“The same nerves that carry the sensations of misery carry also the sensation of happiness.” – Vivekananda
Neuroscience is the cool kid on the block these days. So let us look at its history and understand that neurology is simply the story of the nervous system. The nervous system is 600 million years old. Modern man is only 50,000 years old. The earth is 4+ billion years old. Short story: nervous system mapping is older than modern day cognitive thinking.
Mechanism of firing and wiring together:
What fires together wires together is how neural plasticity is described. Let us look at how neural structures are created. A thought is a mental activity. So mental activity creates neural activity. Repeated mental activity creates repeated neural activity. Repeated neural activity builds neural structure. According to Neuropsychologist Rick Hansen, what matters most is not the event, but what is the implicit residue of experience. He says that our brains are velcro to negative experiences while teflon to positive ones.
In other words, you’ve got a thought that lasts 90 seconds to 2 minutes. Joe Despanza, Joe Despanza, author of Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind, describes it in layman’s terms this way. When it continues for hours or days, you’ve got a mood. When it continues for weeks and months, it is now a temperament. Give it a several years and it is your personality trait! The important point to remember though is that it is learned behavior and sticks around because we keep doing it over and over again. We simply memorize it and therefore we have its autograph on our synapses!
According to the Neuroscientist Merzenich, motivation and change is neurology. Ancient wisdom reminds us that it is all about change, impermanence.
The key is that as long as we are breathing, the opportunity for change and creating a life that works better and makes us happier is always available!
Anatomy of Stress
When you are stressed as in stuck in traffic again and you are late for a very important meeting, this is what happens to your body.
The amygdala in the brain initiates the stress response. Think alarm bell! The pupils dilate looking for danger. Heart rate increases. The extremities prepare to fight or run. Certain chemicals are released to alter our perception. The hippocampus (forms and retrieves contextual memory) in the brain inhibits the cortisol and amygdala. The adrenals pump cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol gets us out of danger quickly. It is meant to be short-term fuel. It inhibits and shrinks the hippocampus (killing brain cells). It can impair sleep, digestion, metabolism, memory and learning.
How do you find a calm place in your neurology?
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind….no, it lies in your gut!!
The gut is our second brain! There are nine meters from end of esophagus to anus. Sheaths of neurons are embedded in the walls of this long tube called your gut! It contains 100 million neurons, more than the spinal cord or peripheral nervous system.
We are wired and designed to activate more quickly in the parasympathetic part of our nervous system than the sympathetic drive. That means we are geared towards peace rather than stress. We are meant to find our power in relaxation, not fighting.
A quiet lizard brain is important because of the health of digestion, sleep, cardiovascular system, decrease of inflammatory and autoimmune efficiency. Do you know that 90 percent of neurotransmitters are made in your gut? Over 60 percent of your immune system function is within the gut walls. 95 percent of serotonin is produced in the gut as well.
The gut-brain axis affects the HPA axis in the upper brain. The bacteria in your gut influence the biochemistry and development of the brain. There is a 10:1 ration of internal bacteria to human gene. Ninety percent of information is passed from from gut to brain, not the other way around.
Healthy nutrition is good. But taking in oxygen fully is key. So breathe, breathe and breathe…all the way down your belly!
The relaxation and the saturation in the experience of different qualities of joy, contentment, safety, strength, resiliency in the body are so essential to healing. Saturation means you steep in it like you would steep a bag of tea to get the full flavor.
Contemporary neuroscience says that our brains are hardwired to be Velcro to bad experiences and Teflon to good experiences. This is just one part of it though. This is the old brain. There are other parts of ones’ consciousness that can be trained and cultivated to steep in the essences of who we truly are. We all know how is it to wallow in depression or jealousy, but what about just wallowing in joy and delight and enthusiasm. It is a practice of not just expanding the heart, but really coming home and having these be the residents of this body. When we feel relaxed in our body, meaning the perineum between our genitals and anus, is open like a flower, there arises many possibilities of experiencing and sensing life anew.
When we open those faucets, joints, hinges in ourselves, we open to the whole universal transmission. It’s all here. Blessings are always here. It’s doesn’t go anywhere. The only problem is how to access IT. Do you know when your faucets and hinges are jammed shut? Know that you have a choice to have them be open. You have an opportunity, no a duty to your self, to live a freer, easier and more graceful life. It might take some practice. You are learning another habit, and just like any skill, it takes practice to make it come easier.
