We had a great discussion in class yesterday after one of the participants told me she didn’t quite get the movements we did the previous week – ‘sometimes it clicks and you understand it, but this movement I couldn’t get my head around it’ (we were doing shoulder and hip circles). I explained why it is important so be patient and how persistent practice (failing and failing better as Beckett noted) will bring improvement and confidence. Trying to stay aware and involved in every part of a movement, zooming in on the sensation of moving. Full attention to our selves. And this is where it gets tricky – have we learned that it’s ok to focus on ourselves?
Every time I lie down on the floor and do the movements, I feel so much better. Then I ask myself – WHY DON’T I DO IT MORE OFTEN?
This is where Somatic Education is opening a space to go deeper and dig for more knowledge about ourselves – do we think we deserve to care for ourselves? If not, why is that? Where does the idea that taking care of ourselves is somehow selfish or shameful come from? Why do we have to deserve it anyways and not simply take it for granted?!
Thomas Hanna was a philosopher first and foremost and the question of how much freedom is possible for human beings at the core of his work. This is what Somatic Education in his tradition is about: How can we be free? Can we create more choices for ourselves? We start with more awareness, knowing and tracing back where our restrictions are coming from, more movement choices, and how this affects how we think, how we handle environmental and emotional stress and how we can ‘have our cake and eat it’.
If we don’t acknowledge our ‘cultural reflexes’ and how they shape and manifest how we think about our bodies and our relation to ourselves, it is hard to understand why someone might be really motivated to ‘get out of pain’, has learned movement strategies and has time and some space to do it and still is reluctant.
And letting the cat out of the box – one of the comments was ‘we’ve never learned that, this is a catholic country’. If you have heard over and over again, especially as a woman, that your body is the seat of sin, that pleasure is something to feel guilty about (heck, they even advertise eating chocolate as a ‘guilty pleasure’…), if you were reminded to cover up, not to take up that much space, if your genitals are called ‘down there or private parts’ and even that is only whispered, if you have learned to only leave the house dressed in a way that doesn’t ‘lure the male gaze in’, if you are in a class and the instruction is ‘ put your hands on your hip bones’ and you feel shyness, guilt or shame and don’t know where your hip bones are because the body is not something to be studied in school, if you were subjected to more judgemental comments about your body being too big, too small, to exposed, to frigid than hearing respectful, invited opinions, you definitely are not alone. I saw a group of women yesterday nodding in agreement, that they have not learned they deserve to take care of themselves, that their pleasure should be to see the fruit of their hard work of pouring their care and love into other people and that giving themselves 10 minutes a day is something that needs to be scheduled to be justified (and not forgotten). I hear it all the time. ‘I have never given myself permission to feel that way’, ‘I’m always just managing getting through’. It’s usually when a big sigh is heard and the first tears of relief are rolling. Giving yourself space to breathe when you have learned to hold your breath can do that. Don’t fear it, it’s a powerful reminder of what to change.
Ignoring what is so deeply ingrained stands in the way of engaging curiously and freely with sensations. I see over and over again clients who almost need a spoken out ‘permission to feel’, not analyze, just be and be with sensations and emotions (which is the same, really), appreciate them and cultivate making choices about how useful it is to keep doing the same thing, to react the same way, to take an idea you’ve learned for the absolute unchangeable truth. Being aware if what we are doing is still serving us, not in a self-absorbed, but in a self-knowing kind of way. I don’t mean instagramable hyping yourself up to self-love and compassion kind of memes to keep your followers and make them think you have your shit together, I mean the quiet and loud decisions to determine how we want to move forward and what we can leave behind.
Start a revolution and befriend your whole self, change what you don’t like, keep what you love. Know that once you made the first decision, the process is started, no matter how long it will take you (I’m currently in year 10 and it’s not a linear process with yearly steady improvements – we’re after all not a spreadsheet where only the balance counts). Being fed up with and questioning the notion of not deserving to care about yourself is a good start. And next time you hear somebody trying to persuade you to stay in the cage they built for you, turn around and walk away. The door was left open.