Grow in Aliveness

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How do we Grow in Aliveness? How do we shape the Invitation that our Life unfolds in? How does our Aliveness touch the Aliveness which surrounds us?

Feel it. It is very SIMPLE. Sometimes too simple. It lays us bare – to ourselves. We may see our relationship to Aliveness, our Aliveness, in ways that are not always comfortable. Sometimes we live in a Way that is NOT of Aliveness. Sometimes the quality of our “lives” is driven by a set of values to which Aliveness becomes quite peripheral. The consequences to the Aliveness in and around us are more obvious than we often dare notice.

If we pay attention then the Nature of living in a Way NOT of Aliveness reveals itself to us. More than labeling, we start noticing, tasting, feeling.

Aliveness is something very tender, very beautiful, strong and wise inside of us. AND it is vulnerable. It grows in kindness, in gentleness and in the strong containment of a Sacred Perimeter wisely, firmly, and, when necessary, even fiercely established.

Many of us did not grow in the kind of gentleness and protection that a healthy mammal would provide its offspring. We were exposed quite young and often under-nourished in the quality of sustained contact and connection that humans and all mammals naturally grow and thrive in. The requisites that allow people to “have children” do not necessarily provide children with functionally competent parents. Traditionally that required initiation.

So we wait for this quality of connection. We seek it. We yearn for it, or we give up on it, after opening repeatedly and then being wounded by others who are wounded. We may conclude that we don’t deserve it or that this world somehow doesn’t allow it. When we notice the ways we look outside ourselves for this fulfillment, we discover the ways that our Sense of Aliveness still seeks to complete earlier, yet incomplete, stages of our development.

Many of us learned a way of numbing and soothing, hoping, waiting, and wanting rather than sensing, feeling, and connecting from sensed intelligence and our natural desire for relationship with our own parents and intimates.

Homo sapiens sapiens, the Latin name for our species, points to a hominid with sapience, which comes from the Latin sapere: “to know wisely, to taste.” Yes, to taste. A homo sapiens sapiens not only has the capacity for wisdom, but the capacity to taste wisdom, which is way-finding. We orient by tasting with our entire sense-able being.

This requires developing our capacity to sense and to come into sense-able relationship with Aliveness, starting with our own. We first learn to sense in the connection of our mothers’ arms, breasts, chest, heartbeat and gaze. We learn to attune, to read with our senses and, thus, our capacities for sapience grow, connect and unfold in the dance of mother-child attunement.

Without that connection with our mothers we ache, we cry… If left in our cribs to cry alone for long enough, without the maternal response that even a mouse gives her little ones then we learn to adapt to non-responsive mothering and parenting.

We numb, we tone down and deaden our aliveness, our yearning to connect, to suckle, to bond and grow in connection.
We no longer express our longing when our expression provokes anger, shame and withdrawal from the mother we long for.

When this is repeated frequently, we become immune to our own
sense of longing. We perceive our own sense-ability as a threat both to ourselves, and to our few, and often fleeting, moments of connection with those who “love” us. Dr. Allan N. Schore has written extensively about the developmental consequences of this kind of misattunement.

The natural desires that have guided mammals into the safety of our mothers’ closeness now become a threat – leading us into the perimeter of a person who is stressed-out, exhausted and challenged to accommodate the urgency of our unmet needs in her struggle to address her own. Generally, these patterns are multi-generational and stressed out parents are as confused by what’s happening to them as their children are. Few of us imagine that what is so typical of “modern” life is a very, very strange way of being human, or even mammal. But it is.

This is an amazing compilation of hundreds of medical studies exploring the stunning biological, biochemical, psychological, neurological and emotional harmonics of the mother-child bond, and how our entire being is patterned, at all levels, by our experiences of attunement, and misattunement.

Without the containment of a maternal welcome by a mother who is also contained in the womb of her People and afforded the Sacred Space and Support to nurture the next generation of People, we learn to navigate a relational reality where we are going to have to somehow “steal” our connective moments, no matter how impoverished, how momentary, how fleeting. We become demanding. “Terrible twos” describes a two-year old who has been systematically frustrated for two years and who is struggling to complete developmental steps before the next episode of synaptic pruning occurs.

What is synaptic pruning?

Nerve cells are very “costly,” metabolically and energetically, to maintain. Newborns have far more nerve cells than we have as adults. Neural structures and connections that could potentially develop, but are not being used due to lack of stimulation and use, get reabsorbed by the body. They disappear, along with the human capacities which they could have supported, had they been awakened. Synaptic and neural pruning happens throughout life but with pronounced bursts at ages 2, 4, 7, 12 and between 16 and 25 years of age.

