The phrase "letting go" is so familiar to hear in psycho-spiritual circles. What does it really mean to let go? Let go from what into what? Why would that be valuable to us? A quick answer is to flourish as human beings. To be well.
As a movement educator, I observe many people who move as though their shoulders are on a coat rack. Bodies look suspended on the air while legs and feet appear to be disjointed from the torso. To simply tell someone to relax often does not simply work because the whole system doesn't know how to hold itself any other way. Ignorance is simply not knowing. It is also true in this case. Relaxation and letting go are visceral learnings, just like learning a language. I've been in movement classes where teachers speak of moving one's ribs and watch students struggle with this leap. To see someone in point A and want them to be in point B without understanding the gap between A and B fails to successfully address learning.
I was a reading specialist many years ago and taught children with different abilities how to decipher letters, put them together in order to read and then to comprehend. There were many steps from actually seeing the letter on paper to learning it multi-modally in the brain to finallly enunciating it with delight and certainty. It wasn't about simply addressing the learning challenge but also skillfully working with the emotional pretzeling around it.This is the similar process for how to relax and let go. To avoid reductionism, let us look at a few different possible ways that a learning is created.
We each have learnt a baseline as what is the comfort zone for breath retention, speed and length. That means the sacrum, the belly, the ribs, the lungs, the jaws, the little toes recognize this pattern as familiar and comfortable. It is associated with a sense of safety. Sometimes safety means not sensing one's body fully or feeling one's emotions to completion. Looking at it from the perspective of attachment and bonding theories, the infant's breath follows the rhythm of the mother's breath. If the mother is chronically anxious and depressed, then the infant uses this as a model for what is possible. True but inaccurate and limited. This becomes the baseline for what is possible within that neuromatrix. It is not about letting go of that "story", but creating and adding another story that encompasses a spectrum that includes wellness that matures. It is a conversation. Alive. This opens up the conversation between the maps etched in the cortex with the input from the periphery of the nervous system. Think brain and skin. They are truly modifiable by experience.
For thousands of years, breath has been a doorway in spiritual technology. Breath has been known to be the link between body and mind. The Satipattana Sutta of the Buddhist speaks directly as a meditation instruction to know for one's self the effects of a short breath on the body-mind and to know the effects of a long breath on the body-mind. In this process, one understands and knows one's self. Yes, breath is somatic. It is also an intersection of what compels us in our lives, often unconsciously.
To go out of this pattern means to learn a new pattern. We are rewiring the nervous and psycho-somatic circuity of the individual. Biofeedback is one modality that addresses specifically the relationship of this neuro-chemical dance with relaxation. This is why it is used with some success in patients with chronic pain. Unfortunately, when someone also has deep unresolved trauma, deeper levels of relaxation triggers the trauma. It is then very important to work with someone skillful about this relationship. I use Neurovascular Integration to support the resetting of the parasympathetic nervous system. Because we live in a culture that has the sympathetic nervous system (stress) turned on most of the time, we need all the help in balancing it with the parasympathetic nervous system (peaceful and powerful).
Chronic pain is biopsychosocial disease and interjecting at any point in the cycle breaks the pattern. A few tangible ways to break the cycle is to be curious, delighted, grateful, feel one's vitality, feel love, see beauty and appreciate a blessing in one's life. By understanding the loop of the physiology with the psychology, one can introduce positive feedback that builds resiliency. What is resiliency and why do we need it? According to positive psychology, resiliency i s 1. the capacity to be realistic, 2. to sense trust and faith, 3. to have the capacity to reinvent one's self, 4. to have the ability to create and maintain a social support system and 5. to have a sense of humour. Resiliency is linked to good health.
Movement and social support are the most important parts of health. Our bodies are hardwired to resolve dangerous situations that trigger the "withdraw, protect, resolve" pattern primarily through movement. Think of a baloon filled with water as opposed to a bottle with water. Our cells, tissues, bodies respond accordingly. Trauma laden tissues are rigid, either in freeze, flight or fight mode. Our tissues need to feel safe to circulate and soften. The body has its own innate intelligence to spontaneously self correct given the right kind of information. A human being that feels safe can truly relax, let go and attend its energy into flourishing.
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.