Michael D. Thomas, D.C.
Recently, I was standing in line at a local store when an older woman walked in, saw several of us standing near the cashier and looked uncertain as to what she should do. I told her she was fifth in line. She sighed, and I said that maybe it would move quickly. She gave me an ironic look and called me an optimist. I laughed. There was only one clerk and most of the people were buying phones and activating them so the process wasn’t a short one.
About 45 minutes later, I was done with my business and passed by her as I was walking out of the store. I smiled and said that considering everything going on in the world these days that I have decided to uncouple my happiness from what was going on around me. I said that considering the news, I would never be happy if I didn’t ignore most of it. She smiled back and said I must be getting older and wiser.
In turbulent times, which we are surely in, it is vitally important to maintain our own center of balance. I am usually discussing physical balance and the adjustment in these pages, and I have no doubt that being in upper cervical balance is critical to my own ease of mind and emotions, as well as those of the folks who come in for care -but here, I am writing about that place of balance and peace inside us that no one else can touch¦ at least not without our permission.
We give our peace away in so many ways. We give our attention to naysayers and angry voices on the radio and on the television. We read about angry opinions in the newspaper. We talk to our friends and neighbors so many of whom are angry and or scared. We feel the pain and fears of others.
Once upon a time, we thought that the mental and emotional parts of our lives were separate from the physical parts. We didn’t understand that that our thoughts and emotions have a profound effect on our overall health including the physical parts.
Fear has destroyed more people than the plague.
You have no other enemy to fear
than your fears.
Ralph W. Emerson
Fear and anger activate the sympathetic nervous system. Living this way means your body is responding as if a tiger is nipping at your heels! Your blood flow is shunted to your skeletal muscles so you can be strong and run fast. Your ˜reptile brainstem grabs control and actually shuts down parts of your cerebral cortex. It shuts down cellular repairs, wound healing, digestion, and much more. It sends strong hormones throughout your body that are supposed to only be present in large amounts when you are in a critical moment in your life, not as a lifestyle! Fear, anger and the chronic anxiety that accompanies this emotional pattern eats away at your happiness, your health and your future.
Chronic anxiety also robs us of our hopes. Nobody can maintain this position forever. One common fall-back position is apathy. We sometimes just give up. But as the Cheshire Cat said in his talk with Alice:
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I dont much care where.
The Cat: Then it doesnt much matter which way you go.
from Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
We are steering the boat of our own lives. If we give up the controls, and let the winds of chance guide our life, then our boat will likely founder on the shoals of our apathy.
Many of us might say, Well, fine, which way do I go then?
That answer has never come from outside of us. It is found in the small still voice that we hardly ever listen to, the one that has always guided us from within. The outside storms are so loud and unrelenting. Even the idea that we have access to this wisdom within our own hearts sounds at best quaint and out of date. We are told in endless ways that we are broken and incomplete and require help from outside of ourselves. Experts of all stripes pound this message of lack and personal weakness into us from every corner. So what are we listening to? Most of us would agree that it is not the still small voice at the center of us.
It is time to remember the power inside of each one of us. It is the power that made us in the first place. It is the power that connects everything together. It is the power that sustains every second of our lives. Chiropractic has always called it Universal Intelligence. And the same intelligence, guiding each one of us from within us, has always been termed ˜innate intelligence. We are quickly coming to see that the universe has a fractal design. This has nothing to do with any particular theology although all the theologies understand this too. Self-similarity at various levels of magnitude is a relatively recent scientific understanding that tells us that the center is everywhere. We are not meaningless molecules existing on a tiny clod of dirt in the middle of nowhere. We are one. The center of you is the center of it all. You can only access this power in the present time. As Master Ooguay said in Kung Fu Panda (one of our favorite movies!):
Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery.
Today is a gift. That is why we call it the present!
Staying in the present moment is the most powerful gift you can receive. For the vast majority of moments in our lives, we are not at risk of being eaten by tigers. We generally have a roof over our heads. Most of us havent missed many meals. We have no control over vast swaths of what goes on around us and we never have. Giant emergencies generally do not occur in the vast majority of our lives. If we are at peace we will make balanced decisions. When troubles do occur in the present we will be able to respond appropriately. If we are insane with worry and anger and fear we will make decisions born out of this same worry, anger and insanity.
In Homeopathy (a 250 year old system of medicine) there is a law called ˜The Law of Similars. This law says that ˜like attracts like. If consciousness works according to this law too, and many people think it does, then worrying literally brings your worries into your sphere and makes them manifest in your life. This doesn’t mean to be an ostrich keeping your head in the sand, but it means that our thoughts and feelings change the experience of our lives. I know that we were taught that it was the other way around. We thought our thoughts and feelings weren’t “real”. Now we know that this material world isn’t even ˜real the way we thought it was. We once thought atoms were like little billiard balls, being attracted to and repulsed by each other. Now we think that the whole manifest universe is more like a dream too. Nothing is ˜real in the way we thought a hundred years ago. Quantum Mechanics and Relativity have fundamentally changed our understanding of reality. It has taken a hundred years for this new understanding to filter into medicine.
This was bit heavy for some of you, but others may know what I am writing about. We cannot change the world around us much but we can change our response to it. We can stop being reactive to events like the ball in a pinball machine which is moved mindlessly about by the flippers, and begin to respond in a conscious way to maintain our own balance and peace.
One way to become conscious is to observe how our bodies are dealing with our thoughts and feelings. When we become aware that we are anxious, angry or in fear, we can take a brief moment and assess our bodies. Are your muscles relaxed or tight and spasmed? We can change our response by changing our bodies. We can relax our faces and our chests and our bellies and our buttocks when we realize they are reactively tightening up. We can choose to breathe slowly and easily. Breath holding is common in anxiety. Tension is resistance. Resisting the events around us is often futile. Changing our response changes our actions and can ultimately change outcomes.
Become conscious of your thoughts. Become conscious of your emotions. Become conscious of the tension in your body. It is in your power to release your tension. It is in your power to internally move away from your emotions and your thoughts. You are the observer of all of this; you are not the victim. It wont probably happen overnight. What I am suggesting amounts to a lifestyle change of great magnitude. But what do you have to lose? Well, actually your tensions, your anger and your worry. If you find yourself becoming worried or angry or fearful or any other negative emotion, if you cant stop obsessing about events in the past or the future, then forgive yourself first. Be as gentle with yourself as you would be with any other human being. Sometimes we must make the choice between being happy or ˜right. ˜Right has its own rewards I suppose, but my vote is to be happy.
I wish all of you happiness too.