Companioning the Nervous System
A Healing Intensive for Spiritual Practitioners & Directors
Spiritual practice and spiritual direction both offer opportunities for regulating the nervous system in ways that help us find inner sanctuary. By learning how to respond to the signals of our brain and body, we can fine-tune our practices to create respite and resilience even in times of chronic stress.
Scientists who study the brain and nervous system have confirmed wisdom that ancient spiritual traditions discovered long ago: we can change our brains towards well-being.
Indeed, both contemplative lineages and scientific research have identified simple skills that, even under adverse conditions, can strengthen our nervous systems for the challenges of being a human.
The central nervous system is the brilliant guardian that lives within each of us. However, as we have likely experienced for ourselves or with our clients, its protective activity under ongoing stress can be unpleasantly forceful. One might experience chronic fear or anxiety, ongoing physical or emotional pain, or the inability to rest or feel safe with others. Yet, this doesn’t have to be the end of the story; when we begin to understand them, these difficult experiences can be gateways and guides.
In this intensive webinar, we’ll learn the language of our protective neurobiology so that the signals of the nervous system can gently and reliably guide us toward inner sanctuary. Bringing personal and pastoral practice into conversation with neuroscience, we’ll explore how to engage with the nervous system as a companion and healer. We will also consider how spiritual directors and ministers can integrate resilience-building and trauma-informed tools into their work.
Together, we will practice befriending our nervous system - this wise protector - learning its preferred rituals and deepening the modes of compassionate care that allow for mind-body-spirit transformation.
Over the course of three sessions in September, we’ll explore strategies for soothing and sorting the mind, completing emotional cycles, and harnessing breath and energy for transformation. Ultimately, these practices of interior ordering will help us make space for experiences of spiritual vision and sacred connection.
Informed by wisdom old and new, our time together will touch on the following:
Session 1: Softening into the Nervous System
In any situation in life, confronted by an outer threat or opportunity, you can notice yourself responding inwardly in one of two ways. Either you will brace, harden, and resist, or you will soften, open, and yield . . . Spiritual practice at its no-frills simplest is a moment-by-moment learning not to do anything in a state of internal brace. Bracing is never worth the cost.”
— Cynthia Bourgeault
The science of nervous system regulation is neurobiology’s way of reminding us of our innate capacity to find presence, spaciousness, resilience, and connection–even in difficult circumstances. Our first session together will teach us the language of our nervous systems, how our instincts seek safety and connection, and how much of our physical, emotional, and mental experience is created by our nervous system state. We will explore how personal practice or spiritual companionship can create space for the nervous system to settle and integrate. We will also learn how ancient modes of prayer, breathing, movement, ritual, and sacred connection offer tools for healing within ourselves, with our companions, and throughout our collectivities.
Session 2: Taking Hold of Thoughts & Emotions
— Virginia Woolf
In our second week, we will consider how thoughts and emotions influence states of fear and hyperarousal and how chronic physical and psychic suffering can stem from nervous system overload. We will learn spiritual and therapeutic tools for tending to emotions, calming thoughts, and using the body to soothe the mind. These modes of witnessing, accepting, and transforming our state can help our interior lives become more compassionate, resilient, and spacious.
Session 3: Reclaiming Vital Essence
— Hildegard von Bingen
By learning how to take the reins of our nervous system, we are able to redirect its creative power toward deeper connection with ourselves and our desires, with others, and with life itself. In our last session, we will explore the uses of vision, imagination, faith, beauty, and joy as portals to healing and sacred wholeness. In giving ourselves even momentary rest from hypervigilance and chronic stress response, we can begin to use the creative power of the nervous system to move us toward our true desires, prayers, and intentions for ourselves and our communities. These modes of prayerful and prophetic imagination can connect to both personal and collective intentions, to individual transformation, and to movements for a transformed world.
In These 3 Sessions You Will Learn as You Experience Through:
The webinar series will run 3 consecutive Fridays: September 9, 16, 23, 2022 – 11 AM Seattle/Los Angeles, 1 PM Chicago, 2 PM New York, 7 PM London; September 10, 17, 24: 2 AM Hong Kong, 4 AM Melbourne, Australia.
But if that timing doesn’t work, you can enjoy the webinar any time you like.
Each session is recorded so you can watch at your convenience.
Lily Oster, MDiv, PhD (she/her) is a student and teacher of the neuroscience and spirituality of healing, nature-based and contemplative practices, trauma recovery, and Internal Family Systems. She is an ordained interfaith minister with an MDiv from Harvard Divinity School and a PhD in Religious Studies from Emory University. Following her own experience of recovery from lifelong chronic pain, Lily trained to become a National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach with a specialization in chronic pain and other nervous system-related conditions. Lily currently works as a somatic coach and spiritual director with individuals and groups from all over the world. You can learn more about Lily at https://www.lilyoster.com/.
Lily Oster is a National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach and is not a licensed medical or mental health professional. This workshop is for educational and informational purposes only and is not to be considered medical or mental health advice for yourself or others. Lily Oster and SDI assume no liability or responsibility for any actions or behaviors you or your clients undertake. Please consult your licensed medical and/or mental health professionals before making any changes in your mental or physical health routines. You are responsible for your own health and wellbeing and for staying within the scope of your professional practice.