If biologically-appropriate connection and, most importantly, affect regulation, are not provided, we learn to stifle our desire for connection, when our cries for connection are treated as irritating, annoying, “troublesome.” We, literally, grow up at odds with ourselves, developing a whole neurology that perceives our own natural responses as self-threatening and then dampening our own dopamine circuits, which cause a sense of joy – but also a desire for connecting with those who are close to us.

Is it any surprise that there’s an epidemic of depression throughout “Western” culture hand-in-hand with addiction?

If our primary bond is to a machine, like so many children raised during many hours per day of television, then we adapt to that. We are several generations into a “humanity” raised in a way where the primary stimulus is corporate television and “children’s videos.” We are giving corporations direct programming access to our children’s neurologies. If our natural expressions of desire for connection are not responded to in a healthy way that is coherent with our nature as children in development then, instead of sensing, we learn to ignore. We learn to master disconnection, incoherence, impotence, frustration, self-sabotage, inconsequence and generating dramas to “steal” moments of interpersonal interaction.

We become “good persons” or “bad persons.” Person comes from the Latin persona: “mask.” Whether “good” or “bad,” we wear the mask, and get rewarded for our ability to ignore, to lay in our cribs staring at the ceiling for hours without bothering our mothers for the connection our full development requires, to spend hours a day in the blue light of the television and computer monitor. We develop parallel capacities far from our Bio-Logical and evolutionary norm.

We become homo ignorans ignorans, cute little hominids totally estranged from our design, desire, and developmental requirements for connection. We master video games instead of mutual attunement, for example.

We replace desire with wanting. What we desire we can’t have: not as much as a homo sapiens sapiens would require, at least. So instead we want. We want candy. We want to watch TV. We want to play video games; anything to soothe and distract us from our underlying desire, which we have already learned will not be fulfilled except in token moments of connection. Our attempts at connection lead to frustration. At least with a video game we get a rush of dopamine with every “zombie” we kill.

Some kind of fulfillment does exist, and we get it from machines. “Like” the joke I shared on Facebook and I’ll post more things for you to “like.” Maybe I’ll even have a couple hundred “friends,” few of whom I ever see, as we’re all too busy “liking” each other on Facebook to actually see each other’s faces.

When I lived in Argentina I helped a loved one with her five-and-dime store on the main street of a little town in Buenos Aires. Every evening a group of men in their forties would meet and spend the evening together into the wee hours of the morning. They rarely spoke, each one busy with their “smartphones” throughout the evening. Then the football (soccer) game would come on and they watched it. All bright individuals. It amazed me to observe their desire for connection with each other and avoidance at the same time; each face lit up by the light of their own smartphones.

Systematic frustration of childhood development generates the perfect neurology for consumers, for addicts and for life-long intellectual, psychological and economic dependents. We are deep into becoming a people whose neurological organization does not allow self-led, creative engagement with the world and yet perfectly adaptable to predictable and constant manipulation.

As Dr. Gabor Mate says so brilliantly, “there is nothing as addictive as something that almost satisfies.”  Take a moment and notice how “almost-satisfying” plays out in your experience.

There is a Way of Aliveness for babies in the womb, for newborns, for infants, for children, for young adults, for mothers and fathers, for elders, for those who Change Shapes and Nourish the Peoples who have Nourished their People.

There is also a Way of Sense-LESS-Ness, the Way of the homo ignorans ignorans, looking for distractions from the sense-LESS-ness he can’t quite escape from, not quite… but almost… and there’s nothing quite as addictive as anything that helps us almost escape from our sense-LESS-ness. Your next shopping spree will offer you a thousand possibilities that almost satisfy… almost…

How clever…

I do not refer to “homo ignorans ignorans” with any intention to insult, but to point to something very precise: this amazing tendency to not only ignore, but to also ignore that we are ignoring, rather insistently, that pervades so much of “modern” monoculture worldwide. I have said for years now that the right I see most passionately and vehemently defended is the right to remain ignorant.

But it goes far further than that: our very capacity to see colors, for example, is plummeting due to the limited palette of colors available on screens. I am not moralizing. I am pointing out something that is physiological, neurological, biological and structural. The last six years have convinced me of one thing: the bulk of humanity has diverged so far from our natural, Life-Logical course, that it is becoming a very different species.

