Friday, June 30, 2006

Friday, June 30: Walking Better

One simple way to explain the Feldenkrais Method®, is to say that it is an education system, using moving and awareness, to upgrade our level of organization, so that we can think better, breathe better, move better and walk better.

Walk better? But we all know how to walk, most of us anyway, right? Don’t we walk every day from the bedroom to the kitchen? Don’t we open the door and walk all the way to the car, where we snuggle in, and drive and then walk twenty or maybe even fifty feet across some parking lot to our next destination? Don’t we walk around the grocery store, although the shopping cart is a big help?

Yeah, yeah: and I ask: Do you like to walk? Do you enjoy it? Do you delight n it?

Here’s a test: when you go to the movies or an event, how close do you like to park your car, if you are unlucky enough not to be able to walk or ride a bike there? Do you park as close as you can, or a couple of blocks away? If you park a couple of blocks away, thinking that you don’t want to deprive yourself of at least a little bit of walking, then you like to walk. If you park as close as possible, then, your robot at least, has forgot how wonderful walking is.

Who runs us? Us or our robot? This is a deeper aim of the Feldenkrais work, to discover our habits and robot behavior and to wake up to the possibilities of many choices in everything we do. Sound good? Does to me.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thursday, June 29: Pilates, test drive

I guess you are supposed to like Pilates, because a lot of people like Pilates and it makes you strong and strengthens your “core,” but so far, it just seems like high grade donkey training to me. The particular person who taught the mat class I went to even calls her work Mind/Body Pilates, but all the “mind” I saw, was keeping up with a bunch of different contortions, all with the same relentless aim: strengthen your ‘abs.”

Abs slabs, what’s the big deal? If you are a dancer and have to kick up your leg high into the air, I can see the need. If you hate yourself unless you are pencil thin and hard bellied, I can see the reason. I hear Tiger Woods uses Pilates. Okay, to keep in shape for millions a year, fine, and still, I felt like I do when I go to a yoga class where the teacher whips everyone into shape with the attitude: hard effort makes hard bodies and hard bodies are good bodies. I felt demeaned, as if the meat of me was all that mattered, as if I was being trained like a horse or a dog. Ugh. ( By the way, Marlie, though she can do extremely advanced yoga poses, is one of the few teachers in town who doesn’t turn her teaching into a sado-masochistic tool, while not letting her class be a too easy to learn anything class, another temptation.)

Hard bodies make sense if come by honestly, carrying water up a hill, or hand weeding a garden (though here: leave more weeds than you pull, they are good for the soil, usually good for to eat, and good for the oxygen, and they help keep the ecology balanced), or walking across town, or backpacking in the mountains. But to push yourself to pain for an hour and call the burning “good” and the pain “good” because it will toughen you up, ugh.

Feldenkrais could use some classes that focus on strength. But even without that, the ideas of going slowly, of learning, of variation and experimentation, or discovering from within, could all be applied by anyone who wanted to get stronger in a kind and intelligent way.

Hopefully, Marlie and I will develop a blend of yoga and Feldenkrais for such a purpose. Or Pilates could be taught with far more attention to paying attention to all of the Self, and to rests for the brain to integrate what is being learned, and lots slower, so something can be learned. Cranking through anything, and you might get strong, but you sure aren’t going to get smarter, and I like my body/mind work to really include the mind, so I end up both more intelligent and more connected to myself all at once.

Oh, well. I’ll go a couple of more times and then ask if the teacher wants to learn how to teach this in a kinder more intelligent way. She probably won’t, but it’s worth a try.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wednesday, June 28: Change, Scary and Wonderful

Change is hard, though theoretically, we’re all for it. All for feeling happier, and moving easier, and living a simpler more peaceful life. As long as we don’t have to change anything to change our lives, then we are all for it. But if we actually have to change, say our rushing around, in order to feel peaceful, or if we have to get outside and connect to nature to stop being indoors so much, then, hey: let’s keep on sliding.

Inertia. We get in our ruts, and if it’s a good rut, or good enough, or not so bad, we want to stay there. It’s comfortable, even if it’s uncomfortable, at least we’re used to it. It’s Our Rut. We are the Rut. Our pattern of tension we confuse with who we are. Our thoughts of worry and resentment, we confuse with us. Our greed for more and more, we confuse with us. We are a little or a lot unhappy and in pain, but it’s our unhappiness and our pain and we think somehow, that any change can only make things worse.

Well, it could for awhile. Breaking things open, we might be confused, or a little disoriented. We’d have to wake up and be present to figure out what’s going on, instead of drifting through today like we drifted through yesterday.

The upside, of course, is that if we try other ways, other options, we could find something new and wonderful for ourselves. Even if it seemed a horrible shift, like throwing out the television, or staying out of all cars for a couple of days a week, or only talking to someone after we’ve taken a conscious breath before we spout off, or sensing our hands every time we open a door, all these shifts can wake us to the miracle: we are alive. Our life is ours to experiment and discover and chose. This isn’t just for vacations and self-help workshops. This is for everyday. Wow.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tuesday, June 27: Wake up and lose world war III

While the idiots of the power people push away at hating and belittling and occasionally getting the suckers to go kill other common folk, there is another war that is being waged. And won. Won by humanity. Sound good?

Unfortunately the war is against nature, and so people winning by destroying the atmosphere and the soil and the trees and the forests and the land is not such a good idea. The world is on automatic and it’s set up to please what? Automobiles, which makes a fit, but a sad and awful fit.

So called Western “civilization” is about roads and gasoline and cars and orienting our whole lives around getting far places (far in terms of a walk or a horse ride) quickly and with no apparent cost. Need a road? It just happens to be paid for. Need gasoline? Even though it seems expensive, about half the cost or more is absorbed by the government. The war costs, the cancer costs, the pollution costs, the asthma costs, the heart disease costs, the ruined soil costs, the nervous lives costs: all hidden in the three dollars a gallon, which if it were eight or seven, might show us what we are really paying and encourage people to pull back a little of their daily war on the planet.

What can we do, what can we do?

Use air conditioning less.

Turn off lights in rooms we leave.

Hang up clothes outside or around the house inside.

Drive less, drive less, drive less. See if we can go two or three days a week without getting in an automobile. That would be a huge shock to our robot lives. Oh, well. The alternative is an Earth unlivable for our grandchildren. Do we care? Most don’t, and the trick is to not get bummed or depressed, and to happily use less.

Plant a garden. Grow food indoors. Stop buying stuff in packages, we don’t need the packages, and the stuff that comes in packages is usually unhealthy. Eat a potato not a potato chip and grow the potato. Eat a strawberry or dry a cherry, and skip the jelly. Sugar robs vitamin C and makes people jumpy and stupid. Really, they’ve given intelligence tests after big sugared breakfasts. The scores go way down.

This means waking up to ways of getting around that are slower and less automatic, eating in ways that are slower and less automatic. Walk more. It's wonderful for the nervous system and the soul. Cultivate the soul and the soil. Make change not war.

World War III is in full swing: sleeping humanity against a wonderful earth. Are we willing to wake up and switch sides?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Monday, June 26: More advice for real health

The first set of advice is this, be healthy. Slow down. Connect with your breath, with nature, with the people you love and you wished you love. Now, nature and love.

