Movement as Grace

This week I came across an amazing quote,

Although we are intelligent, sensitive beings, we often think of ourselves as objects that need to be fixed.”

It comes from an article  in Pilates Style by well-known Pilates teacher, Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle, who has been an inspiration to me for many years.  The article is on the esoteric side, dealing with an “insider” controversy in Pilates.  But you don’t have to understand that controversy to resonate with some of her quotes.  Here are a few more:

“What ‘conversation’ are you having with your body? Are you ‘partnering with’ or ‘fighting’ gravity? Are you treating yourself as a biointelligent organism who knows how to self-regulate, adapt and self-heal, or a biomechanical machine that needs to be repaired and serviced?”

“we need to remove the mask of the ‘ideal’ body to reveal our ‘real’ body.”

“How can movement be nourishing and enlivening, rather than ‘I should do it this way’ (body schema) or ‘how I should look’ (body image)? This calls for real body awareness, for discovering our true self.”

“What can begin to inform our movement awareness is knowing that we are constantly in a state of flux throughout life, ‘shaping ourselves,’ physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. From this potent place, we have an opportunity to embody ‘core’ as a coordinated relationship with gravity, ourselves, one another and our environment. We develop a way of being in life that is grounded, curious and empathetic—way beyond movement as a ‘thing to do.’ “

There is so much packed in to each of these quotes that I will just let you, dear reader, interpret as you will.  But one thing I would especially like to highlight is the reference to the “state of flux throughout life”.  A recurring theme throughout this blog is that all of life, including we humans, are constantly changing.  Despite the frequency with which I hear the phrase “I hate change”, it cannot be avoided.  It’s happening all the time – like it or not!

Furthermore, everything is always moving forward in time.  We can’t go back.  We might have some misguided thoughts that somehow things were better at some mythical time in the past.  But memory is faulty.  And even if that were true, it doesn’t matter.  What is real is the here and now.  And that includes our bodies.  Even if we don’t notice changes, they are happening within us and all around us.  So we can “‘partner with gravity’ (release tension) or ‘fight gravity’ (create tension)”.  Substitute the word “change” for “gravity” and you can see that there is a broader meaning here.

It seems to me that there is enough tension in the world and in our everyday lives without adding to that by fighting with our bodies.  No matter what your current status, your body is a miraculous manifestation.  You can choose to focus on your limitations, or you can recognize all of the things you are capable of.  If you are reading this, that’s just one of them!  The ability to move and breathe in any capacity is worth celebrating.  And also worth maintaining.  It is now well-known in the medical community that movement is an essential component to good health.  Move what you can move while you can move it.  It’s never too late to start and once you start you can always improve.  Things will change over time, but if you stay in “conversation” with your body, you will learn to adapt.  Here is one final quote:

“[W]hen we learn to listen to and be guided by our body wisdom, in relationship with gravity and spatial orientation, body schema begins to support our body image. We learn to embody our true selves. . . . we discover the inherent wisdom and intelligence within every cell of our body . . . we connect with the natural healing energy of the earth, and realign with our primal nature and relationship with the natural world”.

Move with that in mind and you just might be able to make peace with who you are and what you can do.

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Accepting The Things We Cannot Change

Last week we all had spring flashes and this week it’s welcome back to winter.  As usual, our weather here in the Black Hills is an adventure.  Wherever you are when you are reading this, my guess is you could say the same for your area.  Weather is a great example of how circumstances beyond our control affect our lives.  We can worry about it or get angry with it or defy it.  But in the end there isn’t a thing we can do to change or even influence it.  We can play with our clocks and give ourselves the illusion of control, but no matter what the clock says daylight will arrive and retreat on it’s own time.

Are there other areas of our lives over which we have no control?  Of course.  We dislike admitting it, but, for the most part going out into each day is an act of faith.  We might have a daily routine or what we imagine is a well-laid plan for the day, but in reality we will be lucky if things go the way we planned.  Yup – lucky.  Everyone wants to think that it is their own genius responsible for things going their way, but ultimately there is always at least a little luck involved.  Of course, we can prepare ourselves to take the best advantage of chips falling our way.  But ultimately no one – not even the most careful and detailed planner – can predict the future.

So how can we move forward when everything is really uncertain?  We could approach each day with trepidation and fear, worrying about every possible detail in hopes that worrying will somehow make a difference in the outcome.  Unfortunately, that never works.  Can you think of a single time when worrying about some unwanted concern actually prevented it from happening?  Maybe it happens, maybe it doesn’t, but either way the worrying you did in advance didn’t change anything.  All it did was stress you out.  And if what you worried about doesn’t actually occur (which is most often the case) then you stressed out needlessly.  And what about events occurring that weren’t even on your radar screen?  You didn’t even have a chance to worry yet here you are, having to deal with it anyway.  It might surprise you to see yourself somehow managing the challenge, whatever it is.  All of us can look back through our lives and find examples where that was true.  We’ve all had the experience of living through something we never would have thought we could handle.  Yet somehow we did.

Of course, I do my share of worrying, too.  And this is not to say that events shouldn’t make us angry or sad.  It also doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t bother planning. But a plan is like a path through the woods.  You don’t always know where it’s going to take you. Have you ever had the experience of following a route on a map but ending up someplace completely different from what you expected?  Outcomes can be unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean that the journey wasn’t worth taking.

Life is so full of uncertainties and none of us really knows what it’s all about. In the end, though, it all comes down to learning to go with the flow.  Which for me is a practice.  Not something I’ll ever be perfect at, but something to keep striving for and working at.  Accepting the good, the bad and the ugly of whatever life hands you and doing the best you can with what you’ve got to work with at any given time.  We can’t change the past or predict the future. And as much as we’d like to imagine we can control the behavior of others, that, too, is impossible.  Most of us can barely control ourselves.  Think of all the times you’ve said something you didn’t mean to say or done something you didn’t mean to do.

As Joni Mitchell writes in the song “Woodstock”:  “I don’t know who l am, But you know life is for learning”.  Treating life as an adventure is not always easy, but it might help to remember that nothing ever stays the same.  Everything is always changing.  Remember the weather.  As Mark Twain (or whoever it was) said, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.  It will change.”  Have a “Plan B” whenever possible, but no matter what happens, being kind to yourself and all those around you is always a good plan.  Focus on the things you can control like your attitude, your own behavior, your actions and reactions.  Attend to the journey and let the outcomes be what they are.