We Are Natural Multitaskers

Yesterday, we talked briefly about the different learning styles and mode of response that are expressions of the various stages the survival nervous system travels through (you can read more about that here if you want to catch up on the latest). As a continuation of that, I thought it would be interesting to bring up the often-maligned concept of multi-tasking, and how we are often encouraged to do one thing at a time.

If we cycle back to yesterday’s conversation, you will see that how we respond to feedback or criticism varies depending on where our nervous system is sitting. The same is true of the conditions we feel that we require to be able to concentrate, or really put our all into the task at hand.

The reality is that your brain and body thrive on sensory information, so much so that if sensory information is limited in some way (as is the case when we spend too long in the survival response) we will only ever respond to what’s in front of us with a sympathetic reflex. What this means is that if you have limited sensory input, your brain has limited information to go on to decide how to appropriately respond to the situation in front of it. As a result, it errs on the side of caution and fires off whatever dominant pattern (fight/flight/freeze/collapse) is the favourite of the moment.

When our nervous system is balanced and responsive, we can handle many different pieces of input coming at us in the same moment. We can handle it because it is our unconscious brain that is sorting, prioritizing and discarding for us; we are feeling our way through the situation rather than thinking our way through.

Conversely, if we require silence, or limited input to take something in, we are operating from a sympathetic learning mode. In the survival response, our focus narrows. We become more tunnel visioned. And this ability for the brain to only process limited input then carries over to every other experience we have when we are operating within and out of that mode.

We are natural multitaskers. It’s a bi-product of multi-feeling, multi-awareness capacity we have that’s innate to the parasympathetic system.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Pattern Not Personality

Your learning style- how you process information, respond to feedback or criticism, the conditions you “require” in order to be able to take things in- gives you a lot of information about where your nervous system is sitting.

Each stage of the survival nervous system response (fight, flight, freeze and conservation of energy mode) not only has its own corresponding set of physical and structural changes that occur in the body, but behavioral and thought-based patterns as well. These days, I can tell a lot about where someone’s nervous system is sitting not only by the posture and position of their body, but also through the words they use and how they respond to me in conversation.

When we live and ride predominantly from our survival nervous system, our brain chooses one of the main reflex patterns to express through. A defensive response goes hand in hand with a fight pattern, dissociation, or constant questioning of oneself with flight, overwhelm and incessant questions of others with freeze and the “what’s the point, let’s throw the towel in” with collapse.

So much of what we consider to be personality flaws or an inability to process information on our part is nothing of the sort; it’s simply a reflection of where your nervous system is sitting. Shifting out of that place takes some time and effort, and the first part of that transition involves understanding these are simply patterns, not personality.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Begin Again

“Comfort zone” is an interesting phrase, and it’s not one that we typically think of with positive connotations. Usually, the discussions about it centre around how to leave it or how we’re spending too much time in it. But as with everything, nothing is inherently good or bad; it’s more about what is most appropriate for that particular moment.

Your comfort zone can be your start point. It can be the place you return to in order to re-establish communication and connection with your horse when one or both has been lost. It’s a place of familiarity that allows you to press reset, to a place from which you can make a different set of decisions in order to observe a different set of outcomes.

This past week saw me bring all of my horses back into work, after some extended time off. For a moment, I had a familiar mist wash over me which convinced me that I had no idea what to do, no idea where to start. I know this feeling well; it’s the one that visits sometimes when I’m required to Begin Again.

All of us Begin Again at some point. We might Begin Again in situations like mine, where life has forced your hand and momentum has been lost in a particular area of your life, like working your horses. We might have to Begin Again half-way through a session. It can be a small Begin Again or a big one but regardless of which, they both share a similar start point- the humble comfort zone.

Comfort Zones + Beginning Again work well together. I’m grateful for them both. It’s a blessing to have a foundation to return to, to build from, to re-establish and to navigate back to when necessary.

So, this week, I pulled on my boots and I Began Again. I grabbed my halter, and I met my horses and we started with what we both know. We greeted each other and we returned to our shared comfort zone. We started with what we know in order to adventure together into what we don’t.

And it’s been quite wonderful.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

You Have Permission To Shift

In all the work I do, I’m trying to strike a balance between understanding what’s happening at a nervous system level, and then recognizing how that’s manifesting at the level of thought- how our physiology is affecting our minds, in other words.

On the one hand, there are predictable patterns of behavior and mindsets that accompany certain nervous system states that are true for everyone across the board, but that experience doesn’t exempt us from the fact that we are still responsible for what thoughts we invest in and what choices we make (even if it really doesn’t feel that way).

If we take burnout, apathy, low mood, a lack of feeling of vitality and aliveness as our thesis for today, we can understand these to be experiences that hold hands with being in a state of collapse, or conservation of energy mode. Here we have the brain making the choice to put the body in this place, based on very functional reasons, and that reason is often that we’ve been living our life with the accelerator flat to the floor, and at some point, we have literally and metaphorically run out of gas.

This is especially true for those of us who might identify with being the “project manager” of their life, family, work, all the things. A position you might have adopted, a position you might have been forced into or perhaps a combination of both. But when we spend too long in project manager mode, we get further and further away from pleasure and enjoyment mode.

We become all about being efficient and on task, and both of those things are about the ticking of the lists and the doing of the things.

If that is you, bets on you either let yourself do the things you want as a treat OR when you have finished all the things… which is not very often, or at all, because there are always more things to add to your other things list.

So, know this: If you aren’t looking after yourself, taking time for yourself, riding, hanging out with your horse, going to that lesson, taking the clinic, whatever. You are just going to have to take it. You are going to have to do it and make it happen for no other reason than because you want to.

You have to take it.

The list is never going to end, the things are never all going to be done.

You have to shift. You have permission to shift away from all the things to that thing you want because that’s the point of life.

You have to shift.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

 

Sunshine And Horses Are My Religion

Yesterday, I got my lovely horse Dee out and the paddock and we played together in the round pen for the first time in quite a while. As I thought about sharing this with you, and the words I might use, it occurred to me that how I would describe it 12 months ago is very different to how I would choose to describe it now.

The 12 months ago version of me would have said to you, ‘we’ve had some bad luck the last few months. Because of this, that and the other, I haven’t been able to ride and so here we are, back in action. Thank goodness for that.’

The current version of me, however, has an entirely different point of view. What I might have seen as bad luck previously, I know just understand as, well, just the way things have been for the last few months. Not good, not bad. It just was what it was.

The old version would have pushed and struggled and resisted. But for some reason, this time around I saw very clearly that most of my suffering was self-created; that all the ill feeling and internal tension was from trying to be and do something different to what my body was able to be and do in that moment.

I’m of the opinion now that being able to meet yourself in the moment, and to find the range of what’s possible in that moment is the best gift you can give to yourself. It’s not easy- but then either is the alternative. Practicing that has let me look back on what might traditionally be described as a rough patch and hold it more lightly.

