Two weeks ago I woke up and my back spasmed. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get out of bed. Once I managed that, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go to work.
It was terrifying. But I went very slow all morning, paid attention to myself, and figured out what ways I could move that didn’t cause my back to go “thwochhhhhhk..k…k!” My Feldenkrais training comes in very handy in these situations.
It was kind of like a puzzle. Certain things I did caused me no pain at all. It was only when I moved a certain way that I felt the catch and the pain.
As I began investigating exactly what combination of moves could get me from sitting to standing without catching my back, I found myself wondering if this new way of moving was actually better than the old one. What if I was always straining my back without thinking about it, and it just got so bad that I finally had to change the way I was moving? Should I keep the changes even after my back got better?
I discovered a relationship between my chin, my jaw and even my ankles that, when coordinated, was pain free, and when timed incorrectly, engaged my back in a spasm. To my amazement, as I started to work in what was now a necessary coordination, my singing voice improved in a way I haven’t felt since I was twenty! I also found I had new ways to stand up straighter.
My body before the pain was in a safe place, like a ship’s harbor. I wasn’t going to leave that place until the pain made it impossible to stay. Sometimes pain makes a choice clear when, without the pain, it wasn’t.
I would not suggest that someone who suffers from chronic pain is in this type of situation. If pain is too great or the situation causing it is overwhelming, it’s very difficult, if even possible, to have the presence of mind to rethink oneself enough to get out of it.
I’m talking instead about a crisis which has clear boundaries. That can be physical pain, or the death of a loved one, or a relationship which is no longer tolerable. This kind of pain can be a tremendous gift if we can keep our heads clear enough to recognize the greater context around it.
Maybe there’s a reason we aren’t moving towards our solution. Maybe the solution itself is terrifying. On the other hand, maybe the threat we have been protecting ourselves from is long gone, and our pattern of being simply remains like a ghost, waiting to be exorcised.
I’m a big fan of engaging myself in challenging situations before the crisis comes. Music is wonderful for that, if you’re brave enough. You put yourself at risk in a way that causes you little to no actual harm, and you have to grow to manage the risk!
Have you seen my “press” tab lately? I’ve been featured in four articles this month! I’m also proud to say that my band, the Front Porch Session Players, played at the Dogwood Festival last Friday, and I will share a video feed of that as it becomes available.
Adam Cole is an author, educator and performer who blogs weekly on the subject of listening, creativity and artistry. He is the director of Innovative Approaches to Music, a comprehensive look at the benefits of music learning. To view more of Adam's work, please visit www.mymusicfriend.net