Updated: Jun 15
The body moves at its own pace. And we can learn to move with it.
There’s a quote from Lao Tzu, the ancient philosopher and founder of Taoism, that I think of often:
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
When I think of this quote, I notice both a settling in my core that is tremendously reassuring AND I am aware that a part of me feels it must split from my center and rush ahead. To skip ahead of what’s unknown between now and whatever my soul feels wishes to be accomplished.
Productivity Culture Strikes Again
Despite our being of nature, we are conditioned to align ourselves with production. Even when it comes to healing, we often expect that because we know something in us needs remedy or support, it should therefore be done at that very moment.
But organic change, especially when it comes to matters of the subconscious, takes time. Our system - all the different parts of us - must learn to trust the change and recognize it as safe enough, or even beneficial. This is deep work that is not just intellectual, but somatic, spiritual even. Our subconscious must be on board.
Otherwise, change, even if generally “healing,” can feel jarring, overwhelming, laborious, or even immobilizing. We are stuck between the parts of us that believe we “should” and the parts of us that are certain we “simply cannot.”
While our “should” parts are focused on the future, our “ cannot” parts often struggle to imagine how we can possibly get there. And without the capacity to imagine, we can struggle to embody courage, creativity, and other qualities that mobilize us.
Titration: A Little Bit at a Time
Titration is a key element of somatic and trauma therapy in which we expose ourselves to our things that overwhelm or trigger us a little bit at a time.
Titration recognizes that we are more likely to have space for our experience, to succeed in evolving, if we can dip our toes into the water on our own terms; slowly, as though at first only testing the temperature.
When I think of the word titration I remember the pipettes we had to use in high school chemistry. As the scientists-in-charge, we would squeeze out only a certain amount of the liquid, based on the experiment instructions.
I also think about my Yoga Teacher Training, where my beloved teacher would often invite us to “seed” ideas in our minds and our bodies, to imagine that our bodies could play with the more challenging asanas rather than avoiding trying all together.
Seeding ideas is like trying on the gray area for size. Opening the door to imagination and possibility. Before anything else, recognizing and actively choosing to set aside our either-or, all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking and embodiments.
Pendulation: Going Back and Forth
Once we’ve planted the seeds or felt the temperature of the water (choose the metaphor that works for you) we can practice pendulating (like a pendulum) between our titrated experience and a resource that helps us feel safe, stable, and secure.
The resource then becomes a touch point that we can return to. We practice using the resource over and over again, so that it becomes more accessible to us, more second nature.
Pendulating back and forth between our titrated exposure and a resource helps our body build tolerance for the distress we might experience when exposed to the thing we were overwhelmed by or avoiding in the first place.
We learn to trust that we can experience it, but that we can also remove ourselves from that experience. That we have choice. And once we know that we have that mobility, sometimes our relationship to the initial stressor itself even changes.
We can choose to expose ourselves to a little more, or for a little longer, little by little, until we feel less helpless and more mastery in the situation.
Or, in some cases, more comfortable with our helplessness. More human in our incapacity. Perhaps the practice actually becomes bringing the resource with us so that we can stay in the exposure longer; we can stay in the exposure and feel safe enough.
Because the truth is, although we can grow our capacity to hold more in our lives, we cannot and aren’t meant to master or tolerate everything. The sensations that accompany overwhelm exist for a reason.
The overarching practice here is truly one of discernment.
Do I have the resources to be with my experience here? Is it possible for me to expand my capacity? Is it ok for me to stay where I am? What am I open to trying or experimenting with? How do my past experiences shape my present experience? What implications do my identities have in what I decide?
I think when we can admit that we are humans with limitations, when we can commit to ongoing Self-inquiry, then we do not have to be perfect, we do not have to be healed, we do not have to be done.
Titration and pendulation are tools to use in specific situations, but life in and of itself replicates this back and forth dance.
If we could zoom out we might even see the pendulum less as movement between two distinct points, but instead evolving in a cyclical way. Deepening and deepening, like a spiral staircase without an end.
Accomplishing, yet in no hurry.
Photo by Pixabay