Managing Stress – Part 3
Life Is Movement
While I was teaching relaxation I learnt that, when we truly relax, our bodies make spontaneous movements which express our own unique needs. This can be seen in yawning and stretching – movements which will not occur unless we feel at ease. From watching the people I worked with I came to understand that the quiet passivity we usually associate with relaxation is in fact only a small part of what the body wants to do to recharge. Spontaneous movements, if allowed, can develop into dynamic self -expression not only of the body, but also of voice and feelings. A wealth of unexpected possibilities can emerge: release of tension, unique exercises, healing of body and mind, and the development of your intuition are just a few examples.
Nothing in the realm of systematic exercises such as aerobics or yoga can compare with these spontaneous – or inner-directed-movements. They arise from your own unconscious knowledge of your personal and unique needs. This includes such diversity as your need for physical stimulus if you have a sedentary job; laughter and play if you are too serious; and specific movements to mobilise stiff areas of your body or stimulate internal organs that are underactive. In particular they appear to attempt a balancing and awakening of your being to new levels of satisfying expression. Because such movements are not just empty physical activity, but combine and integrate body and mind, they bring about a healthier mental and emotional life.
The range of these spontaneous movements arising from your unconscious is difficult to believe unless you have experienced them. This is because most of us allow only a tiny part of the creative potential we have. It is impossible to list all the aspects I have witnessed in people’s self expression. All movement and the feeling quality of movement is open to you when you begin to liberate your body in this way.
The Beginnings of Inner-Directed Movement
You already know of how to relax enough to allow the beginnings of allowing your body to make its own spontaneous movements. Yawning and sneezing are examples of the side of this process you can already allow. If you breathe in harmful dust your body makes the spontaneous movement of sneezing to protect the lungs and rid itself of the dust. Other similar movements are coughing, shivering when you are cold, and watering of your eyes. In these ways your body self-regulates and protects itself. But this is just the tip of the iceberg in regard to what you are capable of if you understand and learn to work with this process. It is the very edge of what you innately know about your own mental and physical needs and how to satisfy them.
It may seem strange I am suggesting that the process behind something as ordinary as yawning can have a potential which can revolutionise the way you feel about yourself, can improve the mobility and well-being of your body and mind, and can reveal your intuition and creativity. But that is what I have witnessed in helping people use inner-directed movement. Not only do you know, through inner-directed movement, just what your body needs to keep it functioning healthily, but also you know how to keep the feelings and mind mobile and healthy too. An intuitive function opens within yourself that can inform you wisely on important areas of your life.
This is understandable if certain facts are remembered. To grow physically, and psychologically your being moves and directs itself from its own unconscious resources. You see this in everyday things such as your heartbeat, digestive movements, perspiration, and even your ability to speak without searching for every word or worrying about what gestures you make. The important processes of your being, such as breathing, nearly all express as inner-directed movement – that is, movements you do not have to consciously think about or copy from outside. They are movements that arise from your unconscious mental and physical life. The difference between a dead body and a live one is movement. All the gross and most subtle aspects of your life are expressed as movement. Laughter, crying, lovemaking are all powerful movements, largely inner-directed. Such movements integrate the different aspects of yourself. For instance love making is not just a physical activity, but blends emotions, personal needs, as well as deeper instinctive drives. In fact you, as a living being, are a master of expressive movement, but you may be holding yourself back. Having no self confidence doesn’t remove your skill. I have discovered that even shy people, as they learn to relax deeply, have a world of splendid expressive movement inside them waiting to become known.
The organising principle that regulates the growth and shape of your body expresses through inner-directed movement. It is the unconscious self-regulating process of life in you. Its action continues working night and day. It is common to all of us, but few of us know how to work with it consciously to allow its magic to unfold more fully. This is possible through inner-directed movement.
In helping people to learn how to relax enough to allow such simple movements as yawning to extend into fuller spontaneous movement I witnessed people discovering the wide range of exercises, mimes and feelings their body could express unexpectedly. As people learnt to really relax they opened the door to abilities within their body and mind that had previously remained unconscious. For those who made this discovery it was rather like the dream some people experience in which they have lived in a house for years, then one day they find a door leading to a whole wing of the building they have never known before.
When they open to inner-directed movement, people find it is:-
1 – A fuller expression of the natural power that regulates the body and mind. This can lead to physical and mental health. The contact is sensed as an awareness of the essence of life active in them.
2 – An inbuilt and spontaneous urge to move and express the parts of oneself inhibited by the specialised environment of family, society or work. This is an urge toward wholeness. Wholeness because when the concentration upon a limited area of yourself such as thoughts or emotions is relaxed, then a greater symphony of expression between mind body and spirit occurs.
