Monday, September 20, 2010

What's Up With These Changes?

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They don't stick.
Or, do they?
The significant ones do stick.

So you do an Awareness Through Movement (ATM) lesson and most of the tiny changes you notice in the way your body is lying on the mat have disappeared from the day before, so what's the point? Here's the deal: the exercise of noticing these little changes is really about growing our ability to tune in and be connected to the physical body. It's how we learn, but it's also how we can learn to move through pain, trauma and limitation.

This apparent paradox
is not to be resolved. Some changes don't last. Some changes do last. It's to be accepted. It's the changes that affect more than your contact with the mat on the floor that usually stick. It's the changes in how you move, how you are organized that stick. It's such a fundamental shift that it changes how we relate to everything we do. How quickly we are able to absorb these changes depends on our ability to tolerate things unknown,* and our openness to new learning.

Yesterday, I was delighted to work with some new recordings that I am unfamiliar with. In contrast to regular exercise, what's fun is the adventure of not knowing what's coming. This is an especially useful aspect of ATM because it gives access to beginners mind, the ability to sense one's own body from the point of view of someone who has never had a body before. It's kind of like experiencing yourself for the first time with the newness of the newborn babe.

Anyway, based on my history of seven or more whiplash injuries to my neck, compromised by too much time learning dysfunctional software on the computer (Who comprehends what goes on in the minds of programmers?!? - but thank you anyway - lest I be deemed ungrateful for some of the things computers can do!) - I meet the mat in a certain way. I find my silhouette bears the traces of a lifetime of proclivities. It's a certain expression of who I am in the same way that my thumbprint is unique to me alone.

It changes a bit from day to day, but not in huge ways. Depending on the season, for example, when there is more gardening or digging to do in the early spring my body manifests a slightly different shape than when I spend a lot of time raking leaves in fall, because it's an activity that makes for using oneself in a different way. Or, if I have been on a road trip and sitting on a motorcycle for six hours for days on end, I notice a completely different set of small changes. It's a miracle I am forever grateful for that I can do any of these things given my history of injuries. Feldenkrais, you rock! (An aside to Moshe, wherever you are.)

So, to get on with my tale, I was doing a very interesting ATM with the pelvis that woke up the residue of an incident I had on horseback a couple of years ago. It's not something that bothers me much, but it's like a residual reminder of what was going on at that time. Like all injuries, I figure it was a wake up call. Question is, a what was it saying? I believe the issue will be completely resolved when I completely get the message. In this case, it has to do with traveling through time back home to where I grew up, and letting go of ways I relate to that that no longer serve me. But that is a different story, for another time.

As I moved my body according to the request in the ATM, trying to sense what other parts of me moved along with the focus on the pelvis, I went through a myriad of emotional states: I was alternately puzzled, curious, bored, tense, relaxed, overcome by huge, global yawns, and gradually more global in my movements. In other words, although the lesson appeared to focus on one specific area, it was a means to an end (as any ATM is). In this case, it was a way of using a local movement in the butt cheeks to awaken a more global neurological response: moving FROM the pelvis. The lesson was about tuning into, refining, improving how that affects the way the legs meet the hip sockets, how the knees accommodate that, how it affects the way the feet meet the floor. It was also about how the back responds to mobility (or lack thereof) in the pelvis, how the shoulders respond, and ultimately, always ultimately how the carriage of the head is achieved over the torso in any upright position or motion.
Not only was it about all that, but my body got it without my brain having to understand it at the time; kind of like being able to get to your destination by following the directions without really knowing where you are going.

Hence, the answer to that question about changes. After I got up off the mat and walked up the hill to feed my small heard of two horses, I felt as if I was sashaying on the dance floor of civil war-era Charleston in a huge dress with flouncing petticoats - even though I was actually working my way up a dusty red hill covered with fist-sized rocks that try to trip you up every couple of feet. (We are rock farmers here in the Sierra Foothills; not unlike Wales, Ireland, or canton Graubuenden in Switzerland).

This morning I woke up to sashay up the hill again. Horses like to be fed regular and promptly, thank you! Those changes were still with me. I waltzed up the hill with a sense of gratitude for a new, amazing day in which I get to feel younger than I have any right to feel - if the pundits were allowed to have their way with me. But who cares about the opinions of 'experts' anyway? If I left the care of my body to others, I would most likely be on painkillers and living a pretty sedentary life, limited by the fear instilled in me by those who tell me what not to do, or that it's to be expected 'at my age,' instead of how to find solutions that allow me to dance, sing, run and ride (most importantly ride!) with a power born not of muscular strength alone, but of something much more primal, and fundamental to learning: the ability to notice small changes. Some stick, some don't, but the ones that do, watch out, 'cause they completely change the way I relate to the world and to life and to being in a body. The feeling of youth may be wasted on the young, but I ain't gonna let it slide again! I did miss the boat the first time around (long story), but, believe me, it won't happen again. This time we are gonna relish the ride with gusto...

* This is why the FELDENKRAIS Method is such a huge leap for humanity: it can provide a catalyst for tolerance that is powerful enough to completely change how we relate to others, so that we learn to tolerate diversity, all things foreign, even points of view we disagree with. It has the potential to further 'humans judging' into actual 'humans being' in peace with themselves and others.

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