In a recent session with a Body Awareness client, I watched the realization and integration of ease and simplicity in executing movement. My client has been challenged by a back sprain brought on by a new physical exercise approach he tried a few weeks ago. Working with his back pain, I have been structuring our sessions with mindfulness to not exacerbate the condition, but at the same time allowing for some engagement of his body with movement patterns to help support his back through the integration of his other body systems. Lying on the floor on his back, I had him explore a movement pattern similar to a lizard like crawl. I broke down the movement for him in increments allowing time for breath, sounding, and mindful awareness of how the changes in his body were affecting his back. Going through this slow process and building the movement sequences into the larger series of movements allowed for his body to execute each movement while he marveled at his ability to complete the movements with no pain involved. At one point he shared his astonishment with how easy it could be to move his body without so much emphasis on effort or exertion. After working with him for several months now, I was able to witness how he is allowing for the support through the floor and gravity to aide his ability to integrate the natural engagement of his body through joints, fascial release, organ awareness, balancing of muscular effort in relation to flow or glide, and a deep listening to the body with breath support. A beautiful moment of discovery to guide and watch!
At a recent meeting of the Gay Buddhist Fellowship, the illustrious Joe Goode spoke about somatic approaches to strengthen mindfulness practices. He provided insight for how his physical being as a dancer, and specifically as a dancer who discovered a deep sensorial or felt experience within dance, grounds his Buddhist mindfulness practices. He proceeded to guide the men gathered in a few simple somatic exercises. As we did the physical movements, Joe advised us to experience them not in a sense of trying to accomplish anything or to be better, but to simply do them for our awareness of our physical bodies. At one point in his talk, he made note of how other practitioners mention somatic practices as practices for the body. Joe commented to the irony of this statement of practice because why would one have to practice when one wakes up in one's body everyday.
After experiencing our bodies during Joe's guided awareness approaches and sharing this as a group of men, some comments were made acknowledging a sense of deeper awareness. The final comment was by a man who said that during some of the approaches he noticed a sense of resistance, of the word stop coming up in his mind based on the sense that he wasn't sure he was getting what he should be getting. Joe heard this comment and acknowledged it as a thought that does arise. I wanted to comment (but due to the lack of time was not able to make my comment) that this is where the idea of somatic practice as practice is essential. I first wanted to say to the man to notice these thoughts in relation to the movements he was doing. No rigorous or harmful task was being asked of him, he was doing a simple movement- can he hold the tension of the thought and remind himself of the simplicity of his action? And the second part I wanted to suggest is that this is key aspect of practice. This deterring thought or resistance will spring up again in other awareness practices, as it does in sitting meditation, and to become familiar with the desire to stop and, yet, staying with the practice is the essence of experience. We gain by letting go and being present to the experience of both doing and feeling the impulse to stop and, yet, we see what does happen if we continue to practice. We learn to acknowledge our nervous system and its responses: compulsive, responsive, receptive, and integrative.