Learning a new paradigm: the body level of existence

Question: We've done six sessions so far, and I'm curious to see what your general take is at this point.

Answer: At this point, I feel like things haven't entirely... I feel kind of caught between, ‘I just want things to feel better’ and learning this slow, intentional way of relating to our body. I'm sort of holding this idea that ‘There are these gentle things that I can do, where I can find the places of ease, and see how those places move through my body.’ I have the idea that I could take something with me and do it on my own.

But I haven't totally broken out of, ‘I just want you to do a thing that makes me feel better.’ Especially when I feel for some period of time—for the rest of the day, for a few days after we meet—that there is more ease. But then the pattern will set back in.

Photo by  Tim Johnson  on  Unsplash

Photo by Tim Johnson on Unsplash

Question: So to you, it feels like it's been an introduction to a new paradigm of how to relate to your body. Before, it was like, ‘I just want this to be fixed. I want this thing to just be gone.’ And now you’re getting some sense that if you do the things that we're doing together—going slowly and doing small movements—you can feel that effect. But that's not quite doable on your own. It's not so accessible.

Answer: Yeah. I haven't fully internalized it or switched paradigms. I've learned that this other paradigm is there. And it's not like this is the first time I'm encountering that. But the other way of looking at the body, mechanically, and just wanting there to be a fix—that's so ingrained. And this other way takes so much time and attention and remembering to do it.

Question: So, if I could restate... With back pain, it would be great if there were a quick fix, because it seems like a mechanical thing. And you think, 'I want this to be better.' But are there other places in your life where you're more open to slow? Like, 'I know this is going to take some time, and I'm willing to do that work.'?

Answer: Yeah, I'm in the middle of that right now with moving across the country and feeling like I have a direction, but I don't know what's going to unfold from there. There's an element of surrender in that, which is a little bit of a different flavor. Because with regards to back pain, I know what the goal is—having less pain—whereas moving feels like a direction. There's something more exploratory about moving.

Question: Whereas with back then you think, ‘I just want it to stop.’?

Answer: Yeah, that's often how I end up relating to it. And I think that there is space for it to be exploratory, but I tend to relate to it more like, ‘I just want it to be gone.’

But, in relationships I have that sense of slowness and allowing things to unfold. It’s that sense of, ‘This is where it is right now. And here's how I know I want to show up in relationship. So I'm going to do that to the extent that I'm able to.‘ And then I notice what opens from there, and I move into that new open place. And then from there, I can say ‘What's the next, more open thing that I can do?’

Question: When you look back on the sessions that we've had, what are some things that stand out to you?

Answer: The biggest overall thing is finding this sense of my body making sense of things—my nervous system making sense of things—without there being a cognitive explanation. I mean, I can cognitively narrate, or guess at what's happening in my body, but... But I just kind of feel my body mapping itself in a way that isn't going through the cognitive circuits. Cognition can witness it and describe it, but it's not like part of the primary process. In that first session, when you were lifting my arm, and I felt like my shoulder muscles kind of freaking out, I couldn't even tell if they were tensing or relaxing some of the time. There have been some different moments like that of my muscles starting, on their own, to explore the possibility of letting go. And also that one time you were putting my foot in different positions, where I felt like my body was taking the input from that, even though there weren't accompanying ideas. So that's one of the biggest things, is having the direct experience of that happening—getting a little bit more detailed in my ability to recognize when, ‘Oh, my body's doing its thing right now.’ There is some sensation to my nervous system doing some mapping.

Photo by  Picsea  on  Unsplash

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

Question: Would it be fair to say... Is there an accompanying sense of YOU being your nervous system? If you would tend to think of yourself as a cognitive being, but then that cognitive part witnesses this other part, doing this thing, Is there some sense of, ‘Oh, wait. That's also me.’?

Answer: I want to say yes. I want to actually drop into it for a second tho... It’s a way less identified me. It's like me, pre-identity.

Question: Wow.

Answer: I mean, it's obviously still me, as experienced through body. So it's not completely detached, like an amorphous sense of self, but it doesn't feel like there is identity. It’s a little bit more pure experience. I imagine it maybe kind of like an infant before differentiates.

