It’s common knowledge that having less stress in our lives lowers our heart rate, blood pressure, reduces the flood of cortisol and adrenaline in our blood stream, reduces inflammation and perhaps disrupts the on-set of various diseases. Having less stress also allows more of our brain to participate in the present moment because our amygdala and brain stem are less likely to coop the moment, by truncating our executive decision making abilities. Overall, many would agree that having less stress in our lives improves our physical, emotional and mental health. What is not often talked about is knowing how to "turn on" The Relaxation Response can exponentially improve the quality of your life far beyond the baseline measurements of having less stress.
At the end of class the other day a student said “I always thought I was pretty chill until I started taking your class and realized I have a low level on constant stress. I do most of your homework so I’ve got a handle on many of my lifestyle choices that were aiding it. My recent Doctor’s appointment confirmed that my blood pressure and cholesterol have dropped; she asked me to keep coming to class. I am mostly getting really good at learning how to relax but my left leg is in another whole world of anxiety. What is that?”
To which I said “I don’t know and I’d like to suggest you ask it “what would you like me to know?”.
To which she beamed and said “It never would have occurred to me to do that; I will next time.”
The dot she has yet to connect, in this process of her developing skill of turning on The Relaxation Response, is that her left leg is where some arthritis is beginning to show itself. I have full confidence that she will connect the dots and, I wanted her to have a more in-tune relationship with her left leg so she can hear or feel when it’s communicating with her. Communicating things like “I don’t like heals”, or “those shoes are too tight” or “stop crossing your legs” or any number of things that do not serve her left leg.
As we learn how to turn on The Relaxation Response, our ability to partner with our mind-body connection grows in strength and clarity, and we become active participants in this process I call Engaging Your Wholeness.
And part of being an active participant with your mind-body connection is cultivating a sense of responsibility, or ownership really, of the nutrition you allow into your being: emotional, mental, physical. As an individual taking up the leadership of your life, you understand that a major part of your life’s work now includes how you care for your mind-body connection and your emerging Self. You generously employ the practice of consent and decide “Do I want to watch the news or take a walk around the lake instead?”. When faced with a choice of restaurants you inquire "Do I go to the loud one or the one with a calmer ambience?". You consider more closely "Is this a moment where I want to digest an action movie or one that opens my heart?"
And the hardest part to stay in alignment with is often the physical because the answer to all those questions involves all of your senses: visual, tactile, auditory, gustatory and olfactory. You need to consider the environments you find yourself in and, stay attentive to noticing which side of your nervous system they feed: the stress oriented side or the relaxation oriented side.
You may be thinking “Wow, this conscious embodiment things is complicated”.
And, yes it can be, until it's not.
There comes a tipping point where it’s not complicated at all and you just naturally move away from what does not serve you and in the direction of or towards what does. You naturally are drawn towards that which resonates with this new state of ease in your nervous system.
The part that can be complicated, is when a relationship is involved; and that’s a whole workshop in and of itself. And just so know, most of my coaching calls spend a fair amount of time addressing this aspect of conscious embodiment: renegotiating ones relationships to better serve their emerging awakening. And addressing the relationship re-negotiation process that is often initiated when one party to the relationship goes through a growth spurt, requires special focus and consideration and will be addressed in another blog post.
Yet in this moment, let’s just say that when you are the agent of change in a relationship, it’s helpful to remember that when you grow, there is often an unspoken expectation that the other places on themselves, to match your growth. And anything unspoken, anything not fully welcomed into the light of day of the we (of the relationship) can be threatening and disruptive to the process of re-negotiation. A simple statement like “these new routines are important to me and I would like your support as we figure out together, how they will be in our life” can ease any arising tensions in a relationship. Ok, now back to you.
As you are learning how to relax, how to drop down into a more grounded and slower pace, often the tensions and stress of deeply held past experiences will rise to the surface so they can be discharged. As this occurs, instead of labeling or attaching meaning to what arises, with a premature conclusion about what it means about you, let its willingness to reveal itself now, to inspire you to ask “What would you like me to know?“.
Rather than quickly assigning meaning, ask a question that could help you to go deeper and to develop a relationship with it. When you develop a relationship, instead of a label, with any arising tensions or body armor, their transformation will proceed with greater elegance and ease.
One aspect of taking up the leadership of your life is developing a mature relationship with the practice of consent.
As children, especially children who grew up in dysfunctional or often unpredictably violent environments, this concept was often beyond their psychological reach because survival in those environments takes a lot of energy. As a maturing adult, we can choose to place our awareness and direct our thoughts into more empowering avenues. This is called advocating for yourself; advocating for your self is a foundational aspect of all conscious embodiment endeavors. Leaning how to “turn on” The Relaxation Response, and employing it when you need it, is an essential wholistic healing tool that everyone would be wise to have within reach and is a stunning example of advocating for your Self.
As you know, when you grow and expand your engagement with the world, others may try to cause you to return to the status quo. They may try to pull or push you off this new course of engagement. And as an awakening leader within your own life, you know they will not succeed without your consent. You can “give in” to their influence or desire to keep things the same, or not. The same is true about old bad memories, old negative stories, old ways of feeling-seeing-being in the world. You can give your consent for them to stick around, or not.
Remember that part of unwinding childhood conditioning, and that phase of life when we had less agency, is not overly fusing with tensions by developing a story about them and then taking on that story as ours. When we are in a process of taking up the leadership of our lives, we use the practice of consent in a very powerful way. We either give the arising tensions, memories or stories real estate in this present moment or we limit their ability to hijack us.
As an example, you can acknowledge a building feeling of fear by saying “ I know you’re here, I feel you, I am interested in hearing what you would like me to know but you do not get to hijack this moment.” And then listen for any clues as to why you may be feeling this fear and, this is the important part, do one of your favorite processes from my Engaging Your Wholeness program, that begins to activate a sense of ease in your mind-body connection. While the fear may be trying to grow, you can also insert a sense of leadership by choosing to simultaneously communicate with it while engaging in one of my mind-body practices to activate a shift in your nervous system.
Yup I just said that.
You can ask it “what would you like me to know?” while simultaneously engaging your wholeness with one of the activities that delivers you to The Pivot Point; to the shift point that “turns on” The Relaxation Response.
A sign that you are actively exchanging old imprints for fresher perspectives of your Self is that you more quickly and easily move towards the threshold of The Pivot Point; that place where you are turning on The Relaxation Response. It’s the threshold where you calmly bring a sense of ease into your nervous system and you feel the systemic shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic nervous system activation.
As you do so, those old imprints from your childhood conditioning are exchanged for this new, calmer, more at ease sense of being that arises when you ‘turn on” The Relaxation Response.
So I have one question for you. “Are you ready to learn how to “turn-on” The Relaxation Response?
I sure hope so. Your Being-in-Potential has been waiting patiently for you to arrive within it’s field of awareness.
Download my Free e-book Engaging Your Wholeness: A Process of Conscious Embodiment and learn the 6 mind-body connection practices that I used when teaching individuals, at my local hospital, who were embarking on huge lifestyle changes.