The second phase of the Inspired Evolution Project takes us into a deeper understanding of the rest-and-digest state of consciousness. This next section is also presented to help you become aware of how to recognize a shift from the primal fight-or-flight / rest-and-digest states of consciousness and into something more purely human, something more grounded and fulfilling.
To understand thoughts, feelings, emotions, your perception of yourself and the world around you are the result of a chemical release and not the cause is the most powerful tool I can give you. I’ll repeat this time and again to drive the message home.
About ninety percent of the people who have been exposed to this information – nearly everyone who is not clinically trained on the subject – think they understand it and some do but many don’t. The issue is; if you think you do, but you don’t, you won’t be able to shift the experience.
Most of us are clear on the experiences of threat, but rest-and-digest can be subtle. How does one describe the absence of threat, particularly the absence of a perceived threat? The rest-and-digest state—what I often refer to as safety and well-being or surviving state—is as simple as an interruption of the fear that triggers fight-or-flight.
While in rest-and-digest, the body is quite literally at rest. The immune, allergic response and central nervous systems all become active again. Serotonin is released through our digestive system and we feel better, but we need to understand that serotonin is not the ‘feel-good chemical’ we perceive it to be. It is the chemical of safety and well-being. I often refer to serotonin as the ‘I’m not dying’ chemical and it does feel good. Not dying feels much better than dying.
Rest-and-digest is most commonly felt in the digestive system, but it is a whole-body experience. Your stomach may begin to growl, you might feel your breath become more even or your muscles relax, these are the obvious results of serotonin production. You might experience more flexibility of thought, less rigidity. The reactive mind becomes more interactive, more willing to hear options or consider alternative methods.
The resulting consciousness of this neurotransmitter is a more relaxed state and for many of us, the feeling of rest-and-digest might be the best we’ve ever felt. However, we should all understand, it is a state of surviving, but it is not thriving.
Our body can experience some recovery from the potentially damaging effects excess amounts of both norepinephrine and epinephrine can cause. The problem is, when we experience stressed states on a regular ongoing basis, we are doing damage at a faster rate than the body can heal. We feel better, but the systems are not necessarily at peak performance. It is not natural for us to trigger fight-or-flight on a regular basis. This should only be happening under threat of imminent death.
Another common side effect of primal survival mechanisms is a tendency to overthink or try to ‘figure things out,’ to reason through problems. You might still judge in a rest-and-digest state, but it can feel more like discernment. We think, “If I could just understand why things will be alright.” You might feel more connected to others around you, more tolerance, more peace of mind, but you will lack the enthusiasm of more advanced mental states.
More than feeling empowered, this is where we want to be soothed and placated, to be in the place that feels comfortable and familiar, so it still has its boxes. It is not a state of enlightenment. It is simply the relief of suffering. Everything feels a little less charged. Instead of love or hate, feelings are relatively neutral. It is the ‘I’m not dying’ experience of life, ‘I’m not dying, but I’m not thriving either. I’m just surviving.’
Primal rest-and-digest states create safety for us by trying to keep everything familiar. Through confirmation bias, it excludes anything the brain might perceive as a threat, even if it is something we need to see. They also keep us in unchangeable tribes, by creating attraction toward the familiar. This is why we might follow the same destructive patterns or be drawn to relationships that don’t move us forward.
Primal mechanisms worked for us once, but at seven-and-a-half billion people, it is impossible to prevent change. Therefore, the rest-and-digest state of consciousness is not enough for us anymore. It keeps us vulnerable to trigger. With any shift of the tide, we are likely to return to a fight-or-flight state and the stress it creates.
Repeated triggers of the fight-or-flight response create-or at least sustain-the condition of having an enlarged amygdala. When the amygdala is enlarged, we end up sensitive to trigger and continue to suffer overactive fight-or-flight responses. It is a vicious cycle that is destroying our bodies. The constant triggering and bounce back and forth between fight-or-flight and rest-and-digest creates inconsistency for the body, leaving it no real pattern to follow. Creating peak homeostasis requires a more stable state, more balance.
Because of its obviously vulnerable state, moving from a fight-or-flight response to a true state of safety and well-being is not our end goal. It is only the beginning. It is only Phase One. It is the first step we must take in the process. Again, it is not possible to become centered during a fight-or-flight response. We must first feel safe before we can become centered. So this relief of suffering is where we want to begin, but it is not where we want to land.
The goal of this first book can be summarized in one, simple sentence. We must become adept at turning off the fight-or-flight response, so we can move into more advanced, more human brain function. If we can deactivate this trigger, we will immediately feel better and with the relief, we will also gain the capacity to take our next step and this next step is as critical as the first. It is necessary to develop a consciousness where our systems are fully on, stimulating a healthy state of regeneration.
In the same way Phase One taught us to trigger a rest-and-digest state of consciousness at will, Phase Two of the program is designed to now move beyond rest-and-digest and into a more mature, more balanced experience of life by use of the same willful intent. I will give you suggestions of recognized practices to stimulate the prefrontal cortex. You can choose those that work best for you or even spark a desire to create your own. There is only one hard rule on this journey. We must find the practices that cause a shift in our consciousness.
We want to finally move the body out of primal homeostasis and into human homeostasis. This is an act of modifying cycles carved into our DNA. Simply understanding the change will not produce the change. It will take your effort, but it is a thing the brain craves, so if you elicit the correct kind of effort, it will respond quickly. As we do this, we have the opportunity to come into the full understanding of a thriving state of consciousness as our natural state of consciousness. This is the design of our mind, the way we are meant to exist.
If you are suffering at all, you are not using your consciousness to its full potential. Again, this is not a failing or even your fault. It is a condition of our species, and the transition humans are currently making to separate ourselves from animal mechanisms, a transition that takes us from being merely sentient beings to existing as beings who consciously participate in their evolution.
The good news is; if you are already adept at mindful practices, you’ll have the opportunity to move through the next phase of our process quickly. If you are not yet skilled at healthy relief of suffering, it is what you are about to learn.
There are many ways for us to achieve a more evolved state of consciousness. I have a list of options, along with some practice logs in the next section of this book. These suggestions have come from hundreds of participants along with established scientific testing. They are the culmination of information from science, from medicine, from psychology, education and from people who have suffered conditions similar to something you might be feeling, people who have been able to break the patterns of both the fight-or-flight and rest-and-digest states.
Wherever you are today, wherever you begin, you are not at fault for your condition. You are not broken. You don’t need to be fixed. You are simply living the best life you can from the DNA you were dealt, the childhood you experienced, the decision you made from that limited information, and what you know today. Every dysfunctional thing we do we do to feel safe.
This is your beginning, where you are today. You are making the best life you possibly can from the resources you have now and because you are reading this book, you are a person who is obviously willing to make life better. You have probably tried every way you know to improve your experience of living. Your commitment is what will ensure your success.
By the end of this book, you should be able to recognize your experience at a whole new level, what chemical you are producing to create it and how to improve both.