Emotions are the programming language for our instincts.
They give texture to the stories we see and hear, tricking our bodies into storing them as though they are real experiences.
The reasons we make up to justify our behaviour are downstream products from our deep-seated assumptions.
Those beliefs decide how we react and how well we focus on the things we want.
Instincts save us, they also act like viruses that take over our operating systems. They can come from rich experiences such as in learning a skill. Or formed from our perceptions of something that happened. Perceptions are stories, and the emotional part tricks our nervous system into storing them as skills.
Emotions are electro-chemical events that change our biology, they increase our nutritional and sleep requirements as well our need for attention.
My expectations and the way I perceive what happens are shaped by my beliefs. When my perception does not match my expectation, I have inner turmoil. That conflict is the emotional charge being replayed. The tension and energy build up created is unbearable and leads to hasty and often addictive behavior.
There are positive emotions as well. Good feelings de-contract the stored tensions that cause us to act defensively.
Gratitude is powerful medicine that we make ourselves.
Gratitude is the deep accpetance of present circumstances. The idea that we owe something to someone outside of ourselves is often just a guilt trip. What is valuable is the energy saved, of course we should be mindful of those who enrich our lives.
To focus on our purpose, we have to debug our instincts. Beliefs are very difficult to remove once they exist at the automatic level. They are then part of our flight and fight responses and take precedence over rational actions.
To gracefully steer our nervous-system and blood chemistry is difficult. It pays to re-set our base-line tension using daily focused breathing and movement practices.
Focus is the Doorway
Both the Automatic and Conscious parts of our biology control our breathing. By slowing or pausing our breath we override the bodies fear and pain responses. We change our relationship to them when we allow these sensations to be.
With practice this becomes powerful, as Wim Hoff shows by near naked mountain climbing and ice submersion.
The main reason for regaining or retaining control is so we can spend more of our lives doing what we choose and saying what we mean the way we intended.
No point working 40+ hours a week for 40+ years to waste most of that money on things we did not need to buy
Focus is our birth right, stories that use emotion to trick us into forming instincts that create automatic inappropriate defensive reactions – don’t just rob us of our lives and turn us into reactive addicts – they keep us isolated and threatened.
Focus is the way out – breathing and conscious movement takes us through the doorway. But you can’t think through it, you have to step, its an action.
Hope this resonates? it is difficult to put into words – I will persist in breathing and moving and sharing what I find.
Mindfulness is a term used to describe paying attention to what is occurring in the present moment. In most definitions it includes being aware of passing thoughts. In this post I explore how mindfulness increases freedom and the ability to choose our actions.
Mindfulness Increases Sensitivity while Decreasing Reactivity
The opposite of mindfulness is to be unaware of ones present situation. The opposite of freedom is to be unable to select our actions.
When we become emotionally upset the chemistry of our blood changes, our physical posture and tension levels change and the way we see ourselves and our circumstances change also.
Not only do we experience ourselves and our situation differently but others experience us differently also. This alters both the options available to us and our perception of what is now possible.
Emotional Freedom through Mindfulness
We experience emotions as either pleasant or unpleasant feelings within our bodies. The more certain we are about how things ought to be, the more often reality is going to challenge those assumptions.
When our beliefs or assumptions are challenged we feel a tightening or contraction in our tissues. This can escalate into a full blown threat response with adrenaline and cortisol and may lead to harsh words or actions.
In situations which are truly threatening, these automatic responses can save our lives. In situations where only our opinions, ideals or values are threatened, these reactions damage relationships, waste energy and limit the range of actions available to us. They cost us our freedom.
We can either desensitise ourselves to these feelings of tension and “negative” emotion or we can do the opposite, which is to practice mindfulness.
Mindfullness is about Identity, how we see ourselves determines our level of Freedom
Mindfulness is a state of alertness to our senses. Our senses provide real time information about events occurring both externally and internally.
Much of what we notice internally is the result of how we perceive external events. It is our stories and assumptions that determine these inner sensations of emotion.
What happens externally is largely outside of our control, the greater part of mindfulness is being aware of the inner sensations and what is triggering them.
Mindfulness is the art of objectivity, of being able to recognise both inner events, (emotions), and external events, (sensations) as seperate from our assumptions and the meanings we place on them.
Meanings and Kindness alter our Freedom
When we are able to experience emotions and sensations as seperate from any story or perception, then we avoid making them mean anything. If we can accept what is happening without measurement or comparison then we remain free to choose our next action.
If we compare each feeling and sensation to what happened in the past or project what that may mean for our future, then our actions will be limited by our beliefs. Our meanings will determine and limit our actions.
While we are remembering past events or considering possible future impacts our attention is largely in our thoughts so we have reduced our sensitivity to real relationships in the present moment.
If we are able to remain present with the feelings and sensations as they arise, we remain fully sensitive, fully aware of our situation and all the rich possibilities it presents. We notice tiny differences and what creates them, we begin to understand the relationships between events with greater clarity.
This understanding of relationship and our own inter-relationship with everything and everyone usually results in us being more kind. We recognise the commonality of both joy and suffering and see ourselves in others.
Doorways into Mindfulness
Be the act of observation, rather than the observer.
The observer is the aggregation of comparisons and judgements, of values and stories, comforts, fears, pride and shame. The observer who has created an identity out of their likes and dislikes is full of assumptions.
Observation without judgement is curiosity itself. It is perhaps the reason that trillions of cells work together to produce a nervous system capable of abstract thought. Sensitivity to reality rather than to meanings allows Mindfulness.
Identity determines Mindfulness
Simply being aware of the rich sensation pouring into our bodies gives rise to a felt sense of self. Developing talents, skills and traumas differentiates how we “feel” and come to know ourselves.
