Tag Archives: Health

How’s that office chair?

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SO — how IS your office chair? Individuals and companies spend countless hours researching the best ergonomic chairs and desks to enhance “worker productivity.” It is possible to spend hundreds of dollars on a highly rated set-up, and still find that you are uncomfortable. I’ll tell you what I tell my clients.

I find it interesting to dig a little bit to find out exactly what is meant by “worker productivity.” It is amazing how many people translate this to mean “able to sit in one position all day and work relentlessly with no price to pay.” However, more and more have heard the idea that sitting is the new smoking. How do you balance the need to get stuff done, with the need to maintain one’s health? Clearly, we need to think outside the chair.

Standing desks are trendy and cool, and can be a great solution. However, standing can be as problematic as sitting if you have a temperamental low back, or sore feet, knees, or legs. Walking meetings can yield the same dilemma. SO let’s question the basic assumption that people are supposed to be able to sustain ANY position — be it sitting, standing, or lying down — for up to eight hours at a time, and be OK. Humans are meant to MOVE. Expecting anyone to behave like a machine is obviously dehumanizing. It also disconnects the human from their ability to be effective. We are meant to adapt, continuously, to our environment. This adaptability keeps us moving, thinking, feeling, and sensing. Perhaps that can be a new definition of productivity?

The problem is in getting stuck in one position. This is true physically, as well as mentally. Get up and move. Change your position as frequently as you need to, at least once an hour. This can mean to stand up, walk to the restroom, stand while you are on the phone, you get the idea. When people are physically stuck in one position for long periods of time, they lose the ability to imagine how they might do something different. You can revive this specific use of your imagination in  Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement® classes.Even if it feels silly, just change something, anything, for a few minutes, before returning to your original position.

People also ask me about bedding, pillows, their shoes, even their cars, as if there is one and only one best purchase or best position for everyone, in any given situation. I’ll say it again: Humans are meant to move. If you become uncomfortable while asleep, roll over. Wiggle in your car, stop more frequently on longer trips and get out, walk around. Your comfort and health are individual. Others can make suggestions and recommendations, but ultimately you must find what is right for you.

When I visit people’s homes and offices for ergonomic consultations, they feel relieved that I am not trying to sell them a bunch of new furniture, gadgets, or doodads.Rather, I spend time with each individual, watching how they move, what their tasks are, and then make a plan that includes efficiency of action as well as comfort and sustainability. Sometimes, they do need to make adjustments with desktop heights or chair alignment. Most often, they can learn how to move, to vary their positions, and to create health for themselves. If only this could be a trend! Thankfully, more and more employers recognize that true productivity is not simply a matter of getting work done, but also of living well and feeling well to work another day.

Becoming an Expert

Awareness Through Movement by Moshe FeldenkraisI’m told that the title of Moshe Feldenkrais’s book, Awareness Through Movement, is translated from the Hebrew, “Learning by Doing.” Learning and Doing go hand-in-hand. Another word for that which is learned by doing is “Experience.” Perhaps an “Expert” is someone who has had a lot of experience, or experiences, of this kind of learning.

Recently, I have acquired a new area of expertise. Learning by Doing, I have become an expert on professional and personal burnout. I know several excellent and effective ways to accelerate burnout, and I also have explored (and continue to explore) ways of coming back. The chronicles are recorded on a new blog, BurnoutBio.

As a fringe benefit of my journey to the brink and back, I have come to appreciate the value of the Feldenkrais Method as a tool for self-care. I recently realized that I fell in love with this work after emerging from an earlier difficulty. The Method was a way of rediscovering myself, finding new appreciation for my capacities, my resilience, my WHOLE SELF. It was a journey of self-exploration, with the entire teacher training rich with daily revelations. Somehow, some time during the past eight years, I had stopped doing Feldenkrais for myself. To clarify, I was a practitioner and teacher of the Feldenkrais Method for the benefit of OTHERS, no longer focused on receiving benefits myself. I was practicing a lot, “doing a lot of Feldenkrais:” teaching four to five classes a week, seeing a full client load, giving special interest workshops to groups. I was preparing lessons well in advance each week by studying and feeling the movements in my own body, but it wasn’t FOR me — it was for that week’s students.

