The role of culture is to help individuals learn to connect with themselves, each other, and the living world. In indigenous and ancestral societies, when through stress or threat or trauma individuals got pushed out of connection, there existed a body of

restorative practices

to help them come back to this baseline of connection. Speaking biologically, the neuro-physiology of connection involves bringing online and stabilizing the ventral vagal parasympathetic aspect of the autonomic nervous system, which ties together the neural regulation of the face and voice with the regulation of the heart and lungs and induces a state of functional calm and connection, when we feel safe (Polyvagal Theory). This neural system is, not surprisingly, also activated when we access the relaxation response. Our further proposition is that it is connected as well to states of connection with the natural world. So here we have a physiological description of the Connection System, which can be evoked intentionally through restorative practices that discern deficits of connection, and address them. Mindful awareness, if skillfully applied, dissolves the illusion of separateness experientially. It is the appropriate tool for gently evoking the Connection System and supporting the concomitant transformation of self- and other-understanding that accompanies moving back into relationship. Because working with awareness is powerful, this must be done with significant care.