Like millions of snowflakes make snow, so humans are little individual snowflakes that collectively can be seen as snow. Often we hear people speak of our ‘true nature’, and what they often think of is our state of love, connectedness and compassion (snow). Both ‘natures’ are as true as each other, we are both snow as well as an individual ‘flake’.
We can choose to focus on our ‘flakiness’ or the fact that we are all snow. When we forget that we are snow, we easily feel lost, lonely and vulnerable. The experience of snow is warm, reassuring and inclusive. From here it seems insane that we could want to hurt each other as ‘what we do to each other, we do to ourselves’.
Experiencing myself as just snow leaves me a little vague and probably in a big mess (which won’t seem to matter…) while experiencing myself as only a flake tends to leave me stressed, anxious and unhappy.
Neurobiology informs us of three emotional regulation systems:
The Threat System. We experience it as anger, anxiety and disgust, it is commonly known as the ‘Fight, flight, faint/submission’ state. It is driven by ‘Better safe than sorry’. The assumption is that we are better off overreacting to a funny noise in the bushes than being complacent just once and SNAP – we are gone.
Next comes the Drive system. The favorite of anyone in advertising or sales! It is about excitement, vitality, reward, the pursuit of resources and experiences that we perceive will make us feel good. Without the drive we would not have the push for acquiring, competition, the relentless pursuit of growth nor relentless aspirations.
Within these two first states we are experiencing ourselves as a flake, as separate from, differentiation is important, we compare and compete. These two states are of course essential for our survival.
Often we are in a mix of the Threat and the Drive system. We engage in behaviours to prove that we are not stupid, or in behaviours that ensure that we are seen as nice, all to avoid feeling rejected. We might be driven to exercise because we fear a heart attack or being fat, or out of control. We might work insane hours due to the fear of losing our job, or to avoid being seen as lazy or incompetent. These two states are our autopilot state, for life quality we have to engage and entertain the content state.
Content is the third emotional state, here we connect with our ‘snowness’. In this state we feel safe, connected, calm and have an affiliate focus. There is a feeling of ‘enough,’ of ‘not seeking’ nor ‘wanting’. This state works through an opiate and oxytocin. Oxytocin is linked to feelings of trust, soothing, calm and feeling connected. This circuit also regulates the threat system, by regulating the amygdalae which is part of the fight and flight system. The amygdalae are our radars for danger and problems, so once they are activated that is our focus.
You probably have thought that you experience all states and sometimes even within a couple of minutes or perhaps hours.
Mindfulness helps us catch out the state we find ourselves in and then not identify with it, rather knowing it as just a reaction and knowing that we can through shifting attention to the breath or the body give the threat and drive states a little space.
When we are aware of our snowness or in our content state, we still act, but for the common good, without need for personal glory and reward, we do what we do simply because we can’t do any different, we are in alignment with what is unfolding, with our snowness. In other words we create and act out of choice, out of service rather than fear or delusional desire.
Here are two ways to invite in more of the contentment state or the ‘snowness’.
- Whenever you catch yourself out in the threat or drive state then interrupt it with five breaths, allowing the out-breath to be twice as long as the in-breath.
- Notice the state that you are in and know you have choice and that all states.