The second layer of advice is this: get healthier. Realize that if you are putting inorganic food in your body, or inorganic lotion on your body, you are probably feeding yourself harmful chemicals. Do you want to do this to yourself?

But organic is so expensive. True, unless you grow it. True, unless you discover weeds that are more potent and healing than anything you can buy in the store. And what might these weeds be? Pigweed, lamb’s quarters, dock , purslane, mallow around here in California. You can probably figure out for where you live. Plant lots of these weeds in your garden. Don’t have a garden. Find some land nearby and share it somehow to garden. Hook up with a Community Supported Agriculture farm to get their fresh produce each week.

And think about the expense as money you are paying to stop going to the doctor. If you get colds, the flu, or other stuff that you need to go to the doctor for, then you aren’t healthy. If you are taking any drugs, you aren’t healthy. This is a big subject, but there are some books out there that will begin to get you going the right way. The Three Season Diet. The Body Ecology Diet. Nourishing Traditions. Eating in the Raw. Raw in Ten Minutes. The Metaphysics of Raw Foods. 12 Steps to Raw Food. Fit for Life. These all have some good hints. Dig around and imagine and experiment with what it would be like to put really healthy food into yourself.

One book, a rather heavy read, is Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. By Weston Price, who was a dentist, who in the 1930’s searched the world over for people with really healthy teeth. He found ten to fourteen groups.These groups were of the sort who had one cavity per twenty people or so. They also had great health, no heart disease, no cancer, beautiful faces and bodies. Their diets varied widely, some drank blood, some yak milk, some ate fish and overnight fermented oatmeal, some raw cheeses and butter and sourdough rye bread, some ate fish and vegetables and fruit.

What they didn’t eat, was the standard western diet of preserved food, processed food, food with sugar and refined flour. At this time in history, there was usually a village next to the healthy one who had succumbed to the sugar and refined flour diet. The book is replete with grizzly pictures of what happened to these people’s teeth (the guy was a dentist), and stories of how cancer and heart disease and general ill health came to the people on the Western food deathmill.

Anyway. The research is there. Learn from it or stick with your habits, take a pick. Keep eating refined flour and sugar and keep being sick, or throw all the packaged stuff out of your house, and start with fresh ingredients and see how you can begin having at least one or two raw foods meals a day. All that’s at stake is your life.

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Saturday, June 24: Advice to Someone with Cancer

Breathe. More. Breathe consciously. Breathe outdoors.

Take walks. Every day. Sense each foot as it touches the ground. Best to walk on dirt or sand or grass. Sense each foot touching the earth. Sense your breathing. Look around. Get lost every day in walking that is touching the earth and touching your breath and touching with eyes and ears the sounds and sights of the world.

Take breaks. Maybe to meditate. Maybe to sit and do nothing. Maybe to sit or lie and listen to music. Maybe to sit and breathe.

Play with moving. Use the various exercises in this book. Make up your own. Roll around on the ground or floor, with the freedom from gravity that permits. Experiment. Enjoy. Love and learn about yourself.

Now comes the harder parts. Examine your life and see what part of you is deeply dissatisfied. I mean really dissatisfied, as if wanting to die. Ugh. What a thing to think of, but thinking is something people are deeply disconnected from, real thinking, not the usual bungling around with words to prove they are right. Real thinking in this case means turning a beacon of truth inward and admitting what parts of your life are so annoying to you, that one way to get rid of them would be to get rid of life itself. This could be boring conversation, obligations you are sick of, burdens of perfection you put on yourself, old guilt, old anger, on and on. Find it.

And then think some more. How could I get freedom from whatever this crap is, without going to whole hog of dying. This isn’t so far fetched. Many of the advantages to dying are exactly the advantages to going to sleep: all the problems and worries and strains of the day disappear. Some people get drunk for the same reasons, then they are “feeling no pain.” Well, what is the pain, and how can you get out of it without ducking out of the whole ball game?

Much of this book has been about ways of undoing unhappiness and increasing your love of life. So we don’t need to mention the various ways here. I’ll just make another ugh suggestion and this is it: clear up all your relationships. The one with your spouse or mate, if you have one. There is, in my totally intuitive understanding (i.e. no proof), usually a relationship component to a serious disease, a message that it being communicated in a sloppy way. See if you can find what that message is and communicated it clearly and above board.

Also, all those other relationships, especially with parents. So what if they were assholes and creeps? Do the work of Byron Katie and get so you can smile and laugh and feel filled with love even as you think of their most awful moments. Of course, if they are still alive and still giving you a hard time, then 1) you know one reason you want to die, and 2), you have a chance to really do the inner Work. Come to love them in all their awfulness and come to be able to say No, when the want to come visit and you don’t want that, or want to talk and you don’t want that, or want to tell you what’s wrong with you and you don’t want that. This is not defending yourself. This is not "setting boundaries." This is getting clear on how you want to spend the next ten minutes. This is huge.This is being happy, and saying things like: “I’m sure you are right that there is lots wrong with me. In fact, I’d love for you to write up a list and send it to me. But right now, I’m in the mood to go listen to Mozart, so I’m going to get off the phone. Bye.”

In other words, you can love people and still not be interested in being their toilet. That’s their business if they want to take a dump on you, and it’s your business to laugh this off and find a way to divert them so you can have your life for what you love.

And what do you love anyway? Make a list. Let that list make you happy. Do the things you love with lots of breaks and walks and breathing and slowing down in between. Being over obligated and always in a rush is no way to live. Doing lots of things that excite and please you, with breaks and breathers and time to dream and be in peaceful solitude in between. That’s more like it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday, June 23: 3 Choices: Robot low functioning, robot high functioning, or awake

Here’s the bad news. Most of life is lived out at one of these two levels: low functioning robot, or high functioning robot. Much of what passes as lurches toward happiness are merely upgrading our robot status. From worried and annoyed with ourselves and the world, we upgrade to content with ourselves and amused with the passing entertainment. Indeed, the huge function of almost endless entertainment in our culture-- music, videos, DVDs, television, movies, plays, concerts, the local musicians-- all this is our way of getting out of the “thinking” that keeps us bummed out or at least anxious, the low grade robot “thinking” along the lines of “what to do next, what to do next,” and “so and so will disapprove if I do this, I’d better do that,” or “ so and so should be nicer, smarter, kinder more whatever,” or “ so and so should like/love/appreciate me more.” On and on the thoughts and feelings that keep us tense and worried and borderline unhappy, or at least propel us into stressed action to avoid knowing how unhappy we are.

Along comes a good movie, a TV show, a poetry reading. We can at last focus our attention on something besides our worries and anxieties. We can stop thinking the thoughts that make us miserable, by diversion.

And this is good. This is part of life, knowing when to give ourselves diversion. This is how we upgrade from low functioning to high functioning robot. We are trapped now in something more positive, something at least a little different than our usual lairs.

But are we awake to the breathing, to our breathing, not as an abstract idea, but as moment to moment sensation? Are we awake to the position of our spines and arms and legs in space? Do we notice anything other than the screen or the performer or the television? Do we see the light in the room? Do we notice the quality of air and how our clothes feel right now on our skins? Do we have that blissful under-feeling: I am alive right now. This is me, here, taking this in. This is me, here, now, breathing in and then having a pause and then breathing out and having a pause.

