By Meriah Kruse, Feldenkrais Practitioner and Small Business Coach and Mentor
I’ve probably said it 1000 times to clients as they work through an interesting *Feldenkrais lesson in my studio in Lexington, Kentucky:
“A constraint is always an invitation to try something new that may not have occurred to you or been possible otherwise. “
In the usual context of a Feldenkrais lesson I’m often talking about something physical when I teach about constraint. For instance, some movements that are easy when you’re lying on your back are barely possible when you’re lying on your side or your belly, seated in a chair, on all 4’s, or leaning against a wall. Every position presents a constraint of some kind – and simultaneously an invitation to innovate a different way of moving.
Why does that matter? The human nervous system largely operates on repetition and habits. We have thousands of habitual operations that we perform daily and thus don’t take much of our conscious attention. Habit, and the established patterns in our brains from repetition make it possible for us to do things like apply mascara while driving or brush our teeth while reading the newspaper. No doubt you’ve experienced getting in your car and ending up going down a familiar road even when that wasn’t your intended destination. When we’re operating out of habit, part of us is basically asleep.
The flip side of this is that when a condition arises, something new that blocks the habit, our nervous system becomes acutely interested. It begins to search for new solutions. The brain literally begins to reorganize, especially if we’re paying close attention without adding angst, insistence, and strain to the process. As a result of working with the condition that blocks our habit – a constraint of some kind — ideas emerge. Subtle shifts and changes occur little by little, changes we didn’t plan or anticipate. We become awake to the intricate connections inside of us. This is the Feldenkrais experience, and it applies in all areas of Life.
And that’s the beauty of working within constraints. We’re tapping into a kind of innovation and learning mechanism that’s built into our neural hard drive, something we may not have known about or utilized in the past.
Right now, in contending with the Covid19 virus, we’re in a grand experiment about constraint and invitation, something we didn’t ask for, something happening quite separately from the guidance of a trained professional in a controlled environment.
We’re on our own in our daily lives operating under the constraints of staying home, staying 6 to 10 feet from everyone we see, in some cases living with severely modified routines, separation from our people, and more. There’s a lot of resistance and fear in the air, understandably.
How can we apply this constraint-invitation principle of the Feldenkrais Method intentionally so that, when the epidemic has finally passed, we’ll be left with new beneficial, satisfying and useful solutions that may not have arisen otherwise? Can we use this time to birth a new and improved version of our lives and our businesses for the future?
Here’s what I know about working with constraint.
First, our initial urge is usually to fight the constraint. We have an instinctive aversion to anything that limits our ability to do something, especially something that we usually do freely, with ease.
Second, when we can relax, slow down, and be gentle in approaching whatever challenge we’re working with, exploring multiple options in real time — amazing things can happen.
Third, the stress begins to melt away as we lessen our resistance. Curiosity begins to arise and sharpen. Eventually a new freedom to feel, think, move and sense arises that we would never have expected and could not have planned.
That’s what I think we are learning about right now, each of us in our own way, tucked away at home in our little private worlds.
Here’s my premise: The constraints of COVID-19 are an invitation to take actions we wouldn’t have taken otherwise.
How can we relax, slow down, and be gentle within the constraints imposed by COVID-19 rather than fighting it? Millions of us are doing that right now: learning to work from home, providing services online that are usually in person. Parents at home for the first time with their children all day are necessarily on the cutting edge of invention! Restaurants are staying afloat via take-out and delivery. Seamstresses are walking away from their projects to make face masks. Our brave medical workers are, regrettably, forced to improvise with a shortage of supplies and equipment.
What many of us are doing right now is returning to something familiar that we usually don’t have time for.
People are returning to hobbies that they haven’t done in years such as sewing and doodling. I myself am spit-shining my house, ceiling to floor, getting into the nooks and crannies and finding satisfaction in attending to my environment – something I rarely do. In my coaching business, I’m returning to writing since I can’t see my clients as easily.
But I don’t think that’s the final step in our Covid-19 induced evolution. I think there’s still a great deal more to come.
As our quarantines continue, if we’re among the fortunate majority who aren’t ill and haven’t lost a loved one, I predict there will be at least one more step in this process. NEW developments will take place, such as:
- We’ll try something we haven’t tried before, perhaps something that’s been on our to-do list for years.
- We’ll find we’re finally able to acquire and stick with a desirable new habit that’s eluded us in the past.
- We’ll find a brilliant solution to an intransigent problem.
- We’ll have some kind of creative renaissance.
- A fresh perspective will arise on our relationships and the way we live our lives in general.
Something could become possible that’s never been possible before.
I’m a big believer in the power of provocative questions to heighten awareness, so here are a few questions that may help in your search for a path that works for you:
- What will my clients need when things get back to normal?
- What do my clients need today? Is there a new way I can provide that for them?
- What strengths and resources do I have that could come in handy today?
- Is there a corner of my business that I’ve been wanting to develop but haven’t had the time for? (new website or blog, creating on online course, preparing to launch a new service or product)
- Is there anyone I’d like to collaborate with in the future? Can I begin that conversation today?
- Is there something that currently seems impossible that I’d love to see become possible?
- Is there something important I’ve been neglecting in myself?
- Am I finding times and spaces for doing nothing at all, for allowing my self-concept to evolve?
- What could I do right now that I’d love to be doing?
In summary, I suggest developing curiosity about your constraints, explore how it feels to lessen your resistance, try something new, and then watch conditions shift. Try to find a space to relax, slow down and listen to your inner impulses… in every likelihood you will find a way to reinvent yourself that is at least partially unexpected. At the very least, you can reduce your stress levels and come out on the other side of this thing with new ideas and a fresh perspective as you step into Life afterCOVID-19.
* The Feldenkrais Method of Movement Education uses awareness processes accompanied with novel movement sequences to alert the nervous system to more elegant ways of functioning physically, mentally and emotionally. Visit www.Feldenkrais.com