Or is it?
In our current culture, we have placed a pre-eminent value on knowledge. We believe that if we just know more, if we can fill our minds with the right knowledge, then we will be ok.
In one way, this is correct. Knowledge is power, absolutely. But I have come to believe that there are times when just having more knowledge does not answer the problem set before us.
In times of crisis, when anxiety and other destabilising emotions hit, it often doesn’t matter how much we know. We are in a turbulent sea where the winds are blowing, the waves are high and strong and crashing over us. We can try to think our way out of it, but quite bluntly, it just doesn’t work. We feel tired, worn down, exhausted, and our candle of hope is burning very low.
I think it was Albert Einstein who said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them.” What a profound truth.
The reason for this, I believe, is because when we are in a sea of difficulty, we are actually in a state of physical activation that prevents better thinking. The physical aspect must be addressed. Any emotion that we feel – especially the distressing ones – come with the release of hormones, most likely adrenaline and cortisol (amongst others). These hormones are very real motivating forces in our physical house! Due to the level of activation they cause (i.e. fight or flight response) it can lead to further thinking that really doesn’t help us.
Sometimes we can think ourselves down from the ledge, but often we need to call on our physicality to help us manage strong feeling and right our thinking again.
You could say to me “oh you are just talking about exercise”. In one way it is that simple, but it isn’t just ‘exercise’. Its intentional movement that involves an awareness or connection with the body that respects the body’s involvement in helping us process our lives.
So, for example, I don’t really believe in just ‘going to the gym and belting it out for an hour’. Or setting crazy fitness goals as a means to connect with ourselves physically. These things are important and can add to life satisfaction at times, but that is not what I am suggesting here.
The first step, as I see it, is to develop body awareness. This can as simple as just tuning into the state of your physical house. Feel into your muscles, be aware of your breathing. Is there tension in certain spots? What is the state of your breathing? Is it long and deep, or ragged and shallow? Or are possibly not breathing at all? (This does happen!) If we have injuries, we can often completely shut down to our bodies to shut out the sensation. Can you translate your feeling into a physical sensation? Are there sensations in your stomach?
The way I see it, when thinking becomes our enemy – that is, the times when our minds start telling those stories that cause us pain – our physical house can become our refuge for our awareness. We can often cope better with physical sensation than we can with sharp, painful thoughts. I have found that my muscles are happy to take the weight of strong feeling. But I do this through intentional movement. I allow my awareness to reside in my body, breathing deeply and let the emotions run their course. I like to do this on long walks. Afterwards I find my thinking has cleared and I feel quite differently about things and can think more productively.
So – can you think about intentional movement? You don’t have to spend a lot of money. You can look up stretching on Youtube, or head out for a 30 min walk. The movement doesn’t solve your problems but can give you some relief from the overwhelming sense of them.
Other ways to connect with your physical house can be through massage, acupuncture and aromas. Being out in nature in the sunshine is also a very good tonic.
Your mind isn’t the whole of your being. It is designed to be a servant, not a master.
This is just a small taster on this topic. Just a beginning. Like everything, the journey of 1000 days begins with one small step.
P.S. If you want to know more about this in terms of actual biological processes, you can look into the sympathetic (activating) and parasympathetic (calming) nervous systems.