🔑 Key Takeaways
- By understanding and practicing the Polyvagal Theory with mindfulness techniques, we can actively regulate our nervous system, co-regulate with others, and overcome anxiety, even in difficult situations.
- Learning about the polyvagal theory can help us work through anxiety and depression by understanding how our nervous system responds to different stimuli and the importance of co-regulation for our well-being.
- Our brain constantly seeks safety and we can anchor in ventral mode through various means like movement, breath, music, and mindfulness. Understanding and strengthening ventral can bring a sense of well-being.
- Our store consciousness connects us to a collective consciousness of our experiences and impacts the world around us. By being mindful and attentive, we can harness its power to create positive change and avoid spreading negative energy.
- Being mindful of our emotions and actions can create a positive impact on others. Taking intentional steps, like practicing kindness, can regulate our mindset and improve the neuroception of those we interact with.
- By recognizing and honoring our feelings, tracking our physical sensations, and aiming for a critical mass ventral state, we can regulate our nervous system and positively impact those around us.
- To successfully face challenges in everyday moments, cherish moments of awe and use them as examples to deal with disappointment and frustration. Practicing self-compassion and avoiding overwhelming language is crucial to avoiding survival mode and regulating ourselves.
- Mistakes are opportunities for growth and learning. Practicing self-compassion and planning for difficult situations can help return to a relaxed state. Building pathways and reminding oneself of them is key.
- By learning to regulate our nervous system, practicing mindfulness, and cultivating equanimity, we can choose how we respond to difficult experiences, reducing unnecessary suffering and increasing balance in our system.
- By consciously practicing mindfulness and focusing on wholesome seeds like gratitude and generosity, we can learn to endure pain and trauma while incorporating them into our stories. Suffering will persist, but we can listen to it and access our ventral vagal system for support.
- We can strengthen our mind and body by nurturing wholesome seeds and avoiding unwholesome ones. Cultivating generosity, love, forgiveness, acceptance, and friendship within us, instead of self-criticism and self-hatred, can lead to inner healing.
- Recognize and care for micro-moments of peace and wholesome seeds amidst everyday life, using mindfulness to weaken and peacefully coexist with unwholesome states.
- Taking care of our nervous system and finding support from others can help us shift our focus away from fear and towards generosity and care, leading to a more fulfilled life.
- When faced with strong and painful emotions, it's important to give them space and not suppress them. By recognizing, allowing, investigating, and nurturing our emotions, we gain insight and transformation, reducing habitual triggers and fostering mindfulness and acceptance.
- When dealing with difficult emotions, it is important to acknowledge them and allow them to transform into something positive. Mindfulness can help regulate these emotions, and borrowing from others' nervous system strength can aid in the process.
- Mindfulness practices can lead to gratitude, joy, and kindness. Listening to the nervous system and performing acts of kindness can shift us out of our own difficulty. Treating others with kindness can be powerful.
- Small acts of kindness can have a profound effect on our biology and help us connect with others. Being present with someone in need can be more powerful than trying to fix their problems.
- Having trusted individuals around us can help us recover from intense moments, and fostering a supportive and understanding community is crucial for our mental and emotional well-being. Taking gentle steps like bringing music or messaging a friend can aid in regaining energy.
📝 Podcast Summary
How to Use Polyvagal Theory and Mindfulness to Regulate Your Nervous System
The Polyvagal Theory teaches us how we can become an active operator of our own nervous system and move from suboptimal states to much better ones. Mindfulness practices can put the whole process on steroids making it easier for us to co-regulate our nervous system with others which can have a powerful impact in situations like contentious meetings. In this episode of The Art and Science of Keeping Your Shit Together, Deb Dana, a licensed clinical social worker, and Kyra Jewel Lingo, a mindfulness teacher, talk about the basics of Polyvagal Theory, how to handle being annoyed, the value of simply knowing that those moments are impermanent, caring for painful states without suppressing them, and the power of action and service in overcoming anxiety.
Understanding the Polyvagal Theory and its Three Organizing Principles for Survival.
Polyvagal theory is a theory of the autonomic nervous system that explains how our biology takes us into protection and connection by allowing us to engage with others, protects us by taking us into fight and flight or into collapse and shutdown. It uses three basic organizing principles, neuroception, hierarchy, and co-regulation which are important for our survival. Co-regulation is a biological imperative that allows us to feel fully present and well. Understanding the principles of polyvagal theory can help us work through anxiety and depression effectively. The theory provides a trimmer for a basic understanding of our nervous system's response to stimuli.