The German Psychological Institute has conducted a twenty-year study of 4000 children per year, children who have watched the average 5000 to 6000 hours of television by the age of six. Researchers found that twenty years ago young people could distinguish between 360 different shadings of a single color category like red or blue. Today it’s down to about 130. That’s over a 2/3 loss of their ability to detect shadings of color. Now, this is strictly a neuro-cognitive breakdown. The most serious change they uncovered was a breakdown of the brain’s ability to cross index its whole kinesthetic/sensory system. That is, more and more children’s sensory systems are acting as isolated components in the brain and less and less as coordinated whole gestalts.

When they placed the young test subject in a natural environment that had no high-density stimuli, such as come from television, they grew very anxiety-ridden, bored and tended toward violence. The final disturbing finding of the German study is that there has been over the same twenty-year period, a 20% reduction in the children’s awareness of their natural environment. This fits right in with Marcia Mikulac’s studies in the 80s on evolution, where she discovered a 20 to 285% reduction in American children’s ability to bring in environmental sensory signal as opposed to that of children from pre-literate, non-technological societies. So, the German studies back up what we’ve already known about the desensitization of children who are exposed to the inappropriate stimuli from sources such as television, rock music and computers.

Joseph Chilton Pearce, An Interview with JOSEPH CHILTON PEARCE, by Chris Mercogliano and Kim Debus from JOURNAL OF FAMILY LIFE magazine, Vol. 5 #1 1999

We are reshaping our neurology into what I call an “abbreviated human,” the “H.R.”; a human resource – a human whose neurology is being scientifically shaped and managed to make him useful to his corporate-governmental taskmasters, and almost useless to himself, her children, and their Living World.

Beyond these words what I’m pointing to is obvious.

There is a Way of Aliveness. Our Aliveness shows it to us, invites us to it. We have to dare to sense our Desire for Aliveness, to allow ourselves to FEEL again, to respond to, validate and integrate our sensing, rather than shutting ourselves down, censoring our feeling, or defending ourselves from our own sense-ability.

If we were raised being rewarded for our capacity to replace our desire for connection to Aliveness with a connection to television, junk food and endless distraction, taking the Way of Aliveness can be challenging. But it’s a beautiful challenge; one that invites us to realize ourselves fully rather than ignore ourselves and our world.

This challenge can be taken with kindness, gentleness and spaciousness; the kind a connected and loving mother or father offers her and his little ones. We can make this offering to ourselves; the offering of connection.

The greatest challenge is feeling again. We are designed to feel, and to move in the direction of Truly-Enlivening-Connection, not ignore, numb and deaden ourselves and each other. When we allow ourselves to feel, we may feel plenty of what we were shamed for feeling as infants and young children, and learned to hide, or numb, or “act out,” or “act adult,” but as an act, as a mask, instead of feeling in the fullness of adult capacity and response-ability.

It is common to judge and shame ourselves for “childish feelings.” Most of us have long ago internalized our mothers’ and fathers’ shame, guilt and blame, so we blame ourselves for feeling a whole range of perfectly natural, normal feelings that seek connection.

There is no blaming here. Functional family life intentionally gets disrupted as a very essential part of conquering a people and enslaving them, making them “useful” to their new masters. In Europe this happened several thousands years ago and it is ongoing.

There’s a whole dimension of attention that is far more expansive than defending, accusing, or ignoring. We can begin paying attention to what WE, individually, do for and to ourselves. As we grew up with our parents, we internalized their ways of relating to us.

We are not simply isolated individuals. We are patterned. We adapt. We have grown and been shaped in response to our experiences, starting with our experiences with our mothers, our parents and our siblings. No other experience or relationship has the power to shape us so profoundly.

Aliveness Grows in a Way of Aliveness – however much or little of it we grow in – we grow into what we experience. If that experience is staring at TV throughout childhood, THAT is the neurology we grow.

In People who raise their young in a manner that is coherent with their developmental design, what I call “a People,” with a capital P, adolescents get initiation precisely to avoid spreading trauma and imbalance intergenerationally. A People have a community of fully-developing children, adults and elders to contain, guide and support them as they bring a new generation into the People. Our sense of “People,” was decimated at conquest and then underwent assault as our wise people were called witches and tortured, raped and murdered in the most horrible ways. Natural ways of healing and becoming whole, individually and as People, were long forbidden, until they were entirely forgotten.

Most of us have long forgotten what our People called themselves, their language, their Places of Initiation, their very specific, regional homeland, etc.

Our parents had children. But for homo sapiens sapiens to grow into actual sapience – the wisdom-that-tastes, we require the presence of a sustained, constant connection with a mother who is sense-able, who is supported and who has also integrated her own ancestral, relational patterning. It is not enough to “have” children. Children also require parents. Most of us were had, and we’ve been had ever since.

