Swami Rama - 03 The Swami stops his own heart
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Beyond Biofeedback – Drs Elmer and Alyce Green
After concluding the laboratory work on Sunday, Alyce and I invited Dr. Ferguson and the Swami to dinner with us at a local smorgasbord place. While chatting about yogic methods for self-regulation, the Swami surprised us by saying, "I am sorry I didn't stop my heart for you. I know you wanted to see that."
"Oh, that's all right," I said, "you can do it next time."
"No, I will do it tomorrow."
"But you can't do that," explained Alyce. "You just finished telling us that a person shouldn't stop his heart unless he has fasted for three days. And here we are eating dinner."
"That's all right," he said, "I want to find out what I can do. Anything I can do with three days of preparation, my teacher can do in three seconds without any preparation. I have never been wired up like this before, and I would like to find out what I can do."
We attempted to dissuade him, but the Swami was insistent. "I'll sign papers saying that the Menninger Foundation is not responsible for my death," he said, somewhat haughtily. Nothing we said impressed him.
At last we gave up. "Don't worry," he said, "I know what I am doing. I can stop my heart for three or four minutes, and also do something no other yogi can do. I can carry on a conversation at the same time. How long a time would be required to demonstrate heart stopping on the machine, since I have not fasted?"
I said we would be very much impressed if he did it for ten seconds.
We had earlier scheduled Swami for a lecture in the research department the next morning at ten o'clock; then he and Dr. Ferguson were to catch a plane back to Minneapolis. I called Dale that night and told him we would try to run the "heart-stopping" demonstration at nine o'clock in the morning.
The next day, as I was taking Swami Rama with wires draped over his shoulders into the experimental room, he turned and said to Alyce, "When my heart stops, call over the intercom and say, 'That's all."'
I asked why he wanted that, and he said, "Since I am not prepared in the ordinary way for this experiment, I do not want to do it too long. I want to be reminded to stop so that I will not forget what I want to do. I do not want to damage my subtle heart." I asked him to explain that, and he said that the heart seen in surgery is only the physical appearance of the heart. The way he described it, the real heart is a large energy structure, of which the physical heart is only the dense section. These two statements by the Swami-that he wanted to be reminded not to stay in the state too long and that he did not want to damage his subtle heart seem very significant.
That he wanted to be reminded of what he was doing implied to me that when he "put" himself into the state in which the "heart stopped," he might be unaware of what his conscious intentions were. In other words, in order to exert control he was going to try to be conscious in a state that was normally unconscious. Heart patients demonstrate many peculiar stress-related heart behaviors, but not with conscious control; the heart is under the control of unconscious mechanisms in the subcortical areas of the brain. I sometimes tell these people that they are "half yogis." By reacting to stress in a certain way they cause heart problems, but, unlike the Swami, they do not know how to go into the normally unconscious domain and straighten out the problem. What the Swami was proposing to demonstrate was, in my estimation, of considerable significance to psychosomatic medicine. Not only could the Swami get into this "somewhat risky" state, but presumably he would get out of it. The question I planned to ask Swami was "How did you get into that state, and how did you get out of it?"
The Swami's second statement, about the subtle heart, is representative of the general yogic idea of the subtle body, of which the physical body is supposedly a representation in the sensory domain. Since this subtle heart is allegedly controlled by mind, the demonstration would be consistent with the field of mind theory that we had been thinking about.
The experiment was about to begin. I was the only one in the experimental room with the Swami. Dale Walters, Alyce, and Dr. Ferguson, and later Dr. Sargent and a few other observers, were in the control room. I seated the Swami in the large armchair, which was barely big enough for him to sit in the lotus position-legs crisscrossed and folded so that the top sides of his feet rested on his thighs-and began talking about heart control. Presently the Swami said that he was going to be quiet for a moment in preparation for the demonstration. Then he said, "I am going to give a shock, do not be alarmed." I thought that he was going to shock his nervous system in some way, but later he said he meant that he was going to shock the doctors and the others in the Polygraph room watching the paper record, and he did not want to frighten them.
We sat silently for perhaps two minutes. Then, to my surprise, I heard Alyce say on the intercom, "That's all." I was surprised, because the Swami had not twitched so much as an eyelash to indicate that he was conducting his demonstration. After a short period of time he drew in his solar plexus for a few seconds, then exhaled and looked at me. I could tell from his expression, the glint in his eyes, that from his point of view the demonstration had been a success. I began asking how one stops the heart when Alyce called over the intercom and said, "The heart record does not look as we had anticipated. I think you should look at it." I excused myself and went into the control room, and was surprised to see the record …….
Figure 8. Stopping the heart from pumping blood. Swami Rama was motionless during the demonstration. After 16.2 seconds of "atrial flutter" Alyce called over the intercom and said, "That's all." Then the Swami drew in his diaphragm, and the resultant muscle tension drove the pen to the edge of the EKG channel. Erratic movements of the pen during the 16.2-second period of atrial flutter were caused by invisible muscle tensions.
Dr. Sargent said that it appeared to be a kind of fibrillation. All of us had previously thought that if Swami succeeded in his demonstration the heart would miss a few beats, and the pen would draw a straight line. I returned to the experimental room and told Swami that his heart had not stopped in the way we had expected but instead had begun beating at five times its normal rate. He looked puzzled, then said, “Well, you know when you stop your heart this way it still flutters in there." He fluttered his hands in demonstration. We had not known that but in retrospect I could easily see that the Swami's method, which causes obliteration of the pulse, might be identified as "heart stopping” by observers not using an EKG machine.
Dr. Sargent felt it might be useful to show the records to a cardiologist at the Kansas University Medical Center.
He contacted Dr. Marvin Dunne. Dr. Dunne showed us slides made from patients' EKG records in which the same phenomenon was demonstrated and identified the state as "atrial flutter." A section of the heart "flutters" (he happened to use the same word as the Swami used) in an oscillatory mode at its maximum rate, the chambers not filling properly, the valves not working properly, the blood pressure dropping. Suddenly he stopped and said, "What happened to this man, anyway?"
"Nothing," I answered. "We took his wires off and he went upstairs and gave his lecture."
Swami Rama and Daniel Ferguson returned to Minneapolis that afternoon, and our lab began to return to normal.