Thursday, February 23, 2006

Thursday, Feb. 23: Interruption

We watched a movie that we got from the library last night. American Rhapsody. In it a family escapes communist Hungary, and comes to the US, but in the rush to escape, they must leave a baby daughter behind. When she is six, this daughter comes to the US, and reunites with her biological family, two fine people that she doesn’t recognize as her parents. She must learn a new language, abandon her attachment to the “parents” who raised her, and fit in as a new person.

Then she gets to teenage and becomes Scarlet Johansen, and she is wild and a trouble to the Mom. In fact, she and the Mom are in almost total warfare, and life is almost out of control for both. Then the girl asks to go back to Hungary, to try to make sense of things. She does, learns things and returns.

To tell any more would be to deny you the pleasure of this excellent film. The point is, she got herself out of her jam by interrupting what she was doing ( being a miserable and rebellious teenager) and did something else.

One way to think about the advantage of this is like this: if you are doing something that isn’t working, if you do anything different, you might have a chance of getting some insight or progress. In Feldenkrais, this is used often. Sometimes we move in a way that makes the action more difficult, such as rotating the head to the right while extending the right arm forward. Sometimes we mix up things, once extending the right arm with the right hip forward, and once with the left hip forward. Sometimes we’ll do something that seems a total tangent, like moving the eyes one way and the nose the other. But with each variation and exploration, we can usually make the original movement clearer and easier and more graceful.

And within the movements themselves, we interrupt the pattern of doing something the instant it comes to our mind, either by imagining the movement and then doing it, or honing down our attention on exactly when and how we start a movement.

And then we rest between movements. We interrupt the big fun of just cranking away at something. I like to stop people after they’ve gotten to that nice cranking along phase, where they’re over the hump of figuring out what the movement is, and relieved to be just doing it. We take an early rest. Now imagine, I say, doing this with more mindfulness, more connection to other parts of yourself. What would that be like? Now do it.

This can be a model for any time we are in trouble. Instead of redoubling our efforts to once more do what hasn’t worked yet, we can pause and think about how to do it slightly differently. And once we’ve figured and tried that, we can stop and imagine doing the variation more mindfully. Then we can do that.

This could serve in work, in couple’s arguments, in our sports, in taking a walk. Maybe there’s even different ways to read a book or watch a video one brings home from the library. Who knows, the possibilities of improvement and learning seem limitless with this approach.


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