Understanding Our Brain's Safety Modes and Anchoring in Ventral for Well-Being
Our brain's primary question is 'are we safe?' and we constantly move between three modes - ventral, sympathetic, and dorsal. We want to anchor in ventral to feel safe enough to engage and be present. We can do this through movement, breath, mindfulness, music, art, and other ways that work for us. Learning about our nervous system and what it feels like to be anchored in ventral can help us take actions to get back there when we're not. Buddhist psychology teaches us that we have the store consciousness, which is the container of all potentialities. Whatever we water in terms of a seed will grow, so we can strengthen ventral by focusing on it.
Cultivating the Power of Store Consciousness through Mindfulness
We have a store consciousness that can do so many things efficiently without using much energy. We can use our mind consciousness to cultivate our store consciousness and use its power for good. Our store consciousness connects us to a collective consciousness of our individual and ancestral experiences. Our piece and stress are contagious because we all have the same seeds in our store consciousness, and our mirror neurons are triggered by the same seeds in others. Paying attention and being mindful of what we're putting out there is important because our interceptive capacity can send warnings or welcomes without us intending to do so.
Our state of mind affects those around us.
Our state of mind influences the signals we send out to the world, affecting others' neuroception. If we are in a state of ventral okayness and feel safe enough, we send positive cues of safety to the people around us. However, if we are anxious, angry or not fully present, we send out signals of warning or confusion, impacting the nervous systems of those around us. It is our responsibility to be aware of how our states of mind impact the world around us and to actively manage our presentation, even in moments of stress or rushing. Tracking our own emotions and taking intentional actions, such as offering kindnesses, when we are feeling safe can help regulate our own state of mind and positively influence others.
The importance of acceptance and awareness in regulating our nervous system.
Acceptance of situations that don't go the way we plan can help us soften and regulate our nervous system when dealing with petty annoyances in life. It's important to recognize that we are a vector of contagion, which means our reactions affect others around us. Recognizing how we feel, such as frustration, and honoring those feelings can lead to compassion towards ourselves and others. Tracking what's happening in our body and noticing if we are anchored in a ventral state can help us stay organized and calm. We don't need to be 'super ventral,' just a critical mass ventral is enough to regulate our nervous system and make those around us feel safe.
The Importance of Self-Regulation and Self-Compassion in Everyday life
It is important to regulate ourselves enough to successfully meet the challenges of everyday moments. Cherish moments of awe and serenity, and use them as examples to teach ourselves and others how to deal with disappointment and frustration. On some days, the small moments can overwhelm us, and we fall into anxiety, anger, or disconnect. In those moments, we need to find our way back to regulation, have self-compassion, and make repairs as needed. Self-compassion is tough, but we need to be curious and practice it to avoid going into survival mode. Using 'should' language takes us into the sympathetic nervous system, and we need to be aware of that to avoid overwhelming ourselves and others.
The importance of self-compassion and practicing to return to a relaxed state
Making mistakes is inevitable and a part of human growth. Instead of blaming oneself, the focus should be on learning from the experience and being kinder to oneself. Practicing self-compassion helps in returning to a ventral state where the body feels relaxed. Nervous systems are constantly reshaped with every return and it's important to not see difficult emotions as a problem, but as a part of the path. Planning for difficult situations and practicing how to deal with them helps in being more skillful. Returning to a ventral state takes practice and building pathways. Every time one finds their way back, they are reminded of the pathway.
Cultivating Mindfulness and Equanimity for Better Wellbeing
Wellbeing isn't about eliminating all suffering, but learning not to create unnecessary suffering. Cultivating mindfulness and becoming an active operator of our nervous system can help us choose how we water the seeds in our store consciousness, leading to more balance in our system. By learning to stand in the storm and not creating the 'second arrow' of suffering on top of pain, we can learn to suffer better. Practicing ventral mode and using techniques like anchoring can also help us regulate our nervous system and spend more time in the calm, connected state. Equanimity is also key, allowing us to be with difficult experiences without adding unnecessary suffering.
Being Mindful to Endure Painful States and Learning from Suffering
It is possible to be with pain and difficult states by training ourselves to bring up mindfulness and hold the suffering. Mind consciousness functions as a gardener and we can selectively water the wholesome seeds like gratitude and generosity. These seeds have a profound influence on our body and mind and can help us to fall into ventral more easily. Being anchored in regulation can inform our traumatic experiences and help us make a story in a different way, but it doesn't take away the suffering. It is important to understand that suffering will continue, but we can learn to listen to it and gather information from it. We all have a ventral vagal system in our being, and it's waiting for us to tap into it.
