What do Bill Blass, Polaroids, and Chocolate-Cherry Dr. Pepper have in common? All will be moving on in 2009. (Click here for the complete list.) Having run their course, become obsolete, or just wanting to try something different, they will move aside to make room for The New, whatever that is.
Even people who are not particularly introspective will take the opportunity at New Year to take a personal inventory. We make our resolutions like sorting through a crowded closet: most people occasionally see the need to clear things out, and we use certain universal criteria. What don’t I wear anymore? What has gone out of style? What needs to be pitched? What do I love?
People are at their most ambitious around New Year’s Resolutions. We are pulled toward the grand statement and the bold gesture. We love the drama of the complete overhaul, especially if it comes with great sacrifice. Because of our love of overdoing, most New Year’s resolutions are not sustainable. Any new behavior, whether we’re starting something or stopping something, has a learning curve. Behaviors are learned, and get better with practice. It’s no surprise, then, (since I’m a Feldenkrais teacher) that I favor incremental action, baby steps, and successive approximations as a way of sustaining our good intentions of the new year. If you learn as you go, and make small adjustments along the way, you’ll vastly increase the likelihood of success. We can return to the image of cleaning out a closet.
“What don’t I wear anymore?” Has anything become obsolete? This question doesn’t just apply to articles of clothing. It can apply to your total self-image, and thus to your actions. What groups do you belong to, but never attend? (Include online groups as well as in-person.) What about all the email newsletters, blogs you read (including this one)? What about your relationships, clients, activities, beliefs? Anything just “taking up space,” bandwidth, energy? Anything no longer useful, or fun, or joy bringing? Pass them along, throw them away, make a decision.
“What has gone out of style?” What has just run its course? That was then, this is now. Is there anything you keep doing, “Just Because?” All forms of over-indulgence can go here. It’s fashionable to think of eating, spending, or things in the “Vices” category at New Year’s. How about overworking, over exercising, spending too much time online? Realistically, it’s not like we can stop anything completely. We must eat, we must spend, we must work, we must exercise. Our resolution can be to be more mindful about the quantities and make actual choices rather than staying on auto-pilot. Who do you want to be this year?
“What needs to be pitched?” Anything broken, and not fixable? Threadbare and worn? Recycle and reuse what you can, but let go of the rest. In movement, we can discover patterns that emerged long ago, after a physical or emotional injury, that helped us to deal with the pain. The guarding here, the holding there. The slump or slouch, the ramrod-straight back. Shallow breathing, muscles tensed. The pattern remains, although the danger has passed. It takes special awareness to shift away from these unconscious patterns of action.
“What do I love?” What can’t you do without? What’s really worth the investment of your time and attention? What would you like to make even better than it is now? What would you like to explore, discover, enjoy?
At the end of the process, you will have less “stuff,” but more happiness, satisfaction, pleasure.
Moshe Feldenkrais was one who observed that the difference between the person who has mastered a particular discipline, and the person who is incompetent. Oddly, the difference is not in the level of skill, or dedication, or focus. Incompetents are often highly skilled, committed, and single-minded in their quest for achievement. The difference is, the incompetent person is always doing more than is necessary, usually unaware of this fact, and thereby gets in his own way. The master’s efforts are efficient, streamlined, almost minimalist in comparison. Nothing is wasted, everything is conscious. It seems so counter-intuitive to us that we can achieve our goals by learning to do less. I like to think of each Feldenkrais lesson as being a little laboratory experiment, where I can learn how to reduce the effort, the noise, the stuff. Is it any surprise that everything works better, looks better, feels better, when the way is clear?
Perhaps you’ll develop your own personal list of “Things You Won’t See in 2009.” What you WILL see in 2009 is the continuing presence of the Feldenkrais Center of Houston, and the Feldenkrais Method worldwide. We look forward to assisting you in your learning in the coming year!