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I'm Nothing But a Muscle Contractor | CRANK101

I’m Nothing But a Muscle Contractor

I dated a physical therapist for a while in the early 1990’s. She was always talking about gait patterns of people walking the streets in St. Petersburg and what she’d need to do to help them attain the correct straight up un-caveman like walking style.

She’d talk about muscle contraction and tonality and things like that. Much of our after-work conversation centered around muscles. No bell went off in my head about it then, but 16 years later I very lucidly realized.

I’m nothing but a contractor of muscles.

That’s “me”. That’s what I am. That’s all I am.

I was listening to an Alan Watts MP3 two days ago. Alan was saying that he believed the self, the “me” that each one of us feels is only a feeling of muscular tension that we identify with. He didn’t go much into it, only mentioned it that way.

The more I thought about it – it makes a lot of sense. The only time I feel “me” is when I’m doing something that is straining muscles. I may be making my jaw flap and squeezing my diaphragm to force air out through my vocal cords and moving my lips and tongue while talking. I may be standing up and balancing using muscles in my legs, hips and back. I might be running. I might be fighting with someone or ready to fight with someone. These are times the “me” feeling is strongest, when my muscles are flexed or taut.

When I meditate and every muscle is relaxed and balanced I don’t feel the me except that somewhere in my head sometimes is this idea that there is a “me” in there.

If, during meditation I take a few minutes to really look at what that feeling of “me” is – it isn’t there anymore. It’s more like a memory of the feeling of me. In the present moment while meditating – there is no me.

Hmm. Is there a me other than what I feel when my muscles are taut, or isn’t there?

When I go about daily life it feels like a me is here most times because I’m walking, driving, climbing, standing, sitting, whatever I’m doing – and my muscles are flexing or tight, giving me the feeling – the sensory feeling of being present in the body. My neck is turning, my eyes are constantly moving and blinking.

When I meditate and there is no tension in the muscles at all – sometimes I slip into the numb body feeling where I literally feel as if there is no body at all. It’s a feeling that some meditators get, for me it happens quite often as the breath slows down after sitting a few minutes. Sometimes it occurs during walking meditation, though much more often when seated on the floor in a half-lotus posture and all the muscles are relaxed.

As I meditate and look at the mind I realize something further…

I don’t control the mind.

I don’t control my thoughts. They pop up. They may linger around some issue, they may jump to another issue. I can’t control what they do. I can watch and follow what they do, but there is no “me” controlling those thoughts at all. They’re just popping up – sometimes seemingly randomly about whatever topic happens to be triggered by the neuron(s) firing at that instant.

If I don’t control my mind – what do I control? My job? My relationships with others? My physical health?

No. I only control my muscles. Everything I CAN do – is just that one task – I can contract muscles in different sequences. That’s it. That allows me to stand up. To walk. To talk. To go to work. To do anything physical. The mind – which I don’t control, does things that require memory. The mind fires off memories when faced with situations that trigger the neurons to fire.

For instance… I go to my job. I sit at my desk. Memory says, check the calendar and see what’s planned. I make the muscles move to do so. The calendar on Google lists 7 things I need to do that day. The brain remembers those things and triggers the body muscles to contract to get them done. That’s the “me”. That’s what I’m capable of really – contracting muscles and putting myself in situations where the brain can fire off neurons to help me remember what to do during work.

I approach problem solving the same way. Look at the problem. The brain fires off hundreds of things that might relate to that problem as it finds from past experience. I try one. It works a little bit… requiring more brain scanning. The brain comes up with a similar situation that happened when I was 7 years old that helps me solve the present problem. The brain contracts the muscles to do what’s necessary to keep working: typing, writing, erasing, burning a CDROm. Whatever.

I finish work and use the muscle contractions that add up to “driving” to get back home.

The stomach contracts – entirely on it’s own – and the brain fires neurons that trigger memories that tell me – when the stomach does this it means you should stick food in the mouth.

I contract muscles to get me to some food and then throw some food in the mouth, all the while using muscles contracting to do so. I contract the mouth and tongue muscles for a while then the esophagus and stomach contract completely on their own and the food is semi-digested and squeezed into the large intestine where it’s squeezed and rolled over and over – with no conscious effort of mine.

Is my stomach part of “me”? It’s not controlled by the mind. I can’t contract it.

