Light and Colour

Colour exists in every part of the Universe; it is around us everywhere and we are influenced by colour constantly whether we realise it or not. Even when we have our eyes closed or it is dark, we still see colour. Even when we dream, we see colour.  Colour seems to describe life – evoking senses, feeling and memories.  We use colour to describe our feelings such as ‘feeling blue’ or ‘in the pink’, ‘green with envy’ or ‘seeing red’.  We are aware that some colours lift our spirits whilst others hide just how we are feeling.  Colours can be exciting, motivating, inspiring or balancing, calming and nurturing.

Where do these feelings come from?  We learn to differentiate colour at an early age.  Naming each one correctly can be a very young child’s ‘party piece’.  The ability of identification and naming colour is stored in the cortex of the brain, the area that governs formal education. The reflexive, instinctual response to colour is stored in the primitive, mid-brain area.

Colour is the visible section of the wavelength of light. The wavelengths of visible light (colour) lie between 400 and 700 nanometers (a nanometer is one billionth of a meter).  As the wavelength gradually increases from 400 to 700 nm, it is perceived as violet through the spectrum to red. (The wavelength is lengthening and slowing as it moves towards 700nm.)  We perceive coloured objects as a result of the photons, which make up the wavelength, being absorbed or reflected by that object.  A coloured object will absorb all the wavelengths (colours) that exactly match it and reflect the rest.  This is what we see.  Therefore, a red tomato absorbs all the rays except the red one that it reflects, so we see it as red.

Science recognises the effect of x-rays, ultraviolet rays and microwaves on our physical bodies but finds difficult the idea that our emotions and thought processes could also be affected. Light plays a major role in stimulating and regulating our physiological responses.  Therefore, as colour is the way in which we perceive light through the various wavelengths, it clearly can create different psychological and physiological effects.  Dr. Max Luscher, a leading colour expert, believed that a personal colour preference or dislike indicated a particular state of mind and/or a glandular balance. This, he believed, shows the reaction to be part of the ancient primal memory.

As science techniques have become more sophisticated, it has been shown that certain regions of the brain are light sensitive and respond differently to different wavelengths.  It is believed that these different wavelengths of radiation (colour) act on the endocrine system to affect hormone production.

As early as 1942, Russian scientist S V Krakov found that the colour red stimulated the sympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system and blue stimulated the parasympathetic portion.  Robert Gerard, who tested a group of normal adult males, confirmed this in 1958.  By shining a red light onto a screen in front of the group, an increase in blood pressure, respiration and eye blink rate was noted.  When a blue light was shone, a marked reduction in these rates was recorded.  The heart rate in both cases remained unaffected. On an emotional level, blue increased feelings of relaxation and lessened anxiety and hostility.  The colour red increased excitement and tension.

Put simply, these experiments indicate that the autonomic nervous system and the part of the brain connected with vision become more active when stimulated by the red light and less aroused by the blue light. Clear, white light was used as the control and consistently indicated no difference either way.

Further experiments during the early ‘70’s have shown that specific colours will affect moods, breathing and pulse rate and blood pressure.  The colours that can increase each symptom are yellow, orange and red (red having the minimum effect).  The colours that can decrease each symptom are black, blue and green (green having the minimum effect).

Colour is used today as a tool to aid health in hospitals.  The maternity wards will use blue light (450nm) for the treatment of jaundice in newborn babies.  The light breaks up the biliruben that accumulates in the body and allows the natural processes to eliminate it.

This same blue light has been to be effective in reducing arthritic pain in experiments conducted in 1982.  A study in San Diego headed by Dr. Shanon McDonald showed that the light could positively affect the pain levels in a group of middle-aged women with rheumatoid arthritis.  The levels would vary with the length of exposure to the light.

Dr John Anderson conducted experiments using red light on migraine sufferers.  By flashing red lights into the eyes of sufferers a substantial amount had no migraine after one hour and the rest felt an improvement in symptoms.

(Further reading and bibliography notes – Light, Medicine of the Future by J Liberman)

Natural Law of Flow

I was looking at some family photographs recently and found some of a favourite aunt, both as a young woman and as an old lady.  In one, she was holding her son, my only cousin.  My mind floated back to many incidents where they had been at loggerheads over some trivial incident or another.  Of course, to her they were not trivial at the time; it was only later that she viewed it with regret.   In those days, punishment for bad behaviour was more stringent than it seems to be today and I remember her being so angry with him – this truculent, challenging late teenager who would push her buttons deliberately and stir up an argument between her and his father as often as he could.

At the time, that is what she thought she had – time.  She thought that things would stay just as they were yet the evidence of impermanence was there; this little baby of hers was now a surly adolescent.  She remained the ‘actively involved’ parent, always wanting him to live in the way she thought was best.  Yet she did not have a happy marriage or had fulfilled her dreams in many ways. In fact, according to her mother, my grandmother, she was equally challenging as a young woman.  She was there with her opinions throughout my cousins’ apprenticeship, marriage, parenting, divorce and remarriage.  She shifted her allegiance depending on his compliance to her wishes – he continued to rebel.

Finally, she outlived him; she struggled with the pain and sorrow but she lived the rest of her life with a philosophical attitude.  She wished so many times she had been closer to him, had done it differently but her journey gave me so much more understanding; when to be supportive and when to leave it alone, to choose my battles, to always act in a way that does not leave a feeling of guilt and, most importantly, that nothing stays the same.

What we are so concerned about today, will merely merge into our life tomorrow.  We work within the idea that what is today, will still be tomorrow, but it isn’t.    Our perception of stability is an illusion: everything is vulnerable, temporary and changing.  So many people, men especially, believe they are defined by the job they do; society has created that within them.  Many are often more loyal with their time to the company than they are to their own family yet the company will retrench them without a thought if it works in their favour.  We see it constantly on News programmes that yet another company has ‘slim lined’ their work force for the sake of profitability.

No matter how hard we try to solidify our lives, nothing can stay the same or last forever. Everything follows the simple laws of nature –  that there must be constant flow.  A river flows, finding its way across the earth, constantly heading towards the sea.  It forges a path that twists and turns to suit the lie of the land but if that flow is blocked it becomes static with a completely different identity; it become a dam.

 Our denial of that basic truth is the reason we become confused even scared.  We suffer because we are projecting the myth of permanence upon a situation that is actually conditioned and constantly changing.   Everything is interrelated and interdependent and it’s the nature of things to come together and fall apart.

It is human nature to always want; to look for the new. To see this in ourselves, we only have to observe a very young child constantly move from one thing to the next, continually looking for pleasure and rarely satisfied with what they have.  This natural behaviour begins as exploration and is later exploited to create the illusion of happiness from external stimulation.  It builds on itself generation after generation until we believe the illusion.

We are constantly bombarded by the media and advertising agencies telling us that we will be happier and more fulfilled when we have this new car, move to a bigger house, have this gadget or go to this amazing place.  The fact is though, when we achieve it, the pleasure is short lived, eventually dissolving and then we find we are not happier at all!

We suffer because we organise our life around the concept that all endures and we live in a solid world yet it is simply ideas and forms coming in and out of existence. If we stop for a second and look at what’s really going on; look with our feelings and senses rather than analysing with a brain full of other people’s thoughts, we can sense clearly what is happening. We begin to realise that we cannot control the flow of life to keep it the same.   All we can do, is allow ourselves to flow like the river and find a way around the obstacles in our path not fearing the change but embracing the adventure of the new.

That’s the actual reality of our situation; everything evolves whether we try to stop it or not.  When we flow with it, we are happier, more relaxed and experience fulfillment.