The great Persian poet Rumi offered his inspired take on love, advising the seekers to consider, “your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Substitute the word “healing” for “love” and you have the basic philosophy that lies at the heart of any true holistic healing modality. Your body naturally cultivates wellness. Every second of every day, every cell in your body is working to bring your body back into a state of optimal functioning. And even though we humans spend many moments of many days hindering the proper functioning of our cells by introducing toxins into our system, our body remains faithfully in our service without a single question asked. If that’s not divine love, I don’t know what is. Which brings us full circle; back to the idea that it is not our job to force our body into health, or to seek for healing, but rather to find and dissolve all of the self-imposed barriers that we have constructed between ourselves and our natural state of well being.
Often these barriers exist in the form of residual tension hanging out in our body-- a cute little souvenir from a trip down Trauma Lane. For the sake of further exploring this concept, let’s get a little nerdy. Consider this: humans, as a species, have undergone some pretty intense evolutionary changes in our slice of time here on earth. The sheer number of significant adaptations our species has made in order to expand into the masterpiece we are now is as mind-boggling as it is immensely impressive. We truly are a work of art. And like any work of art, we are constantly in a state of becoming; walking the line between what has been and what is to come, creating the next software version while running a current version that was built on a previous version. That’s a lot of versions. With that in mind, it makes sense that we would still have some characteristics of previous versions hanging around, and it is some of these old characteristics that are responsible for the tensions that overstay their welcome in our bodies. Case in point: our fight-flight-freeze response.
Previously known as our “fight or flight” response (with the “freeze” factor being recently added to the formal description based on both observation and scientific study—think possum playing dead here), the fight-flight-freeze response is the result of our most basic survival instincts thrusting our body into emergency-mode. This essentially kicks our systems into high gear, from our heart rate to our breathing to our stimulatory neurotransmitter and hormone production. Perfect for running from a tiger, yet imperfect for delivering a public speech (both of which trigger the same physiological response). Point being, while the human mind and body are, across our species, transitioning out of survival mode, physiological reactions to modern day stresses are still more fit for our past survival needs than those of our present-day reality. But hey, we’re empowered beings, aren’t we? We can rise above the shackles of our previously patterned modes of functioning by consciously focusing our attention away from where we have been and towards where we want to be, can’t we? Why yes, we are; and why yes, we can. Glad you asked.
Here’s how: by understanding our body’s signals and capabilities and then harnessing the power of this knowledge with the goal of deliberately removing barriers to health and therefore better allowing our body to restore itself to its natural state of wellness. It really does work that way. Think about it—your mind sends your body signals all the time: “tense up, there’s a threat lurking!” or “be on alert, your boss may be around the corner!” Now it’s your turn to use your body to send your mind some signals: maybe something like “calm down, there’s no tiger.” It’s entirely possible. In fact, no matter where you are, and no matter how many barriers exist, wellbeing and the tools to achieve it are within your reach. Take a minute to revel in the relief of that statement.
In this post, we - yes, you and I are a team now - will begin to lay the foundation for this harmonious marriage of body and intention; the merging of physical manifestation and deliberately directed desire. In subsequent posts, I’ll continue to offer guidance and suggestions as we all work together towards the goal of conscious convergence of mind and body.
So let’s get to laying that foundation, shall we?
If the metaphorical house for which we’re laying a foundation represents the dissolution of barriers to healing, then it follows that this house would need to be built upon a solid awareness of the barriers we seek to dissolve. And therein lies our initial work: cultivating awareness of the times we’re holding ourselves back. Recognizing the times we’re tensing up, backing down, or freaking out, and then taking an active role in guiding our minds and bodies back towards wellness. Acknowledging that our prolonged stress reaction, no matter how we justify it, is not helping our situation, and then knowing that we have the power to reverse this cycle. This is where we’ll start, with a simple non-judgmental acknowledgement and a quick exercise to relax our body and release the tension we can feel mounting.
Here’s the plan:
- Recognize the tension: the goals here are first, to more regularly check in with how your body is feeling, and ultimately, to recognize your body’s subtle signals in the moment they occur. No matter where you are on this spectrum, it’s the perfect place to start.
- Pat yourself on the back for recognizing the tension: seriously, do it. You deserve it.
- Release the tension: use the 4-7-8 breathing technique (which I’ll dive into in another post, but for now let’s just cover the basics and get you on your way to healing). To do a simple version of this technique, inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, and exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. Repeat 4 (but no more than 4) times and enjoy the relaxing effect the increased oxygen and decreased carbon dioxide have on your system. This is one of the most simple and effective breathing techniques out there, and I honestly can’t sing its praises enough. Speaking of praise….
- Pat yourself on the back for releasing the tension: yep, again. Because again, you deserve it.
- Rinse and repeat: as often as necessary, just come back to this simple practice and enjoy the benefits.
That’s it. Recognize, release, rinse, and repeat (and sprinkle with self-appreciation along the way). Most importantly, have fun with this. Expansion is supposed to be a beautiful, exhilarating, playful process, and participating at all is something to be celebrated. Now go get to celebrating, you beautiful humans, you.