Of course, I got some benefit. It’s impossible not to. However, with my newly earned expertise in the phenomenon of burnout, I have a new attitude. I will return to practicing the Method for my own benefit — the way it helps me to move, think, sense, and feel in every aspect of my life. I will return to the practice of developing myself through the Method. I will allow it to fill me. And then, I will share the “overflow.”  My joking term for this new stance is that I am becoming a “Power User” of the Feldenkrais Method!

If you’ve been toying with the idea of booking some sessions or coming back to class, NOW seems like perfect timing. It’s not that “the old energy is back.” I think, and feel, and sense, that this is new energy, earned as a dividend on maturity and experience.

Outsmart Mardi Gras Health Hazards

New Orleans Mardi Gras: Street costumers in th...

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued an advisory for travelers to Carnival and Mardi Gras abroad, so that revelers can have a good time and stay safe and healthy, too.  It’s good advice for any time, actually.

The CDC identifies five major health risks associated with Mardi Gras festivities:

  • crime
  • unsafe food
  • excessive drinking
  • risky sexual behavior
  • dehydration/heat exhaustion

I got to thinking about how the Feldenkrais Method could be useful for Carnival survival — whether you’re dancing the night away in Rio, letting the good times roll in New Orleans, or elbowing your way toward a second (or third) helping at the local church pancake feed.  Here are 4 ways to outsmart the worst Mardi Gras health hazards.

1. Awareness.  In the Feldenkrais Method, “awareness” is not an abstract or “woo-woo” ideal.  It is practical, and always in service to improved functioning.  Learn to pay attention:  to yourself,  to where you are, what is around you, how you plan to get out of there if you need to.  To pay attention means that you are gathering information, and “intelligence” in several senses of the word.  Better information in the moment means you can make better decisions.

2. Sensory sensitivity:  This is an aspect of awareness, but distinct enough to elaborate upon further.  We learn, and are encouraged, to ignore our own sensations of pain, and fatigue.  We are also taught to ignore or distrust our sensations of pleasure.  In short, we numb our unpleasant and vulnerable sensations so that our internal “calibration system” gets all out of whack. As Brene Brown says, the evidence for this numbing is that we are the most in- debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history.  We don’t just overdo it at Mardi Gras.  We overdo it every day.

The Feldenkrais Method allows you to re-calibrate your internal system so that you can trust your sensations.  You are less apt to overdo it (with eating, sex, or drinking at Mardi Gras; or exercise, arguing, computer time, spending) when you can feel when “enough is enough.”  You will notice  that the buffet food seems “iffy,” and you won’t eat it.  You will sit down for awhile if your back hurts.  Moderation is only possible if you can feel the difference between “enough” and “too much.”

3. Reversibility. In short, don’t do anything past the point of no return.  Be able to engage, and disengage, with any movement, situation, or behavior, with ease. See #1, #2.

4. Recovery.  Moshe Feldenkrais said that in the wild, the animal who survives is not the one who never gets injured, but rather it is the one who knows how to recover.  The crazy, spontaneous, unpredictability of life is what makes it worth living, with good stories to tell about it in the bargain as well. We find our limits by exceeding them. If you overdo it, don’t keep overdoing it.  Learn, rest, and recover.

Armed with awareness, sensory sensitivity, reversibility, and recovery, you can survive just about anything.  Even Mardi Gras.

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Best Moves for 2012

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With your list of resolutions for self-improvement in hand for the coming year — how will you create the conditions for success?

Moshe Feldenkrais said that one important quality of “good” movement is the ability to move in any direction at any time, without adjustment or preparation. Think of the martial artist, poised to field multiple attackers coming from multiple directions. . .

The Feldenkrais Method helps people to be more self-reliant, more resilient, more adaptive — and more effective in daily actions. New Year’s resolutions usually address an awareness of “stuckness” in some aspect of life: a prior and persistent failure to change something (break a habit, lose weight, save money, be nicer) that you believe would make a significant difference in your quality of life. If you haven’t been able to move in the desired direction, perhaps you could benefit from learning more about movement itself.

Find a Feldenkrais teacher near you. Our classes, lessons, and workshops can support you in your self-improvement goals, whatever they are. We’re excited to bring you new programs and new opportunities for leaning in 2012. Check us out — you’ll wonder what kept you!

