Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Now is the Most Wonderful Time

You plant a seed and it grows. You move to a temperate climate location in the winter and sooner or later spring comes and then the heat of summer. The world revolves, the days progress, the nights come and go, the tilt of the Earth to the sun brings us first longer and then shorter days.

And in all this, what is the most wonderful time?

Right now.

How come? Isn’t it better in Paris, in April, with the love of your life? No. It’s better right now with the love of your life, which is you, or what’s left of you after you come into the now. The now can have words in it, can have talking and singing, but the moment I begin to say, “Now I am typing the word, ‘Now,’ “ that time has come and gone and the words are no longer true. The now is slippery, it moves along, and we can be there, but why bother if it is so fast? Why not hang on to remembering the last good time we had and hope and wish and imagine that we can recreate that moment again, which we can’t. That moment is gone, but we can wish to recreate a moment similar.

And even so where would our life be if we lived like that?

The same as most people’s lives are, a little string of highlights, with a lot of wishing and waiting and discontentment and numbed plugging away or frantic scurrying around in hopes that the next highlight will come along.

And what are the characteristics of these highlights?

We really like where we are. We are deeply and easily involved in what we are doing. We are breathing fully and deeply. We feel connected to ourselves and the world. In short, we are present.

Hmmm. This does suggest a way out of the waiting around dilemma, doesn’t it? Why not, be in the present right now, which, by the miracle of reality turns out to be the only time we can be present.

Boy, I seem to be going around and around, but it keeps spirally back, doesn’t it? Now is the wonderful time because it is where we are right now.

It sounds too easy to be true, but check out the advantages of the present:
1) We don’t need any new or different clothes to come to the present. What we are wearing now will have to do, since we are already here.
2) It doesn’t cost anything more. The price for being where we are right now has already been paid.
3) You don’t need anyone’s approval to be here now, since you already are here.
4) It doesn’t matter how cool or uncool you are, how beautiful or not so beautiful ( and by whose standards, anyway), how “fit” or “not fit” (again, whose damn standards?), how healthy or unhealthy. This is a country club that everyone can get into, the country club of now.

Even this now, you reading or hearing these words, me typing them, I can follow my breathing and so can you, I can notice where my fingers are and so can you, I can notice how I am negotiating gravity, what is pressing into the ground to hold me up, and so can you. I can notice the sounds of my present, and how the light is coming to me, and what that light is revealing and so can you. I can notice the shape of my body (not the “being in shape” kind of shape, but where the waist bends as I sit, where the legs bend, where the arms bend, that kind of shape, the real, in the now, this is the shape of my arms and legs and spine and neck and head shape). And I can go back to noticing my breathing.

One present after another. Plenty to do, plenty to notice, a lot of life is happening in this very moment.

No admission fee.

All are equal, all can do it, all have access, we all are already there. No travel requirements, except away from the chatter and into the real world.

Such a little shift.

Such a huge shift, a monumental shift, the biggest shift in the universe, along with the shift to love. And it’s the same shift, which we’ll come to later. For now, breathing in, breathing out, that’s a horse we can ride again and again, back to the present, back to the present, back to ourselves, back to our real and only home: this wonderful moment.

Try it and see. All you have to gain is your life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Introduction to the Feldenkrais Method, 2

Movement is central to life. Some people think that if you can improve the quality of your movement, you can improve the quality of your life. Moshe Feldenkrais was one of these people. Born in 1904, in what is now Poland, he left home at 14 and walked to Palestine. Starting life there as a laborer, he later received a doctor in science in physics from the Sorbonne in France. Mastering several languages, always intensely curious, he became the appointed Westerner to bring judo to Europe. Wrecking his knees playing soccer, he opted to discover how to heal them himself. His discoveries resulted in the Feldenkrais Method®, which he developed and taught from the 50’s until his death in 1984.

Feldenkrais wrote only a few books, with each title illuminating an important aspect of his work: Awareness Through Movement, the Potent Self, and The Elusive Obvious. His work has been of use to all ranges of people, from children with cerebral palsy, to stroke victims, to professional musicians and athletes, to people with sore backs, shoulders, hips, to those wishing to improve walking, dancing, golf, skiing, or simply the quality of their lives.

What the work always has in common is the awareness that comes from discovering options to our habitual ways of moving. This work is not about flexibility, though that will improve, but about learning how we are connected, and what possibilities of movement we have not yet discovered.

If you were to move your right shoulder forward and back, even very slightly, and pay attention to this, with no straining or any effort other than the effort to pay attention to what you were sensing and noticing, you might become more aware of the shoulder blade and the clavicle and how they move in relation to the ribs. As you sunk into noticing, you might become more aware of your breathing and how this movement is easy and how it isn’t.