When our identity is determined by the quality of attention that others give to us, how we feel, and who we feel ourselves to be, will be dependant on those other people. Attention seeking behaviour emerges from this part of our identity.
The perception of threat keeps us reacting with inappropriate emotions and thoughts. The threats are most often to our stories of self, to all the assumptions, likes and dislikes that form our identity. The more stories we have, the more we depend on others to validate us, the more often we will feel emotions that have nothing to do with reality.
Much of thought itself is an inappropriate reaction that further de-sensitizes us to current happenings, making graceful action impossible.
To be mindful, I release the “I” of my Identity and allow all my biology to resonate with what is happening. The Christian cross is the Letter I with a line crossing it out.
To identify through the reality of biology and its current situation rather than through stories of how and why things should be is called “acceptance”. Our biology is interdependent with all the biology that coats this planet. The self as seperate is a perspective that can be set aside and a great deal of fear goes with it.
You will not find these ideas in books on neuroscience and psychology, rather than hard facts, my explanations better resemble metaphors. They are my attempt to rearrange fragments of knowledge and allow a fresh picture to emerge. One that better matches biology and the possibility of greater bio-diversity.
Relax to receive – Information as movement
Emotions lend power and texture to communications. As discussed in depth in my previous post, although emotions come in many flavours, perhaps it is useful to see them as being either: based in physical contraction or expansion. Notice, that I chose to write expansion rather relaxation.
When cells, tissues, organs and bodies are relaxed they are able to resonate or be moved more freely they are receptive to in-comming signals. They gather, transmit and move with more information, expanding their inter-relationship.
Do our Intentions determine our intelligence?
Intelligence can be defined either as pure information, for example, to gather intelligence. Or the ability to recognise and store repeating patterns. To sense and make sense of what is happening.
In nature, which encompasses everything, all is interrelated, even chaos or the dissolving of order happens predictably. We tend to hang onto or memorise the repeating elements or pieces of this larger pattern that we see advantage in.
Those broken of pieces of the greater pattern become our intentions. How we store or memorise these fragments determines both what we are able to feel and how we feel.
There are ways to make sense of the data that allow us to move gracefully and effectively in the flow of what is happening. When we cling to patterns that seem to bring personal advantage, but do not flow with what is happening we experience and perpetuate turbulence. Lets explore this.
Virtual Reality of the Synapses – The Mind Field
Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of the our nerve endings to make and break connections like trees waving together in the wind. As we have more rich and engaging experiences we make more connections, we come to understand what is happening and how to move with it. These types of connections are flexible and update readily. They begin to form an inner map that resonates with our environment and circumstances.
Our instincts shuttle resources away from this part of the brain, away from healing, rejuvenation and protection of the DNA. Into our muscle memories for fast life saving actions. Our muscle memories are a collection of learned skills that provide moving experiences. But skill are not the only patterns stored in our bodies.
May the Force be without you for a while
We need to contract to transfer or generate force. Applying less force for less time not only saves energy, it allows us to return to greater sensitivity faster.
Grace, elegance and efficiency are measures of how effectively we apply force. All of these are determined by how well our cells move in relation to each other and how well our bodies move in relation to their surroundings.
Friction is a cost of moving things, (like Inertia) it is a force that must be overcome in order create movement. In our bodies, non useful stored tension wastes energy as it hinders our ability to move and be moved.
Sensitivity is the ability to resonate or be moved by incoming energy, be it, sound, light, heat, magnetism or another expression of force, (they are likely all one anyway).
So if Neuroplasticity is in fact, all wavy and tree-like, how dow we come to be so tense and why do we have the ability to not be moved?
How do we store these patterns that do not “resonate” or move nicely with the passing energy, like leaves in the wind and waves in the ocean?
So glad you asked 🙂
The Spring within – Fascia is the tissue of Connection or is it?
A cell, much like an amoeba, is an individual unit of life, as such it can move (contract/relax), produce energy from food, and sense its environment and reproduce. It senses its environment predominantly, through its membrane or surface.
To increase access to information from environment it can increase its surface area, if it gets too big it will become unstable and fragile. At some point it is just easier to “join forces” with adjacent cells to create a more complex organism.
Cells become tissues, different tissues join to become organs, organ systems, organisms and eventually organisations of organisms. Yet binding this all is the tissue of connection – the fascia. Yes even our societies are bound by fascia.
Fascia becomes the tissue that determines if there is an issue.
Fascia forms a moving, sliding, gliding three dimensional web that binds us to together. It is elastic and stretchy, combined with muscle and nerve fibres it both receives and transmits force. Fascia takes on the role of the membrane in that simple amoeba model, it is all about inter-action.
Due to the elastic nature of fascia, it can store and release tension like a rubber band. Imagine a cheetah running, as its foot absorbs the weight of its body returning to Earth, that force is stored, as it springs of the ground, that stored energy is released. Together with powerful muscle contractions the combined force is enormously effective.
For this to work, the fascia must release all non relevant tension, (friction) and get out of the way. The cheetah’s nervous system must coordinate muscle contractions and relaxations in perfect timing to the changing circumstances. Total and perfect sensitivity to environment though the senses is required.
Sensitivity is a function of softness, of suppleness of the membrane of the fascia of the organism to “allow” what is to be.
Threatened with extinction
When we perceive a threat, the emergency part of our brain selects a spontaneous instinctive response. Enormous resources are sent to move us out of danger. If there is in fact no real and present danger those resources remain unspent.
Precious bio-chemicals, electrolytes, endorphins, neurotransmitters, hormones, ATP remain in the system, we get a rush. The fascia gets wound up ready to spring.