Question: So if you've had that experience in the sessions, are there any places outside of the work that we've done, where you could draw some connection between that experience and something else?

Answer: Having had the experience, now my nervous system knows that state, to some extent. So it becomes easier to get there. I find that to be the case with a lot of states, that once I know what that state is, it's easier to call up. And again, it’s not like I've never experienced this before. But I think that this has given me more access to being able to drop into that body level of existence, and experience my body experiencing things.

Photo by  Vlad Bagacian  on  Unsplash

Question: Is there anything else you would like to say?

Answer: I'm curious about what you're developing. You were talking about wanting to have a 10 series?

Question: Based on what you're saying, I'm getting more information about what it might be like for somebody who comes wanting a mechanical, quick fix. Because that's a specific set of expectations about what something is going to be like. And I'm getting a sense, from what you're saying, that what you're actually getting is this ability to drop in, to experience yourself experiencing things on a body level. So now my gears are turning about how to frame that for somebody who's coming in with back pain.

Just like you, they're going to want something that's a quick fix. And I don't think that I really have a quick fix to offer. Because I don't believe that there is a quick fix. I think that the only real way to come to terms with Back Pain is to become familiar with that body level. But I think that the more you spend time in that body level, the more available it is in everyday life. And so I think that at the beginning, it might be a process of, ‘Ooh, this is weird. I don't know how to do that. I'm glad that I feel better after the session, but I could never do that on my own.’

Answer: Right. And, ‘It doesn't last.’ And ‘Is this worth while?’

Question: That's probably how people feel after they go to the chiropractor, too. ‘That worked for a little bit.’ But then what? So now I'm realizing I want to help people on their journeys to making that ability to drop in be more accessible. Because I think once you experience it a number of times and start to practice it, it really does become more accessible. And I think it also becomes a habit, in the sense that it's not something that you're gonna have to think about forever. But you will have to think about it on the front end, to build a new way of experiencing yourself.

Answer: It strikes me as exactly parallel to the process of depth therapy. When people come into therapy, they say, ‘My relationship is falling apart, and I need to fix it.’ Or, ‘I hate my boss.’ Or, ‘I want to quit smoking’ And it's like, ‘Okay, well I can't fix that for you. But I can help you start to explore, what's going on underneath that. Where the stuck places are. And we can do some experiments to see what's ready to dislodge and start moving again.’ So I'm used to taking people through that process emotionally and my approach often involves some amount of going into the body. But you're coming at it from the body side. It seems like a totally parallel process of coming in with a surface level problem and saying, ‘Actually, to relieve that, let's go in and explore the entire system.’

Question: Yeah, it's not a quick fix. This is reminding me of the promises I feel comfortable making to people at the beginning about what they're actually going to get. What I say is, ‘I really can't promise that your back pain is going to be gone. But I can promise that we're going to spend high quality time looking into your relationship to your self, specifically to your body. And I know from experience that a certain amount of time doing that will result in you having a really different relationship to your back.’ That's where I'm at with it. But that makes me want to ask you... We've been meeting for a month. Would you say that your relationship to your back pain is different now than it was a month ago? It doesn’t have to be that it doesn't hurt now. But, Are you relating to it differently?

Answer: I think over the past month, the shift has been to noticing when there is ease. When the pain is present, I'm not sure if I'm relating to it differently. But I think that I'm noticing more when it's not there.

Question: What is that like? What does that mean to you?

Answer: I don't know if I make meaning of it in the moment. But it feels important to do some intentional savoring. And it feels important to learn the map of what it feels like to not be in pain, to direct my attention so my body can learn that state. Because again, that's not going to be something that my mind is going to be highly involved in. It's not like, ‘Oh, I did this stretch, and now the pain is gone.’ But when my body is not in pain, that means whatever usually causes the pain isn't happening right then. So I want my body to be able to learn, How is it organized right now, such that that pain isn't being triggered? I guess it's more of a long term meaning that I'm making of it, of giving my body different experiences and letting it map itself.