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Returning with a Rant About Posture

Recently, I taught a workshop at the Houston NiaMoves Studio, called “Dynamic, Beautiful Posture.”  Lots of my clients express the desire for improved posture, so it’s a topic I spend a lot of time thinking about.

Every time I teach this workshop, I am still astonished by the level of psychological pain, self-loathing, perfectionism, and defeatism that students express.  My rant:  how did we, as a culture,create such a huge cohort of disempowered people?

At the beginning of the workshop, I asked the students (all women, this time, of all sizes, shapes, and ages) to simply walk around the room a few times.  You can try this for yourself:  as you walk, is there a voice inside your head, coaching and directing you in the “right way” to walk?  For most people, the answer is “YES.”

When asked what thoughts went through their minds as they walked, a flood of comments burst forth.  “Stand up straight.”  (What does that even MEAN?) “Hold in your stomach.” “Suck it in!” “Keep that ass from flapping in the breeze!”  All agreed that they were following old directions from a past authority figure while walking — not in the present moment at all.  I asked them how that voice made them feel.

“Not good enough.”

“Unattractive.”

“Anxious.”

“Afraid I’ll do something wrong.”

You get the idea.  There’s a definite pattern here.  This group of women was not unique.  The same responses come up, time and again, and from men as well as women, whenever I work with people and their posture.

So with the stage set, here comes my rant about posture.  If you want to skip the rant (although I think it will be entertaining and enlightening), the take-away is:  Get off your own case.  Stop criticizing yourself, about posture or anything else.  For all the years of criticism, has anything REALLY changed?  No.  Oh yeah — stop criticizing other people, too — especially about their posture.

Take a few moments to sit with these statements:  “I’m not good enough.  I’m unattractive.  I’m anxious.  I feel fearful.”  What do you notice?  Give it some time, and slowly, almost imperceptibly, you will begin to EMBODY these statements.  A feeling of sadness will begin to emerge.  Your gaze is downcast, your head bends forward, along with your shoulders curving forward. Your back slumps.  Your stomach, or your head, may begin to ache a little.  Your flexor muscles contract, pulling you along in a trajectory toward fetal position, the only safe place. Notice:  all your energy, vitality, and joy are drained out of you.  You may feel hopeless:  “What’s the point?  I might as well go back to bed.”  The point is this:  every bodily position, every habitual pattern of muscular contraction, has an underlying emotional tone and thought process — even if unconscious.  If you feel this crummy about yourself, your posture is, in a way, a reflection of your emotional state and self-image.  In this condition, it is impossible to “stand up straight.”  And if you do get close, it will be with such effort and artificiality as to be uncomfortable and unsustainable.

Critiques of posture start young, and continue throughout our formative years.  They come from people who mean well and want the best for us.  However, the Law of Unintended Consequences can be clearly seen.  We fight against ourselves, even years later, to win the approval of that authority figure still in our heads.  A child internalizes the message:  “There is something about you, about your fundamental essence, that is so displeasing and offensive to me, that I cannot accept it, or you.  Unless you can meet my standard of perfection, I will not love you.” And thus begins a life-long, unproductive battle, with the self and one’s environment.  Our only defense to make us feel better about ourselves is to find someone else to correct relentlessly.

Clearly, this is a fruitless and futile path.  And yet we’ve all trod it.  There is a better way.  (It’s coming soon, my solution.  But I’m kind of on a roll with this rant, so permit me. . .)

Our notion of “good posture” arises from a cultural aesthetic preference.  Great works of art, and artistic pursuits such as ballet and yoga reflect this aesthetic preference for the ideals of symmetry and elongation.   The real-world realization is that “Ideal” means “does not actually occur in real life.”  Ideals are meant to be beacons toward which we move.  Ideals are meant to inspire healthy striving and accomplishment (H/T to Dr. Brene Brown for expressing this wonderful distinction.) The closer we get to the ideal, we find the goal posts move.  Achieve the ideal, and you’ve become a butterfly specimen in a display case:  dead, wings pinned to a board, no longer capable of flight, growth, or continued inspiration. Rather straining to achieve an ideal, embrace a metaphor:  The Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science is teeming with life, wonder, and beauty.

