Welcome, welcome, welcome

I have been sitting with the question: what are most useful things to remind you (and me) of as we all face our challenges?

I keep getting the image of the waves we explored together.


There is the bottom of the wave – how can we keep orientating back towards what resources us, nourishes us (putting magnets on our feet) and there is the top of the wave- where we offer our actions to the world and can tip into activation?

Top of the Wave

Let’s start with the top of the wave? Let’s explore activation of our nervous system together.

I love the question- what is about my nervous system that is stopping me being present?

Remember we talked about our nervous systems and our different responses, regardless of how much positive thinking and reframing we are trying to do with our rational mind, our neuroreceptors in our gut can read the situation (particularly facing uncertainty) differently. It can overrule our rational mind in a nanosecond. Kickstarting a nervous system response to feeling a lack of safety, even if our rational mind can give lots of reasons for why you are OK.

We are all human so we have all probably experienced this or perhaps will experience this as we face into our coronavirus reality. Actually, your rational mind might even weigh in when your news feed starts to show more photos of empty streets and people in protective suits looking like something out of a sci-fi film than human faces or you think about a dear one with an underlying health issue. In these kickstarted nervous system moments, you may notice feeling activation (feeling anxious, faster breath, finding it hard to focus on anything other than the virus, flitting from one thing to the next) or you may notice yourself going into polyvagal shut down mode where you feel yourself folding over a little, withdrawing from what is happening, feeling stuck, find yourself constantly looking at your phone. You might notice a sense of collapse or overwhelm. Perhaps a sense of disconnect, it can feel a bit surreal, like you are watching yourself in a film. Or, like me, you may find yourself alternating between activation and shut down.

My good friend Liz Norris talks of the Buddhist concept of arrows. Noticing these feelings is the first arrow, this is then followed by the second arrow -which is how we treat ourselves about these feelings -a sense of shame and negative self-judgment that we can’t be positive, that we did not read the book, bake the cake or repaint the room or make the most of this time we have been given. So let’s take a moment to place our hands on our heart and breath self-compassion into these thoughts.

These nervous system activations moments can come and go, and to offer you a possibility- if we face into them and work with them we can offer our nervous system a dialogue which can bring about a sense of safety and finding a sense of OK, allowing us to let go of them, not store them in our body and come back into presence.

I shared that I have brain scans every 16 weeks to monitor ‘unusual cells in my brain’. I personally get the notion of the second arrow as I always want to have a positive frame for these events and think everything will be ok but I can’t always do that and then I can judge myself (second arrow). Last week I had a scan (I have results and all is well thank god ). On my way to hospital to get my scan I got a real sense of terror (my nervous system had decided it really did not feel safe). In the past I would of tried to turn away from this terror and try to ignore it. But, I have found that it actually helps to engage with it. The same way we brought a soft hand to hold our clenched fist when we were together.

In turning to face terror, I found myself having the following conversation, if I am honest the words just came through me so I don’t feel I can claim them as my own. I am sharing them (despite my voices that it might be a bit much) as I found it really helpful and perhaps it may be helpful for you too if you find a challenging emotion such as fear or terror rising in you:

A Conversation with Terror

Hello terror

It would feel disingenuous to say welcome, after all you are not the most comfortable of guests.

I can feel you in my belly, you have put me off my food, I feel you in my contracted diaphragm with shortened breath and in my gut which has lost the regulation of holding.

I know, I am keeping you in the shadows of my being. Read more ->

Creating waves

What might bring you resource right now? What can you orientate towards to bring ‘regulation to your system?’

When you find you are activated: What might it look like for you to face into a challenging emotion or nervous system activation and find a way to hold it softly with compassion?

Could you explore the possibility of bringing movement to your emotion/nervous system activation? Can you find where this emotion is in your body? For example fear can often be found hanging out in our contracted diagram or a tightness in your belly.

What would it feel like to contract into this area and then release, then repeat this a few times and then bring in movement in the body to help it dissipate and be held by the whole body. Last night I got activated with fear when someone we know was diagnosed with the virus, I felt real fear around the possibility that we might have it and then pass it to my dad who has underlying health issues.

I lay down and brought breath to my diaphragm, firstly contracting it even more and then did a series of movements to stretch and open the diaphragm, moving to my neck and shoulders which I started to realise were also very tense. This really helped to regulate my system back down and helped me to sleep. It also helped to bring my peripheral vision back online, allowing me to see the bigger picture and focus on what I can control and to move away from thinking about what I can’t do anything about. My wonderful yoga teacher Lisa Petersen is offering some free yoga classes focused on shitting fear in the body. I would highly recommend it. I did one of her classes this morning and was all the better for it.

Can you bring your attention to your emotion/nervous system contraction and give it breath? Can you try and let the rest of your body relax and hold it softly or transform it with fire movement? Put on a crazy song and dance about with fire breath for a few minutes.

Perhaps you feel more drawn to engaging your left brain and work through a process like Tara Brach’s RAIN model?

Recognize what is happening;

Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;

Investigate with interest and care;

Nurture with self-compassion.

She has some wonderful, free meditations based on this model which you may find useful.

Can you bring your peripheral vision online by bringing to mind what you are grateful for right now?CircleofStones

Remember we can co-regulate, talking or being with someone whose system is regulated can help regular our system. We also have our ancestors and the elements, we also don’t have to face challenge alone. Perhaps close your eyes and imagine the ancestors or your guides at your back. Perhaps allow the earth to hold you, the wind to wrap around you, the air to breath you and the element of fire to transform and help you let go.

Perhaps something completely different is coming to mind which feels resourceful. This communication is simply coming from the intention of possibly reminding YOU of your resources whatever they might be.

My intention is also not to overwhelm you with ideas, I am hoping that you just one will resonate and be something you can plant a seed of becoming with.

The Bottom of the Wave

The more we ‘regulate’ the easier it is for us to bring our system back online when we go get activated. What I mean by this is the more we keep orientated towards what give us joy (the bottom of the wave), the activities that settle our system- such as our walks, being in nature, focusing on breathing, having a dance, focusing on what we are grateful for (the magnets we talked about that keep us grounded into our resources). The easier it is for our system to settled when we get activated.

Remember the paradox, that it often the times when we are facing our biggest challenge and we need to orientate towards our resources the most, that we forget. So, let’s just try to remind ourselves that we will have more to give if we keep bringing ourselves to the bottom of the wave (like going back to our sea cave). Let’s also take a breath of compassion for when we forget and find ourselves not doing this.


LUAS Commute – keeping a routine working from home during lockdown.

What can really help us is to keep/and or establish routines, if on a Wednesday morning you did yoga, you could try an online yoga class or do something else that gets you into the body at the same time. If we try to keep (or establish) our rhythms we have a better chance at overriding the thinking mind which will tell us of all the other things we really should be doing with the story that it is only temporary, we will get back to it later. Let’s also breath compassion into the thinking mind and the times when we move away from what nourishes us.


A pull to the news and activation

I have noticed a pull to watch and listen to much more news than I usually do. Perhaps you have found this too? There is an evolutionary part of us that is back on the great plains surveying the landscape for approaching danger and wanting to know what is coming towards us so we can have a sense of more control. However, if we think about it, if we keep doing tuning into news, we are priming our system for problems constantly and it is more difficult for us to regulate, it also hinders our peripheral vision coming online which allows us to see things like the wonder of spring starting to bloom and flourish. Nature is always there for us to invite us back into awe and perspective.