This is a spiritual failure. Remember, spiritual is breath, it’s the cycle. If parents “have children,” the other side of that equation is children “having parents,” competent ones, sense-able ones.

The crude reality is that many of our parents were sense-less; estranged from their own bodies and sapience in profound ways, and for many generations. With a little bit of attention, we may realize uncomfortable dynamics at play in our own lives, still awaiting connection and invitation. We can make that connection and invitation.

When the tribes of Europe got owned by the Romans they also got systematically brutalized into in-sense-ability. We got forced into “adopting ideas” instead of engaging sense-ably with our world. Sense-able people don’t let tyrants overrun them nor do they beg them for favors and “benefits” and tyrants don’t tolerate sense-able people who don’t tolerate tyrants.

In modern cultures, self-alienation and systematic brutalization of the whole continuum of normal human, even basic mammalian, upbringing is institutionalized. Our self-alienation is “scientifically implemented.” It’s calculated, literally, and perfectly predictable.

As a nursing student going through my obstetrics rotation, my professors told me to encourage new mothers to “let your babies cry. It’s good for them and stimulates their lung development.”

Many years later I lived in a number of villages in remote parts of Mexico with plenty of newborns and infants, none of whom ever cried. Their lung development didn’t seem to require hours of crying and screaming every day. That shocked me. I thought “babies cry.” I asked the mothers about this.

“Why would babies cry?” they asked me, looking at me as if that were the queerest notion. “Oh, yes, yes, yes, your babies cry all the time . Your young children always ask for attention and throw tantrums. We’ve noticed that. Your children have to cry and scream just to get their mothers’ attention. That is your way. It is not our way. Our children don’t spend their childhoods crying, screaming and throwing tantrums. And we don’t spend our motherhoods interfering, directing, interrupting and commanding them all the time. We know how children grow naturally. You people forgot that.”

There is much to learn by living with people who relate to each other in ways that don’t have their children crying and screaming constantly. This surprised me. There is much I took for granted about “humans” or “children” that were more revealing of our, and my, way of relating, and avoiding relating, than of the long continuum of bio-logically-attuned ways of being human.

We can begin to reconnect. We can learn to invite ourselves into the connection we have so often waited for or expected from others.

There is a Way of Aliveness. It’s not “out there.” It’s in us, in our Aliveness, in our sense-ability and our capacities to taste – not pretend, not explain, not describe, defend, accuse or offend. Our sense-able capacities awaken our capacity to Find Our Way to Aliveness. And it connects us to the Aliveness “out there,” which is the same Alivenesss as our own.

Something as simple as spending the day in a park or in the woods with trees and birds nourishes our nervous system with input that is natural; a full spectrum of colors, of sounds and of the coherent communication that Natural Aliveness engages in.

As a neuro-intensive care nurse who has traveled, taught and learned, around the world, in five different languages and a whole host of cultures, I’m often amazed at what I see happening with “normal” people; the quantity of beautiful people who are struggling in all kinds of ways, many with their feelings, and the profound relational and emotional challenges of navigating a world with neurologies that are challenged and undeveloped in surprising ways. As I became increasingly aware that, in teaching, I was seeing many of the same symptoms, behaviors and dynamics I had seen in head-injured patients with clients coming to “workshops,” or individual mentoring, I also became curious as to how many of those same dynamics were at play in me, as well.

Many of us are seeking relief from “conditions” that seem to “dog us.” What we are experiencing is not something that can be “exited” or “relieved;” it is our structure and our natural desire for connection. What we seek relief from is our very own incompletely-developed neurology – and I’m not just talking about our brains, I’m talking about the Life-Logical Intelligence that would naturally awaken the entirety of our Being into Coherent, Connective, Relational Intelligence.

Hand-in-hand with the neurological devastation I was discovering, I also learned how simple it is to reconnect and grow ourselves, literally, with and in the Design of our Intelligent Aliveness. This is something I have dedicated my entire life to exploring, studying, practicing and teaching.

I have never heard a parent say that they are NOT “doing the best they can.” But a child’s developmental requirements are not “doing the best you can,” no matter what that is. Sure, at least do that. But the modern “family” and “school” are disastrous in their impact on human development, and the consequences of such humans proliferating on this planet.

The Shapes of Our Aliveness desire to be Grow in Aliveness, not some facsimile.

