Turning inward and tuning in to our autonomic nervous system
When you tune in, where in your body to you find your automatic nervous system? Where does the fear begin to well up inside of you? We often think of a gut instinct and many people do feel that instinct, or autonomic intuition, in their gut, but you might locate yours in another place. Touch that place with a hand or direct your attention there. Notice what changes as you bring awareness to what is normally a subconscious experience.
Now that you have this connection to your embodied surveillance system, see if there is an image to represent it. One of the images people use is a lighthouse with a beacon that revolves. Sometimes I use a Tesla coil vibrating my body to perfection. Other times I use yoga techniques of creating a container for my body and visualizing healing energy swirling around me. Focus on the the place where your body where you located your inner surveillance system and invite an image. Wait and see what emerges. When you have an image, spend some time getting to know how it works. How does your new awareness system track moment to moment the cues of safety and danger?
Neuroception happens before intuition
Neuroception (perception of our automatic nervous system) begins the creation of our behaviors, our feelings and our stories. When we intentionally find our way to that starting point, we can bring what otherwise remains hidden into awareness. To create a pathway to bring together neuroception and perception, the first move is from outer awareness to inner connection. Turn toward your inner world and find the place in your gut you identified earlier where neuroception reaches out for your attention. Now move to finding the place where you feel your perception. Because this involves the cortex and the thinking parts of our brains, many people locate their place of perception somewhere inside the head.
Making the connection to automatic subconscious behavior
With the two individual locations of neuroception and perception identified, the next step is to connect them. With a pathway between neuroception and perception, the cues of safety and danger that emerge can travel easily into your awareness, and you can also follow your actions, feelings, and stories back to their autonomic origins. It may be helpful to put your hands on the two locations as you begin to imagine the route from neuroception to awareness. The pathway you imagine might be a straight line between the two points or a more circuitous route. Whatever shape the connection takes, the essential quality is to support the easy, reliable transmission of information. My neuroception-to-perception pathway is marked by waves of spirals from my core out to my underarms to my palms, over the tops of my hand back up my arms and shoulders to my forehead and prefrontal cortex.
Reverse Engineering The Problem
To practice, first think of an automatic behavior you are curious about changing, and imagine enacting it. Move from perception into the neuroception that is underneath the behavior. Follow the pathway you identified that connects your two embodied points. As I travel my swirling waves from my prefrontal cortex down my arms to my core, I feel it in my bundle of vagus nerves. When you arrive at the place of neuroception, take a moment to sense the cue of safety or danger. Do the same for a feeling you are interested in. And finally, bring to mind a story about yourself or the world that you would like to learn more about and activate your new perception to body connection. What is underneath this story, feeling and behavior?
The Moment of Change
And now travel the pathway in the opposite direction. Come into connection with the first stirrings of a sense of safety or danger and see where that takes you. Follow the beginnings of an embodied cue into a feeling, a thought, an action, and then a story. As you use this new way of moving between information systems, the pathway becomes stronger. To strengthen the connection, create a way to tune in and intentionally engage. Experiment with a variety of ways to see what works for you. Draw the pathway and trace it with your finger as you move between these two ways of knowing. Place a hand on your body as a reminder of this internal pathway. Create an intention to activate the pathway in both directions during the flow of your day. Make a plan to reflect at the end of the day and see how neuroception took you to a particular behavior, feeling, or story. What are the ways you want to attend to this new pathway?
Are you still operating with factory-installed settings?
Many of my responses are family-installed default settings. Do I want to respond to life the way my parents did or do I want to create something new?
NEXT POST: The Moment of Change . . .