When I was a child, I had to endure a great sadness. While I have since adequately dealt with it, there are times when the memory or the consequences of this sadness completely overwhelms me. It feels like an unbearable weight, something I’m just not going to be able to carry.
When I get stuck over handling my emotions, I like to think about the body. Sometimes figuring out how to deal with a problem of the body can teach me how to deal with problems of the mind or the heart. On the body, the unbearable weight is the head.
Yes, you can hold your head up while standing for a long, long time, but try this: Lie on the floor and lift your head. How long can you hold it there? It’s a really heavy weight, and we can only manage it by balancing it, not carrying it.
Our head is held up by a series of relationships between the muscles and the bones controlled and self-corrected by the nervous system. If something is missing in that web of relationships, if a muscle-group isn’t activated or is overly activated, and a bone or two are held in a place that isn’t helpful, then the rest of the system may have to compensate in a way that is less than efficient. In order to maximize the efficiency of this system, we have to sense the relationships to determine the extent to which they are working.
When one or more of the relationships isn’t present, say I have no awareness of the individual bones of my neck and I always move them as a unit rather than letting them adjust ideally to balance the head, then I have to find a way to bring it back. The best way is to playfully and curiously examine myself in a deliberate series of movements. If I am in the right frame of mind, I may discover, the way a child discovers, a better configuration or use of myself.
What about emotional weights? Perhaps, like the body, the unbearable weight of an emotional trauma is held up by relationships. If one or more of those relationships is not functioning, we may have to compensate for it in a way that puts a lot of unsustainable strain on us.
How do we recover the relationships that help us sustain the unbearable weight? It helps to be curious about them, both playful and intentional, the way children ask questions. As we move through our relationships, it’s extremely important to be cognizant of the effect they have on us.
Are some relationships working harder than they should? Are others dormant, intact but non-functioning? Can we play with an intentionality that can activate those relationships?
The analogy itself may not always hold. We may sometimes find, however, that by addressing a bodily issue such as an inefficient balance of the head, we may also inadvertently change our emotional state, or even our connections with the people around us. It may be that dealing with the relationships in our body may sometimes be a necessary first step to changing the relationships outside of it.
Adam Cole is a music educator, author and Guild Certified Feldenkrais Instructor living in Atlanta, GA. His weekly blog can be found at www.mymusicfriend.net