This week I have been napping, resting, and napping some more. I am in a period of big shifts. There are so many wonderful things happening in my life and I am very excited. My practice both as an artist and chamána is built upon communication with my body. I am very kind to my temple; the instrument I create with, and I listen to it carefully.
Part of my relaxing is about restoration through meditation. The chakras, centers of spiritual power in the human body, are a major focus for me. Guided meditation, dance meditation, laugh meditation, walking meditation are ways that I achieve quieting of thoughts and practice mindfulness.
In addition to meditation I also use color as a way to care for myself. Color theory and color meaning are also important components of my practice. In fact, I mostly dress in monochromatic looks. A single color head-to-toe. These choices are made daily and informed by my feelings, based in both psychology and spirituality with the intention to fortify specific aspects of me that I aim to reinforce.
Before getting dressed, I ask myself questions like:
What is my intention?
How am I feeling?
In what ways do I feel most powerful?
What aspects do I want to affirm and/or focus on?
The thoughts that follow point me in the direction of a specific chakra and corresponding color. I ask myself similar questions when working in my art studio. In addition to considering WHY I am creating and WHAT a specific piece will be, WHERE it will be placed/performed, HOW others interact with the work and WHO they are. Also, WHEN such as: time of day, season, duration. Once again the color story, and its meaning, is often one of the first pieces of the creative puzzle placed.
It’s fascinating to me how science, spirituality, and art all have methods for decoding colors. I am interested in how they overlap and guide one another. I also think about what a color feels like. Why certain colors make me feel energized, calm, balanced, peaceful, soothed, secure.
I often revisit studies I have worked on and contemplate my choice to use specific hues or tones. When I was healing from injuries I transformed my X-rays into love letters back to my body. These studies were then incorporated into projection video self portraits for installation during my performances. All of the colors used were selected with intention and have deep personal meaning.
Womb Rebirth, 2017
A multi-sensory celebration of rebirth as activated action. The gallery space is transformed into the metaphorical womb. My self-portrait, a video projection created from my x-rays sets the intention for restorative healing. The performance incorporates healing of past injuries, as I let go of visceral memories while gifting others small tokens and gestures of love to cherish and reflect upon. I created: sacred sculptural objects to engage with including: a womb shield, a headdress, sound elements, light elements, large-scale installation housing for performance art and the public.
This week my lab continued hard at work developing and refining the EmotiBit circuitry. One sensor that I hope will really get Nicolleta’s heart pounding is our multi-wavelength photoplethysmography or PPG sensor.
You might be familiar with PPG sensors on some wrist-worn activity trackers, or from the little clip they put on your finger at the hospital. Most activity trackers typically use only a single wavelength of green light, while hospital PPG sensors use a combination of red and infrared light and EmotiBit uses all 3 wavelengths to derive a complex portrait of physiological changes. To understand why different colors of light make a difference, it might be helpful to explain how PPG technology works.
PPG is essentially just shining a light into your skin and measuring how much light gets reflected versus how much gets absorbed by your body. Because oxygenated blood reflects different color wavelengths (looks red) than deoxygenated blood (looks more blue), it’s possible to measure a variety of changes in the cardiovascular system. Every time your heart beats, a fresh supply of oxygenated blood flows through your body, flushing your tissue red and generating an increased red PPG signal. This can give you information about both your overall activity level, energy usage and emotional changes. Because EmotiBit offers access to the raw PPG data, other physiological metrics like the dicrotic notch (related to heart valve closing ) can be measured from the raw signals and by measuring heart rate changes over time it’s possible to derive pulse rate variability (PRV) to assess how active the sympathetic “fight or flight” and parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous systems are. With the carefully engineered time synchronization, it’s additionally possible to take measurements from multiple EmotiBits in different body locations and derive information like pulse transit time (PTT, correlated to blood pressure) and changes in PPG waveshape caused by vascular embolism.
Unlike most activity trackers, which use only green light, comparing the ratio of red and infrared light in a multi-wavelength PPG allows the ratio of blood oxygen saturation to be precisely calculated. Monitoring how this ratio rises and falls over time, it’s possible to measure breathing and study stress-related apnea. Furthermore, because red and infrared light penetrate deeper into the body’s tissue than does green light, even more detailed information about the body, such as hydration levels (as being performed by some labs) might be the tip of the “what’s measurable” iceberg. PPG is essentially spectrometry, which is a gold-standard technique used by physicists, chemists, biologists, and astronomers alike to understand the underlying chemical composition of an unknown substance. My dream is that through this SciArt residency and by giving more people access to high quality multi-wavelength PPG data from EmotiBit, we may discover new ways to understand our bodies and minds.