• Barnaby King

Learning Life Lessons Through Movement

Almost every time I do one of Molly’s movement lessons I become aware of how very simple movements, done with awareness, offer amazing benefits for my whole life, not just my physical body.

The idea that movement lessons are also life lessons is no coincidence. Nor is it simply metaphorical. Because movement and life are intrinsically linked. In fact, looked at a certain way, movement and life are literally the same thing.

Today I was doing a lesson called ‘Introduction to Gravity and Reducing Effort’. Well, this is something I know I need to apply in my life (reducing effort). I have alway been an ‘efforter’ in my life, pushing and creating results by force of will. And this has gotten me so far. But it has also caused stress, anxiety, and, quite often, frustration.

This lesson is all about how we can come back to our center in different ways: quickly, slowly, with effort and without effort. As always, the lesson is not teaching us the ‘right way’ to move. But rather to experience different ways of moving, and thereby to reawaken our nervous systems and give us more control over our own bodies.

The first step is developing this ability to truly feel. To feel tiny differences. And to do this, we must slow right down, do less, and then rest. Slow down even more, do even less, and then rest again. Sometimes we get carried away with a playful flow of exploration. Then, at the moment this becomes effortful or reaching for some goal, we are reminded to let that go and come back to rest.

In the middle of the lesson we are reminded that AT ANY TIME we should feel free to simply stop, walk away, and finish the lesson later. Or even ignore the instructions and take a break. This is SO hard for me, as a ‘good’ student programmed to carry out teachers’ instructions to the letter. But ‘the most important thing’, as she says, ‘is that you respond to what your body is asking. Honour the message your body is sending you because ultimately that is the thing you want to be able to do well in your life.’

I found this so liberating, being told that I could do what I wanted, not finish the lesson, and it was no biggie. That actually the whole point was to listen to your own impulse, not achieve some abstract task imposed from the outside.

We are almost never told this in life, in our reward-driven, success-driven society, and certainly something we are never taught in school.

Yet here we learn it is ‘the most important thing.’

I realise therefore that I must unlearn so much, undo so many bad, damaging habits, like my inbuilt desire to push myself and do better. And I must replace them with new, healthy, empowering habits, like stopping, honouring my body and my deeper instincts.

But, as I say, these life lessons are not just metaphorical. In others words, the movement lesson is not just teaching me that I must slow down as an abstract, intellectual concept. Far from it. It is actually teaching me literally to slow down, listen to impulses, put everything into slow motion so that I can pick up sensations I usually gloss over.

In this lesson I sense the tiniest change in the contact between my back and the floor as I take an in-breath and then release it. I notice the difference between the ease with which my head gently turns and draws an arc on the floor in one direction versus the other. I notice how when I lift one shoulder blade off the ground I am unconsciously tensing the other one, and tensing my jaw, and my neck.

As I learn to slow down, and my nervous system’s learning system is flooded with fresh new data, I start to feel a rush of endorphins rewarding me for this nourishment. When I stop, sit up and walk around, my body feels different, more integrated and differentiated at the same time, every little movement somehow distinct from every other in the unified flow of everything.

And at the same time I feel an effect on my mind and my emotions. I feel elated and rested, ready to start to the day with a clear mind and a positive outlook. I somehow know that I have the resources to solve whatever problems come my way, and that it all starts with my nervous system and my mind-body connection.

This is how movement lessons becomes life lessons. Because when you take an idea, even an abstract idea like the importance of slowing down, and you put it into the body, move through it, play with it, explore inside it, the idea becomes a physical experience, feeding the nervous system new information. Your nervous system actually learns what it feels like to slow down and notice things.

Once you’ve learned something like that, you can’t forget it, like learning to ride a bike. The embodied knowledge is lodged in your nervous system, affecting your everyday behaviour, your mood, your thoughts, your interactions: in short, your whole life.

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