Most people are well familiar with the “fight or flight” response, the human stress response. The fight or flight response is an automatic self-preservation defence mechanism that is triggered by stressful conditions. This mechanism is a full body major physiological event designed to save your life. It evolved to protect us from predators. With modern civilisation our predators have changed form… they are now in disguise. Instead of sabre tooth tigers wanting to eat us, the predators now look like the financial issues we are having, the husband, the wife, the bank manager, Telstra, an unfulfilling job, a diagnosis, lack of sleep, FIFO work.. the list goes on…
Back in the day, once the stress had gone, for example, when the sabre tooth tiger was chased away, the body launched the equal and opposite response to fight or flight, called the relaxation response. The relaxation response’s job is to reverse the physiological changes that were put into place under stress, effectively bringing the body back to a state of balance. This is the way the stress response is supposed to be done; body goes into the stress response; the body goes out of the stress response. Unfortunately, because the tigers just keep coming one after the other, stacked on top of us, often with multiple tigers attacking all at once, modern humans rarely get the opportunity to turn down the stress response allowing the relaxation response to kick in. The result over the medium to long term can be major health implications.
Just as the fight or flight response is a full body major physiological event, the relaxation response is too, which is why practices such as meditation are so good for you – it affects every tissue and system of the body. Now I’m not a huge fan of the term “relaxation response”. It’s just not ‘X-factor’ enough for me and I don’t believe it accurately portraits the power behind the response. Dr Herbert Benson, the man who coined the term, would probably slaughter me for saying this, but I think a better term is the safety response. Fight or flight is triggered in situations when the body ultimately feels unsafe on some level, and the relaxation response kicks in when a level of safety is achieved. From here on I will call the relaxation response the safety response…. Sorry Herbert..
The most powerful way to induce the safety response is meditation. Meditation on one level is the act of communicating to the body that you are safe. Because really, we are, aren’t we? All the first world problems that we have really don’t mean much, and in the ultimate scheme of things, we will always be okay. When we meditate we actively choose to bring forth the safety response. As part of the steep learning curve of meditation, when we do this, it’s almost like we are lying to ourselves. In the beginning we need to “fake it till we make it”. This doesn’t take long however, and with consistent practice, the body starts to feel safer and with this it can alter its physiology. The nervous system can find a healthier balance between sympathetic and para-sympathetic, the dominant brain wave can alter to calmer alpha waves and create more balance within our mental and emotional health and we can enter deeper, more profound altered states of consciousness. Have you ever wondered why meditators are generally calmer, more relaxed, more peaceful individuals? Their physiology has altered. This is completely possible for you too. Consistent practice is the key. What a beautiful gift you can give to yourself to sit daily to reassure yourself that everything is fine. I’m fine… in this present moment with all the craziness around me.. I am fine.. it’s safe.. safe to just be…
If you would like to learn meditation and effective ways to reliably induce this “safety response” register for my incredibly popular “Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation” Workshop either in person, or, the online version. In this workshop you will explore meditation styles and techniques, breathing techniques, Mantra, human behaviour, stress and health, flow states, altered states of consciousness plus so much more. This workshop is crafted to ensure you have all the skills and understanding necessary to establish a very healthy meditation practice.
If you would like to register for this workshop please CLICK HERE, or phone me on 0411 501 979. For more information about the workshop CLICK HERE
See you soon!!