Beyond Self-protection

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to live defenselessly.  To not react, protect, prove, rationalize or justify yourself to anyone including your own self.  To become so completely transparent that everything moves through you and nothing sticks, lodges or festers away inside of you.  To be so open that no longer is any ounce of separation perceivable by you.  To no longer be afraid.  

We all have a different relationship to defenses.  Some of us think we need to have defenses so that we don’t get hurt physically or emotionally.  It is after all the job of our defenses to protect us from feeling pain and surviving.  Defenses get activated when we feel threat.  That threat could be to our physical or emotional survival or to our sense of self in regards to how we both see ourselves and others see us. However this all begs the question as to if there is something more than reacting to survive or to keeping our sense of self fixed, and the exploration of allowing the impact of pain rather than attempting to keep it at bay.  

You may wonder why in the world would you allow yourself to feel pain willingly whether it be physically or emotionally.  You might ask, what’s the sense in that?  Feeling pain when it’s present is the number one catalyst to healing, transformation and self-empowerment.  It is also what allows you to come back to into presence and an innerly resourceful, clear state when you feel lost and can’t find home or clarity inside of you.  Feeling pain provides the fuel that moves you into the directions where you’ve been too scared to go.  Pain, or the perception of pain, lives underneath fear.  When we don’t allow the pain that is underneath the fear, then fear runs the show of our lives.  Fear reacts.  Fear can see only a very limited perspective which includes only itself.   

It doesn’t take much of feeling pain to get us either in a state of full acceptance of what is or moving us in a new direction that we must take.  Sometimes people have an idea that they have to keep feeling pain over and over and over and just stay in a painful state indefinitely in order to heal.  This is not advisable or beneficial.  Pain is simply the catalyst or activator into healing and transformation and not what is supposed to become your lived day to day experience.  If you find yourself in a perpetual state of experiencing pain then you are mostly likely stuck in your story about pain rather than actually feeling it or you are postponing an action that you must take and not listening to the message of the pain.   

Defended vs. Closed 

Choosing openness or closedness

Defenses keep things away from us and make us unreceptive, un-influenceable, and un-feeling.  This is because a state of defense is a closed, self-contained state of being rather than open and unified.  There are times when a closed state is preferable and your capacity to discern when this is appropriate is a key factor in your personal and spiritual development.  There is also a difference between a defended state and a purely closed state.  The prime difference is choice.  In a defended state you are reactionary and not in full choice or conscious of your chosen state of being.  Meaning no matter what you try to do you can’t shift from closed back into open and you are often triggered or thrown by what is occurring.  Your reactor or survivor is running the show rather than your chooser and you are locked into the pattern.  However when you consciously choose a closed state because that is what best serves or is preferably by you in a particular situation there is no difficulty in shifting from open to closed to open again instantly and at will.  You are also not triggered or knocked out of your center.  This is because you are aware of yourself and not merged with the situation that is occurring.  This is true self-empowerment and an important stage of development.  

Being defended is the the opposite of growth.  What this means is that in order to grow and evolve, both personally and spiritually, you must find your way through your defenses.  You cannot learn when you are defended, you can only protect yourself.  One of the reasons that we often feel disconnected or that we can’t feel or see what is going on beyond our limited perspective is because we are defended in a closed off state and frequently we don’t even know that we are.  This is why learning how to tune into yourself through your body is such a vital resource in discovering your patterns of protection and defense.  Rather than speaking through words or thoughts like the mind does, the body speaks through sensation, breath, movement and energy.  It is through learning to tune into those aspects of our being that we can begin to discover where we protect, how we avoid and where we are not open or receiving energy or information.  Through this discovery of protection we can begin to make contact with fear, and the pain that is underneath that fear.  Developing the capacity to be present with the intensity of these sensations and emotions is our gateway into healing, openness and unlimited energy.

Defenselessness is our natural state.  Open, vast, receptive, and connected.  It is only because we have taken on forms that we have become identified with that we have developed defenses.  With this we’ve learned to perceive ourselves as separate from and therefore having something to protect ourselves from.  In absolute truth there is no other and on a relative level there is the appearance of other.  Don’t be swayed by the multiplicity of forms and the illusion of separateness that they create.  Look past appearances and see with the heart.  The heart sees but one, feels but one, knows but one.  Stop confusing yourself with the form of this body and come to know yourself deep to and beyond the form.  Here you will experience the freedom of defenselessness.

Dr. Amanda Hessel, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration, Boulder, Colorado

Love as the ultimate self-protection

Love as the ultimate self-protection 

Survival responses

Young sporty man in kimono on white backgroundThere is an inherent impulse to protect ourselves when we feel a threat.  In these situations self-protection often looks like closing off our system and reacting from a place of survival.  With this there is a cascade of hormones and other biochemicals that are released in our body, which are collectively known as the sympathetic response (or in some cases the primitive parasympathetic response) of the nervous system; or what people commonly know as the fight, flight or freeze responses.  