We experience these minor and major tensions as the emotions of contraction. If not released, the spring remains wound up, that stored tension becomes a kind of body memory. The corresponding emotion is un-pleasent, unbearable in fact, as it keeps us blind un-easy, threatened and vulnerable. It makes us feel alone.
When we repeat this many times, fail to move and feed our bodies poorly, the fascia gets stuck in the prepared state and we loose both agility and sensitivity. We embody the fear response and as we become increasingly deadened, we get scared more easily. This turns us back to the tribe for comfort, re-assurance and validation. Attention seeking.
Swell times ahead – inflammation vs information
In the animal kingdom, animals that move poorly become lunch, their molecules are recycled early. In the world of Sapiens, we have learned how to re-direct the forces of nature, we can create swelling in the environment and harvest from it, saving our energy.
We no longer need to be graceful and sensitive, so long as we are up-stream of the swelling we can harvest easily. We are taught how to behave and what is valuable. We play the game of squeezing nature and competing for a place up-stream. Those downstream in the land of lack, are obviously un-educated or lazy.
These stories that maintain the status quo and are not fluid and wavy at all, they are all about fear, contraction, swelling and control. Perhaps we can not store these kind of memories in our synapses, maybe they are stored in the fascia, in the skin within. They are transmitted and re-enforced via stories empowered by tone of voice and body language, via the emotions of contraction.
Movement as Medicine
Movement brings awareness to both tension and relaxation, to where we are stuck and swollen and to where we are fluid, alive and sensitive. All movement happens in relation to the energy or forces that are present in our environment.
To free ourselves from the stories that are anchored in our fascia with emotion we need to return our focus to sensitivity. This is the most difficult task their is and very few succeed totally.
Most of us have fleeting experiences of the alive connected, timelessness and selflessness of these “states”. We call them altered states, but I wonder if they are our birthright and it is our collective culture that alters us?
The purpose of these writings and illustrations is to explore letting go of non-relevant tension. Allow our synapses to build better models, to understand the flowing biology that coats this planet. To return to Information, accept our vulnerabilities and release inflammation.
Do certain types of emotion trick our biology into remembering concepts as though they were actual events?
Stories create emotion through empathy, this identification gives rise to emotion, creating memories that will effect future perception and action.
Lacking real experience,we use emotions to store abstract ideas. The type of emotions used are contractive rather than expansive and as they do not gel with reality they end up triggering the emotions we used to store them.
I also suspect that we store these ideas in our muscle memory. Specifically in our fascia, constantly triggering these programs, and releasing stress hormones without any real threat leads to calcification in the fascia, loss of posture and loss of focus. Making it harder to achieve flow states.
This may turn out to be inaccurate, but my reasoning is as follows:
Life is Movement
From single cell organisms to mammals with complex multi organ systems, timely information about environment is critical to function. When organisms can not sense accurately, they can not respond or allocate resources effectively to maintain internal order.
Relax or Contract
Limbs wings and fins are obvious examples of groups of cells working together to contact or relax, to provide motion.
To pump gasses and liquids, digest, hunt and harvest, to fight or flee, learn, signal and reproduce, cells must move.
The complexity and diversity of movement possible in the biosphere appears unlimited but it all arises from cells contracting and relaxing in unison.
Among the ways cells sense and signal is via proteins on their membrane surfaces, these proteins are like locks waiting for the right keys. When cells are in contraction most of these key holes are full and the cells are blind to fresh stimuli until they relax again. ( This is a massive over-simplification but as a metaphor it may be useful).
Emotion is language
Sensitive nervous systems managing trillions of cells provide highly nuanced details of these states of contraction and relaxation. Language and Complex social interactions further broaden cellular signal movements to include gestures sounds and smells.
Homo sapiens emerged about 70,000 years ago and our ability to use language to cooperate and share information vastly increased different possible emotions. Beneath all that, I see these emotions falling into two categories, contraction and relaxation.
Contract or Relax – Move or Feel
The language of contraction is dominated by instincts that correlate with defense, flight and fight, acquiring, consuming and mating. It’s all about survival, applying force and controlling risk. Contraction is action. Contraction without action can be seen as blocked energy or trauma.
The returning of relaxation defines the language of sensitivity. Allowing the possibilities of interaction, coordination, cooperation and even creativity. It’s all about using the incoming data for making fresh connections and expanding opportunities. About playfulness, coordination and learning. Relaxed tissues allow resonance.
Instincts and opinions
There are times when instincts save us and movement programs such as breathing, beating our hearts, digestion and even walking are essential. Patterns of movement become skills, when we add significant focus, those skills become extraordinary. When threatened, defence programs run automatically. They bypass my reason centers and take me straight into action.
Our biology can not distinguish between a real event and an imagined event. How I perceive or feel alters the chemical signals between my cells. My body responds to emotions, yet emotions that arise from thinking may be unrelated to the movement around me.
When I experience danger or a threat, my body releases the emergency hormones of flight and fight. These hormones free resources and narrow my focus in preparation for instant and massive action.
When I have a false alert this energy remains unused. Energy normally allocated to immune response, metabolism, accurate protein synthesis and higher level thinking, is now available for action. What happens to this unused potential?
Fascia, the skin within and its role in memory
Our fascia or connective tissue is the white skin that coats our bones, it surrounds individual and groups of muscle fibers, nerves and blood vessels. Fascia forms an interconnected three dimensional web throughout our bodies, storing and releasing energy like a system of springs. I think of fascia as an extension of our nervous system, but like many of these ideas, that may not be strictly accurate.
The programmability of fascia plays a role in how we create and store muscle memories. Fascia/neurone memories are “chunks” of information, which we combine instinctively to perform simple and complex tasks from walking to windsurfing.
