Thursday, February 09, 2006

Thursday, Feb. 9: Habits vs. Learning

Many of our troubles can be traced to a pattern that could be portrayed this way: we want to walk to the next room, so we bash into the door, and if that doesn’t work, we bash harder. This seems strange and silly, but it’s the way we are. If something isn’t working, but we have a habitual way of going about trying to get it to happen, we are much more comfortable repeating our failing way of going about our effort than experimenting around and trying something different.

There is the famous cliché, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but in much human behavior, the phrase could be, “If it is broke, keep pretending it isn’t.” Or, perhaps: “If it isn’t working, keeping trying to old ways that don’t work.”

What to do about this?

What to do about anything, is to get more clear by being present to what we are actually doing. Instead of focusing so intently on getting into the next room, what if we focus on what we are doing: just how do we approach and bash that wall?

And then the next step, is to go to curiosity instead of effort and begin to explore the possibilities. What is this door thing? How do the hinges work? What is this handle all about? Which hand can hold the handle? Which ways does it turn?

This all seem obvious, to us as “adults,” but once we had to learn all this. We had to learn how this door thing work. Within ourselves, this can be equally true. You can see person after person who is just as silly with the use of their shoulders, say. They feel they have “sore” shoulders, and when they reach forward, nothing moves but their arm. The shoulder blade barely moves. The ribs certainly don’t. The spine doesn’t. And the powerhouse of real potent movement, the pelvis, is miles out of the picture.

No wonder their shoulder hurts. It’s supposed to be part of a team and it has been abandoned. So is it a “bad” shoulder? Should people push the arm farther and harder? Does it need massages or a cortisone shot?

No, no, and no. The shoulder is just fine, the brain is “bad,” or rather, more accurately: the brain is ignorant, or the brain is lazy, or the brain needs to relearn how to co-ordinate a body that is moving as a body should move. A shoulder that moves from and with the pelvis and ribs and spine is going to be a very happy shoulder, a “good” shoulder, and what is going to make it good and happy is our using more of ourselves in a fluid and connected manner.

And what has this to do with habits? The brain, the lazy brain, has gotten into allowing the shoulder a habitual pattern of working in isolation from the rest of the organism. To notice this pattern and then to create variation is a wonderful way to begin to become a more free and complete human being. And to vastly increase the our enjoyment of moving and being in our bodies.


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