Martha Novak

HOW WE CAME TO BE WHAT WE ARE

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I would imagine that you would agree that you want to be happier, healthier, stronger, more joyous, more creative and more abundant. Isn’t this so? I would also think you would agree with me when I say that this is the human condition, wanting to be and have more of these things.
This isn’t an accident or some fluke of nature. No matter who we are, what culture we’ve come from, we are alike in this respect. Sometimes ideologies get in the way of happiness – or become happiness in their own way even if they aren’t in our best interests — but putting that thought aside, most human being want to be happy. Some of us are more ascetic, some of us more expansive, we all have our ideas of what these things are and even within the same culture, these things can be different.
Nevertheless, at our natures, we are all in the process of becoming something else.
Having had some experiences in the field of consciousness, I can tell you unequivocally that the energy of God is love, more love that we can possibly even fathom here in our earthly existence. I have felt this love and support at a time in my life that I would have told you I didn’t believe in anything and it was one of the experiences that changed my life and sent me in the direction that I now find myself.
I think we are inherently wired to seek this love again, to be one with it, whether or not we’ve had an experience like I had. Those of you who study consciousness are attuned to it and some people live it without ever uttering the word “consciousness”. Some of us actively seek it, some of us passively, some of us — because of our backgrounds — think we can never have it and work against ourselves. But it is there and we are working with it or against it – and sometimes both — our whole lives.
It is my belief that we choose our parents for the life lessons we are to learn there. Whatever our childhoods were like, they provide the thrust for our growth and our coming closer to God or running away from it.
My favorite definition of God is that God is an infinite and ever expanding set of truths always in motion. This is why we feel so badly when we stop, shutdown, and don’t move mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It is not “going with God” which is always in motion. Whatever we were supposed to learn, embrace, deny, and rise above, was contained in that childhood of yours, even if you don’t remember much of it. What you do remember is enough to set you free if you will start working on yourself and you have the right guide.
I say, “the right guide”. Let me explain that. The reason you need a guide at one point in your development, be it an energetic healer, a minister, a psychologist or whomever you choose, is because in really deep work, you don’t always want to investigate what Consciousness asks you to investigate. We balk, we are reluctant, we are afraid of Radical Change. It’s all good, of course, it’s all great in fact. Nevertheless, our egoic child’s mind tells us it isn’t. We must learn to hear but “not listen to” what the egoic child’s mind tells us.
In the utero experience, after conception, we are “one” physically with our mothers. She has certain feelings, a lot of them as a matter of fact, and these feelings are introduced to us through chemicals that course through both of us.
Some of them, a child actually understands. All children are little wads of undeveloped love so we seize on this love and are comforted by it. More importantly, we understand it. Love, even undeveloped love, understands love. But your mother is a person with a whole host of thoughts and feelings, some love based, some fear based. There’s anxiety, anger, jealousy, agitation, restlessness, fear of an unknown outcome, and much, much more mixed in with all the good feelings.
So the baby is hit immediately with chemicals that it doesn’t understand. And the baby then holds them in abeyance, puts them aside if you will, to be understood and explained later.
When the child is born, and until the child is about 7 years old, they seek explanations for these confusing feelings they had in utero. If the mother was anxious, they zero in on what makes them anxious to explain the old chemical feelings they have held in abeyance. If the mother was fearful, they find what is fearful in the world to be afraid of. You see how this works?
Many times, if the mother was adamant enough in her feelings, the child overemphasizes these fear-based things. And hence our issues.
But our issues are formed not just from what is being said to us and what we felt in the womb. They are formed from what we surmise in life. I think this is the hardest thing about parenthood and what is often missed by parents at a crucial time in children’s lives – again before they are 7 years old. Parents are not always catching the distorted way a child is putting information together for themselves.
For example, I know a family whose father, now divorced from the mother, is mentally ill. He’s loud, obnoxious, judgmental, can’t relate to his son emotionally so he exhausts him doing things. The father yells a lot and he’s extremely overweight. His beautiful little son is embarrassed by his father. It comes out in other ways because this five year old doesn’t have adult language yet nor a developed emotional vocabulary. So he tells his mother he doesn’t want his father picking him up at school or coming to his birthday party. That’s all he’ll say.
A lot of parents wouldn’t know how to handle this. The courts, of course, have dictated joint custody so the child has to be delivered to the father on a regular basis. Luckily, in this case, the child has a very aware mother who listens and hears what the child is trying to say. Without ever criticizing the father, which would be inappropriate, she explains to the child that there are all sorts of people in the world, that we must be patient and tolerate with the way people live, think and are, and that the really important thing here is the way the child and the mother choose to do live. She also tells him that in contrast to others, they get to choose peace, good communication, an exploration of how they feel, and they get to reaffirm often their commitment to never being judgmental. She emphasizes that they are always safe with each other, no matter what, and can tell each other anything.
Now that’s good parenting. Most people don’t have this kind of aware parent. So we have to explain life to ourselves now. “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood” as the saying goes. It’s never too late for Deeper Consciousness either.
None of us are stuck in our ways but those of us who are stuck in our ways.
I have something for you to write down. Write it as one long column. But three subsets within that column.
The first subset is:

Vental Vagal
Safe
Social

The second subset is:
Sympathetic
Mobilized
Fight and Flight

The third subset is:
Dorsal Vagal
Immobilized
Collapsed

This column and much of what I say next comes from a very good book called The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy by Deb Dana. I quote much of her specifically – adding my own take on things here and there.
“The autonomic nervous system responds to the challenges of daily life by telling us not what we are or who we are but how we are. Trauma interrupts the process of building the autonomic circuitry of safe connection and sidetracks the development of emotional regulation and resilience.”
I’m going to ask you to expand your idea of “trauma”. In our unawareness, we might think it is being molested in the barn or almost dying in a traffic accident. Certainly, these are traumas. But I’ve seen for years that people compare their experiences to these horrific events and never get to their stuff because they haven’t experienced anything like this. I want to put on the table an expanded version of trauma. That a child who is called “fat” at the dinner table in front of his friends is just a wounded. What I want to say here is that trauma is not about what happened to you, the event, but the woundedness. And we are all wounded in our way. We’ve all been “traumatized”. In that is growth.
Deb Dana goes on to say, “We can think of the autonomic nervous system as the foundation upon which our lived experience is built. It is the neural platform that is beneath every experience. We move through life, turning toward, backing away, sometimes connecting and other times isolating – and it’s all guided by the autonomic nervous system” – what we’re talking about here and what that entire previous column is about.
“Hopefulnesss lies in knowing that while early experiences shape the nervous system, ongoing experiences can reshape it. Just as the brain is continually changing in response to experiences and the environment, our autonomic nervous system is likewise engaged and can be intentionally influenced.” This is why energetic therapy works.
“A working principle of the autonomic nervous system is ‘every response is an action in service of survival’. It doesn’t make a judgment about good and bad. It simply acts to manage risk and seek safety.”
Anyone who works in therapy fields can tell you that “perception is more important than reality”. “The Polyvagal Theory demonstrates that even before the brain makes meaning of an incident, the autonomic nervous system has assessed the environment and initiated an adaptive survival response. Neuroception even precedes perception.”
So the clues to a person’s “present suffering can always be found in their autonomic response history”. In other words, their egoic child’s mind responses based on trying to survive.
“If we do not feel safe, we are chronically in a state of evaluation and defensiveness. But here’s the good news, it is the ventral vagal state and a neuroception of safety that bring the possibililty for connection, curiosity and change.”
This is where consciousness not only opens but is expanded.
“Safety and connection are guided by the evolutionarily newest part of the autonomic nervous system, the ventral vagal. Some of the daily living experiences in this state include being organized, following through with plans, taking care of yourself, taking time to play, doing things with others, feeling productive at work, having a general feeling of emotional well-being and a sense of self-management. It is a creative state. Health benefits include a healthy heart, regulated blood pressure, a healthy immune system decreasing vulnerability to illness, a good digestion, quality sleep, and an overall sense of well-being”.
Now let’s move down the column.
I love what Deb Dana says here:
“Fear is whispering to me and I feel the power of its message. Move, take action, escape. No one can be trusted. No place is safe…”
“The sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system activates when you begin to feel unease, when something triggers a neuroception of danger. We go into action.” Fight and flight. Notice I say, “flight and flight”. In my energetic work, you’ll see that human beings do both. Fight is flight and flight is fight. It’s all resistance.
“Our heart rate speeds up, our breath short and shallow. We scan our environment looking for danger. We are “on the move”. You might say you’re anxious, angry, and you feel a rush of adrenaline that makes it hard to be still”.
