5 Incredible Instances of Mind Over Matter

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The human brain is one of the most complicated entities in the known universe. Incredibly powerful and barely understood, the human mind is responsible for both the atomic bomb and the Sistine Chapel. When harnessed and disciplined, the mind can propel the body through pain, fear and stress that seem impossible to tolerate. When it comes to the supercomputer in our skulls, where there is a will, there truly is a way.

5 Snake Charming

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Long associated with Indian culture, snake charming is a dying art, due to modern wildlife laws. A man acting in concert with the deadly hooded king cobra uses one of the greatest mind-over-matter techniques on the planet. As the animal, which has venom more deadly than a rattlesnake, rises out of a basket, raised and hooded in a posture that means a strike is imminent, the charmer avoids being bitten only by the use of a flute and his own mental focus.

4 Tightrope Walking

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High-wire daredevil Nik Wallenda credited “mental toughness” to the success of his televised walk across a 2-inch wire above the Little River Gorge near the Grand Canyon with no safety equipment for 1,500 feet in nearly 50 mph winds. In an interview, Wallenda outlined seven parts of his mind-over-matter strategy that include seeing the challenge in detail, cultivating optimism, keeping your eye on the task, outdoing yourself, developing your self image, following through and maintaining discipline.

3 Extreme Breath Holding

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In 2012, 39-year-old Stig Severinsen smashed the existing world record when he held his breath for a suffocating 22 minutes. Severinsen uses mind-over-matter techniques to slow down the rate at which his body burns oxygen by dropping his heart rate to “well below” 30 beats per minute. He does this by underwater meditation calming techniques. While most humans can hold their breath for about 20 seconds, his mind-body coordination allows him to do it for the length of a sit-com without the commercials.

2 Fire Eating

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Of the four elements—earth, wind, air and fire—the latter is definitely the one you least want in your mouth. Fire eating and fire breathing is not a gimmick. It’s extremely dangerous, even by the standards of circus tricks (and remember, they even juggle chainsaws in the circus). With fuel and open flame physically inside the brave practitioner’s mouth, one accidental breath in instead of out will likely be the last breath ever taken. Relying on training and hypnotic focus, the fire eater is a master of mind over matter.

1 Fire Walking

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Used for religious ceremonies, entertainment and to showcase the amazing abilities of the human body and mind, this “trick” dates back to at least 1200 BC. Accomplished partially by understanding the physics of heat transfer, partially by human toughness and mostly by mind over matter, this feat (no pun intended) is incredible because of two basic facts: hot coals reach temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees, and human flesh melts at temperatures that are much, much lower.

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. A graduate of Hofstra University, he was a section editor for "amNewYork", the most widely distributed paper in Manhattan. He was a nationally syndicated columnist with Gannett News Service, the largest news syndicate in the country, and works as a writer in Los Angeles.

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