It was a weird night. Dreams that were more akin to nightmare bothered me until I woke, reaching for a comfort I failed to find as I slid out on the other side of sleep and the insistent clamouring of stories waiting to be told. I woke to the sun streaming in on the aching tension of muscles that seemed not to have relaxed and rested. I got up and walked the dog, and all the while the back of my mind was attempting to deal with the dreams that are supposed to be a processing of the day and of memory.
It is a strange thing, this ability of images to affect us. Whether it is the eternal cuteness of the kittens that pepper the internet that make us go Awww in spite of ourselves, the faded snapshot of a loved one, or an image called up in the mind, they have a very similar effect on our emotions to what we feel if confronted with the reality itself. Dreams linger with softness, nightmares cast shadows on the day and imagination paints a graphic novel of our lives that we revisit in memory.
A pleasant daydream or memory will leave you smiling, the face softened and relaxed, the heart lighter. The mechanisms of anxiety and fear also paint mental pictures. Not of the reality we know, but a cocktail of scenarios that might be and our bodies and emotions react accordingly. It can even change our physical perception so that the shadow on the wall or the face in the trees looks threateningly human as the adrenalin flows and the heart pumps harder.
Meditative practices create similar change; there are many types of meditation, some where the images are gently erased, some where they are built, explored and pondered. It is this latter type of guided journey we use in the Silent Eye. Recent studies have shown there can be an enduring physical effect from the practice of meditation on the brain, particularly the amygdala that regulates our response to emotion, leading to a greater emotional stability.
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