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/

Being my #1. What is Somatic Coaching and why does my success depend on it?

Every body can be successful

What do coaches do?  Help you to perform better, to move better – in soccer, baseball, in leadership, as entrepreneurs – to help you improve how you perform whatever field you play on.

 

Isn’t somatic coaching basically the same thing?  It can be.  To respond to how it is different, I need to take you on a little journey.  It starts simply.  With nouns and verbs.

 

What nouns do you know yourself to be?  Son or daughter.  Wife, husband, mother, father.  Department manager, business owner.  Collector.  Cyclist. Citizen. Neighbor.   What is the rate of change in the nouns you know apply to you?  Do they change daily?  Monthly?

Are you more or less a wife or a neighbor between January and March?  Maybe you are a cyclist between April and November but not December to March.  We rely on nouns as the foundation for our stories about who we are, the building blocks of our identity.

To be or not to be….what verb am I?

What verbs do you know yourself to be?  Notice if this question doesn’t make sense.  As a teacher, I do several verbs regularly.  Explain.  Ask.  Listen.  Question.  Search. Demonstrate. Gesture. We tend not to associate as easily with the verbs we do.  I am a teacher and a coach.  I tend not to say, I question, listen, lead, allow struggle, support learning, offer feedback.

How does this relate to somatic coaching and improving performance?   Where do you think improvement happens – in the nouns or in the verbs?

Karlene’s verb is burst

Let’s work through this question with an individual.  Let’s call her Karlene.  Karlene is several nouns, a leader, a mother, a change-maker.  And one of the verbs that Karlene does is bursting through – traditions that no longer serve, outdated policies, inequities.  She is able to both have people feel she cares about them and she can burst their balloon, so that the changes that are called to happen have the space to happen.   Her body is organized around bursting barriers.  So parts of her are in pain – one shoulder, side of neck, hip – the side of her most often applied to bursting barriers.

So as a somatic coach, I could just work with her physical pain and that would help.  I could just work with her biomechanical movement and help her to move better so she can function better.  But without changing her verbs, in this case, the way she is organize to burst in, to burst through, any new change will fall under the weight of this verb, this bursting way of being.

As a somatic coach, I help people like Karlene discover their personal verbs, the way they do what they do, to feel it in their tissues.  And create a way of moving  that makes it more likely they will stop verbing towards pain and start verbing towards more wellness.  Towards more wholeness.  To simply being successfully them – complete. Capable.  Less striving to be and more being.

Somatic Coaching is what and how you move as you

So simply put, somatic coaching is concerned with both what you move and how you move.  And supporting you to decode your own mysterious black box of “Me” so you can become functional in your body as you.  Less about the nouns.  More about the verbs. 

Interested in learning more?  You can:

Sign up for a free 15-minute call to talk about your human condition.  No sales pressure, just a caring conversation about what you are looking for and what I can offer.  Book now https://www.kindpower.ca/book/

If you are ready to start, we begin with a 45-minute assessment (in person or online). Then based on what we discover together, I make a recommendation for what can support you. https://www.kindpower.ca/book/

While individual somatic coaching programs vary – this is not a one and done change effort.  Depending on what a client wants and needs, I tend to recommend 6-10 sessions so we can do more than just identify a personal pattern; we can anchor securely the changes that support my clients to hold their goal with their own hands and know they can achieve it.   If you are already working for your success – it can be good to have someone to give you a hand up.

My Inner Stranger

Picture by Mel Poole on UnSplash

Did you send the report?

I connected with a colleague over a pretty mundane issue – did I send her the report?  Did she receive it?  I went to the place of assuming I had thought about sending it but didn’t actually do it.  This happens.  It happens more right now as I live with my shifting hormonal, menopausal self.

I have developed within myself a sense of competence in certain areas of my life.  In this mid-stage of life, that sense of competence is tinged with a few dollops of chaos, a kind of disorderly reality – the strategies I have used to stay organized, that help me feel on top of everything are no longer working in the way they used to.

In my email conversation with my colleague, this truth popped out of somewhere – I am coming to know this inner stranger, the part of me that can be in tears one moment, touched deeply by a story and sometimes adrift in feeling, my long years of honing my attention, focus on a task somehow coming undone.  In the way that what I thought I did (send the report) and what I did (leave it in my draft folder) are increasingly not the same; what I think about myself and how I show up are not the same.  Part of me is paying attention to something else.

