It all started when I was watching His Holiness the Dalai Lama being interviewed on the TV. I noticed that he blinked roughly four times more than I do, so I decided to mirror his blink pattern. As I did it, I realized that my thoughts stopped for a microsecond every time I blinked. This was amazing! I realized I had caught onto the Dalai Lama's 'thought swatter' that would help keep me in a state of lucid awareness. (Some weeks later I was to learn that there was a book, 'Blink,' on the bestseller list, but from the reviews it seemed focused more on intuitive processes than on what interested me).
I then Googled "voluntary blinks" on Google Scholar, which brought up an article "Vision: In The Blink of An Eye," by David Burr describing brain scans of people blinking. I wrote the author, who replied that "Yes, indeed, research seems to show that blinks may turn off consciousness briefly."
That was welcome news! You can imagine how excited that last sentence made me! I interpreted it as positive feedback from the scientific community that the blink does indeed swat thoughts. David Burr's paper is available on line in .pdf format and downloadable here.
ABSTRACT from the article
"Although we blink every 4 to 6 seconds, we notice neither the act of blinking nor the mini-blackouts they cause. A new study using imaging techniques identifies the neural structures in humans involved in suppressing vision processing and visual awareness during blinking."
A few months later, when I mentioned using blinks to swat thoughts to the leader of a Vipassana meditation group, he said that blinking is taught in the Tibetan Dzogchen tradition as a way of "breaking out of consciousness states."
More recently (December, 2012) an article appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle titled "Brain Powers Down When We Blink" that supports the same theory. The original research will appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Science free abstract here.
All this information was good enough for me. I had the Dalai Lama's example, backed both by science and by Tibetan lamas. I now practice blinking away recalcitrant thoughts to 'stay in the flow.' It even works when my eyes are closed by squeezing my ‘blink muscles.’
Try it! I think you will find it helpful!
Question: Okay, wise guy, then why do people blink more when they are lying?
Answer: Actually the most recent article says that people do not blink while they are lying, but immediately after. I think this is because when a person lies, his thought is “I am lying,” and inasmuch as he doesn’t want to linger in that thought (perhaps the other person will read his mind?), he blinks that thought away. Makes sense!
7-18-09: More recently I've been synchronizing voluntary blinks with my heartbeat. This triggers quite amazing energies, but will require another article soon!
1-03-14: And even more recently, a quote from a somewhat unusual link,
the "Eternal Youth and Immortality" website.
Quoting the UK Guardian, scientists explain that
“When we blink our world is completely blank for a split second. Yet the brain doesn’t register this, according to the best scientific research…what is fascinating is that the
portion of the brain that controls our vision and processes what we see stops working for the split second that our eyes are closed.”
The Guardian reports that a university study shows we process information in a continuous manner and those “blink” moments don’t register. The writer for the Guardian stated that this means we do miss things when we are blinking, at least in the sense that the brain doesn’t record any information for this time.