A THERAPEUTIC MODEL BASED ON PHYSIOLOGICAL STATE
The purpose of the Hara Meetings are to initiate and access a physiological state conducive to wellbeing, positive engagement with others, and growth in learning and community.
Charles created the Hara Meetings to help people learn to attain a grounded state where they feel safe, connected, calm and social.
By helping to access a calm and grounded state, Hara Meetings promote a platform for health, growth, restoration and community.
1. What is Physiological State?
Physiological or emotional state is at the root of all behavior. Some states promote sociability. Some promote tantrums. Others promote shut down.
- What is the “just right” state for healthy interaction? It’s the sweet spot where a person is relaxed and available.
- How do you know when someone is in this state? You’ll notice signals in the: eyes (bright and focused); face (content with the ability to express all emotions); voice (capable of prosody or tone changes); body (relaxed but with good muscle tone); and rate of movement (smooth and responsive – not too fast or slow).
- These are all indicators of a state of focused, relaxed, and confident alertness optimal for healing, rejuvenating , having fun, learning and performing with confidence.
2. Plasticity of the Autonomic Nervous System and State.
Hara Health Exercises exercise the neural pathways associated with regulating behavioral state and social engagement. These are aspects of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). And just as the brain is plastic and can change based on experience, the ANS is also plastic. The Hara Exercises significantly increase vagal regulation of the heart, which promotes better control of our state.
3. What is the vagus Nerve?
The vagus nerve carries the most bi-directional information between the brain and the body of any other nerve. It initiates in the core of the brain and travels to the depths of the gut. Along its travels, the vagus nerve affects eye movement, facial expressions, tone of voice, heart rate and heart rate variability, breathing, and the function of the spleen, liver, kidneys and intestines. It can help to reduce inflammation and to improve your immune response. It is the care-taking nerve of the body.
The vagus impacts more than just physiological processes. When you say something is “getting on my nerves” or that you have a “gut feeling”, you’re referring to the vagus nerve. Through neuroception, a term coined by Dr. Stephen Porges, the vagus nerve is assessing the safety of a situation and the mood of people you interact with. And that information is relayed to the brain.
The vagus nerve activates the parasympathetic nervous system. When the vagus is stimulated, it elicits the relaxation response, slowing your heart rate and relaying instructions to release certain proteins and enzymes to calm you down. When you are relaxed, people can see it in your face and hear it in your voice because of the vagus nerve. You are better able to: concentrate, self regulate and connect with others when you are in this more calm and safe state.
4. What is the social engagement system?
Critical to healthy engagement with the world, the Social Engagement System (SES) interprets cues from our social environment, like vocal prosody, eye contact and facial gestures to gauge our level of safety. Sensing safety, the SES allows us to participate genuinely with others and be open and willing to accept new ideas.
5. Healing the nervous system one meeting at a time.
Physiologically, our bodies evolved to expect co-regulation and reciprocity from others. The absence of danger in an environment doesn’t make people feel safe. It’s receiving cues from others that triggers our sense of safety. Having a strong social engagement system, that includes lots of safety cues, is how we grow and develop and acquire resilience.
That’s why Porges says social interaction is a neural exercise
When the nervous system feels safe, people have the ability to be more creative alive and vibrant.
6. Calming the body heals the mind.
When we hear prosodic words (warm and melodic intonations), the muscles in the ears relax, then the muscles in the eyes and face. Our-breath deepens, the heart calms, and the sympathetic defense system down-regulates. It’s totally predictable, Porges says.
Anyone under stress can return to a secure base, have engagement and reciprocity, be regulated, and develop the boldness required to take risks and learn and grow
Doing the Hara exercises allows healing and resilience to unfold and the warm social interaction–neural exercise—creates receptivity, resourcefulness, and resilience.
Let’s change the way we interact as a society and make the world a safer place.
7. Social Communication.
Hara evenings are a portal to the Social Engagement System and it can have powerful effects on how a person interacts with the world. Examples are: better eye contact and facial expressivity; better emotional control; more reciprocal interactions; and increased emotional expressivity among others.
8. Feeling safe is paramount to wellbeing.
“In “safe” contexts, when our mammalian vagal circuits are active, the function of our nervous system is optimized to support processes related to health, growth, and restoration as well as connectedness and intimacy. But when we no longer feel safe, the newer circuits go off-line, and we are more prone to get defensive and disconnected. We fall prey to sympathetic nervous system stress—the fight or flight reflex—which shuts down much of our higher social brain and many of its health benefits.”
Stephen Porges – developer of The Polyvagal Theory
9. Our purpose is to be connected.
Because without being connected, our minds and bodies wither and waste away.
Another part of the theory is very relevant to the world we’re in now, a world where we live in which safety is unpredictable. We think of safety as the absence of threat. But our nervous system doesn’t buy that. Our nervous system tells us that absence of threat is insufficient. “It’s great to remove threat, but I still will be hypervigilant and scared, because a threat could come along anytime.”
Our bodies need cues of safety. What are the cues of safety? Cues of safety come from social engagement. They come from the friendly face, they come from the soothing voice, they come from gracious gestures, they come from our ability to feel safe in proximity with one another. Without these cues, our bodies fall back into a hypervigilant state. If we’re in a hypervigilant physiologic state, we will react to the world as if it’s dangerous, whether it is or not. If we’re in a state of social safety and connection, we’re in another physiological mindset, and we’ll be welcoming even in the face of challenge. -Stephen Porges
The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe