• Barnaby King

The Secret Art of Wellbeing

If you are given a choice about which side or which part of the body to work on first, which side or part do you pick? Think about it now. Where would you choose to put your focus for, say, a twenty minute sequence of nourishing movement?

Do you have an answer? Is it the part that you think needs attention (i.e. isn’t working so well for one reason or another)?

Now think about which part of the body you would like to work with? Really consider it. What part would feel great to move? What part feels enjoyable and pleasurable to explore?

Is there a difference between which part you think you should work with and which part you would like to work with? Think about it. The answer might be enlightening.

Many times, when given this kind of choice, we will focus on the part that seems not to be working, because that’s where we feel we need to ‘put in the work.’ We are entrained with this idea from an early age, right? Think about math lessons where we made to work on the very thing we were least good at, rather than the thing we are already good at (what’s the point of wasting time doing something you already know how to do?). Our education system is oriented around this idea.

But how often do we question this idea? Might it not be equally valid (or even more so) to work on the part that works great, or the skill we are already good at?

What is the probable result of working on the part that hurts or is weak? Often it’s discomfort, struggle, perhaps more pain, and a reminder of the fact that we have a problem there. Again, think of the math lessons, and how as children we (many of us) begin to get hardwired with feelings of inadequacy and failure because we are constantly being made to work on the one thing we can’t do!

Now, often teachers, parents and life coaches will tell us that challenges are good. Challenges make us stronger. It is only by leaving our comfort zone, setting massive goals, or confronting the obvious weakness, that we actually grow and build new abilities.

And there is absolutely truth to this. I think we understand instinctively that if we stay in our bubble of comfort and ease, we also stagnate.

But perhaps what we have lost sight of is the importance of balance. And in particular, the way the body is able to grow from practising what we do well as much as striving to get better at what we do not.

Because the body learns from experience. If you grow up and live every day with struggle and conflict, your body learns that mode of being and brings it to everything, even quite simple or easy things. Conversely, if you live with ease and flow, your body learns that and brings it to everything, even hard and challenging things.

Even more interestingly, when it comes to the nervous system and other body systems, it has been demonstrated (and I experience this in movement lessons all the time) that parts of your body that don’t work so well can literally learn from parts that do. Your nervous system is a great communicator, working globally across the body. It is able to pick up a movement done smoothly and easily in one place (e.g. one shoulder) and translate it to another part of the body that is having difficulty (e.g. the other shoulder or the neck). This is commonly known to occur in the brain, where neurons from one area are able to pick up patternings from neurons in other areas and literally learn new functional habits, especially when we lose particular functions due to injury or degradation. But the same is true of all our neural cells, meaning that there is a constant communication, collaboration and mutual support network connecting every area of our body. How amazing!

So, when you are asked which side of the body you want to work on, maybe it’s okay to choose the side you really want to work on, or rather the side that feels good, that is already working, flowing and functioning smoothly. Because to work with that part not only habituates us to the feeling of ease and flow (and success), which is a positive patterning, but also can literally help the nervous system to ‘teach’ other part of the body to work well through this neural transfer process.

And why not apply this to all areas of your life?

Instead of choosing the hardest path or the biggest challenge, or focusing on the part that doesn’t work, as we are taught we should, how about choosing to do the thing you love, the thing that feels good, the thing you are perhaps told is a waste of time because it doesn’t feel like ‘work’.

As always, there’s no right and wrong with such choices. The important thing is to notice the patterns, observe what you already do. Often you’ll find that the mere act of observing something already begins to alter it. Awareness is power. Only when we become aware of how our choices are biased in a particular direction, can we begin to make other choices (not with punitive or correctional intention, but an exploratory, playful and curious one). Then, perhaps, we can learn to face difficult challenges with the same confident ease and playfulness that we automatically bring to more comfortable and familiar areas of our lives (or bodies).

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