In its dormant or relaxed state, the fascia is flexible and its fibres glide easily across each other. When threatened, parts of the body contract to defend itself. With trauma, we create patterns of tension inappropriately, and it can become permanent restriction that interferes with our posture.
When a wild animal escapes a near death experience it will shake uncontrollably to reset all its signals back to the open and receptive state again. Similarly, we see dogs run in crazy circles to burn of the hormones of excess excitement. Crying also helps to shed excess hormones.
As we age, “toughen up” and stop being silly, we don’t disperse these action potentials, and things that continually upset us build patterns of tension that become locked into our fascia.
This stored contraction holds both the shape and the feeling that triggered it. Besides inviting disease, it becomes a body memory that will inhibit both skilled movement and how we sense our environment. It keeps us partially blind and more reliant on memories and programs.
Healers call this blocked or stuck energy. Releasing it physically may help, but usually we must also release the perception or story that carries the emotional charge.
Pure experience provided by our senses, can never provide the evidence to support stories of a seperate anything. As all is in relation and effects everything else, valuations and comparisons are human assumptions.
When we latch onto ideas or stories for the purpose of increasing our feeling of power, control, worthiness or advantage, or when we latch onto knowledge to defend, enhance or protect our “selves”, we must use emotion to anchor these “facts”. Emotion provides a texture of tension that tricks our biology into feeling it is having a real world experience.
This accumulated tension creates an identity of self as seperate and keeps us moving in reactive semi-blind circles. The “seperate self” is in constant need of validation from other tribe members, to feel worthy, safe and connected. Much of our energy is spent in attention seeking, acquiring, improving or distracting the vague feeling of un-easiness created by this illusory seperate self.
Over thinking over
Our biology is not stupid, it says ” hey big fella, check out this feeling thats interrupting our cells – POW”. When that emotion arises we may accept it, suppress it, distract ourselves from it or react to it.
Reacting to it usually involves our minds inventing a version of events where we get to hang onto our belief and blame the bad feelings on something external. This replaying saps our focus, suppression saps our ability to feel that part of ourselves and both, keep us insensitive.
Loosing Sensation, feels like Separation
Being insensitive, reactive and walled off, destroys our ability to have healthy relationships. Leaving us unable to feel, even when people do accept and validate us. We mistake losing accurate sensation as the loss of connection and ironically may try even harder to seek attention, respect and validation.
Addictive behaviour traces back to the pain of feeling seperate. We are never seperate until the decay process removes the order in our biology. We need to feel connection directly, the same way we need to learn things directly. Both are hindered by remaining in contraction.
To grow with the Flow, I have to let go
I try not to get attached to concepts that I will not able to experience and test directly. Holding onto ideas that do not match the evidence of my senses creates conflict and emotional reactivity.
This stored emotional tension ruins my posture making sensitivity, graceful interaction, and fresh skill acquisition difficult.
Flow states and focused movement help us to release stuck signals, and more fully inhabit our bodies and relationships. Each of us is tuned to feel our world uniquely, by placing our attention into rich activities that fully engage our senses rebuilds our ability to focus and is another on-ramp into flow, into health and into freedom.
As usual this is deep and difficult to grasp, I hope you find it helpful. I suspect we live about 70 years because the journey of self understanding takes time to un-wind.
Our senses feed into a nervous system that is located within an organism we call the human body.
Our “mind” arises out of a combination of both the awareness of sensory data and in the meanings we apply to that data. The mind is a combination of real data and perception of real data, to access perception we reach into memory. Memories are stories about what happened last time we experienced a pattern of data. Often they are memories of memories of stories and not actually an optimal fit to the situation at hand.
It’s ok, I don’t know what the hell mind is either 🙂 and I will never know how YOU experience it. I respect, both your experiences and your stories about them. I am not here to invalidate you, only to understand myself so that I can act in ways that are more effective and respectful.
The fact that our nerve endings and sensory organs exist in a single body, has the tendency for mind to perceive itself AS that body. Our bodies are aging and will die, as an organism, we compete for energy and the fulfillment of our reproductive instincts.
Yet an organism, (depending on its level of complexity) is a collection of cells, tissues and organs that operate as a community. The community of the organism, operates within a local environment teaming with other communities of life-forms, that local environment exists within the biosphere. None of those parts can exist separate from the whole for very long.
What happens when the mind experiences sensory data from within and without the organism without reaching into memory? The amount of available attention increases, we stop making comparisons. We stop reaching into our memories and we stop imagining the future. Our world fills up with sensory data about what is happening right now. This is what we call “flow state”, in this state we can handle risk and mitigate danger better because we are alert without being inappropriately stressed, tense or flooded with adrenaline.
There is no future so there is no fear of what might happen. Without accessing memories, there is no past, so there is no expectation, no disappointment, no surprise and no opinion. No stories. Without the stories, there is no reactivity, we become free to choose a fresh action based upon real time data. In this state we are totally unpredictable. Perhaps most interestingly though is what happens to our minds.
In the absence of memories and stories of self, the mind stops identifying with the body and begins to identify itself with the flow of real time information. All that data streaming in from the environment, that environment that reaches into infinity in all directions, all that data that is constantly moving and unfolding in patterns of intricate interwoven complexity. All that data that represents both the flow of life out of death and so on. Of mass out of energy, of sound out of silence and light out of darkness and back again. It is vast, changing rapidly and beautiful beyond the telling. That is what the mind identifies with – just reality from the non fixed perspective of life flowing through and around our nervous system. We still benefit from knowledge and past experience, can even still have thoughts, but we do not get lost in them so easily, that is until we find self in them, through either advantage, desire or fear.
