Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Rolling With The Punches of Life

As infants, we are totally dependent on our parents for nurture. Initially, the interaction is primarily physical. Yet, physicality between two people is extremely intimate. Thus, emotional response is interwoven with physical action from the very beginning. In this old photo of myself and my lovely daughter, Ilonna, she is just about to learn how to stand on her own. Now, at almost twenty, she is learning how to stand on her own again, this time as a self-sufficient adult. How can movement facilitate moving through the major changes in our lives? Posted by Hello

Why study ourselves from a somatic perspective? Because the earliest emotional responses we have are linked with the physical movement of being cared for and learning to care for ourselves. Our attitudes and habits around these two issues permeate our lives with either pain or pleasure, depending on our relationships with ourselves and others. Our emotional habits are linked with muscular and postural patterns from day one. By playing with how we move, we can learn to move past old attitudes that keep us stuck emotionally.

Most people have experienced a car accident at one time or another in their lives. Take yourself back to the moment of impact in your mind. Remember the sense of timelessness. The sudden dawning of awareness that there was no where to go to avoid the collision. Feel your body stiffen again, just slightly, almost, but not quite, imperceptibly. When you imagine a movement - or, in this case, an impulse to inhibit movement to protect yourself from injury - there is a neurological response. And since the areas in your brain that govern movement and memory are adjacent to each other, the stimulus produces a slight, but noticeable physical response.

Now take yourself to a later memory, for this experience has also happened to most people. Remember a time after the accident when you were almost hit again. Remember how you flinched before anything even happened? This is because when there is enough resemblance between two situations, the neural response from the original experience is reinstated, whatever the response was, be it physical, emotional or both. This is the phenomenon commonly referred to as 'muscle memory.' The term is a bit of a misnomer, because it's actually a neural response. Muscles don't respond unless the nerves fire.

The older you are, the harder it is to distinguish old reactions from present reactions. Why? For one thing, the response is almost instantaneous. For another thing, the older you are, the more all your cumulative experiences pile on top of each other making it difficult to tell one from another unless you train yourself to do so.

The basis of the FELDENKRAIS METHOD is learning to distinguish what is an appropriate level of muscular tension and what is not. In AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT (ATM), you learn how to sense this. You learn how to work with yourself to eliminate extraneous tension. You would be amazed at how much more energy you have when you are no longer bound up by tension related to experiences that happened long ago.

In his book, The Potent Self, Moshe Feldenkrais points out that we all know neurotic people who apparently cannot get it together, can't stop spending, or eating, or gravitating to negative relationships or whatever. What's up with that? In movement, coordination comes not only from being able to move, but from a combination between movment and inhibition. In other words, say you want to hit a golf ball. You need to be able to organize yourself so that only the muscles you need to get the job done are involved. If any other tension is present in your body, it will throw off the swing. Even a small difference in tension near the center of the body will translate into a much larger divergence from intention at the end of your golf club. Whoops!

"What is needed is a positive method of directing onself, a way whereby one can learn to produce the wanted effect without, at the same time bringing on unwanted impulses..." - Feldenkrais, The Potent Self

This quote pretty much sums up the whole Method. It's a means to learn how to produce an effect without bringing your history into the present. Sometimes it's appropriate to push, sometimes it's not. Thus, whether life gives you lemons or roses, you can respond fully in the moment. You can roll with the punches spontaneously, without the drag of old stuff slowing you down. For myself, I have much more energy now than I ever had as an adult before doing ATM. Now, the problem is that I keep taking on more, so that I am overloaded anyway, but that is the residue from another, a deeper pattern. It's a process, not a magic bullet. But it's a process that unfolds comfortably. No hours of painful self examination on the therapists couch. No self flagelation required. Only learning to stand easily, without effort, and learning when not to stand so as to get out of harm's way when necessary, in the present.

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