We need to change some thinking around…and we might as well start with “aging” since it’s something we’re all doing. The other thing we all do is move. Life is movement and we have some peculiar notions about what happens to it as we age. I can’t do what I used to do—sound familiar? It reflects an accepted decline model that’s worth poking at, for it may be a little askew.
Now I’m not suggesting aging doesn’t bring limitation and decline. But here’s the good news: Our limitations in movement may have more to do with how we’re doing what we do. In other words, our aches and pains may be more a result of habitual misuse through the years—not the result of “aging”. And the best news is that we can change our habits of moving…and thinking—We can grace age with creative options.
Habits. We all have them. And we are likely to accept and identify with them—they are seductively familiar. We need habits—some of them. Others can lead us down that dead end road…unnecessarily. How can we tell the difference? How do we know what we’re doing?
It may seem uninteresting…boring even, to think about how you move—and I agree it would be if you’re thinking about your body as just a body. I have no interest in rote, mindless exercise regimens, which many times just serve to strengthen the habits that are limiting us.
So, here’s the chance to change some thinking. What if…you could use your body to creatively speak to your brain? Does this get your attention? You surely want to keep your brain inspired as you move along through the years. Well, listen to this: the brain, when it comes down to it, is predominantly occupied with movement. Moving in novel ways—novel being the key—gets the brain’s attention. Habit is interrupted! New neural pathways open up and something rather magical happens: the system re-organizes and new choices of action…and perception…become available.
I use the word magical intentionally…and not lightly. Magic is a shift of perception—it breaks through encrusted thought structures that keep worldviews in place. As long as we are in some way stuck in the old mechanistic worldview we will perceive our body as a physical object to be manipulated or controlled, frequently employing force and coercion. Our relationship with our body will tend to be surface or objective—third person…I…Certainly a dis-grace.
IT means there is a split—a separation between you, or who and what you think you are, and your body. The decline model thrives in the split. Here, for better or worse, you are controlled by unconscious bodymind conditioning. Here choices elude you. Here you are without the deep inner sensorial savvy that makes it possible to really know what you’re doing… and know who you truly are!
It’s time to come to our senses! It’s time to sense where we’re coming from! It’s time to believe in
Awareness is the key.
Awareness is one of those over-used words that can slide by. But please slow down here and take it in…Awareness…sink into this word as if your vibrant life depended on it. Yes, Awareness does ask something of you, like learning a poem or a piece of music asks something. It calls for attention, intention, curiosity, patience, and commitment to a process. It asks you to value subtlety, for indeed it’s the nuances that enliven our sensing capacity and give birth to the new.
It looked like magic at times to watch the brilliant and delicate work of one of the great pioneers of this Body/Brain/Mind frontier, Moshe Feldenkrais. He knew something fundamental about how we learn, how to cultivate Awareness, and how, as he’d say, to connect to our genius and restore human dignity. His work valued skill over will and finesse over force.
Awareness is fine-tuned through a gentle, respectful approach to yourself…Go slowly…do less…try a variation…feel into what you’re doing. Awareness carries no judgement or anxiety of achievement; it’s closer to the way an infant learns—through curious and playful trial and error. Discoveries are made and one action builds upon another. It’s satisfying and intriguing. We are fascinating, actually, when we enter this body/mindset and yield to the self-organizing brilliance of life just under our surface. This is where age can be graced; we break free of the spell of learned limitations.
All art forms ask for cultivation of the senses. Your embodied life is nature’s incredible work of art…treat it as such! You can ripen and refine with age! When the accomplished cellist, Pablo Casals was asked why, at age 81 he was still practicing many hours a day, he replied—“because I think I’m making progress.”
As Awareness blossoms you find yourself in an interior world of sensation and image where the boundaries between body and mind and spirit soften. In this realm you live in the moving, sensing, feeling, thinking organism that you are. Believe me, this is rich, sensuous terrain, ripe for imaginative input, for new learning. Here you touch into your poetry and music…
And that’s not all…come along deeper into this realm where body and psyche are one. In the words of renowned Jungian analyst, Marion Woodman: “the body is the unconscious in its most direct and immediate form”.
The body is the most tangible and direct way to the treasures of the unconscious. Moving below the surface into the sensate realm you gain access to your dreaming body. Your body holds memories of your personal history… and of collective, transpersonal realms as well. We are like exquisite tapestries, with colorful threads and multilayered textures spanning lifetimes and life forms. We are so much more than we think we are, filled with stories and images that reach out beyond time and space.
Ageless? Here we find mythology, not pathology…our symptoms become messengers, mentors…portals to other worlds.
What if the sensations of energy moving through you, riding your breath, your voice, your actions are emotions wanting to be expressed or creative works wanting to be birthed through you. What if…when you enter your interior depths you discover your connection to everything else? What if the sun and moon and the entire universe can be accessed through you?
How did we forget we are part of the earth and stars?
Here’s a worldview you can enter with your whole self, alive and pulsating with meaning and possibility. Here you belong to something much greater…. Feel it… Sink down… deeper… You’re as
fresh and close as your next breath; you’re as old and grand as a distant galaxy. Inhale, expand your thinking, your heart, your moving self-image…This is truly what it means to Grace Age Fully.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Marilyn Hardy, MS, GCFP, has a background in Somatic Education (The Feldenkrais Method®), Body-Centered Psychotherapy and other bodymind modalities. Her embodied, integrative orientation to life led to an interest in Ecopsychology, the interface between the personal and planetary, and ultimately to our place and purpose in the greater story of our universe. she offers an ongoing weekly class at The Yoga Center, 449 Forest Ave Plaza, Portland. www.maineyoga.com 774-9642.