Taking Responsibility for your Next Move

What is Driving your Movement?

“All the physical movement is to give her a change so she can own the responsibility for what she wants.” 

How does changing how you move affect the rest of your life?  Movement is movement and the rest of your life is the rest of your life.  Nothing more to see here, right?

Part of me wants to go epic and deep, to talk about the nature of matter, of our existence as movement – the vibration and movement of atoms, the space between parts of molecules, the matter of our cells.  As fascinating as the nature of matter is, it failed my Mom test – the practical, simple explanation I would use to tell my Mom about this.  (Thanks to Rob Fitzpatrick for the concept from his book, The Mom Test).

“All the physical movement is to give her a change so she can own the responsibility for what she wants.” 

This statement came from a teacher and mentor of mine, Candy Conino,  in the discussion of a client case – some of my peers and I gather once a week to discuss questions from our practice which gives us a rich learning environment to build our professional competence and confidence.

In the search for a practical, simple explanation of the what this means –  “All the physical movement is to give her a change so she can own the responsibility for what she wants” – it comes down to this.

We can lose ourselves in our unconscious habits.  We need our habits – try brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand – to know how much attention this basic hygiene task takes without your habitual movement.   But habits can become a trap.

One way that our unconscious habits can become mal-adaptive behaviors is when something important in our environment shifts.  A partner becomes seriously ill or dies.  You have a serious accident or life event that changes how you get through each day.  We can do what we have always done and it doesn’t quite work anymore.  Or we can change but what we do now doesn’t feel quite right and we create a story that explains what is missing now that our partner is gone or our ability to run or walk is altered.  We create our story of coping.  And we cope.  That’s how we survive past the hard parts of life.

One kind of coping is to dive hard into an unconscious habit that feels like a save.

Let’s imagine Lidia’s journey – when Lidia’s partner dies, after an initial grieving period, one possible move is for Lidia to dive into activity – all of the classes, experiences, trips – everything that might have been on hold due to her partner’s poor health or just her unexpressed dreams for what she wanted but didn’t do.  And in that flurry of activity, Lidia sustains an injury, some physical way of breaking down.

She did too much, we say, her body wasn’t able to keep up with all this intense activity.  But more than volume, frequency or intensity of activity, we can also take the measure of the compulsive nature of what Lidia dives into – a way of coping that leads her away from herself.

What somatic coaching can help Lidia do is to bring her movement and her movement habits into conscious awareness so she can choose both how she moves and who she is in this new environment.  Unconscious coping creates a compelling and frustrating experience – while doing it you can lose yourself in the coping activity and at some point, Lidia comes back to herself.  And faces the frustration, the longing, the grief, the fear of what she is adapting to. And the limits of how she is coping.   Time to dive back in.

Somatic coaching can help Lidia listen to herself, her body and how she is functioning in her environment now and know herself – not through a story of who she was or is now, or the way she is coping to save herself, but in a concrete way right now.

Keep it sample, Mom

 

The practical, simple explanation I would tell my Mom is by helping Lidia become conscious of how she moves, she can choose what to do now because she can feel herself as she moves now. And her conscious choice is how she creates the person she can be, with each move, in every day.

Interested in learning more?  Book a free 15 minute call with Cheryl.  No sales pressure, just a caring conversation about what you are looking for and what I can offer.   https://www.kindpower.ca/book/

Ready to start?  Book a 45 minute somatic assessment session.  Then based on what we discover together, I will make a recommendation for what can support you.   https://www.kindpower.ca/book/

Time for Integration

I live where it feels like, at this time of year, pretty far north.  This week I have watched leaves start to turn colors, weather forecasts start to hint at near frost temperatures, I daily contemplate the likelihood that my squashes will grow big enough to be harvested before a hard frost.  Do I need to cover them tonight, prolonging my hope for a harvest? 

Summer, typically, has been a time for integration for me.  A time to step away from the pace of doing I commit to the rest of the year.  A time to sit in utter stillness in my kayak in the middle of a lake with pelicans and gulls as my only companions.  A time to look into a fire in the cooling evening, letting everything be.  A time to pause, watch the sky under the guise of reading on the back deck.  A time to allow. To let come.

