The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Friday 4 October 2019

Feeding That Which Feeds Us

Most of us have heard of the fight or flight response.  When faced with a threatening situation, we become distressed, and an instinctual evolutionary response ensues.  We either turn tail and run, or we stand and fight.  We may also just freeze.

When we are threatened, our brain (specifically the amygdala) notices the threat and then, like a central command post, sends out distress signals resulting in the production of adrenaline and other hormones.

Most of us know what happens next:  our heart beats faster, our pulse rate goes up, so does our blood pressure.  We breathe more rapidly, and our senses sharpen.  Blood sugars get released.

If we continue to perceive the cause of our distress then the body releases cortisol, which acts to keep the body on “high alert.”

A continued state of high alert, however, is not good; it can become chronic and toxic.  We get into a vicious downward cycle. The build-up of cortisol in the brain increases the size of the amygdala, thus making the brain even more susceptible to distress.

Long-term, chronic distress negatively affects us.  We suffer from high blood pressure, obesity, anxiety, depression, and form addictions.

Constant Stress

Our modern lifestyle is no longer a “healthy” one.  We are bombarded daily with stressors and other threats.  From the constant racket of traffic, to the deadline to be met by 4.30pm.  From the glare of an iPad or TV monitor, to the lack of car parking space.  Daily there may be hundreds of distress-causing events.

It is little wonder then that most of us are living with chronic distress.  Our bodies are constantly on “high alert,” our sympathetic nervous system is always switched on.  Our parasympathetic nervous system becomes redundant.1

This constant state of distress impairs our ability to think critically,2 and dampens our creativity.

Climate Stress

Right now we are witnessing a dramatic increase in atmospheric carbon concentrations and a warming of the planet, bringing about climate change.

We have already witnessed how this is stress-inducing for people.  People in low-lying Pacific nations live with the constant fear of flooding.  In other parts of the world people live with the stress of drought, or massive hurricanes and tornadoes.  Others find their crops failing and soils being depleted.

It would seem that, in this early part of the 21st century we require both critical thinking and a creative response.

But, if our modern lifestyles hinder both, how do we nourish these capabilities?

Feed That Which Feeds Us

Fortunately, nature provides a solution.  And, it’s a simple one.  It doesn’t cost anything.  It is readily available.  It can be applied by oneself, in pairs, or in larger groups.

It just asks one thing of you: get outside, get into nature.  Go and sit under a tree, in a forest (bush) if nearby. 

Spending time, mindfully, in nature has been shown to reduce distress by lessening the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.  Time spent in nature reduces blood pressure (some research suggests this can last up to 5 days). 

So, the very thing we wish to “save” is the very thing that will feed the critical thinking and creativity we so desperately need.

We must learn to feed that which has been feeding us all along.3

1. Our bodies have two nervous systems.  The Sympathetic Nervous System is the one that kicks in with adrenaline to ready the body to fight or flee.  On the other hand, our Parasympathetic Nervous System is the system that brings our bodies back into balance, it calms us.
2. Note that critical thinking is not the same as to criticise.  Although both come from the same Greek word (kritikos) critical thinking means analysing facts, in a clear, rational, open-minded, evidence-based, manner to form a judgement.  Criticise, however, means to find fault in someone or something, and has the sense of shame, censure, or condemnation about it.
3. With thanks to Stephen Jenkinson for this metaphor.  Stephen (MTS, MSW) is a teacher, author, storyteller, spiritual activist, farmer and founder of the Orphan Wisdom School (based in Canada), a teaching house and learning house for the skills of deep living and making human culture.

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