In our sessions over the past few weeks, we’d been uncovering the patterns that have been contributing to the difficulty in his neck and shoulders. Moshe Feldenkrais (the founder of this work) called these patterns ‘parasitic habits’ – things we do habitually that have nothing to do with what we are trying to do, but we do them anyway. Tightening the jaw, holding the breath, furrowing the brow, clenching the teeth are just a few examples of how we get in our own way.
Like in this situation, when one has been living with these parasitic habits for a few decades, they become deeply grooved and are not easy to shake up and let go. We spent our sessions learning to engage and co-ordinate from the powerful places of our self. He started experiencing windows of relief. Then my client would walk out into his life and his habits would kick in subconsciously. The discomfort and pain would creep in by the end of the day. Like I said, this is not unexpected with years of ingrained habits. So the next step was to take the improvement into his life and that became our focus for the next few sessions.
Today, he walked in, saying that after last week’s session his pain went away and hadn’t come back! "I didn't do anything special", he said. Before going to bed, he practiced a simple movement he had learned from our previous session and brought his attention to doing this movement without engaging in his habitual place of engagement and pain. But he wondered what a benign thing like that could have done to help ease the pain he’d been having for over 20 years!
What he had done that was so potent was to inhibit his habitual engagement in the neck, in the context of a very simple movement. He simplified the complexity of everyday life by giving himself a small experiment within which to recognize and let go off the unhelpful habit. Every time he does that, he breaks the habitual loop of excitation in his neck muscles. This is one of the things I help my students cultivate in an Awareness Through Movement class. In Week 7 of the Amherst training (one of the two trainings Moshe Feldenkrais taught in the United States), Moshe talked about how inhibition must come before initiation or engagement of a muscle. Many times, we hurt in parts of us that are used to jumping in all the time without need and often without co-ordination with other parts.
In our fast paced life, we often think about what we need to do to achieve something. But like a famous self-development coach said, “Success is more of what we chose NOT TO DO, than what we DO.” Applied to healing, it's what we can stop doing, before we learn what to do, that can be a great head start in resolving a difficulty.
We all have our own parasitic patterns and are unconscious about them, unless we begin to pay attention.
Can you think of 3 things you do habitually that are unnecessary and get in the way of what you want to do? Okay! Now can you construct an experiment for yourself - a simple activity or time during which you consciously inhibit one negative habit? I invite you to write a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I love to practice the Feldenkrais Method and am constantly amazed by the powerful change that can come about with a little bit of curiosity and awareness of how we do, what we we do. I consider my Awareness Through Movement classes and private sessions as the time and space to do exactly this. I find that as we exercise that muscle of awareness in class, we become more potent to carry it into life.