I had a different kind of integration experience this summer, a positive disruptive one.  As part of my May training with the Feldenkrais Training Academy, I had a one-on-one Functional Integration lesson with Jeff Haller, our educational director.   Functional Integration is a hands-on lesson, where the practitioner creates learning through touch.  The situation I presented him – I am feeling coordinated, well organized with good alignment – experiencing pleasurable movement….on my left side only.  My right side was fighting like hell to not be that.  My right knee, hip, shoulder ached regularly.  My right foot too.  In my aikido training, I regularly have a kind of Jekyll and Hyde experience – an aikido-like feeling on the left and an awkward, shoving strength experience on the right.   Jeff asked me to do a basic move from aikido (shio-nage for my aikido audience) to highlight for me how I was organizing myself differently on each side.  Then he asked me to lie on the table and explored through touch my body’s organization.  Ten minutes into the lesson I felt in some palpable way more like a whole person.  The how of this part of the lesson is still to be learned; the what of this part of the lesson is with me still.   Soon he easily had my right leg swinging as if I were a skeleton, with no history of sciatica, no muscular knots in my hip and buttock, no learned patterns to cope with pain, stiffness and numbness.  By the end of the hour, I felt connected, balanced, and structurally whole – we repeated the aikido move from the beginning of the lesson and Jeff told me, “When you are organized like this, there will never be any openings”.   Structural strength and ease.  Super cool.

What interests me even more than the lesson, is the process of integration that followed.  I left the training session in May with a new relationship with my right hip, with at least two viable options for how to move it while I walk, how to stand, how to shift my weight – my habitual way of moving and the more efficient way Jeff taught me that allowed for lighter weight transfer, for quicker walking with less effort, for greater stamina – walking uphill became almost easy, like I had a new power source within me to just glide up the hill.   But I was returned in a way to being like a toddler – either pattern could show up.  In the process of integration, I found that I was becoming stiff and sore almost every time I moved from sitting to standing.  I played with options, how to apply what I had learned so far to change my experience. (Because I am going to make this better!)   Some days I felt 20 years older each time I stood up.  A senior toddler – stiff, wobbly, a little confused about how to move from here. And frustrated – – why was this happening to me?  How was this better?   This integration process felt much more like disintegration.

I tried several things with limited success – morning exercises to stretch and open up the mobility in my hips – good for an hour or two.  I changed how I sat, focusing on lengthening my legs, letting go of tension I held while sitting – this worked better but it didn’t change the pattern from happening.   I found some ways to move that didn’t hurt; other parts continued to protest.  I felt the pressure from an internalized, societal idea – this is just what happens when you are over 50. 

What I hadn’t tried is a core part of applying awareness to my movement – slowing down to really sense what was happening in the movement from sitting to standing, in the shifting of weight into my feet.  I slowly came to study this moment in my movement. 

This August, my integration process was supported by another one-on-one lesson, this time with Chrish Kresge.  After presenting my current state, she observed me and asked, “What are you over-using?”  I didn’t know the answer until she asked.  “My knees.”  She led me through a lesson that I was familiar with about the movement from sitting to standing and brought together the ways I was not quite yet integrated.  And it did come together, I came together.   Wonderful.

What can I glean from this integration process to take into my life more broadly?   A key harvest is the role of attention in being with my movement.  I am fully conditioned to use my attention to determine my state of being – how does this feel? It hurts.  If it hurts, how do I make this movement better?  This kind of attention may be an expression of self-care, self-love, but expressed through a corrective kind of care.  There is a subtle kind of limit I place on myself here by pursuing attention anchored to the agenda: how do I make my movement better?   It’s the attachment I put on my curiosity – curiosity to know what is happening to “fix” myself compared to a free, unencumbered curiosity to know.  This attachment changes my attention, changes my relationship with myself. A small difference but the impact on how I treat myself is powerful.

Let’s compare the two.

Closed form of curiosity:  Why do my knees hurt?  What do I need to do differently to make it better?  I could work on strengthening my thigh muscles, on opening the flexibility of my ankle joints.  I could wear knee braces to keep my knees moving in good alignment.  

