November 2008

When we feel good, we feel good.

But what is the source of this feeling? Most of us never give attention to what is actually happening inside our bodies as we move from one mood to another mood. Happy then sad. Angry then calm. Hungry then comfortable. As we move through these different states and emotions, we are actually going through biological changes. Our internal chemistry, the hormones we experience are changing.
People often think that these mood changes and feelings are purely psychological. Just a mental state. Almost imagined. But we would never say such a thing about animals. When a cat is meowing with hunger, we don’t describe the cat’s state as psychological. The cat is experiencing a biological state of hunger and out in the wild goes hunting. When an animal freezes and trembles with fear – a mouse caught by a cat, a cat caught by a dog – that frozen state is caused by the hormones of fear and anxiety. It’s biological.
We humans, you and I, are animals too. We are flesh and blood creatures just as much as we are souls and psychological beings.
Of course our psychological states affect our chemistry. Yogis can mentally control many of their hormones and physical functions. David Blaine, for example, can spend extended periods of time encased in ice and recently spent 60 hours hanging upside down in New York’s Central Park. (This is not a yogic exercise I recommend to my readers, particularly those trying to maintain dignified hair-dos.) I am also very impressed by those Himalayan monks who can dry wet towels with heat generated from their own bodies.
But the main point I want to make is that we are organic creatures filled with hormonal juices that create strong feelings and experiences.
There are many spiritual traditions that give special attention to the juices and feelings inside our bodies. This is one of the ways that Spirit speaks to us through sensations and feelings. At the core of Taoist and Tantric spiritual practices is the skill of noticing and managing these subtle sensations inside the body. This skill is also at the core of the many traditions that use symbols such as Trees of Life, cauldrons and chalices. In modern language, this ability to notice subtle body sensations is known as kinaesthetic awareness. In esoteric language it is sometimes called clairsentience – using the whole body as an organ of perception.
In spirituality the physical body is often described as a temple – a temple to be inhabited by the soul. Our physical bodies are the homes of our psyches and consciousness. Our bodies ground us into the educational experience of being alive, here on earth. It is obvious therefore that we need to care for this physical temple, so that our souls may more easily and fully incarnate.
Noticing and guiding subtle sensations in our bodies is the most effective way of caring for our biological temples. This is the best method for cooperating with healing energy and also for managing our internal chemicals and hormones.
Most healers are familiar with sensations in their hands when healing energy flows. It is possible to have exactly the same experience in every part of your body, not just your hands. This awareness is developed by giving careful attention to all the subtle sensations inside you. Most importantly this mindful, kinaesthetic attention needs to be practised with a compassionate and healing attitude.
One of the great things that I discovered in my endorphin research is that when healing energy flows through our bodies, it is accompanied by a hormonal, chemical change. This change has a significant impact on our physical, emotional and spiritual health. We stop producing the hormones of fear and start producing endorphins, the hormones of well being.
The two hormones of tension and anxiety, adrenalin and cortisol, are great for survival because they give us a supercharge of energy and tautness to get out of danger’s way. But if they are not burned up through intense activity, they remain in the body causing frozen tissue and sensations of fear and panic. This tension also blocks the flow and absorption of the healing vitality that pervades the natural world.
When however we give kind awareness to the subtle sensations in our bodies, the production of adrenalin and cortisol is immediately stopped and our Inner Smile triggers the release of the ‘miracle’ neuropeptides, the endorphins. Endorphins anaesthetise pain, relax tissue and create sensations of pleasure, calm and well being.
In The Endorphin Effect, I describe five triggers that help to produce endorphins.
First, there is the Inner Smile in which we give kind awareness to our own bodies.
Second, there is the strategy of sinking into the posture and soft breathing of a good rest or nap.
Third, connecting to the natural world, from a blade of grass through to the immense mystery and wonder of the cosmos, triggers endorphins.
Fourth, twenty minutes of exercise also triggers these miracle hormones and was first noted as the ‘runner’s  high’. This can be any exercise and does’t need to be aerobic.
Fifth, and for many people this is the easiest, doing something you like, or thinking about something you like, triggers endorphins. Think of your favourite person or animal — and almost immediately you will notice the beginnings of a pleasurable sensation. Endorphins!
Then, whichever of these five triggers you use, the key is to notice the enjoyable subtle sensations and let them sink more deeply into you.
As these wonderful hormones, the endorphins, are produced, tissue relaxes and healing energy flows more freely. Body and spirit in full cooperation.
I wish you all good health and many blessings.