Of course, there are gaps in who I say I am and who I actually am – this is the work of life to know ourselves past the stories we tell about ourselves.  It’s the surprise that is unsettling – the surprise of how I show up, after 5 decades of getting to know myself well.

At the risk of jumping too deeply into the existential end of the pool, how do I define myself?

In the respect of competence in my work, in this area of consulting, I have an earned confidence in my competence – I trust in it.  I know my strengths, understand my weaknesses, how to live from a place of self-acceptance that my 25-year-old self craved.

It is easy to blame the hormonal changes as the villain, seeing other changes happen in my body and just hope this villain will eventually just go away.  We want what brings us certainty in this most basic part of ourselves – our identity.

I am being me.  And that is changing – the current impact of  my aging process. And there are moments, nearly every week, when I don’t really know who I am right now.  Breaking apart of my sense of self.

I am being and I am becoming. 

This is where certainty doesn’t serve the way it used to.  I used to use certainty as a way to keep the chaos of the world at bay.  Now the ground that my earned competence allows for is to see more clearly that chaos is truly part of my world, part of myself.

This week’s quote from Dennis Leri, a Feldenkrais elder, enfolded my experience of my inner stranger.

What is could be different.  What is different could be me. 

If our identity is a story, what if in addition to a personal memoir of all the ways I’ve been before, my identity is also a mystery, a personal “who-did-that?” thriller?   Except no crime has been committed.  Just being – living into my next chapter.

Please share this with someone you know that might enjoy it.  They can subscribe here https://www.kindpower.ca/blog/

 

Word Magic leading to suffering or wholeness

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

I realize that I have almost always picked work that requires me to learn on the job.  Coming from a family with a high number of teachers, grandmother, cousins, aunt, I grew up in an environment where the value of learning was infused in the air.  Growing up in my farming family, my earliest school room was the freedom to play outside as long as I was home for dinner.

It is no surprise to me that one of the people who influences my learning now is David Abram, an ecologist, philosopher and an accomplished slight of hand magician.  What I most want to share from his first book, The Spell of the Sensuous, is his ideas about word magic and how our language affects how we participate in what we sense.

My early outdoor expeditions in the shelter belt of farms in southern Alberta (the double row of trees surrounding the house and outbuildings) were wordless ones, shared with a black Labrador dog, sometimes a sister.  The smell of sticky poplar leaves on a warm spring afternoon, attaching anywhere I pressed close enough.  The sound and vibration of weighted wheat stalks tossing above my head to the persistent southwest wind, framing the autumnal blue sky.  These words may evoke the memory of what I sensed but it is not the same as the sense memory awakened when I smell poplar trees again or pause to listen to the swaying of a soon-to-be harvested wheat field.

The word magic he writes about is a simple sleight of tongue that hides what is right there in front of us. When we speak about touching the cat, about smelling the paperwhite blooms, about listening to the wind in the branches above the path – there is a word magic in “the”.  That small word renders for us a notion that the being we sense is an object.  Abram says, “To define another being as an inert or passive object is to deny its ability to actively engage us and to provoke our senses; we block our perceptual reciprocity with that being.”

Why does this matter?  It is grammatically accurate – a cat is a noun; the tree is a noun.  More word magic.  This construct shines a light on us as the sensing being and everything else as the thing being sensed.  It closes down what feels like real magic, that anything we touch, touches us back.  That anything we inhale, also shares the air.  That anything we hear, also feels our vibration as we walk by.  Abram says, “perception always remains vulnerable to the decisive influence of language.”

Word magic can magnify suffering.

In working with clients, I notice the impact of this word magic on their lives, as part of suffering that comes with pain.  Because one of the habits so many of us have learned, is to apply that objectifying language to ourselves.  The leg.  The neck.  If one of the superpowers of the Feldenkrais Method is making finer and finer distinctions as part of learning, this tiny distinction is a root of self-domination, the place where I try to control my leg to do what I want.  Without listening to my leg as a living being.  This small distancing in our self-perception, keeps us apart from ourselves. There is magic in claiming relationship with all of the parts of myself.  It doesn’t just change me, it changes the world I move in – how all of me can be part of all of we, living here.  Rather than part of me trying to control all of it, out there.  Expanded outwards, that small distinction makes all the difference. Please share this with someone you feel would enjoy it.

