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Steadying Through the Storm



"If you are evolving in consciousness, you are involved in revolution."


In the Covid 19 pandemic early days, I had a lot of time on my hands, as my practice was closed for about 3 months. It allowed me to do some things I hadn’t had time for previously, like begin to learn the ukulele, and take some online workshops that caught my eye.  I took one such workshop with a woman named Dereca Blackmon, and it was about spiritual allyship.  During the workshop she spoke the words above, which I made note of because they rang like a gong in my psyche. This idea aligns very much with what I know from Alchemical acupuncture, which is the work I have loved and studied for nearly 20 years, with my teacher, Lorie Dechar.


Alchemy As an Evolutionary Process

Alchemy includes the premise that our outer work, whatever we love and do, has to be matched by our own inner work. What I know to be true is that I can only work with a patient to the degree that I have done that work myself, or else I am swimming in uncharted waters and will likely be less effective, and certainly, less grounded. In a sense, that would be like hiring a tour guide who has never visited the city they are taking you through - good for discovering things together, poor for being an anchor and providing cues and helpful information. When I hold this as a foundational truth, It now becomes incumbent for me to continue to do the work of getting to know myself more deeply; my triggers, my joys, places where I could still use some evolution, parts of me that are still holding older stories that shape how I respond to other people and my environment, whatever is getting in the way of the fullest expression of who I am.


In my Alchemical community, we often say that inner work leads to outer change.  I think this idea is held by a number of spiritual traditions, and basically comes down to this: tend to your own garden. As the world gets more challenging, many of us are running in a state of high alert, one wrong word or a car cutting us off can lead to completely losing our cool. But what happens if we become mindful of the energy we put out into our day-to-day world? This truly can be a revolutionary act, and one that takes a kind of willingness to tune in, hold ourselves accountable, but at the same time, also offer ourselves some grace. It also likely means that mistakes will happen, We will blow it, but then we can get ourselves current by being willing to make repairs with whomever we need to, whenever we need to. Easier said than done, to be sure.


Co-Regulation

I know in an embodied way that nervous systems actually resonate with each other; this is called Co-regulation, and it is one of the foundational pieces of Polyvagal Theory, developed by Stephen Porges in the mid-1990’s. This process begins when we have caregivers early in life who are responsive to our needs and offer us a stable and steady nervous system to attune with; we need this engagement and support, over time, to begin to learn how to slowly self-regulate. You can witness this happening when you watch a caregiver attend to the needs of a baby with a conscious, loving presence. This attentive behavior is sending sensory input into the baby’s nervous system that helps them to be soothed and to calm down, and in the best of cases, we slowly take ownership of that process as we grow and develop.


This is also why early developmental trauma can be so destabilizing for our nervous system- we never truly embed the ability to tune into the state of our nervous system and then do what we need to do to shift into a more regulated state, if needed. But the good news is that our nervous system is adaptable, available and responsive, and that we can learn to co-regulate and self soothe at any time, with patience and intention. I see this process of co-regulation play out nearly every day in my office, when I can feel my patient on the table begin to settle and drop down into a more regulated state when I offer a calm and steady presence, with my words, deeds and touch.  It's part of what drew me to acupuncture, from my very first experience of it, the quality of that deep, restful, present stillness it can offer. And on the flip side, I have felt myself begin to get agitated when a patient comes in with intense anger or grief, and then my own work is about trying to stay stable and centered- stay tethered to myself while supporting them and the big feelings they are holding.


Steadying Through the Storm

I am joining with two friends of mine to teach a virtual workshop in October, 2024, and we are naming it “Steadying Through the Storm.” This was named with purpose; we are heading into our next election, in the middle of a war in the Middle East, in a worsening climate, with the loss of rights we have long held true or those we are still fighting for, in the midst of all the ups and downs of our own lives. This is truly a tempestuous time. In my own practice, there have been many days when a patient of mine and I will talk about the growing sense of unease in the world, and how to hold steady through it all. Sometimes my answers seem too facile, even to me, but in the end all I know is that what I can work with is how I show up in the world, each day. How do I treat the people around me, how can I work on myself to be less un-regulated and reactive, how can I tune into the fact that my energy affects those around me in ways that multiply ease or multiply tension?  Some days it is the only thing I feel like I have any modicum of control over. It allows me to engage everyday with the real, good, visceral work of knowing myself more deeply, a meaningful kind of cultivation that can have a ripple effect in my world.


How does this land for you, as you read it? What is true for you? What has been helpful in regulating your nervous system? I welcome your comments!
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Guest
Jul 01

Thank you Kate. These words were quite soothing to my soul. Washed over me like the calming feelings I receive when I am on the table with you. I appreciate your attentive nature and ability to remain stable amongst the ebbs and flows you face daily. Tending to my own garden is truly the guidance we should all be nourishing at all times. It is so easy to be influenced by others around us and lose track of our purpose and way especially in these tumultuous times. Thank you for this post and your healing work. You are definitely a bright ray of consciousness in this revolution.


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I really appreciate your taking the time to read and comment, and I love the connection you made to the calming feelings you experience when on my table…..so glad to know it lands that way for you. It’s good work, that garden-tending, and here is to continuing to know what is ours and what is not ours to hold, over time! Blessings~

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