The degree of relaxation is like a lens. If the lens is narrow and blurry, then the vision is the same. However, when the lens is clear and clean, the experience of life is also refreshing. You are giving yourself another experience. Stretch it. It’s really okay to feel good!! Then feeling good becomes a resource for you. It becomes your baseline. It becomes your container to be able to be with all the hard places. Remember that energy is either flowing or congealed. Play with it. Allow it to dance its many dance. Don’t assume that there is only one kind of dance.
We live in a time and culture that is very rapid, and multi-tasking is the king. I had a client complained of not having time because he likes to do many things one after the other. I simply reminded him that he chose that. He could have chosen to have 5 or 10 minutes doing no external action, maybe just waiting. Perhaps being with boredom, or the light changing, or maybe the unexpected. What do you choose? The choices we make create the conditions and environments of lubrication or dryness in our physio-psycho systems. Are you for fast food or something more nourishing like bone broth soup that had been simmered for hours at a time? How familiar are you with the texture of butter or cream in your internal system? This is what is saturation.
In Chinese medicine, digestion has four parts. There is the ingesting, the digestion, the taking/absorption of nourishment and the excretion of waste. First you have to eat good food. But even if you eat the best food, but your system doesn’t know how to absorb the nutrition, what good is it? How much information do you take into your life, that it simply becomes stimulation, without its essence really being taken in to nourish your deepest needs and longings?
How much time do you have in your life to simply luxuriate in the gifts you’ve received? Or are you the child in Christmas who just tears the gift wrappers ravenously one after the other, without really taking in the gift? Do you stop and allow the mist to nourishment embraced your very being? Not rushing to the next appointment of the next best thing, but simply arriving and landing here and now. When I finish touching a client on the table, I always ask them to slowly stand up when they are ready, and simply land in standing. Simply land! I stand behind them and take my energy self at a distant so that the field is simply theirs to experience as themselves. In this simply landing, they have the opportunity to give themselves the gift of being in this new reorganization! The session did not end with my retrieval of my hands from their bodies. Their transition from lying down to standing is crucial to self-development. Transitions are extremely important. Life is simply one transition after another. Doing transitions well is doing life well. Transition is change. Change is life. How do we receive transition or change determines how we receive life?
I have been a gardener since my younger days. Everyone who toils the soil knows to listen to the earth, the wind, the sun, the animals, the water, and of course, the plant. You become a tenderer and you are tendered back in this relationship. It is dynamic and alive. You can do everything "right" but it still doesn't guarantee the best crop. It is about probabilities and chances along with moon cycles and seasonal changes. There is care given to the young seedling and awe to the maturing blossoms. There is acceptance of each stage of the growing cycle. This includes sacrifice of some plants to creatures who like to nibble on them in the dark. There are choices to be made as preferences select certain edibles over weeds. There is an appreciation for each stage. One learns deeply about impermanence. Gratitude is harvested as vegetables are shared. There is a slowing of time away from the digital clock as one learns to watch the light dance with its shadow. Patience is rewarded by time revealing itself as flowers imbue their fragrance.
Spiritual Intelligence in the Continuum of Mysticism and Psychosis By Kathrina Kasha Peterson
“Why is it when we talk of God we’re praying but when God talks to us we’re schizophrenic?”- Comedian Lily Tomlin (Fadiman & Kewman, 1973)
Using hermeneutics, heuristic and narrative methodologies, my paper explores the intersection between mysticism and psychosis, and how the perceived split may not be a split at all, but rather a construction of our metaphysical assumptions. Moreover, along with psychologists and transpersonal theorists (Jung (1964), Lukoff (1991), Laing (1965), Campbell (1969), Perry (1953), Assagioli (2000), Grof and Grof (1989)) before me, I posit that individuals experiencing a wide spectrum of consciousness (often not experienced, validated and agreed upon by consensual reality) are in fact undergoing a process of awakening to their spiritual nature. This is a process, I add, that is highly desirable and hold tremendous possibilities to the self and the world. This awakening holds both possibilities as well as dangers. Grof (1989) had termed this spiritual emergence/cy. Experiences of such nature have been labeled by religion as mysticism. The premise of this paper is contrary to the current psychiatric establishment who abnormalizes and pathologizes these visionary experiences, and instead calls it psychosis. I state that not only is spiritual emergence normal and natural, but it is also spiritually intelligent. The paper will unfold the relationship of mysticism, psychosis and spiritual intelligence.