That’s the good news. There is a third choice, to wake up to the moment. Sometimes we take this choice out of desperation, when our lives are awful: someone has just died, or we have a serious illness, or the partner has left us and the pain is too great unless we are dead still in the present. In other times we take this choice because of the delight and freedom it brings, the sense of anything’s possible, the sense of joy and option and choice in our lives when we are here, now, awake to life and to being alive.

It is worth noting that what passes as modern “health care,” at it’s best is helping people upgrade from low functioning to high functioning robot, encouraging people to clear up their relationships, undo their stress and take walks and eat healthier. But mostly, it is merely this, our so called “health care,” the helping of people of low functioning robot lives with symptoms, get rid of their symptoms and become low functioning robots without symptoms.

This isn’t a pretty picture. Oh, well. Coming to waking can be anyone’s experience in any moment of any day or any life. That’s the good news.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thursday, June 22: Learning by discovery

A baby doesn’t have a plan: by six months I’ll learn to roll over and begin to crawl. Most times the child doesn’t even see crawling. All the giants are doing the walking thing, which is just some part of the world to the child, like trees and walls. It has no idea it might walk, or crawl or roll over or sit up someday. But the child loves to learn, loves to experiment and comes equipped with a brain whose main job is to make order out of chaos, to make sense out of nonsense, to discover ways of moving that bring that baby a more interesting and satisfying life. Hands and arms wave around, and suddenly, a hand gets to the mouth. The second time this happens, it is no longer chance and learning takes place and all sorts of possibilities open up: fingers to chew, stuff to bring to the mouth, lips to wiggle, sounds to play with, who knows, when learning takes place, the skies the limit.

Same with this Feldenkrais work. You won’t be taught the “right” way to do anything, unless you have a poor teacher, and there aren’t many. You will be given opportunity after opportunity to discover ways of moving that are natural and clear and pleasurable.

In my work, the goal is to extend this learning to learning how to live happily in the present and how to wake up into the moment, and how to connect with nature and how to have wonderful relationships, whether the relationships lasts forever up to death, or whether it transforms into another status: it’s always possible to have wonderful communication. And what’s stopping us, is always the same thing: unconscious habits, inability to slow down and try something other than the rut we are in, a stuckness in wanting to be right instead of being excited to learn.

So let’s play with a couple of examples of learning, and discovering the blueprint of how we, as a species, evolved to move gracefully and pleasurably and efficiently, where efficiency isn’t some robot kind of thing ( it is out of robot-land that I focus the meaning of my work), but less effort, no wasted energy, a smooth path of action, which is why this sort of efficient blends over into pleasure: it feels great to do something as we are meant to move.

ROTATION. As you sit or stand, or even lie on you back, extend your arm, either arm, forward from your shoulder. Begin to think of moving the hand farther forward and then bringing it back. How do you imagine doing this? Then try this experiment: begin moving your hand forward and back, and think about this as moving first your hand forward and back., and then think of moving your elbow forward and back, and then think of moving your shoulder forward and back. Take lots of rests, don’t tire yourself. Go slowly, so you can really sense and feel and enjoy this simple movement. Now try this movement, thinking of rotating your ribs as the source of the action. Then rest and notice the difference in the side you moved and your other side.

Now try this. As you move this same arm forward and back to the starting place, turn your head three times to one side, and three times to the other. For example, if you are moving your right arm forward, go back and forth with three times as you do this, turning your head to the right, and three times turning your head to the left. See which seems to make the action easier, and which makes it a bit more difficult. Again, slowly do this, and pay attention to what is happening in all of you, in your breathing and your ribs and your legs and your feet. Bring all of you into awareness, as a gift to your presence, and as a chance to learn more about how you function. Rest. And again compare sides and arms. The brain loves to learn and noticing differences is how it learns, how we learn.

Now try this: Discover how to move the same side hip forward as the arm you have been moving forward. For example, if you have been moving your right arm forward, move your right knee forward so you can feel your right hip come forward and your pelvis swivel a little on your chair as the right side of your pelvis comes forward. Without the arm doing anything, experiment and enjoy this moving of your hip and pelvis forward. Now combine this hip moving forward with moving your arm forward. How does that help or hinder the action? For contrast, move the other hip and knee forward as you move your arm forward and see what that does. Notice the difference. Go slowly. Let learning take place. Get fascinated in this. Sometimes you move the same arm and hip forward, sometimes the opposite hip and arm. Notice what happens in your spine and your ribs and how far your arm can easily move forward. You are the laboratory. You are in the present. This is simple and simply delightful to take this chance to learn about actions we do every day; reaching forward in life for something.

Experiment. Learn. Enjoy. This is our birthright, to be present, to find more pleasant ways to be, to discover how we are meant to move easily and freely, to discover how we learn by noticing differences, to discover what helps create a sense of ease in us. Ease as opposed to dis-ease. Ease and delight, a great combo.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Wednesday, June 21: A full, rich and wonderful life

What would that be like?

At the very least it would have moments here and there, where we look around ourselves and realize: I am alive. This is great. What a wonderful view of the sky, or my friend’s face, or the flowers, or the rain, or the cars rolling by. What a nice meal. What a tasty mouthful. What a pleasant sound. What a sweet movement. What a brilliant thought.

Appreciation for life, enthusiasm for life, this would be, could be the underlying theme feeling mood tone of a rich, full and wonderful life, don’t you think? Happiness, that great old friend, is so much the better when we know we are happy while we are happy. There are those who say that if you are really happy, you wouldn’t be paying attention to that, and to them I say: nonsense. Being in the moment is part of what makes life so rich, to be in the moment to whatever we are feeling. And if we are happy, and in the moment, we’ll know it.

Now, of course, one guaranteed way to be unhappy, is to be minutely scrutinizing every instant and demanding that it be better and more happy than it happens to be. Or, another kindred route to unhappiness is to demand that “bad” feelings disappear instantly, before we’ve had a chance to listen to and discover if they have anything worthwhile to reveal to us. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they are nonsense.

For example, we may have spent a pleasant morning reading the newspaper and then get up from that and feel not so great. We could shrug that off, or we could blame the bad news, or we could examine: was I conscious of breathing and gravity while I was reading the paper? Was I reading the paper because I didn’t want to take responsibility for figuring out something more challenging and wonderful to do? Was I sucked into the mood tone of disaster and complaining which informs most of the so-called “news?”

If so, my feeling “bad,” is an indicator to spend less time reading the news, or to stay more awake when I do this, or to be aware of my habit of reading to escape real living.

On the other hand, I might hear someone giving me a comment in a disapproving tone and start feeling bad. This, under examination, proves to be nonsense, based on an assumption that other people always have to speak to me just so, or that other people can’t have grumpy moods, or just plain be grumpy people. Basically, this is a feeling bad we all indulge in more or less worthlessly: the feeling bad because others don’t treat us just so. This confusion of our inner sense of well-being and outside approval is a deadly road, and to realize when we feel bad at these times, is to realize we are being suckered into a world of slavery and misery.

So those feeling bad feelings are a chance to wake up from our false assumptions. The work of Byron Katie is a short cut to cutting through these assumptions, as is simply being deeply present to ourselves, sensing ourselves deeply, following our breathing and getting clear: this is me, that is so and so. Words and tones are coming from so and so. That is so and so’s business. My reaction to so and so’s words and tones is my business. This is freedom and a chance to be happy even if someone else doesn’t want us to be.

