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.