Nurturing Wholesome Seeds and Avoiding Unwholesome ones for Inner Healing
By reflecting on the wholesome and unwholesome seeds within us, we can choose to bring up and nourish the wholesome ones, while avoiding and not dwelling on the unwholesome ones. This practice involves bringing up wholesome seeds, keeping them in our minds as long as possible, avoiding unwholesome seeds, and not holding onto suffering longer than necessary. Doing so can lead to healing and strengthening of our mind and body, while also pulling up other wholesome seeds. It's important to recognize and cultivate the seeds of generosity, love, forgiveness, acceptance, and friendship within us, especially in a culture that often emphasizes self-criticism and self-hatred.
The Importance of Mindfully Nourishing Wholesome Seeds and Weakening Unwholesome Ones
Nourishing a seed of hatred can lead to various unsen seeds, and it's important to recognize and take care of them with mindfulness. Mindfulness can weaken unwholesome seeds at the root every time they are embraced with mindful compassion and care. It's important to focus on recognizing micro moments of ventral moments and glimmers of wholesome seeds all around us to nourish them and help them grow. By finding gratitude in small moments of peace and ordinary things, we can experience a sense of peace amidst the suffering. It's important to distinguish between suppressing and being with unwholesome states mindfully, and practical ways to do so should be explored.
Overcoming fear and anxiety through helping others and safe conditions.
Honoring our nervous system when it says no and creating safe conditions for ourselves is crucial. Helping others can be a powerful tool to shift our focus away from our fears and towards generosity and care. Having a co-regulator, like a supportive partner or friend, can also be incredibly helpful in moments of fear or anxiety. In Dan's story, helping the elderly gentleman to the bathroom shifted his focus away from his claustrophobia and towards being useful. It also highlighted the power of community and being there for one another. By calling up other positive seeds like generosity and care, we can overcome fear and anxiety and live more fulfilled lives.
Dealing with Strong Emotions: Using the Reign Process to Gain Insight and Transformation.
There are two ways to take care of painful states. One is changing the channel or distraction, but it doesn't work with strong emotions. During such times, we need to give space to our emotions and accept them instead of suppressing them. We can use the reign process - recognizing, allowing, investigating, nurturing - to deal with strong emotions. We need to hold them like a crying baby instead of pushing them away. As we accept them, we start to understand them better. We can see where our emotions come from, and this leads to insight and transformation. We can reduce the habitual energy that triggers suffering by practicing mindfulness and acceptance.
The Power of Being Mindful with Difficult Emotions
Allowing oneself to experience and accept difficult emotions without being overtaken by them is essential. The middle way of being with, caring for, honoring, and learning from difficult emotions can transform them into something wholesome. One must not suppress one's emotions because, given the opportunity, they can be seen to their root and transformed into useful emotional compost. Mindfulness energy can hold and be with whatever high-energy emotion arises. We can also borrow other people's nervous system strength to support our mindfulness when it is not strong enough. Cultivating collective nervous system regulation is more feasible than individual regulation.
The Power of Anchoring in Ventral Regulation Multiplies in Groups
The power of anchoring in ventral regulation multiplies in groups and leads to emergent properties such as gratitude, joy, and kindness. Mindfulness practices can serve as pathways to ventral regulation, but even drops of awareness can give the nervous system a taste of safety in that state. It's important to listen to the nervous system and do something different in moments of discomfort rather than powering through. Helping others can shift us out of our own difficulty and absorb anxiety. Acts of kindness can be powerful moments for those in need of help and treat them like regular human beings.
The Power of Kindness and Human Connection
The concept of elevation, where witnessing someone doing a good deed inspires others to do the same, has a profound effect on our biology. There is no hierarchy of compassionate action and even small kind gestures, like helping someone pee, can make a difference to someone's nervous system state. When we feel alone or lost, we can enter a state called dorsal, which requires a regulated human to be present with us, not trying to fix us, but simply being present. Knowing that we are seen and not alone is the antidote to this state, and practicing kindness can help us experience this connection and elevate others around us.
The Importance of a Supportive Community in Times of Crisis.
Feeling safe and secure in the presence of a caring, mindful, and attentive person can help calm our nervous system, enabling us to regain some energy and recover from intense moments. Although one can learn to self-regulate over time, there will be instances when trusted individuals like family and friends' presence is required to assist us in recovering. It highlights the significance of having people we trust around us, especially in times of crisis. Providing a non-demanding and accepting environment can encourage movement and progress. Taking gentle steps such as bringing some music or messaging a friend can aid in regaining energy. All in all, fostering a supportive and understanding community is crucial for one's mental and emotional well-being.