My, my this makes a full and rich life sound like a place of vigilance, and maybe that is so. Maybe we need to keep a sharp awareness of just where we are placing our attention and a deep commitment to our responsibility to put our attention in worthwhile places: the clouds, the hugging friend, the smiling and laughing children, the blue sky, the pleasant feeling of walk down a street or along a trail, the glorious feeling of the being at the ocean, or in a garden. The excitement and challenge of learning something new. The wonder of discovering how much more we can be than we thought possible.

Ah, now there’s a good start to a rich and wonderful life.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sunday, June 18,The Past is Over

This is one of life’s greatest mercies: the past is over. This is one of life’s least taken refuges. If we come into the present, then we are where we can be alive and happy and deal with whatever needs to be dealt with. If we are moping about worrying about our childhood bullshit, then we are often, no usually, worthless to deal with stuff that comes up.

How about an example. My mother was critical. So, if my sweetie is critical, I have a tendency to bristle and get defensive. If I am one more therapy addict and my sweetie is critical, I can feel sorry for myself, or want to leave my sweetie, or demand she treat me better because poor me had a mean mother, blah, blah, blah.

However, in the present, if she is critical, I can follow my breathing and sense my spine and arms and legs in relation to gravity and look at her and hear her words. I can listen to her tone of voice. Does she seem to be in some sort of pain or agitation? How can I help her with that? I can listen to her words, and notice: what is she saying, in reality? If I am out of reality, I might “hear” her saying, I’m bad and worthless, but in reality, she might be saying she thinks I left the kitchen a mess.

In the present I can look around and see if this is true. If the kitchen is a mess, and I indeed was the perpetrator, then she isn’t criticizing me: she’s just telling me something I don’t want to hear.

Oh, well. That’s the problem with other people. They don’t understand they are supposed to shower us with praise and flattery and ignore our fuck-ups. Unless we want real friends, and can be happy when someone tells us something we don’t want to hear. Then we can look around and think: damn, a messy kitchen. Might as well follow my breathing and clean it up.

This is a long ways toward loving, being able to listen to both the tone and the words of the people we live with. If I’m busy feeling sorry for myself because of my past, and used to getting in a funk if someone around me seems to be following a pattern of one of the famous Bad Guys ( Mom, Dad, etc.), then I am unavailable to myself and to them and to having a good time now.

Or to learning now.

Or to being peaceful and happy now.

• The now has that charm: it’s where we can really be alive. What a nice place to hang out, eh?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Saturday, June 17: wow: Power of Now,

Is a book that was very popular, and when you read it, you get the idea: yeah, the Now is really the powerful place to be. Then you also get a bunch of concepts about Being and Source and pain-body and ego and whatnot, with the first two capitalized guys the Good, and the last two, the Bad. And there we are again, trying to be good.

To hell with that, I say. Just be present for the fun of it, or the glory of it, or the thrill of it, or the challenge of it. Or even better, combine it with a life of learning and usefulness and build a wonderful life for yourself.

This is short. Life is either short or long, depending on what concepts you want to wing with. And this now, as all other nows, doesn't care about what we think about it, and in this freedom,
and without concepts
this now,
right Now
is just as good as any other.

Isn’t that cool?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday, June 16, Why Not Today?


To tell someone or two or ten people
that you love them?

To walk barefoot in the grass?

To take off timje to lie outside and look at the blue sky?

To wiggle around as you lie on the green grass under the blue
and discover a way of
moving that you've never done before?

To go a different way, on foot, to someplace you often go?

To say something a different way to
than the usual way?

To listen to the song
in someone's voice when
they talk to you?

To imagine what the biggest dream is
inside the person you are listening to?

To imagine, roll around on the Earth and wiggle
while imagining, the biggest dream
you can
in yourself?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Wednesday, June 14, Wake up and Learn, Movement #7, The Power Belly, #1

Wake up and Learn, Movement 7: The Power Belly, #1
We have a wonderful center, and it’s right in the center. Just as being grounded, is just a trite phrase, but means have attention and connection to the real ground under our feet or bottoms, so being centered means to have our attention in our centers. Which is right around our navel, a little below, a little in. Let’s lie down and have some fun, getting to know this area.

!) Push your lower belly out and raise your lower back a little from the floor. Now do the opposite: bring your lower back into the floor as you bring your belly back.

2) Rest. Raise your knees forward toward the ceiling so that your feet are standing. In this position, push your belly out and lift your lower back from the floor, and then press your lower back into the floor and bring your belly in toward your spine.

3) Rest. And then take the same feet standing position, and alternate belly in and belly out, and do this so that you breathe in both ways for awhile. That is breathe in as your belly goes in and breathe in as your belly goes out. Then, do the opposite, breathe our as your belly comes in and breathe out as your belly goes out. This will help show your brain alternatives to habitual ways of breathing and will increased your “centeredness,,” your connection to your center.

4) Rest. Interlace your fingers and put your hands behind your head. As you breathe out and push your belly in, raise your head. As you breathe out and press your belly out, bring your head back to the floor. Do this easily, not crunch fashion, but learn about rib basket, and spine and brain fashion.

5) Rest. Interlace your fingers the opposite way. Raise and lower your head as your power belly goes in and out, and this time have your eyes going opposite your head. This will be hard. So slow down. As you lift your head, your eyes look up, as if to see your own forehead. As you let your head back down, your eyes look down as if to see your feet.

6) Rest. Now lift and lower your head with your eyes going the easy way, looking at your feet as your head lifts and looking up as your head comes back. Notice which way you chose to interlace your hands.

7) Rest. Come to half sitting, which means to raise your back so you are supported with your arms behind you and your forearms and hands resting on the ground. In this position, press forward and back your power back. Alternate doing this with breathing in, and with breathing out.

8) Rest. And see how you feel different. Get up and walk around and enjoy your day.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Tuesday, June 13: Wake up and love, Conscious Talking

I had a fine time with my brother-in-law the other night, doing what I call “Conscious talking.” The idea of this is to talk to another person, or in a group, with the goal of being present to myself, both while I listen and while I speak. That means I’m in the moment, and can pull away from the usual talking to impress or manipulate others, or even more usual, the random talk of people just flapping their gums to relieve excess energy and not feel lonely for two seconds.

I deeply enjoyed both the speaking and listening with this fine man, and he kind of enjoyed it, but he kept getting on to how “boring” he was. He couldn’t quite get over the hump of letting his talking just be something he was interested in exploring and letting go of worry and concern for how other people were thinking about him.

Oh, well. This is what Gurdjieff called our greatest slavery: our being hooked to the approval and disapproval of others. What a great opportunity to get beyond this in conscious speaking.

Now, why am I titling this section Wake up and Love? Because so much of our time with loved ones is not talk and sharing about what really means something to us. It is the details of life, or our opinions, or gossip, but until a fight breaks out and some reconciliation happens in the end, no real honest sharing happens. Or very little.

And, within the rules of conscious speaking, the main underminers of real communication are eliminated.

Rule 1: no interrupting. You agree with a partner or in a group to speak for 3 or 4 or 5 minutes each and while you talk, no one interrupts.

