cultivating sensitivity through imbalance

Photo by Sagaya Abdulhafeez on Unsplash

unpolished thoughts 6/3/2019

Habits, patterns, practices, disciplines, routines, rhythms, dos and don’ts.

It’s all up for grabs.

Sometimes what feels the most transformative is to create a system of consistency and loyally crank it out.

Other days, what feels the juiciest is to throw everything out the window and say, “why should I be bound by these arbitrary guidelines?!”

Where is the middle?

My best guess is that it actually doesn’t exist.

It’s too easy to go too far one way, then the other, then say, “I need to find the balance.”

But balance is never static. It’s a process of constant correction. We are constantly drifting off center, then homing back in.

Just stand quietly with your eyes closed, listening to the connection of the soles of your feet to the earth and you will see what I mean.

But how far do you drift before you notice it?

(That’s a question of your sensitivity.)

Moshe Feldenkrais always liked to say, “If you know what you’re doing, you can do what you want.”

One way to interpret that idea is that there is nothing wrong with doing things “wrong” as long as you know what you are doing.

To break discipline because you decide to do so is very different than falling off the wagon.

To deliberately make a mistake to understand experientially why that particular course of action doesn’t serve you can be a very intelligent decision. It’s especially useful if you have the sensitivity and self-awareness to make the experiment small enough to learn your lesson without doing yourself any real harm.

Planning is fantastic. So is spontaneity.

Maybe then it’s useful to notice where you tend to use these approaches habitually.

What are the situations where replacing plans with spontaneity would be represent a major break from your typical behavior?

When would you feel radically different if you planned ahead rather than allowing things to happen in an unscripted way?

Fear is often a good gauge.

What are you afraid to plan for?

What are you afraid to leave to chance?

Intentionally counteracting your habits can create an imbalance that you aren’t used to. It shakes up the process of your continual and instinctive return to the center.

Stand, close your eyes again, and listen to your feet – but now lift one foot off the floor – and you’ll experience exactly what I’m talking about.

It could be difficult and you might have to put that foot back down right away, but if you keep at it for five minutes, then go back to having two feet firmly planted on the ground, I predict that the original situation will now feel completely different.

Habits, patterns, practices, disciplines, routines, rhythms, dos and don’ts.

It’s all up for grabs – if you are willing to experiment.

Are you willing to experiment?

If not –  why not?

How else will you train your sensitivity if you don’t give yourself the opportunity to sense new things?

The trick is not to experiment with jumping off cliffs.

But if you fear heights, you could create games with very tiny heights in such a way that you could slowly expand your experience of what is familiar to you. Expanding familiarity goes a long way towards combatting fear.

But life keeps moving. Your days are busy. So when will you fit in all these experiments?

Spontaneity might provide some opportunities.

Unless your imbalance already looks like leaving too many variables undefined. Then making a plan or two might create new possibilities.

It might help to construct a routine that has open elements inside it. Plan in some unpredictability.

How are you going to tweak it to make everything just right?

Hint: you probably can’t.

But you could learn to right yourself from many different forms of imbalance through deliberate practice.

That might just increase your overall sensitivity to small deviations in your experience. It might just improve your ability to find center in every moment – both the ones you can plan for and the ones you can’t.