homeostasis

crayon drawing of waves

When I was in my late twenties and interested in wholesome, sustainable ways of caring for my body, I explored and experimented with various natural fertility awareness and birth control techniques, such as the rhythm method and the Billings Method. For a while I also tracked my daily temperature with a special ovulation thermometer, so that I could determine exactly when (or if) I was ovulating.

I knew from my university biology and physiology courses that our body temperature, which lay people often assume is constant unless they’re sick, actually fluctuates by a small amount throughout our days. The body regulates temperature (and many other functions) through homeostasis. A part of the brain keeps constant track of our body temperature, and releases various chemicals to increase or decrease our temperature as needed. To add to the complexity, we have daily or circadian rhythms of temperature, and menstruating women also have temperature fluctuations depending on where they are in their monthly cycle. For months I was fascinated with tracking my daily waking temperature; there was always a noticeable spike or increase whenever I ovulated.

Sometimes it’s easy to convince ourselves that what we’re really seeking is an unchanging state of being – a constant. Our lives don’t work that way, though. When we allow room for the minor (and sometimes major) fluctuations in our daily lives – in mood, in energy level, in activity, in thoughts and habits – we begin to see that life is really about the small adjustments that keep us heading in more-or-less the right direction of health and wholeness.

Are you trying to force yourself to conform to an idealized state of being? Do you wish you were always happy, or always fulfilled? How does your idea of living change if you allow room for homeostasis – for the minor course adjustments in your journey? What if your most essential skill is the ability to adjust?

Art journal spread Waves and Words, December 2011. Wax crayon and collage on paper.

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