On Christmas Eve, I wound up at a church for a candle light service. It was beautiful. The sheer act of singing was a profound release physically. The sound of the bell, one of the last real bells in New England, was like a blast of purity within the soul. All of these strong songs, all the breathing required – these are all holistic techniques to soothe a person and they work wonders. It did not matter that the furnace was out and it was so cold in the Church you could see your breath. Even just being out of the house and with a group of strangers was uplifting.
There are times when the ritual, the community, the long held practice of release through song and sound supersedes anything you might rationally be thinking about religion, faith and organized churches. And I “got” why having something like this is important in my life. As important as having something like Grace Independent, my project that is antithetical to organized religion. I need both to create a balance. The naïve belief in what is, and the strong rational belief in what should be. Sometimes, in a full-scale rejection of what has been, we can miss understanding why they have existed for so long. Like staging a revolution to overthrow a government without understanding why the government exists – you can be left without direction, without purpose and without being able to be effective once you remove the institution that was targeted and all that does is leave the door open for something exactly like what was there before to come replace it.
Balance, after all, is not a state of stillness but a constant shifting between two (often-conflicting) things. They conflict, but only in their extremes and when pursued with fanaticism. The balance occurs when what is good from each can be used towards a goal. Maintaining balance is a state of action. Too often, we are taught that to be in balance we must choose to not act. Balance is the preface to change. The change lies in the new goal that is being created, a hybrid of the two extremes glued together with a separate understanding.
This weekend I was introduced to Biofeedback. Now, I have always sort of known what this is but not really. It is a process of monitoring certain aspects of your body (heart rate, temperature, brain waves etc.) to allow you to begin to be able to visually see when your body is under stress and reacting so you can learn to control it and walk yourself down. You can go to a professional for sessions or, you can use a mirror, a thermometer that you hold in your hand or a cheapy heart monitor. It has proven to be extremely effective in helping people control stress, pain, gastric disturbances, substance abuse, urinary incontinence and anxiety.
I opted for a heart monitor watch that I wear on my wrist so I can check my heart rate throughout the day. Within in hours of putting it on I was shocked to discover that I really have no idea when I start to be stressed out, but my heart does. It is letting me get to know myself better in a way. The heart never lies.
As you begin to learn what your body actually feels like when it is under stress (what I recognize as stress is much further down the path from where it begins) you practice controlling and relaxing the body until that process becomes intuitive.
It is odd to think how divorced we are from our own bodies. We view the mind as separate from the body as separate from the soul and they are all connected. We are integrated beings that have been taught to view ourselves as separate pieces.
Case in point, I would never have thought that writing a blog was physically stressful to me. I enjoy writing these posts and doing everything that goes into them. However, by the second paragraph, my heart rate had jumped from 83 to 111. That puts me into the range of someone who is subjecting their body to cardiovascular exercise. If I were to go from the blog to say, a stressful encounter with someone, my heart rate would keep rising or at least, remain in that stressed state that will then begin to have a mental and emotional toll. Who knew? I would not catch on to being in a stressed physical state until later this evening, when it begins to affect me through muscle tension. By that time, my body has been subjected to massive amounts of adrenaline and cortisol for a span of hours, and that can create numerous problems.
But does that mean that I stop writing? No, that would be one of the extremes. It means that I have to recognize it as a source of stress and change how I approach writing in order to maintain a calmer state.
This is the ultimate geek hobby. It is actually more nerdalicious then when I had to monitor by blood sugar all day. The ultimate goal with all this is to make the process of calming myself intuitive. That should only take 3-6 weeks of consistent monitoring and practice. In the process of all of this, it also changes how one thinks by changing the old tapes we play that we may no longer be aware of because they are intuitive. The biofeedback process forces you to interrupt the tape with a new message.
Odd to think that I am a stranger in my own house, so to speak. Yet it is exhilarating to discover that I do have power and control over my own self. There are not many places in which we receive that message and even fewer places in which we can see evidence of our own self-control.
I have a feeling this process will be life changing. I feel as if I have found a treasure map to a land I have been stumbling around in for years.
c.2011. Cassandra Tribe. All rights reserved.