This is one example of the kind of guided meditations I lead my patients in during clinical sessions. It is a simple way to begin the settling and embodiment process for those not used to relating to their body. It’s also the place to start when learning to self-regulate.
Self-regulation is a term used by the field of affective neuroscience to describe an individual’s ability to consciously and unconsciously manage and modify arousal states. It describes an the ongoing process of finding an equilibrium of the whole in the face of change. Learning how to self-regulate is fundamental to the manifestation and maintenance of health over time. The foundation of self-regulation is embodiment. The only way to begin learning how to be embodied is by developing a relationship with the body. This is done through finding the body in space and being present with the changes happening on a physiological level without expectation or judgment, but rather with an ever expanding sense of curiosity. Another word for this is mindfulness.
Note: I will not be defining the “I” in this post because it is beyond the scope of what I’m writing about. This is why I keep it in quotation marks throughout the post.
This month in my practice the discussion that’s been on the table is the brain. And the “I.” And their relationship.
Often “I” is in some state of consideration about itself or about its relationship with all things non-I. Often “I” is exploring questions about what to do next on its life path, how to express itself to the exterior world while in conflict or how to determine and maintain its sense of value or meaning. In other words, the “I” is a contemplator, finding understanding through consideration.
The brain, on the other hand, is a processor. In the majority of the brain, which is subconscious, information is coming in at high speeds from all the different systems of the body for interpretation. The brain organizes and processes this information and distributes instructions that allow for all the needs of all the body systems to be adequately met at any given moment. In other words, the brain is a problem solver.
“For age is opportunity no less than youth, itself, though in another dress. And as the evening twilight fades away the sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
We often forget that an aging body has the ability to accomplish the same functions as a youthful body. It retains the ability to regenerate itself, to perform life-sustaining physiological functions, and to learn and adapt to an ever-changing environment. The goal of an aging body is the same as that of a youthful body: optimal functioning through the constant pursuit of health.
In a single day the body is asked to perform all the physiological functions that keep it alive, manage the stresses coming from its external environment, and navigate the emotional ups and downs of human life. Each one of these things is challenging for the body. All three are often taxing. The body is built to manage stress under the assumption and condition that the stress it is subject to is temporary and there will be a time during the day when the stress will end and the body will be able to rest and recover.
The body is a magnificently intelligent vessel that we have the honor of living in. It will manage whatever we put it through for days, months, years, even decades. I’ve now been working with human bodies long enough to see that the body will always put 100% of the energy and effort it has available into sustaining life and subjective life style at any given moment. It will do this until it just can’t anymore, until the resources are so low that it has to stop.
Illustration by Rex Twedt
There’s no one who hasn’t experienced the richness of their own blood when bleeding from a cut. To some people the sight of blood is gross or scary, to some fascinating and beautiful. The fact that we bleed when cut means we’re healthy, it means the heart, in conjunction with the blood vessels, is working well.
Everything we do, according to the body, involves the heart because the heartbeat reaches every part of our body. The heart beats in our eyes, in our mouth and lips, in our ears, in every millimeter of our skin. When we touch things, see things, hear things, walk, jump, breath, our heart is inherently involved.