Rule 2: no fixing or commenting. So if someone talks about some issue that is bothering them, no one will use their speaking time to give them to solution. Which again brings people back to themselves, to pay attention to what is really going on with them.

A third rule, not really enforceable, and one of the best teachings is this: when you listen, really listen. Be present to breathing and the other person, and skip the usual of preparing in your head what your response is going to be. This alone is worth the price of admission, because we spend so much mental effort doing this, we never really get to listen, and never get to discover what we’ll say on our own without preparation.

And what to talk about if we stumble. One, be silent, it won’t hurt anyone. Two, say, “I don’t know what to talk about.” Three, talk about two staples that should always be interesting to us if we love being alive: what we notice in the present and what we like/love about being alive.

Try it. Look into the eyes of the people you are talking to. Be present in talking and listening. This can change your life.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Monday, June 12: Wake up and live

Wow. That seems pretty obvious doesn’t it, and then we can check out this very moment: am I awake to whether I’m breathing in or breathing out. Am I awake to where my spine is and how it’s connected to my pelvis and how the two of them and my brain are keeping my upright in the world. And what is the shape of my arms and legs right now?

These are all the qualities of being awake, and this is about living fully, not being good. Not being aware for it’s own sake, but for the sake of living a life where we are really at the center instead of being swept along as robot responders to whatever input comes our way. Phone rings and a certain robot goes off. Someone asks us, “How are you?” and another robot goes off. Someone mentions the political mess and another robot response of feelings and thinking goes off.

And our thinking, wonderful ability to learn, to compare and contrast, to check things out from different points of view, to explore and speculate. How do we use up our mental capacities, usually? Planning what to do next. Worrying how we are going to perform. Going over and over in our heads how someone else did us wrong or isn’t living their lives right.

And our interactions with each other. Gad, talk about robots in action. Always giving our children little orders and suggestions. Always hanging out with A to gossip about B and C. Starting what we have to say way before the other person has finished what they are saying. Hearing the other people saying what our robot perception of them has them pegged and pigeonholed as saying.

My oh my, this sounds like we could let of “thinking” get all bummed out about what robots we are most of the time. But why bother, that’s just another robot response: if things are hard, give up, get discouraged, don’t even play the game.

Except this: playing the wake up game is the best game in the world. Especially if we want to have rich and interesting and creativity lives. Especially if we want to be able to love and enjoy the people we are around instead of just bumping through our days with them nearby.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sunday, June 11, Wake up, be happy, take a walk

Today is a new day. Hope to get out and play. Not play ball, but play awareness, play breath. Each breath is new, each time I’m aware of breath I’m new. Each time I come back to the moment I’m new.

The play of learning. What will I learn today? Each day I play with one of the thousands of possibilities of movement that Moshe Feldenkrais and Anat Banniel, and me myself invented, or are inventing.

Or I can just play now with my options in sitting. Belly forward and breathe inb, b elly forward and breathe out. Belly in and breathe in. Belly in and breathe out. How are my sitz bones, which can so much more easily be called “sit bones,” place on the chair. What is if like typng along and not being able to see the page very well, with the morning sun glaring away on it

Does this matter?

Of course. Any moment lived in the moment is sweet.

And what of learning. Each time I notice a difference, belly in vs. belly out, belly out breathe in vs. breathing out, noticing feet on the floor vs. not noticing feet on the floor, I open up learning, I open up possibilities.

Maybe this is too easy to write about, but I don’t think so. It’s Sunday and sunny and I’m alive and a bit tired from having eating too much lat night and am happy to be alive. Now I’ll go take a walk in the chilly outdoors. Hope your day is wonderful, too.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Thursday, June 8: Opening and Closing the Day with movement medley



1) Lie on your back. Feel how it feels to be you, now. Notice your breathing. Notice what feels good now. Now begin to slowly rotate your head left and right. Do this a number of times, with ease and pleasure. Rest.

2) Raise your knees toward the ceiling so your feet are standing on floor/bed/ground. Tilt your knees easily right and left. Again slowly. Notice what else moves as you do this. Begin to help the rotation by pushing your left foot into the ground to raise your left hip as you rotate your knees, and pelvis to the right, and pushing your right leg into the ground to help rotate your pelvis to the left. As you do this, easily and with awareness, begin to let your belly come forward each time you rotate to the side. Rest.

3) Now do this same movement with a breathing variation. Sometimes breathe in while you push your belly out and rotate to the side, sometimes breathe in. Get a feeling as to how these are different. Rest.

4) Now, rotate pelvis and legs to the left and you rotate your head to the right and vice versa. Then rotate your head and pelvis in the same direction, and then alternate the two.

5) Rest. Take your arms and hug yourself, so that the right hand is in the left armpit and the right hand is in the left armpit. In this hug, rotate your shoulders easily right and left. Feel your ribs and spine moving with this. Enjoy.

6) Rest. Now play. Shoulders one way, head the other. And, shoulders one way and pelvis the other.

7) Advanced work: eyes one way and head the other.

8) Also advanced: try various combinations of head one way, shoulders the other and pelvis the same as the head and opposite the shoulders. Or with the eyes and head and pelvis. Or all four. Just have fun. Go slow. Be aware of what you do when you are learning something new.
9) Have knees toward the ceiling and feet as if standing. Put your right hand behind your head and your left hand in front of (below) your left knee. Thinking of your right shoulder forward and your left hip forward, bring the right elbow toward the left knee. No effort to touch. Lots of effort to sense the diagonal of doing this. Rest.

10) Now, keeping your right hand behind your head, place your left hand on your right knee, and bring again the shoulder and the hip toward each other and forward as you bring, slowly and with interest in learning rather than accomplishing, your right elbow, now toward your right knee. Rest.

11) Do this fun thing. Same configuration as in 10, but this time as you bring your right elbow and right knee toward each other fold/roll to your right side. And then come back to your back, when you bring the elbow and knee apart.

12) Rest. And do the above three steps on the other side.
13) . Come to your belly. Put your hands, one on top of each other, palms down, and your forehead on your top palm. Slowly, slowly lengthen your right leg and lift it a little from the ground/floor/bed. Do this with comfort , pushing out your belly. Practice and explore breathing out and breathing in as you push your belly out.

14) Rest. Do this with your left leg. Lengthen your leg and lift, just slightly at the same time.

15) Rest. Now, lift your right elbow a number of times. And then your left elbow. Then, lift your right elbow and your left foot, feeling this diagonal across the back. And lift your left elbow and your right foot, feeling this diagonal.

16) Rest. Come to your back and review in your mind all three sets of functions: rotating, folding forward, and beginning to arch in your back. Rest and review and enjoy how you feel now and imagine doing some of these movements in your imagination during the day, or in your dreams.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Wednesday, June 7: A Unified Approach to Improvement, an awake life and happiness

Some people want to improve their physical abilities. They want to get better at golf or running or tennis or skiing or yoga or dancing. Or, they want to be healthier and more fit, sick less or never and stronger. This book is for those people.

Other people want to be happier. They have glimpsed that the “pursuit of happiness” is a bit of a sham, that waiting until the vacation comes around or the end of the workday, or the weekend, leaves an awfully large chunk of their life not in happiness, and they are wondering and yearning for happiness to fill more, if not all, of their moments, though it often sounds like heresy indeed to speak of an ongoing happiness. For those who glimpse this possibility and dare to wish it for themselves, this book is also intended.

