Exploring path 3: Somatic
Our third path to explore is the Somatic path – how your body and brain can assist you in exploring new pathways.
Let’s pause a moment: think for a moment, here in your body do you feel stress?
Now, where in your body do you feel excitement?
Is it tension? Shakiness? A change in breathing quality? Lightheadness? Discomfort? A tingling?
We often find that we are more attuned to what stress looks and feels like than we are to how we process excitement. And it is really important to be able to discern the difference. Those bodily responses are simply data that inform your exploration and help you distinguish signal from noise. If you confuse stress with excitement, you may baulk when you should be going full steam ahead.
This conundrum speaks to the value of mindfulness. The better your mindfulness practice, the more accomplished you are at discerning the difference between excitement and stress.
Here’s where it can be useful.
Our default neural network is one of rumination, obsession, imagination, and planning.
Repeated loops of
This didn’t work out so well last time
Remember when this caused us grief
Its going to happen again
What if it explodes?
What if I lose my job?
What if we get evicted?
I should be more resilient
When faced with unrelenting change and extreme uncertainty we often default to thinking the worst and imagining the worst. We often filter feedback and data through the prism of past and future with a negativity bias.
Which then impacts the decisions that you make. The willingness to move to the edge of a new frontier.
An ability to practice mindfulness daily activates what’s known as the direct experience neural network. And when that is engaged the default network (which is responsible for ruminating, imagination, and planning) becomes disengaged.
Part of the explorer’s experience of dealing with change and uncertainty is trying to manage the temporal concerns – disappointment and cynicism born of the past, anxiety, and hope about the future (so very much the default circuit in your brain).
Moments of meditation, breathing, relaxing muscles that have tensed during the day assist you to experience the sensory aspect of change and exploration.
When you are grounded in the sensory experience of change and exploration you hold off the constant looping of thoughts, ideas, anxieties in your brain. It allows you to sense and respond.
Caveat: MEDICINAL MINDFULNESS
Having said that I want to draw attention to the dangers of medicinal mindfulness. I think this can be a false trail we follow in exploring.
Medicinal mindfulness manifests when you know that you are really stressed so you intentionally slot 10-minute meditations into your busy schedule. Perhaps in order to get through that phase you start each day with a deliberate 20 minutes of breathwork. It’s when you schedule yoga, set alarms to do calm / mind space / insight timer meditations. But what we are doing there is using mindfulness to soldier on, to white knuckle through, not listen to data that might be telling us to stop. It’s a subtle nuance to consider. In organisational life you see it pop up as well-being rooms – additional bean bags, plants, and space to be mindful, with no consideration of reducing workload, change, or the imminent demands.
Jillian Reilly of The Explorers Way says:
But if you’ve never listened to your body, you won’t be willing or able to listen to it and let it guide you.
You’ll ignore the desire until it aches. And soon enough headaches, back aches, stomach aches feel normal to you. You’ll call it stress but know it’s more. And there aren’t enough pills in the world to make it go away.
Start listening to your body on the small stuff – everyday pleasures and preferences- so when it’s time for the scary stuff you’re in tune.
If you need to explore new frontiers – at work, in your community, in relationships your body is going to have a response. Better to be in tune now with the small stuff wouldn’t you say?
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