The more time we spend in flow states, the less we identify with our stories, our opinions and the memories of pain that they cover up. The more we identify with ourself as a unique expression of life itself, the less fear we have and the more we see our larger self, not only in others but in all things. This is how I currently see the possibility of compassion.
Compassion arises to the degree that we are prepared to feel the world through our senses, without our opinions there to protect us from the risk of pain and rejection. Without attaching ourselves to some concept in the hope that it will make us more valuable. For those choices reinforce the concept of self as a body that needs defending and improving, rather than temporarily residing in a body that is part of the flow of life through the biosphere.
So how is this useful? It’s not useful at all unless, you find a “safe” place to begin putting your awareness back into your body again, back into your senses. Each time a thought comes up, rather than feeding it, re-energizing it, return your most precious asset to your senses. Notice where you are tense, let it go, or just be with it. Your mind will go crazy at first, flooding you with impulses to eat, check Facebook, turn on Netflix, play a game. Even starting an argument or a new business is better than allowing the body to feel those places where we were hurt, where we still feel ashamed or where we feel threatened.
We never know when the body is going to die, the only thing we ever control is the quality of our now, the quality of the attention we give to each other and the tasks we choose to under-take.
Key Take-Away – Flow states allow us to resonate with complex patterns of information in real time. Fear has a physical tension component that inhibits our ability to access our senses, pulling us out of the moment and back into the world of meanings and the desire to control.
Business is about trying to control the flow of goods and information, of things and motivation. We need to do this to pay for our lives, but controlling is very different from flowing.
Looking out on the mirror-like ocean this morning, I recall that, feeling alive (feeling life), happens from a place of receptivity, rather than control.
The reason the wise keep returning our attention to the possibility of “Acceptance” is that it allows our tissues to return to optimal tension. From this place we can avoid much conflict simply by conforming to our shared reality.
Today, I will hold back less, I will respect and trust you to “resonate or re-designate” how you spend the next few minutes.
Drunk people may fall a lot, but get hurt surprisingly little. That is because it is the sudden stop that hurts. Absorbing impact is expensive, allowing force to be expended elsewhere is usually preferable. Ocean swell is bounced against land and cancelled against itself, in so doing it turns rock into sand. If water is unable to transfer the energy, it would changes to a gas. Our bodies do not have that luxury, if we tense inappropriately, if we resist too much, we swell and become toxic.
Energy moves in waveforms. The properties of the waveform, pitch, frequency, magnitude, shape and trajectory, don’t just contain information, they are information. Since the measurable beginning, the matter of the universe is moving towards dis-order, scientists call this entropy. Life, however, moves in the opposite direction. Biodiversity, keeps energy in formation, in ever more complex patterns of inter-relation.
Our bodies are made of organs, made of tissues, formed by cells. Each cell, (apart from red blood cells) contains DNA containing a range of possible expressions. Each cell has the ability to sense and react, but it operates as part of the larger community of the organism. The integrity of the organism depends on its ability to organize effectively. For this it requires fuel, spare parts and most of all, accurate information about where and how to acquire, synthesize and distribute that energy and those components.
You see – It’s always been the Information Age, but it’s moving fast, it’s flowing and it can only be accessed in real time. What we call knowledge is a snap-shot, a fragment, a tiny piece of a much larger pattern.
Social creatures, such as dogs and humans have access to something called “flow state”. It allows us to synchronize with a much larger bandwidth of changing data. To access flow state, we synch with our environment through our senses. To stay there, we cease to resist, we judge risk but do not over-react with pre-programmed fear responses. Our internal commands, move in synch with external patterns, we use energy with grace, our co-ordination and our communication move towards optimal.
This is what I was speaking of as “aliveness”, it’s the experience of being the flow of life, and yes, of death also. Energy can not be destroyed, but it can loose form, it can loose information, loose it’s place in the formation, move back towards separation.
Our highest calling is to resonate with the flow of life, to add the data contained in our unique perspective to the total. Flow is the “co” in communication. The senses of each individual add depth and complexity to our shared reality. If we pull back in fear, if we pollute the data of our senses with our opinions, the thread we add to the tapestry is tangled, the formation is mangled.
Sand dunes, like water are moved by the wind, as their bonds are supple, they embody the waveform, are shaped by the waveform, store the information of the waveform. We could say that the pattern of the dunes, contains sand particles that are “in formation”.
Tense or Allow, Flow or Resist, Move or be moved. When we tense we absorb energy but we alter the information, we impact the flow. We need not do this like a billiard ball that goes on to disrupt. Posture allows us to behave more like bamboo, more like a sea anemone.
If we can maintain our relative position but allow ourselves to be swayed like a sea anemone, we may filter what we require, energy, parts and information, without being cast adrift or breaking formation.
Of course I speak in metaphors. The idea of freemocean is to share understanding through experience, rather than control with ridged opinion. I aim to inspire you to experience your posture in real motion, rather than manipulate your position through stories and emotion.
Stand rigid on a board, or walk with stiff legs, notice how much your head moves and what that does to your focus. Now allow all below your eyes to sway, maintaining just enough tension to keep your head over your base of support. Experience the difference, notice how much energy each requires, how much impact your body must withstand.
Notice how tension effects your focus, and how your focus effects your tension. Your Focus determines the quality of your posture. Your posture determines how well you use energy and how well you respond to data. Your ability to choose and maintain your direction is determined by your ability to hold your focus.
We are able to maintain our focus to the degree that we can release excessive tension. That is why our Attention is so precious, it determines the quality of our posture. Our posture determines how we are moved, how we receive energy, how we receive and transmit information. Fear pulls us out of flow, because it resists what might happen next. When we fear we try to control, when we flow, we receive more information about what is really unfolding.
