, “autonomic”.

But there is also the “somatic” nervous system. That is how you control your muscles – your everyday movements. You stretch and bend and walk. You lift a book, you tap out a text message, you kick a can.

But sometimes, there are things we can use either system for. For instance, your autonomic system makes you breathe when you aren’t thinking about it. But you can also use your diaphragm to fill your lungs more when you want more air to sing. You have some control over things like blinking, coughing, and swallowing, too.

4. So here is the experiment. Think about slowing your heartrate a bit.

Photo by Lucidity Lamb

5. Take another 15 second pulse. Write it down.

6. Try again.

Think about each beat: ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum. Slow your thoughts just a fraction: ba-bum.., ba-bum.., ba-bum. Let your intention have a small effect on this autonomic system.

7. Take your pulse one more time. Write it down.

Photo by Lucidity Lamb

8. Sit for a bit.

Think about something else. Let your autonomic system be solidly in control again by setting your mind on something else. A movie, dinner, whatever.

9. Now, you can already see the numbers, but if you multiply each by 4, you’ll get your pulse rates.

Photo by Designecologist on

10. Tell me how you did! Let’s all compare notes! Comment below.

And now, the lab report questions:

  1. How do you feel?
  2. Were you able to effect your body?
  3. Whether you did or not…
  4. Were you able to sit down for a few minutes?
  5. Were you able to focus on something that wasn’t a stressor like bills or laundry?
  6. Were you able to remain interested in something you would not normally try?
  7. Were you able to control your attention enough to read at least the blue areas of this post?
  8. Were you reminded of something that interests you?
  9. Were able to sit still?
  10. Do you think you could do it again tomorrow?

Next time, don’t worry about the pen, paper, or calculator.

Just sit and focus on your heartbeat.

After you conquer that, you might try letting that focus go as well. Just sit.

Just sit and let your heart beat at it’s own pace.

Let the whole world go on at it’s own pace. It’s autonomic, too, in its own way.


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