In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.
The above quote from Deepak Chopra is easier said than done, right? How often do we find ourselves being pushed and pulled by chaos in our lives? Whether the chaos is outside of us in the changing of the seasons or a heated political debate or whether the chaos is within us in the form of confusion, fear, physical pain or anxiety, we often times find ourselves feeling helpless in the midst of chaos and unexpected change.
What Happens to the Nervous System in Chaos?
The flight/fight part of our nervous system gets activated when we are overcome by chaos triggering our limbic system. This feedback loop dumps stress hormones into our system and creates commotion in our mind adding to the chaotic energy. In our attempt to control the chaos, our breath often becomes shallow and our thoughts become rapid as we lose our connection to self and our inner pulsing rhythm.
That nothing is static or fixed, that all is fleeting and impermanent, is the first mark of existence. It is the ordinary state of affairs. Everything is in process. Everything—every tree, every blade of grass, all the animals, insects, human beings, buildings, the animate and the inanimate—is always changing, moment to moment. ~ Pema Chodron
What Happens to the Nervous System with Rhythm?
It may not be easy to find stillness within the chaos, but simply finding a rhythm supports us in moving toward the pulsing stillness by self-directing our nervous system and engaging the higher executive functioning of our brain. When we feel a clear sense of rhythm within ourselves and in our lives, we tap into a sense of predictability and confidence that calms our nervous system. We are then better able to find the calm within the chaos. Just as we see nature constantly changing going through rhythms and cycles, we remember that everything and everyone is in a state of process and impermanence…even the chaos. Rooting into an inner rhythm better prepares us to navigate with calm focus through the outer chaos that is arising literally tapping into the calm within the storm.
3 Simple Steps to Self-Direct your Nervous System within the Chaos:
- Posture: Simply shifting your posture by turning up the corners of the eyes, extending the spine and uplifting the heart you can instantly begin to self-direct the nervous system. By turning up the corners of your eyes into a warm smile, the facial muscles and jaw relax. Extending and gently uplifting through your heart not only relaxes the neck muscles and aligns the chin but also allows the important movement of the diaphragm. This intentional positioning in our body sends a signal to the brain and the nervous system through the vagus nerve that all is well. The vagus nerve is our tenth cranial nerve regulating the heart, facial expression, abdominal viscera and breath. According to Stephen Porges, PhD in his Polyvagal Theory, certain postures in the body and slower breathing patterns “down regulate” or calm the sympathetic nervous system and the fight/flight/freeze response. Extending the mid spine and gently reaching the heart forward releases the potential stress response in the body imprinted by the downward and collapsed flexed spine. This flexed spine is a common posture when the nervous system is “shutdown” or in fight/flight from being overwhelmed by chaos or trauma. So, use your body as a tool to literally hack your nervous system by simply cueing these key portals in the body.
- Breath: Often times during chaotic moments, our breath becomes rapid and shallow. During times of stress and strife, old fear-based imprints, patterns and pathways arise through the moment limited our breathing and sending a stress response signal to the nervous system. Simply engaging with the breath by creating slow, smooth rhythmic inhales and exhales, you are self-directing your nervous system toward connection, calm and clarity in the moment. Begin with a 4-count exhale through rounded lips like you are blowing out a candle. Allow the exhale to leave your body slow and smooth as your bellybutton gently moves toward the spine at the end of the exhale. Inhale for a 4-count through the nose allowing the inhale to begin in the naval and travel to all parts of your body. Notice the equal rhythm you are creating with the inhale as you count 1, 2, 3, 4 and exhale 1, 2, 3, 4. Notice how the texture of your breath and the quality of your thoughts may be shifting. Become aware and accepting of any sensations, emotions or thought streams arising through the moment. Notice how the current of your breath responds to these streams of awareness. Feel free to increase your breathing rhythm in this practice to an easeful 6 or 8 count inhale and equal exhale. Notice the places in your body receiving, or not fully receiving, the inhale and where in your body you are releasing through the exhale or holding onto tension. Use your breath to root into your rhythm and see what you notice.
- Tapping: Adding a simple finger tapping to match your rhythmic breathing further supports calming our nervous system and sends resources to the higher executive functioning part of the brain. As you continue your rhythmic breathing to a slow count of 4, heighten your awareness to your fingers and begin to tap your thumb to the pointer (1), middle (2), ring (3) and pinkie (4) fingers simultaneously cycling through the fingers on both hands matching breath to movement by gently and rhythmically pulsing through the inhale and exhale while pressing the thumb into the fingers. Notice how linking and syncing the finger tapping with the rhythmic breathing may create a deeper connection to the calm, or stillness. Feel free to expand the breath by increasing the rhythm to an 8 count as you tap through each finger twice. How does this tapping add to your calm connection to the moment
The Science of Rituals and the Power of Patterns
If you enjoyed this blog, read more about how you can create rhythm in your life through rituals and conscious patterns, visit our latest blog at this link: The Science of Rituals and the Power of Patterns.