unpolished thoughts 4/5/2019
It’s been a little more than a week since I last posted my “unpolished thoughts”, and a lot has changed for me.
The pause in what had been a practice of publishing on a daily basis for the previous three and a half months reflected my recognition that I had become stuck in many ways.
Since my last post, I have continued to write for 20 minutes a day, documenting thoughts, some clearer than others.
I’d like to share a little bit of what happened to me because the process that unfolded is something we all have to deal with from time to time. Maybe you’ll find this story reflects something useful for you as well.
The basic progression went something like this:
Stage 1: barrelling ahead blindly
Stage 2: the dawning realization: “I’m stuck”
Stage 3: imagining a better way
Stage 4: experimenting with a new pattern
Stage 5: forming new habits
Sharing my own experience feels important as one way of keeping the promise I made to the participants in my ¡Reimagine Yourself! online Feldenkrais program – that I too would be reimagining myself as the class unfolded.
To “reimagine yourself” means to open yourself to the possibility of living a different story than the one you currently tell yourself.
If you can imagine a different story, you can live a different life, but if you think the way you understand things now is the only way things can ever be – forget it, your stuck.
Right now, I’m feeling stuck.
I’m mostly consumed by the swirl of words in my head and with my ideas of success or failure. I spend a lot of time divorced from the present moment, efforting needlessly, and being unkind to myself when things don’t go my way.
It’s worth asking myself if I actually know how to do what I say I’m teaching.
Do I know how to reimagine myself?
Is it possible, if I slow down, that my body could tell me something different about my possibilities than my mind currently does? Do I know how to slow down right now so that can actually happen?
If I look at a typical day, what things I need to do to create the conditions for fresh learning learning and growth?
I am already consistent with daily sitting meditation and writing. I do other things less consistently, like running or pausing to count my breaths.
Given my long term habits of hermitage, it’s also important for me to make an effort to leave my home to go out into the world more often than I do. I have to practice lingering just a little, not being in so much of a hurry to return to the safety of my solitude.
There is one change I could make that I know without a doubt would create the shift that I need. Yet I continually fail to make that change.
Why am I not I consistent in my own personal practice of Awareness Through Movement, the very practice that I teach?
I know what this practice has always done for me.
The Feldenkrais Method teaches us how to listen and tap into the deeper wisdom of our body.
“Deep” means not at the surface – where we usually live, where our endless verbal self-talk is found. It means to give ourselves attention of a higher quality than what we typically do, in order to become aware of crucial signals that we usually miss.
That’s where our body’s wisdom shines through.
When we zero in on small details, we discover that we are capable of making fine distinctions that can guide us to a new experience of ourselves.
This transformational possibility is available to us every time that we are willing to slow down and put aside the compulsion to achieve something, putting our attention instead on the unfolding process of the present moment.
The things we do with our bodies in the Awareness Through Movement lessons are also metaphors for what we do in our lives.
I know of no other process as reliable as this one to take us out of the experience of being stuck.
So why don’t I act on what I know?!
In the process of transformation, it seems like getting stuck is actually a very important stage.
You don’t just change and change and change. Sometimes you fiercely resist change, even while you’re telling yourself that change is what you want.
I have thought more than once recently about the time when I knew I needed a divorce, but I hadn’t taken action yet.
I couldn’t get around the fact that it wouldn’t happen by itself. I had to slow down enough to see how it would happen, to be able to imagine it, and begin to take one painful step after another through the grueling process.
I’m trying to meditate on that lesson right now.
I’m trying to understand that being stuck is a signal I’m giving myself that the changes ahead of me require serious action. It’s time to prepare myself, not shy away.
It’s become obvious that my constant complaint that I am “too busy” is actually just an excuse.
Constantly doing many things has no intrinsic merit. Prioritizing tasks based on doing meaningful work that doesn’t involve burning yourself out is much more admirable.
