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Body Consciousness and Posture

the Emergence Explorer

Questions for the Week of November 13, 2006

Emergence Character Type Babies 9-AI-2

This Week's Questions

[posed by Jen F.]
  • Do injuries involving body image affect posture?
  • Can visualizing a supported body help us to achieve good posture?
  • Can using Emergence increase our bodies' need for support and balance consciously?

Do you know?

[Question 1] Can using Emergence increase our awareness of our how our bodies need support and balance while standing / walking / moving?
[Answer] Actually, this question hits me personally. Why? Because about three years ago, I faced this very question when I agreed to climb a mile high mountain up near Canada. At the time, I was almost 57. And since I was climbing with five seriously younger guys (20's and 30's), I committed to do what I knew I would need to do to survive this climb; I committed to eleven weeks of daily training.

As always, my primary commitment was to learn from my experience. Mainly, I wanted to learn how I could better my ability to connect to younger men in what would certainly be a physically demanding situation. As past of this training then, I committed to do twenty two smaller climbs, and within a week, I knew something was seriously wrong. My lower calf muscles on both my legs were cramping badly.

Right away, I had some clues. My legs hurt climbing up and not down. And both legs hurt, not just one, making this a bilateral injury rather than a local injury.

Long story short, using emergence, I discovered that much to my surprise, I had never finished learning to walk. Literally. In other words, at 56 years old, I still walked more like a baby just learning to walk than like a normal adult.

To picture this, picture what a baby does when you go to put them down to walk. They reach for the floor with their toes. Which is exactly what I had been doing for almost 56 years. I walked on my tip toes. In fact, I literally had walked like this all my life, reaching for the floor with each and every step I took.

This meant I walked toe to heel instead of heal to toe. Which over time, made my calf muscles shorten. They had, in fact, become significantly shorter than normal. Which was fine when I was walking on flat ground, or down hill, but hell when I tried to do any extended uphill climbs.

So here was my first problem. My calf muscles on both my legs were shorter than normal, which made it difficult for me to climb uphill for any extended periods of time.

Then there was a second problem. Climbing over rough terrain requires you can look to the side while moving forward. Ever try doing this? Try it. Try turning your head to the sides while walking forward. It's not easy. And it kills your sense of balance.

This was my second problem then, and there was also a third problem; the way I stepped with my right foot. What I'm saying is, I found, as I explored my body, that I felt an inhibition with regard to putting my right foot down. Moreover, I felt this only with my right foot, not with my left. Weird, huh?

In this case then, the problem was not bilateral, which meant that at some point, I got a BLock with regard to stepping with my right foot.

This is where I started then, with three problems. Problem one, [1] my calf muscles hurt like heel if I made any extended uphill climbs. Not good if you're about to climb a mile high mountain. Problem two, [2] I needed to work on my sense of balance, especially when walking forward while looking to the side. And problem three, [3] I felt a significant difference in how confidently I set my feet down; I felt fine with my left foot, but inhibited with my right.

Now let's use what I've just told you to look at your question. Can using Emergence increase our bodies' need for support and balance when standing / walking / moving? Jen, isn't it odd that the three things you've asked about are the three things I had trouble with?

Okay. So what did I do and did emergence help?

With problem one [1], I used emergence to reclaim my ability to walk normally, starting with my becoming able to picture what it is like to walk normally. Especially up stairs.

At first, doing this consciously was a killer. I couldn't stop walking on my toes without using a super human amount of will and concentration. Eventually, though, I had an "aha" when I saw a parent putting a year old baby down and noticed that the baby reached with his toes so as to gauge the distance to the ground.

When I saw this, I realized that, like all human babies, I had once walked toe heal. And for some reason, I just had never learned to how to walk past this point. Three years later and I still love learning to walk. And still find things to discover about consciously walking.

How about problem two?

With problem two [2], I worked for the whole eleven weeks both on a tread mill and in actual climbs, learning to move forward while turning my head to both the left and to the right. At first, turing to the side made me lose my balance every time. Gradually, though, I came to love doing this, which means I must have had an emergence. The proof? I came to see the beauty in doing something normally unbalancing for humans; walking forward while looking to the left and to the right. Three years later, I still love doing it. My second "aha."

Finally, with problem three [3], I definitely had a BLock. Thus, I used emergence to find the scene in which my ability to picture setting my right foot down confidently became blocked. What event had been blocking it? At eight years old, I had stepped on a rusty nail, which led to me having to get a tetanus shot which scared the crap out of me.

Now it's three years later. So how have I done?

Because I used emergence to address these three problems, today I walk almost normally for the first time in my life; meaning, I can walk heel to toe, even up stairs. More important, I can do this with little to no effort.

I can also easily picture myself walking now, and find I love picturing myself and others walking in my head.

I also still get a kick out of being able to walk forward and turn my head to the side and not fall over. This was an unexpected emergence as I do not saw this as an injury. Only a normal human limit which I made some inroads to.

Finally, I no longer cringe when I think of setting my right foot down, let alone that I might step on a nail. Healing this block has resulted in my walking with noticeably more confidence, the direct result of my having healed my reluctance to fully commit to putting my right foot down. This, in fact, has actually affected me to the point wherein a difference in my leg lengths which had been there all my life is now pretty much gone.

