7 Jan 2016
The elephant at the circus intrigued the little boy. As he approached the elephant he suddenly realized the danger this huge animal posed. His father reassured him that the elephant was chained and was not able to move far. The elephant trainer corrected the father; the chain actually was not bolted down, however the elephant had been chained from a very young age and so associated the feeling of the chain around the ankle with not being able to move far.
In coaching and training mindfulness, the big theme is anxiety, stress, feeling not good enough, over-stretched and overwhelmed. Some of the cause of this is our lifestyle, some disposition and some of it conclusions or beliefs we have made about the world early on in our life. This last cause is like a tethering to a smaller more vulnerable version of ourselves.
Our own body/emotion/mental system remembers and recalls every unpleasant experience in order that we not repeat it! What makes us anxious at four years of age is not likely to scare us at 45, but unless we deal with our ‘tethering’, it is the four year old within us that decides what to avoid and what is dangerous. The four year old version of ourselves did not have the resources nor the ability to access the perspectives of a 45 year old. What we conclude about ourselves and the world at four will be our programming unless we break the tethering.
It is important to remember that this tethering has a noble intent, it is stored information to protect us – it is a service for our survival.
When we realize this fear is no longer the enemy, it is a message or a perception (and neuroception) of danger. And what is the obvious response to this messenger? Gratitude and curiosity followed by caution or courage, depending on the situation.
We notice our tethering in the body, we greet it with appreciation and curiosity, not asking ‘why’ but ‘what’ and ‘where is it experienced in the body’? Through greeting the little messenger with appreciation and gratitude, we imbue it with new associations that lessen the charge.
Changing our tethering is not a revolution, it is a slow process of transformation where life is our teacher. We cannot go to a retreat or workshop, nor read a book or article that sorts it all out. We can however, access the tools and cultivate the attitude that will guide us in wisdom and kindness to no longer be as beholden to our survival drive. In this way, we gradually increase the moments of space and grace and of freedom.