Exploring Spiritual Intelligence
Because spiritual intelligence is a phrase not commonly used, I explored its definition by interviewing seven different individuals from varying religious persuasions: Catholic, Jewish, Tibetan Buddhist, Hindu and a Sufi. For a detailed analysis of the research, please refer to Appendix A. According to my co-researchers, spiritual intelligence is an “intelligence that orients one to the spirit”. Furthermore, “it is an ability to use spiritual experiences or beliefs to cope with and succeed in one’s life.” To further understand its complexity is the following deconstruction given by my co-researchers. “Spiritual is being in touch with a source or explanation of the unknown…being in touch with or experience of a unified presence at the heart of the universe.” Intelligence, on the other hand, is the “ability to adapt and cope with experiences in a productive or successful way.” In the process of adapting and coping, not only is the mental reasoning faculty used but also includes its other dimensions, the intelligence of bodily felt senses and emotions.
Given the above definition, spiritual intelligence is both the realization and the actualization as lived in one’s life. Because of the uniqueness of each individual, there is a multiplicity in the manifestation of spiritual intelligence. Furthermore, these manifestations may not necessarily match our ideas of what is spiritual intelligence. On one hand is the development of certain skills to hone spiritual intelligence, and on the other hand, it also “happens without cultivation or desire for it.”
There is a developmental process that unfolds in regards to learning spiritual intelligence, and at the same time, spiritual intelligence is beyond the learning in dualistic terms. From a Theravada Buddhist perspective of anatta (non self) and anicca (impermanence), there is no continuous, solid being that owns and develops skills. From this point of view, spiritual intelligence may be viewed as the ground of being. I would like to take this a step further and point out that it is not the person who is spiritually intelligent, but rather there is a spiritual intelligence within and through the person. There are times that this expression is far from what we assume to be spiritual. This is especially evident in spiritual emergence/cy.
It is crucial to emphasize the complexity of spiritual intelligence, not only as it stands alone, but more importantly as it relates to mysticism and psychosis. Each of this subject matter is complex within itself and to weave them as I am doing begs the readers to suspend their own beliefs for a short while in order to enter into a dialog.
Exploring spiritual intelligence in the context of mysticism and psychosis
In religious context, it is spiritual intelligence that suffuses mystics with their realizations and actualizations. The barriers to unification drop and as Richard Neumann (1995) adds, “…the mystic does not ask, what is reality. The mystic answers the question by discerning the results of contacts with that reality. The results are a wider, sharper consciousness and a more profound understanding of our own existence.” It is not from dualistic mental masturbation that reality is understood, but rather understanding comes out of a suffusing/unifying with a higher power called divine. This is seen in the lives of mystics such as St. Francis of Assisi and Hildegarde of Bingen.
According to Richard Maurice Bucke (1901) in Cosmic Consciousness, mystical experience includes:
Feelings of unity, feelings of objectivity and reality, transcendence of space and time, a sense of sacredness, deeply felt positive mood- joy, blessedness, peace and bliss,
containing paradox – mystical consciousness which is often felt to be true, despite a violation of Aristotelian logic, ineffability – language is inadequate to express the experiences, transiency, positive change in attitude or behaviour following the experience. (Clarke, 2001, p. 20)
Mystical experience, however, is not only felt as positive and blissful. William James (1958) briefly touches on “negative mysticism” which refers to frightening experiences, such as demonic possessions. Moreover, the dissolution of the self is not always a welcomed event, and can be discombobulating for certain individuals. There is of course what is called “The Dark Night of the Soul” in the Catholic contemplative practice as elucidated by St. John of the Cross. (Underhill, 1969, p. 381) For now, I will refer to these frightening altered states of consciousness as connecting with the “depth” rather than the “height” spoken of earlier. (Clarke, 2001) I propose that the depth and the height are both part of the same continuum, just as the mountain peaks belong in the same context as the valleys and canyons. In this vein, I propose further that the “negative mysticism” James points is the same as what western clinical psychology terms psychosis. Psychotics and mystics experience both the height and depth.
Today, there is a psychological denigration of mystical experiences as psychosis. The clinical insensitivity dates back to Sigmund Freud (1962) with his reduction of “oceanic experience” simply as the mystics “infantile helplessness” and a “regression to primary narcissism.” Moreover, the biomedical model dismisses visions in terms of chemistry and a simplification that “God may simply be residing in the brain.” Because biopsychiatry relies on these assumptions, chemical lobotomy in the form of medication is standard practice. By relegating visions as “delusions” and “hallucinations”, biopsychiatry also dismisses any exploration of its symbolism and metaphor. Sadly, it denies individuals access to its deep meanings and importance.
