During a time when many are feeling a lack of inner peace and an increase in outer turbulence due to world events, stress-induced illnesses or even chronic pain, it’s more important than ever for each of us to take responsibility in navigating our emotions and reactions from a place of self-compassion and calming clarity. Taking the first step to find a moment of ease in a less than easeful situation requires a sense of safety. Once safety is established in the nervous system, we are primed to not only regulate our emotional responses but also to imprint new neural pathways of well-being.
Dr. Stephen Porges, in his work with the Polyvagal Theory, found self-stimulation of the vagus nerve can mitigate stress responses, improve levels of anxiety and depression, relieve inflammation and pain, as well as improve digestion and sleeping patterns. The vagus nerve, our tenth cranial nerve, is one of the master regulators of our autonomic nervous system. The current of communication in the vagus nerve connects the brain to major systems in the body as it innervates the heart and lungs, stomach and gut, throat and facial muscles. Approximately 80 percent of the vagus nerve feedback loop travels from the body to the brain allowing us to create a sense of safety and connection through the body to reprogram the neural pathways of the brain.
In my Body Current® modality, we create the opportunity to cultivate a felt-sense of safety in the present moment with 3 basic principles of embodied self-realization to prepare us for stimulating the vagus nerve.
▪ Awareness – Focus your awareness on the current of sensations informing your present moment experience. Focusing on the novelty of the felt-sense of these sensations, while curiously observing the associated script or story, disengages the limbic activity and engages the higher executive functioning areas of the brain to create new neural pathways.
▪ Acceptance – With compassion and without judgement accept thoughts, feelings, sensations and emotions that arise through the present moment with open inquiry and wonder. This does not mean you need to agree with or support what is presenting itself thorough the moment, but rather accepting all that is arising allows the nervous system to detect a sense of safety and calm through the vagus nerve.
▪ Allowing – Once safety is established with the first two principles, you are now equipped to self-regulate your emotional response by stimulating your vagus nerve through slow smooth rhythmic breathing, humming, chanting or mindful body-centered movement. This establishes a new current of communication between the body and brain imprinting pathways of safety, calm and well-being in your nervous system.