Others want to connect with more of who they “really are.” They may be more or less certain whatever the heck this means, but they have a sense that they are more of their “real selves,” when they are out in nature, rather than stuck inside four walls, that they are more connected t themselves when walking outside than when driving in some metal and plastic compartment. They sense an out of balance-ness in our whole human relationship to nature, and wish to begin to get far more into balance. This book is for these people.

Some feel this out of balance-ness with nature as an out of connectivity with their own bodies. This could be the same as the first group, the tennis players and runners, but it could be people who’ve just had a heart attack or a deep sickness, or just a moment of realization that, “Hey, it doesn’t feel great to be me inside my skin moving around any more.” They look at children, running around, skipping, rolling, having a good time and don’t repress the common and deep wish to be mobile and free as they were when they were a child. This book is for these people, too.

There are those who feel a bit lost in their lives, who wish they were more clear on what they really want to do with their lives. Or those who want to be better at learning some new skills that aren’t necessarily physical. They want to be sharper mentally, and more quick in their learn, and more open minded and flexible in their thinking. They glimpse that they seem to think the same thoughts about the same things over and over and notice a certain stuckness and staleness to this. They want to return to a childlike sense of wonder and discovery about life and all its possibilities. This book is for those people.

And finally, this book is for those who have glimpsed and tasted the marvelous difference between being in the present and being in the trancelike state in which most of us spend most of our minutes and hours. Satisfying as our lives may be, if we aren’t in the present, if we aren’t there to distinguish our lives as they are actually occurring, we are not really appreciative and connected to our own life. It is happening to us. We can recite a history of our accomplishments and send out a Christmas letter full of things we’ve done and places we’ve been, but as far as being in the moment when our children are speaking to us, or when we are talking with our mate, or when we are opening a door, or when we are walking across a room or in a park, we are missing in action, as it were. This ongoing trance is so pervasive and there is so much agreement on the busy-ness and disconnectedness in our lives, that this is often almost another heresy, to suggest that we could live each moment in the moment, experiencing each moment as rich and full. This book is for those of us excited about this possibility of waking to each and every moment.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Tuesday, June 6: Learn

Wake up, learn. This is the start of a good life. Literally, this is how we started our lives, we came out into the world and we were already awake to the present, no memories or future, just blamo, here we are, air to breathe, gravity to sense, someone, hopefully, to hold us and to feed us. Life on planet Earth, as opposed to life in the ocean Mom, begins.
We are placed on our backs. We sleep a lot. When we wake up, what do we do? We learn. How to we learn? We move around. We wiggle, we jiggle, we try this, we try that. We are great scientists, we are in a grand experiment, how does this body thing we seem to be in, work? We move our arms, we move our legs, we move our backs, we move our heads. We have no big program, and we are very interested as we discover certain moves yield interesting results we might want to try again. Hand to the mouth? Hmm. That one was possibilities. Hand to the knee? Cool. Rolling a little with our bellies out. Rolling a little with our bellies back. We try everything.

We are amazing and life is amazing. We learn. We experiment. We play. We eat. We pee and poo. We sleep. We are picked up and fussed over, hopefully. Life is full. We are learning.

This big brain of ours is discovering that there is some “me” inside all this wiggling and peeing and eating and pooing, and this “me” can do certain things today that we did not do yesterday. This is learning and we don’t know we are learning, and if we are lucky, we aren’t “helped” by the giants, and we learn to roll over and crawl and sit up and stand and fall down and get up again and walk all on our own, lots of “mistakes,” lots of “dead ends,” which is to say, lots of information about possibilities.

This is a kind of learning we could wonderfully revive in our “adult” lives. Try out the yoga pose. Great. Feel your body. Feel your heart. Notice your breathing. Feel expanded and alive and vibrant. Now try a slightly different form, maybe belly out and then belly in. Try shifting the weight more to one foot and more to the other. Try rotating the head one way and the eyes the other. Try shoulder blades a little more back, and a little more forward. Try ribs compacted and ribs expanded.
Play with it, and see what you can learn about you being in the body/mind that is “you.” Who are you, right now? What can you learn right now?

Sitting at a desk or in a chair, how are your feet? Are they both on the floor? If not, how is it different if they are? Are you following your breathing? Is it ( which is to say, are you) different when you do? What is the difference? How many places do you feel the difference?

How can you create more comfort and awareness for yourself right now? What shifts make it (you) feel just a little worse, and which just a little better, and which are just interestingly different.

There is a lot to learn. The brain first started by bringing sense and order to the world for us, as we moved and discovered how that all worked. A lot of this book will be using the Feldenkrais Method® to rekindle possibilities of moving and learning and being present. In particular, I am indebted to Anat Baniel, the progenitor of the Anat Baniel Method of Feldenkrais work, for her emphasis on Feldenkrais as a learning system.

And this book is beyond learning just this, for to be whole I want to be present and I want to be healthy and I want to be happy and useful. And in love. These are all included in the learning that this book is about opening up. Come on in. Enjoy.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Monday, June 5, Wake Up

Am I breathing in, breathing out, or between breaths, or holding my breaths? When I am aware of that, I am on my way to being awake. This is a nice feeling, one I can have right now, and so can you.

How is my lower back shaped? This is a funny question, but as I’ve learned to get clearer with my so-called “body,” I’ve learned that the lower spine can be slightly back, and then I’m in a bit of a fold forward, or the lower spine can be slightly arched and then I’m more or less upright. This isn’t a question of “right posture.” Posture is for posts, to quote Moshe Feldenkrais, from whom big gobs of this book will derive. For now though, I like to include a sensation of where my belly is oriented, where my lower back is oriented, in my feeling of waking up. This is part of a larger awareness I enjoy when I remember myself in the present, the awareness of myself in gravity. My spine holds up my head and ribs and shoulders and arms. It does a lot for me against this constant tug of gravity, can I breathe in and know it, breathe out and know it, and know the orientation of my spine in space and feel the tug of gravity on my feet or bottom, or wherever the pull of gravity is coming?

This is a concrete way to join into an endless and wonderful task, the task of being present to our lives, moment by moment, as we are living them. When we speak, are we aware of our speaking? When we walk, are we aware of our walking.? If we open a car door, are we aware of that, and of how we shift into the car? When we open the door to a house or restaurant, are we aware of how we do that? When we pull out a weed? When we sit in a chair? When we rise from sitting in a chair? When we listen, do we listen in the moment or fill our heads with the important things we have to say or our important opinions about what is being said, or just chatter about our plans for the next day?

When we read a book, do we know where our breathing is as we read? Do we feel how we are sitting, how our spines are oriented, where the light on the page is coming from? Are we breathing in or out, right now, or holding our breaths, or are we luxuriating in that space between the breaths. How is our spine holding us up, just now, right now, in this bright and wonderful and only one time now? If we tilt our bellies a little forward, and a little back, can we find a more comfortable shape for ourselves? If we are sitting, can we move our pelvis a little forward and a little back and notice how that feels, a little to the left and a little to the right, enjoying a sense of possibilities. Maybe we can sense the possibility of sitting in a slightly more comfortable and awake manner of sitting, of breathing, or being in our moments.

