Photo: James Jordan / Flickr
In exploring chronic tension over the past few posts, we began by looking into some of the physical causes that may be at play, and some of the functional changes and awareness practices that can help to address them. Next, we considered the relationship between our breath, our emotional state and our physical tension, and we evaluated whether it would serve us best to continue to dive deeper on our own, or with some help. Today we'll look at a simple practice of inquiry to guide our deeper dive. There are two ideas to keep in mind before we begin. First, it is of great importance that we enter this practice with a spirit of curiosity - every time we do it. Judgement or aggression towards ourselves has no place here, will not help us, and can certainly wound us. Please be kind, and remain curious. Second, we can give ourselves permission to leave the practice at any time if we begin to feel overwhelmed or anxious, knowing we can either come back to it later when we feel balanced or seek out a guide and return to the practice with help.
Once we've established that we're curious and ready, how might we proceed? We might begin by simply sitting in a comfortable position in a space that is quiet and safe, breathing deeply for a few moments to calm and center ourselves. We might then bring our awareness to the area of our body that is causing us discomfort. With curiosity, we might allow ourselves to feel what is happening in that area. If we are able to keep our attention on the area while still breathing evenly, we might start to inquire:
What is happening here?
What are the sensations occurring in this area?
Are there multiple sensations, or just one?
Do the sensations here shift and change? Or do they seem to feel solid, stuck, immobile?
Are there sensations here that we were not aware of before?
Are there any sensations here that are pleasant, pain-free, expansive?
The experience of this inquiry will differ for each of us, and may differ each time we engage with it - even when working with the same area! Our focus is to keep breathing, remain curious, and observe. We might notice after a short time that there are in fact multiple sensations occurring within our area of focus. We might begin to notice that the sensations in this area actually shift and change, rather than existing as the static block of the one particular sensation that we're typically aware of. We might notice sensations in this area that are not painful or uncomfortable, alongside some that are. We might notice sensations we've never experienced before, or that we've never experienced in this part of our body. We might spend a minute or five doing this, as our comfort and curiosity allows. When we are ready to leave the inquiry, we can open our eyes, take several deep breaths, thank ourselves genuinely for our efforts, and go on to something else. We can return to the practice another time, when we're feeling steady and curious.
“Much of what goes on within us remains dulled and hidden from us until it reaches the muscles. We know what is happening within us as soon as the muscles of our face, heart, or breathing apparatus organize themselves into patterns, known to us as fear, anxiety, laughter or any other feeling. Even though only a very short time is required to organize the muscular expression to the internal response or feeling, we all know that it is possible to check one’s own laughter before it becomes noticeable to others. Similarly, we can prevent ourselves from giving visible expression to fear and other feelings...The whole system ranges itself so that the muscles are ordered and ready either to carry out the action, or to prevent it from being carried out.”
- Moshe Feldenkrais, from Awareness Through Movement
An important tool to bring into our ongoing exploration is patience. We can begin to visit this area with curiosity for short periods of time, noticing what we notice. We can begin to bring our attention here throughout the day, noticing:
Are there are thoughts, events or interactions in our lives that seem to intensify the sensations in this area?
And conversely, are there thoughts, interactions or events that seem to ease the intensity of sensation?
It can be helpful to view our body, and this area of longstanding tension in particular, as a teacher who has much to share with us. It can also be enormously beneficial to keep a journal of our observations as we work with an area over time. This can help us to gather the insights we receive along the way, allowing us to create a map of the internal territory we're traversing, and later to see how the process of looking and listening effected our patterns over time. None of this has to take large chunks of time - a few minutes of looking, a few minutes of writing what we noticed. And while we'll want to be patient with ourselves and considerate of our readiness prior to each inquiry, consistency in our practice will yield the greatest results. A little bit of frequent practice will likely prove more tolerable, sustainable, and effective than large efforts less often.
Wishing you each a beautiful week, with many moments of kind and patient observation.
Dana Wyss Healing Arts
Breathe deeply, practice often, be well.