Drugs and Squeeze Machines

July 9, 2012 Comments Off on Drugs and Squeeze Machines

I should be fMRI’d. It would probably be interesting because I think I’m always on drugs. My mind appears to be structured in such a way that it periodically and without any external or chemical help ascends to the slightly higher states of consciousness that result in Deep Thoughts whose repetition to a normal person would be cause for mirth. Not that the thoughts aren’t profound and possibly life-altering, but the profundity and life-altering quality is highly specific to the person thinking/feeling it and nearly imperceptible to everyone else. I like to think that “normal” minds are like sloths to whom the ceiling is a solid face of luminous green high above, whereas I am a tree frog, and my ceiling is a lacy fretwork of individual leaves within fairly easy reach, and through it I can usually, if I bother to look, perceive the sky.

Apparently this is why people do drugs?

But I can lift my mind on purpose with breathing and so forth. Try this: Make a V with your first two fingers and place it under your nose. Press one finger against your right nostril and make a full inhale and exhale through your left. Switch so that your next full breath is through your right nostril. Repeat that four times. Doesn’t that lift your mind? The other thing that helps is physical constriction. Its least extreme manifestation is a sweatshirt with a hood, but I deeply enjoy being wrapped tightly in a blanket, burrito-style, and in times of great agitation and scatter-mindedness it helps me to have Simon wrap me in a blanket and then lie on top of me.

Both these things, but alternate-nostril breathing in particular, help me concentrate; it puts me in a flow state. It’s an interesting way of putting it because what it most resembles is lowering the Reynolds number in a stream. A Reynolds number is a dimensionless expression of turbulence: it is the product of mean flow velocity and depth divided by kinematic viscosity. High Reynolds numbers result from high flow velocities, deep flow beds, and lower viscosities. If a fluid’s viscosity is very low, as with water, for its flow to be smooth and uniform it must be moving at a very low velocity or in a very thin layer. Even in an extremely slow-flowing body of water there are eddies and turbulence. But if the fluid is highly viscous, like, say, corn syrup (well, more like magma, but let’s stick with this for now), it tends toward laminar flow so strongly that it takes significant disruption to create turbulence. Can you even imagine a rapids made of corn syrup? This is what happens to my mind after a good yoga class, or after breath exercises: my mind turns from water to corn syrup, and it is less easily disrupted. Flow state, indeed.

And the physical stuff reminds me of Temple Grandin, who remembers inventing a “squeeze machine” as a girl—it was a copy of something cattle have to keep them calm while being vaccinated and so on, and it worked for her. She put emphasis on its helping her with her autism, but I think it might apply to everyone. Even claustrophobic people find immersion in water relaxing, and I’d bet money it’s because of the slight pressure. What about kids and forts? On the rare occasions I actually (with the help of an adult) created a tent around the sofa that was big enough to stand up in, it seemed to lose something. Pressure is good. Small spaces are good.

It seems clear that there is a link between energy (as in chi) and concentration. I think I have a tendency toward high energy, or at least scattered energy, in a way that makes my mind turbulent and difficult to focus. I have a suspicion that if I could really focus my energy, I would exist at a higher mental plane AND be incredibly productive. It seems like a blessing to be periodically high without having to use any chemicals. I just need to figure out how not to lose my balance in the rush.


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