Open form: What is happening when I stand such that my knees hurt?  What do I notice?  I could notice the placement of my feet, the direction my knees move coming to standing.  I could notice where my head is in relationship to my feet and knees, what arc it makes.  I could notice where my eyes move, where the weight of my head is placed and the work needed to keep it upright.  I could keep going in this form of curiosity, in exploring possibilities.  I could also keep going in the closed form of curiosity but I can see an end to what seems worth exploring.  If my knee hurts – will I look further than the next set of joints for the cause?  What about how I am using my spine, how I organize the weight of my torso over my knees?  

A closed curiosity, an attention attached to a “fixer-upper” agenda is just more limited. I am formed by decades of corrective care – from myself and others. The pause to allow for open attention is to notice what I notice. To allow for repetitions of unproductive patterns.  To learn.  This is the habit of attention that is more important than exactly how I make my movement.  How can I relinquish the driver’s seat on the quality of my movement?  Because the body likes and embraces what works better.  I am my body. My attention determines the nature of our relationship together.

Real learning, doing something that is actually new and different than what I have done,  is situated in this kind of love – this attention in the form of open curiosity to my state from a stance of acceptance, an embrace rather than a bracing against what is present.   What kind of love is this, that attends to how I am?  

Power Traps

Let’s talk about power.  And powerlessness.    I found myself a wee bit triggered the other day, seeing another Woman Warrior offering land in my digitally enhanced attention stream.   The online course called on women to feel into your inner warrior, to stand in your truth, increase your confidence, find your voice and access deeper courage.   Warrior as a kind of soul stamina – to be your true self and have the clarity and strength to manifest your desire in the world.

This is attractive to many women.   I call this flirtation with the feeling of inner power.  There is a titillating quality, like pink fuzzy handcuffs in the bedroom.  This is an attractive story of power, the me that feels empowered on the inside, that feels she can face whatever she needs to face and keep that warm, clear inner feeling of big authentic self, a badass.  And I think the belief below this story line is that if I just feel this clearly enough, then others will feel this difference in me and respect me.  Maybe.  I have seen my share of women supporting each other for undergoing this kind of inner warrior journey.  There is something in my gut that always feels – something is off here. 

It’s a kind of Wishful thinking Warrior – a Warrior Princess whose first move is to go inside herself.  She busies herself, making all of the right alignments, attunements, all of the changes inside her heart that will make her the kind of precious, valuable and worthwhile woman in the eyes of others.   I am powerful because I am deeply connected, deeply conscious, deeply centered. This feel right. My personal gut niggle is that it also feels like only part of the story.

Where is the power located in that story?  This kind warrior may feel like a True Sourced Diamond but it still is a jewel that can be locked into a treasure chest.   This feels like a variation of the journey to become a Perfect Princess – if I just work on myself enough, I will be perfect and perfectly acceptable to others.   Smells like a power trap. 

I hate feeling powerless – a lot of my life has been developing my resources to avoid the moment when I feel like there is nothing I can do. I recently went to pick up a friend from the airport – I love my friend but he doesn’t believe in cell phones as a valuable tool for communication. I waited for an hour – no friend. The flight number he gave me didn’t match any of the incoming flights. I checked in with the partner airline and wasn’t able to get any information. I had to come to the place of powerlessness – there was nothing I could do. As I was leaving a message on his home phone (because I was committed to doing something even though it was not in any way helpful), my friend walked through the gate – held up in the line at customs. I had a disproportionate emotional reaction – a kind of upset usually reserved for lost puppies. I hate feeling powerless.

I am all for inner courage – I fully uphold the inner battle to find my way to feel confident, to stand up for my ideas, my rights, my values.   The courage to represent myself clearly and effectively.   To take credit for my contribution and the difference I make as a woman, as a worker, as a loved/loving one.   I am also in for soul-sourced, Spirit-connected integrity.  The path that increasingly surrenders my ego-conditioned self to my self as a part of the Whole.

This inner feeling of courage, of inner resiliency and strength is important, necessary.  But it is not enough to actually be powerful.  Or to avoid feeling powerless here in the world. Volunteering at a children’s aikido class, I worked with a group of some of the smallest girls in the class in an activity called, The Whirling Towel of Death.  Basically after teaching principles to maintaining a calm sense of self inside, the test was to walk through a rope with a towel tied to the end, keeping calm and timing their walk to avoid being hit by the rope.  For many, trying to avoid getting hit tends to increase the changes of contact.  A rubber meeting the road, or the rope moment. A very sweet girl, breathed in a big breath, screwed her blue eyes shut and started to walk blindly through the rope.  I stopped her and said, “Open your eyes.   You need to deal with the danger.”