And for now, I get to walk and play and frolic with this glorious creature again. I’ll take it, and then some.

I think sunshine and horses are my religion.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

When To Push Through And When To Hold Back?

I teach a lot of movement-based work with a specific focus on the nervous system, and periodically the question comes up, how do I know when to “push through” and when should I listen to what my body (or mind) is telling me and take it easy, or keep it at the level I am?

The idea of pushing through is an interesting one, and it’s something that comes up in relation to many different things; we might try to push through a lack of motivation, push through when we are trying to do something that our body finds challenging, push through the pain point, push through mental resistance. The list goes on.

From my point of view, I’m not looking to push through anything. But what I am looking for is what action it’s possible to take within the range of potential available in that specific moment in time.

Let’s cycle back a bit and consider it from a slightly different perspective. Our unconscious brain is always making the most functional choice as far as our body and behavior based on the information that it has available to it. What that means is that if I feel low energy, or my body is giving me feedback that I perceive as painful, these experiences are occurring for a very practical reason- a reason that may lie well outside what we are consciously aware of.

If I then ignore those cues and “push through”, I only end up going to war with myself. What I am essentially saying is, I’m going to ignore how I am in this moment in time and choose my actions based on what I *think* I should be doing. And what I *think* I should be doing is usually motivated by a variety of external factors that we are trying to match ourselves up to; a wholly intellectual and cognitive decision that we are layering on top of our actual experience.

Working to increase nervous system adaptability and responsiveness means we first must honour the position we are in and then find the range of possibility within that. We make active choices to take action, but how that action looks is informed specifically by that range.

For example, going for a run is not a supportive action for someone in collapse, or conservation of energy mode. Your nervous system is in that place, again, for a very functional reason and consciously overriding that only drives you deeper into the sympathetic response.

Action, in that instance, would look very different. It would be moving in ways that support your sensory nervous system. It would be finding ways of supporting the body to move out of any “stuck” places and re-find its equilibrium.

Pushing through involves pushing the override button on what is. And even if it “feels better” in the short term, it has long term ramifications physiologically.

Instead, find what’s possible within the range that your body and mind present and start there. Choose action but choose supportive action.

Find what’s possible within the parameters that your body and mind present.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

To Embrace Something New You Have To Let Something Go

I remember getting asked in an interview once, “Do you feel like what you are teaching now is different from what you taught five years ago?”, and my answer was, I certainly hope so!

One of the things that I’m conscious of is not planting my flag in the sand for any one way of doing things; a particular training technique, a “style” of teaching, a way of going about things.

If there’s one thing I work hard on, it’s maintaining a constant curiosity about how things work and why. If something comes along that I can see disproves what I have done previously or shows me there’s a better way of going about things, then I have no problem in letting go of how I’ve taught or done things up until that point. New information and knowledge are exciting. It’s nothing to be feared.

The thing is, conceptually, this sounds like an easy thing to do but practically speaking, it can be anything but. With my work, there are things that I’ve spent years putting together, only to realise that I needed to change things completely, to take it from the top. Something that I’ve done on more than one occasion (I give myself a 48-hour window of crying into my pillow first).

It’s also shown me just how much the learning process is about unlearning; that to embrace something new, you have to be willing to let something go. And sometimes, that thing forms a big part of your identity. I see often how riders and trainers reject information, not because it’s wrong, but because it goes against what they may have spent years dedicating themselves too. And at the end of the day, it’s too much process. They’d rather preserve what they know than let it go.

I just spent the weekend changing up my website after realizing the words no longer really captured what I do. We move forward and then everything else needs to catch up around us. It made me think how we are all and should be in a constant process of revision. Of learning and updating.

Of taking things in and letting things go.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

The Ideal Position Is One That Harmonises With Your Horse

It’s interesting, given that a horse and their movement is so dynamic, that we could become attached to “aesthetic ideals” when we are riding. I’m realizing more and more that the rules that we have around position are in many instances what get in the way of truly harmonizing with our horses.

The same rules can also lead us to a place where we are moving through the experience of riding with our thoughts, rather than with our body. As we ride, we are in constant conversation about where our legs should be, how we should be holding our hands, what this seat bone is doing, in a way that is not about observation but about control.

We try to control how our body is responding in any given moment, and as consequently remove the ability of the unconscious brain to find the most adaptive and synchronistic position for us at any moment in time… which may or may not fit the model of “how things should look”.

I realise given the many traditions that the riding world has evolved from that saying “throw away the rule book” when it comes to the ideal position is a somewhat heretical position to take. I also realise doing will not result in an instant show of harmony.

For me to truly find harmony, I need to develop symmetry in the body. Symmetry, in this instance, is not what we might think it to be as far as the right and left side of the body being equal. Instead, it’s a mobile and responsive centerline (the centerline being the superficial front line of fascia that extends from the pubic symphysis on the front all the way up to the seam of the nose) and a left side of the body is all in conversation with itself, and a right side that does the same.

Fight/flight motor patterns leave us in a place where the legs, arms and head move independently of the torso, leaving patterns of strain and tension in the body. Conversely, when my nervous system is in the parasympathetic, my shoulder girdle, pelvic girdle, ribs, and skull all co-ordinate together to allow for the most easeful, open, and cohesive movement pattern; one that does not compromise any one part over the other.

As I ride my horse then, and seek to harmonise with them, the girdles of our body move together. As his shoulder girdle moves forward on the left, so does mine. My left girdles find harmony with his, and the right seeks to do the same.

To seek to be in constant dance of adaptation and adjustment as you move through space together I consider to be a far more worthy pursuit that ticking the shoulders back, heels down, sit up straight box that many of us have been reduced to.

In this way, we understand position to be an inside out job, rather than an outside in one. One where we relate at the level of sensing rather than the level of thought.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Looking At “Emotional Control”

Emotional control is a phrase that you see thrown around a lot, and it’s both a lot simpler and a lot more complex than we often understand it to be. The phrase itself is an interesting one because it implies that we have the conscious capacity to control our emotional life in the first place; that if we just work hard enough to control our thoughts, we can change how we experience things.

Being aware of your thoughts is an important element of actioning choice in what and how we experience the world but leaving the conversation there is wildly incomplete. It’s also a harmful narrative to spread because it relies on willpower and individual mental agency, that is naturally going to ebb and wane depending on our experience. Some days we might have it in us to stand guard at the edges of our mind. And others, it doesn’t even occur to us to do so; we’ve already been carried away by the emotion or are too tired or overwhelmed to try to resist it, leaving us feeling like a failure.

Where most people centre their focus is around controlling their thoughts and reactions, involving firstly, being aware of the reaction they are having or the emotional state they are in, and secondly, doing something to mediate or control that reaction.

We might seek to understand more about the triggers and then beyond that, look to control the mind and body by manipulating the breath in some way, or through dissociation or distraction (affirmations, listening to music etc.).