These biological, primitive responses are the first place in which all experiences that we experience get filtered through.  When we have an experience we first filter it through the lens and level of “am I safe”, meaning will I survive or is my life at threat.  The second level which we filter through is if our sense of identity in relationship to ourselves is at threat (meaning how we feel about ourselves) and thirdly through the level and lens of if our sense of identity in relationship to others is at threat (meaning will others accept or not accept us).  If any of these levels feels at threat then we will react with some level of closing off and shutting down our system.  Some defensive responses are more sophisticated then others, but nevertheless there will be a physiological response where we feel separate from other selves and the primary objective that we will seek is survival of the body and preservation of our sense of self.  

In order to perceive a threat we must be in a dualistic frame of thinking.  Meaning we must see a separate you and a separate me.  If instead we were able to perceive as the oneness that is there would never be anything to protect yourself from as you would see everything as you.  Since most of us are not perceiving from oneness we have such a relationship with life that we must defend ourselves from it and continue to make sure that we are ok.  We do not sense the support that is there and therefore can’t feel what there is to rest into besides our own sense of an independent self that must continually look out for itself.  This is how most people live.       

Can love really keep me safe?

Becoming the field

Night sky with stars.The heart opens us into the field of one being, but we first must learn how to move our experiences up through the first three levels.  If we can’t allow an experience to move up through these levels then it will get lodged at the place where we can’t process it and we will be unable to integrate the experience all the way through our system ultimately into love and seeing it in its true essence.  When we can’t integrate an experience we get developmentally stuck there.  The experience gets frozen in space-time and we continue to replay it as if it’s solid, fixed, unchangeable and what we call “reality”.  When we recognize that this process is occurring this is when we often seek healing and support for ourselves.  

When we can move our experience to the level of our heart (the fourth level) this is where our capacity to remain open, instead of defended and protected, in the face of experience first arises. The distinction between self and other selves gets softer and more fluid.  As your awareness opens at this level you realize and become more the field between selves rather than an individual self.  At the level of field awareness you are more present and thus have the capacity to attune more to what is really going on.  There is more awareness, energy and intelligence available to you, as you, at this level.  Thus your attunement as the field directly effects the field, and since there isn’t a separate you at this level your perception of the experience will directly effect the outcome which you experience in its entirety.  

This is the level of awareness where having clarity in intention and opening the heart-mind to the knowing that the best possible outcome will be the result will directly effect the reality that you experience.  This is where love becomes the ultimate self-protector because it’s working at a level beyond individual selves and seeing all selves as one.  Deliberately and consciously creating your reality also occurs here.  To the separate, individuated mind this seems like an impossibility.  It doesn’t, nor can it, understand how this would be possible because it only has domain over the separate self as that is all it knows itself to be, and yet you are more than that.  

The biochemical cascade that is created in the body when the heart opens into love and into the awareness of one being is that of developed parasympathetic ease.  You physiologically feel the support which you can rest into, the container that is larger than individual self that feels that it needs to take care of itself all of the time because it doesn’t know anything beyond itself.  You realize yourself, this existence, as an expression of one being, and your nervous system connects in with the larger nervous system of that one being.  

Amanda Hessel, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration, Boulder, Colorado

Finding clarity in the dark mystery

Finding clarity in the dark mystery 

The role of our nervous system

28469896 - a child is hiding his eyes in the dark and looks scared or upset.Many of us desire more clarity.  This may manifest as a desire to have greater intuitive seeing and knowing or more direction and guidance in life.  Sometimes we may feel confused, lost, or like we are walking blindly or directionless.  We may plead or beg those “forces outside of us” to give us more clarity, direction, guidance or the answers we seek.  This leaves us feeling like we are at the mercy or whim of life, often times holding our breath and hoping it all works along the way.  

So how do we find clarity and guidance in what can feel like the dark mystery of life?  How do we know while simultaneously not having a clue?  The easiest, and least mysterious way, to gain clarity, direction, intuitiveness and guidance is by acknowledging what is and moving towards.

What does it mean to acknowledge what is and move towards? Let me back up.  Remember when I said that most of the time we are holding our breath and hoping that things work out?  This is true for most all of us.  We tighten our muscles, clench our jaws, hold our breath, sometimes we attack ourselves or others, and ultimately we try to not really look at what is happening while hoping that things turn out a certain way that we deem as positive or good.  

Why do we do this?  We do this because we are bracing ourselves for the unknown.  These visceral responses are part of the fight, flight or freeze responses that our nervous system responds too when there is perceived threat or danger.   We feel that if we brace ourselves than perhaps the impact of whatever happens won’t be so great.


Moving towards

Acknowledging what is

Largely the reason why we feel cut off, disconnected or lost is because our nervous system is so busy processing and responding to our perceived threat of the unknown (aka the mystery of life).  We perceive the unknown as dangerous or scary and therefore we lose access to the bigger whole that we are, which includes our sense of knowing and clarity.   

