Swami Rama - 01 Using biofeedback as an aid to the meditation of traveling through the body
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Beyond Biofeedback – Drs Elmer and Alyce Green
The yoga teacher of Rishikesh, India, Swami Rama, was our “Swami in residence" in the fall of 1970……
To provide him and us with additional interaction, we organized a yoga study group. ….What we wish to talk about here is an exercise in body consciousness that Swami Rama gave the yoga study group, and later also demonstrated in public.
The group met twice a week for three hours of discussion and practice of a variety of yoga exercises. Swami Rama called one of these "traveling through the body."
A person lay on the floor, and the Swami touched with a yardstick the body areas numbered sequentially ….., allowing about fifteen seconds between points. As he touched each spot he said the corresponding number. After each person had gone through the exercise once, with another person touching the body area in order to help focus consciousness, it was thereafter done mentally.
It is merely necessary to lie down flat on one's back and to say to oneself, "One," visualizing as clearly as possible a feeling of being in the forehead; "Two," visualizing as clearly as possible a feeling of being in the throat, etc. The effects of this exercise were always interesting, and sometimes were remarkable.
Eventually we ran each member of the theta pilot group, studying brain-wave patterns as they went through this procedure while lying on a couch in our laboratory. They said each number aloud to help us (in the recording room) keep track of their progress. It is not easy to remain conscious and go all the way through the numbers in a quiet, inner-focused way. Attention is theoretically not allowed to wander from the body point associated with a number, but that is easier said than done. Sometimes subjects would forget where they were and we would have to tell them what their last number was. Of particular interest to us was the fact that over a period of five months in which our subjects practiced this procedure among others ten days per month (or more if they desired), there was a significant increase in the amount of theta production from the occipital cortex during these "travels."
Swami Rama always asked each person he worked with in the group to describe the experiences or images that occurred during the traveling through the body. As time passed I realized that he was teaching, in a very simple way, a kind of yoga that had much esoteric significance in some of the Indian literature. The basic idea is that each section of the body is alive with a life of its own, with its own physical needs and emotions. We human entities are in actuality composed of all these pieces. That is, we are a composite, being made up of a multitude of unconscious beings about whom we must become conscious if we are to bring them under control. This concept is almost the reverse of the one held in Western science and medicine, which generally do not allow that the various sections of the unconscious are autonomous entities, working for themselves, as it were, as unconscious parts of our psyche. Perhaps the closest modern idea is Gordon Allport's concept of "functional autonomy" of personality traits (Allport, 1950).
And is this not remarkably similar to what don Juan called "the sorcerer's explanation" of personal identity? In Tales of Power (Castaneda, 1974) he said to Carlos after a certain shocking experience,". . . .you realized your true nature. You are a cluster" (emphasis added). Later he said, "When the glue of life binds those [autonomous] feelings together a being is created, a being that loses the sense of its true nature and. becomes blinded by the glare and clamour of the area [of life]."
Swami Rami did not explain any of this to the group but always asked for their experiences each session. I finally asked him one day why he didn't explain to the members what traveling through the body was for. I gave my interpretation of the exercise, and he agreed that the basic idea was correct. He did not want to tell anyone, he said, because then it would be impossible to find out what really happened in anyone's experience. Swami spoke of the autonomous entities as if they were real. The training in body awareness was training in becoming conscious of them, so that they could be instructed or regulated in whatever way seemed useful. After becoming conscious of body parts by traveling through the body, it is much easier to talk to the body for therapeutic purposes. If he explained this, he said, all that he would get back from the students would be what he told them. Or, if they had had some experiences on their own, they would be mixed with his descriptions so that he would be unable to decide what was really happening.