3 – Creative and intuitive abilities of the mind. This is frequently experienced as spontaneous visualisation.
Your Unconscious Source of Life and Growth
To get an even clearer picture of what it is you tap during inner-directed movement, it is helpful to consider how you might see yourself if a film were made of you like those showing speeded-up plant growth. On such films you see the plant moving and growing with incredible vigour. Its leaves and flowers open with powerful movement. If the film showed you from conception onwards, you would see amazing change and expansion. An extraordinary process would be seen causing your body and mind to unfold. You would observe incredible amounts of movement, many of them spontaneous. The movements in the womb, in babyhood and even in your adult sleep, you would see as inner-directed, and powerful. You would notice that as you gradually matured, conscious control of movement became more prevalent. But still your sleep movements, breathing, yawning, stretching, laughter and tears kept you in touch with the incredibly wise process which directs your overall growth and survival. It is the often forgotten, but very real process underlying your original growth and continued existence, that you allow into a new level of expression when you relax fully.
Inner-directed movements, occurring as they do when you relax deeply, arise from the unconscious processes that control your existence and growth. It a fuller expression of what lies behind the growth of your body and mind. It is what enables you to maintain a stable existence amidst the ever moving forces of your environment. It holds all the systems of your being integrated in common purpose and is the foundation of consciousness. It is not something distant or separate from you, but is innately in everything you are and do.
Freedom To Be Yourself
One of the first person’s I taught inner-directed movement to was a woman in her sixties. Maria was married, had a lovely country cottage, but had not been outdoors for months. She was suffering from aches and pains in her arms, felt life had lost its interest, and asked for help. Maria quickly learned to relax enough to allow her body freedom to express without inhibiting self criticism. Her movements were slow and tentative at first but soon included her whole body, producing feelings of pleasure. To allow such movements Maria had to learn how to give her body and feelings time in which to explore unplanned movement – movement arising from her own subtle body impulses. Such subtle urges are often overlooked, or are crowded out by ones thoughts of what one ought to be doing, or what is appropriate in the circumstances. So Maria created a mood, and gave herself time, in which she could allow irrational movement – movement that had not been thought-out beforehand, or given by someone else. Such movements are usually quite different to the sort of things one finds recommended in exercise books. The reason being that they are often unique mixtures of exercise, dance, mime, and generally letting oneself go enough to do what might have otherwise be seen as ridiculous. Nevertheless, such irrational expression is very satisfying. In Maria’s case she started with slow arm movements. Gradually the rest of her body was included in an expression of pleasure and sensual enjoyment in which she rolled and squirmed on the floor – movements and feelings that surprised Maria.
Within three weeks Maria went out with her husband, and bought new clothes, something she hadn’t done for years. She told me she realised she had been holding back all her pleasure, all her positive drive and feelings. In fact Maria had unconsciously been holding back HERSELF. In liberating her body and emotions she had liberated herself from the prison of her own depression. Frequently depression or lack of enthusiasm for life occurs through the suppression of our own feelings – the stagnation of our urge to move and live.
The freedom and release which arises from inner-directed movement is also evident in what happened to Jim. A group using inner-directed movement started in Bristol. Jim, an unmarried gas fitter, bored with his work and life, joined the group. Within a couple of weeks Jim had learnt to give his body and feelings freedom to move. He was amazed at how fertile an imagination he had when he stopped holding himself back. His movements were creative and deeply felt. Less than two months had passed before Jim had given up his job, found a woman whom he married, and together they started working in a Steiner School for children. Jim also had been holding himself back.
Both of these examples show that inner-directed movement is basically a way of allowing what is already innate in oneself to be expressed more fully or easily. Put in the simplest of terms, by restraining the way you express in movement and voice, you may be inhibiting important parts of your physical or psychological nature.
How Do You Learn Inner-Directed Movement?
Learning inner-directed movement is in part learning how to drop the inhibitions and physical tensions you may be applying to yourself unconsciously. So the first stages are a series of physical and mental exercises that help you drop unnecessary inhibitions enough to let your body, emotions and voice express in ways you may previously have restrained because of social or personal expectations. As you learn to allow yourself to express more freely, then you will learn how to work with the emerging inner-directed movements in various ways.
What Will Happen If I Really Let Go?
For most of us to ‘let go’ or deeply relax enough to allow inner-directed movement is a learnt skill. To learn anything new means you tread new ground, you open yourself to new experience. This is certainly true of inner-directed movement. What you learn is largely non intellectual. It is something you experience rather than think. Because it involves movement it opens you to the realm of what you sense and perceive through body postures and feelings. This is an extraordinarily rich area, much overlooked in general schooling.
