Wednesday musings, 3/23 and 3/30: Meditation and subtle shifts

Wednesday musings, 3/23/16
One of the first papers about the physiological effects of meditation was published in 1937.* Since then, many more have appeared, demonstrating a link between meditation and a reduction in heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolism. 

One of the proposed mental mechanisms of meditation is that it focuses our attention. Cal Newport says in his book “Deep Work” that Americans don’t excel at multi-tasking; they excel at multi-focusing. This takes away our ability to create, on a deep level. Conversely, Charles Duhigg points out in “Smarter, Faster, Better,” humans are wired to look for distraction. Focusing takes energy, and is more challenging than surfing the web or playing on our smartphones. Meditation is a way to practice focusing. Simple ways to begin practicing meditation include leaving the phone at home when you run errands, and instead focus on your breath while you are standing in line. Give yourself the opportunity to be bored, and observe your thoughts. If you want to try seated meditation, there are excellent, free, guided meditations (I use the ones on UCLA’s website, link below). I don’t know if meditation will make you a happier, more creative person. What I can personally attest to is meditation will make you more aware, more present in any given moment. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. 

*Source: Healing Spaces by Dr. Esther Sternberg
**UCLA meditations: http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22

Wednesday musings, 3/30/16
I was working with a client recently, teaching him how to turn his head without his upper torso rotating as well (one of those deceptively simple sounding exercises that can be quite challenging). He was becoming frustrated at his inability to perform what he deemed a simple task. After a few tries, I suggested he move his hips back a fraction of an inch. This changed his entire ability to stabilize. He was suddenly able to turn his head without the upper body rotating and his neck tightness went away. He looked at his side profile in the mirror incredulously. “This feels so off, like my hips are really far back. But I can see that they aren’t. Moving the hips changed my ability to turn my neck. It really is all connected, isn’t it?”

One of the most gratifying aspects of my work is when clients begin to put together the fact body parts don’t work in isolation. We are an integrated system, with the position of one area affecting the ability of a seemingly unrelated body part to access different ranges of motion and different aspects of strength. We become fixated on the areas that don’t seem to be serving us, or “working” as well as they should, when frequently the issue isn’t an isolated area; rather, it’s the interplay between the body and all of its parts that should be considered. The area where there is tightness or pain is like the loudest child, impossible to ignore, but not necessarily the one instigating the less than desirable behavior. The ability to shift subtly can have a profound impact elsewhere.