If this resonates with you, you might enjoy my upcoming In Touch series – starting Feb 4.

To register www.kindpower.ca/book

 

Drip Lessons – Why Practice is Important

Photo by Adrien Converse on Unsplash

As I mark my half-way point in my Feldenkrais formal training, I am interested in the assumptions we can hold about learning.  I have worked most of my adult life in education and remember playing school as a girl in small wooden desk on our family farm.  That early play, mimicking the adult world, cast learning as taking tests and producing answers.   When my sister marked my test sheet correct, that meant I was a good student!  But good for what? 

I am preparing now for a different kind of test, a demonstration of aikido techniques to transition into 2nd kyu.  (That means I get 2 stripes on my brown belt – 2 more tests to go for the coveted black belt).   In my school, we have an encyclopedic number of technique variations to learn as brown belts – sort of like a finishing school to prepare for deeper study.  The approaches to learning I used sitting in my school desk don’t work as well here.  I am drilling through movement almost daily to load the fundamentals of the techniques into my body/mind and refining my understanding of why they work.  How can I be a good student here?  Good for what?

I am hip deep in learning two traditions that many might say are on a decline – Feldenkrais and Aikido.  Both are in a similar place generationally.  The founder/creator of the school has passed away; the people who studied directly with the founder are elders and the generations of people coming behind them to practice is thinning out.   It is reasonable to ask, “what are these traditions good for?”

In reflecting on my progress to become a Feldenkrais practitioner and a more seasoned aikidoka, I have a perspective on learning that seems to apply to both learning contexts.  I will call it “drip lessons”.
 
Drip lesson #1 Courage to Fail (over and over).

On the surface, in aikido I am learning dynamic biomechanics, lessons of force management, and a perspective of how to organize and coordinate my movement to achieve a result.  What result?   I train to remain calm and potent as I respond to an attack in a way that diminishes the intensity of the attack towards a balance point where peaceful options become available again between myself and my attacker.  Sounds pretty cool – people I know who are into mindfulness and consciousness raising activities usually like descriptions of aikido and its philosophy.   And if that outcome is like a shining temple on the top of the mountain, people look up and admire it. 

But the lessons had while trudging on the path are the hidden lessons.  I call them “drip lessons” because as drop by drop of experience happens, the lessons can shape you, just as water eventually shapes a stone.

In aikido practice, I mostly fail.  Not because I am a bad student but because I am practicing a way of being in movement that I do not know fully yet.  My Feldenkrais practice has been a sweet boost to my failures as I can distinguish in finer and finer ways how my body is aligned, how I use my perception so I can ask myself for more complex coordination and organization patterns.  In class recently, I worked for over 30 minutes with another person, who has a black belt, on a technique that required a new-to-me kind of coordination and organization.  Without it, the technique just didn’t work.   I found this new state 3 times in 30 minutes.  Can the word do without my learning of this technique?  Of course.  But the drip lesson of failure gives me gifts of gold.

I am:

  • Learning to rely on my curiosity and ingenuity as a learner to identify and remove what prevents me from progressing.
  • Learning to name where I am stuck and what I need help with to take on the challenge.
  • Managing my frustration to stay in and learn in the face of a challenge I can’t solve right away.
  • Acquiring patience and persistence.
  • Letting go of my ego’s need to be right, to perform well each time.

 
This drip lesson is kind of vital for my life as a solo entrepreneur as I explore marketing strategies, business technologies and ways to grow my business.  In this venture I have struggled and failed, over and over again, improving as I go because of the lessons of each failure.   I can apply this drip lesson to my Feldenkrais practice and pretty much any challenge in life worth doing.
 
Drip lesson #2 Facing fear

As a woman, dealing with force, falling, using strength for power, much of this territory is new.  I didn’t wrestle or fight as a child, not physically, so when I face dealing with force, I am often uncertain and fearful.  Both of getting hurt and of hurting others.  While I particularly like the way aikido deals with force, the lesson about how to deal with force is only part of the picture.  The drip lesson of finding myself triggered into fear and finding my way back to calm is a life skill that is starting to infuse who I am.  While I can see that I might have a slightly higher threshold now to feel fear (still don’t like snakes too much!), I have a greater capacity to move through and beyond my fear. 
 
