Activating the Calming / Soothing Emotional System
Session Details - February 6th and 23rd - Exploring the science behind a lot of the MSC practices, the ways in which they are activating the body's calming / soothing system. How combined with mindfulness these practices assist to create greater balance and well-being.
We started with a mindfulness practice, then moving into the heart practice of firstly creating a place of peace and contentment, then connecting with ourselves at our compassionate best - feeling into the qualities of compassion, in particular courage - wisdom and commitment.
In looking at Paul Gilbert’s work on compassion via an evolutionary context, we didn’t chose or design our brain that is aimed for survival and protection. So – it is not our fault! … But we can choose to do something about it.
Research shows that we can make changes to bring about a greater state of ease, balance and well-being by consciously practicing turning on the contentment / calming system.
3 important steps to take and practice to strengthen this pathway in the brain:
2. Mindfulness & concentration
3. Cultivating stillness within the body, harnessing the calming effect of the Vagus system
You can see from the photo of my two dogs an example of how mammals need nurturing via this calming system. Little Scooter gets so much comfort from dear old Bob...
So compassion and mindfulness are important to you, what are you going to do about it, to bring them to life in your world? What is your quick T.I.P – Theory Into Practice?
Mindfulness & concentration:
Pausing, noticing what inner voice you are listening to and then choosing what you truly want to strengthen in your life / world. With warm awareness (mindfulness) we have a way of harnessing our ‘inner room-mate’ – this inner dialogue, using it as our inner ally instead of an inner enemy. If we are noticing (mindfulness) we are not lost in it, we can concsiously choose to nourish
Acceptance rather than Judgment
Support rather than Criticism
Peace - War
Softness - Harshness
Care - Hate
Cultivating stillness within the body, harnessing the calming effect of the Parasympathetic and the Vagus system
- Slowing the breathing, even just connecting to the rhythm of the breath;
- Facial muscle awareness, experiencing feeling a warm, soft and joyful expression;
- Calming physical anchor (the power of touch);
- Warm and friendly tone to the inner voice;
- Softening in the belly (Vagus nerve is the fastest route to the brain & heart);
- Finding your centre in the body (grounded).
Diagram of parts of the Vagus system - cited in Paul Gilbert's Mindful Compassion
Strengthening your compassionate self:
Spend a few moments each day thinking about how you would be if you were at your compassionate best - how you might think and act. Then you might imagine a difficulty in your life, breathe deeply and slowly, create a friendly inner-voice tone, and imagine how this wise, compassionate part of you might address the problem. It doesn't take long to see that this will be different to how the angry part or anxious part of you might respond - that side that often just emerges and wants to control things. The more you can take time to imagine you at your compassionate best, the greater the chances are that you will become like this - more rooted, caring, strong and balanced.
Activating the calming system is not just about kindness or 'softness' and it is certainly not a weakness - it is perhaps the most important thing we humans can do to bring balance and well-being to our world – from the inside out.