Every since I was a child, it's been hard to slow down. I gravitate towards doing things fast; multi-tasking; and project planning. Gradually, I became aware of the benefits of slowing down; I mean really slowing down. My job title is medical psychologist. My work involves helping people access innate healing mechanisms. And the strongest mental medicine I've found has turned out to be something I call parapower.
Parapower stands for the amazing power that accompanies the deliberate activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. To understand it, I'll provide you with the basics of the human nervous system. Then, I'm going to suggest something fairly radical; that the only way to become more spiritual is through activation of this system.
Many of you are familiar with aspects of the human nervous system. There's the central nervous system (CNS); named because it lies in the center of our bodies and because it's our central command station. The CNS consists of the brain and the spinal column.
And then there's the peripheral nervous system (PNS) which is on the periphery of the central! The PNS is divided into the autonomic nervous system and the somatic nervous system.
The automatic or autonomic nervous system was named by Dr. John Langley in the early 1900s. He thought the autonomic nervous system acted automatically and was self-governing; functioning independently of the central nervous system.
Today, scientists know that the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system do a wonderous dance together. When central command picks up information about a potential threat to our wellbeing, it sends a signal down the spinal column which then relays the information to a chain of cells running along side the column called the sympathetic ganglionic chain.
The sympathetic system then becomes activated by directing your heart to beat faster; your lungs to gather more oxygen; and your b to provide enerdy to release nutrients for energy.
This diagram shows the basic structure of this incredible system:
Our sysmpathetic systems are very well trained! For an extended period of time; human beings faced such a hostile, competitive environment. We were hunter-gathers. The average life span of a human throughout much of history was about thirty-five years. Life was often cut short by disease, by combat, and by some other animals who were also struggling to survive.
What type of nervous system helped us survive? Rapid in its response, energizing and protective, the sympathetic nervous system has served us well. In fact, all of us who are alive today owe our existence to this system. You had a great, great, great, (keep going) descendent who ran faster or fought harder or stayed alert longer than most. Survival of the fittest dominated in the natural selection of our ancestors.
As a sympathetically enhanced animal, we guard our juggler vain with uplifted shoulders. We elongate our spine to give us a visual advantage in the meadow or a psychological advantage through body language (shoulder padding is still favored as a body language enhancer). We tighten muscles along our torso to protect vital organs; creating a kind of coat of mail. We shut down all non-essential processes to maximize the energy available for survival. To prepare for fight, hand are protected from bleeding excessively by vascular constriction (the well know "cold hands" of fear). To prepare for flight, the feet have blood withdrawn (remember this all got programmed when there was no such thing as paved roads or PF flyers). Repair system, digestive systems, reproductive systems are all suppressed. We produce substances like adrenaline and blood sugar to give us energy and stamina.
Activation of the SNS is carried out in less than a second. When there's a lion, tiger or bear threatening us; it comes to our rescue and activated the action response of fight or flight. When it's a traffic jam or a work deadline that threatens us; that energy build-up can make us ill.
By its very nature, the SNS puts human beings in a combative, competitive place; not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well. Changes in brain chemistry create a sense of vigilance, apprehension, and a focus on possible future outcomes. A sense of urgency prevails.