Its kind of like being lost in a storm that our mind and biochemistry created and not being able to see anything outside of this small perspective that we are existing inside of.  This is called defense physiology and it is a result of living in a defended and protected internal state.  There is a posturing that comes along with this particular state of being which is called defense posture.  In defense posture the head comes forward of the body and leads our life while the shoulders and chest draw inward protecting the heart from feeling too much, or sometimes from feeling anything at all.  When we are in this state we are only accessing a limited portion of ourselves which is why we often feel lost, disconnected, unclear, uncertain and eventually frustrated and stuck.  We lose touch with feeling and when we can’t feel its very hard to have any clarity in our direction, purpose or knowing.  We simply do the stuff of life but don’t feel much connection to what we do.  

48837246 - cliff jumping into the ocean at sunset, summer fun lifestyleIn order to gain clarity, connection and inner knowing we must begin by acknowledging what is present instead of  avoiding, managing, or protecting ourselves from it.  When we begin to acknowledge what is we are bravely moving towards the unknown rather than retreating away from it.  This is a bold step and it will feel unsettling in our body as our nervous system will still be running those patterns that say “this isn’t safe, protect, shutdown, protect, attack”.  It is through our persistence and willingness to feel uncomfortable and move towards the unknown of what is, even with the fear response activated in our physiology, that we begin to “override” these fear based responses in our physiology.  

We must experientially move through (not just think about in our heads), feel the discomfort of uncertainty, so that we can come through the other side having survived.  Through this experiential process our nervous system lays down a new pathway.  When we have acknowledged what is and have felt all of the scary stuff associated with it, only then do we have the knowing of exactly what to do and how to do it.  The mystery reveals itself to us. 

Dr. Amanda Hessel, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration, Boulder, Colorado

Self-protection vs. love

Self-protection vs. love 

Defense mechanisms 

We are taught at a very young age how to protect ourselves from the world.  Through our early development we learn strategies (defense mechanisms) to protect ourselves from feeling too much pain, whether physical or emotional in nature.  Some kids learn to “leave their body” to feel safe, thus creating a strong connection to the  spiritual realms but have difficulty being in their physical body.  Others learn to be angry and push people away, while others act out to get attention.  Some become little adults at a young age and become very competent in themselves so they don’t need to rely on anyone else.

Because we learn these patterns very early on they tend to stick with us throughout our adult years.  As adults these patterns make it hard to be present in our body, be  in relationship with others, allow others to help us and be intimate, real and vulnerable.  This tends to conflict with what we want as adults, which is often relationships, realness, community and making an impact on others through being present in our lives.

Though these strategies were helpful at some point in your life, as adults they are outdated.  They ultimately interfere with your ability to live from love in all of your thoughts, feelings and actions and keep you in survival mode, often unconsciously.  In most adults these protection patterns are unchecked, dominant patterns in your nervous system and are running the show whether you want them to or not.  This is why its hard to choose love even when you “conceptual” know its the right thing  and how you truly desire to be.

Neural patterning

Operating from love by changing your nervous system

As mentioned above these protection patterns become the dominant pattern in your nervous system.  Your nervous system consists of your brain, spinal cord and nerves, but this is not the most important part of the system.  Instead it is the connections that get created in response to what has occurred in your life.  When connections get created and reinforced they start to run automatically.  This is something your nervous system does so that you don’t have to consciously think about everything all of the time.  This is great when you have a pattern dominating the show that works well and is in congruence with who you want to be and the life you want to have, however if that’s not the case its time to check your patterns.

One way that you can see your nervous system patterns played out is through your physical body.  Protection patterns in the nervous system will show up in the body as tension in your spinal cord, a forward head with the shoulders rolling forward to compress your chest/heart, tight and ropey muscles and shallow breathing.  This is how your body responds to a lifetime of a protection strategy in your nervous system.

When instead love is the dominant pattern in your nervous system your physical body responds very differently.  Your chest will be up with your heart stretching opening, shoulders will be back, full breath will be easeful.

Even though most all people have some level of protection running the show the good news is that your nervous system has “neuroplasticity”.  What this means is that you can create new patterns in your nervous system at any time/age in your life.  It does however require repetition of learning a new way, over and over again, along with a conscious choosing, in order to extinguish an old pattern and set up a new one that works better and is in more congruence with who you want to be now in your life.

Network Spinal Analysis is a unique chiropractic system in that it teaches your nervous system how to destabilize old protection patterns and recreate new patterns that are ultimately informed by your soul, with the intelligence of love running the show.  When love is running the show you are a different being.  You have different thoughts, your body functions differently, you feel better and most importantly you are not concerned with protecting yourself, but instead how you can love, be in service and create the best world ever.

Dr. Amanda Hessel, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration, Boulder, Colorado