Unpacking the First 1000

by Susie Amundson

I’m getting ready for a trip. Headlamp, check. Dried salmon, check. Antimicrobial undies, check.

My girlfriend Sandy and I are headed to Nepal next week. Yup, that’s right. Nepal. Something that’s been in my mind’s eye for about 30 years. We are headed out on a 21-day trek into northern Nepal with a guide and a porter. Tibetan Buddhist country. And I’m thrilled.

Meanwhile, I’m packing now. And then, unpacking. Inspecting items. Sifting and sorting. Questioning myself. Do I really need this spork? Are these cleats OK for Larkya La Pass at 15.5K? How many pairs of Darn Toughs?

At this point, I’m hoping our porter is body building in Kathmandu.

In Our Minds

Meanwhile all this packing, and sifting and sorting got me thinking about internal packing. As in what our neurobiology packed in subconsciously when we were young. And now as adults, what and how and if we are still carrying unconscious burdens that add to life struggles. Things we don’t really need anymore, aren’t serving us well – and yet, we lug them around. Dragging us down as we sherpa on.

A couple months ago I attended a workshop with the human wholeness rock star, Gabor Mate’ in Vancouver. Gabor states right up front that his goal in life is “to help people connect to the truth of themselves.” Whoa, that’s a high mountain pass.

He’s clear that the biggest barrier of connecting to our truth is – yes, our mind. And from a neurobiological perspective, he is spot on. Our early childhood experiences with our caregivers and our environments were the architects of our brains. Yes, that’s right. Amazingly powerful, our brains wire and fire based on these experiences in our wee years. And it sets our trail.

Gabor says it like this: “Before we create the world with our minds, the world creates our minds.”

The most influential period is our first 1000 days. That’s when our mid-brain is hardwired for what we deem as threatening and rewarding, how we respond in relationships, and how we process our emotional experiences. Or don’t. In a time when we have little language, those experiences get lodged in our bodies, gut, and viscera.

We may not remember the events of childhood but we definitely remember the emotions.

It’s then in adulthood that our minds enjoy a field day trying to make sense of those hard-wired, body-based memories. Eventually, they morph into our beliefs and perspectives aka our “unique” adult personalities.

Unpacking Your Struggles

Every one of us has core beliefs. Some align well with our values. Others are hidden deeply in our suitcase and weigh us down at work, home, and life. When they are concealed, we struggle.

Usually, those tamped-down unconscious beliefs sound something like this:

  • I’ll never have enough money.
  • I should have anticipated this.
  • Why does all of this crap happen to me?
  • I keep ruining all my relationships. Am I loveable?
  • If I just stay committed, I can protect and save her.

So how do you move these to the top of the heap when they are buried so deep?

First, we use an inside-out method of investigation. We tap into that felt-sense of your body. The memory storage area. Sometimes our false beliefs will squeak out in shame. Or self-doubt. Denial. Lots of justifying. Aggression. Criticism. And let’s not forget, depression.

And it’s when we attend and attune to these visceral feelings, calm ourselves with our breath, and stay still those old beliefs can gently rise to the surface. Once we move our neurobiology into a soothing and safe place, the unconscious becomes touchable and we can unpack it.

So the tricky part is finding those moments of stillness within you. You can do this through meditation, A slow reflective walk. Your contemplative tea time. You can try it at home! Or even with a professional. But the one common denominator is finding the stillpoint within you.

Carving out time in your day or evening to tune in to your viscera will help those heavy-weighted burdens gain buoyancy. And when you do, your mind gets lighter and your heart lifts into a higher altitude of ease and peace.

Bringing In New Beliefs

By sifting and sorting through those old unconscious beliefs, we get to decide what to keep and what to replace. What a relief. We have choice!

In the same vein as I go through the Nepal bag, I continue to sift and sort and realize that I too have a choice. So on second thought, maybe I don’t need that bone collagen. Or fourth pair of underwear. Or sleeping bag liner. Or spork!

Or maybe I just need to start lifting weights.

Happy Spring Blessings to All!

Susie

P.S. Back to the Earthworms in May!