Friday, April 18, 2014

The Rib Cage. . . Cage? Really?

How do you think about your ribs?  Are they one unit? Are they a block that gets moved as one?

Because. . .that is pretty much how I have been using mine for a long, long time.  

Of course I knew that there were 12 thoracic vertebra (from anatomy classes and massage school), and each thoracic vertebra connects to a rib on each side.  Duh! And, yet, I never really thought that these bones could work independently of each other.  They always seemed so locked together. I couldn't envision it, let alone feel it. I mean it is a rib "cage"right?  Not a . . .

. . . a rib accordion?!?

I am just now learning to feel the motion that exists in the many areas and dimensions of my ribs, spine and sternum.  I am starting to feel that my sternum moves my thoracic spine and vice verse. And, I can twist in those upper ribs!  Each space between each rib has the capacity to move (even if just a little) to allow for generous twists that aren't just in my neck and low back.  Yahoo!

But, here is the rub, why did I freeze it in the first place? What was I caging between my ribs?  Of course, the anatomical answer is the lungs. But, the more holistic answer is my breath.  I was caging my breath, locking it between my frozen ribs. Why? Because that was an easy way to hide the muck of my emotions.

In yoga they talk about prana or energy that is directly related to the breath. Yogis devote their lifetimes to controlling their prana through breath exercises. It is worthwhile practice for this very reason.  Our breath is a direct link to our nervous system. 

And, the stuff that gets caught.  . . I call it emotional waste.  When my nervous system clicks into fight or flight, I have started to notice that I lock down my chest.  It's a little like an emotional lock down that functions to keep me clear headed, intellectual and problem solving-- you know a "mature adult." But, the reality is that inside I am having a tantrum! I am scared, angry, frustrated, hurt, sad. . . And, all of that is getting packed away into the rib cage.  Day by day. Event by event. Challenge by challenge.  When I don't let myself feel the intensity of what I am experiencing, I am just stuffing it away. Packing cement between my ribs in hopes of keeping the emotions at bay.  

So, now I get to relearn that reaction.  I am discovering the movement of my ribs. But, I am having to deal with a lot more than rusty muscles. I am having to rediscover what triggers my nervous system into fight or flight which causes me to hold my breath and to lock down my heart center.  Sometimes, it is a clear one to one explanation.  Someone criticizes me and I react defensively. Or, I forget something on my schedule that was important to me and I freak out.  But, sometimes it is less clear.  I start to move my upper ribs with my breath, and I all of a sudden feel sad, or irritable, or angry.  Those pent up experiences are held in the cellular memory of those tissues and the nervous system. 

This is big.  Making change in this way requires constant vigilance as well as compassion and forgiveness.  I can't just make a decision and force my ribs to move.  I am undoing years and years of this reactive habit.  And, forcing myself to do anything will just trigger my fight or flight again, defeating the purpose! 

No, this is a gradual process.  A slow unfolding of the layers of holding.  Bit by bit. 

Breath by breath.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Losing the Illusion

I often fall prey to comparison.  And, not in a healthy way.  Because I do many different things, my time is divided. Because, of the split focus, I often feel I should go deeper into each aspect of my work.  I often wish I could/would spend more time on my choreography, on my lesson plans, on my writing, on my advocacy. So, when I see others who devote themselves entirely to one thing with great success, I feel like my attempts are somewhat pathetic in comparison.  But, that is changing, slowly.

And, it is changing because I am realizing how others do the same thing with me.  In a recent blog I wrote about the student who asked how I manage to have so much energy.  I explained to her that I don't! The same week in a CFR class a fellow classmate described her impression of me being totally relaxed and comfortable, when in fact I was hugely uncomfortable and working really hard at the time.  I am beginning to understand that others are elevating me in the same way that I have often elevated others.

And, I won't stand for it!

This misperception leads to too much suffering! It seems most everyone imagines that everyone else is happier, healthier, more balanced, more relaxed, smarter, more talented, more creative, blah, blah blah.

We can't ever know someone else's experience.  And, even if we did. It ultimately doesn't matter, because we only live in this body, in this experience, in this time and place.  And, if we let it, we can feel the richness of our lives, full and vibrant in every moment (including the crummy ones).  Full is full.  And, we are full just as we are.

In this moment, doing whatever it is we are doing, we are full if we are fully present.  Our experience can't exist on a good or bad continuum, because that devalues our whole self, which is forever rich and complex.  If we can truly let go of our desire to know what is outside of ourselves and instead become fully occupied with what is inside of us, we have a chance at dissolving the illusions that cause us suffering.

We don't have to believe that there is always a "better" way.  What if there was just "this" way?  Then when we are tired, we are just tired. We don't have to try to be like that energetic person we see beside us.  Then, when we are struggling we are just struggling.  We don't have to wonder how that person can always smile all the time.  And, when we own our experiences fully then we get to experience the sweet moments just as fully.  When we are joyful, we are free to be joyful.  When we relaxed, we are free to be relaxed.  There is no illusion of the other being better.  Because there is no other than our current experience. The present moment is all that will ever be real.  The present moment is both fleeting and eternal.  The rest is smoke and mirrors.