No related posts.
Life’s Little Secrets
The processes of life itself are about constant change. If our body could not go through radical internal changes to meet different temperatures we would die very quickly. We can all see that, but there are fundamental things about this that I have never heard anyone say they were taught at school. Yet these little secrets are life sustaining, and enable us to survive awful knocks and immense changes.
In 1885 the Belgian physiologist Leon Fredericq described it this way, “The living being is an agency of such sort that each disturbing influence induces by itself the calling forth of compensatory activity to neutralise or repair the disturbance. The higher in the scale of living beings, the more numerous, the more perfect and the more complicated do these regulatory activities become. They tend to free the organism completely from the unfavourable influences and changes occurring in the environment.”
By an apparent contradiction it maintains its stability only if it is excitable and capable of modifying itself according to external stimuli and adjusting its responses to the stimulation. In a sense it is stable because it is modifiable – the slight instability is the necessary condition for the true stability of the organism.”
It took me a long time of searching to find, in my own way of life, the wisdom in those two statements. It took me even longer to learn how to apply that in my life. When I did an extraordinary process revealed itself. Part of that process is seen in the warning dreams I had. (See: Surviving Tomorrow). In those dreams my being was responding to my changing environment and readying me for change. But that is jumping ahead, so let me explain this carefully.
I have written elsewhere about suffering depression in my twenties and how I found my way out of it. And it was through dreams and life’s little secrets stated above that it was done. In searching for relief from misery I tried many different things, relaxation, yoga and meditation among them. They promised to be helpful but something was missing that I only began to uncover when I started teaching relaxation. Some of those classes were huge back in the sixties and seventies. To help people I would wander around the class and lift an arm or leg of some of those lying quietly relaxed. I moved the limb to let the person have an enhanced awareness of their relaxed condition. What amazed me was that often the arm or leg was so rigid with tension it was hard to move. If I let go the limb would remain suspended. On asking the person how they felt they would say, ‘Fine. Really relaxed.’ They didn’t know they were carrying enormous tensions.
Are you relaxing or suppressing?
It took me a while to realise what that indicated. You could relax surface muscles and feelings, but a mass of tensions were unconscious. . Later I learned that such tensions had often arisen from difficult or traumatic past experiences, still locked in the body and emotions. Later still I realised through experience that it also released the wonder of our core self – our spirit. By using relaxation techniques such as dropping the tension of the voluntary muscles those inner tensions or realisations were being pushed back into the unconscious – undealt with. When left at that point, relaxation was a method of suppression and control, not of healing.
With shock I realised this was true of many things that were supposed to be helpful, such as meditation and positive thinking. What they often did was to calm surface feelings by controlling thoughts and body. They did not deal with the real difficulties that had been pushed into the unconscious. Their purpose was to quieten the conscious mind and the voluntary movements of the body, not release unconscious tensions.
I went on an almost fanatical search for what could be done to change that – to release the unconscious problems. The clue was, as Richet says, that ‘the slight instability is the necessary condition for the true stability of the organism.’ I gradually realised that to really adjust to the many knocks and changes we meet in life, our body and mind need to be capable of a type of ‘instability’. It needs to be able to move, to express freely, and to respond automatically or spontaneously. Yet all our cultural training and habits are about control and suppression. Governments also sometimes give huge threats to the people if they do not conform. All in all, we have in many ways been trained to be sick – as I was myself. And, amazingly, my doctor, to deal with depression, was telling me to take a drug, a tranquiliser, to maintain the status quo.
Hadfield, writes in his book Dreams and Nightmares, ‘If a branch of a tree is cut, new shoots spring out; if you injure your hand, all the forces of the blood are mobilised until that wound is healed and you are made whole. It is a law of nature.’
He later enlarges this by saying, ‘There is in the psyche an automatic movement toward readjustment, towards an equilibrium, toward a restoration of the balance of our personality. This automatic adaptation of the organism is one of the main functions of the dream as indeed it is of bodily functions and of the personality as a whole. This idea need not cause us much concern for this automatic self-regulating process is a well known phenomenon in Physics and Physiology. The function of compensation which Jung has emphasised appears to be one of the means by which this automatic adaptation takes place, for the expression of repressed tendencies has the effect of getting rid of conflict in the personality. For the time being, it is true, the release may make the conflict more acute as the repressed emotions emerge, and we have violent dreams from which we wake with a start. But by this means, the balance of our personality is restored.’
As for how we can enable this to happen, Jung’s student Marie von Franz says that we ‘must get rid of purposive and wishful aims. The ego must be able to listen.’ Jung also encouraged his clients to allow spontaneous movement.