Face it:  nobody ever died from bad posture.  The problem is not in any particular position — the problem comes from getting stuck there.

Moshe Feldenkrais, iconoclastic thinker and movement educator from the last century, said that “posture” is a static state, like a post. (Post/posture, get it?)  That is fine for photographs and statues, but people’s lives are not static.  We’ve gotta move, and do, and be, and love, and work, and play.  We can’t do that in one, “correct,” static position.  So he coined a word, “acture,” to describe a dynamic state of curiosity about the world, poised for comfort and grace in movement without wasted energy.

You don’t teach that kind of fabulous, engaged “attitude” toward life by shaming, coercing, nagging, or making people walk with a book on their head.   Comfortable “acture,” along with the happy side-effect of looking aesthetically pleasing, has to be experienced and FELT.  Classes in the Feldenkrais Method seek to create the conditions where this dynamic internal spark can be re-ignited.  With deeper experiences of the felt sense of springiness, grace, ease, and length comes a changed emotional tone, changed thinking patterns and self-talk, and the ability to be one’s own authority in matters of comfort, effectiveness, and self.

The workshop participants made a beginning at trading in their perfectionism in favor of resilience, adaptability, and a sense of their own capacity for skill, grace, and comfort in efficient and beautiful movement.  They began to experience the old adage, “What you think of me is none of my business.”  When new possibilities open up, the potential for improvement is LIMITLESS.

Where is perfectionism blocking you?  How does perfectionism affect your relationships with others?

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Too Much of a Good Thing?

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Do you remember the theme from Sesame Street? “Sunny day, keepin’ the clouds away. . .” This vision of idyllic playtime has taken an ugly turn recently. Our current weather pattern illustrates the truth behind the saying, “too much of a good thing.”

Was it Mae West who said, “You can never be too thin, or too rich”? I guess it all depends on your perspective, and whether you are coming or going. Too thin — ask the parents of an anorexic child. Too rich? As Robin Williams famously said, “Cocaine is God’s way of telling you that you make too much money.” We embrace the message of contemporary gurus who preach “life without limits.” And yet, without limits, life becomes very difficult.

Too many sunny days with no clouds, no rain in sight, and temperatures in a dangerous range is more than an inconvenience — it has turned deadly. Rain will be most welcome in these parts, when it does come, and it will.  Most of us would probably embrace a real “gully-washer.”  But one needs only remember the images of disastrous hurricanes and flooding to see the effects of “too much of a good thing,” from the opposite end of the spectrum.

It’s not so much that we must be careful what we wish for.  In our own personal experience, we are not doomed to repeating the same actions, and hoping for different results.  We can learn, adapt, and change our approach so that the good things don’t turn into bad things.

In my Feldenkrais practice, many people come in as a result of having done “too much of a good thing.”  Their HABIT, when encountering a difficulty or discomfort,  is to do even more of what it was that got them into trouble in the first place. At some point, they disconnect from their immediate experience (“That really hurts.  Maybe I should stop?”) in service of an abstract idea (No!  I won’t be a quitter. I can do a little bit more, and then I’ll have _____”). These admirable and good goals — “fitness,” “strength,” “flexibility,” “sexiness,” “success” — are not static and universal in their manifestiations. They are uniquely expressed in each individual.  Moshe Feldenkrais described his work as helping people “to realize their vowed and unavowed dreams.”  We are frequently unaware of our own dreams, substituting those of our culture, society, peer group, or family system instead — and further unaware that we have done so.  Personal awareness is a cornerstone of the Feldenkrais Method.

Learning to do a little bit less is a first step away from a potentially destructive pattern.  Choosing to do a bit less can help us find just the right amount of “doing.”  Then, we can enjoy the good things that life has to offer.

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Life in High Gear

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In a theatrical production, the week before the show opens is one of intensive, all-out work. The steady pace of work — the regular rehearsals, design, production, and promotion, culminate in what is commonly called “Hell Week,” more politely known as Tech Week. lt is a week of late nights, long hours, and all hands on deck! A tech rehearsal can run four to six hours, or longer, as costume malfunctions are thwarted, lights are adjusted, the light and sound people rehearse and execute their cues — and the process is grueling. People in the theater come to thrive on the adrenaline rush before and during performances. Will everything get done on time? Will everything be perfect?