This feels like the crux of what I’m really trying to sort through these days.
My endless to do list has been a perfect use to never get outside.
What the hell are my priorities anyways?!
A quick count of current concerns produced a list with more than a dozen items. I also noticed that I had very little sense of what order to put them in.
This morning I practiced Awareness Through Movement.
I wish I could say that this was how I start each day, but that hasn’t been the case. But today proved to me yet again how useful that kind of discipline would be.
My self awareness has grown immensely over the past seven years since I discovered the Feldenkrais Method. My practice this morning demonstrated that very clearly since I was following a lesson that I did for the first time several years ago and I could compare my experience today with how it once was.
But this increased awareness does not automatically carry over into everyday life if I don’t maintain my practice.
Perhaps if time travel were possible, and I could compare a miserable day in 2019 to 2012, I’d see that my past misery was greater – but of course, that comparison isn’t possible.
But what I do know to be true is that in 2019, I can quickly make myself miserable by neglecting my practice.
Perhaps some of the aches and pains I feel today would have previously been so buried under the surface noise of excess muscular contractions that I wouldn’t have even noticed them.
But noticing them now doesn’t feel like cause for celebration.
In fact, it seems that the more I develop an understanding myself through the lens of both body and mind, the more frustrating it becomes to discover those moments when I don’t understand what is happening in my body.
However, there is no need to drown in this confusion.
As I reminded myself today, when I truly take the time to practice, I am capable of finding the internal landmarks and levers that I need to shift my experience back into comfort.
Knowing this exposes the insanity of the way I have been living my life, practically leaving it up to chance whether I practice each day.
It’s especially aggravating to watch myself miss this opportunity day after day when open spaces in my calendar seem to suggest that I have plenty of free time.
Instead I dump my to-do list into all of those spaces and somehow feel shocked at the end of the day when the sun goes down.
Why haven’t I been taking advantage of any of this “free time” to engage in the one practice that I know will make me move more easily and efficiently through my day?
In this moment, having just completed an hour of attending to my self-organization, I support myself effortlessly and my mind feels clear.
Even as I’m write about this topic which has distressed me so much over the past several days, my inner voice speaks to me with a measured tone.
Why don’t I do this for myself every day?
For some time I have thought that, for the sake of consistency, it would make the most sense to wake up early each morning to practice.
Of course, this also means going to bed earlier – and resisting the idea that I “need to” stay up later because I haven’t checked off every item on the endless to-do list.
Looking at today, it appears that I need about two hours for my full practice (meditation, Feldenkrais, and writing), so I think I’ll need to wake up at 5am in order to do that.
Here’s a proposal to myself – and I can start tonight if I’m going to take myself seriously:
Go bed by 10:30pm. Wake up at 5. Sit. Practice. Write.
Wake my daughter up at 7 and do the morning routine.
I can already feel resistance inside myself to the idea of this discipline, but I can also feel – especially after this morning – an attraction.
I did it.
I woke up at 5am.
I sat, I had an Awareness Through Movement lesson, and now, with my second cup of coffee next to me, I’m sitting down to write.
My daughter is still asleep.
I can’t remember the last time I got up this early – not because I had to, but because I wanted to. Today there was no external compulsion to be awake before the sunrise. It was my own decision to make this space and time to take care of myself.
Just like yesterday, I can feel the clear benefit of my practice as I sit here typing.
(I will also add that it was easy to go to bed at 10:30pm last night, so much earlier than usual.
But how often do I stop doing any high-quality work long before 10:30pm – and yet still stay up until midnight or even 1am?!)
I’m noticing a new idea inside me:
This is what I will do from now on!
I certainly enjoy the thought of what the benefits could be for me if I successfully made that idea true.
Still, I’m reminded of my sudden decision to write a daily blog post and my determination for 105 straight days, followed by what seemed to be a necessary surrender.
In other words, how can I make use of this signal moment and learn the lesson without immediately creating new rules that box me in?
My meditation practice feels like the best model.
Even when I oversleep and feel like my whole schedule is thrown off, I can always find fifteen minutes in my day to sit.
My practice feeds me. It’s not a dramatic thing, either – my meditation has become as routine as eating meals.
But when I think of my life before I had a sitting practice and how reactive I was to just about everything, it’s hard to imagine going back.
That’s the attitude and the relationship that I would like to develop and nurture in relation to Awareness Through Movement. Still, I have to recognize that, despite having chosen Feldenkrais as my career path, I haven’t actually fully adopted this habit in my own daily life.
But two days in a row of this feeling is making a very strong appeal to the logic of the wordless intelligence in my body, below the verbal surface of my mind.
It is simply so much easier to sit here on the floor and write, aware of my skeleton, but not needing to constantly tend to it by fidgeting and shifting position.
Because my body feels quieter, stronger, more stable – my mind is freer to focus.
Like yesterday, I can also feel how the physical and mental stability contributes to increased emotional poise. Every problem in my life that I went to sleep with last night woke up with me this morning – and yet the outlook on my day feels more measured and less fearful.
So, how can I be intentional about living more of my life inside this experience?
First I think I need to create a clockwork-like routine that can manage itself, but I also need to leave space for that routine to be disrupted and reformulated on any given day when life makes that necessary.
It’s time to work on that idea from Moshe about not simply pursuing a flexible body, but also cultivating a flexible mind – essential criteria for restoring to each one of us our basic human dignity.
In the process of forming a new habit, the first new steps are always shaky.
You decide to walk a new path, but you don’t yet know the feel of the ground beneath your feet. You still remember the old path well and its familiarity pulls on your thinking.
The new path may lead in a direction you wish to go, but all its advantages come with an odd feeling, because you seem to be leaving a part of yourself behind.
In fact, you are leaving a part of yourself behind.
But you’ve done this before.
That old path was new once – until you wore away the grass with your repeated passings. You gradually made an opening to the earth that you could follow each successive day with less and less conscious intention.
You are simply starting the same thing over again now.
At first sometimes it’s hard to sense the advantages of the unknown. But there are many.
One advantage is that the unknown is also undefined.
As it slowly becomes more known to you, if you approach it calmly, you can resist the temptation to name everything right away. A tree or flower along the side of the path can be a startling apparition of beauty that you don’t need to pretend to recognize.
You can remain in that space of deep respect just a little bit longer, the space where you simply pause with wide eyes and ask, “What are you?”
As you continue, feeling new sensations, inevitably you begin to draw a new map.
But take note – this opportunity is a privilege.
As you collect landmarks, there is no need to limit yourself to the larger, louder or brighter objects. You may decide that this territory will be more richly known than the previous one.
By filling out the image of your environment in greater detail, you do the same for the image of yourself.
After all, what surrounds you is your mirror. It’s not separate from you.
The world also looks to you, to see its own reflection.
In this moment of heightened awareness, when you are not yet capable of travelling half asleep, you can become more intentional in how you allow the world to see itself through your eyes.
Meanwhile, notice that the old path never fully disappears.
You remain on the new path only if you keep your eyes open, if you breathe in all the odors, and listen to all the new sounds, sensations, and thoughts that arise.
Listen for all the notes of the new melody if you wish to learn the tune. The new way is more ephemeral at first than the old.
Your continued journey on the new path involves making a fresh decision each time you lift one foot to place it in front of the other.
You must continue affirming that you have become the person that no longer walks the old path – again and again – until it no longer feels necessary, until the old path no longer tugs on your memory.
You can renew this experience every year or even every day.
Perhaps one day you will even see that no single path ever remains the same.
The ground below your feet is always changing, and even the familiar has hidden magic always waiting to be revealed.
Maybe this will become your mantra:
May my eyes and ears remain open, but should they begin to close, give me the courage to seek a new path.
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