Regardless of who you are, where you live, or what you do, chances are you’ve experienced the stress and anxiety life can bring. The fact of the matter is, we live in uncertain times. As a human species, we always have. Intellectually we know there are no guarantees that come with being alive. Our evolutionary development demands that we stay alert to threats and potential danger so that we can stay alive. While we no longer find ourselves on the look-out for the proverbial lion outside the cave door, potential threats and turmoil abound, for some of us more than others. This can leave us feeling stressed, anxious, uncertain, and vulnerable.
Every day we absorb, integrate, and react to a myriad of stressful stimuli from our external environment as well as the emotions and thoughts that these stimuli bring up within ourselves. Our brains have literally been designed to scan for these stimuli and attach emotion and memory to them (termed the negativity bias) (1). In this sometimes constant state of vigilance we may find ourselves further and further away from a state of calm, a state of peace. This distancing from inner peace can lead to increased chronic stress and multiple stress related illnesses (2). Now we have added another layer of dis-ease to our uncertain lives.
And yet, amidst all of this turmoil, we live, we trust, we love, we look forward to tomorrow. How is it that we hold these two dichotomies within the same brain, the same heart, the same spirit? This is the essence of being human. It is in human vulnerability that we often find our capacity for experiencing the state of peace which allows us to trust, to love, to find the meaning and purpose that see us through to tomorrow. And these potentials exist within each and every one of us. They are not mysterious or magical, they are the result of the intermingling and reorganization of the myriad functions of the human brain (3). This physiological fact, however, does not diminish the beauty and freedom experienced with unlocking these potentials. We all have access to these resources, sometimes we just need the guidance and support of others to nudge open the door within ourselves behind which they are waiting.
So how do we nudge this door within ourselves open? One inch at a time. The field of neuroplasticity has shown us we can “turn down” the negativity bias wired into our brains through evolution and “turn up” our capacity to scan and experience beauty, contentment, and peace (1). Doing this, however, takes a dedicated practice which guides us to a state of inner awareness, then gently turns this inner awareness to a more active state of focused attention to the experience of peace. This quite literally changes the activity of the brain biochemically and energetically, priming us to absorb and experience calm peacefulness. From this state we can access our own wisdom, our purpose in life, softening the vulnerability of uncertainty (4).
We can exist in peace, even in the tumultuous world we live in. But this is a practice. And as in any practice, we need guidance and support. Join me for one or both of these offerings as we explore the human potentials of peace, wisdom, purpose, and oneness through the practice of Clinical Meditation and Imagery.
Foundations of Meditation, Four week session: When: Monday evenings November 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th, 2017, 6:30pm. Where: The Integrative Medicine office of Dr. Carin Nielsen, 413 Waukazoo Ave., Petoskey. Pre-registration required.
Explorations in Meditation and Imagery, Drop-In sessions: When: first and third Tuesdays of each month** starting September 5th 2017, 6:30pm. Where: The Integrative Medicine office of Dr. Carin Nielsen, 413 Waukazoo Ave., Petoskey. No registration required.
**please note: October 2017 offerings will be the first and fourth Tuesday, Oct. 3rd and 24th, 2017**
(more information can be found at www.WinnellWellness.com or www.CarinNielsenMD.com)
1. Hanson, Rick. Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence. Harmony Books, NY, New York.
2. Sapolsky, R. (2004). Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. Sapolosky, NY, New York.
3. Schaub, Bonnie, and Schaub, Richard. (2014). Dante’s Path: Vulnerability and the Spiritual Journey. Florence Press, NY, New York.
4. Austin, James. (2000). Zen and the Brain. First MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.