The following story, called The Rainmaker, was told to the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung by Richard Wilhelm (1873-1930). Wilhelm was a German sinologist, theologian, and missionary who lived in China for 25 years. He was fluent in spoken and written…
Jayne and I are starting to teach online meditation classes on the Full Moon of the Guru, on the 5th of July 2020 (Sydney time). The aim of these classes is first to teach techniques that charge the powers of…
Here we are in this difficult place, between coping with the effects of isolation and navigating our way in an unsafe world. This in-between zone is not only a harsh new reality but also a dramatic metaphor for the changes…
Most of our actions are unconscious. We simply react in real-time.
Modern neuroscience tells us we are consciously aware of about 5% of our thoughts. Most of our behaviors and emotions are reactions to the 95 percent of brain activity that occurs beneath our awareness.
At the root of our automatic, knee-jerk reactions to life is a lack of self-knowledge. Modern wisdom says you should just be yourself: very appealing because no effort is required. Older wisdom says you should cultivate the self because a consciously directed life is much more likely to satisfy and bring meaning.
According to Eastern and Western psychology, we have an ego/persona, a shadow, and a self. The simplest way to understand them is:
Ego is your identity, while the persona is the mask you wear to survive and thrive – your social personality.
Shadow is the aspect you hide so that you can integrate and find acceptance.
Self is your true inner nature, who you are, and who you always will be. It actually includes the ego and the shadow.
In many cases, identity and relationship issues, and mental health problems stem from these three parts of ourselves working independently (often in opposition) rather than in harmony with each other.
Psychological education and inner-reflection methods such as meditation create healthy, harmonious selves.
Where to begin?
This chart has been put together by Ruby Jo Walker and is based on the work of Stephen Porges. It clearly explains in visual form what happens to us when our stress builds to intolerable levels as it does in trauma.
Yoga, relaxation, and meditation are powerful tools that are now being used by clinicians to help patients gain control over the residue of past trauma and return to being the master of their own lives.
They have shown that along with talking therapies and the appropriate use of drugs that dampen hyperactive alarm systems, traumatic imprints from the past can be transformed by having embodied experiences that directly contradict the helplessness, rage, and collapse that are part of trauma.
Embodied experiences deal directly with traumatic memories that are held in the body. This is achieved by using systems, such as yoga and meditation, that build feelings of relaxation, of being grounded and safe, of being able to trust the present moment, and thereby enable you to restore your ability for connection and joy. As a result, the old traumatic memories are stripped of their emotional intensity so that you are freed from the past and are thereby able to regain a degree of self-mastery.
All the knowledge in the world is not going to help you unless you develop the skill of embodied relaxation. Without developing relaxation your body will remain stuck in tension and hypervigilance, and feelings of relaxation, safety and intimacy will be vague memories.
Porges polyvagal theory
Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D. is Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium.
Did you know that chronic, unresolved stress can create an imbalance between the self-aware, rational, decision making, and problem-solving parts of your brain (the pre-frontal cortex) and the emotion and memory controlling parts of your brain (the amygdala and hippocampus)?
Long-term (chronic) stress alters your thinking, emotion, and behavior and over time changes the size, structure, and function of parts of your brain. Chronic stress also shortens the length of your chromosomes and interferes with how your genes express themselves, making you more vulnerable to disease.
How your ability to learn and remember shrinks
The hippocampus, the learning and memory center of the brain, shrinks as a result of chronic stress. Neurons die and the connections between neurons in the hippocampus become weaker, which is detrimental to your memory. Memories become fragmented making it hard for you to keep track of what you are doing. You might have brain fog and be unable to think creatively.