We've talked, and written about the flight, fight, or freeze response when we’re threatened. The older region of the brain kicks into gear, secreting chemicals and hormones that put our bodies on high alert, bypassing our more rational prefrontal cortex. When there's an immediate threat, our bodies need to respond faster than our thoughts. This sympathetic nervous system has helped us to survive as a species.
These “threat” responses can also be useful to us, enabling greater discernment of the world around us. We've heard stories of animals’ ability to sense earthquakes, volcanoes, and other natural disasters before humans do. Reportedly, before the tsunami of 2004 hit the Southeast Asian mainland, elephants began trumpeting and ran for higher ground, dogs refused to go outdoors, and flamingos left their rookeries. This seeming ability to intuit the future may happen because of animals’ greater sensitivity to the environment. An acute sense of hearing and feeling (noticing slight vibrations in the Earth's crust) may explain the responses to the tsunami.
We humans may have similar resources to notice subtle changes in the environment.
The simple act of paying attention may foster increased levels of awareness to the world around us.
Traditional Chinese medicine relies on practitioners who have developed this deeper sense of observation. On a visit to China, Leana Wen. MD, a Harvard-trained physician and Health Commissioner of Baltimore City Maryland, watched a Chinese doctor diagnose a woman with cervical cancer and severe anemia within two minutes without use of blood test or CT scans. When she asked him how he came up with the diagnosis, he replied that he” listened with his whole body,” smelling the cancer and seeing the anemia. This is only one anecdote, but enough stories like this are emerging and are beginning to shift perceptions about the body’s sense of “knowing.”
We can begin to nurture this skill of listening to the body through the body scan, which is this week’s practice.
This Week’s Gatherings
Monday 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM Trumbull Library 33 Quality Street Trumbull
Monday 7:30 PM Sama Yoga 45 Grove Street, New Canaan
Tuesday 1:00 PM Ferguson Library, 1 Public Library Plaza, Stamford (made possible by a grant from Bankwell)
CMP survives on donations. All of our weekly sessions are free and open to the public, but donations are essential to our sustainability. Checks, cash and credit cards are accepted and donations are tax deductible.
Stay up-to-date on all CMP news and happenings by following us on Facebook, Instagram, Meetup and Insight Timer. And our website CommunityMindfulnessProject.org.
Your friends at CMP