Whether we need support over the holidays, post election, or just plain in general – learning how to titrate is one of the most powerful and skillful ways to self regulate, re-find balance and stay in the present moment when we’re working with strong states of mind, heart and body.
Titrating is a somatic approach to managing stressful or painful situations, feelings, thoughts and memories. When we titrate, we are moving both towards and away from something, so that our nervous system, heart/mind and body can process what is occurring and not become overwhelmed.
When we are ‘working with what is’, we are feeling our feelings, noticing our thoughts, hearing sounds, feeling sensations – whatever is arising in the present moment – hopefully with kindness and not taking everything so personally. If this seems challenging you are right, often it is, which is why we practice to cultivate this capacity. It’s also why we need to arm ourselves with supportive skillful means in the meantime, which developing the ability to titrate is one of. By learning skillful, practical and sane approaches to working with where we are in the moment, we self regulate, stay healthier, more able to rediscover balance, and able to negotiate our current challenges.
There’s an unfortunate myth going around in some spiritual and mindfulness circles – that we must sit with our pain, face it, stay with it, not run or hide from it ever, and there is a modicum of truth to this sentiment. However, in times of deeper trouble or acute discomfort, walking straight into a fire isn’t always the best solution, and can cause the opposite reaction to what we might be seeking which is to shut down promptly rather than open up to.
Yes, we want to feel our feelings, whatever they are – but staring them down isn’t always beneficial, especially when a traumatic memory, painful truth, or stressful trigger threatens to pull us into a vortex of deep discomfort. We can however, work with what we are experiencing in smaller doses, so that we can manage situations, emotions, and stronger states of mind without getting lost in the downward spiral of despair, anxiety, depression or general angst.
So rather than read all the newspapers you might be used to reading, or feeling that you have to just swallow something someone that is saying to you that is mean or belittling for instance, we need to be able to step in and out of what we are feeling and experiencing to avoid being overwhelmed. By coming back into the present, taking a pause, we can re-collect ourselves and know the best direction forward, or away. We can take skillful and compassionate action where needed – action that comes from the clarity of being in the present moment and seeing what needs to be done, or what needs to be left alone. Action or reaction from strong emotion or discursive thinking or triggers isn’t always the best solution and can eventually cause great internal and external harm.
Sometimes the most available way to practice moving into, and away from is by noticing and feeling what is happening internally – touching into feelings briefly (not denying them) and then literally turning the steering wheel of your mind towards what is in the room – noticing the colors, shapes, objects, the light.
Another way to return to the present moment and away from potentially harmful states is to feel your feet on the ground, wiggle your toes, feel your shoes on the floor. Not only can the body bring us back to the earth, what is now – not what might be later.
Nature is also a wonderful ally when needed to take a break from a swirling mind or heavy heart. Getting outside no matter where you live, be it in a city or the country and breathing deep breaths, taking in the sites, the smells, sounds and colors is a supportive way to be back in the present and air out the heart/mind. Deep breathing or slower, longer breath can also be a way to manage strong states and environments.
Essentially anything non-harming that helps us to return to something in the present moment is helpful, and adding skillful tools that give us the means to avoid magnifying a story or presupposing a future that hasn’t arrived is a skillful means. Going on retreat, taking a workshop or class are additional supportive tools as they bring us together with like hearted people and together for important conversations – they open the doors to deeper and more sustainable practice and give us a break from being on line, or at work – both of which we all need dearly.
May these times that call for as many of us as possible to be awake, kind, thoughtful and prescient be our opportunities to move forward towards alleviating stress, suffering, harmful behaviors and ways – together.