Fast Wisdom™, the newsletter of my Holden Healing Studio practice.
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APRIL, 2015
BY Lonner Holden

Prevention: Sensing Subtle Symptoms
Negativity Bias.  Curiosity .  Discrimination . Positivity Bias  

Nearly thirty years ago at one of her seminars, I consulted with Mary Burmeister (who brought Jin Shin Jyutsu to America from Japan) about a personal dilemma I was having which I felt paralyzed to act upon.  Her simple response to me was, “Learn to move towards the positive, not away from the negative.”  This wise advice introduced me to a perspective which has informed much of my decision-making since.

Generally, our human disposition is to react against unpleasant sensations which are visible or against imagined negative outcomes. In the process we forget to consider the beneficial potential of what we do not yet know. We feel an unpleasant sensation, discern a mysterious rash or a conspicuous lack of sensation - numbness, etc., interpret a tone or action as a threat and our tendency is to respond with fear.  In contemporary neuropsychology this is referred to as “negativity bias.” From this interpretation of a perceived threat, our habit is to “move away from the negative.”

The “negativity bias” response in our evolution was a necessary part of our survival on the Savannah, but in modern life inhibits our capacity to respond in a more choice-related manner more often than it saves us.  The law of “fight, flight or freeze” still governs our biological inheritance though, yet there are ways to minimize its often less-than-constructive influence on our well-being and health.

When we initially react with a negative response, we usually move into a state that is populated by a labyrinth of confusing complexities. When we “move away from the negative”, we migrate into a loss of confidence, relying on all kinds of authority outside of our ability to discern our subtler sensations and value the yet unseen information available within our own experience. We exercise our disempowering ‘rejection options’ rather than exercise our empowering ‘detection options’. Can you recall a time when you lost your ability to feel on subtler levels when you were possessed by an intense feeling like anger, grief, anxiety, fear or physical sensation or pain and the limiting feelings that came with that?

Discrimination is born from feeling more confident and less reactive; discrimination that can sway us towards “moving towards the positive.” A Stanford University professor recently commented on meditation being an avenue of reducing stress to a group of peers as a method for becoming happier. He said, “When we are stressed, we cannot access positive emotions.”  

Prevention of dis-ease and disease requires states of calm, of feeling safe, of peacefulness.  Or at least of achieving some degree of detachment from identification with the “source” of stress. Cortisol production increases as a physiological response to stress, inhibiting many health supporting processes like the immune function production of killer cells. Feelings of safety or calm decrease cortisol production.

Optimism, faith, trust, acceptance and curiosity all radiate from the realm of the ‘positive’. When we exercise the option to take a step back and become an inquiring observer of our stress related emotions and responses, rather than just be tied up in the knot of them, a few things necessarily follow.  Our breath begins to soften and deepen, our reactive impulses lessen in intensity and we begin to move towards an increased sense of safety - of homeostasis and physiological efficiency.  We become more disposed to noticing ourselves as separate from the stressful stimulus and more capable of acting with discrimination - of making choices from a state of acceptance and curiosity about the possibilities we have not yet seen.

Prevention is not moving against the possibility of something negative; it is moving towards what makes us more aware, understanding and stronger.

When we are calmer in a state of increased self-awareness, we are more able to sense sensations or symptoms on a subtler level and are inspired to chose actions that express self-care before dis-ease and disease manifest.  Our early-detection system can positively influence our choices more often.

This might mean making an appointment with your psychotherapist, physician or healing arts practitioner to address an early-on discerned problem before it becomes chronic or acute. Maybe changing your life-style, diet, work habits, exercise practices that minimize your risk of unhappiness and disease or going for more walks in nature, meeting a friend, being more creative.

This is a transformational shift of our survival instinct from “negativity bias” to “positivity bias”.

Simply choosing to become an inquiring observer of one’s current state encourages confidence, coordination, relaxation, physiological and immune functions. Being curious helps prevent both dis-ease and disease. This openness can be awakened, cultivated and refined with practice.

In what ways can you experience curiosity about positive possibilities for yourself, others and fields of interest or creative passion where you typically respond negatively?


  • Where do I habitually react negatively against imagined outcomes in my life?
  • When do I pause and move towards positive possibilities that I cannot yet discern?
  • What do I avoid because I am unclear of the outcome of any course of action?
  •  What responses make me feel stronger?
  •  What responses make me feel less confident?
  •  What does patient curiosity feel like in my body?
  •  Choose one habitual negative response and add a “pause” button to your experience.
  •  Track the quality of your breath in that experience; allow it to slow and deepen.
  •  Pretend a few times that you are a person whose genuine optimism you admire.
  • Place the finger tips of each hand in the palm of the other hand at the same time. This harmonizes all of one’s emotions and softens reactivity.
  • Place the Right Hand gently on top of the head and the Left Hand gently on the Tailbone to bring calm to the central nervous system.
  • Bring the palms of the hands to both calves at the same time - Right Palm to Right Calf (muscle) and Left Palm to Left Calf (muscle) 5 - 20 minutes. This smooths all trauma responses - light to intense - from the tissues.
More Info »

  • Find a hole in the ground or in a tree. Imagine who might live in there and what it might be like to hide in the dark from the world.
  • Observe animal life as it moves about in daylight. Contrast what that feels like with the dark dwelling ones.
  • Look at a plant or animal you have not recognized before. How do you respond to it? Do you feel afraid of it? Enamored by it? Curious about it?
More Info »

NEXT MONTH: Recovery: The Microcosm and Macrocosm of Bouncing Back

  • What foods/drinks do you habitually ingest that affect an intense sensation (caffeine, sugar, alcohol, jalapeno peppers)? Try a gentler substitute. Are you more aware of other, subtler sensations than you were before?
  • Healing Hands Self-Care Course Morning Series, Mill Valley: April 9 - 23 (3 Thursdays)
  • Healing Hands Self-Care Course Series, San Francisco: May 2, 9, 16 (3 Saturdays)
  • Restorative Nature Practice™, Marin County: April 25,  May 17, June 20
  • Marin County Tracking Club, Point Reyes: April 26, May 31, June 28
  • Jin Shin Jyutsu Intensive Marin County: June 5-8
  • Stanford University Restorative Nature Practice™ Retreat: June 3rd
See events on calendar »

* October: Into the Wild Journey: Grand Canyon
  view video at: (

November, 2014 Thanksgiving
December, 2014 Winter Solstice
January, 2015 Life Letters
February, 2015 The Heart
* March, 2015 Spring Equinox

Fast Wisdom™ is the newsletter of my Holden Healing Studio practice.  Each issue explores a theme of living approached in the context of healing.  Included is a simple Jin Shin Juytsu® Healing Hands Self-Care exercise, as well as a Restorative Nature Practice™ activity to practice which relate to the newsletter theme of the month.  Nutrition and health tips too, so you can live a happier and more vital life infused with well-being, improved health and more effective and empowered recovery.

© 2015 Lonner Holden
Fast Wisdom™

Copyright © 2015 Holden Healing Studio, All rights reserved.

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