Because the psychotic thinks and behaves in culturally and socially unacceptable ways (lives out of the standard box), “psychosis is considered a disruption to the normal functioning of consciousness.” (Lukoff as quoted by Stahlman, 1992) Moreover, “The phenomenology (imagery, cognitions) of the psychotic condition shares many characteristics with dream experiences (Hall, 1977), hallucinogenic drug trips (Kleinman et al, 1977), spiritual awakenings (Assagioli, 1981), near death experiences (Grof & Grof, 1980) and shamanic experiences (Halifax, 1979).” (as quoted in Stahlman, 1992) To make the issue even more complicated is the fact that there is a fine line between a psychotic and a mystic. Not all individuals with visions are mentally healthy.
It is clear from the definitions listed above that what religious orders aspire to is denigrated and pathologized by clinical psychology. Given this split in labeling and the harmful impact of its consequences, it is no surprise that this is a difficult and debated topic. It is also no wonder that even though a great many individuals have had mystical experiences, they do not tell others about it for fear of being labeled mentally ill. (c.f. Greely and McCready: Are we a nation of mystics?) As William James dramatically put it, “medical materialism finishes up St. Paul by calling his vision…a discharging lesion of the occipital cortex….It snuffs out St Theresa as a hysteric; St Francis of Assisi as a hereditary degenerate; George Fox with the sham of his age.” (quoted in Clarke, 2001: 109)
So here we are walking on a double edge sword. Or to elucidate the point in another way, a psychotic man in conversation with author/psychologist Peter Chadwick retorted when discussing the investigation of delusional thinking, “You’re trying to climb rain, Peter, or sweep sun off the pavement.” (quoted in Clarke, 2001,p. 191) In “trying to climb rain”, I would like to propose as other have done before me ((Jung (1964), Lukoff (1991), Laing (1965), Campbell (1969), Perry (1953), Assagioli (2000), Grof and Grof (1989)) that some individuals experiencing these signs/symptoms (using one word over the other already presupposes an assumption that is value laden) are not “mentally disturbed”, but are actually in the throes of deep transformation that has value not only for the individuals in question, but for the society at large. The multiplicity of directions an individual can take is many. On one extreme is an evolved self that is an asset to her/himself and society, while another extreme is a disoriented and disorganized self ruminating and magnifying narcissistic tendencies. The question emerging for me is how to assist individuals in integrating their experiences that they lead a freer and happier life.
gentle drops glisten this dark hair
flat feet the shade of an old straw mat
cling to the earth
the wind blows
a soft whisper behind the ears
the spine will be a curve
like the bowing bamboo
and the shiny hair
like white noodles in day old soup
then the storm will quickly descend
the wind will then be a lover in rage
its might so strong
these eyes which reflected the moon
like the clear pond
will be curtained with heavy drapes
of her last monsoon
How is your strength, stamina, or energy level compared to five years ago? My work is about bringing awareness to specific movements in the body in order to improve and maintain the vitality that leads to an independent life.
In my work, I see clients who have difficulty sitting, either because of chronic pain, injury, Parkinson’s, MS or stroke. After a few lessons with me, numerous clients have reported experiencing powerful outcomes including: increased flexibility, pain reduction, better balance, relaxation and ease of movement. Miriam, who sees me for her stiff neck states, “the work with Kathrina has made me aware of all the subtle ways I use my body that aggravate my neck condition… What is most surprising about her work, is how something can be so subtle, so entirely pain free, and yet so effective .”
Our bodies are always changing and each part influences all other parts. Movement with awareness is a proven method to train the brain to reorganize itself from functioning with pain to experiencing more ease. The Katz Index of Independence in Activities of Daily Living defined the basic activities of daily living as bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring, continence and feeding. All these activities require getting up from a chair. As we get older, the ability to reach for objects and get up from a chair means independence, or, dependence if they become too painful to perform on our own.
