Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Focusing on the fight flight response

For this week's practice, I felt torn about how I should proceed.  One way would be to continue with imagining and kinesthetically experiencing my embodied embeddedness in the biosphere of the planet.  It continues to feel like a revelation to have finally resolved years of cognitive dissonance about environmentalism as a sentimental attachment to aesthetically pleasing places or creatures.  I have finally found a way that "connecting to nature" (by becoming aware of my immediate consumption and impact on other planetary phenomena) can help cultivate greater integrity and ethical behavior.

Yet after last week's practice about "action," I was also piqued to explore some of the topics we have discussed in class about the fight/flight response, which seems to be often portrayed as an instinctual residue from our animal roots and a source of unnecessary and chronic stress.  But what if anxiety, rumination, and irritability are in fact signs of a suppressed instinct?  In the spirit of re-wilding, I wanted to try to activate the fight/flight response in a way that results in the betterment of others.  Perhaps by expressing and releasing justifiable outrage and terror, it is resolved and dissipates naturally / automatically.

In order to combine these two directions, I decided to try a focusing session on my current impact on the biosphere with particular allowance and attention toward anger and fear related to that awareness.  I laid face down on my bed and took deep breaths in and out.  I first became aware of the air flowing in and out of my body and imagined all the places where that air had previously been, including inside of other people and creatures.  I also imagined/ felt the warm flesh of my body filled with blood and tissue and muscle that seemed to be composed of so many different plants and animals from all over the planet.  As that familiar dissociation began to arise in me, that realization that I have no awareness of the ways I am intimately connected with those people and places, I started to feel rage in several places in my body, a hatred for the unknown miseries in which I participate.  I also amplified a creeping sensation of shame and guilt that I could now recognize as fear - fear of becoming someone despicable, fear of the violation of my integrity, a repulsion toward the culprit of myself.  In contrast to that reactivity, I also felt a heaviness, a defeat, in my limbs, an acquiescence, complicity, paralysis.  It occurs to me that this could be a form of the "freeze" response as well, or it could be the successful suppression of the rage.

In reflecting on how rage and terror might be healthy responses to the world, I was reminded  of a quote by Derrick Jensen that is something like, "Love does not imply pacifism- just ask any mother grizzly bear."

It also reminded me of Wilbert Alix describing the ability to sense danger as a function of being able to "read reality" with our senses:

One underlying effect this practice had on me was to somehow restructure priorities in my awareness, so that all the minor difficulties in my life, including my ongoing struggles with the culture shock of being in doctoral studies, seemed very peripheral and unimportant.  I felt realigned with what was essential to me and to my existence, which was somehow superficially more stabilizing but fundamentally more destabilizing.

I have also greatly enjoyed selecting a different exercise each week to discover what re-wilding means to me.  The other books that I had selected to follow for this blog were horribly centered around romanticizing nature as a non-human place, so I will not be using them.  Perhaps this is yet another aspect of my re-wilding practice - to sniff out each step of my journey with hypervigilance and embodied knowing.

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