There are a couple of key elements that are almost always excluded from the conversation, and they are the physical and unconscious factors that are fundamental in the creation and experience of emotion. Without understanding or addressing these, you are always going to be chasing your tail. You are only ever be aware of the emotion after you’ve already experienced it. Working in this way means you are never going to be ahead of it.

My work has no goal or destination that we are looking to land at other than creating a nervous system that is adaptable and responsive. Within that, we aren’t looking to control or avoid any experience, but to ensure that the responses that we DO have are accurate for the circumstance. In most situations where we are looking to control our emotional reactions, it is because we believe our response to be inappropriate for or disproportionate for the situation we find ourselves in. Even that is not black and white; it can be that we ARE having an appropriate reaction but social niceties and conditioning cause us to stuff it down anyway.

Back to the physical and the unconscious. Within the stress response of the survival nervous system, there are several different motor reflexes that the body moves through depending on what nervous system response we are in. The fight response, for instance, has its own structural and motor reflex pattern, as does flight, freeze and collapse. They also have a corresponding list of emotional patterns specific to each phase.

If we are stuck in our survival nervous system, emotional control is always going to feel like hard work, because we are living from a nervous system foundation that is primed for reactivity. In fact, when you are in this place, your brain has an increasingly limited capacity to respond anything but reflexively. That’s what the survival nervous system is designed for, after all.

Working to change your emotional experience does involve conscious thought insofar as we make choices about what thoughts we invest in and what stories we perpetuate BUT it also involves shifting your system overall out of a place where it’s stuck in sympathetic, fight/flight programming and in order to do that, you have to look to your motor patterning. This is where movement becomes an integral part of any mindset or mental health work.

For as long as you are wired for your fight/flight nervous system to be the dominant system navigating you through the world, creating shifts in your emotional life is going to feel like tremendous and endless hard work.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Looking At Your Position? Look To Your Nervous System

When most people think of the nervous system and what working with it might address, the most common response is mental and emotional. Very few people (in my experience at least) consider it when it comes to addressing challenges in position or movement, and yet it’s your autonomic nervous system that’s “in charge” of how structurally you are positioned at any moment in time.

Take this example. A little while back in one of the live Q&A sessions in my membership program, a member described a riding lesson she had that previous week. Her pelvis tends to be tucked up and under in the “chair seat” position, which has flow on effects for how the rest of her body holds itself in space.

Her instructor directed her to sit up.

Use your abs, she was told.

Bring your shoulder blades together!

Look up!

The list went on.

That sounds exhausting, I told her, remembering to do all that. And then you still have to ride your horse.

The thing is, I know this pretty much the norm.

Let’s explain things from the level of the nervous system.

How the body powers movement is different depending on where your nervous system is sitting. If we look at the pelvis in isolation, in the parasympathetic system, the two sides of the pelvis are moving on the transverse plane, allowing the torso to move forward and backward in space as a single unit, without any one part of the spine being compromised.

In the fight/flight nervous system, however, the pelvis adopts more of a teeter-totter action, rocking forward and back on the sagittal plane. The power to move the pelvis then comes from the lumbar spine, and relationally for the shoulder girdle, from the cervical spine.

A “chair seat” is a sympathetic, or fight/flight position of the pelvis. It’s where the dominant motor pattern for the pelvis is a sympathetic one. Unless we change the motor pattern on a neurological level, the only likely movement range will be posteriorly tilted (chair seat) or anteriorly tilted (leaning forward). In this instance, “neutral” does not exist, and is certainly not something that can be consciously influenced.

If we continue, the chair seat is naturally going to cause a rounding through the shoulders. Asking to draw the shoulder blades together is yet another sympathetic pattern (it’s a fight pattern) and drawing on abdominal strength is now using the outer tube of the body to support what the internal mechanisms are designed to do.

What’s more, you are only going to be able to hold this while you are consciously thinking about doing so, and all the while you are triggering your survival nervous system, making it impossible to assimilate or take in new information in any other way then repetition and rote learning.

The positioning of the structure of our body is under unconscious control. You cannot “think” your way out of a sympathetic position of the pelvis. The movement practices I teach in my membership program are based on nervous system biomechanics that allow us to change our motor patterns so the dominant modes of movement are rooted in the parasympathetic system.

Not only do sympathetic motor patterns compromise the body, but they also inadvertently cause our fight/flight nervous system to be triggered all day long, even when it’s not functionally required.

If you want to work on your position, work with your nervous system.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

 

You Don’t Owe It To Anyone To Be Inspirational: A Muddled Conversation On Chronic Pain

Here’s a piece of writing that I’m going to muddle my way through. It’s a muddle because the thoughts and understandings are in part still floating round the ether, yet to land in my brain space in any coherent fashion.

The sentiment, however, is important enough for me to want to share now.

The basis of it is this:

In my opinion (and I hope it’s not just mine) …If you deal with chronic pain or illness, you don’t owe it to anyone to be inspirational. You aren’t required to be constantly positive or to diminish your own experience to make those around you comfortable. None of us owe anyone that.

And if we expect that of people, well… that’s our stuff.

Back to the muddly part. I’ll break it into parts.

Muddle Part 1:

The other day, I sat as an able-bodied person who does not experience chronic pain and read a post from a person commenting on two different people they had coached recently, who were part of their life. Reading through, I assumed (correctly or otherwise), that the writer was able bodied also.

The people they were commenting on both had chronic pain and/or illness. Both had different experiences of how they showed up in the world.

The first was described as using their illness as a means of manipulation and to get what they want; the second got on with things, was apologetic of their limitations and gracious in their abilities.

The first was, by inference, seen as toxic. The second, by direct mention, inspirational.

The post got many comments and shares.

I read it and felt uncomfortable, even if, in that moment, I couldn’t articulate exactly why.

Muddle Part 2:

I’ve recently had a relatively serious situation (not riding related) where I have been in a significant amount of pain and out of action. I’m still not riding and have had to ease my way back into normal life. In this time, I learned a lot about pain; our cultural conditioning around it, the difficulty of it, the surrender to it.

If I asked you to think back to a time when you experienced real pain, chances are you would be able to locate it on the timeline, but the experience of it would be less clear. You can remember it as an experience, but you can’t remember the actual pain, even though you recall it as being bad, or even agonizing.

You can’t remember the “exactness” of the feeling because one of the central purposes of pain is to keep you right here, right now in the present. It’s not designed to be over-ridden. It calls your attention to something that needs to be helped, supported, or changed. When that happens, it’s no longer required. We remember it like a hologram; we see the imprint, but the feeling is gone.

The pain has served its purpose.

There are many facets to pain. There’s the physical, but there’s also the emotional. The challenges of just being in the world, the potential loss; the hardship that
“stopping” for the pain can bring are many and varied. It’s often the worst part of it.

