“For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”
~ James Baldwin
A few weeks my yoga teacher asked, over and over, “Where is your rigidity?” The third time I was in a standing forward fold in a completely different position than I’d ever been in when approaching that pose, and initially, after cursing the universe, I responded in my head “It’s in my @#$#!% hamstrings!” But, instead of shouting that into her encouraging face, I breathed and sunk deeper into the pose and it was then that I understood what she meant.
Where is your rigidity? In that moment, my rigidity was around doing a pose in a different way. It was in the fact that I wanted to move in a different way than she was telling me, solely because that’s the way I’ve always done it. I was out of the groove that I’d so diligently created by executing the same motion over and over again. My rigidity was in the fact that I was so focused on the discomfort of trying this pose in a new way that I failed to recognize the depth and openness I was finding in places in myself that that pose usually never accessed.
Sometimes rigidity can show up in the form of pathologizing. The most clear definition of pathologizing that I could find is to “Regard or treat [someone or something] as psychologically abnormal or unhealthy.” And we do this all the time in our bodies and minds. We fixate on pain or patterns, feeling that it’s wrong that they exist. And we fixate on changing them, making them be something else, making them go away. And often in the process of them, we make ourselves wrong, for having or experiencing that which we’re pathologizing. But here’s the thing.
Those patterns are there for a reason, they are your system’s way of managing its experience, and they are, in essence, a brilliant mechanism — a learned behavior or pattern. And we may not like them, or want them there, but they served a purpose at one time. Maybe they no longer serve us and then we enter into the work of letting go. But that’s awfully challenging when we’re so fixated on changing them.
That seems contradictory, I know. But, let me explain. When we fixate on something, we hold it in place. We focus our attention on it, we get myopic, and we take away any space that thing might need to shift into something else. Because here’s the thing, and I know this is not a news flash, everything’s always changing, all the time. Even that which we’re pathologizing. And by fixating on it, we don’t let it change.
So, my curiosity these days is around the small ways that we can make space for those things we once pathologized. Give them a little bit of room in some way to do things differently, and see what happens. Be encouraging of their shift, instead of judgmental of the reasons they’re there.
Listen, as a control freak I am well aware that this is a daunting task. The idea of stepping back and letting something unfold as it will, as it needs to, with no say on my part, it’s frankly a bit difficult for me to grasp sometimes. Particularly as a massage therapist, I’m trained to think that I need to do something to a muscle or a joint to affect some change. But CranioSacral is teaching me that in fact sometimes the most powerful doing comes in simply listening, supporting and trusting that the body knows exactly what it needs to do to move out of a pattern. My most powerful doing is in being present with the entire process. And I have to tell you, that is no easy task.
So, I return again to this question of rigidity. Is my rigidity in thinking that I need to do something, always? Is it in not feeling safe enough to relinquish my illusion of control? Is my rigidity fundamentally in not trusting the very system that I am in contact with — be it my own or someone else’s?
A very dear friend of mine once said to me, “Don’t pathologize your neuroses.” Let me tell you that in and of itself is a practice. But here’s the thing. All of those things that we pathologize, all of those things that we make wrong, we learned them – either consciously or unconsciously. And as such, we can learn something else, some other way of being, of coping, of managing, of surviving, of existing and expressing. It is absolutely possible. After all, you did it once before.
Alicia Banister swims in the sea of bodyworkers in Boulder, CO. as a CranioSacral and Massage Therapist.She is not very good at sleeping late or cutting in a straight line. But, she is really good at regularly feeding her dog, being in the woods, cooking, laughing loudly and often and making mistakes. She regularly marvels at the human body and the breadth of its inherent healing capacity, as well as the fantastic beings that inhabit those bodies.She makes it a practice to let life humble her as often as possible. And to remember to have a sense of humor about it all. You can find her ramblings at reflectionsmassage.wordpress.com and reflectionsmassage.com