But then I was lucky to come across a book that really spelt it out in a clinical sense, it was Wilhelm Reich’s book The Function of the Orgasm. From it I learned the exact function, although I wanted to be able to teach it in a non-clinical way.
It’s is all in the Dream Process
At this time I was exploring dreams – not interpreting them – and the more I learned and experienced about dreams the more I understood the spontaneous and healing movements Jung and others talked about. I realised from other people’s research that while we dream our voluntary muscles are paralysed. That is why some people wake enough in the middle of a dream and feel terror because they feel some alien force has taken control of their body. They are so used to being in conscious control they cannot see that we have two wills – the one conscious and the other what I call Life Will.
The silly thing is we are used to the experience of spontaneous movement – our breathing and heart beat – but it is unthinkable for most people that our Life Will can move us in other ways. But while we dream our brain gives all the impulses to make all the movements we dream about, but a part of our brain blocks this while asleep, probably because we originally slept in trees, and to live out our movements could be fatal. We can all see the truth of this if we watch our dreams and sleep behaviour. People speak in their sleep, they experience movements while asleep, the have enormous feelings, all without conscious volition.
But the brain action that blocks the dream movements from manifesting many men and women had found a way to by-pass the action. They take on an attitude of surrender, as we do when we go to sleep – without that surrender we cannot sleep. That allows what we can think of as a waking lucid dream, or visionary experience, such as described in many old approaches such as Subud, Seitai, the Pentecostal experience, Shaktipat, and many others disciplines. When that is allowed a person can experience full spontaneous movement, speaking, passionate emotions, a release of old trauma, experience that widen the awareness of the person, and in fact a wonderful healing and growth. See http://dreamhawk.com/body-and-mind/peoples-experiences-of-lifestream/
A shaking experience
Having realised all this I got together with three friends to experiment with how to allow this process of self-regulation (now called LifeStream) to express. How did you give your being freedom to express spontaneously so it could rid itself of what it held unconsciously? How did you allow it to re-balance itself when it has been knocked out of balance? We started our experiments with yoga postures and movements. But instead of pushing our body into a particular given position, we tried to listen to see what our body wanted to do; what posture or movement our own internal feelings led us to.
Sitting with my friends one day in our experimental group I started to shiver. I thought I must be cold so restrained the shaking. But at our next meeting it started again, and this time I was wearing a warm jersey, and in no way felt nervous, so pulled slightly apart from my friends and let myself really shake.
What happened was incredible. My body and my emotions discharged the whole experience of having my tonsils out as a six year old. My head pulled back, my mouth clamped open and my arms were in the position of being strapped to my side. Perhaps I had not been fully anaesthetised – I don’t know. What I do know is that I had carried that enormous tension and shock inside me from six until I was thirty five. Up until that day I had experienced a powerful neck tension that I had tried again and again to ‘relax’ away. My being didn’t need to relax, it needed to discharge in powerful tension, struggles and emotion. After this ’shaking’ experience there was never again a tension in my neck, a tension that had been caused by trying to pull away from the surgeon cutting my throat. However, it was not simply a physical tension it released. Powerful emotions were also discharged, ones that had created difficult responses to everyday life.
Life’s simple secrets are that your being knows how to deal with the things you carry in you that have harmed you creating despair, emotional darkness and even physical pain. The process of life in you is also part of the life on this planet. It can read the signs of change and will ready you if you let it.
We are a culture trained to need experts and to pay them; such experts are greatly needed, but our greatest expert is our amazing and wonderful process of life. To let it heal us it needs to be released from its years of restraint, of suppression, and being pushed into unconsciousness.
The simple secret is that inasmuch as we can allow our being to do its own thing occasionally – to move, cry, shake, discharge, laugh and sing spontaneously – to that degree life in us keeps us balanced and healthy. Most ancient cultures had situations in which this was allowed. Wasn’t this the great secret early Christianity found in the Pentecostal experience, where they let themselves me moved as if they were drunk? Controls such as relaxation, meditation, breath control, positive thinking, all have their place, but they do not deal with the dynamic and amazingly powerful process of LIFE and its need to discharge what is poisonous to its workings and poitive in its growth.
Look around. Life on our planet is earthquakes as well as sunny calm. It is storms as well as gentle rain. It is lightning as well as cloudless days. That is how nature balances itself. To find our own balance we too need to let our being spontaneously earthquake sometimes – spontaneously let our body shake itself apart to let the tensions discharge. You can’t make that happen by willing it consciously. That is you trying to be in control again, just as our culture has tried to be in control and rape nature. You can only let it happen by letting go of your self control for a while.