Although done with ease in our early years, getting up from a chair for many older adults becomes effortful and a clear strain on the neck, shoulders and abdomen. I teach individuals to be aware of where they are straining, where the movement stops and how all parts of one’s self may be brought into moving as one. The key is to know how to function more intelligently when one’s strength and stamina are reduced because of the natural ageing process. As a result of experiencing these movement lessons, habitual patterns are replaced with healthier ones. By using different variations of sitting up slowly and gently, the individual learns how to better organize movement with less effort. One then gains the confidence to move and live life more fully.
What is a pilgrimage?
I’ve done many of the traditional pilgrimages – traveled half way around the world, prostrated with hundred of thousands of others, walked beaten trails up mountain tops, stampeded on roads so small no cars could pass.
A pilgrimage is a journey to the heart of what matters most. As I tarmack across the city by the bay, I stumble along many places of worship. Of course, most of the doors are closed except once a week, but nonetheless, I marvel at the art and architecture and most of all the inspiration that had built such places of gatherings. Are these not places of refuge where one can talk to one’s god(s)? Did I not sit silently countless times finding solace in these empty chambers? And the lights that played across the stained windows?
San Francisco – the city of Saint Francis. The city of churches, temples, places of worship. The city attracts many. There is a port for the ships that travel across the oceans, another port for the airplanes carrying people from all different worldviews. Technology is at a crossroads here. Historically, when people want to pursue dreams that were too liberal for their hometowns, they go west. This is the farthest west the land goes. Many dreams were realized here right by the span of the golden gate bridge. What has this got to do with pilgrimages? Pilgrimages are about dreams. About hopes to be nurtured as well as fear to be understood. Some pilgrims embark on journeys in order to atone for a wrongdoing done. Others pray for a hope to be born.
In the alleys of the city, I walk the streets looking for remnants. I don’t need them to keep…just to remind myself what I want and not want. A thermometer when I can’t figure out my temperature. The sirens scream. I’m just waiting in line for my time, yet I pass my days as though forever is the currency. I make do with little pleasures yet they don’t work…and still I pretend. What will it take to wake me up from my stupor? Another death? A call for a drastic change the soul longs for…where is my destiny? Hiding behind a telephone pole …
God is what? What makes an artist different from a contemplative? Do not both live the beauty of God? As both an artist and a contemplative, I see them as complementing each other, not knowing where one ends and the other begins. When I take photographs, I am more aware of the individuality and uniqueness of creation. There is nothing excluded from beauty. It simply is a point of perspective. I get intoxicated from stumbling into the natural curves of nature. The mystery is present even in technology and I am left speechless…in awe. Sometimes I think that modernity excludes awe, relegating mystery to the religious. I see life as religion. How can I not? When I look into another’s eyes, I can not help but drop my biases and prejudices. Questions vanish and I feel connected. Some may say that I am pre-dispositioned to look at beauty. I am an advocate of learning and I believe everything is learned. I learned and am learning to look and feel and taste and hear and be beauty. It is like sharpening a knife. The more you use it, the sharper it gets. Boredom is not seeing beauty. Not seeing mystery. Not seeing life.
Most wait until their retirement. As a teenager, I read a cartoon of a man who kept saying he’ll do it later…you know until retirement. Except the later kept getting postponed and the last box illustrated him under the ground with a rest in peace sign on top. This made me ponder deeply. Yet, this insight was still blunt and not enough to shake me off my plans. I had a death will when I was 15 years old. My whole life was planned! And if plan A failed, I’ve already made an alternative plan B. Between the planning and over achievement though were the revolutionaries like Emerson and Thoreau who echoed the longings of my heart. The long walks in the desert reminded me of my insignificance and at the same time kept me in touched with the sense of belonging to this grandeur and magnificence of the whole desert. Mesmerized by the magenta and wine colors of dusk, it became clear that there was more to life than the certificates of recognition for academic excellence.
There is a joy that swims in my heart and I enjoy my company. There is this curiousity that pulsates. I am alive. I am no longer ashamed to proclaim that I am a contemplative. Yes, I contemplate the beauty of life. That’s what makes me live. It is my living. Often people asked about how does one make a living? Nowadays, living means work/pay/dollars. It is forgotten that it is about living. We make our living room comfortable so we feel home, who we are when all the masks are down. Living is breathing. Living is full of colors. Living is being alive. What makes you live?
This article addresses relaxation and tension in interpersonal relationship. Relaxation and tension need to be talked about together as they are flip sides of the same coin. Our physiopsychospiritual journey comes down to a common denominator. Are we relaxed or not? A relaxed system experiences itself differently than a stressed system, both in relation to self and to other. It is a matter of degrees: of where we are in the continuum at a given moment, acutely or chronically. Health in its most profound landscape is a system that is relaxed and, thereby, poised to interact without unnecessarily protecting itself.
