The human mind is a tuned instrument. A piano tuner uses tuning forks to strike precise tones and calibrate the keys of the piano to those tones. A guitar player might use a pitch pipe to tune the guitar. If the string vibrates at the correct frequency, the note played will be predictable and the result may be music the way the artists want it to sound.
Our nervous systems attune to our surroundings. We have the ability to adapt our mental/emotional vibration to our immediate environment without even being aware of it. When we are babies, mother may rock us and sing lullabies to soothe us. She is helping tune our personal vibration to a calmer, more harmonious melody.
Music is powerful based on in its ability to affect our nervous system. Martial music is intended to stir us. Nations never pick lullabies as their national anthems. They select music with powerful rhythms and swelling melodies that make us breathe a little deeper and make our hearts beat faster. If the anthem is working, we may feel a chill or a tingle up our spine that says our nervous system is tuned in.
At sporting events, fans cheer and chant, and that vibration and emotional energy has a direct effect on the players. The home field advantage is largely based on the crowd’s ability to transfer their personal energy and enthusiasm to the minds and bodies of the players. It is particularly observable in basketball where, in the confined space of an indoor arena, the crowd’s emotions clearly affect the team’s performance. Of course, the team’s play affects the emotions of the crowd too. People pay a lot of money for the opportunity to have their personal vibrations synchronized with a winning team and thousands of other excited fans.
Sports events, concerts, theatre, dance, cinema, television, radio, computer games, gambling machines, and even church services are all means for modifying our mental/emotional/physiological states. The computer gamer, for instance, after several hours struggling to build a civilization or to destroy the forces of evil, will have tuned in to the rhythms of the game, and to some extent become an extension of the computer. A good game will require total focus of attention. The player will have adrenaline pumping and will be thinking of nothing but the game. After an intense session, the emotional state induced by the game may last for hours, even days. The emotional after-effects are likely to be a synthesized feeling of empowerment, alertness, and possibly irritability. The gamer’s nervous system is abuzz, as it would be for some people after a night of gambling, a boxing match, a bull fight, or a parachute jump.
We seek these activities because they induce in us feelings of being alive, excited and powerful. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but some of us can become addicted to the feelings. We might also become so used to our habits of mind tuning that we aren’t aware that other more subtle mental states are also available.
Meditation is a tool for settling the mind and body into a state of calm awareness. It is an antidote for the buzzy adrenaline induced states that are so attractive to the bored. By meditating we can re-tune our minds and bodies to their natural vibrations. The erect but relaxed posture, the calm breathing, the downcast eyes, the folded hands each helps our nervous system to quiet itself. We can calibrate our mind and emotions to the subtler vibrations.
In the quiet calm of meditative states we can perceive our subtle feelings. We can get to know ourselves. Our music, our rhythms need not be imposed upon us by the world. We can find our own harmony in the quiet moments.
This week, pay attention to your mental and emotional states. Observe how they change, and notice what you do to change them. Pay attention to the sensory stimulation to which you expose yourself. What does the sound and visual stimulation do to your nervous system?
How do the machines around you affect you?
How does the physical environment affect you?
How do the people around you affect you?
How do you use your body to alter the state of your mind?
What media or other experiences do you use to alter your states?
Examine the usual state of your mood. Are you usually jumpy, tense, irritable, bored, sleepy?
Practice meditation and notice the effect it has on your mental and emotional states. Do you find yourself calmer, more responsive, more flexible in your responses?
© 2002 Tom Barrett