There is a Living Language of Shaping to Aliveness. These Shapes Live in Us As Well.
When we CONNECT with the Shapes of Aliveness then we stimulate the Shapes of our own Aliveness to Grow. We are from this planet. We have grown here. Human adults have response-abilities to the Shapes of Aliveness inside of us and all around us.

As our spiritual approach becomes coherent with the Reality of our Aliveness; as the words we use to express our aspirations reflect our actual, Living Structure, we begin to support this growth in a very beautiful, simple, nurturing and connective manner. Growth occurs at the Speed of LIFE, one attention, one connection, one synapse, one neuron, one delightful experience at a time. WE learn to become that source of Connection, of Mothering our Welcome, and Fathering our Sacred Perimeter and Engagement with the World. We take our embodied Ancestry into a Way of Aliveness.

Both blame and forgiveness are misplaced: we move to reconnect, ourselves. We begin to SEE and KNOW that ALL of Life is adapted to its experience, as are we. We slowly and beautifully invite our cells into experiences that are more enlivening and vital, simple, rich. Simply. With the Power of Aliveness.

As we allow ourselves to feel, especially that which is “forbidden,” we feel the qualities of how we were related to that have become qualities of how we relate to ourselves, our children, our intimates, and our world. Taking the Way of Aliveness simply requires the will and permission to feel again, more and more of what we actually feel, in our bodies.

What we call “anger,” for example, is a feeling in our bodies. Instead of feeling the anger we learn to label it and then express that. Many people who express anger don’t feel the anger inside, with the full spectrum of their capacity to feel, inside themselves. Instead they react to their own anger and heap it upon those who are “close” to them, making them feel it.

When we were related to a certain way and then shut down because we felt and our parents didn’t want to feel what we were feeling with us, because they had also been shut down for feeling that way, we have anger. There’s a real, developmental need which we are designed to fulfill, but only develops in connection with the ones closest to us, especially our mothers.

A babysitter or daycare attendant can’t provide that; not even close. When those natural human needs do not get met in a child, that child is, in a very real and literal way, having to forego developing the structures that support that quality of connection. If s/he never learns to complete that development, those undeveloped structures will also not be stimulated in the next generation, because the mother and father don’t have the structures which support that connective capacity. Neural and synaptic pruning eventually eliminate those potential,yet unused structures, or only develop abbreviated versions of them, necessary to negotiate the relational dynamics of putting supper into the microwave and then gathering as a “family” in front of the television and making sideways comments, jokes… all good, but not very deep relating.

Jane Healey, in her book Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think and What We Can Do About It, speaks of how a neuro-anatomist studying brain tissue samples, from children from around the world who had died traumatically, was able to identify children from the United States, just by looking at brain tissue samples under a microscope. How?

The lack of neural complexity was in direct correlation to the amount of time children spent in front of television sets. That book was written in 1991. What I have seen living around the world over my entire life convinces me that, today, most of the children around the world would now display a similar lack of neural complexity due to a childhood spent staring at machines and developing neurologies shaped in machine-, not life-, logic.

And so it goes, blindly, from generation to generation. These relational neurological structures are foundational to our entire development. They evolve in sense-able beings, as all mammals have this basic maternal sense-ability now grossly absent in so many modern mothers.

When we allow ourselves to feel and embrace the feeling, in us, to feel deeply, without expressing (literally “pressing outward”) or creating drama in other people’s lives, new connections grow, literally, in us.

We begin to grow in Aliveness, literally.

Very Simple.

Aliveness is Simple. It doesn’t require a whole long textbook; it’s US. Our Aliveness Shows us the Way. We are confronted with the truth of whether we will act in favor of our Aliveness or not. Aliveness invites us to grow in feeling, in tasting the qualities, textures, pulsations and sensations of Our Very Own Aliveness. For many of us, with histories of physical and emotional abuse and abandonment, simple is not always easy; but we can make it much easier. We can do ourselves a kindness that’s enlivening, something gentle, connective. And tomorrow we can make another gentle invitation to ourselves. Our Living Structures love to grow in this kind of gentleness, and kindness. It can be as simple as stopping and really looking at the colors of the leaves and flowers on that bush we went by; to smell the roses, literally, to invite ourselves to connect to the Magnificence of Aliveness that surrounds us and also awaits our human connection, recognition, enjoyment and appreciation. We can begin to allow our felt experience instead of suppressing it, or expressing it into drama in other peoples’ lives.

Simple can be easy. So can offering ourselves the Kindness and Connection we’ve been longing for.

Gather Seeds, of Wisdom,

Which is Way-Finding,

That We May Find Our Way

To Grow In a Way of Aliveness!

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