As I read the post, my own recent experience with pain came up. Pain, depending on how it challenges us, has a similar function to grief. We think, how does all this normalcy go on when here we are in this position?

Normal, in this instance, is the ability to function without it, without pain. When you are in it, that capacity feels like a mystical superpower. It can also feel impossible.

Muddle Part 3:

My fascination and work have to do with the nervous system. As part of that, I seek to learn how the body maps in pain, and how, at its essence, all pain is felt in the brain, rather than the body.

Pain can feed into our survival patterns. It’s true that we can use our pain to get our needs met. When we do so, that appears, to our unconscious the most logical and effective course of action.

It’s true that our cultural responses and ideas around pain affect our experience of it.

Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. There are many studies that suggest that whilst the experience of pain is universal, how we experience that same pain is wildly different between cultures and societies. All pain is not the same. It’s contextual.

Pain- the experience of it and the discussion around it- is complicated.

Muddle Part 4:

** rampant disclaimer that as an able-bodied person, I may trip over my own biases and fall on my own head here so am happy to be corrected.

When I think about my own, recent experience with pain, it was a lot of pressure. Left to my own devices, I could get on with it to the best of my ability. Sometimes I felt ok with it, sometimes I really didn’t.

I was not always what you would describe as inspiring. Sometimes I was just plain fed up.

In that space, I had to let go of the idea that things could be or were meant to be any different. This was how it was now, and I just needed to deal with the now. Any thought beyond that was futile.

The pressure, then, exists as a separate thing to the pain. The harm exists as a separate thing to the pain. And both pressure and harm are created when we perpetuate and believe in a world view that tells us we have to be a certain way with our pain. To be positive, inspirational, upbeat, indifferent.

You CAN be all those things. But that’s different to HAVING to be all those things. Or feeling the pressure to be.

Which loops me back to the beginning.

If you deal with chronic pain or illness, you don’t owe it to anyone to be inspirational. You aren’t required to be constantly positive or to diminish your own experience to make those around you comfortable. None of us owe anyone that.

I know the conversation is more layered than this. Nothing is black and white.

But nonetheless, I’m throwing it out there as part of the discussion.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

The Many Faces Of “I Don’t Like That”

There was a man who set out to make the perfect chair. He got sick of sitting all day at his office in chairs that caused him a variety of different complaints and decided to do something about it.

He took surveys, talked to body workers, got to intimately understand what was needed to truly make a chair that could support the health of the person sitting in it.

The chair that he came up with was a revolution. Its design was somewhat space age. For the material to be breathable and the frame to be flexible, it had had something of an exoskeleton you could see from the outside.

It looked very different from the standard design of what we had come to accept chairs looked like.

Everyone who sat in it agreed that this was one heck of a chair.

He finally got to the stage where he was happy with his product and decided to release it to the market.

His chair was met with numerous awards in design and product shows. On a professional-to-professional level his chair was a huge success.

The only thing was, when it came to selling the chair, the sales bombed. No-one wanted to buy it.

This went on for years. And years.

Until finally sales started to increase. The chair gained traction. People started to appreciate it. And it snowballed from there.

The chair in question became the highest selling chair of its type ever. But it took a long time to get to that point. *

Why was that so? All this time, nothing about the chair had changed.

It happened because it was different. And different can take some getting used to.

It turns out that there’s a lot more behind the psychology of “I don’t like that” than you might think.

“I don’t like that” can mean literally that. But it’s also the phrase many people use when they either don’t understand something or are seeing something that challenges the commonly accepted frameworks they are used to.

In the case of the chair, it was the latter. Most of us have an unconscious, stock standard model in our brain for what we expect to see when we see a chair. And when we are greeted with something different, our first response is often rejection instead of curiosity.

Chairs may not be the example that most of us relate to, but there are many things that come up in our life and horsing adventures that we reject, or experience rejection around simply because they are different.

From a professional point of view, I recognize this phenomenon might come into play when I introduce a body of work that may not be familiar or challenges the norms.

From a training point of view, if I train outside the box of what most people are used to, I know come to expect skepticism more than acceptance, especially in the first instance.

And in myself, I’m careful not to reject something- or to observe my rejection should it arise- and did a little deeper to understand it more.

Is it truly not for me? Or is that the wall I’ve thrown up simply because it’s new, or I don’t understand it?

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

*This is a true story. The book I read this example in escapes my mind currently but I’m coming back to reference it shortly when I’ve found it!

To Lead The Orchestra…

8:30 pm, I flop down on the couch, pick up the remote and press the green button. I don’t very often feel like watching TV but on this day, I really feel like being swept away in something good.

I can’t decide what to watch and then see that I haven’t watched the second season of Ricky Gervais’ Afterlife, so I hit play, and proceed to get hooked.

I watch the entire series in one sitting.

Not only does it keep me up waaaay past my bedtime, but I weep all the way through. Like, proper, rolling tears cry. Mixed in with a giggle snort.

It takes a certain kind of genius to make someone laugh and then cry and hold the integrity of both. I have a similar hangover at the end to when I finish a good book. You burn your way through it but then feel sad that it’s over.

So, I do what I usually do when I’m wanting to cling on for a little bit longer. I research where it was filmed and what inspired it. In one of the interviews I read, Ricky was asked if there was going to be a third season and he replied that there was, but that was the last one. And then he said this quote:

“To lead an orchestra, you must turn your back to the crowd”

What he was referring to is the fact that the audience is always going to want more; it’s the role of the creator to know when to quit. He has to face the orchestra (the work), not the crowd (the viewers).

This quote stuck with me as I walked through my whole next day. It’s something that can be carried over to so many elements of life, not least of all our horses. One of the conversations I have with relative frequency focuses on the challenge of doing what you feel is right, of following your own path, even if it challenges the status quo, or goes against the grain of how most people train that surround you.

It can be tough.

But truly, to be able to follow your own intuition and find a path that works for you and your horse, you have to be facing the orchestra (your horse) and not the crowd (the other people). In fact, you and your horse are both the conductor AND the orchestra. You simultaneously make the decisions and create the music.

Much of the challenge in this area comes from people pleasing patterns, part of our survival patterning that many of us learned in childhood. If our nervous system is wired to believe that our needs are met by pleasing others, then it feels dangerous to do something that might sit outside the frame of what everyone supports- even if the only reason they object is because it’s different.

Being able to run your own race means looking at your own people pleasing habits in the eye. It has to become about you and not the other people.

And from there, we pivot around to make sure our field of vision is placed on the orchestra, and not on the crowd.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Looking Beyond Our Biology

One of the common “complaints” that I hear about focusing on the body and the mind from the level of the nervous system is that it feels very reductive. It’s something that I had to come to grips with myself.

Comments that have come up in the past say things like, ‘We’re more than a series of chemicals reactions and our biology. We are soul and spirit”.