Business people also talk about performance. They mean getting results, producing the contracted deliverables on time and under budget. What I have just described as “Hell Week” may provoke a response from some of my entrepreneurial friends: “Well, then, every week is hell week for me!” Indeed, the pace of deadlines, developing new business, and responding to client’s needs often puts these brilliant people “on a tightrope,” so to speak. The thrill of keeping the balance between walking that line and falling off is exhilarating to them — until the stresses build up, and the people burn out.

What are the indicators that you may be on the edge of burn-out? First of all, you may notice more aches and pains. Tight muscles, shallow breathing, a feeling of being “out of shape” sometimes is actually your system on overdrive, letting you know that it is time to put on the brakes. The next problem is that ongoing stress suppresses the immune system. Frequent colds, a bout of the flu, or feelings of being run-down and exhausted are all signs that rest, good nutrition, and a “recharge” are in order. Business peple have a strong ethic that “the show must go on.”

Continuing to run your personal empire from your sickbed does not qualify as rest.  Your brain and nervous system need to completely disengage from “work” for a period of time.  Take a walk, spend time in nature, go to a movie — or check in to your yoga or Feldenkrais class.  Each of these, done regularly, will provide your system with the regeneration it needs.

My young friends in business could take a lesson from the theater. The production schedule has a regular rhythm. The acceleration to what can be the frenzied pace of tech week takes place during an extended process. After the peak of exertion, it is time to deliver the performances. This requires a different kind of energy — the kind that creates the feeling of “flow,” of ease and well-being, despite the demands of the piece. The actual show is always much shorter than a tech rehearsal: it is the streamlined, “express” version, where each number is performed only once in a night instead of three our four times. You get to enjoy your own results, and take pride in what has been created, both individually and corporately. You go home and rest between performances. And then, the show closes. The set is dismantled, the costumes are cleaned and returned to storage, you have a big party — and then, the theater is “Dark.” Like a farmer’s field, it lies fallow for a time, until the process starts again.

As we mature, we learn not to be afraid of “the dark.” The key to excellence in performance is to recognize the rhythm, and don’t skimp on opportunities to regenerate. Your health, creativity, and bottom line will all thank you in the long run.

Find a Feldenkrais teacher near you at www.feldenkrais.com .  In Houston, that’s me!

Buy tickets to the FrenetiCore production of The War of The Worlds, opening February 18.

 

 

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Present and Accounted For

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I’m a small business owner with three employees — me, myself, and I.  You could stretch that to two more, if you count my cats, who serve as office staff, reception, and coat check.  Absenteeism is not much of a problem.  If someone is absent, it’s me, and it means I am on vacation, or sick.

As I sit here at my computer, having slipped into pajamas shortly after arriving home from work at 7:30 p.m. I am congested and sniffly.  I have considered an almost-sore throat for the last three mornings upon arising, but it always gets better after I have drunk my first glass of water for the day. Allergies, Houston temperature changes (60 one day, 40 the next), or the beginnings of a cold that won’t make a commitment?  Who is to say?  The fact is, if this is the worst that it gets, I will probably just drink more fluids, breathe stem,  hit the neti pot, and get more rest until I feel decent again.

I insist that I’m not contagious, because I’m not running a fever, and I’m not sneezing or coughing — I just have really annoying congestion and drainage. But today, one of my clients came in — a five-year-old germ factory.  She exhibited full-blown cold symptoms, all except for the fever — but she was cranky enough that it might be on the way.  Suddenly, I feel the need to take better care of myself.

Our Puritan work ethic has made this country great — and our unwillingness to stand down, even with a legitimate illness, costs US businesses about $150 billion a year.  This phenomenon has been called “presenteeism,” rather than “absenteeism,” and I think it is also a contributing factor in our overall state of wellness, or lack thereof.  People have valid reasons for not wanting to miss work.  However, think of this:  if you take a day or two off to really get well, aren’t you coming out ahead, as opposed to never quite getting over whatever it is you have, and limping along, sub-par, for weeks?

I think I’ll pop a couple of vitamin C and turn in for the evening — it is almost 9:30 p.m.  A lighter schedule the rest of the week will help.  Sometimes, stopping is the best way to get a fresh start.