Am I beating my heart?
No. Is my heart part of “me”?
Am I making my diaphragm work to enable breathing?
No. I can if I want, I can force breath to come out harder or slow it down on purpose. The diaphragm is a strange muscle – yes? It’s operating on it’s own 99.something percent of the time – but we CAN control it if we choose.

We cannot control the heart – how fast or if it beats. We can’t control the stomach. We can’t control the intestines or our salivary glands.

We don’t control the focusing of the eyes. We can point the eyes at something – and they automatically focus.

What about the glands that mete out the hormones that do magic with the bodily functions. Who controls that?

Not you or me.

The only thing a human being can do – in totality, everything that we can control – is flexing some of the muscles in the body that are under our control.

What about the mind? Do we control the mind? When the body is still the mind still churns out thoughts on it’s own.

What about self-guided thought? Is this possible? Is thought something that we’re able to control without flexing muscles?

I’m not sure. I know that when I sit with eyes closed and absolutely still – I cannot self-guide my thought. My thoughts just come and go. If I choose I can pay a bit of attention and watch the thought develop into something and sort of guide it.

But you know what? My eyes are moving as soon as I start to guide the thought. Are the eye muscle contractions moving the eye enabling guided thought?

In my case – yes, I believe so. If I am contracting my eye muscles to move the eyes to the left or in short back and forth patterns then I’m able to guide my thoughts a little bit. If my eyes are absolutely still – I cannot.

Try it – sit somewhere, relax all your muscles… better yet, lay on your back and close your eyes. For 10 minutes progressively relax the muscles of your body and then try to think something – guide your thoughts without your eyes moving even the tiniest bit.

Is it possible?

I think not. Especially with your eyes open, but I think not with them closed and not moving either.

I think the eyes MUST be moving in order to guide thought. Proving, yet again that we are only capable of contracting muscles – in this case, eye muscles that enable thought to occur on it’s own.

Why, when we dream are the eyes moving left to right so fast it’s like we’re possessed by she-goblins on crystal meth?

To enable the complex creation of dreams?

If you really want to know if there is a “me” inside your body take some time not being you. Meditate on the breath… download my simple meditation e-book or find one of your own. Sit and focus on the breath until the body goes away and then look at what is “me”.

Couple that with the practice of mindfulness during your daily activities -which helps to take you away from the constant perception of “me” and you’ll soon see that there really isn’t a “me” at all. It’s just an identification of the feeling of muscle tone and contractions that makes you think there is a “me” other than the physical body that you see.

When you first start to meditate and all muscles are relaxed you might still think there is a “me” in you. Then, after applying some attention to that idea, eventually you realize, the “me” you think you feel is just the memory of the “me” you think is there when you’re flexing the muscles. When that memory stops – and it does, there is no feeling of me whatsoever to identify with.

Something mind-altering happens then because you realize you’re not separate from anything in your realm of sensory experience. You, the clothes on the body, the floor, the table, the dog, the trees, the town you find yourself in – the world.

It’s all the same “stuff”. In an instant you’re changed forever as that part of the game is revealed.

What’s the next part of the game?

Best of Life!

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5 thoughts on “I’m Nothing But a Muscle Contractor

  • at 5:55 am

    This is only just about the most profound post I’ve EVER read!!!! Awesome stuff here, you go beyond what so many try to describe as being the spiritual side of meditation….geez you just freaking nail it in this post.

    Totally awesome. Now I have to rethink my whole life.

  • at 4:55 am

    great article vern

    this could explain why people like to fight so much, when they are fighting they feel their “me” and by winning that means their “me” is better.

  • at 5:54 am

    Great post. Alan Watts, one of my long time mentors, is like a yo yo. His takes on both himself as a spiritual entertainer, and on life seem to become fodder for the unsophisticated, and then suddenly, there he is again as part of the cultural milieu of the day. He has never fallen out of favor with me, and now that i think about it, he needs to be in the hall of outlaws on my blog


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  • at 3:59 am

    You were on to something at first. Then decided that you are powerless about what you think! You 100% have the CHOICE to FOCUS on LOVE or FEAR. This will always be the intention behind the actions you take using your muscles. Are you speaking from the heart of from the fear based made up ego?

    Everything in truth is love.


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