Imagine you are walking through the Sahara desert. Your body is in a relaxed state, normal breathing, leisurely enjoying the scenery.
Suddenly you spot a tiger. Your breathing quickens, your heart rate accelerates. You have identified a potential threat.
And then the tiger runs toward you and your body automatically goes into the sympathetic nervous system: fight, flight, freeze. Waste is disposed, we get a sick feeling in our stomach, our appetite is altered.
These are the times in life when the safety of our home and family is threatened. These are the times when our business or farm animals are threatened. When our livelihood is at stake. The “tiger” could be a natural storm or a man-made storm. The “tiger” could be a robbery, an abusive relationship, a car accident.
When a tiger is chasing you it is NOT the time to think about breathing and “staying calm” and finding your inner yogi. It is time to strategize, to outthink the threat, to use our energy to protect what we hold dear.
It is time to get to safety, to do what you need to do to get away from the tiger.
Once you are safe, then repair your energy stores. Nourish your body with food and your mind with words. Exhale and heal and procreate and recreate.
Sometimes we are more in sympathetic. (Fight, flight, freeze.)
Sometimes we are more in parasympathetic. (Rest and digest.)
Both have a purpose, neither are innately harmful.
Thoughts (observations from what I see):
Do we see tigers with bared fangs when perhaps it’s simply a stuffed animal? I look in my past and see that this is true for me, and many students of mine. Constantly on the lookout for threats that never materialize. This is anxiety and a daily meditation practice can help.
[for more, read Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers]