The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Water in the Mouth

In my second novel in the "Streetlethal" series,

"Gorgon Child" I have a sequence where my

hero Aubry Knight undergoes a manhood

ritual that involves running across a desert

while holding a mouthful of water. I was

asked to comment on this, and that gives

me an opportunity to take a break from

talking about Musashi (don't worry, I'll

get back) but also to discuss a couple of

health and consciousness things, and also

to use this as an example of integrating

your specialized knowledge into your

writing work.

1) The "holding water" technique was

something I came across decades ago

as an Apache ritual, if memory serves.

The technique forces concentration,

and more importantly--breathing

through the nose.

2) When you force someone to breathe

through their nose during exercise, you

limit the amount of oxygen they intake.

This forces them to keep the exertion level

below the anaerobic threshold. You

can't gasp open-mouthed, gulping air.

You must pace yourself, and remain

below the level where the Kreb cycle

begins to break down and you cannot

re-convert fatigue toxins to produce

ATP. This means becoming smoother

and more efficient, rather than just

pushing yourself, multiplying

biomechanical errors.

3) Once you become aware of the flow

of breath, it opens the doorway to a

vast world of internal states. Because

breathing is the only process that is both

voluntary and autonomic, it is the

doorway to control of the CNS as well

as the sympathetic and parasympathetic

nervous systems, controlling the fight

or flight response. Fabulous for stress

control, health, concentration, energy,

even pain management.

4) By placing my lead character into a

situation where he had to evolve or

die, I had the chance to create a

"teaching" moment, where real

physiological science met Eastern

"mysticism" to create an entertaining

sequence with a touch of reality.

Anchoring a spiritual practice in

hard science is one of my favorite

things in the world.



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steve-vh said...

Was watching reruns of "Surviving the Cut" last week. Episode on Navy Combat divers.
They get to be tossed in the water with hands feet velcroed, hands behind the back (I'm told first hand in prior days it was tight zipties to really mess with your mind).
They have to desend and "bob" for a certain period and it takes great control not to panic and the key is to control their breathing on the way down and rate of ascent, then they have to circle the pool several times. Then at the end they have to desend, grasp a mask in their teeth and bob 5 more times. At this point they're pretty oxygen depleted and they still have to breath through the nose or loose the mask and fail. said...

Wow, there is really much useful info here! said...

This won't really have effect, I think so.