A yogi walks up to a hot dog stand. The vendor asks, “What'll it be?” The yogi replies, “Make me one with everything.” The vendor rolls his eyes as the yogi chuckles merrily. When the hot dog is finished the vendor asks for three dollars. The yogi hands over a twenty and the vendor hands him the hot dog and pockets the bill. The yogi looks at him quizzically and says, “Where is my change?” The vendor grins and replies, “Ah, but change comes from within.”
The book I read was Jack Schwarz's Voluntary Controls. It was the second in a series of books that laid the ground work for the holistic field of study. Since I was very young, alternative methods of achieving goals has been a pursuit of mine and this concept directly applies to the field of holistic research not by ignoring the methods currently in practice but by questioning how they work and asking if there might be a simpler, more effective way to reach solutions to problems. I am going to explain to you who Jack Schwarz was, what Voluntary Controls is about, and why you might benefit from reading it.
To begin with, Jack Schwarz was an extraordinary man. Born in Dordrecht, Holland on April 26th, 1924; he was a pioneer in the field of holistic health. He was also a fakir, a concentration camp survivor, and the father of the Aletheia Psycho-Physical Foundation.
In 1943 just before his 19th birthday, Jack Schwarz began traveling around as a fakir: which at the time was defined as someone who performed extraordinary acts with the human body, such as laying on a bed of nails naked or walking across hot coals barefoot. His act included piercing his skin with needles and making the wounds heal, dancing on swords, and holding red hot coals in his hands. He would also use hypnosis on audience members to the delight of crowds. However, his career was cut short when he was captured by Nazis for being a supporting member of the resistance.
Jack Schwarz was taken for 6 months to Hamburg, Germany for torture and forced labor. He returned to Holland and became an underground double agent. He was caught again 9 months later and taken to Sachenhausen concentration camp. He escaped after one month with two other prisoners by digging under the wall. He enlisted in the British army, attaining the rank of Sergent, and returned to Holland as part of the liberating forces. After traveling the world, getting married, and having three sons; Jack immigrates to the United States in 1957.
In 1958 Jack Schwarz founded the Aletheia Psycho-Physical Foundation. The Aletheia Psycho-Physical Foundation is a non-profit organization founded for the research and practice of Holistic studies. Their primary fields of study are brainwaves and Autogenics, which is where Progressive Muscle Relaxation is derived from. The Aletheia Psycho-Physical Foundation is still in operation today in Grants Pass, Oregon.
Jack Schwarz died on November 26th, 2000 after a two year long fight with his degrading health. However, Jack left behind his knowledge in a series of books.
This brings me to my second point.I actually started the book Voluntary Controls before this semester while sitting in a Krystal's and eating with my family. It has been out of print since 1978. I acquired it from the local Goodwill. Voluntary Controls details posture, breathing exercises, and visualizations.
It emphasizes three main postures, but generally expects the practitioner to find whatever position is most comfortable for him or her. For instance, one could sit in a chair comfortably with ankles crossed and hands laid in the lap clasped together. This posture could be modified slightly for group use by placing the hands palm up and uncrossing the ankles while facing the group in a circle.
Of course, the traditional Full Lotus position is always acceptable. The book gives fairly general rules of comfort, spinal alignment, and conservation of energy.
The book also gives fairly general rules regarding breathing patterns as well. The first pattern being a simple eight count inhale, holding the breath for a count of four, and then releasing it over a count of eight again. The breathing patterns build on this structure by keeping the four count hold, decreasing the inhale to a four count, and exhaling an eight count again. The final pattern resulting in a short four count inhale, four count hold, and exhaling as long as is comfortable. This systematic lengthening of the exhalation phase is intended to encourage deep inhalations involving both the thorax and the diaphragm.
Likewise, the visualizations are intended to build upon each other in a systematic fashion.
The author goes through fairly simple exercises using geometric shapes, simple stories, and even classic mythological legends. Rather than trying to adhere to one concept or achieve a state of emptiness or even nirvana, Jack Schwarz advises us to observe and record those elements within our own minds and not fight when thoughts intrude upon our meditative state. Instead, he says, try to work out what those ideas that intrude upon your meditation mean to you and your own personal symbolic associations.
The book ends with a discussion of the practical application of these techniques and delves into the use of the Chakras and the traditional associations of colors and shapes. The use of these techniques, he concludes, can assist the body in self-regeneration.
Finally, it is my personal belief that most anyone could benefit from reading this book.
The use of these visualizations gives one access to the subconscious mind, allows a person to attain a relaxed state by exerting control over a normally involuntary action, and gives one the tools with which to expand that control over many of the body's physiological functions.
Through the use of the creative meditation techniques described in this book one can observe the hidden elements of the subconscious and make conscious effort to understand and change those aspects of ourselves that we find lacking. For example; upon meditating upon a simple geometric pattern with no guidance upon what color that pattern presents itself to us, we can draw meaning from the observation of what hue it appears to us in. Similarly, observation of background details that our mind fills in gives an expansive picture of what the subconscious mind is dwelling on. Recording these details and then pondering not only the traditional associations, but our own personal associations with the symbolism represented allows one to engage in a sort of dialog with our subconscious.
Being that the subconscious is also the seat of our involuntary functions, we are given the key with which to unlock our body's control mechanisms. After learning to control our breathing, a normally involuntary function, we are able to enter that state of relaxed meditation at will.
A trained response can be developed allowing our bodies to associate a certain visualization or breathing exercise with the relaxation of tense muscles. Extending that relaxed state to the mind allows all the stressors of the world to wash away. During this relaxed state, one can use the techniques described in this book to determine the root cause of one's problems instead of being side-tracked by the multitudes of symptoms. Use of this knowledge expanded to the rest of the body's systems may yield astonishing rewards.
Using these newly discovered keys to the subconscious in association with observation of the body's involuntary actions can lead one to discover how to control any automated process of the mind or body. In the film Mind and Hand in the CBC series The Nature of Things, Jack Schwarz demonstrates the ability of the mind to exert control over various physiological functions while having electrodes record his physiological condition. With no access to these bio-feedback readings, he proceeded to stick an unsterilized 26 gauge steel needle through his left bicep. According to the recorded data, he felt no pain and the needle marks visibly healed with no bleeding in a matter of moments. The potential stated here, even if one is unable to follow through to the level the author achieved, is phenomenal in a society that seems to make unreasonable demands upon our minds and bodies on a constant basis. This is why I believe this book should be brought back into circulation and nearly everyone could benefit from reading it.
It has been my intention to interest all of you in who Jack Schwarz was, why his book Voluntary Controls is important, and why you may want to get a copy for yourself. The mini biography I gave you of Jack Schwarz's life is by no means complete and I encourage you to discover him yourself. His series of books, or what is still in print, can be obtained at various websites such as Amazon.com or directly from Aletheia at holistic.org. Various other tools to assist you in your personal journey through meditation can also be found there. If I've peaked your interest, I invite you to ask any questions you may have and I will answer them as best I can. Thank you very much for your time.
Aletheia Psycho-Physical Foundation. 2007. 15 April 2009