If you are in survival mode or ruled by the emotions of survival when you eat, there is no energy in your digestive system to absorb and assimilate nutrients. With energy tied up elsewhere, there's nothing left to manage and organize the inputs. This leads to digestive distress, indigestion, bloating, irritable bowel, etc. Taking time before you eat to give yourself the energy that you need is a beautiful and transformative thing. A daily practice. Because food is about 25% of what you're eating and 75% of who you're be-ing when you eat it.
We have 2 branches of the nervous system. One branch is known as "fight, flight, or freeze" or the sympathetic nervous system. This branch is meant to keep us alive. That's why it's called survival mode. This is a very important part of us and should be celebrated! And used sparingly...
Not only is it not useful to have it switched on at meal time, it can cause all kinds of chaos and disorder in general when it is left switched on unnecessarily. Because when you are running, freezing or fighting for your life, it is not a time to eat and digest food or sleep or create or heal or repair or replenish. It's a time to run, fight, or freeze. And that takes a lot of energy.
It takes an enormous amount of energy to run for your life. Or to fight with everything you've got. And all that energy is going to our muscles, to our extremities, leaving zero energy left for digestion.
Nine times out of ten when I'm giving someone a massage, releasing stored energy from their muscles, their stomach begins to rumble. Now that their nervous system is switched over to rest and digest through caring touch and safe quarters, there's no emotion of survival running the show, there's nowhere to go and no one to be and now they have energy to use for healing, repair, sleep, digestion, immunity, cleansing. They're not mad, afraid or worried and all of their systems come back online with a clear signal.
As long as they stay in the energy of rest and digest, they will get the very most out of that next meal.
More lasting than the stressful or traumatic event (traffic, confrontation, deadline, overwhelm, altercation) is the emotion that we're left with. Isn't it interesting that all stresses end in emotional stress? This is the part that we need to pay attention to and presence to integrate. If we haven't integrated the emotions of whatever caused us to be in survival mode or whatever we're left feeling afterwards then:
We're left still feeling the fear after a trauma or stress.
We're left still feeling the worry of if it'll happen again.
We're left still feeling the anger or guilt or shame that it happened at all.
This memorized emotion gets stuck in our bodies, consumes and ties up an incredible amount of energy - energy that could be used for deep rest and digestion.
Unlearning memorized emotions is paramount to spending more time in peace, love, harmony, gratitude, and order - emotions of a coherent heart and integrated nervous system. Unlearning memorized emotions liberates energy - energy you can use to increase your vitality, repair, restore, replenish and optimize the systems of the body like your digestive system.
That may sound like it's a whole other blog post but remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Adding in a long pause before a meal to bring your mind, body and soul into alignment reminds you that this is now and that was then. Adding in a feeling of appreciation for what IS in this Now moment is the way. Now is a perfect time to start.
Before you eat, can you take time to switch your nervous system over to the parasympathetic branch, affectionately known as "rest and digest?"
Here's a simple recipe for switching out of surivival mode and into safety mode before you eat so that you have enough energy to absorb, assimilate, process, filter, and eliminate in perfect order.
First: Take 5 long, slow breaths in and out of your nose for a count of 5. In for 5, pause, out for 5, 5 times. No one that was being chased or fighting for their life would have time to breath deeply and completely. This sends the signal to your brain that you're safe and it's time to switch modes.
Second: Actually tell yourself that you're safe to eat. "I am safe." "All is well in this moment." "I am grateful that I have food, that I get to eat." "My body is blessed by this food." "Thank you."
Third: Feel thankful. Take a moment before you eat and bring your hand to your heart, activating that loving, caring touch. Take a full breath into the sensation of your hand, breathe into your heart space. Load up an elevated feeling, one of gratitude and appreciation. This is not just thinking, but feeling. Tune into the vibration of thankfullness. Let it overflow from your heart space and spill over into the pathways of your digestive tract and beyond. Don't rush it. People often get uncomfortable with feelings. Right when you want to hurry through it, can you stay just a few moments longer? Like a volume button, can you turn it up 1 or 2 more notches?
Fourth: Once you've changed your energy and are now in a grateful, calm, relaxed state of being... Enjoy! Savor it, chew slowly, chew with a smile, stay with the feeling while your eyes are open while you eat, stay present and know that you are going to get the most out of this meal. This is you enjoying your food and working with your own energy to nourish yourself.
Adding in the breath with an intentional message that says "I'm safe" coupled with a genuine, elevated heart feeling of true gratitude for your life is a recipe for deep nourishment.
We get to eat every day. And every day, multiple times a day, it's an opportuntiy for us to forget who we're not (our problems, memorized emotions of the past) and remember who we are (pure, loving awareness incarnated in a human body). We're here to enjoy!
So you can relax. And say thank you. And feel grateful for your life and all that IS.
Because a meal is so much more than food. ♡