Using Emotion to Strengthen Movement: Instincts as Power

January 7, 2012

grass in ice modified copyLet’s assume we are in a situation where there is no threat to our safety from people or animals.  Let’s also assume we are blessed to have a reasonable ability to walk and keep our balance.When we move about, we’re often on surfaces that cause the most minimal challenge to our balance and physical capacity.

If you are someone who has chronic problems with your body’s muscles or joints or pain issues, you will likely have a reduced capacity to move freely on some kinds of surfaces.  The pain or problem may be in a the feet, ankle, knee, hip, back, neck or even a shoulder. Or maybe you’ve had a brain injury and altered vision, and balance skills when you get on more challenging surfaces.

If you walk on challenging surfaces you will be familiar with a sense of your guard coming up, and you will feel yourself moving differently, and often cautiously.  You may feel emotions of fear or worry, or anxiety, or self protectiveness about hurting yourself or falling down.  The voice in your mind may reinforce the guarding by telling you, to keep being on guard that it’s necessary and prudent.

Just the same way we think of the gym as a necessary part of  building ourselves up…. walking challenges can be very helpful.  Read on to understand what I mean.  Part of the process is really fine tuning your challenges to your unique emotionally regulated comfort zone.

You want to find the boundary of feeling secure in your movements, and feeling a bit of anxiety.  Try being like a child exploring the edge of the water at a sandy beach.  Have you ever had a chance to run  in up to the ankles then zoom back out?  It may be so long ago that you don’t remember that it was your instinctive sense of safety that turned you automatically back to dry ground.  As a child you likely had a fluid comfortable body to run around the world in.

So now, it’s not the same.  You have the wisdom to avoid threats, and also ailments to safeguard.  But, ultimately, pain conditions and muscle and joints do better if you can keep moving.  Does the advice to keep moving only apply to staying well within your capacity?? I think not.

If you can, find kinds of surfaces to walk, or shuffle, or glide on like you once explored in your past.  For me, I grew up in cold, dreary and icy Michigan winters, walking daily a mile to elementary school. It was so much fun to find ice puddles to crack or totter across.  In the spring there would be large puddles of melt water on the grass in a park I crossed.  Unfortunately I once got my golashas stuck in the mucky grass and fell over into a sit down right in the deepest part. Definately a WHOOPS moment.

I often go to a lake near my home for walks all year.  Every winter I look forward to the lake having ice.  If I can, I skate, and other times I just walk around on the edge.   I stay within my knowledge of the water’s depth  usually not more that 2-3 feet deep. I know there’s no way I’ll die in the water. I also am careful to be on thick ice so I’m not breaking through.

Today the snow was blown off, the surface a mix of white and bubbles, clear like glass and slick ice.  The edges were thin and made lots of popping, cracking , and splitting sounds.  Just like being a kid again.  I slid my feet like cross county skiing, and wandered the edge.  Because it kept cracking but not breaking, I kept getting the instinctive drive to shriek and scuttle back to safety of the ground. But, overall it was a blast to play around with a manageable level of slick surface, beautiful ice patterns in a beautiful setting , and the feeling in my body that comes from strengthening capable movement in the face of emotional and physical challenge. It was more of a dance away from the danger feeling than a panic.

You can play with these ideas too, like walking on uneven ground and feeling for what the edges are of your guarded motion or fluid motion capacities.

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