Hmmm. That might be nice, eh?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sunday, June 4, Folding Forward on the Back

As humans, we are tall and columnar, made for rotating around the central axis easily. That’s why the first three lesson were about this rotation. There are many more, and we’ll probably return to some, but now it’s time to look at something else wonderful we can do. We can fold forward. To experience this most quickly, if you are sitting, simply allow yourself to slump forward, so your back goes back and your shoulders come forward, and your tailbone tucks under a little as you rotate back to sit farther back on your pelvis. The back is folded forward in this position. Some of us can fold a lot, some hardly any. Doesn’t matter, we can all explore and in exploring and not forcing, and trying out this and that and being curious, we can learn and improve.

1) Please lie on your back.. Really enjoy this time to connect with the ground or floor or Earth through your back side. Feel where in your back you press most firmly into the floor. Feel where you lift up off the floor. Feel where you touch lightly the ground behind. Feel your shoulder blades and your pelvis. Feel your shoulder blades, again, right and left, and see if you can sense where the shoulder blades leave off and the ribs under them start, where the tops of the shoulder blades are and where the bottoms. Sense your breathing. Sense your right leg and your left. How are they the same? How different? Sense both arms. Again, are they exactly the same? How are your hands oriented? (How to do this and read at the same time? Well, by now you are figuring out a way. One is to read a section at a time, then do it as best you remember. Then read again to see if you missed anything and do it once more.) Sense all of you, and roll your head very gently side to side. Rest.

2) .Begin to bring your right shoulder forward and then release it slowly back to the ground. Many times. Then do this with your left shoulder. And then your left hip. And then your right hip. Do this slowly and notice your breathing and what happens in other “parts” of you as you do each of these. Rest.

3) Now try some nice combinations. Bring the right shoulder and the left hip forward. Many times. And then the left shoulder and the right hip. Again, so it beyond, “Oh, this is easy. I can do it.” What can you learn and notice and enjoy? Now both shoulders forward at the same time. And both hips. If this seems a no go, relax, and imagine it. Or just do it a tiny amount. Or, help by pulling your stomach back toward your spine. Belly back, hips forward, is the famous “abs” thing so many people get so worked up about.

4) Rest. Now bring your feet to standing, so the knees are forward. Place your right hand behind your head and your left hand, with thumb next to the rest of the fingers, in front of your left knee. Feeling this as the same diagonal as right should and left hip forward, slowly bring the right elbow toward the left knee. And then undo, and come back completely to rest, with your head on the floor and no tension in hip or shoulder. Then repeat, many times, this movement. Rest. Then leave the right hand behind your head, and put the left hand in front of the right knee, just below the knee cap, thumb with the rest of the fingers. Bring the right elbow toward the right knee. Don’t try or demand or push for them to meet. Just have fun folding forward. Rest. Now do this fun thing: as you bring the elbow toward the right knee, roll to the right so you end up on your right side as your elbow approaches your knee.

5) Rest. Do this to the other side.

6) Now, do 4 again, but with this emphasis. First, each time you bring your elbow toward a knee, bring your lower back into the floor or ground behind you and breath out. This is the same as bringing your belly back, making your lower stomach area smaller and breathing out. Good, and also: every third time when you are bringing your elbow toward one knee or the other, think of bringing the that shoulder forward. In other words, sense the movement most in the shoulder. Every third time think of bringing the hip or the leg whose knee you are working toward forward, which is to say, sense the movement most in the hip ( and back going back). And then every third time think of bringing the shoulder and the knee toward each other. And noticing the belly/back going backward, and the diagonal muscles bringing the shoulder and hip toward each other.

7) Do this on the other side.

8) Rest between movements and rest now and then just move right shoulder and left hip forward and feel that in your “abs” and in your diagonal. Now bring your left shoulder and right hip forward and feel that in your so called core. And what is the core muscle really? The BRAIN. The brain what is using attention to not just guide, but to learn and modify and experiment and enjoy. That kind of brain leads to a good life.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Saturday, June 3: Chapter 9: Standing rotation

Why so many movement lessons? Because this is how the brain learns most easily. It was the brain’s main job when we were young, how to become a moving person, from the baby blob we start as. Experimenting, trying this, trying that, making a lots of moves that don’t really add up, making “mistakes,” exploring, no effort, huge amounts of attention and interest, living in the present: this was our life as a young genius. We all started out loving to learn and being really good at it.
So, as always, do each movement a number of times. Go slow. Go less than full range. Breathe and keep your attention in the present. Search for pleasure and ease in each moment. If something is “hard” or “impossible,” do the opposite of what we usually do, which is to say instead of trying harder and going faster to plow through our not knowing, slow down and try easier, to learn whatever we can learn from our not knowing. Not knowing means this: a chance to learn. Take the chance. Slow down, come to the present, learn.
First. Lie of the floor or ground and sense your entire self. Sense your legs and arms and spine. Sense your breathing. Sense fingers and toes. You fill in all the rest. Just go slow and enjoy this.

1) Now, come to standing. Enjoy this. Feel both feet on the ground. Shift slightly side to side and notice your toes and your breathing and your spine. Look around yourself to the left and to the right, and see how that feels (the quality) and where you end up turning ( the range). Keep it easy.

2) Rest, as always between sections. Now, extend your arms at shoulder height, straight out to your sides. In this position rotate right and left and see again how is the quality and the range. Then find about halfway to the right. Stop here, with your arms out to your sides, and rotate arms and shoulders as one unit to the right, as your head rotates to the left. Don’t tire your arms. Take rests, and keep coming back to this head one way, shoulder girdle and arms the other, until you enjoy it.

3) Rest. Now go again halfway to the right, extend your arms out to your sides at shoulder height, and begin moving pelvis/hips one way and the shoulders/arms the other. Back and forth, easy. If your arms get tired, you can drape your hands over the opposite shoulder and in this way turn your shoulder girdle one way, while your pelvis rotates the other. Go slow. Breathe. Pay attention to and learn about the vertebrae of your spine.

4) Rest. Now rotate simply both to the right and left and see if the quality and range is improving. Then, again come to whatever the new halfway point is in rotating to the right, and move your pelvis one way and your head the other. Enjoy this.

5) Rest. Again come to halfway to the right. Extend your arms and move your arms one way and your head and pelvis both the same way, which will be opposite the way your arms are moving. Like this : head right, shoulders/arms to the left, pelvis right. And the opposite. This is the chance to go slow if it’s “hard,” to learn instead of bashing through. Enjoy.

6) Rest. Close your eyes while you rest. Feel yourself in standing. How do you feel. Now, open your eyes, turn halfway right, and find a spot on which to keep your gaze. Do this and let your head rotate right and left. Rest. Now do the harder version, head one way and eyes the other, starting half right. Breathe. Sense your neck. Sense any tension and let it go. Go slow. Make small movements. Learn.

7) Rest. Lie down and rest in you wish. Then come back to standing. Extend your arms shoulder height out to your side and rotate half way to the right. Now do an interesting thing. Begin to arch your back in such a way that your shoulders come back and your butt sticks out more, and your belly comes forward. While you do this rotate your hands in this direction, which means that if you start with your fingers/palm facing down, the hands will rotate so the fingers and first forward and then oriented up. So as you arch your back and stick your butt up and belly out, your hands rotate your shoulders along with this move. And then, you go the opposite way, rotating hands and arms forward and down, and rounding your back and bringing your shoulders forward and as if toward down, and the pubic bone as if up and forward toward the head and your belly goes back. The whole thing is just curving one way in your spine and then the other, while making sure the pelvis and shoulders and involved. Go slow. This is very useful in all of life.