What happens when I do?
Rita, a nurse who had been hospitalised with psychiatric problems, describes what happened to her when she let go of her ’self control’ in what at the time we called self-regulation, (SR), but now name LifeStream.
“In most every part of me I have felt energy stirring or moving since I started SR. I look different now. When I look in the mirror I see I am a different shape. I am much stronger than I was. I think this is because I am not wasting energy now. I am also less afraid of my feelings. I was a very passionate person and would get into arguments about everything. Now I can be more detached. I never thought I would be like that. Somehow ones energy gets re-organised in self regulation. You get rid of the stuff which is potentially destructive, and you are left with what is really a force for growth.
The process of SR seems so sensible to me. Having had a fairly good medical training the idea of homeostasis and energy being blocked, even though it may not be charted in Gray’s Anatomy, is very straightforward. It seems no more puzzling, although it’s mystical. The process is trying to do its work, whether we open to it or not in our body. It is quicker and easier if you give it the right conditions. Most of the time, almost deliberately we give it adverse conditions. All we need to do is take the concrete off so it can grow. This force seems to be there all the time.
When I started SR I wasn’t prepared for the violence of the feelings or the strength, immediacy and freshness of them, and the fact it was real.
Our society deals so much in second-hand experience. The immediacy of it really took my breath away. I am beginning to allow myself now a glimpse of what we often put down as so much religiosity.
I am allowing myself now, having had almost an overdose of grieving and anguish, to open up to the other extreme which I have never experienced very much, which is the sheer joy of living. The other day I found myself walking into the sea and shouting, ‘Hey sea, I love you’ and it really came up from my boots. We get stuck in the bad stuff and don’t let ourselves feel the good.
A couple of months back I went through, with M. the event of my son’s birth. It was thought he might not live and I had been super controlled from the nurses point of view. I hadn’t given way to anguish at the thought this child might not live. But when he was born healthy, what I wanted to do, much more than that, was to shriek with joy, and I hadn’t allowed that. We think so often, being a puritan society, it’s only the pain we have got to face, but it seems we have got to open those channels of joy too. It’s too easy to become hooked on the masochistic element. When I began to let myself experience joy in SR I even began to think I was no longer doing real self regulation because it was so pleasurable.
A simple way you might be able to learn the beginnings of this clearing out and movement toward joy is to do what I call the ‘arm circling exercise’. But it may help to first learn how to yawn spontaneously. You can do this by acting out a few yawns till they come spontaneously. Let them come and let the rest of your body join in if an urge to stretch comes. This is to learn how to recognise and allow your body and feelings to express spontaneously. When you can allow spontaneous yawns and stretches, then try the arm circling.
You need sufficient floor space to move easily, or even lie full length if necessary. It also helps to have loose clothing. Then you stand in the middle of your space, giving yourself time to explore what you feel and experience. Start by circling your arms. Take the arms above the head, down the sides of the body with the arms fully extended, then upward crossing the front of the trunk. In the full movement the hands are then forming wide circles that cross the front of your body. Do this until the movement is easy and flowing.
What you are doing doesn’t have to make sense. Nor does it have to comply with what other people might expect of you. Realise that you are allowing another part of yourself, perhaps a non verbal part, or a facet unknown to the rational mind, to express. With a non critical watching attitude, relax and let your body and feeling sense direct what happens.
There is no need to fiercely concentrate in order to wipe the mind clear of other influences. But you may need to hold back the part of the mind that always needs to know beforehand what you are going to do.
This is not like creative dance, in which there may exist a need to produce something pleasing for others to watch. With this exercise you need an open attitude in which your inner being can make its own adjustments, and movements, and feelings have a chance to express outside of rational criticism and demands of everyday life. Give yourself at least fifteen to thirty minutes in which to explore what spontaneous movements and feelings emerge.
The skill needs to be learned
This ability to allow life to stream through us in its own way is not a skill we are taught in our western culture. We are taught how to control, how important it is to repress anger or even immense joy, but we are not taught the balance of this – how to let go of control. Therefore the arm circling exercise needs to be repeated until the ’stiffness’ of our control is loosened and you can flow with what emerges spontaneously. When that begins to happen you will see that it is leading you along in a direction that is full of meaning and explains itself as it emerges.
As that happens you will not need to start with arm circling, but will be able to simply stand in your space and allow the process to happen. Wherever possible use this process, that I now call LifeStream, with friends who want to share it with you. This group practice enormously increases the power of it.