Our Powerful Wiring

No doubt we’ve all been troubled by the news lately. Reports of such evil is almost too much for us to wrap our brains around. With the advances in communication, war is so up close and personal. It’s not happening across the globe; it’s happening across our living room.

The question we ask ourselves is “how can I help.” In addition to monetary aid and prayer, lots of prayer, I often hear people say peace begins with each of us. If we want peace in the world, we need to bring peace to our worlds first. I believe that in theory, but often wondered how it looks in practice.

I have never had luck with just wishing myself to be peaceful. I have tried consciously beginning my day with the intent of being kind, compassionate, and selfless to everyone I encountered, but often that didn’t last past lunch. It’s not easy to bring peace and joy to others when you don’t have it yourself.

In preparing for a presentation at Firstfruits last week, I did a lot of reading on our nervous system, in particular, the findings of Dr. Stephen Porges. He is the author of the Polyvagal Theory which is used in modern psychotherapy. Three of his theories I found fascinating.

    1. Our nervous system is constantly on watch to keep us safe. Not just physically, but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  When we come in contact with another person our nervous systems are communicating. Through signals like tone of voice, head movements, and eye contact, our nervous system is letting our brain know if this person is safe, if I can connect with them or not.
    2. There are three predictable states that our nervous system is in at any given time. Ventral, Sympathetic, and Dorsal. Ventral is what our bodies long for: peace, ease, organized purposeful energy, and joy. Sympathetic is when we become overwhelmed and get pulled out of Ventral. It is characterized by stress, unorganized chaotic energy, and desperation. Dorsal is when we shut down.
    3. We need each other to regulate our nervous systems. We can help each other find our way to the state of peace, ease, joy, and purpose. But before we can help another, we have to help ourselves.

Why all this scientific mumbo jumbo? I think it’s the answer to how we start to bring peace to our world and ultimately help bring peace to the big world. It’s something we can actually do.

These states we find our nervous system in are predictable and therefore can be recognized and can be changed. When we find ourselves overwhelmed and slipping out of that Ventral state, things like movement, touchstones, statements of affirmation, and certain breathing techniques can bring us back according to therapist and author Deb Dana.

When we find ourselves shut down, with no energy to do anything, things like music, reflecting, remembering, and imagining can start the slow process of becoming more energized.

Funny, how so many of these things that can bring us back to regulation and peace can be found in spiritual practices: the movement of yoga, the feel of the beads of a rosary, bible verses on post it notes, favorite hymns, guided imageries, contemplative prayer, and centering prayer.

God knows how we are wired, and provides us with all we need in the challenge of keeping our nervous systems at rest. Take some time this week to get to know your nervous system. Let it speak to you. Let it take you to the people who it needs for help. Let it take you to a practice that it needs to find rest, then take it out into the world for others.


Join Joan
People often tell me they wish they could talk about the feelings and thoughts they have as a result of reading these blogs, myself included. I would love to hear your take on the topics in my blogs. Beginning November 1, I will be facilitating Well Time, in person, at Firstfruits from 12:30-1:30 using my blogs as the content for each week’s discussion. I hope you will consider joining me. Go back to the list of events that were included with this blog to register. You only need to register once and then come when you can.

Joan Carey, Firstfruits executive director, is an author and speaker with a passion for helping women grow in their relationships with God. Her Ponder This book contains a series of modern day parables sure to get you thinking about and seeing our extraordinary God in our ordinary experiences. Joan invites you to use resources on this website for daily reflection in your journey to grow in God's loving care for you.
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