I am sitting at a table, trying to become more aware of my own movement habits and defenses. It starts with keeping my posture upright and balanced, feet flat on the floor, trying to breathe into all sides of my ribcage and move from this supported posture, rather than from my usual habits. Already, I notice how much I rely on my neck to initiate arm movement. I make a small adjustment to my core engagement and try again. It feels different, more easy.
I take a break for a short walk around the bookstore where I am working. As I stop to browse I overhear this conversation:
“Your feet aren’t ugly.”
“Yes they are. It’s just because I got my nails painted and they uncrusted my feet. Really, my feet are ugly.”
I just spent the last two days in workshops with Donna Mejia, a scholar, dancer, somatic scientist and excellent teacher. I have pages of notes and ideas, and a much more clear understanding of why my neck hurts sometimes. We barely scratched the surface of knowledge she has built through her study, yet we all left with new understanding of how our bodies move.
And we started in a way that I love, and that I wish was unnecessary. Donna invited us to take a different approach to our bodies. Instead of thinking of all the things they couldn’t do or the ways in which they failed us, we were invited to be grateful for the all that our bodies were capable of. Even in a room full of people ready to spend four hours in movement, it is necessary to remind ourselves of what our bodies can do.
This approach resonates with me because it is a position of strength, and from this position of strength — however tenuous — we are able to discover ways to move, breathe live and be with more ease. It seems to me that we should not give up our position of strength because of ideas about what feet are supposed to look like.
In the time I have been sitting here, fresh from workshops and with movement awareness at the top of my mind, I have been blissfully unaware of what I look like, and yet deeply aware of my body in space. Areas of ease and tension, habitual defensive patterns, ways to move more efficiently. The side effect of all of this is a calm mind free of much of my usual internal chatter.
As with all things, maintaining this is a practice, ongoing and ever-evolving.