Hello, again, Folks,
Today, I speak of a peculiar paradox of somatic education — something expressed in a Tibetan saying I heard, recently: “When things are urgent, go slower.”
People in pain have a certain urgency. No surprise.
In their urgency, they go for the “quick fix” — the pain med, the quick adjustment, the quick stretch, the hour of bodywork. These quick fixes rarely produce either a complete or a lasting result.
The reason: they don’t address the problem as it is, but only the surface appearance.
Somatic education is peculiar in this regard: the processes we use during clinical sessions are mostly slow-motion action patterns — we go slower — but the changes that result come very quickly.
The reason: the changes sought through somatic education (generally, pain relief) come by means of an internalized learning process that involves new physiological adaptation. Adaptation and learning require, inevitably, at least two things: attention and intention.
Attention and intention go together. To exercise an intention, we must direct our attention to what we are doing.
The thing about attention is that it is not instantaneous; it fades in. Test for yourself. Look away from the screen toward anything and notice that it takes a good part of a second even to focus on it. The same is true of music. Turn on the radio into the middle of a piece of music and notice that it takes some seconds to recognize even one with which you are familiar.
When taking in new information, going slower helps you “catch” it and take it in.
Then, and only then, you can apply your intention to it.
Most forms of therapy require little or no attention on the part of a patient; result: little or no exercise of intention and little or no lasting change!
So, as a somatic educator, I find that one of the most common bits of coaching I have to give with my clients (/patients, although I don’t use the word) is to slow down. Doing things too fast, too hard, and with too little attention (“mindfulness”) is a common American fault (and a popular editing technique of advertising and the entertainment media which perpetuates and reinforces this fault– sequences of “split-second video clips”). Too many people are “A-D-D” ! ! ! That makes them accident-prone (and generally, sloppy and error prone). They must slow down — not because it’s easier (generally, it’s not), not because they need a rest (which is generally true), but because they need to pay more attention and to exercise intention more carefully. They need to work smarter, not harder.
If people don’t slow down, they end up doing things the way they habitually do them and, by repetition, reinforcing the very thing they are wanting to get out of — the movement patterns and functional habits that cause their pain. They have to slow down enough to do the things they do in a new way.
When it comes to somatic exercises (a way people can relieve their own pain without direct coaching by a somatic educator), people must exercise patience. In this case, the patience they must exercise is two-fold: (1) they must slow down in what they’re doing (somatic exercises) enough to feel clearly what they are doing and to do it in good form (not merely count repetitions) and (2) they must persist in a somatic exercise program long enough to obtain its designed-in effect (entailing, generally, some days or weeks of practice — and some hours of experience). The result: substantial and durable improvement — faster and more durable than by conventional therapeutic, “low-attention” methods.
If patients are impatient for relief, they must be patient so they can get it more quickly than has previously been possible.
Only once they have slowed down and made the necessary changes can they return to “the speed of life” and keep their new-found freedom and well-being — or even go faster than before and still keep it together.
“A man of true means,
whatever the day’s pace
keeps his wits about him
and however a fine offer be presented to him
keeps a level head.
What ruler of countless chariots
would make himself laughing stock,
fool of the realm,
with pace beyond rein,
speed beyond helm?”
— Lao Tzu