Read here for when to call in sick, and when it’s OK to go to work.

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Stress Levels

Stress is the bane of modern existence.

And yet, without just the  right amount of stress, how many of us would actually accomplish anything during the day?

You see, we have adapted over milennia to be able to handle stress — even to require it.  Without stress, unmet needs go unmet.  Hungry tummies remain hungry.  Our ancient forbears evolved with a survival instinct:   fight or flight, freeze or faint, drop and drool — all are strategies for dealing with the stress of the unexpected.  And so, with just the right amount of stress, people find work to support themselves, innovative thoughts become inventions, bills get paid, deadlines and budgets are sustained, and all goes along quite well indeed.

And yet, in our modern world, we’re not very good at modulating stress. Luckily, most of us don’t have to worry about being devoured by a wild beast who is simply and innocently meeting his own nutritional needs.  For some of us, stress becomes pathological.  Instead of improving the system, or inspiring it to effective action, the opposite occurs.  Our fight/flight instincts, so effective long ago, now cause our bodies and our natural processes to accelerate as if it were actually a life-threatening situation.  With our nervous systems constantly on “high alert,” we find ourselves unable to relax.  We have forgotten how.

I find that I am most under stress when I am fighting against some “should.” Either I think someone else “should” be behaving differently, to live up to my unarticulated expectations; or I feel pressure to comply with someone else’s “should.”  Most of these “shoulds” are just bullshit.   I can change my expectations, renegotiate the expectations of others, or go play my own game for awhile.

Of course, there are situations of extreme duress:  those life crises that you hope and pray never happen to you or to someone you love.  An upsetting diagnosis, the loss of a job (or the threat of losing one); or sudden adaptation to an undesired event, such as a divorce or death of a loved one.  These are the events that take the wind out of our sails.    They require extreme self-care and professsional help.

Any advice about handiling stress, when you are in the midst of it, sounds like a mere platitude.  However, if you focus on finding solutions, rather than just circling the drain and dwelling on the problem, your stress level will decrease. Even if a solution is not evident, or possible, working toward one will restore your dignity and power in the situation.

There’s no glory, or status, in being stressed.  Your stress level is not a mark of superiority or a badge of honor.  Get some advice on how to constructively manage your stress:  some people like yoga, or running, or a hobby, or Feldenkrais classes. A coach, counselor, or therapist can also help. Finding time to be quiet, to spend time in nature, or to meditate (whatever that means to you) can help you to feel a bit more clarity and calm. Stress without purpose and without end is damaging to you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Embrace the stress that motivates you to keep moving forward.  As for the rest — do with less.  Take some small action in the direction of your intention — even if it is just cleaning your kitchen sink, going for a walk, or doing some research on the internet.  Getting into action, and building a support system, will help.

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#reverb10 – Day 19 – Healing

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Prompt: Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Prompt provided by Leoni Allan, as part of #reverb10.)

[Eyeroll.]

Puh-LEEZ.

There is no more dis-empowering worldview than the one in which you are encouraged to view yourself as broken, unworthy, needing healing, and as incapable of doing anything for yourself. This question  sets up a crazy-making and manipulative vortex that sucks in the impressionable.  What healed you this year? Translation:  of course you agree that you were hopelessly screwed up.  Please tell us how screwed up you were, so that we can feel better about ourselves. Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? Translation: please confirm that my experience is valid, because I don’t have a clue.  How would you like to be healed in 2011? Translation:  because of course you are still irreparably screwed up, and the need for healing is never-ending.  Please buy my book.

This question invites people to join the perpetual pity party.  I am broken.  I need to be healed.  I want to be healed.  I hope I can be healed.  Who will heal me? Oh, you need to be healed, too?  Let’s be friends. Above all, let’s work on ourselves without end.  It’s a golden excuse for why things aren’t working in our lives — plus, we get to look noble.

We glorify our faults, our weaknesses, our pain.  We justify and excuse it.  When it doesn’t go away, we have nothing but our self-loathing.  STOP IT NOW.

I know that sounds harsh.

