by Catherine Kettrick
First Pitfall: Remember, don’t try to DO anything to make any changes. In other words, if you notice a nice change, if you notice your head moving, and that you are slumping less, DON’T try to do something more to make more happen. You only want to undo the tightening that you did in the first place.
Second Pitfall: We know we have changed in some way because we feel different. As you do this work, you will want reassurance that you have, in fact, made some change. You will want to “feel different.” The changes you are making, however, are very, very small and subtle. They will have a significant effect on you, but at first you may not be able to “feel” anything happening. A change may be so small you can’t notice it. Also, you are not used to paying attention to yourself this way.Because you have no experience in this kind of work, you don’t even know what you might feel, and might not notice a change when one happens. Nonetheless, you will probably still have a strong desire to “feel something happening” to reassure yourself that your thinking has had an effect. We want the reassurance that we have “done it right.” What most people do, unfortunately, is begin their nice, easy, clear thinking,and part way through interrupt themselves to “check” and see if anything happened. In other words, they look for a feeling to tell them that they “did it right.” THIS WILL NOT WORK. Remember, you are making changes in the way you move by making changes in the way you think. You will only be able to continue changing if you continue your new way of thinking. Any time you check to see if something happened, to see if you “really” made a change, you have stopped your new thinking, and therefore stopped any change may have you started. So, no matter how tempting, no matter how strongly you want to feel you have “done it right,” just be very clear that you are continuing that nice, easy, gentle awareness of how you are doing what you are doing.
Third Pitfall: As you continue with this work, you may notice that your “posture” is improving. Many people, in fact, want to have “good posture” and try many techniques to achieve it. Please understand: Good posture is the result of NOT INTERFERING with your natural coordination. Although you may achieve what you think looks like “good posture” by doing something (e.g. “sitting up straight,” “putting your shoulders back,” etc.) truly “good posture”is a natural result of good coordination. You will only achieve it by learning how to stop interfering with that natural good coordination you were born with.
Fourth Pitfall: It took you more than a few minutes to interfere with your coordination and put yourself into the state you were in when we started. Although it can take only a few minutes to learn the concept, or theory of how to stop interfering, this is a technique you are learning. As with any technique, reliable skill in using it will take mindful practice. However, you have made an excellent beginning, and brief, clear attention to practicing this work will ensure progress.
TAKE LOTS OF BREAKS!!!
Especially if you do feel yourself becoming uncomfortable or stiff, then REALLY take a break. Go read a book, get into another world, call your mom or brother or a friend, go for a walk, and only notice the scenery, feed the cat, whatever. Take a break!
Continuing to Begin
You now have some information that will make it easier for you to change how you move. You have also done some experimenting with one particular activity, sitting. You can now make this same experiment with any activity you choose.
So, pick some activity to do. Wait a moment, and organize yourself. Notice what you are doing with your whole head in relation to your whole body. As you did with the “slumping/sitting up straight” experiment, think about letting your neck be free. Think about letting your whole head move ever so delicately forward and up from the top of your spine. Remember, you are only THINKING, you are not doing something to make changes. Notice what is happening with your body. Continue all this thinking as you go into the activity.
What did you notice? Were you able to continue your new thinking as you picked up the pencil, or scratched your nose? Did you remember where the top of your spine was? If you got part way through, and realized you had stopped thinking in this new way, that’s fine. It is a new way of thinking, a new skill, and like any new skill requires practice.
For now, from time to time, take a moment to pause before you begin an activity, and organize yourself. Think about your neck, think about your head, think about your whole self being easy and free as you begin the activity. Notice what you notice, have fun, and see what you learn.
*If you look at a picture of a skull and spine in an anatomy book, noticing where the ear holes are, you will see that the top of your spine is actually a little bit lower than your ears. However, FUNCTIONALLY, and in terms of the balance of the whole of your head on the top of your spine, you will find the most freedom and ease of moving if you think of your head moving from a point between your ears and behind your nose.