To which I now find myself saying:

I totally hear you. But in truth, I’m yet to find something more mystical and magical than the body. It’s incredible how when under threat, our lungs move down and wrap around our heart to protect it.

Or that when everything feels too much, that we have this ability to tune out in an effort to keep ourselves safe, our nervous system protecting us from input that feels too much or too difficult to manage.

That we have this beautiful fascial container that lets us feel into the edges of our skin and communicates to every cell, like a superhighway of sensory information.

It only takes ten minutes of learning about your body to really blow your own mind.

And then- even beyond that- how we can merge with our horses to create as a unit a power and a strength that neither of us could feel independently. What a gift.

And what’s more, the ultimate connection to the truth of who we are can never be tangibly experienced or felt if you are living from a place of survival.

I believe the “extra sensory perception” that we consider to be the reserve of those with a gift, or perhaps a phenomenon that we experience once or twice if we are lucky is actually part of our innate physiological and psychological skill. It is who we are. It is how we are.

But we can’t access that if everything about us is just trying to get through the next minute.

Understanding and learning about your nervous system is both scientific and spiritual. They don’t exist as binary. They are one and the same.

And to think anything otherwise is to blinker yourself from the other worldly and yet of this world delight that is your skin and everything that exists within it.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

 

We are feeling creatures that think

Over the last couple of days, we’ve talked about the subjective nature of emotions and how our labeling of emotions can limit the capacity of our brain to find the most adaptable response for the situation we find ourselves in.

This quote that I chose to go along with my writing today:

“We aren’t thinking creatures that feel, we are feeling creatures that think”

…I’m going to expand on that shortly. But before we dive into that more, I want to talk briefly about the brain and the two branches of the nervous system that you are no doubt familiar with; the parasympathetic system and the sympathetic (or fight and flight) nervous system.

As we move through our day, we are flicking in and out of the two like a light switch. In the ideal world, we only move into the mid to later stages of the fight-flight response when we are physically under threat. The problem is, many of us are living predominantly from our survival nervous system when it’s not required or warranted, leaving us depleted, anxious, and reactive.

In this instance, our thoughts are demonstrative of where our nervous system is sitting. We catastrophize, feel negative and down, get stuck on the what-ifs. If you can change how your nervous system is functioning, your thoughts will change also; they are one and the same deal.

Attempting to change your thoughts at the level of your thoughts (such as replacing one thought with another or trying to think “more positive”) will bring you limited or short-lived results. Why? Because we’ve failed to change the nervous system foundation they are growing from in the first place.

If we consider the quote again “feeling creatures” (via my interpretation at least) refers to our senses. Our brain takes in sensory information through various channels and uses it to decide our relative safety in our environment. The result of this sensory information is an overall nervous system response that informs my thoughts.

One of the “catch 22’s” of living from our survival nervous system is that sensory information becomes limited; we become more sharply focused on what it is that brings us concern, but the overall flow of sensory data is greatly reduced. Over time, my brain has less current information to go on, leaving it with no option than to respond in the same, predictable ways it has previously.

What’s more, your nervous system can’t be changed consciously. You can’t decide or think your way out of your survival nervous system, as much as we would like to. More on that tomorrow.
But for now, remind yourself that you are, in fact, a feeling creature that thinks, rather than a thinking creature that feels. Your thoughts are secondary, not primary.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

 

Your Label Creates Your Experience

Yesterday, we talked about the subjective nature of emotions and how, in fact, the labels that we attach to our experience do not exist as the absolute reality of “how things are” but instead exist as “our perspective of how things are”.

A label, by definition, is a classifying phrase or name applied to a person or thing (and interestingly, the second part of the dictionary definition adds “… especially that is inaccurate or restrictive”). When we label something or someone we are saying to ourselves “I know this thing and this thing is insert whatever our label is here.

On the one hand, labels allow us to be efficient. The work is done, we “know” the thing we are labeling and there is no need to investigate any further.

On the other, labels are restrictive, because for the exact same reason they allow us to be efficient, they also convince our brain that there is no need to investigate any further.

The same is true for our emotions. When we experience a physiological change in the body (the scientific definition of emotion) and we label it as ‘x’ (joy, anxiety, fear, happiness) we prevent our brain from experiencing it as new. We limit our innate curiosity to investigate, search, and reason and to create a new experience; an experience that is different from any that we have traveled through before.

What’s more, we can “map in” particular sensations or feelings in the body with different emotional states. For example, perhaps I am riding and feel a tightness in my chest. My emotional brain searches for experiences in the past when I have felt this and decides that I am anxious.

In truth, something is just changing in my body. What that is could be any number of things. By labeling it as something specific (in this example, anxiety) however, I interrupt the ability of my brain to produce a new and adaptive response and instead, cycle through the same predictable experience of emotion that I have come to call “my anxiety”.

Your labels are subjective, and they are learned. When we apply them, we tell our brain, “you don’t need to investigate any further, we know this” and we continue to repeat what we know.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

All Our Thoughts Are Fleeting Physiology {1/4}

Part of being self-responsible for how we show up for ourselves, for others, and for our horses involves accepting and embracing just how subjective our experience of the world is.

When I first started learning about the nervous system and emotions on a much deeper level, I couldn’t believe how our stories and attachments to things “being a certain way” screwed things up for us.

How we defended them.

How we went to bat for them, even if they were the cause of our actual suffering.

And, what’s more, that our experience of emotion, psychologically speaking, is for the most part learned.

Look at it this way:

The scientific definition of emotion is a physiological change in the body.

That’s it.

The psychological definition is a physiological change, followed by a subjective experience.

The last two words are important. Life-altering, in fact, if you let them be.

This means that:

Something in the environment triggers a change in my physiology (a change in my body). This fulfills the scientific definition.

If I label it (I am happy / I am anxious / I am scared) this takes me into psychological definition territory and my experience at this point is, in fact, subjective. Meaning that in essence, how I define it is all on me.

At this point, you might be saying, well great Jane, but my experience is my experience. What does it matter what I label it?

To which I would say, it matters because it determines how things roll out from that point forward. We are going to dive into that tomorrow.

But for now, as you move through the day, consider that every time you “diagnose” how or what you are feeling, the label itself, is a subjective one.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Brain Maps & The Unlearning Process

Honestly, if you are feeling a bit down on yourself, struggling with your horse, or finding that the Itty Bitty Sh*tty Committee is speaking to you today with particular ferocity, the best antidote I can provide you with is to learn a bit more about what actually makes you tick. And I mean that literally.

Let’s talk about your brain for a moment.

Your brain has a series of maps that are dedicated to a specific set of functions. You have a map for more tangible things, like the position of your bones and your organs, and you have maps for more abstract things, like language, or specific skills, like riding your horse.

