Saturday, March 05, 2011

Which Way Are You Facing? Towards Joy or Pain?

Integration is when all parts of your Self are going in the same direction! When the parts of your Self are integrated into a whole, there is no need for more power or more control, because harmony is the natural result...
Nowadays, the word, 'orientation,' is a buzzword in politics because of the issue of Gay and Lesbian marriage. In reference to which gender a person finds attractive, 'orientation' reveals what dominates their perception. Who will they move towards, and who will they tend to move away from? It very literally determines perception. Yes, this is a stereo-type, but most gay men have more fashion sense and than the average male has in their little finger. It's a function of what they happen to notice naturally.
But orientation has other meanings. It can be used to refer to a function of the mind: when you get a head injury, you are asked to demonstrate this function: what's your orientation in time, space and person? They will ask you, "What year is it? Where are you? What's your name?" When you woke up this morning, how did you know who and where you were? (This last was a favorite question of one of the Trainers in my four year Feldenkrais Training.) What he was really asking was, 'Are you aware? Is Awareness a function of the mind? How important is it?' Can you change something if you are not aware of it?
What does it mean to be functional? It means to fulfill a specific purpose. A functional body can get you from point A to point B. A functional mind fulfills it's purpose when it knows where it is in space, time and identity.
Individual sessions of the FELDENKRAIS Method, are known as FUNCTIONAL INTEGRATION because they are about bringing the whole Self into a functional relationship with gravity. But this is NOT limited to time and space alone. Why? Because how we  move in space IS how we interact with the world.
We interact via movement which is the basis of all action. We also interact via the sense organs, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Imagine seeing without moving your eyes, smelling fire without being able to move away from it, hearing a child scream without being able to do anything to help.
The advantage of erect posture is the the ease of being able to survey the environment, to rotate the head and body around a vertical axis - kind of like the telescope of a submarine - to assess orientation, and safety, among other things. The direction of orientation will determine what information comes into the database of the mind, the memory banks of experience.
Moshe Feldenrkrais once said, "...our relation with anything outside, beyond what can be explored by the sense of touch, is determined through the movement of the head. All the information from the space around us comes through the head. And our relations with the world outside us affect the quality of the movement of the head most of all."
The sense organs that dominate our orientation with reality are all double organs that are located in the head. Eyes, ears and nostrils all use two sources of data to find the intersection that locates the exact direction whence a potential danger, such as fire, or a possible opportunity, such as the scent of home-made apple pie, might be coming from.
"In most people, their heads show clearly...which parts of the space around them they rarely make contact with. The carriage of the head is characteristic of the general bearing and manner of acting of each person," Feldenkrais went on to say in the same article. It's no mistake that as people age, they can barely turn the head after a while.
Why? Because how we move reflects how we think. And gradually, most people give in to the phantom of 'Reality.' How much sadness there is in the admonition, 'Be realistic! You're getting old, you're supposed to hurt.' After such an encounter in a doctor's office, most people gradually loose their sense of what's possible, even as they loose mobility in the neck and eventually stop looking outside the known space in front of them for their own answers.
How many times has that phantom crushed your hopes and dreams? The phantom that states that it's inevitable that we be crushed by the weight of gravity instead of stabilized by it. That we be diminished by the weight of experience instead of enlightened by it. That we give into pain as a permanently limiting factor, instead of challenging it's source and examining it's underlying message. Pain is the body speaking it's mind in the only way it can communicate it's infinite wisdom since it has no words.
Unfortunately, it does seem to be human nature to focus on what's wrong. The hope of the FELDENKRAIS Method lies in the way that it teaches you a completely new way to relate to life. The more AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT (ATM) you do, the more you cultivate the new habit of looking for what works, what is easy, what feels good, what you may have overlooked.
What new options are out there that have escaped your notice to date? This only happens for people who keep doing ATM. Why? Because it's a means of becoming aware of what we don't know. And it's fun, so why not keep doing it? It's a given that what we don't know is always changing, even as we change and evolve and grow. The only certainty in life is change. We need a means of coping with it, since it's the nature of life.
I got a new oven and gas range in my kitchen for Christmas. I love to cook. But I am still learning how to use this shiny new instrument of creation. It requires a change in how I think. I can no longer just look at the flame to determine the heat. Each burner is a different size and the size of the flame might be the same, but the intensity of heat differs from one burner to the next. So I have to think in terms of outcomes. I have to really look and see if the pan is pan is producing the result I'm looking for, or, am I simply going through the motions and getting an outcome that burns my food.
ATM has taught me to integrate the results I'm getting, the changes I'm experiencing and the responses I make to life. It has taught me to orient myself differently. I used to be oriented towards self-destruction, suffering, martyrdom and self-loathing. It was simply a habit brought on by a life lived in some pretty difficult circumstances. My orientation was all about looking for a means of survival.
It was completely outside the realm of my reality to orient myself towards somenthing so completely outside my experience as success, or happiness, or joy. But, slowly, I learned to change my habitual thinking. Change your habits, change your life. It's easy if you know how. I have spent the last 20 years looking for the fastest, the most effective, and the most comfortable ways to do this. And this is what I offer you, so that you don't have to go through what I went through!
ATM provides a simple, concrete Method for changing your habitual thinking through the medium of moving while in a relaxed attentive state. You don't have to obsess about how you think, or what you think. It orients you towards your own best version of living, completely specific to you. It gives you the new reflex of looking at what works. Your life experience and history and preferences, as written in the template of your physical body, provide the clues. It's up to you to follow the path of bread crumbs to freedom. It's tasty fare, let me tell you. Unique to you, shaped by your own desire, longing and sense of what's right for you.
Quotations from 'Mind and Body' article in Embodied Wisdom, The Collected Papers of Moshe Feldenkrais edited by Elizabeth Berenger.
 

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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!