What?! I can give myself dose of sanity and no nasty side effects?
Enjoy more receptivity and less reactivity by using this self-care practice! No expiration date or fees apply, but, there’s a catch: Orienting takes consistent attention. You must apply the practice. This form of self-compassion increase self-regulation and resilience.
Orienting – A Pathway for Genuine Self-Care
Here’s the skinny: The brain has basically two modes – reactive and receptive. In reactive mode, we can’t think straight. Stress reactivity or survival physiology is a habitual pattern for lots of people. This is pure biology.
Dominated by the flight/fight and/or freeze responses, our capacities for understanding, compassion and discernment deteriorate. We become incapable of navigating relational dilemmas. We lose our sense of humor and ease.
In day-to-day interactions and activities, survival physiology is not typically called for, assuming one isn’t trying to survive home, community or workplace situations marked by threats of physical, sexual or emotional violence.
Stress reactivity is corrosive to relationships and exceedingly hard on the body. At the heart of genuine self-care is consistent attention to nourishing capacities for receptive mode and grounded response.
Orienting: A Three-Part Process to Settle the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)
1) Orient via the eyes. Focus attention on the external environment. Let your eyes slowly wander and “take in” what they see. Then let your eyes rest on something that evokes pleasure or enjoyment.
The optic nerve transmits information from the eye to the brain. The brain’s perception of safety in the environment helps settle the ANS and emotional states.
2) Exhale, mouth open, allowing a long out-breath. Then breath in through the nose. Do this 3 – 5 times. Then let the breath resume its natural rhythm.
Breathing this way lowers the heart rate, among other things. The brain gets the message that the chemical army needed for survival physiology is not needed; the system can relax.
3) Bring to mind a point of goodness in your life. Something you are grateful for, something that feels good to think about or imagine. Soak it in. Now take note of your internal experience. Just notice.
This focus invites more “ventral dominance” versus survival physiology.
The combination of visual orienting, breath and awareness of goodness invites more receptivity. It stimulates ventral dominance, the “safe and social state” in which we’re aware, present and available for social engagement and quietude. When you’re not unnecessarily flooded with stress chemicals that mobilize the body for survival, you have access to the safe/social state that all human mammals yearn for.
Through the day, scan your body and note sensations. Pause (whether you think you need it or not) and use this practice. Anytime, anywhere, you can expand your capacity to settle the body-mind. Onward!
* An excellent, user-friendly resource I urge you to familiarize yourself with: https://www.justinlmft.com/polyvagal101
* Peter Levine, author of In an Unspoken Voice, Waking the Tiger and other seminal works.
* Stephen Porges, creator of the Polyvagal Theory: https://www.stephenporges.com/
* Bend-based Advanced Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, Janice Castelbaum: http://www.janicecastelbaum.com/
* Music to soothe the body/mind:
Once Upon a Time in Paris – Erik Satie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKRY63Buv6A