To keep it simple, a brain map is a network of neural connections in the brain that are dedicated to a particular function. Scientists used to think that each map or location was fixed and that if that area remained unused or got damaged it simply withered away but the reality is this is very far from the case. In fact, the nerves and neural networks of your brain go out of their way to make themselves useful. So, if you aren’t using them for the purpose that they are designed, they simply… find another job. They go to another part of the brain where they CAN be used, or at least help support the part of your brain that is serving a particular function or purpose.

It’s because of this that some brain maps get bigger (we are simply paying more attention to them and using them more) and some get smaller (for the opposite reason).

This phenomenon actually has a proper, grown-up name. It’s called Competitive Plasticity. It’s the reason that if we have a break from riding and come back to it, it might feel like we’ve lost our edge. And it’s also the reason why the art and process of becoming proficient at a new movement or skill is more about unlearning than anything else.

Let’s break both of those down…

In the case of having a break:

If you stop riding for a while (which essentially is exercising a certain skill), the brain map dedicated to that particular function gets handed over to something else. It’s not that you’ve forgotten how to do it as such. It’s more that your brain is very functional, and uses that brain map real estate for something that you are currently using more.

The question of “how often do I need to ride to keep things ticking over in the same way?” is essentially asking “how often do I need to ride for my brain to preserve its current brain map dedicated to riding before it gives it to something else?

If you or your horse is “rusty”, you’re looking at a brain map change.

In the case of learning a new skill:

In many cases, we think of learning as dropping new bits of information into a container, but it’s moreso about adjusting brain maps. The information that you hold onto and value currently takes up a certain real estate in your brain, and in order to learn something new, we have to be willing to let something go. I don’t mean this metaphorically- it’s very literal. You have to be willing to hand over a part of your brain map to something new, which means letting go of the real estate it currently takes up.

That’s why learning is as much, if not more, about un-learning. The maps that are currently dominant need to move aside to let something else take root.

How amazing, and fascinating, is your brain.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

The Story Of Your Body

Last week, I added a practice to my membership program called The Story Of Your Body. The purpose of it was two-fold. Firstly, I wanted to draw attention to the fact that the stories we hold about ourselves produce changes in our structure and physiology. As you bring to mind a story, your body changes to reflect it. Every thought you have has its own structural blueprint, its own motor pattern. The more attuned you become to structural observation, the more obvious the changes become.

The second purpose of the exercise was to encourage the release of the sympathetic reflex attached to the story physically in order that the thought pattern around it changes also. This involves swinging between two different variables; the subjective story and the objective observation of structure (structure being the position of your bones and organs in this instance).

As I mentioned in a previous blog (I will link to that below) patterns of posture, movement, and alignment are all directed and coordinated by our nervous system. As we move into the survival nervous system, our structure contracts towards the midline. As we move back into parasympathetic, the opposite occurs. How the body powers itself in movement is also different between the two systems and has either a degrading or supportive effect on the body.

The specific practice and process involved is a bigger discussion than a single social media post allows, but it’s an important conversation to at least touch on so we can start to make tangible connections between how we are experiencing the world with our thoughts and how those thoughts are affecting our structure and physiology.

Two very different examples but social media is a great learning ground for observing these connections, as is working with your horse. In these instances, the point of focus is clear, as is the response and change.

If you catch yourself having a thought that holds a strong emotional charge, notice how it affects your structure. The brain requires two points of observation and it’s easiest to begin with bony structures first; for instance, the bony edge of your shoulder and the outside of your arm. Hold the story in your mind and observe, and then simply observe your structure.

See how things show up. One that’s subjective in nature; the other simply reflects your body as it is right now.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Acceptance & Resistance

If you find yourself in a situation that you would really rather not be in, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being desperate to get out of it.

If we have a desperation to get out of where we are, it’s the desperation that’s going to keep us where we are.

It’s the cruel irony of the situation.

In order for the door to open to another set of possibilities, we actually have to accept where we are right now. For as long as we’re forcing doors open, they’re going to stay closed because it’s the actual forcing that produces the resistance.

So the first thing that we have to do is if we’re in a situation where we’re trying to escape ourselves, we have to say to ourselves, ‘You know what? This is really hard right now, and I am just going to accept that in this moment, this is my reality. This is how I’m experiencing the world right now.’

We remind ourselves of this based on the understanding that how it is we are experiencing the world will be different in five minutes. Our situation then may have completely changed. It’s true for now, but it may not be true in five hours, in five days, or five weeks. We don’t know.

But for this moment it’s true.

And so I’m going to keep coming back to observing the structure of my body, a hallmark of the practices I teach because my structure is not subjective. But through the course of my life, I have created a number of subjective meanings around my experience right now, which is prolonging and exacerbating my suffering.

So if I am in this place and I’m trying desperately to escape that place, what is happening is I’m trying to escape that place by thinking my way out of it. And through the desperation to escape, I’m actually activating more of my survival nervous system.

Instead, we have to say ‘Here I am. Here I am. It might be really hard. It might not be where I want to be, but for this moment, this is where I am and I’m going to keep coming back to something real, something that I know is not part of my own subjective analysis in order to support my unconscious brain and allow it to make more adaptive decisions.

The more I am able to observe what is, the more parasympathetic (the more open, the more observant, the more fluid) I become.

I allow more sensory information in, and my brain has more information to work with. My field of possibility becomes wider.’

What we have to remember is that the range of possibilities that I live in happens unconsciously, not consciously. And the trust comes from allowing ourselves to say, here I am, and I understand this situation to be temporary. The suffering comes through attaching a meaning that takes us somewhere other than the reality of right now.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Taken from a transcript of our Live Q&A discussion in my membership group JoyRide. Click here if you are keen to join us or check it out!

Patterns Of Posture, Movement & Alignment Are All Directed & Coordinated By The Nervous System

These days, my teaching, work and practice focus as much on movement and the body as it does on how it is we think. As we improve the adaptability and responsiveness of our nervous system; as we change our habitual patterns of thought, our posture and position improve also.

The principles behind this incorporate the following:

Every thought that we have, every story that we tell ourselves manifests in a physical shape and pattern that expresses in our body. In other words, our thoughts affect our structure and have the power to affect neurological functioning.

Patterns of posture, movement, and alignment are all directed and coordinated by our nervous system. Consequently, if we are looking to change any of them, we must also change our neurological activity. We have to address the nervous system. If this is not happening, then all we are doing is altering the aesthetic of the body to match it to a preconceived ideal and causing a fundamental imbalance in how the body itself is able to move in space, both independently, and on horseback.

The posture of the body for the most part is non-consciously governed. Many of us try to change it by making changes to the musculature of the body.

This side is stronger, and this side is weaker, we might say. Therefore, we need to strengthen this and lengthen that.

And then as we do that, we notice another part that needs attention; that is feeling strained and needs support. So, we pay attention to that and so it continues.

We attempt to affect muscles and structure without considering why the brain has chosen this for the body in the first place.