Now consider the cost of excessive and inappropriate fear. You see now why stories are so powerful, they determine formation, by altering how we receive information. We live in a world where we rarely interact with nature directly, everything is controlled. The more we control, the less we are free to flow.
Freedom is appropriate tension, it arises from returning focus to our senses, allowing our posture to move with gracefully with the forces at play.
Loss of focus, loss of posture, ignorance of connection, reinforces the embodiment of fear, this is when information becomes inflammation.
Freedom is proportional to situational awareness. The toys we rent, sell and buy are bio-feedback devices, that can be used to bring greater awareness to focus and posture in the forgiving and dynamic environment of ocean and wetlands. Water is a great teacher of flow.
So the key take-away here is: Belief’s act like instincts, changing our actions and the way we communicate, we are free to the degree that we can choose. Belief robs us of choice, and keeps us in damage control within our relationships.
Where we have been and where we are going
In “aliveness” I discussed why feeling fully alive enables greater wellness and enjoyment of life. In “attunement” I covered how we learn to relate to each other and where it goes wrong. In this post I will touch on why our biology evolved in a way that made stories so powerful.
According to Historian, Yuval Noah Harari, from about 70,000 years ago, Sapiens began to gain an advantage over other species (including other species of humans) by working in larger groups. This was made possible by our ability for more nuanced communications. Yuval, suspects that the ability to gossip about each other’s behavior increased the levels of trust and predictability. In this way, “stories” enabled us to work together in groups larger than our own direct experience of each member could enable.
Stories also gave us the ability to share and remember more detailed information, beyond what was available in the present moment. We began to pass information about past events that were likely to repeat and create harvesting and survival strategies for the future. As soon as we can accurately predict what is likely to happen we can use energy more effectively, by being prepared.
Non verbal cues speak loudly
The words we choose form only a small portion of our overall communication. We only use a small portion of our brains to process words. Voice tone, pitch, and timing can change the context of words. Non verbal cues including body language, eye contact, blink rate and of course facial expressions make up a great part of the messages we send and receive.
We are also very sensitive to detecting the tension in other peoples bodies, stiffening, was always a precursor to potential danger. When all the signals a person is sending line up congruently, it is more likely they will act predictably.
The high tide will leave shells, seeds and organic matter in a nice concentrated line that attracts crabs, birds and other creatures. When we know that we can harvest very effectively by just showing up at the right time. We can save energy. It is normal for species to develop both biological systems and behaviors adapted to new possibilities in their environments.
What was unique for Homo sapiens was our ability to hold a concept in our minds that was free of any external signals, (evidence). We could create ideas or pictures in our minds that did not have to conform with the reality of that moment. We could remember what had been and guess what was going to happen. This helped us to further develop specialized skills and talents that increased our value as individual members within our tribes.
Skill or Instinct
Our survival and chance to reproduce was enhanced by the value of our specialized roles within these tribes. The concepts we held in our minds gave us a biological advantage while the repetition of skilled actions formed new procedural memories, (those actions that we can do automatically).
Procedural memories are not the only things we can do automatically, when we receive signals of a potential threat, our bodies automatically tense, produce adrenaline, divert blood flow to our skeletal muscles and prepare us for a life threatening situation. This happens in the old part of our nervous system which is hard wired to produce fast responses, it happens before we have a chance to override or cancel the reaction.
Language enabled us to pass detailed stories, which when adopted as beliefs, also cause us to react automatically. Depending on how much emotion was assigned to them, stories allowed us to update our natural instincts.
Humans became adapt at both developing refined motor skills and at formulating powerfuly motivating stories. How those stories affect our automatic nervous system will be the topic of the next post – Information Biology.
Research notes: Much of this is my own conjecture, and as such, will change along with my experiences. The amazing work of Yuval Noah Harari, gave me the insights and the confidence to present it this way.
Key Take-away: We spend much of our lives earning money that we will spend trying to change the way we feel. Many of the feelings we have are not fully relevant to the situation at hand, yet often we find we have responded to them anyway. These negative feedback loops are stored in our body tissues as tension. Thinking in terms of energy and nature may be helpful for understanding why focused movement allows us to access and release these patterns. The more of our body we bring awareness to, the more alive we feel. When we are less reactive, we are more creative and playful, nicer to ourselves and each other.
Life is very much about energy, using it effectively means getting more, using it efficiently means needing less. In nature, energy is stored in fats and starches,(sugars are more of a low value lure), in societies, we store energy as money and assets. We meet our food, shelter, entertainment, social, education and medication needs with money. This keeps us removed from thinking of energy in terms of nature, (where else could it originate?). In this post I will look at energy in terms of movement. Words won’t make you move better, but I hope they will bring a greater depth and quality to your movement training, or just getting around.
Drive to Survive or Allow to Thrive
The world of organisms is composed of a diverse multitude of creatures, living, reproducing and yes, eating each other in a complex network of relationships. They have common drives, yet many ways of achieving them.
Organisms must get enough food to live, grow and reproduce. In the search for resources and breeding partners, both cooperation and competition dominate their existence. Success is measured in the acquisition, storage and expression of energy. In so called higher life forms, we begin to recognize qualities beyond survival and reproduction. Such as creative expression and understanding, the ultimate being compassion, which is seeing the self in all things. This recognition of connection, arises naturally in the absence of fear.
Graceful or lunch
Predators such as lions and wolves will test a herd to select the prey which is least able to utilize energy, that being, the very young, the old and the sick. This selection process both saves the predators own energy and ensures that only the prey that are best adapted to their environment survive for breeding. It also keeps herds moving, preventing over-grazing and feeding the bacteria in the soil.