Over the past 25 years, I have observed an alarming trend in public language and culture.  It bastardizes the ideas of healing and wholeness, and steals worthy impulses toward self-improvement to label them as “fixing our brokenness.” The loaded language of recovery and repentance, artificially sweetened by New Age airheads and religionists alike, has crept into daily discussion. People seem to rush to embrace and include the paradigm of addiction and dysfunction in their self-image.  To hear some tell it, we are all addicted to something.  We are all “damaged goods.” There is no aspect of our being that is not in need of therapy – and the advertising machine reinforces the belief.  The heartbreak of frizzy hair, the destructive potential of chapped lips, the intractability of breaking fingernails: you can purchase therapy in a bottle.   Everyone is “in treatment” for something.  Our world needs to be healed.  Our relationships need to be healed. Most of all, YOU need to be healed. Are you healed?

In no way am I disparaging those who suffer from chronic pain, from mental illness, from disease processes and neurological disorders, and from plain old-fashioned human cruelty.  My life has been changed for the better through the expertise of medical professionals, psychotherapists, counselors, and a tour through the recovery movement and various 12-step programs.  There ARE problems and diseases out there that require intervention, a pulling up on the reins to say, “Whoa!” before passing a point of no return.  There are conditions that WILL KILL YOU if you don’t get expert help.  Doesn’t expensive department-store shampoo labeled “Hair Therapy” diminish the legitimate suffering of people with REAL problems (and the training and expertise of those professionals who help them)?

To be sure, things get broken:  our bodies, our hearts, our relationships, our thinking processes.  Some people suffer horrifically at the hands of torturers, within the family circle, local social order, or  international sphere.  There is trauma and death and war.  We should have compassion for those who suffer, and help them and ourselves in any way we can.  Doesn’t our relentless focus on our incompleteness and brokenness just create more of what we don’t want?  It seems to me that we would be better served to be developing resiliency rather than dependency.

My work, as a teacher of the Feldenkrais Method, is often used to help people with serious difficulties.  I don’t define myself as “a healer.”  If others want to describe me as that, or if that was their experience, then that is fine.  I’ll encourage them to expand their vocabulary and take more credit for themselves.  I’m a teacher.  I teach people how to improve their ability to function.  Often, it starts with improving the way they move, so that they can have less pain, better coordination, or more refined skill.  Often these improvements generalize and are carried over into other aspects of their lives. Somehow, they become more capable of acting on their own behalf — of independence and self-determination.  When you can learn to improve some area of concern, all kinds of possibilities emerge.  The possibility of true wellness and wholeness — of living your life, doing what you want to do — is a more inspiring worldview to me than one that pre-supposes inadequacy and brokenness.  I don’t see how it is in service to anyone to keep them dependent and hopeless in an unending saga of so-called “healing.”

In relationships, the ability to say “I love you” and “I am sorry” are powerful actions that lead to better functioning.  The willingness to forgive and reconcile, or cut losses and start again, are also valuable actions that can create dynamic and positive change.  The ability to learn and change to improve is our birthright. Accept what can’t be changed, and take action for yourself to minimize the collateral damage.  Take action to change what you can.  It doesn’t have to be a long and protracted “healing” process, or a lightening bolt of transformation.  It is just living in a way that works.  The essence of all the world’s great religions and spiritual paths boils down to this.

At the moment, I believe our culture is stuck in defining and describing problems.  We understand more and more about the scope and size of our problems, and less and less about how to solve them.  Our focus on the problem makes us believe that the solution must be as big and all-encompassing as the problem seems to be.  As a result, people become less and less able, or willing, to take small steps to improve things on their own.  The solution is something that you don’t know yet.  You can learn it.  You may need help from someone else, but ultimately, you can find a solution.  There are some who are finding astonishing solutions to the world’s biggest challenges.  You can watch them speak on TED.com.  I think they are excellent inspiration for solution-seeking and innovation at every level.

Get on with it.  DO SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF.  Don’t keep defining yourself in terms of what is wrong, or what is not working.  Identify your strengths, even in the midst of trouble.  Ask for help if you need it — real help, in addition to support from friends and family. If someone won’t help you, keep looking. Find a doctor, find a group, find a friend. Draw strength from your faith.  As one pastor said, we will walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but we don’t have to pitch a tent there. What small action can you take to improve your situation?  Flee from the numbing psycho-faux-spiritual-babble that would keep you from expressing your fully-functioning personhood. THAT is healing.

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