Self-Hospitality Pt. 8: Restore Yourself With The Parasympathetic Nervous System
All day your attention has been darting around. What’s it looking for?
Probably one of two things:
- Something shiny, which promises greater satisfaction.
- Something threatening, which poses a potential threat that needs to be dealt with.
We’re designed for this, to always be looking for whatever source of pleasure or pain may exist out there in the world. This is known as the sympathetic nervous system – the part of our body’s control center that is concerned with the outside world.
Then we’ve got the parasympathetic nervous system, the part that digests and organizes this information that our sympathetic system has been hunting/gathering all day. In today’s hyper-stimulated world, we tend to take in more information than our parasympathetic nervous system can process. Meditation is a parasympathetic process where we give more funding to this internal processing department. The part that heals, organizes, (crucially) deletes irrelevant data, synthesizes raw data into new ideas, etc. If we’re feeling depleted or scattered, it means we have been in sympathetic mode too long and not performed this necessary housekeeping of our nervous systems.
Meditation’s journey into the parasympathetic nervous system offers us a different and more dynamic rest process than sleep. Simply closing your eyes, but remaining awake and aware is a powerful re-direction of your attention into healing yourself. And don’t worry, you don’t have to actually do anything. Your consciousness takes care of the details.
Many of us that are forced to stay indoors all day may feel like life has slowed down a bit, but our homes are still surrounded by endless sources of hyper-stimulation – media, video calls, to do lists, big screens, little screens, everywhere a screen.
When we open our eyes after meditation, it’s important to do so slowly since you’re now transitioning from parasympathetic awareness to sympathetic awareness. And it’s important to be gentle during this process so that you don’t shock your nervous system.
And, as we meditate and become more connected to this intelligence that exists within us, we become less dependent on this chaotic, fleeting, and unreliable outside world to tell us the truth about life, who we are, what’s important, what truly needs to be pursued and what truly needs to be feared. This wisdom we need already exists internally and meditation is not some magical state of mind that only some expert mystic knows how to conjure. It’s just us systematically reminding ourselves of what’s already there.
Apply The Principles
In any given moment, stop and ask yourself, “What am I looking for right now?”
- What need am I seeking to fulfill?
- Is this something I really need?
- Underneath the surface is there a deeper need?
- If so, honor it, and ask yourself: is this the best way to fulfill it?
You don’t need obvious answers to come to you for this to be a successful practice. Simply bringing your awareness to yourself and inviting greater understanding will pay dividends of wisdom over time.
Learn The Essentials
The purpose of this series is to give you everything you need to get the most out of meditation, self-care and this fresh new life we get to live with such powerful tools at our disposal. The weekly tools and principles I share will help you become more skilled and confident at meditating and just generally living with this thing called a mind.
Whether or not you’ve already learned meditation (with me or elsewhere), refer to this guide to either get you started or refresh you on the essentials.
I bet, even if you’ve been meditating for awhile, this series will reveal aspects of it that will make you say, “Wow, how come I didn’t know this?” You did. And you do. You just needed reminding. Meditation is a very radical way of being in ourselves…and yet it’s the most familiar place we know.