The best use of energy is the perfect application of tension to a body’s tissues, (or just cells for the little guys) at the ideal moment. The appropriate application of force for optimal outcomes is what we recognize as physical gracefulness. An engineer may think of this in terms of increased mechanical efficiency through optimal mechanical advantage together with minimal friction.
To move gracefully, we must release excess tension, to stand on a narrow SUP on moving water, we must allow the board to move beneath us. To maintain balance, we must surrender some of our desire to control. To keep our heads over our base of support, we simply allow our bodies to be supple, this requires releasing non-useful tension, also known as stress, also known as fear.
Squeeze and repeat
Organisms are composed of single or multiple cells, and in larger instances, tissues and organs arranged in a way that gathers food, processes it and expels the waste. This is done by contraction and relaxation to harvest and move gasses, solids and liquids from process to process, (in larger organisms these wave like contractions are known as peristalsis). Energy moves in waves, in water you can see them and play with them. You can attune to them.
Each contraction uses energy to the degree that force is required. Residual tension in the organism is wasteful and interferes with the process of movement. So the ability for the organism to relax is as important as its ability to contract. That goes for propelling substances, limbs or entire “bodies”.
Tension transfers force, softness absorbs it. There is information in waveforms also, when we are soft we may feel it, when we are tense we alter it, like a rock in a stream creating turbulence, we destroy the signal. When we resonate with a waveform or signal we gain its information. In this way movement makes us smarter, while tension keeps us in the dark and fearful.
Energy, the currency of life
Residual tension also wastes energy by keeping substances trapped where they are more likely to be oxidized and cause damage to their surroundings. In the case of capillaries, insulin and PUFA 6 acids are more likely to cause damage. In the case of joints, over-compression reduces circulation and leads to inflammation of tendon sheaths and damage to the articular cartilage, (the shiny end of your bones).
Contraction and relaxation are necessary for respiration, food acquisition, digestion and expulsion. Also for changing location and reproduction. In the animal kingdom, movement is life, the currency of life is energy, only the most effective at acquiring and using it will survive and pass on their genes. In higher life forms, it’s all about the quality of consciousness, fear and dellusion, create tension and turbulence. Understanding flows out of acceptance, abundance flows out of recognizing synergies. Freedom arises out of reliquinshing control.
Our nervous system is the electrical wiring with the brain computer sitting on top, our heart is pumping our blood, loaded with hormones oxygen and spare parts. These systems are our communications and supply lines, when they are inflamed, restricted or out of alignment we are not just using energy very poorly, we are waiting to be eaten.
The predators waiting for us are disease, politicians and salespeople. The things that make us tense, inflamed and mal-aligned are what I call – “swelling mistakes” and the biggest one is fear. Our egos have worked out clever ways of making sure we never face the real source of our fears directly, that is why we use names like “stress” instead. Everyone is under pressure, everyone has stress, but nobody has fear, only the weak or victimized are scared, right? Puh! I am shitting myself 🙂
Research Notes: Most of this comes to me, while working with students on the water. Looking at the way they move, where there eyes go, how their body follows their head and their head follows their focus. The moment they loose concentration, (opinions are triggered) their eyes wander and they fall. Conversely, when they un-tense, hold focus and allow their bodies to move with the rhythm in the water, they take off. They begin to un-wind. It’s a joy to facilitate and I am sure I learn much more than they do.
The key take-away here is: We begin learning our key beliefs about how safe we are, how valuable we are, and which strategies and communication techniques alleviate and manage fear from the moment sensations begin. Feelings of pain and fear strengthen the sensation of self as seperate and in danger. Feelings of acceptance and curiosity strengthen the sensation of self as connected, safe and valuable. Which do you suppose feels more playful and creative? Events in our lives tilt us more towards fear or towards expansiveness. Healing is about learning to create a lifestyle that reinforces safe connections. Attunement is a life-long quest to communicate without fear and neediness.
In the first blog I talked about aliveness, connection and worthiness. In this post I briefly discuss trauma and how processing sub-optimal experiences affects the way we communicate and the choices we make.
Over time, resistance to the feelings in our own bodies alters our body language, our posture, and our faces. Apart from driving how we spend our income and much of the free time we do get, I suspect it is the most overlooked cause of inflammation and disease. Which makes it worth understanding.
When we are less “reactive” it is easier to remain focused on the things that we are good at. Those things that make us feel alive, valuable and included. Our behavior is affected by the signals we receive from each other. We begin learning how to send and interpret those signals from when we are in the womb. Without a healing practice, we tend to become less receptive yet more “touchy” as we get older. Out most creative work is often done in our younger years.
I suspect that we store resistance to life, (fear covered by opinions) as tension in our bodies, which is why a practice of conscious un-winding, like Yoga, helps us to remain kind and effective members of our families and communities.
My personal favorite is SUP and animal type movements with body weight exercises. Eat right and repetitive motion such as “cardio” is un-nessecary.
Getting with the program
Attunement is the name that arose from the work of the psychiatrist John Bowlby and his contemporary Donald Winnicot in the 1940’s. It describes a process that happens between newborns and their primary caretaker.
Newborns begin learning about safe and appropriate action and communication by making sounds; actions and gestures, building neural connections that mirror their caretaker. It is also when the baby begins building a “felt sense” of self. Attunement begins in the womb, and when it happens “normally”, forms the foundations for an adult who will grow up to feel safe and be well integrated into their community.
Attunement is where we begin to build our sense of self as being part of a group or tribe. It is where our nervous system first starts creating the automated responses that will shape our lives.
