Orientation: A Way To Come Back
“To come into the present is to stop the war.” — Jack Kornfield
This is a personal account of my direct experiences with Orientation, as an incredible gift to ourselves, and to those who come to us seeking relief and solace from their inner storms.
When I was in my last year of training with Steve Hoskinson, I remember being in the role of client in a triad. As I was “letting my eyes go where they want to go,” I looked over and a red shawl caught my eye. I began describing how the color of the shawl reminded me of my sister. She used to wear a similar shade of lipstick and nail polish. I proceeded to take a stroll down memory lane, effusing about our difficult relationship. Past hurts bubbled up through the cascade of associations, initiated by the simple noticing of a seemingly benign red shawl. I went on to have a pretty activated session, I realize in retrospect. It probably ended with my bewildered practitioner in training, who was sitting across from me at just the perfect angle and distance to minimize any distress or activation, asking me to feel my feet on the ground or my butt in the chair, in attempts to get me “back” and “settled.” It all seemed very business as usual to me at the time, as this was, mostly, how I was relating to the world around me.
In those days I experienced the world as a place filled with a seemingly endless and repeating stream of phenomena that had the potential to set off a cascade of inner experience at any moment, mostly related to the past and mostly Red: activation. This would replay and repeat, my nervous system cashing in its ticket to ride the roller coaster of activation again and again, bounding unrestrained through threshold after threshold until finally reaching its inevitable stop at the station of overwhelm. Each time this occurred the pattern would reinforce itself, grooving deeper and deeper into my psyche and neural network. Being no stranger to intense experience, my gauge of what was too much was askew, hence I was missing the sign posts along the way that signaled “stop! Go back! You’re gonna crash!” Instead of registering the signposts of impending overwhelm, (or current signals of safety from the here and now) I would get sucked into and very interested in this internal repeating process over and over and over. But, inner tracking is where the healing is right…right?!? My “very interesting” inner process would proceed to garner the majority of my attention, continuously fueling the roller coaster of activation, keep it catapulting along on its path, leaving any attempts at self regulation in the dust of its wake. Since then I’ve learned to be quite suspicious of the words ”this is sooo interesting”, whether spoken by me, or a client.
During our debrief, the assistant commented, much to my dismay and confusion, that we hadn’t really landed orientation. “Huh?!? I was too oriented! I noticed that red beautiful shawl!” That was my internal battle cry. I was still pretty frozen so I didn’t say any of this out loud. She went on to explain that our failure to land sufficient orientation was why things went very red very quickly, causing the oscillation to take off too rapidly. Red?!? What do you mean Red?!? I rebelled internally. I was still thinking that I was enjoying my Reds because they were soooo interesting. Hence, I was in the habit of calling my Reds Blues. I realize now that because of my lack of orientation to the here and now, my system went directly into past association; a minefield littered with Reds and unresolved cycles of activation ready to go off at any moment, unleashing an unmodulated tidal wave of thought, emotion, image and sensation (left over) from the past into the present moment. Without a connection to the safety of the present moment to offer a healthy dose of here and now reality, I was taking frequent, and mostly unconscious, trips down memory lane that kept hijacking and polluting my experience of the present.
Orientation: connecting to the environment through the senses
Organic Intelligence® defines orientation as ‘connecting to the environment through the senses.’ Since, at the time, I didn’t have enough of a direct sensory connection to the present moment to distinguish what was past and what was present, the two were intertwined in a way that muddled my experience and made it impossible to navigate my inner experience with either clarity or a real observer online. Disconnected from the signals of safety coming in from the current environment, my nervous system was left adrift on a sea of internal storms, unable to sense and integrate the resource of the here and now, leaving me vulnerable to the siren song of seductive and predominant inner Reds (from the past).
We spent most of the session managing activation as opposed to having a nicely modulated orientation, a Blue-Red-Blue orientation rhythm, most importantly starting and ending in the here and now. I must confess that at the time I took this pretty personally and figured the assistant was possibly inept, probably just didn’t like me, and definitely did not understand me. However, despite the protestations of my ego, the experience stuck with me, tugging at my coat sleeve. I realized there was something eluding me about this whole orientation business and it seemed to have something to do with my distress and activation that, until this moment, had seemed like a pretty normal, if uncomfortable, way to go through life.
Orientation: a way to come back
What I have learned and experienced since then is that our ability to be with what is right here and right now around us, to truly experience it from a sensory perspective, is an amazingly accurate indicator of if and when we are ready to go inside with clarity, without getting lost in the storms of the past or catapulted into anxiety and future projection. It’s a wonderful way to reality check ourselves when we are beginning to spin on a conveyer belt of thought, emotion, sensation, or image and interrupt the escalating spiral. When we are getting lost inside and losing touch with what’s really in front of us it’s a way to come back, returning to a living, breathing relationship with the world we live in and the people around us. Orientation is an incredible gift we have to offer to ourselves and to those who come to us seeking relief and solace from their inner storms. It isn’t the end of the road to healing, but it is where we end up more and more when we are further along on our own healing path; more here, more aware, more connected and responsive to what and who is here, now.
Cristal Mortensen, LSP, CIMI, SEP, OIX coordinated the Honolulu HEARTraining®. She has a degree in Psychology and Pre-med and has a background as a Suicide and Crisis Outreach Worker and Emergency First Responder. Cristal has been in private practice in Honolulu since 2001. Learn more about Cristal on her website awarealignedawake.com.