Human beings are social animals and need social support to be healthy. What happens, though, when foundational social relationships provide more negative experiences than positive ones? How does healing happen when the underlying physiology of relaxation is not a felt experience in the body? How does one reconcile and bring in new learning to a belief, and experience, that social exchange is more costly than supportive?
For the purpose of this article, I am defining tension as a way an individual knows how to support one’s self in times of stress. Many times earlier in life, these coping mechanisms worked to “get the job done”. It may have meant pushing down one’s emotions of fear, anger, despair or/and anxiety. It may have meant experiencing numbness in the inside, while a smile on the outside prevailed. It may have meant “pulling up one’s socks” or “keeping it together” or “”pushing through” or “holding it in”. It may have meant pushing others away through rage and bitterness. In short, the individual learned the ability not to feel pain.
Each emotional state also has a corresponding physiological conglomeration. This may mean the belly is held in tightly while the throat is constricted in an attempt to choke back tears, and, the heart is wrapped a particular way as not to feel its vulnerability. It may mean a heated body. Whatever structures one adopts, they become familiar and habituated to the extent that they feel natural. It really isn’t natural, however. Rather, it is a learned reaction to a situation or/and person, repeated over and over again. It may be the safest and most valued way to hold one’s self: as a child, in order to survive, or, as an adult, in a life threatening situation.
This way of holding may not be the best way to be, yet it is the best that the individual body/mind knows how to do at the present moment. When one is in stress, one holds one’s self a particular way so as not to “fall down” or “fall apart”. The irony of this is that by not "falling into", one actually separates one’s self even more by solidifying one’s structures and becoming denser. This density provides a sense of protection. It is similar to embracing one’s self to keep the self together. The identity of self and other is even more pronounced.
When there is no external support, as with the loving presence of another person, the individual finds other ways to support the self. The effects of a life-long habit of holding in one’s self and not feeling pain, however, have their costs.
When one is physically and safely embraced by another, the accumulated tension of internal bracing can transmute. One can allow the feeling of contraction within the supportive embrace of another. The power of two, instead of one, meets the tension. One feels safer. One can let go of the ability to numb and disassociate. One can feel the heart. By falling into the loving and supportive embrace of another, the tension can release through shaking, rattling, whimpering or sighing.
To be met, held and not demanded to be other than what one is at that moment, translates to being supported in safety. It is not solely an emotional support. It is a physiological relational reality. The parasympathetic nervous system responds. One naturally allows a full breath, because, at that moment, one experiences trust in falling into the web of life where one is held. The individual relates to connection, to the oneness to which we all belong. One embraces and is embraced by the flow of the life force, by its influx of cycles. The feeling of self is of generosity and spaciousness.
A fundamental relational experience of relaxation is essential. Once the experience of support is felt as a basis, one can meander into social exchange as opposition and still be relaxed. Dancing with another force helps us connect with our strength and grace, not just with grit and armoring. The other supports the self in the uniqueness of being. The experience of self as whole is not so easily threatened. Trust is rooted.
Come join me and journey together in creating a new neurological story. There is an impetus in human beings to survive and once these basic needs are met, to continue on to thrive. One of the most basic needs is safety. What happens when the feeling of safety gets compromised? When stress dominates one's life, the sympathetic nervous system takes charge and a whole host of dis-ease manifests. We see these in physical, mental and emotional illnesses. It is the organism's way of calling for help and balancing itself. With the right support, the parasympathetic nervous system can take more charge. The story of the nervous system is directly linked to our motorskills. The way we shape our bodies are our emotions, feelings and thoughts. It is not so much a cause and effect. It is our shape. Shapes are dynamic and fluid; however, when shape is linked with the lack of safety, the fight/flight/freeze response of the organism takes over.
Notice that when we are afraid, our feet and hands become cold and numb. Our heart races, our stomach and guts become fluttery and we might even have diarrhea or constipation. Our shoulders get tight while our chest caves in. Adrenalin production increases. The taste of saliva changes. Our smell becomes more pronounced.
Fear is simply a holding of breath, the rib cages in certain position, the cocyxx held a certain way. Shaping our center this way pulls the extremeties inward and not accessible for action. Working with emotion by intervening on a somatic reshaping of body parts is very effective.
My work with people and animals directly addresses the neuroplasticity of the stress chemistry between peacefulness and anxiety. By creating an environment of visceral and kinesthetic support, the student's nervous system attunes to my own nervous system. Latest scientific research demonstrates that a nervous system does not develop in a vacuum. From infancy, our nervous systems are linked with those of the rhythm of our caregivers' nervous systems. The very structure of our brain is interdependent by the rhythm of those around us. In short, the way we love, the way we recognize safety and comfort depends on how we were neurologically wired early on. The great news is that this wiring is pliable and can change. These neurological sructures can be altered and expanded to include healthier and more peaceful ways of experiencing one's self.
Body-mind-heart literacy is a learned skill. Often we give ourselves more space, more generosity and kindness to learn a new application for our computer than we do for ourselves in learning a new way of dealing with anger or disappointment. Face the simple facts. The baseline of which our parents modeled for us is simply a baseline that is finite and is based on what they know in terms of what their parents and culture taught them. It is not about judgment or pointing to where they went wrong or right. It is all about skill acquisition and having enough practice to master the dynamism required of being a human being. Learning a new skill requires vulnerability. The process of learning includes experiencing how not to do something in order to arrive on how to do it.
When something new is introduced to your life, what sense of your self emerges in relation to this newness? Newness could be a new car, a new idea of changing vacation plans, a cancellation of a date an hour before, a new job, a new home, a new dance movement? Do you feel excitement, fear, weirdness, difference? Is it followed by a sense of being judged, a big gap, a just right feeling or even awesome, some disorientation, a surge of new feelings (aliveness) with more breathe, more space in heart and belly, a felt sense of beig supported by gravity in clear distinct way?
This article explores the relationships we have with change and how habits are maintained. I invite you to explore what emerges as you add new possibilities in your day to day decision making.
Earlier this morning, I watched a young girl with her father on the beach. She must have been no more than three years old. She was filled with excitement as she ran towards the shore to meet the foamy waves. As soon as the waves approached, she ran even faster to not get caught by it. She then jumped up and down declaring her victory and delight. She then repeated the movement towards the waves and again with a free giggle allowed herself to be chased by the cold water. Her father was quiet not too far away. He did not encouraged nor discouraged the young girl.
From the other directions, two young boys wanted to play as the young girl did. They were, however, hesitant to approach the waves and would looked back at their mother for an approval to continue. She said nothing at first. Then the boys began to approach the waves a little and the mother discouraged them with her words. The emotion and body language in the boys were the pull between contraction and expansion - running towards the sea. There was a look of envy for the little girl who had full permission to jump up and down, to and from the waves.
Is the child feeling free to play and explore her own relationship with the incoming waves? What is the father's response/reaction? How free is the child's play from the father's intervention and support? If the child falls into the water and gets cold, how does the father meet her cries, uncertainty, doubt, excitement, etc?
The above event points clearly to relational structuring. Despite our best attempts to think that we are islands, we actually are formed by our relations. Please take this moment to reflect on the experiences that are evoked in your body, emotions and thoughts from these questions.
How do you experience your adventures with newness? Were you supported by your parents with their words, looks, gestures? Take an example of when you were five years old, ten years old, sixteen years old?
Were you encouraged to play? What physical proximal distance away from you was comfortable for your parents? How often were you expected to check in? Did it have a relationship to their anxiety? Your anxiety? Did it differ between siblings? Between brothers and sisters? Did this particular flavor become an identity of yours into your adulthood that when it is not present, you feel that something is missing?
Notice the relationship of early developmental patterning with the way as adults we relate with newness in our lives: new projects, different ways our spouses do things than we do, abrupt change in schedules? How close is your anxiety to change? What is your relationship to disorientation (which is really just another orientation)?
Feldenkrais speaks of the human body as made to function optimally in a state of uncertainty. Being on two legs instead of four gives us a narrower base, which means the possibilities for movement expands exponentially. Moreover, our brain is made to learn. Habits do not induce learning. So even if we add a small change to a habit, the brain eats it up and sees it as something new. A new neural connection is established.
My name is Kathrina Peterson and I invite you to participate in this forum around awareness and movement. I have been a Buddhist meditator for over 20 years and have been exploring in depth what it means to develop as a human being: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This is my passion, both on a personal and a professional level. I welcome you to share thoughts around what it means to be awake.