In his book The Turning Point, Fritjof Capra, writing about the tendency in Western culture to overemphasis the intellectual capacity of the mind to the point where we see the universe and earth as mechanical systems, says, “Retreating into our minds, we have forgotten how to ‘think’ with our bodies, how to use them as agents of knowing.” Later, describing the effect the intellectual and mechanistic view has had on modern medicine and the lay person’s approach to their body, he says we are led to see our body as a machine “which is prone to constant failure unless supervised by doctors and treated with medication. The notion of the organism’s inherent healing power is not communicated, and trust in ones own organism not promoted.”
This ‘knowing’ through your body and heart has many dimensions of experience. Some of the possibilities of what you might find can be illustrated from my own and other people’s experiences. When my friends Sheila Johns, Mike Tanner and I first realised the possibilities of spontaneous movement in 1972, we created an environment in which we could explore. This meant dropping our usual expectations of behaviour, and allowing ourselves great freedom of possible self expression. We took time to listen to how our body and emotions wanted to announce themselves. We let ourselves move in ways we had not preconceived. We followed the usually unacknowledged impulses in our body and soul. I was amazed over and over again by what emerged from us.
One of the earliest experiences for me was that while sitting quietly one day, my head began to move backwards. It was a gentle movement and I could have stopped it at any point. In fact I was so interested in it I tried to help it – tried to make it happen, and the movement stopped. Later, when I learnt to remain in a more relaxed state while my body moved, the spontaneous motion started again and my body re-enacted having my tonsils out as a six year old. Tensions had remained in my neck for all the years between six and thirty four, and now that I had actually relaxed in the right way, my body could discharge the inner disturbance. Just prior to starting inner-directed movement my neck tension had got so bad that as I lay down to sleep at night my head pulled backwards painfully. After the release during inner-directed movement the pain never recurred.
Less specifically I remember that at first I would repeat really peculiar movements, what seemed an endless number of times. I felt that my body was working at freeing itself from habitual postures, attitudes and the results of past experience as well as massaging internal organs. Gradually my movements became freer and more mobile – although since my teens I had exercised and stretched regularly. Also the movements became mobility of my feelings as well as my body. For the first time in my life I realised that my soul, my psyche, had also been tense and stiff, and was being gently made more responsive, alive and whole.
This mobilising of my psyche was effected by lots of movements in which I expressed powerful feelings. For instance I remember once doing a forceful stamping dance in which I felt like a Japanese warrior. My voice also came into full play with such dances and movements. I need to stress that I had never danced before in my life, and I found such movements surprising. So apart from the purely physical movements during inner-directed movement, there is also as aspect some people experience in which there is a fuller experience of inner feelings.
Because of such encounters, and there were dozens of them, I felt I was allowing myself to experience something extraordinary. The experiences arising spontaneously from within created a sense of wonder in me. I recognised I was touching a secret which existed in everyone. The secret is that we are much more than we usually suspect. We are capable of more than we dare imagine, and have access to internal founts of healing, adventure and wisdom, and experience that can enlarge and liberate us, not only physically but in our psyche as well. Our unconscious is full of creativity and splendid experience.
Voice As Well As Body
As already suggested, the voice is also one of the important aspects of inner-directed movement. It is one of the areas of our life in which many inhibiting factors may occur. When sound and movement combine, as they do in this practice, a huge realm of experience and healing is possible. This is described by Joan as follows. “Nothing else I have ever done is comparable to my experiences with inner-directed movement. When I began attending the group I honestly envied some people their ability to let-go and say through their voice and body what was obviously deeply important to them and just as deeply satisfying. Seeing myself today I realise I have reached that sort of freedom and enjoyment.
Friends ask me just what it is I do in the group. I just say I let my body express freely and they nearly always have a look of puzzlement. As far as they are concerned they already relax their body, but it doesn’t dance or sing like mine. I don’t even bother to explain as I know from experience they will not understand unless they do it themselves. All I know is that I have experienced all manner of magical things. I have felt the joyous abandonment of a baby and the fire of my body’s power and sexuality. More than anything else though, I have discovered I am a much wider and deeper person than I ever knew before.”
Because I have not simply been a teacher, but have practised inner-directed movement myself, I am just as much an enthusiast as Joan. I have no difficulty at all in being positive about what has come into my life from the practice. I look back from my mid fifties, to when I began at thirty four, and see that my body is far more mobile now. It is unbelievable to consider the attitudes and moral rigidity I lived with in my early thirties, and how tired I felt constantly, as well as how depressed. The dark cloud I lived under, or in, has gone. Of course I had to meet some of the difficult emotions I had stored inside myself. Gradually ‘blue sky’ peeped through as the clouds I had unwittingly created in my life cleared. Also, because inner-directed movement puts you in touch with your creative centre, after twenty years I am not through, I am still learning from the process.