Saturday, 1 February 2014

On 14:36 by Victoria Stanham   No comments
When we talk about psychophysical unity, or mindbody integration sometimes we forget that the unity includes the context. In other words, the 'out there' is not separate from the 'in here'.

I was giving a good friend a lesson yesterday and I was telling her about this course I mean to run soon which aims to help people "think their bodies" in such a way that most movements or actions become simple, easy and pleasurable. It will be based on the basic Pilates repertoire and the aim is to give participants the body-thinking tools to practice Pilates, or any other form of movement, with greater ease. I was going on and on about the liberating effects of being able to think your body through any sequence, when my friend aptly interrupted me with the following question:

"That is wonderful Vicky; but what happens when the participant finishes your course and then goes back to his or her Pilates studio or gym or sports training facility and their instructors and trainers don't know about any of this, and they will work from their own paradigm? Won't people be drawn back to their old way of moving because the context doesn't facilitate the integration of the new paradigm?"

Frankly I thought it a brilliant observation.

It is true; our Alexander lessons, our meditation practices, our personal growth groups of

Image courtesy of mack2happy
any sort, they all occur within a context that facilitates the new learning. Teachers, instructors and facilitators of these experiences go to great lengths to create the appropriate conditions for the new experience to emerge. As one good friend and expert meditator once told me, "You cannot force samaddhi to come visit you; all you can do is create the space and right conditions in case it should decide to do so." Another friend explained it with a Bible quote and had me go check out Luke 12, 35-40. 

All this being said, Life occurs out there, in the 'jungle' so to speak, where the conditions are NOT ideal and where instant habitual reaction is triggered in us non-stop. Last week I wrote about how even a Yoga instructor in a video could have me reacting habitually, despite all my training in inhibition and stopping and coming back to myself.

Last week's experience lead me to an investigation about this 'context' thing. 

I've been told I need to augment my muscle mass, and should try out some form of higher impact workout apart from my Pilates. So I started checking out fitness training videos. 

At first I freaked out. 

Image courtesy of

David Castillo Dominici
Everything about them screamed of the opposite of my movement and life philosophy. This "push yourself!" and "you can do it!" attitude triggered all sorts of bad memories in me about the years in my life when I lived that philosophy and pushed myself so hard I ended up hating any form of exercise.

But then I stopped, took a step back from the whole emotional experience, put the video on mute (it really helps) and just looked at what was going on in the exercises. Ignoring the quality of use of the people in the video I just looked at the movements. And bingo! I could do the translation into my paradigm. I can do movement! I know how to think through movement! And what the video is inviting me to do is to MOVE! That simple. I can accept or reject the invitation, that is my choice.

So, my new challenge has been to try out these new exercise videos and measure my ability to remain within my paradigm despite the incessant stimuli to join in on the "push till you drop" mentality. It is not easy, but it is wonderful training for living in the aforementioned 'jungle'. 

With practice and patience and a good dose of humour I can even see myself enjoying the exercise videos, enjoying fully BEING WITH these stimuli though not drawn into their worldview, or as many holy scriptures would say "Being in this world, but not of it."


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