Elusive, but obvious once you are aware of it, you might notice that at a certain point, the spine begins to rotate as part of this simple movement. If you were to rotate your head sometimes to the left and sometimes to the right as you moved your shoulder forward, you might discover something about your neck. If you were to make the movement involve more of you by moving the right hip forward as you moved the right shoulder forward, you could become aware of the elusively obvious spine rotating as the connection to them both. If you were to make the contra lateral movement of shoulder forward as the hip goes back, and shoulder back as the hip goes forward, remembering that little movement with big awareness is what creates learning, you might begin to be aware of the elusively obvious rotations of different vertebrae, some rotating one way, some the other, and a certain spot where this rotation cancels out.

In all this, if you allow yourself to rest between each set of movements from your brain to integrate its learning, when you stood to walk after you might have a much clearer connection to your right side, and an understanding of the contra lateral motion of hip forward and shoulder back as we walk. This could give you a more potent connection to walking and many other movements.

The Feldenkrais work is taught in ways such that there is no “right” way to move your shoulder or your hip. What is “desirable” is your increased awareness of how the miracle of your physical beings was designed so that you could evolve from a helpless infant to a functioning and potentially graceful adult. Feldenkrais lessons might take place as Awareness Through Movement® lessons ( ATMs), where a group of students sit in a chair or lie of the floor and experiment with various movements. The work can also take place as a Functional Integration® lesson, where the student lies on a table while the practitioner gently moves the student. Either way, learning about yourself at a deep and sensing level is the goal of the Feldenkrais Method. Clarity of so-called body and clarity of so-called mind start to merge and seem to be one and the same.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Criticism Thing


We all like to mutter or shout or grumble our criticisms of others, and we most of us, most of all don’t want to hear any criticism of our own wonderful self. We like to hear praise. We even fall for flattery. But criticism, nah, we don’t like that.

Hmm. Gurdjieff once suggested that the shortest route to wisdom was to do the upside down of what the conventional wisdom says, so what if we did this with our criticism inclination. What’s that mean? That means we could imagine and then pull off liking to get “criticism” coming our way, and not liking criticism going out.

How weird, but then again Gurdjieff was a sly old rascal. Let’s see how to go about this. We’ll start with the least obvious: how to like criticism coming our way. Here’s how we’ll do it. First, let’s see what “criticism” really is. It’s words that we don’t want to hear. Someone says we are a jerk, or are selfish, or mean or stupid. Most of us are so conditioned to feel whipped down by “criticism” that we often don’t even hear how light the actual charges are. In reality. Of course, in some puffed up picture of ourselves, we imagine that we are never a jerk, never stupid, never mean, never selfish.

In reality though, I’ve been all those things, haven’t you? So, the “criticism” is just telling us what we already know. We don’t like to hear it, but oh well. That’s life. We love to judge. Others love to judge. Sometimes they judge us. Maybe they’ve had a bad day. Maybe they are feeling bad about themselves and see the flaw more easily in us. Maybe we are a convenient outlet. Maybe we really have been a jerk or selfish lately, and they haven’t learned to say things like, “Have you ever thought that if you did it this way, you might get better results.”

So be it. Just because they don’t know how to be diplomatic is no reason for us to fall apart. We can simply listen. Hear the actual words. Look for a way to see if they are true: Yep, I was stupid, or a jerk then. Yeah, I was being selfish. Sorry about that. Then they are clear with what’s bothering them, and we can improve if we want to.

Now, there is often an undercurrent, or a tone, or both, with criticism, a you are yuk, you are no good tone. This is what we really don’t like. But we don’t have to believe it. I’m selfish, sometimes, sure, but that doesn’t mean I’m yuk, it just means I’m selfish sometimes. How about you?

And then, the criticism out, for this the Work of Byron Katie is the cure. As she suggests, we love to judge, so let’s admit it. Judge our neighbors, and then write it down. Put the criticism down on paper. Ask four questions and then, TURN IT AROUND. As in, you should appreciate me, turns around to: I should appreciate you. You don’t listen very well, turns around to: I don’t listen very well. You are a jerk sometimes, turns around to, I am a jerk sometimes.

So, we don’t have good, good me looking down at bad, bad you anymore. We have less than perfect me, first noticing the flaw in less than perfect you and then using that as an opportunity to see the flaw in me. We are the same. We are like each other, so I can get back to liking you, my fellow imperfect being. This is good, isn’t it?

I think so. Give it a try, and you might find a whole lot of life’s burdens lifted for you.