Monday, August 20, 2018

The Laboratory of Your Own Body

What do you think of your body? I know, it's just there and you're stuck with it. Perhaps you admire it, perhaps you don't. Feelings about it run the gamut...from pride to shame to I've-gotta-do-something-about it! Ever hear of Dr. John Lilly?
Lilly was a physician and psychoanalyst. He made contributions in the fields of biophysics, neurophysiology, electronics, computer science, and neuroanatomy. He invented and promoted the use of an isolation tank as a means of sensory deprivation.
Lilly's eclectic career began as a conventional scientist doing research for universities and government. Gradually, however, he began researching unconventional topics.
In 1953, Lilly began a job studying neurophysiology with the US Public Health Service Commissioned Officers Corps. At the N.I.M.H. in 1954, with the aim of isolating a brain from external stimulation, he devised the first isolation tank, a dark soundproof tank of warm salt water in which subjects could float for long periods in sensory isolation. Lilly and a research colleague were the first subjects of this research.
Lilly's research stepped outside the conventional gamut of idealizing one's body into the realm of using the body as a laboratory, something all of us do without realizing it. Only Dr. Lilly took it to the extreme, sometimes spending days and nights in his isolation tank after having ingested a hardy dose of LSD.

That the body is a laboratory is something I became aware of long ago. Once I started to meditate, this realization jumped to the front burner, becoming ever more salient as my kundalini activated.

August 3, 2018 - JJ portrait
August 3, 2018 -  JJ iPhone self-portrait
Everything I was exposed to — diet, temperature, altitude, energy sources, sleep changes, exercise — had an immediate effect on me. And unlike "normal" people, I could feel each effect in real time. All of which made me more aware that life is a living experiment in evolution, and you can choose to evolve or devolve. In one way or another, we are all guinea pigs for evolution.

So when I visited the hospital on July 16th, exactly two weeks after my cardiac incident for a stress test, I was ill-prepared for the experiment I was to take a part in.

When I got there, they first jammed an IV into my arm (they love having those things dangling so they can keep filling you up with chemicals).

Then I waited for an hour, which was followed by being sent to a machine that resembles an MRI bed, but larger. They shoved me in and started a large box above me rotating in small increments, taking pictures of my heart.

After leaving that room, I waited another hour before being told to go to the treadmill room, where I was greeted by an assortment of nurses and technicians who placed sensors all over my back and chest. There was a short wait for the doctor whose role was overseeing the whole test.

The point is: get on the treadmill and walk/run until attaining a target heart rate. Of course, there's a formula for this: 220-your age x 80%. In my case, 220-80 x 0.8 = 112. My starting heart rate was 49.

I got going. They raised the incline to 10% and sped it up after a minute or two. "Okay," they said, "we're taking up again now. You've got to get up to 112." But I couldn't get up higher than 82.

They decided to fix that. "We're going up to a 20% incline and speed up the treadmill."

"Hey," I said, "I'm practically running now. It hasn't been all that while since my attack. I don't feel up to running uphill."

"When was your heart attack?"

"Exactly two weeks ago."

"Well, it may be too soon after an attack for the treadmill. No matter. We have an alternate test. Stretch out on the table alongside."

With trepidation, I got up, laid down on it. The nurse attached a device to the IV hanging off my arm and squeezed off some liquid.

"This simulates the treadmill."

I started to say that, given my inability to raise my heart rate, it might be better to use MPH than heart rate to calculate meaningful results when all of a sudden, I froze up. My mouth tried to form words, but nothing came out. I felt a unendurable pressure over my whole body, like I'd been given a KGB death-simulation, confession serum. I couldn't speak or move. I was locked in death throes, no spasms or writhing, just locked stiff. 

Immobilized and suspended in pain, would I have confessed? Probably, if they'd been agents of  a totalitarian regime, instead of nurses. Had Dr. Lilly felt the terror I'd experienced?

"Don't worry, it only lasts two minutes." Unable to speak, I'm thinking, Lower me into the grave when it's over.

I couldn't tell them to stop, my mouth muscles wouldn't obey. Thankfully, it did start to wear off, not all at once, only gradually. They sent me to the cafeteria after a while, all the time mumbling among themselves about maybe (yes, the ever-present spoiler 'maybe') it had been too soon for such a test.

 I was still shaking in the cafeteria as I sat down to devour my chicken and broccoli, which helped to calm my stricken body. 

One thing certain, that stuff had immobilized my kundalini. It came back to operational strength only after two days.

You never stop using the body as a laboratory, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.


  1. That's really awful! Congratulations on still being around to tell the story. It's like a Room 101 total nightmare as far as I'm concerned: being at the mercy of the medical system (where 'system' is the operative word).

    I am reluctant to be too hard on the medical system, because it does help some people some of the time. Nevertheless, it's understanding of the human body is very limited, and comes through the lens of an essentially false view of life (mechanistic, materialistic). It's as a result of this, I guess, that it feels justified in treating human bodies as standard machines, rather than wonderful unique organisms.

  2. Heartily agree. If it's a mechanical fix, like a stent -- an amazing process in and of itself -- the system is at its best. Before the stent, heart attacks were, if not fatal, a condition that severely curtailed a person's activity.

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