What Story Do You Tell Yourself About Your Body?
I am going through a transformation in life which is changing everything for me. I am beginning to understand that the way I relate to something in my life is more important than the actual thing itself. I can now see, looking back, how my feldenkrais journey has changed my relationship with my body and thus my relationship with experiences like chronic pain.
I can now see that it's possible to change my lenses and that this creates completely different ways of experiencing life.
I remember when I was at university I used to park in Mt. Eden and walk all the way into the city to attend my classes. The parking was free in Mt. Eden, which saved me money. It also gave me an opportunity to get some movement and exercise before my classes which I found was useful to keep my mind functioning well.
I remember finishing university late one evening and walking back to my car. It was dark out and my mind turned naturally towards crime and the way that people tend to do illegal things under the cover of darkness. The more I thought about this, the more I became convinced that my car had been at risk of being stolen while I was gone. I began feeling fear and worry about the thought that my car had been stolen. When I arrived at the place where I had parked that morning, I looked around and couldn't see my car. I was shocked. It was true! I was convinced it had been stolen.
After a few minutes and once I'd finally surrendered to the fact that my car had been stolen I noticed that my car actually WAS still there. It was just obscured behind another vehicle. I felt embarrassed, even though no-one else knew how I'd just played out a completely imaginary drama in my head.
I had worked myself into such a strong state of fear and worry that I had completely convinced myself the car was stolen. My story that I had been telling myself had caused me to completely miss the sight of my car. Almost like I had filtered it out. In reality, it wasn't actually that hard to see my car, but my story had shut down my perception enough so that I couldn't see it at all!
This experience was such a gift to me because it showed me how much the story and meaning I give to something can alter what happens and how I feel.
I believe that this same principle applies to my body too.
Consider how these different lenses would affect how you inhabit your body.
My body is a vehicle for carrying me through this life
It gets me from A to B. For me this has a mechanical feel to it. As though my body doesn't really have life. It's a machine used for fulfilling my intention.
- I'm likely to do only what's necessary to fulfil my intentions.
- I eat food and drink water to provide fuel for the machine.
- I recognize that machines require maintenance. Perhaps stretching, exercise, movement.
- If I experience pain, I might perceive it as though something has gone wrong with the machine - like a broken part.
I think that this frame is useful in the way that it reminds me to take care of it with routine maintenance. I think it also has the downside that I don't see my body as being an organic living thing. This ultimately ends up with me taking less care of it that if I see it as something alive that ought to be nurtured. I'm pretty bad at maintaining my car, so why would I be any different with my body?
My body is for expressing my deepest self in physical form
I heard a friend singing in the shower this morning. For me it was beautiful and inspiring. It came through her body and it transmitted a beautiful feeling into me. It was actually part of the inspiration for writing this article. When I view that the purpose of my body is for expression it gives me a freedom to move exactly the way that feels good for me. There's no right or wrong about it. The actions I take don't have to make sense on a logical level. They simply have to feel good or authentic in some way. This lens makes me see my body as a thing of beauty. It's not so much about practical aspects.
The thing I like about this lens is that it takes away any ideas that there's right and wrong. My expression is simply that, an expression. I have noticed many people at movement classes I attend appear ashamed when they make mistakes with their movement. I wonder if they saw their body as an object of expression would they still feel the same way?
For me, having this kind of freedom creates a fluidity in my body which means I am less likely to experience pain. But if I do happen to feel pain, it is viewed as something to be expressed rather than a problem to fix.
How does it change the way you think, the way you act, the way you move when you see your body in different ways...
- A channel through which the divine pours itself into life.
- An animal which has had it's consciousness upgraded through natural selection.
- A playground for experimenting with.
- A vessel for containing love.
- A thread which is woven into a greater tapestry of humanity.
Consider the way that a body builder might think about their body. Perhaps as though it were some piece of art that ought to be on display. Or maybe that it is a sculpture and it becomes sculpted through the actions of lifting heavy weights and eating in very specific ways.
What is YOUR body for? Why do you even have a body? How does this match up with what you experience living inside your body on a day-to-day basis?
Are you someone who feels lots of pain in your body? Do you have chronic back pain? What is the story you tell yourself about this pain? Why does it exist in your life?
Consider that if you experience difficulty and pain whilst inhabiting your body that it may have something to do with the story or meaning you're assigning to it.
Consider also that if you want to have a different experience then you might try telling yourself a different story and then you might get some different results from that.
Throughout the course of my 4 year feldenkrais training, I had the frame and story about my body challenged and changed substantially.
I realised I was seeing life through the lens of achievement and productivity. It was as though I had this constant set of goals and direction which I needed to achieve at all cost. This viewpoint creates pain because if I don't know how to do something then the way forward is to just push more. Forcing through my lack of skill worked sometimes, but it had a looooottttt of downsides.
One story I tell myself now is that my body is for play, learning and experimentation. I'm far less attached to specific outcomes this way. The journey has become more important and interesting to me. I am so fascinated by my body. I love experimenting with it in movement. I'm amazed by what it can do and how much pleasure it can feel. And the interesting thing is that I still get lots of things done, but without the same kind of pressure as before.
What kind of experience do you want to have in your body? How do you want to feel? What kind of story would you need to tell yourself to create that kind of experience for yourself?