Monday, June 20, 2005

How We Contain Ourselves

Prisoners, when released, often experience an amorphous, seemingly disproportionate feeling of fear. The walls that once kept them from freedom have come to provide a container for their misery that is, at the very least, predictable. The beauty of what lies beyond seems overwhelming, unrooted. The ebb and flow of their yearning is no longer hemmed in by an external physical structure, or by the decree of others. If things don't work out this time, it's on them. The moment of release is an opportunity. It's a unique moment in which there is a powerful choice to make. Posted by Hello

These moments of choice can be used as a catalyst for huge changes. We don't often get these windows of opportunity to change the underlying attitudes that form the basis of our behavior. Usually, we can't even see them, they are too familiar. An attitude towards life is an underlying assumption we make that is used to make a zillion little decisions about whether to give or to take, to release or hold on, to expand or contract. It's the choice between embracing life and rejecting it. It's the choice between embracing responsibility or abdicating power. Without thinking about it, we organize all our decisions around the basic assumptions we harbor about whether or not life is safe, whether it's worth living, or whether we feel victimized by it.

How we learn to manage the ebb and flow of desire and revulsion, of excitement and indifference, of hope and despair is crucial. It affects our lives in profound ways. It's a handle on the suitcase of repetitive behavior. How do you handle projects, for example? Do you run out and get all the stuff you need to organize a project, be it a knitting project or a new business, and peter out after the first three days? Or, perhaps your'e not quite that bad. Do you loose momentum gradually, and give up just before the end? Or, maybe you never start anything yourself, unless someone else has a hand in it. Maybe you deal with excitement by avoiding risk at all costs. Maybe you tamp down excitement like a fire that needs to be put out before something is damaged. Maybe you chase excitement like a fiend. It's quite fasionable right now. Extreme sports are in.

Who cares? How vast are the number of ways we sabotage ourselves. How prolific the number of opportunities we watch from a distance afraid to experience the burning of desire or the cold, dead feel of defeat. Why extend oneself at all? It's up to you, it's entirely a matter of choice. (Choosing to ignore your power to manage yourself in this way, is a choice to renounce all claim to the very things that make life fulfilling.) It applies equally to human relationships. When you look at your life, do you see yourself as always extending yourself to others? Or do you 'keep people at arms length?' Do you let people 'get close to you?' Or, perhaps, you know women, or men, who consistently date and eventually always end up giving their date the 'cold shoulder?'

Common phrases such as these indicate that most people intuit the underlying fact that how we manage this ebb and flow of emotion and disinterest has a definite physical manifestation in our bodies. The reason I find working with AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT (ATM) so endlessly fascinating, is that you can approach rigidity in thinking from the mind or the body, it doesn't matter. Either way both aspects of the self change. ATM is a way to connect with the felt sense of ebb and flow, so that this entire discussion becomes concrete, rather than conceptual. Translated into plain English, that means stick with a practice and you will gradually learn to respond to these impulses appropriately, without thinking. It will no longer be just an idea that sounds interesting. Some things must be felt to be understood.

Looking at the ebb and flow of your impulses in this way can prevent burnout. Unfortunately, there is no cure for burnout. You have three options.You can rest until you can continue. You can use chemicals to continue; socially accepted (caffeine) or professionally prescribed (pharmaceuticals). Or, you can learn to prevent burnout in the first place by learning to manage your work rhythms better.

Looking at the ebb and flow of your desires in this way can help you accomplish more of what you set out to do, because you will learn how to manage your time so that you finish what you start. Looking at the ebb and flow of your relationships in this way can help you be less unpredictable human being, so that other people relate to you without the confusing push/pull strategies that can warp even the warmest friendships.

Looking out at the evening sky as a child, I used to be overwhelmed at the vastness of the stars at night, even to the point of fear. I had a sense that if I was not careful, I might fall into the starry night, so strong was the pull of all those beautiful lights shimmering across the galaxy. I had a fear of release, as if release might mean complete and total surrender. And perhaps it does...there is the paradox. We have to be able 'to stand' the feeling of surrendering to the unknown to be able to experience our own power to create. In the end, the power is not ours, it runs through us in an ebb and flow that can, with time, become recognizable, even welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Greetings Gabrielle,

    I also am in Nevada City and just began doing the first four lessons in Thomas Hanna's Somatics book. It's been four days. My spine feels straighter, my body is releasing and opening in places...

    I also started a blog to note the changes in my body. I just so happen to be using the same blogware as you - we're connected!

    I have been looking for a practitioner/educator in Nevada City. Contact me on my blog if you'd like to share info!


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