Are you trying to meditate here in this state? You’ll find it next to impossible. You are in what Chinese medicine calls the “monkey mind”, listening for danger and you don’t even hear the sound of support and friendly voices. “You believe here that the world is a dangerous place and I need to protect myself from harm. Some of the daily living experiences are anxiety, panic attacks, anger, inability to focus and follow through, distress in relationships. Health consequences can include heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep problems, weight gain or loss, memory impairment, headache, chronic neck, shoulder, and back problems, stomach problems, and increased vulnerability to illness”.
Now let’s talk about the last subset. Deb Dana describes it as this: “I am far away in a dark and forbidding place. I make no sound. I am small and silent and barely breathing. Alone where no one will ever find me.”
“This is our oldest pathway of response, the dorsal vagal pathway. It is the path of last resort. When all else fails, when we are trapped and action taking doesn’t work, the “primitive vagus” takes us into shutdown, collapse, and disassociation. Here at the very bottom of the autonomic column, we are alone with our despair and escape into not knowing, not feeling, almost a sense of not being. We describe ourselves as hopeless, abandoned, foggy, too tired to think or act and we describe the world as empty, dead and dark.
Some of the daily living problems can be disassociation, problems with memory, depression, isolation, and no energy for the tasks of daily living. Health consequences can include chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, stomach problems, low blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and weight gain” or loss.
So we move up and down this column. But our preferred place is at the top. This is where consciousness is. This is where the open mind is. This is where the opportunities for more are.
At the top of the column.
This is the Highest Self. Through consciousness work, you learn to live there more and more. Your health, well-being, relationships, and all of life improves here. This is all achievable and doable and you can’t fool yourself here because your life is going to mirror back how well you’re doing. So great emotional honesty is required and then we can go directly to your healing. If you lie to yourself, try to cover up your insecurities with narcissism, arrogance, and fantasy, well, we’ll have to get through all this first. It slows down the process. Still all doable, but first things first.
“The ventral vagal state, or higher consciousness, is hopeful and resourceful. We can live, love, and laugh by ourselves and with others. This is not a place where everything is wonderful all the time, nor is it a place without problems. It is a place where we have the ability to acknowledge distress without judgment of self, and therefore explore our options, to reach out for support and developed more organized, life-enhancing responses”. It is a place of responses, not the reactivity of the egoic child’s mind.
So even the way our nervous systems are wired lead us to the Highest Self, to Consciousness, and, if we go far enough, into Enlightenment. Everything is working for us. Our egoic child’s minds simply get in the way. That’s not to oversimplify the egoic child’s mind system – it’s quite a complicated one. But it can be gotten through and then the Real You starts to emerge. And this is the part of you that is unique and glorious because it accepts just being ordinary.
You see, in this spiritual, energetic, esoteric world that is you, what you are looking for is hidden in what you most want to avoid. Your divinity is hidden in your humanness. Joy is hidden in sorrow. Power is hidden in your willingness to be powerless and vulnerable. Your abundance lies in your acceptance of poverty. Your extraordinariness lies in your acceptance of being ordinary.
And it takes work to strip away our misperceptions – our neuroceptions – those things that create our pretenses – that we may emerge as who we really are. Authentic at last because we then live as spiritual beings in physical form. Not the other way around anymore.
On the back of my business cards is a quote from my second book, The Teacup Prophecies. I’d like to share it with you. It is true from the bottom of my heart. “We are conscious beings, charged to know more and to know that there is more, and that it’s all achievable, doable, and bigger, better, deeper, and finer than before”.
I wish you a wonderful journey.

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