The power trap of this inner work-only approach to cultivate your warrior self is that it only engages the dangers on the inside.   This feeling of security is fragile when confronted by conditions outside of ourselves that trigger our body systems.  The thinking/feeling story of strength and security is usurped by our sensory systems.  This warrior can flee or become frozen when she feels overwhelmed.   She can become traumatized or re-live trauma when she becomes immobilized by a threat, even the prospect of a threat.  This experience can be held as feedback, learning what will stop me and learning how that edge can change over time.  But more often, someone doing an internal approach to warrior-ship will take this feedback as failure, and may keep repeating the process to come back inside, to criticize herself for not doing it well enough, long enough to be a real bad-ass.

It is poor preparation for real life outside challenges – asking for a promotion, standing up to a difficult family member, defending a personal boundary.  Starting a project, starting a family, starting a movement.  There is something to be said for learning how to be in a challenging interaction, a difficult situation and stay functional.  It is not comfortable.  And important, initially to find places and communities that are safe enough to experience the discomfort.   To stay in the emotionally charged conversation with a co-worker and stay present – to your feelings, your reactions and what they are saying, doing.  How you respond and how that feels.  To take your place, your space at a meeting, at the dinner table.  To take on a challenge that stretches you.  And to stumble, to be flawed, to feel what is flabby, what is shaky, where you don’t feel solid.   To fall and get up again.  Real strength, real power comes from coming through challenges, from dealing with the difficulty. 

Using personal power takes practice.  Practice failing.  Practice missing the goal in a way you feel good about.  Practice in using power poorly.  The equivalent of kids wrestling – not every move is going to work.  Sometimes you end up pinned and have to tap out.   Without the work to gain a thicker skin, to learn how far you can go, the limits of your power and how you feel about the moments of powerlessness, you do not know how powerful you can be.  Let me repeat that.  You do not know how powerful you can be. 

When you have some inner and outer power practice behind you – things change.  You can accept the experience of someone prevailing with more focused, more practiced power over you as just that – a difference in power that does not immediately transport you to identify with your inner victim.  You know your own resourcefulness in a different way – finding the ways you can work with your limits.  Shifting the ways that you can’t to how it is that you can.  I talked recently with a friend from school who exclaimed her feeling of helplessness over how to effectively take the notes in a program that engages in hours of body-based study.  She appealed for help.  I didn’t know what would help her but shared one way I took notes – to write some version of a log after teaching a practice session before going to sleep. 

My strategy comes directly from my personal limit. I struggle to retain some details of body-based exercises so find my richest retention is supported by capturing some kind of account within the day that it happened.  In reflecting on that tactic, I realized how helpful it was to accept the limit of what I can’t do, stay curious about how that capacity changes in the process of learning and mobilize an approach that works well enough.  Refine it from there.  Other people in my class have far superior abilities to retain sequence of movements in their memory and knowledge of the body and how it functions.  Compared to them, I am relatively weak in this cluster of competencies.  Doing nothing and feeling badly about it doesn’t support progress. 

There is no shame in seeking support.  I am blessed to learn in a community of people who model curiosity, resilience, care and honesty in the process of learning.  One thing that can happen when you internally put attention to your inner sense of limits and externally seek out support is you keep your self limited.  Your self-image, your sense of your self, your story of who you are is re-published, re-posted in the light of this limit.  This story of Weak Woman will not be replaced by a story of Warrior Woman, however you work to renovate it within yourself.  Your story needs to be acted out in real time, real places, with real characters.  A Warrior Woman comes into being when you bring real attention to the you who is coming to this moment.  No projections, no story – just you doing what needs doing.

So do the inner Warrior work if it calls to you, if deepening your alignment and accessing deeper courage feels essential to your growth.  Can you also find some way to work your inner Warrior into your everyday self?  To find some small front line, some edge to test your limit?  I am coming to learn that it really does not matter if that edge is speaking up when part of your lunch order is forgotten or public speaking in front of 200 people.  If it is your edge, it matters for your growth.  Then it is not the idea or the story of courage – it is the practice of courage.   That is a practice that leads to real power.