Are You “Home Alone?”

The home in your heart…where mind and body touch one another.

Some of us have a nurturing and empowering home in our hearts.  It was built by our life experiences, in our early relationships.  As we became adults, that inner home gave us a strong foundation and safe refuge.  We can be alone, even under stress, without feeling disconnected.

And that makes us healthier.

“…strong relationships help build an internal regulatory system that modulates your stress response. In contrast, when those pathways haven’t been or are not being stimulated, that internal modulating system for stress weakens. And with ongoing isolation, the firing of your stress response increases, leading to a state of chronic stress. Chronic stress weakens the immune system, which ultimately leads to more illnesses of all kinds.”

The changes to your brain caused by the interaction between experiences, relationships and physical processes is called neuroplasticity.  It’s how the home in your heart is built.  And it affects your physical health as much as your emotional health.

If you had a stressful, disconnected, even traumatic life as a child, you lived with a constant flow of stress bio-chemicals.  That caused your brain to build more and stronger pathways to send and receive those biochemical stress messages.  Your brain became “hardwired” for high levels of stress bio-chemicals.  Stress became your default physical experience.

 “When trauma and abuse are a part of a person’s relational experience, then fear, distrust, and isolation are coded into the nervous system…These folks exist in a state of chronic disconnection that does not allow them to feel safe in any human connection. This can be lethal over time.”

When our inner world, the home in our heart, was built by that experience, we often feel alone, but we can’t find the connection we need.  We feel anxious, or angry, or hopeless.

For most of us, though, it’s not all one way or the other.  We may have a safe inner experience much of the time, but under stress, or in certain situations, the home in our heart becomes unsafe.  We don’t feel loved or even loveable.  We feel alone and disconnected, anxious and fearful.

Normal life stresses, like job changes that you can’t control, relationship conflicts, the death of a loved one –  even caregiving for a loved-one who is dying – these all cause measurable increases in stress bio-chemicals.  They can overwhelm our resources, and leave us “home alone”.  If left unchecked, the increases in stress results in unhealthy remodeling of our brain and nervous system.

And once that remodeling happens, stress bio-chemicals become the “default” biochemical wash.  Like drinking the water downstream from a toxic waste dump, your body experiences high levels of stress bio-chemicals daily.

Cancer.  Heart disease.  Stroke.  Diabetes. Your risk goes up as your stress bio-chemicals increase.

But here’s the good thing.  This is where meditation comes in.   You can put neuroplasticity to work for you.  You can nourish and grow the home in your heart, no matter how it was built or the mess it may be in now.

Just like your mind/brain interactions can send out more stress bio-chemicals, your mind/brain interactions can also release calming, healing bio-chemicals.  Your brain can build healthy new pathways, literally re-wire itself to reduce your stress reactivity, and give you a new default option.

Rewiring your brain takes work.  Exercise, relationships, thinking patterns – they all make a difference, but meditation is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to create that change.

And it’s totally under your control.

It’s easier to rebuild that nurturing home if you’re a believer, and if you feel safe with God.  You experience the connection, and realize you are never totally alone.

“Nothing before, nothing behind.
The steps of faith
Fall on the seeming void, and find
The rock beneath.”  (John Greenleaf Whittier)

Though maybe your belief about God had been poisoned with toxic waste too.  Then it might be scary.  You might want to meditate into a deeper truth.

But whether you believe or not, meditation helps your brain recover.  It’s how your body works.  Meditation bathes your brain in calming, soothing bio-chemicals – a nourishing “biochemical chicken soup”, instead of toxic waste.  And day by day, you begin to remodel your brain and build a safe and loving “home in your heart”.

The more you meditate, the more it helps.  The more you build a safe nourishing home inside, the more resilient you become – no matter what’s happening out in the world.   It’s a powerful way to mitigate the negative effects of stress.

Stress happens.  We had no control over it as kids.  We have more control as adults, but even with healthy lives and positive coping, we will all experience stress, sometimes very powerfully and painfully, and for long periods of time.

But now you can choose.  You can nourish your brain and body, even during times of painful stress.  You can heal and protect your brain by building a safe, connected “home in your heart”.  You can give your body the resources it needs to recover from damage from the past, to comfort and protect you now, and to weather the storms you will face in the future.