Friday, 25 October 2013


Being calm, peaceful, relaxed, isn't a show. It's not just something there for a purpose, of making the way easier for others, of making yourself more acceptable to others.

Being calm is a gift to the self. It is a state of being aware of the self at any given time. It is being aware that I have boundaries, that I have the means to stop others from overstepping those boundaries, and that doesn't necessarily mean they'll like me, or that their way will immediately seem easier.

Remember your self. Remember your nervous system, your breathing. Remember that your environment affects you, and you are allowed to determine what effect it has. You can do this by changing where you are in that environment, or by finding out whether that environment can change, or both. If that environment cannot change, you are allowed to remove yourself from it.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Releasing my voice

Everything is connected, Arlyn Zones would say. As would any ecologist, as would anyone who has anything to do with the practice of observing life.

Where I am now, and how I arrived here.

This evening, I took part in a functional integration session carried out on my self by Zoran Kovic. He asked a question - I don't remember the words exactly. But my answer was something like, I want to feel like I can be OK with wherever I am.

It was in response to environment, to feeling constantly like there are demands on me, time constraints on me, emotional needs to be met just to keep the peace, a feeling of being pulled in many directions. How to cater for all of those demands. How to be in so many places at once. It is a feeling of panic, chaos, not feeling the ground, not getting a sense of where I am, not being OK with where I am.

Part of that environment is negative thinking. Habitual negative thinking. Thinking so negative, it doesn't even know it's negative. I encountered it when I arrived home to my parents' place tonight: compulsive judgement, compulsive criticism, compulsive inability to accept, compulsive subjectivity. I noticed it. I noticed I didn't want it. And this, I realise, is a really major boundary for me.

This FI came after two and a half weeks with Arlyn Zones, a person who has embodied much knowledge and experience, who observes the world with great capacity, who I must remember is human. However, in her presence I felt held, and her leaving left me feeling like the carpet had been pulled out from beneath me.

Anyway, during her time here, she took us through a series of lessons all about releasing the voice, through the base of support, the spine, the way the head rests on the spine, the ribs, the tongue, the jaw. There was a battle going on around my sternum. Let that voice out! No, keep it in! Plus, during her time here, she started to create a major shift in that line along my front left side, from the ground to my pelvis, a line that has become more significant to me in recent months. I told her my left hip is where my doubt resides. It's the place that sparked up, began to spasm, last time I lay on an operating table, just prior to being anaesthetised.

In the FI, I started to feel how that place is also connected to the muscles in the neck, the left side of the neck. Following the demo in which Arlyn created that shift, I felt a new sensation of empowerment running from the inner arch of my left foot up my leg to just left of my vagina. A personal, private and powerful episode of phenomenology.

The factors I listed before my FI with Zoran were many - being in other people's spaces, sleeping in a different bed every month (or every week lately), breaking apart from my lover, riding his inevitable ups and downs, an emotionally demanding mother, work - switching between the intellectual of the work and the sensorial of the training - beating myself up, trying to give work 150%, feeling inadequate. It was all environmental. I told him I'd left the training when my system felt overcooked, and took my self out to a creek and swam. He said, you felt buoyant.

He proceeded to lay me on a blanket and move me ever so slowly, ever so minutely, in waves, to create the slowest moving environment for me that he could. Through the FI I was disturbed to hear a fellow student talking with another member of staff about her pain, very close to us. It disturbed me because I had been looking after that student (happily - looking after others is easy!) just prior to the FI, and I felt like I'd somehow given and then been slapped with a less than ideal FI, distracted by talking and whispers about other people's problems.

But my chest gradually melted. My sternum gradually dropped. The autonomic nervous system, Zoran explained, was settling down.

He gave me some tips. We found that place in my left hip as he was trying to plant my feet on the ground. He suggested ATMs about flexors, bringing the upper torso to the thigh / knee either diagonally, or laterally (I think we did an ATM like this with Arlyn) and doing such an ATM on a mattress so that there is give, and my mid back can work out how to move backward to allow the flexion.

He brought attention to a downward accent in my walk, and encouraged an upward accent, to allow freedom in my head and neck.

There has been so much I've taken in and experienced recently. There was a comment the other night - a trigger - to my sister. You haven't cooked us dinner? But you've only had all day. Yes, all day to raise five children and catch up on all the stuff she can't do when working 5 days a week, which she otherwise would be. The expectations placed upon us are not human. They are not superhuman. They are just idiotic, as Moshe would say. And that's not to say the people who have these expectations are idiots. It's to say that the society in which they (we) live is idiotic.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Options along the spectrum

Recently, I enjoyed a newfound sense of commitment to practice. It was exciting because it seemed to speak to a newfound sense of honoring myself.

I had and still have a deep knowing that personal practice is a way to enact the maxim: "To thine own self be true."

There are several things that I'm interesting in practising: writing, playing guitar, and - top of these - lessons in the Feldenkrais Method of somatic learning. Why I place Feldenkrais at the top: the basis of the practice is to "know thyself" - and with more practice, this knowledge grows. And when you know yourself better, you can more easily negotiate the twists and turns of life.

In Feldenkrais practice, we pay close attention to how we initiate movement. Even before the movement has begun, we look for our innate sense of where this action will come from, and what that means to us. It is subtle, and it's all about observation - observing what is. Then, by coming at the movement from other approaches - often left field approaches - we can find other options, and discover ways of moving that we may previously have thought impossible.

There is always a spectrum - a habitual way of doing something, a radically new way of doing something, and everything in between. No two movements are ever really the same.

Once a new, easier option has been registered in the nervous system, it becomes a new habit that the body can automatically refer to.

As a newfound commitment to practice has played out these past few weeks, I've observed how I've been initiating action in all facets of life (as a traditionally Mercurial mind is wont to do - I love that transference from the concrete of the body to the abstract of the mind).

For example, there is the spectrum involved in forming a new relationship. At one end of the spectrum is individual sovereignty. At the other, giving oneself over to the "other" or, in other words, ignoring the self, forgetting to pay attention to the self (some might say, the "inner child"). Along the spectrum are many other ways of being in a relationship, which variously balance these two polar opposites.

For many of us, me certainly included, we are somehow conditioned to give ourselves over, ignore the self. For the pleaser, this is the habitual way of moving in the world. Doubting the self. "Why would you want to be with me?" Putting the "other" on a pedestal.

I've been aware of this habit of giving over sovereignty - actually, so rigidly aware of it, I'd been terrified of entering a relationship for a long time. It's been a fixed state of fear.

Now, I've begun to explore the possibilities along this spectrum. Over a period of two weeks, I've been embarking on a powerful lesson.

It began with a new situation in which things were flowing for me. I was living in a new home, nurturing myself, making strong decisions for myself. I was finding the rhythm of practice - I had committed to write every day and to practise Feldenkrais every day at least five days a week.

Very soon after, I began to move into a new relationship. But I maintained an awareness that I needed to remain on task with my new, exciting commitment to practice, to truly honoring myself on a daily basis. I would spend a spontaneous burst of exciting time with my new companion, but ensure I completed my writing practice before bed, or do a Feldenkrais lesson before bed, or make sure I did one early the following day. Sometimes, I'd let practice slip, but I wouldn't beat myself up for it: "that's just how it is when you encounter something new".

Then I began to travel further along the spectrum of options, began to give myself over, to place the "other" on a pedestal, to put myself down, to question why anyone would want to be with me and my traditionally Mercurial mind. I began to initiate movement from my old habits. Pleaser. Self-saboteur.

I would decide how to spend my time without taking a moment to check in with that inner being - that inner child, perhaps. And you know what? Progressively, over a period of days, that inner being has been getting really pissed off with this "me" that carries out actions in the world.

Today, I am giving my inner being some fresh air. I ended last night - after a hectic week of new romance, new work opportunities, a new level of social life within my home - with a bath and a bed made up with fresh sheets. I've awoken this morning to silence, solitude, washing up, cleaning the floors, nurturing my space with love and slow pacing. My inner being is so relieved that this option is still being offered.

So,  to recap, we have two polar opposites - sovereignty to the exclusion of an intimate relationship, and giving over to the "other" to the exclusion of self-respect. How do we find a way through, a way of initiating actions, that allows us to share ourselves with others, but keep enough for ourselves? This will be the question forming the basis of my actions in days to come.

The moments I will need to be most conscious of, are those when I'm given the new, exciting option of loving company.

In those moments, I need to remember another new, exciting option: the loving company of myself - the deep beauty I find in solitary practice, be it writing, doing Feldenkrais lessons, playing guitar, walking in the park, cleaning the floors, reading. This is a new love.