The structure of the body changes depending on where we are sitting in our nervous system. The body powers movement differently when we are in our survival nervous system to when we are not. If we are in a position when we are living from our survival nervous system, then our movement patterns are going to reflect this.

For the body to be truly fluid and adaptive, and to allow it to find a posture that is centralized over all its parts, we must look to our neurology, not so much our muscles.

After all, they are just at the bidding of the nervous system.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

 

 

Breaking The Cycle Of Overthinking

So many of our challenges come from using the conscious brain for purposes it wasn’t designed for. For the most part, it’s not our fault. We’ve either been trained into it by a culture or education system that values analytical thought above all else, or the circumstances of our life mean we’ve fallen into an overthinking pothole simply because we didn’t have the skills or understandings to know how to navigate our way out of it.

Let’s consider then what your conscious brain is really hot property at. At its essence, its superpowers are those of observation and decision-making. Both of these function in support of the unconscious brain, so that it can make the most adaptive and responsive decisions for us in relation to our environment and circumstances.

Where things go a bit (or a lot) wonky is when we attempt to use our conscious brain as an information gatherer, rather than an information receiver. This isn’t its job. When we use our conscious brain in this way, we end up chasing our tail because everything that we are musing or considering does not exist in reality; it only exists in our head.

Information gathering about situations and circumstances is predominantly sensory; it’s the job of the unconscious brain. When our nervous system is fluid and adaptable, our unconscious brain gathers information from our multiple sensory systems (that extend far beyond the fundamental five we are familiar with) and spits whatever info it deems relevant through to the conscious brain.

The conscious brain then receives that information, makes a choice as to what to do next, and takes an action based on that choice. The consequences of that action then provide the unconscious brain with more sensory information and so the cycle continues. This is the process of learning.

Where overthinking comes into play is in the choice phase. We entertain many choices, and predict the outcomes in our minds, rather than making a decision and taking action in the here and now. When outcomes and scenarios overplay in our mind and exist separately to real-life experience and sensory input, we find ourselves stuck in sympathetic thought patterns and activate our survival nervous system.

Part of breaking this cycle is training ourselves into action. If you recognize the endless questions and thoughts, choose one and take action on it. From that place, you will have more information, more knowledge, and more clarity about where to take things next. Otherwise, you’ll be chasing your own tail with the endless thoughts breeding only more endless thoughts.

Choice. Action. Observation. Refinement.

They all rely on each other.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

 

 

Seriously, But Not Personally

So, there’s self-awareness (the ability to stay in connection with yourself whilst engaging with the world) and there’s self-centering (the tendency to centre all situations and circumstances around yourself, regardless of whether the circumstances call for it).

The former is the hallmark of me functioning from a place of parasympathetic dominance, and the latter is a thought and behavioral pattern that arises when I found myself living predominantly from my survival nervous system.

When we centre ourselves in every interaction, not only does everything become about us (which is exhausting in and of itself) but it also removes us from the ability to truly listen and observe things objectively.

Case and point:

Say I’m working on the ground with my horse and all of the sudden he breaks into a frolic on the long side.

Frolicking wasn’t part of my game plan.

Being self-aware in this situation means I can take notice of how my own body responds and take actions to ensure that I stay open and effective. I can take what’s happening seriously (whilst holding it lightly), but not personally.

I am open to what is being communicated, without needing to make it about me.

Being self-centred means that I watched my horse respond in a different way to what I intended, and I immediately take it personally.

He knows better than that! Ugh, it’s like he’s got it in for me!

When we take it personally, we miss the communication.

We make the story we have created more important than the moment.

One sees us moving proactively; the other reactively.

Seriously, but not personally.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Can We Start Again, Please?

In my family, we have a little tradition. It’s not a food that we share on a particular day. It’s not a place that we visit together. Instead, it’s five words that are universally accepted and understood by the three people closest to me:

Can we start again, please?

That’s it.

Starting again takes some big things and wraps them up in a tight little bundle.

What it really means is:

You know, I’m sorry that happened. I didn’t behave in a way that I would have liked to. This doesn’t feel good to me, and I know it doesn’t feel good to you either.

Can we start again, please?

It’s evolved to the point now that the suggestion of starting again is a release valve. It’s your 2nd, 10th, 200th, 5,000th permission slip to make different choices, take different actions, and to acknowledge your wish to do so.

We’ve all used Start Again. And all of us get what it means to have everyone say, yes. We can. We can absolutely start again.

Because, well, we are humaning. And humaning means we are not always going to get it right. And in our messy lack of rightness, we always need the next opportunity to make it different.

We all need the ability to start again.

And you know what, we don’t just need it in our person-to-person interactions. We need it in the way we show up with our horses.

Beating up on ourselves, lamenting getting it wrong to the point of feeling stuck, listening to the voice of the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee… all of these make us believe that the Start Again card is not in our playing deck. But it’s just an illusion.

At each and every moment, you get to start again.

And you don’t have to do anything special other than decide to.

Can we start again, please?

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Constant, Glorious Failure

If I have the belief that there is a right way to do something, I’ve eliminated all possibilities for learning.

My quest for “right-ness” can only ever be based on comparatives; we compare this action we are taking or want to take with an action we have taken in the past OR we compare that same action to the action or idea of someone or something else.

In both of those situations, my brain is no longer responding to present moment sensory input; instead, I’m responding to input, sensation, and experience that lives in the past. I am now in my head and out of my body.

From this place, I can only operate reflexively.

Simply put, the brain learns everything in movement, through the process of trial and error. If I only ever do something in a controlled way or “correctly”, I can never learn new motor patterning.

Learning occurs when we are responding to real-time sensory information and allowing the body to choose the most adaptive response to what is happening. I have an intention that I allow to express through my body, and I observe the response as and when it is happening.

The outcome is neither good nor bad; it just is what it is. And I try a new action, a new process based on the feedback it gives me.

Let go of the idea of “right-ness”. It can only ever exist as something that came before.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane

Don’t Burst Your Own Bubble

Last week I wrote about the times and situations where our horsing life is not a source of solace but a source of stress and some thoughts about how to approach it (if you want to have a read of that, click here). I want to flip the coin on that today and talk about the reverse… what to do when you are loving yourself sick when you’ve overcome a challenge, or you and your horses are blowing it out of the ballpark, but you still feel a little reticent about shouting it from the rooftops (or even just mentioning it in a very sedate, barely audible, quiet whisper).

So why is that? Why is it that we crave the good times, yearn for the moments when it’s all going to come together, and when it does, we just shrug our shoulders and look down at our feet? Let’s consider a few possibilities.

It’s easy to get caught up in the feeling that you are the only one who feels anxiety, fear, or self-doubt, but what causes an equal number of apologies are greater than expected levels of enthusiasm, excitement. You see, it’s part of the norm, almost expected that we gather together and share our concerns over what’s not right with ourselves, with our riding, and with the world, but in my experience, what needs equal attention and love is the epidemic of well, all of us, who are afraid of being… shiny. Exuberant. Full of enthusiasm for what a broad sense of possibility life holds for us.

