Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Compelling Nature of Habit

Habits are useful, because they allow us to perform routine tasks without thinking. But when routine tasks start causing you pain, it may be time to break out of your habit, to expand your possibilities, which is what this practice is primarily about. Posted by Hello

What is routine can be accomplished with ease. Habit is hard to break because it usually starts in small ways that make life easier, more predictable, or less painful. We associate it with good feelings. Like a repetitve pattern, it provides comfort in it's regularity. Habits provide emotional sustenance, because they can be depended on. They are familiar, like a favorite pair of slippers. Yet, when that favorite pair of slippers start to wear out, they become threadbare without protection from the hard surfaces of the floor. Thus, what was once exceedingly comfortable, may turn into a problem so gradually, you barely even notice it.

'There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.' - Machiavelli 1469-1527

It may be precisely because the FELDENKRAIS METHOD is about challenging all the notions about ourselves that we take for granted that it is not more widely known and respected for the amazing results it can produce. Self emanination takes both courage and humility. It takes a trust in the process. You must be willing to let go of the comfort of old habits even when they no longer serve. One of the things I hope to cultivate in the general public by writing this weblog, is a foundation of understanding about the Method and to build trust in the process. AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT (ATM) lessons are designed to deconstruct habitual movement patterns. It can be scary to dismantle the comforting framework of what is familiar, even if keeping it intact produces pain. This is why people stay in relationships that no longer work. It's why people subconsciously abdicate responsibility for their health. It may also be the most challenging aspect of the FELDENKRAIS METHOD because it requires a leap of faith to submit yourself to the process.

So, what's the difference between a habit that is helpful and one that is not? Take driving, for example. It is best accomplished with certain habits around how you use the accelerator and the break pedal. Being able to perceive where your feet are without looking is pretty important. But there is an element of timing involved. It is also important to know when to stop using the accelerator and hit the break. Habits are like that. Sometimes they serve well, other times they need to be examined, lest they have outworn their usefulness.

A habit performed over and over again without thought can become detrimental. It can turn into a compulsive way of dealing with life. In the concrete realm of movement in the field of gravity, you can learn to distinguish the difference. For example, when a routine way of moving causes repetitive stress to a specific part of the body, it's time to learn how to redistribute the stress by learning how to use more of yourself. Or, when a routine way of doing things is the only known option, it can become a trap that limits your potential. You won't even be open to new possibilities because you will conceive of your way as the only way.

This is a common frame of mind I encounter in the field of pain management. People want immediate relief from pain without any willingness to change anything they are doing. That's why the quick fix of pharmaceuticals has such allure. It's a multibillion dollar industry. By taking that pill, you can keep doing the same old thing. You don't have to change. You don't have to look at what you are doing and you certainly don't have to take any responsibility for learning to do anything differently.

This is where I loose people with the victim mentality. 'Who me? It's not my fault.' - This is not a matter of fault. It's a matter not being able to feel what you are doing. Let me help you learn to notice what you are doing. 'I can feel myself just fine, it hurts whenever I use my right shoulder.' Well, whenever you have pain in a specific area, 90% of the time, there is another area nearby that you are not using at all and have no ability to feel. This is where you have to trust the logic of it. Any overuse pattern is usually accompanied by an area, usually closer to the trunk, where there is relatively little or no movement. In areas that are not used much, there are few neural connections. Learn to stimulate the neural connections using movement and you gain a more accurate image of your own capability. When you incorporate more of yourself in your own self image, you spread the stress of basic movements over more joints relieving localized pain in specific areas.

Surgery is an even more extreme example of how far people are willing to go, so that they don't have to change. It's not that surgery is not indicated in certain situations, but there are statistics that suggest that the number of unnecessary surgeries is over 40%. Why? Because it's much easier to get your stomach stapled than change your habits around food. It's easier to surgically change the shape of your face than to deal with ageing, that inevitable harbinger of mortality. It's easier to fuse your vertebrae than to take the time to learn how to move in a way that does not continuously challenge the area of discomfort. These are provocative statements, I understand that. And perhaps, on some level, my intention is to provoke you, to provoke you into action to the service of experiencing greater freedom and fulfillment in you life.

We are an instant gratification society. Recovery from surgery may only take six months. Learning to move in a new way may not even take that long, but people don't realize that it's even a possibility.

Well, listen up. I'm here to tell you that it is a possibility. But you have to do the work. It may be possible for you to learn how to move in a way that no longer provokes your pain. That is one of the main things the FELDENKRAIS METHOD is all about. As an instructor, my goal is not to teach you all the hundreds of lessons Moshe Feldenkrais designed. Rather, my goal is to teach you the skill of learning how to work with yourself so that you become autonomous in your ability to move in variety of ways. All those lessons are merely a template for you to gain self knowledge. Thus, you learn to notice what you are doing and you are no longer trapped by your own lack of vision. I will hold the vision for you.

1 comment:

  1. DancingCloud9:13 AM

    Gabrielle , I have been reading your post. They are great, like your always here informing me oo movement. Thanks Peace Michael J


Comments & questions are always welcome. What are your biggest challenges? Have you had similar experiences? Where do you want to go with your own practice? Share your insights, don't practice in a void of isolation. Consciousness is everywhere!