Our dominant culture in the West seems almost devoid of ceremony. If there is a ritual, it would be in unboxing an Amazon package. We gulp our coffee. I sit in Zazen, too often, not in reverence for the eternal position, but as an item to check off on a daily list of them. The connection to the eternal, the collective wisdom of our ancestors, is frayed.
A paradox is the expectation of a relief that doesn’t come. “Herein lies the paradox”: a paradox is also an opportunity. It is an experiment that invites itself to be held and played with curiously. It is an invitation to sit with the not-knowing, and the you-must-know-but-you-will-never. It is a 5000-piece puzzle with a missing piece, a cliff-hanger with no landing, a problem with no solution (it will never have one).
Here’s the truth of it – our bodies are built to respond to stress, release the energy created by the response, and then recuperate. This is the function of our autonomic nervous system. Disrupting or controlling this natural process can lead to a host of physical and mental illnesses.
So how do we embody our stress response, and still operate in a society that largely seeks to oppress it? And how do we deal with the stores of stress gathered over years without unleashing a maelstrom?
Hi I’m Warren, your resident people pleaser extraordinaire. That means my life is chock full of over–extending, getting pulled into every conflict I come across, and saying yes way too much. And of course, we can’t forget the full blown periodic burnout. An essential end result to the fawn response formula. Nothing better than a good ol hermit phase of binging on Netflix, spending a college tuition on uber eats and playing dopamine supercharged video games. Haha yep that’s me! Well, at least it used to be. To all the readers out there who choose to accept this reading mission, be prepared to join me on a little journey about how I found my way to being a sustainable caregiver once and for all. Well…mostly.
To be regulated is to stay within an optimal state of arousal – not too hyperaroused (excitable or revved up) and not too hypoaroused (numbed out or shut down). But dysregulation is baked into life. From the moment we exit the womb we are highly dysregulated. We come out screaming and crying, seeking to be soothed (co-regulated). As infants our regulation is entirely dependent on others. As we grow up, we have more capacity to regulate ourselves. In the same way that the mind wanders and we bring it back in meditation, our nervous systems get dysregulated and we (try to) bring it back to regulation. Regulation is a practice as much as it is a state.