Monday, September 3, 2012

Byron Gysin's Dreamachine

I seem to have gone a bit "New Age" nutty lately. I suppose it's the irresistible appeal of enriching my mind, sleep, and mood without the use of those bad, bad "Big Phrama" meds. Do "natural" supplements work? Does hypnosis? How about "New Age" mental training to expand memory, creativity, and feed neural growth and amp up neuroplasticity? My current thinking is that if chronic stress damages neural connections, intense learning, and deep relaxation should reinvigorate them to a great degree. Call me a gullible optimist (More snake oil, sir?). Thus, this "New Age" line of research for me. It's probably just a fad or phase.

Of course, a healthy diet, sound sleep, and regular exercise do most of the good health work. While you're busy at being healthy, you might as well throw in saving more than you spend, and avoid incurring debt.

Herbs, spices, and vitamins? Well, they should work, right? Many medical establishment folks insist they don't, or point out that there's little scientific evidence for any of the bold claims made by many of these supplements and antioxidants. True, but it seems many don't work, until they do work, and then the medical people warn you off. Don't abuse caffeine, weed, or achohol. Beware of Ephedra, tryptophan, and Kava Kava!

γ-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) could be purchased in health foods until it was unleashed as a "date rape" drug by some sickos. As Wiki notes, "GHB has been used in a medical setting as a general anesthetic, to treat conditions such as insomnia, clinical depression, narcolepsy, and alcoholism, and to improve athletic performance. It is also used as an intoxicant (illegally in many jurisdictions) or as a date rape drug." So now we only have access to the highly regulated synthetic drug version of GHBXyrem (sodium oxybate), a Schedule III drug.

So, it seems supplements could and do work at times. Be careful, though. Of course, that same advice goes double for any prescription drugs. As we all know, you could go broke fast, buying and experimenting with supplements (Amazon, here we come), and bear in mind they are not a wise substitute for "conventional Western medicine" for any serious medical problem. But for chronic, not-too-severe, "lifestyle" problems, they might just be more helpful than sleep or anxiety meds. I guess cautious trial and error is the only way to find out (and the placebo effect counts!).

Meanwhile, how about mental training such as meditation, autogenic training, guided imagery, relaxtion response, yoga, or self-hypnosis? It seems to me they too could work, and should be explored. They seem much lower risk than the supplements.

And what about training technology such as "bio feedback?" To that end, I watched a trippy documentary about a sixties "Dreamachine" this weekend, FLicKeR.

FLicKeR (2008)

Brion Gysin (Actor), Kenneth Anger (Actor), Nik Sheehan (Director) | Rated: NR | Format: DVD

This award-winning documentary about poet, artist, calligrapher and mystic Brion Gysin, portrays the life and legacy of an artist who believed art could revolutionize human consciousness. FLicKeR chronicles Gysin’s complex ideas, friendships and influence with some of the 20th century’s key counterculture figures, such as William S. Burroughs, Kurt Cobain and Marianne Faithful. Featuring greats like Burroughs (in archival footage), singer Marianne Faithfull, singer/artist Genesis P-Orridge of Psychic TV, poet John Giorno, punk rocker Iggy Pop, filmmaker Kenneth Anger and artist/turntablist DJ Spooky, FLicKeR is a hypnotic documentary. Taking the dream machine as the basis of its explorations, this film asks crucial questions about the nature of art and consciousness, and imagines humanity liberated to explore its creativity in complete freedom."

Brion Gysin's Dreammachine. Yes, it looks a bit like a cheesy lava lamp. With Ian Sommerville, Gysin built the Dreamachine in 1961. Described as "the first art object to be seen with the eyes closed", the flicker device is said to use alpha waves in the 8-16 Hz range to produce a change of consciousness in receptive viewers.

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