Gosh, sorry, I’m getting carried away, we might say.

Or, wow, can see I better tone it down, we might add.

Or our internal voice, the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee might pipe up with, gosh insert your name, wind it back hey! You don’t want to appear over the top!

But the truth is, screw that.

Enthusiasm, the ability to have something move you and cause you to bubble over like a human can of soda is something to be celebrated. It’s a signal you are in the midst that means something to you. Something that has sparked the internal flame, and all parts of you- the logical part, the feeling part, the energetic part have lined up and said YES! Pay attention. This is the good stuff that you want more of. This is the place you need to spend more time.

But for whatever reason, we are afraid of being our fullest, most shiny version of ourselves. And for the most part, it’s not because of us at all. It’s because we don’t want to make other people feel bad. We don’t want to separate ourselves from the idea of what is accepted or expected. And unbridled enthusiasm? It’s celebrated in children. As long as they stop when you say. It’s very rarely seen in adults.

So if you feel that energy, be fearless in stepping into its embrace. If other’s don’t accept it, that’s ok. Light always shines a torch into the dark places that some would rather forget were there.

But the most important thing, it’s not about anyone else. Suppression never gave birth to joy, or change, or connection. Whether it be good or bad, suppressed feeling turns in on themselves and become something they never were in the first place.

Joy is your reminder that you are part of the bigger matrix; allow yourself to be split open and let it overflow from within.

❤️ Jane

Showing Up Sometimes Means Saying No

Continuing on with our “Showing Up” Conversation! We started yesterday by talking about two different situations that can share the same outward manifestations, and how we would approach them differently. The first are the times when we’re tired and really need a break, and the second is when we’re in a low mood, potentially feeling depressed and our nervous system is in collapse. Seeing we went into the latter yesterday, let’s start with the former today.

I’ll use myself as an example. I had a session with a mentor of mine and we started talking about some stuff. I asked for her opinion, and said to her:

You know it’s interesting. The last week I’ve felt a bit flat. From the outside, it might look like I’m depressed, and if I had to label it, maybe that’s what I would say. But I don’t think that label would be useful or accurate. It’s more that it’s just… enough. I feel like I want to push everything aside and go sit in a field for a while. It’s just… enough. I’m full.

I joked with her that maybe I should retire.

She laughed back and told me I didn’t need to retire just yet. But when our nervous system starts to shift and we start to get more responsive to what’s going on, we get clearer signals about when to go and when to stop. The more open you are in the world, the more vulnerable you let yourself be, the clearer your boundaries become.

The clear message from my unconscious brain that it was time to rest up was butting up against the old programs I was running- and that meant I had some reconfiguring to do. My old programs might have told me just to keep going, keep doing… to keep showing up in spite of myself.

They would have told the wise voice of my unconscious that how I felt was not sadness or depression or laziness. It was my body responding to being tapped out. That I needed to inhale the world again without it requiring anything of me. In this moment, I was done. For right now, I needed to rest.

In that moment, I redefined my ideas of showing up.

Showing up was no longer ticking off my to-do list, answering the questions, making the videos or doing all the things. That would have been showing up in spite of myself.

Showing up for myself meant I called it quits for a couple of days. Took the apps off my phone. Didn’t feel like I had to show up for anything. Just let myself do… whatever. And was fully in that choice.

It was yet another reminder that showing up is about trust. Trusting that your mind and body are always working in your best interest if only you would let yourself believe it.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane​

Showing Up For Ourselves: A Gentle, Informed Action

Yesterday, I talked about showing up and how showing up for yourself is a very different conversation from showing up in spite of yourself. We talked about meeting the energy where it’s at and taking consistent action to not only support where you find yourself currently, but also to allow yourself to gently move forward.

As with everything when we’re discussing things in snippets and sound bites, there’s always more to the story. What I want to talk about more are two different situations that can share the same outward manifestations, and how we would approach them differently. The first are the times when we’re tired and really need a break, and the second is when we’re in a low mood, potentially feeling depressed and our nervous system is in collapse. This is the one we are going to start with today.

But first… let’s veer wildly off the road and talk about how and what your brain needs to make good decisions for you in the moment (I know, a crazy u-turn but this relates to the conversation I promise). Our unconscious brain (the one ultimately driving the ship, making decisions about our safety, and choosing how to respond) relies on sensory information coming in. When we have an online and active sensory nervous system, our brain is receiving fresh input that allows us to meet the moment and to respond to it appropriately.

Easy right? Sensory information coming in. This feeds through to my unconscious brain; my brain makes a decision about whether to fire up the survival nervous system or not and spits any other relevant info through to the conscious brain so we can move forward accordingly.

Except there’s a catch. When we are in the survival nervous system, the incoming sensory info starts to get limited. By the time we are in the later stages of fight or flight and/or collapse, it’s like the volume’s been turned down to zero. Ain’t no new sensory input happening here.

This is not so problematic if we are only here for a limited period, and then we switch back out. But if we are spending more and more time here, the lack of new sensory input coming in is seriously problematic, and sooner rather than later I can find myself in a groundhog day loop of low mood, low energy, low everything. I’m stuck in conservation of energy mode. And my brain has no new sensory information coming in to change it up to anything different.

Now back to the conversation about showing up (see, I told you we would loop back around). What if we are meeting the energy where it’s at, but where it’s at is depression? What if where it’s at is a nervous system that’s in collapse? What then?

Because on the one hand, we know that action of some sort is needed. But on the other, the unconscious has chosen this for the body based on a very functional reason, and we don’t want to send anyone, least of all ourselves, to war within our own body and mind. Let’s face it, we already probably feel crap. We don’t need more of it.

In that situation, here are some things I know to be true.

  • We need to get the sensory system back online. Without it, we are just reinforcing existing patterns and on a high end to nowhere.
  • The body needs novel movement. This is part of what kicks the sensory system back into gear
  • We need to proceed gently. We need action, but action does not require much outward movement. What we are seeking is internal change- and that change had nothing to do with strength or speed.

If you identify with any of the above and your understanding of showing up is all about pushing through or actions that involve lots of energy, chances are you are involved in a vicious cycle of either being exhausted by just the idea of taking action or finding yourself not following through despite your best intentions and then feeling even worse.

Many of our conversations around action taking and the likes lack a fundamental element: humanity. If you have little to no understanding of the body and the brain, then it’s easy to dismiss someone in a state of nervous system collapse as useless or lazy. What’s more, if you’ve been there, you don’t need anyone else to call you that- you’re doing to and for yourself.

Showing up in this place does require action- but it’s action that’s gentle, intelligent, and informed. It’s action that’s working WITH the body and the mind, not against it.

Onwards.

❤️ Jane