"Our feelings and our bodies are like water flowing into water.
We learn to swim within the energies of the senses." - Tarthang Tulku
I see life as an ocean. One with the turbulence of many waves and rocks but equally graced by calm waters and soothing sunsets. It is one of those things, shaped by connection to experience. We are all part of this human condition. One that presents the opportunity to just survive or to thrive. The difference does not lie soley in whether we are born into poverty or riches, peace or dysfunction (though obviously having access to the necessities of life certainly lightens the load ~ I have personally experienced both sides of this coin)...the difference lies in our perspective and how we allow ourselves to process the experiences before us, and within us.
It is imperative to our well being to engage with both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems in order to thrive in a flow of balance. The sympathetic nervous system is our "fight or flight" space, whereas the parasympathetic system controls our "rest and digest" function. In our Western society, largely filled with humans engaging only their sympathetic system in the chronic stress of a highly demanding lifestyle, it makes no wonder there has been a huge decline in overall health and well being of our citizens. The parasympathetic system is linked to the right side of the brain, which the sympathetic system is linked to the left. Many have referred to the left side as the "thinking" side of the brain, the "go getter" while the right side is linked to connection, creativity, compassion and "Be-ing".
Can you imagine exercising only one arm with lifting weights and completely omitting to exercise the other side? There would eventually be a very noticeable physical imbalance. This same type of imbalance can occur on an energetic level and become quite evident on a subtle level rather than physical level, except of course, through its eventual physical manifestations.
There are many ways to connect with the right side of the brain. Contemplative practices can include yoga, martial arts, expressive arts, connection with nature and animals; all resulting in an overall mind-body awareness. One will also notice that, when this mind-body connection is developed, it will also bring deeper connection to the subtle energetic impressions we choose in our daily lives, making us more selective on what we ingest through food, medications, supplements, the types of products we use on our skin and clothes, and even the impressions we ingest through television, music and social media.
The beauty of connecting with life through the parasympathetic nervous system is that engagement in the practice becomes a journey of learning about yourself rather than, yet another, goal oriented, performance driven endeavour. When working with the Horse as Teacher, we refer to this place as "back to grazing". One will notice, when observing the herd, that no matter what comes up for them in the place of "fight or flight", they will always return to "grazing", thus showing us that balance happens when we fully engage with both of these opposing systems. It is necessary.
"Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible,
and suddenly you are doing the impossible." ~ St. Francis of Assisi
Through the practice, we begin to untangle ourselves from the left brain and receive clarity and connection in the land of balance and flow. We stretch ourselves, flirting with our most outer limits, creating new patterns and relieving ourselves from the wrath of our limiting beliefs. In this place of balance and flow, we become the eye of the storm, able to face the chaos in a place of both centeredness and an accepting rationale. We begin to see life for what it truly is, in the moment, as opposed to only living in the place of the "mind-stuff". We are better equipped for life when we engage with it in this way.
Just think for a moment about the days of our ancestors. They worked hard to care for their families and villages, but also made time for community rituals such as dancing, singing, and art making. They didn't analyze the outcome of their "latest dance move"in preparation for posting it on social media, they just danced, present in their bodies, in a sacred space held by all who also danced barefoot around the ceremonial fire with them. Historically speaking, every culture had some way of connecting through the right side of the brain, and, thankfully, many cultures still do.
In yoga, our final resting pose in each and every class is "savasana". The literal meaning of this posture is "corpse pose". In this pose, you are laying on your mat, present with the sensations of your body after an hour of mindful movement in a yoga shala or "sacred space". As we lay in this final pose, many students experience release, some moved to tears. This is the body letting go, coming undone, releasing what no longer serves the body, mind and soul, in order to support this place of "rest and digest" and, ultimately, restoring balance. Many students, while walking out of the class, will have the "yoga glaze" or report being in the "yoga zone"....this place of deep connection and a feeling of pure peace and wellness.
At the end of the day, we need to make time for the "rest and digest" to support the body returning to homeostasis (or balance), especially when navigating through life on high stress mode. Allow yourself to be curious and explore, while guided by your own wisdom and intuition as to what works best for you. Engaging with life in this way will not only create more harmony in your bodies (physical, subtle, astral), but may also encourage you to further examine the true value of the human experience and what is truly important to you.