Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Congruent Life

Are you congruent? Are you presenting a happy face to the world when inside you are agonizing over something you are afraid to admit? This kind of internal conflict manifests as opposing tension in the body. Playing with movement using the kind of focused attention one learns in AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT (ATM) is a means towards resolution... Posted by Hello

We all face potential conflict when undergoing major transitions in life. Other societies have maintained rituals to make these transitions easier. Western society has all but dropped the rituals that gave people a moment to reflect on the signifigance of moving from childhood into adulthood, or from an active working career into retirement. When conflicts like these are not resolved, they create an underlying tension in the body. Read on to find out how movement can be used to help clarify internal conflicts harbored just below the surface of consciousness.

The most common example of this kind of conflict is a phase that everyone has to go through in the transition from teenager to adult. How are you going to support yourself? Will you follow the dictates of your mind, which analyzes the financial pros and cons of a given career. Will you follow your heart, which may lead you in directions that society scoffs at. Everyone knows you can't make any money in the Humanities or in the Arts. Then there is the issue of self esteem. Maybe you think you have what it takes in spite of what 'they' say. Doing what you want when it goes against 'common knowledge' is a statement about how you feel about yourself. It takes courage to fly in the face of convention and do it anyway. It takes an ability to manage conflict, the conflict between fear which pulls you back, and the determination which pushes you forward.

This naturally raises internal conflict that must be resolved before you can fully realize the dream, whatever it is. Examples abound: the son who is expected to follow in the family business, but would rather study art; the daughter who is expected to marry and be a mother but would rather focus on a career in design or business...If you follow the expectations of others, you are conflicted because you are not following your heart. If you follow your heart, you are conflicted because you are not respecting the wishes of your parent. Or, you could decide you don't care, in which case you will experience the internal conflict of trying to pretend it doesn't matter when it does. You get the picture.

Unresolved emotions such as disappointment, resentment, and guilt have a specific way of being expressed in posture. That's why certain postures are so very expressive. Think of someone jumping for joy. It's pure exuberance expressed by complete expansion in all directions. Legs and arms outstretched, the head is up, the eyes are bright. Joy is expressed somatically by extending onself towards the environment. You don't do that unless you feel safe. Disappointment, by contrast, is expressed by withdrawal. Think of anyone you've ever known who battles depression. They usually have hair over their eyes, the shoulders are hunched forward, the head is in front to the vertical and the overall posture gives the impression of defeat.

These are all extreme examples anyone can recognize. Yet, there are many levels of subtlety in the expression of emotion and everyone harbors unexamined conflicts below the surface that manifest in the same way. The signs are not as obvious, because the conflict is less blatant, but the tensions are there, nonetheless. When you work at a job just for the money with no outlet for your passion or your creativity, for example, chances are you will have a continuous low level tension in your body because you are conflicted. Half of you knows you need the money. The other half of you yearns for a life that is about more than survival. You are, in effect, facing in two directions at once. Ouch.

Dr. Caroline Myss is an author who has studied mysticism extensively. She states in her book, Adanced Energy Anatomy, that the main purpose for our lives may well be to learn to become congruent. It may be that we are really here to learn to resolve all the conflicting emotions that come up in the course of a lifetime. This translates to living as a conscious expression of what you believe. 'They,' (there 'they' go again,) say actions speak louder than words. Becoming congruent means learning to make our actions and our ideas match. It requires that we resolve all our myriad internal conflicts, large and small. It's a lifetime proposition, not something you just decide to do and be done with.

Think about being a parent. Children really challenge us to look inside and make our actions congruent with our beliefs. The problem is, most people don't even really know what their beliefs are at that point. And they are certainly not yet in touch with the conflicts that parenting can give rise to. When do you say 'No?' What parent hasn't experienced the conflict of wanting to give in to those adorable little munchkins, but knowing that to do so has the potential to create a monster of mass proportions? Then they become teenagers. Teenagers have an incomparable ability to sniff out incongruencies. They will nail you to the ground for acting out the saying, 'Do as I say, not as I do.'

In movement incongruence manifests as a lack of coordination. It's not that all our little conflicts are reflected in the body by a lack of coordination. Rather, by improving our coordination in movements we are not familiar with, we can learn to feel the tension of little incongruencies we otherwise ignore. Movement in an ATM is designed to give you an opportunity to learn to clearly distinguish the difference between feeling congruent, which feels smooth and free, and feeling conflicted, which feels like your muscles are tensed and ready to go in opposite directions. When you are tensed in preparation to go in opposite directions, you can't go anywhere. In the field of gravity, if you can't move, you fall over. You are trapped, immobilized by your own conflicting intentions.

In ATM, you learn to sort out the conflicting directions of tension in your body, like sorting out a tangle in a skein of wool. Free yourself from all these conflicting tensions and you will find you have more energy. From there, as you learn this skill, it becomes much easier to spot in your psyche. The physical becomes a non-threatening place to explore how to work with elements of how we think that are at times very painful and uncomfortable. Conflict resolution becomes a new habit rather than something we need to force upon ourselves like a distasteful tonic. After all, your body merely expresses what your mind is thinking, whether you want it to or not.

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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!