Drip lesson #3 Expanding sense of what is possible

I turned 50 a couple of years ago and I am struck by something I have noticed about acquaintances and friends.  The people around my age are in the process of “smalifying” or expanding.  (Thanks to Paul Linden for the word).  I watch peers age in front of me, their lives getting smaller as they stay with what is comfortable, safe and convenient.   I watch other peers expand, even in their 70s, as they stay open, invested in what is possible. 

The practice of aikido is an expansive practice – literally opening up my body, my mind and my heart.   I am working with new members of our club on a novel way to learn how to roll.  Rather than putting beginners into the position of trying out front and back rolls right away, we are breaking down components following a Feldenkrais lesson on rolling, so beginners can learn to trust themselves in movement and trust their contact with the floor.  

It’s a classic collision of habits and practice – when I learned to roll, I was afraid of going over so contracted and stiffened myself to prevent myself from getting hurt.  This bracing habit is exactly what hurt me as I thumped my way through the roll, banging my shoulder multiple times in just the way I didn’t want to do.   What is needed instead is the ability to expand through our shape, so that we become as round and connected to the ground as we can.   I pick on this activity because it is one where I can see for the beginners an expanding sense of what is possible.  Again, the ability to roll or not roll may not be urgently important.  But the drip process of starting something that is not possible and learning how it is possible is kind of what learning is all about.  Learning something that you do not already know how to do.  
So to answer my own question, “Good for what?” I need to make a distinction.  Both aikido and Feldenkrais are practices that carry extra cargo.  There is the content of what you can learn and there is the capacity you can develop, drip by drip, experience by experience.   I know long ago I gave up being a small expert for being an expansive explorer.   Why is that important?

I recently saw Martyn Joseph in concert – Martyn is a hard-working, Welsh folk singer in the tradition of calling out, passionately for change and singing the songs of the people who don’t get heard in the halls of power.  So taking a cue for Martyn, here is my passionate outburst for today. https://www.martynjoseph.net/

In the uncertainty of today’s current pandemic, economic downturns, environmental distress, a small expert just doesn’t stand a chance.   Things are changing too quickly.  The experts, the authorities we look to for answers don’t know.  We need people who can stand their ground in the face of complexity, crisis and the threat of chaos and stay calm. Curious. Expansive.  People who can thrive with failure.   We need the kinds of practice lineages that cultivate this kind of person.   Today more than ever.

On a personal note, stay safe!  I support decisions people feel they need to make to preserve their health.  I am through my 14-day waiting period after my recent trip to Seattle for Feldenkrais training and have not shown any symptoms.  My seasonal sinus irritation that happens every winter is fully present.
 

I am offering the option to join my classes online – it is possible using a smart phone or a computer so recently gave a class to a person on the west coast, a person in another country and made a recording so a local person could catch up – she was self-isolating to protect herself with a non-virus related respiratory issue.   As we live in a social isolating way, I want to urge you to continue to find ways to remain connected with others and to stay connected to yourself and your environment.   From a grounded, connected place you will have more resources to manage the risk and to find your way back to calm when fear gets the upper hand. 

My current and upcoming classes – if you find yourself self-isolated or mandated to be at home, consider joining in a class online – I can help you get connected to the session and yourself.
https://www.kindpower.ca/somatic-coaching/fall-well/

New Year, New Normal?

I have not had a solid history with making (or keeping) new year resolutions.  Living in a cold, dark winter climate, I definitely feel the pull towards the back half of winter, when it slowly starts to be lighter (sunset moves from 4:30 pm towards 5 pm in early January).   In North America, we are surrounded by a media-driven culture to resolve to be or do something better in the New Year.  New Year= New Person.   It’s just a matter of willpower, right?

