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Observations placeholder

Swami Rama - 02 The Swami increased the temperature difference between the left and right sides of his hand and slowed his heart



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Beyond Biofeedback – Drs Elmer and Alyce Green

During the first day we familiarized the Swami with the routine of being wired up and had a chance to become acquainted with him. …..Uncertain about what he intended to demonstrate and not wanting to upset him with demands, we asked him to tell us what he would like to do.

On the second day, Sunday, we attached a minimum number of transducers to the Swami's body in order to minimize the laboratory-induced "electric chair" effect. The Swami said he would cause the left side of his right hand (hypothenar eminence) to increase in temperature several degrees above the right side (thenar eminence). Thermistors were attached to the palm of the right hand, and an electrocardiographic signal was obtained from between the right ear and the left wrist. Alyce and I remained with the Swami in the experimental room (located about fifteen feet from the polygraph room) and noted that during this demonstration he did not move his hands. They were placed palms up on a board in front of him.

Swami Rama's demonstration of voluntary control of blood flow in the right hand caused the left side to become pink and the right side gray.

The Swami increased the temperature difference between the left and right sides of his hand in two stages. The first began shortly after the arbitrary zero time and the second started when he said, "Be attentive, I will do something." The thermistor on the little finger side of the hand (labeled W for warm) started at a temperature of 90o F and after a few minutes had drifted up to 91o F. The temperature of the thermistor on the thumb side of the hand (labeled "C" for cool) started at about 88'F and after a few minutes had drifted up to 89'F.

The Swami and I had been talking about blood-flow control just before the zero time on the graph. I said that it was about time for us to start this experiment, and he answered abruptly, "I have already begun." Associated with our polygraph record was a voice-actuated relay which made a mark on the edge of the record so that we could identify places in the record where talking occurred. When we later looked at the record, we noticed that where he said he had already begun, deviations had started in the record. In the first minute the temperature dropped in both thermistors. Then the W thermistor reversed and went up to its original reading and the C thermistor continued to drop. After three minutes they were about 7"F apart.

We continued talking for a few minutes. Suddenly the Swami said, "Be attentive, I will do something." Caught by surprise, I said over the intercom, "Be attentive." I could not think of anything else to say and did not know what he was going to do.

The record shows that the temperature began going up at both locations on the palm of his hand, and then the C thermistor went down to where it had been but the W thermistor kept increasing in temperature until it reached 95 "F. Eventually the two thermistors were 11o F apart, an increase of 9oF over the original temperature difference. The Swami told us that this differential control of temperature in one hand was one of the most difficult things that he had learned to do, more difficult than stopping his heart. That seemed unlikely to me at first, but on thinking about it I realized that the neural controls over the radial and ulnar arteries in the wrist and over the arterial shunts in the hand probably were located within a few millimeters of each other in a section of the central nervous system. The Swami's demonstration showed exquisite differential control over this normally uncontrolled piece of the neural apparatus.

After talking another two or three minutes, the Swami abruptly ordered, "Test my heart immediately." A few minutes later he said, "What is my heart doing now?"

I labeled these on the records as "heart rate experiment #1" and "heart rate experiment #2" (Figure 7). They were the Swami's experiments, not ours. He already knew what he could do, and apparently was calibrating our laboratory for his own information. Shortly after the second heart-rate experiment he said he wished to be released. Thinking that he wished to be released from the necessity of maintaining the temperature difference between the two spots on his hands, I said, "You can now relax the temperature control of your hands." Shortly thereafter the record showed that the temperature of the C thermistor began to increase (Figure 6).

The third heart-rate experiment might be called ours; at least, we requested it. Dale Walters called over the intercom and said, "Ask the Swami to slow his heart." The Swami heard that and said, "I will do it." Figure 7, showing a summary of all three heart-rate experiments, indicates that his heart slowed continuously for about fifty seconds, from seventy-four beats per minute to fifty-two beats per minute. Heart experiment # 1, increasing the rate momentarily, was interesting, but I was not particularly impressed by it, because I had noticed that I could do this myself. Experiment #2 was much more difficult, the Swami said, because of the sudden change that takes place in the heart. Experiment #3 was impressive, because most Westerners, even if they can speed their hearts, cannot start at a normal resting rate and decrease it by twenty-one beats in one minute, at will.

With reference to Experiment #2 of. Figure 7, by coincidence the Swami was "doing something with his heart," thereby making it possible for us to observe an unusual occurrence. Our cardiotachometer (for recording heart rate) can be switched to direct display of the electrical EKG signal, and it happened that just a few seconds before the Swami asked for his heart to be monitored, Dale Walters in the control room had switched the cardiotachometer to direct display.

The normal flub-dup, flub-dup of the heart, heard through a stethoscope, is seen on an oscilloscope or on an EKG chart as R and T waves, shown by arrows on the diagram, above the rate record. In the normal heart record, using the electrical pickup from right ear to left hand, the R wave is taller than the T wave, as shown in the diagram. But note that just before the heart rate suddenly increases, the T wave becomes larger than the R wave. Since the T wave and the R wave represent functions of different parts of the heart, the record indicates that the Swami had developed differential control over sections of the heart, just as he had developed differential control over blood flow in his hands. We mentioned this to the Swami, who said only that this particular demonstration was somewhat risky.


The source of the experience

Swāmī Rāma

Concepts, symbols and science items


Activities and commonsteps



Controlled breathing