Meandering Around Resistance


In yesterday's post, I played with the idea of approaching the difficult, stuck places in your life much as you might approach areas of tightness in your own body.

Think about muscles like your hamstrings that resist mightily when you try to push too far. But with some patience and breathing, you can come to a place of acceptance and perhaps even opening by breathing into them.

Back in shiatsu school, we learned the wonderful practice of breathing into a stretch when we reached the limit of our capacity. We were then introduced to the profound wisdom of the proprioceptive system, and how to tap into that to open up our bodies in amazing ways.

The proprioceptive system, to describe it simply, is a highly developed feedback mechanism that continuously gives information to our brains as to where our bodies are in space, and in relation to gravity. Kind of like GPS, only much, much better.

This system relies on sensors located at all the sites where muscle attaches to bones, and makes minute adjustments (even in moments of perceived stillness, the simple act of breathing would knock us over otherwise) to keep us upright.

The PS is what allows us to touch our fingers to our noses, walk in a straight line, and is what is affected in cases of motion sickness.

The precision and refinement of proprioception is such that the tiniest adjustments made, for example, in a chiropractic adjustment, are registered by the brain as immense, and we get a sense of openness far beyond the actual quantifable degree of movement.

Most proprioceptive input is processed in areas of the brain that do not produce conscious awareness.

Without going too far into physiological detail, I liken the direct tapping into of the proprioceptive system as going below the radar ... the radar, that is, of the conscious mind, and the trained nervous system. 

(Digressing briefly back to a workshop I took years ago, in Proprioceptive Writing... in which we were read a simple statement by the facilitator, and then asked to write, non-stop, for a half hour... stream-of-consciousness like... allowing whatever arose to come through the pen, regardless of its relevance to the original statement.)

So, anyway, in shiatsu class, here's how it worked.

Let's take the Lung/Large Intestine Makko-Ho stretch, for example, in which you bend forward as far as possible, with thumbs clasped behind the back and raised up behind you. The stretch will most likely be felt in the backs of the legs, and the inner arms. Typically, you are asked to take 5 breaths. On the inhale, the body expands into the stretch where you feel it more acutely. On the exhale, you relax, and allow the body to drop further into that position.

This is an effective way of opening up, and also very linear... going directly into the stretch.

Common sense, really, right?

Then, we were asked to just relax. No attempt to move directly into the stretch. Just allow the body to move in whatever way rises to the surface, and follow it... even if it seemed to have nothing to do with the muscle group in question. Get the intellect out of the way, the logical progression, the self-consciousness, and let your body just move.

For a fly on the wall in that class, it must have appeared fairly humorous, because here we were, gyrating, rolling on the floor, sighing, twisting, all in an attempt to open up the hamstrings. But after a period of allowing the inner wisdom to move us, and then coming back to the original challenging stretch, we were astounded to find that our range far exceeded what it had been.

My theory is that this is, like I said, in going below the radar of the rational, the so-called 'reality',  the belief of 'what is possible' that was currently ingrained in our nervous systems and muscles...

("I can't do that stretch," "That old injury prevents me from going further", "I haven't touched my toes in years", etc.)

...we can bypass these beliefs, allowing other possibilities and routes to be revealed by the system that knows our inner workings far better than we do.

So, can we make the bridge over to applying this to life's challenges?

How to allow our inner guidance system that doesn't share the same 'faculty of reason' and 'belief in reality' as our conscious mind in order to find a solution to our stuck places?

How to accept that this process may take us in what appears to be a circuituous route away from the problem at hand, but trust that it knows what it's doing anyway, and allow ourselves to be surprised at how open and soft the problem had become when we return?

I believe that if you can experience this in the body, you can better translate it to your perception of the world at large.

Try it out for yourself!

Perform some simple stretches, and at the extent of your limit, pull back just a tiny bit and wait. It's kind of like a listening. Put some music on, if it helps you to keep from thinking about what to do. Just intend that your body will lead you and let it go. It may be best to do this alone, as self-consciousness about 'how we look' keeps us in our thinking mind.

And then, think of a problem, a stuckness, that plagues you in your life that none of your logical solutions seem to work toward solving.

You could either try writing around it... put on some soft music and allow the pen to flow for a half-hour. Or write the problem down and stash it somewhere (the Daily Om recently gave me the idea of a 'surrender box'). Or just mentally file your challenge, and allow your inner GPS to devise a better route around construction, traffic jams, and psychic potholes to get you to where you want to be.

The key is to withdraw and detour around resistance. And then trust.

Let me know what happens...

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