Thursday, March 31, 2011

The key to peace within

The key to finding peace during panic and stressful situations is in being able to not react to our thoughts and feelings.

Like many people, I have known this and been striving for this for a long time.  But my personal experience with Missy Vineyard in Amherst, MA, has taught me this in a new way that convinces me more and more, every day, that it is true, and it really works when I practice it.

Once the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is activated and stress hormones, etc. are coursing through the bloodstream and panic is causing whirring thoughts, etc., the effects of that activation cannot be stopped.  The effects must be accepted ("karma" needs to be played out; "we reap what we sow"; "all actions have a consequence", etc.), and they simply need to be allowed to run their course through our system.  As psychophysically uncomfortable as it may be, this usually only takes about 15-20 minutes.

The wonderful thing is that it IS possible to turn off the spigot instantly, so that more of those stress chemicals don't get poured into our system.  We can observe and be aware of the effects and consciously choose to stop activating the SNS.  Instead, we can activate inhibitor neurons which send messages to other neurons to stop sending their stressful messages, through our mindful willpower.  Non-reacting "non-doing", although quite subtle and simple, is a very powerful activity!

The way to "do" it is to:
  • Recognize what is happening: there are natural causes for everything I am experiencing, and it's very far from being all my fault!
  • Remember that the pre-frontal cortex (PFC--the area forward and up in the brain, behind and above the forehead) is in charge of my body-mind-emotions, and am in charge of the PFC.  It IS possible for me to rise above this scenario and change the scene inside me, even if it doesn't happen instantly.
  • Observe physical sensations and emotions, but understand that reacting to them by dropping my awareness into lower areas of brain and body will impede my ability to change them, and the flow of negativity will continue on.
  • With forceful energy and quiet determination, I choose to stay forward & up in the PFC, observing the downward pull from above, but absolutely refusing to fall down into it again.  NO!!
  • I am separate from my body and emotions.  I feel both, but I am not reacting to that feeling.  All I'm doing is staying focused on keeping my awareness forward & up, and telling myself things like, "I feel _____, but I am not reacting to that," and simply, "I am not reacting," and I patiently let things work themselves out down below.  
  • I know that if I stop interfering with myself, "The right thing will do itself."

If changes need to occur in our outer situation, we will be much better equipped to effect positive change when our body is not experiencing SNS activation.  We will be able to see and consider various options, and then make the best choice from among them, when we are not being ruled by fear.

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