As we grow from baby, to child through our teenage years and into adult hood, the chances of us integrating healthily decrease with each exposure to a traumatic experience.
Contrary to popular belief, (part of the John Wayne legacy) it is not something we can tough out, instead we tend to suppress or avoid the triggers. Suppressing causes us to loose the higher emotions along with the low ones. This tends to kill our feelings of aliveness and effect our on going attunement.
Automatic responses can save us from injury or death. Fight and flight reactions are given priority over other bodily functions. When something happens that over-loads our ability to understand and assimilate, when we are overwhelmed by an experience, we experience trauma and it becomes wired into our future.
Trauma’s from the past, when re-triggered, create physical reactions that range from subtle uneasiness to complete shutdown.
The key thing here, is that the experience of trauma changes both our internal and external communications. Experiencing trauma is part of ordinary life, we usually only address it when the dysfunction it creates becomes unbearable for those around us.
Healing Trauma with Focused Movement
Traumas may trigger thoughts, images and even flashbacks; but they are stored in the body. They exist because they have become part of our autonomic nervous system, below and before our prefrontal cortex. It seems that focusing on movement can reset those pathways and re-map how we are wired. There are many modalities for re-attuning ourselves. If we can understand their core principles, we may be able to develop extremely powerful, yet simple routines for returning to full aliveness.
Simply exercising has benefits. What really empowers movement, is focus in a state of acceptance, especially in situations that require balance and reward optimal posture. I will be exploring this in depth, these early blogs are background information so that we understand the challenges to freedom.
The ocean can never replace your mother, but she is moving to the heat of our sun, and the beat of our moon. From the gravity of heavenly bodies to a passing cloud, myriad forces form coherent lines. To be cancelled in turbulence against the constraints of distant shores. Both oxygenating the sea and allowing the possibility of stillness and serenity to return.
Trauma is a vast subject and a rather intimate one to discuss. I can not do it justice in a few paragraphs, nor am I qualified to. Bessel van der Kolt MD, in his book, “The body Keeps the Score” presents the most comprehensive overview that I have read so far. Peter Levine also has an understanding built on a wealth of experience. Both of these doctors continue to study, try new things and publish their findings. Freemocean is not about trauma, it is about receiving clean data from nature, so that we may use energy more effectively.
The key take-away here is: The main drive of a human is to feel safe, the way we feel safe is to feel valuable, attention from others alleviates the fear of not being safe by making us feel valuable, but it is short lived. When we do feel safe, then we may notice the startling beauty of the world in the unique way that only you can experience. Expressing your unique perspective fearlessly is what you are here for, doing so allows others to relax. You see where this goes?
The greater part of our happiness revolves around feeling valuable and worthy of connection to our tribes, (families, social groups, co-workers etc.)
The quest for worthiness, lead’s us to try and, do more, have more, be more, produce and sell more. This may leave us feeling ashamed when we fail, smug when we succeed, but rarely contented.
While watching our daughter when, she was a toddler, I wondered what our natural state was, before we tried to improve it. She could dance, skip, jump and twirl, but had way too much energy, to simply walk. She was not always happy, but she was fully alive.
As we go through life, we experience rude shocks and gather strong opinions about all sorts of things. Both of which give rise to uncomfortable emotions. In suppressing or avoiding these inner sensations, we loose our aliveness. I will explore this briefly over the next posts.
We seek connection to our families, friends and co-workers, to be appreciated for who we are and what we do. Being able to offer value helps us to find acceptance mirrored back to us, in the words, faces and body language of those we respect. We may experience this sense of worthiness; to the degree we believe we deserve it.
I have caught myself, and I have seen others seeking attention, so many times, but what is it we are looking for? Impressive deeds, tireless work, service to others or simple obedience, may win the respect of the tribe. Even then, we still may not allow ourselves to relax and feel worthy of receiving validation and the connection that seams to go with it.
Perhaps the experience of connection is the feeling of aliveness? (Notice I said feeling? “thinkings” can never be validated experientially) Maybe it has less to do with our achievements, of what other people think, and everything to do with the way we allow ourselves to feel and accept what is happening in and around us. The way we receive, perceive and respond to the signals from our environment determines how free we are to feel alive. It is hard to feel anything when we are tense. Could it be, that we experience aliveness to the degree that we allow connection, to feel the good, the great the not so hot.
To avoid inflammation, accept information
We are organisms comprised of trillions of interacting cells, all operating in a richly bio-diverse environment. Our nervous systems require accurate and timely information from our environment to keep us functioning effectively. That information comes to us through our 5 senses; our stories about what that information may give rise to emotions. These emotions send signals outwards to those around us and inwards to the automatic parts of our nervous systems. This communication determines how both other people and our own bodies respond. Not only to what is happening, but also to the meanings we make about what is happening.
I used to think that diet and environmental toxins were the dominant factors causing inflammation. Now I am starting to wonder it if it is in fact the stories we carry, that create and maintain habitual levels of restriction in our bodies.
The internal communication, (between our cells, organs and organs systems) and our external communication, between individuals, families, cultures and economies, determines our health. When looked at through the lens of nature, processing information healthily, may bridge the gaps between ecology and economy. Exploring the way we perceive and how that makes us feel, is a journey, not so much to improve ourselves, but rather in coming to know ourselves as we are.
Freemocean is not so much about acquiring, but more about letting go of that which is stopping flow, creating inflammation and blocking our aliveness.
Focusing on movements that challenge our balance and test our posture allows us to revisit and release some of this sub-optimal base-line tension. Thankfully it is a subtractive process, it is an allowing. For in accepting what is, we begin releasing our stories and our tensions. The less there is to defend, the more aliveness returns.