My personal problem with that premise is that I have lots of different wills – my early morning will is pretty good at getting up, meditating and having breakfast before getting down to work.  My 11:30 am will really wants lunch.  My 3 pm will sincerely wants to nap under a blanket, preferably with a cat.  My 8 pm will really, really wants salty, crispy carbs – so much so that I have to schedule activities during that time to ride out the impulse.   My Monday will wants to get down to work and get stuff done.  My Wednesday will gets distracted, feeling slightly weary of chasing after goals.  My Friday will wants to kick back and relax.  

Moshe Feldenkrais in his book, Thinking and Doing, described willpower as a form of self-coercion.  He wrote, “Willpower is the force we apply to coerce this or that thought to linger in our brain, but this is not the force that rules. Control resides in imagination and in correct thinking. Thoughts such as “I must,” or “I want very much” contain within them the disturbing element of “I can’t” or “This is very difficult.”  Were it not for these thoughts, you would have been able to fulfill your intention without feeling the internal resistance you are struggling to overcome.” 

I want to start a new routine to go to the gym.  The first week or two goes great – I feel good about my workout, feeling changes in my body, mostly in the region of my body where my self-approval lives – above my heart and below my forehead. Until one day, my resolution slides into “I must go to the gym today.” Blammo – I have set up an internal resistance that I have to overcome.  It’s like willpower is a kind of drug dealer – setting up challenge after challenge that we have to break through and overcome.  When willpower fails, then the next destructive drug is inner criticism and shaming.  Inner voice: “You can’t even keep your resolution for a whole month, you are never going to get fit.”  Harsh inner barriers to get over.

I have maintained a meditation practice for the last 8 years.  But before that, I really, really, really, really, really tried to establish a meditation practice – for like 10 years.  I wish I was kidding. I would clock along, meditating daily for 3 months, for 6 months and then one day I would just stop.  A week would go by, a month, sometimes a year and then I would muster my will power to start again, inspired by a new book, a new recording, by joining a new community.  This time it would be different.  And finally, after 10 years it was.  I just needed to persist. 

So what if there is another way? A way to set an intention for new activity, to make new habits without experiencing the conflict, without wading through resistance and the largely unconscious thoughts that keep that elusive new normal from taking hold?

Give this experience a try before reading on.  Get a pencil and paper.  Say out loud, in a casual, easy manner, “I will make precisely 7 dots.”  Say it two or three times.  Now visually create an image of yourself making 7 dots without saying anything. (Shut your eyes if you feel you need to).  Now say the word “seven” without thinking about anything else and make 7 dots on your paper.

Try it 2 or 3 times.  When it is clear you will succeed, change the number.  Make 11 dots.  You might find that this time it is easier for you and you can do it while muttering “eleven” under your breath. 

When you reduce the number of unnecessary actions and thoughts and your thinking approaches the simple, direct situation in which you intended to make seven dots, the number of your errors will decrease.  Your confidence will increase.

Repeat this one more time, except before you start tapping say out loud, “I want very much to tap 7 times”. Or “I’ll try to tap 7 times.”  Or “I must not make any mistakes tapping 7 times.”  You may find your performance on this task erodes.

We use will and effort when confidence and skill are not present.  Keeping your New Year’s resolution and transforming that resolution into a new normal – requires focused intention – a clear, uncomplicated, positive voice (this is the one your body listens to) – this is the gateway to a new habit, the new reality.  The voice of will power “This is going to be hard, and you are likely to fail, so you have to work hard to make sure that won’t happen.”  The body hears – “This is hard, you will fail.”

Success Formula

Clear intent + Action (minus unnecessary thoughts and actions) = Success.

So let’s apply this to setting up a habit to go to the gym. 

Clear Intention – I am at the gym Monday by 7 pm.

Action – I organize myself to leave home so I can arrive by 7 pm.

Self-Support – I notice, acknowledge and let go of thoughts that distract or disrupt my intention coming to action.  (Yes I feel too tired to go tonight.  I can go and pick something like a recumbent exercise bike so I can well supported while I work out). 

Self-Support – I find myself starting a task that will prevent me from getting to the gym by 7 pm.  I stop, assess how I can get this crucial task done and shift to departing for the gym.

This is a crucial part of shifting intention to action and doing it in a way that you will want to repeat it.   In my next blog, I would focus on how you interact with your environment and the ways that can support or interfere with your follow-through on a New Year’s resolution.