8) Rest. Now rotate right and left and see the improvement in range and quality. If you want to get fancy, do the previous movement, but rotate the arms and hands in the other direction. If not, just repeat the last movement, since it is the heart of much of yoga and gives us a sweet chance to see and feel and learn better the difference between folding forward and arching our backs.

9) Rest. Repeat any of the above combinations, head, shoulders, pelvis, eyes, that you enjoyed or found intriguing.

10) Rest. One last time check of a difference and improvement in rotation to your left and to your right. If you later want to repeat some or all of these steps to the left, that would be fine. If not, that would be fine. Imagine doing this the next several days. Make sure to give yourself an opportunity to do one movement each day. Keep up a journal of ideas and reflections on each day's chapter ideas or movement. This is your chance to get to know you better. Take it.

Friday, June 02, 2006

June 2, ch 8: Bee Sting, Bad Mood, Conscious Speaking

I started yesterday in a bad mood. I didn’t deal with it directly, by writing down the thoughts at war with reality, which is the core of the Byron Katie work, and which I’ll explain later. But at least I didn’t run away from feeling bad into busy-ness, one of the great escapes of our time. I was tempted to drive down to Marin and do a few things: didn’t go. I was tempted to rush around and get another flyer out about my work: didn’t do it. Even the temptation to go off and do more pro bono Feldenkrais with some kids as a school, I resisted. All would have undoubtedly “got my mind off of” whatever was bothering, and I decided no, I was going to stay with myself, go slow and see what kind of a day I would have.

A slow day at first, and then things began to shift. I went to a nearby park, which was getting outside. Going into Nature is always a good start. I read some instructions for an advanced Feldenkrais lesson. I thought about these movements. I got up and did the movements. They were unique and interesting and a great excuse not only to learn, but to be in the present. They were walking and crawling lessons and during the third one, I stepped on a bee.


But, no big story about poor me, no panic. I just lay down and went with the pain, sensing it as deeply as possible. No rush to get rid of it, no words in the head abut wanting it to go away. Almost the contrary, I deeply sensed the pain at the point it hurt the most and added on sensing all the rest of my body as well. And following my breathing. And noticing my connection to the earth as I lay there.

So, I was deeply focusing on the pain, and providing a background of reality sensations for the pain. It got quite intense for awhile, and I looked to see if a little more of the stinger needed to come out, which it did. Then I just lay back and deeply sensed the pain and all of me, and the damndest thing happened: the pain started to disappear. It was almost disappointing. I tried to get it to come back but it kept drifting away.

I realized that I’ve learned this about emotional pain, too. That if you find the place in your body where it “hurts” the most, and sense there deeply, and get so interested in sensing there that this is the focus of your world, radically shifts begin to happen. Usually our suffering is fueled mainly be the words about whatever we are going through, the poor me, how could he/she/they do this to me, I was so wronged, life is so tough kind of words.

But emotional pain always has a physical component, and if we sense that component deeply, the shift happens almost like the bee sting. You get really interested in it and it starts to disappear on you.

I tried this on the tiny remnants of my bad mood, which had pretty much dissipated by the attention to the present of the walking lessons and the intense attention to the bee sting, and sure enough, even the last dregs of “feeling bad” had no choice but to up and disappear.

Then, to cap off a day that remained peaceful and sweet for the remainder, Marlie and I did an exercise called Conscious Speaking, which I’ll introduce in another chapter, but the gist is to talk for five minutes each, no interrupting and total awareness of the moment in both the speaker and the listener. This brings back love, heightens love, connects intimates and/or strangers. It’s an amazing process. I’ll have to write a section on it soon. Meanwhile, sensing the pain is one of the paradoxical ways out of the pain, be it bee sting or bad mood.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

June 1, ch 6: Seated rotation around our axis

As with the previous movement lesson, in each and every step, go slowly. Pay attention to where the moving affects you besides the place that’s instructed to move. Feel as much of yourself as possible. Sense where you are making extra effort and release that. See if doing less will help. See if breathing with more awareness will help. Look for fun and interest and pleasure and enjoyment. Take rests when you want to take rests. Feel how wonderful it is to be you. Notice what you might be learning about how to be softer and easier and clearer in yourself. Between the segments, let lots of enjoyment and integration sweep through you.

In this lesson, please sit comfortably in a chair or on a bench. Do sit at the front edge so your back is not against anything. Do find a nice place to sit, if you can, maybe outside with a pleasant view.

1) Turn around your axis, and look behind yourself to the right and to the left. Do this a number of times, and take note of the ease to each side, the difference in turning to one side and the other, and how far you easily turn.

2) Rest. Now, turn to the left and begin to slide your right knee forward and back. Notice how this rotates you some more. Do this many times, with ease and awareness and pleasure.

3) Come back to the middle and rest, with your eyes closed. Then turn to the left and begin to bring your right shoulder back as you turn to the left. So your right shoulder is moving to the right as the rest of you is moving to the left, and then when the rest of you comes to the right, bring your right shoulder to the left.

4) Rest. Now turn to the left allowing the right shoulder and the right knee to come forward as a team as you turn left. Notice the rotation in your spine and ribs and the shifting of weight in your pelvis.

5) Rest. Now turn about half the way to the left, and put your right hand in to your left armpit and your left hand into your right armpit. In this self hugging position, move the shoulders to the right, as you move your head to the left, and move your shoulders to the left, as you move your head to the right. Enjoy this with ease and awareness.

6) Rest. Now turn to the left and compare range and ease with the beginning of the lesson. Then come back to half of your new range, and put the hands in the opposite armpits, this time with the other arm on top. Begin to move your shoulders to the right, as you move your right knee forward (which will rotate your pelvis to the left). And then come back, so your shoulders move the to left, as your bring your hip and pelvis to the left. Make sure you do this until it is easy and pleasant to follow your breathing at the same time.

7) Rest. Again turn half way, and let your eyes notice what is in front of them. Keep your gaze there, fixed, and move your head to the right and left. This means your eyes don’t move but your nose does, so the eyes are moving relative to your head, as they stay fixed on one object or place. Again, do less if this is difficult, and you know you aren’t there yet if you are holding your breath. Keep slowly moving this way and see what it’s like to learn something new.

8) Rest. Again, turn half way and now let your head and eyes move in opposite directions, so the eyes go to the right as your head goes to the left and the eyes go to the left as your head goes to the right. This is even more difficult. So make small movements, and make sure you are really doing what you think you are doing. Rest and try this several times, until awareness of breathing and clarity of moving overlap.

9) Rest. Now, imagine moving your eyes one way, your head the other and your pelvis the same way as your eyes, which will be opposite the way your head is turning. It helps to think of the eyes as following the knee as the right knee goes forward and a bit to the left, and back and a bit to the right. If you are game, give this a try.

10) Rest. Now just turn simply to the left, easily and with breath and awareness and see how range and ease compares to the beginning.

11) Rest. If you wish, do some or all this to the right side.