Was in the neighbourhood and thought I’d drop by…

Over the years I’ve done relaxation exercises, self-hypnosis, affirmation exercises, subliminal self-help tapes, and hypnosis experiments out of curiosity, to improve sleep, dream suggestion, stress control, and competitive sport training. Over time I got out of practise as I let the ebb and flow of Life just carry me along in new directions.

While talking with a new acquaintance recently, we got into a brief discussion about dreams and the like, which reminded me of the exercises I used to do. Added to the fact that I’m faced with certain life pressures, stresses, and choices to be made just now, I find a need for the old discipline and focus I once had when I used to train three to six days a week at competitive sport.

Now this is not mediation. Self-hypnosis and affirmation exercises more closely resemble mediation with a specific focus, whereas most Buddhist, Taoist, and Zen monks meditate to lose focus, cease active thought, be the Void in an effort towards finding enlightenment as I understand it. This is not my objective today, though it would be cool on hallow’s eve to walk around with a glowing aura just to freak out the kids.

Now I typically do a relaxation exercise once I’m in bed and find my mind troubled, restless, spinning on a problem, can’t get to sleep easily and need to calm my mind. This exercise also works well after sports training as the last part of a cool down before heading to the showers. It is best done lying down on your back in my opinion, but can be done while sitting at your desk or in a aeroplane seat for example. However, I’ve never tried it standing; probably fall asleep, fall over, hit my head, and pass out (again).

The technique is simple, in what ever position you are, start by tensing the muscles in one leg, roll your ankles, flex and point your toes, while continuing to tense the leg muscles for about 20 seconds, then relax. Let the leg drop and rest; avoid moving it if at all possible. Then with the other leg do the same thing. Following the legs tense your pelvis and stomach muscles and relax. After tense the muscles in one arm, open and close your hand, flex your wrist all while tensing your arm for about 20 seconds. Relax and let the arm fall comfortably and slightly away from your side. Repeat with the other arm. Finally tense the muscles in your neck and shoulders as best you can, roll your shoulders while doing so, then relax.

Having completed the first stage in getting your body to relax, lie / sit very still. Avoid any movement at all, even to scratch an itch (which always seems to happen at this point), otherwise you’ll lose part of the effect. While in this position close your eyes and imagine yourself getting really heavy, as though you were sinking into the bed or your seat. While imagining being a lead balloon (or that your ate too much for supper) start breathing deeply, with long, steady, comfortable breaths.

After some moments you should be feeling really relax and heavy as you breath in a deep and regularly manner. This is where you begin the mental exercise of your choice; calm your mind by filing thoughts away for a much later time; vocalise internally affirmations; “dream suggestion” where you imagine a scenario or story you’d like to dream or act out in your mind; or one of my favourites try to mentally reach out and touch a friend or loved one’s mind.

Now dream suggestion is similar in principal to what can happen if you watch a film or read a book before bed and you find you some how dream about elements of the story you were engaged in prior to falling asleep. The idea behind dream suggestion is to try and refocus your thoughts away from a problem towards something interesting, relaxing, and typically pleasurable. It can also serve as a form of affirmation, where you picture yourself in a position of strength, success, and/or desire.

The reach out to someone’s mind is tricky and requires you to be able to visualise; the more relaxed and heavy you feel without moving seems to make this easier to do. You should be able to visualise their face and where they are at that moment in time (in the bed beside you doesn’t count). Remember to take into account time zone differences, which is to say you’ll miss the target if you imagine they are in bed at home when you’re in bed, but they’re actually at lunch in their time zone. So try someone local to start with.

Personally I prefer to try and invoke a “flying dream” sensation. Start with the image of you rising from your body, look down on yourself lying there in bed. Once you can do that then there are three ways to arrive at your destination. First there is the street level view where you visualise moving like a wraith into the street, moving quickly along the streets and paths you’d take to your friend’s location.

Next there is the “as the crow flies” where you imagine rising high into the sky, passing through damp clouds, night sky, maybe crossing into day, then down closer and closer to your friend’s location. In both instances, try to remember details as you know them, make it appear real in your mind.

The final route is the teleportation view where you simply jump to the destination. I think this is the lazy method and probably least likely to work, because making the effort to visualise moving from point A to B helps relax you further probably into a trace-almost-sleep like state.

The final step for all three visualisation routes is the arrival and for it to work you should know details about where your friend is at that moment in time, their house, bedroom, toilet, etc. Imagine being there, where they are sitting or lying, see their face and body in as much detail as your can. Then imagine in your incorporeal state touching them in some fashion that they would remember. A caress of the cheek, kiss on the lips, or maybe a punch in the nose for the guys. Sustain the image and action as long as possible until you’re taken by sleep.

I’ve tried these exercises and/or variations of them, some read from books, some performed by coaches and had some interesting results. Most common, after sport, is a really relaxed and content feeling. When done before bed, I usually have a very deep sleep and if I’m lucky I’ll experience and remember a really amazing dream. On very rare occasions I’ve had coincidences that make you wonder, such as getting a phone call or letter from someone I had focused on. They’ll tell me about a weird dream they had about me a few days later. Could just be blind chance, wishful thinking, or beginner’s luck.

Psychic phenomenon aside, being able to relax, clear one’s mind, and find some mental amusement as you sleep is a wonderfully thing and worth trying a few times. We sleep roughly one third of our life, may as well make the most of it.