So to answer your question, can Emergence increase mindfulness of our bodies' need for support and balance in standing / walking / and moving?

My answer? A resounding, yes.

[Question 2] How conscious are we when we make harmful movements and postures in our everyday life?
If my previous story is an indication, not very conscious. In fact, I doubt most of us have even a casual sense of our own body movements and posture.

Keep in mind, though, that this stems from the fact that no one goes though life without acquiring blocks which inhibit or block our ability to see ourselves, including our ability to see our posture and how we move. Which then tells us how much we all could benefit from using emergence to discover the blocks in our ability to stand, walk, and balance.

[Question 3] What is an example of a harmful or painful posture, and a possible way in which Emergence could promote healthy support and balance?
Cross your legs while sitting down. Can you feel how this cork screws up your lower back? Most people do not notice this tightness. This means they can sit cross legged to the point of hurting themselves and not even realize it.

How would emergence help? By getting people to be more aware of when they are in these kinds of body positions. As well becoming more aware of the movements we make which can lead to and away from these kinds of body positions.

What I'm saying is, the only way people can be in harmful, painful body positions is if they have lost both visual and physical access to what being in these positions feels like. For instance, most people, when sitting cross legged, do not feel the strain this position creates on their back muscles. Why? Because they have blocks in and around consciously experiencing these muscles.

These blocks will prevent them from feeling what it is like when they are in these positions. They will also prevent these folks from feeling the movements which lead to and away from these body positions.

So am I saying no one should sit cross legged? No, I am not saying this. However, most people are not capable of sitting this way comfortably. Why? Because for most people, being in this position requires them to stretch certain muscles beyond normal. Doing this unconsciously will then lead to strain, pain, and reliving injury.

What to learn how to begin healing these injuries? Spend some time watching how cats sit, lay, stand, and walk. As is obvious, cats are very conscious with regard to body postures and movements. Watch how they move, and you'll get great hints as to where you need to get more conscious.

[Question 4] Do injuries involving our body image affect our posture?
Wow, what a good question. And an important question to address, I'm sure. The short answer? All injuries affect our posture, regardless of what we might see as the primary focus of an injury (e.g. steeping on a rusty nail). Moreover, all posture affects our psyche, regardless of the out there in the physical world reality.

For instance, say you got injured at age six by a teacher who shamed you. Here, we might see the primary focus of the injury as emotional; the feelings of shame. In all likelihood though, if this did happen to you, whenever you felt shame, you would feel strong urges to look down. Why? Because looking down is the primary physical posture in which we feel shame.

In addition, this physical to psychological connection would be bidirectional. What I mean is, while feeling shame would generate urges to look down, at the same time, looking down would generate urges to feel shame. Moreover, these feelings of shame would occur regardless of whether or not you were initially feeling shame in the moment before. (Note: no surprise, this is the basis for NLP.)

Now say you were to be confronted by someone who told you that you had just done something wrong. In all likelihood, you would respond to your inner programming by looking down.

So would you look ashamed? Absolutely.

And would this shame affect the outcome of this exchange. Yes, it would.

And over time, would this begin to play out as bad posture? It certainly would.

My first point is, body image and posture are very interrelated. How? By the physical and psychological aspects of body posture and body image.

A second example, then, would be, say you fumbled a ball in a football game, which then cost your team the win. Say you also felt fat as you began this game. In truth, there is no way to separate the effects of these two experiences. Why? Because when an athlete feels fat, this sense of body image affects their confidence. And feeling less confident affects their posture. So much so, in fact, that they will be significantly more likely to make a mistake, including that they might fumble a ball.

The second point then is that our experiences of body image and posture are actually bidirectional, and in fact, the mind and the body are really the same thing, just referred to in different ways.

What I mean is, your mind is your body. And your body is your mind. Thus, if you address these two things as two separate but interrelated things, then you see that what you heal in one heals equally the other. And if you see the literal truth; that these two things are really just two perspectives from which our minds try to picture these parts of ourselves, then it is logically impossible that both aspects won't be equally affected.

So, anything which affects the mind will equally affect peoples' posture. And anything which affects peoples' posture will equally affect their mind. And since body image occurs in the mind, and posture in the body, they are both the same thing just referred to as two separate things.

And to answer your question, do injuries involving our body image affect our posture? The answer is, yes.

[Question 5] Can visualizing a supported body help us to achieve good posture?
Your question reminded me of this very experience. In it, someone taught me a bit about Alexander Technique, the part wherein they teach you to imagine that a string is tied to your head and is lifting your head up off your spine. Now if you try this, you'll find, even doing this for but a few minutes can create a really good feeling. Very energizing. Very uplifting. Literally.

Then there is meditation. In meditation, they teach you to sit upright with good posture. At the same time, they teach you to see yourself sitting upright with good posture. This leads to a holistic experience wherein visualizing what you're doing and doing it occurs simultaneously. More to the point, this "duality that is a oneness" also leads to better posture.

As in the previous answer then, seeing one's posture in the mind and purposely choosing one's posture are only separate acts in our logical minds. In reality, they are simply two ways we can visually and logically refer to the very same experience.

Thus, to answer your question, yes, visualizing a supported body help us to achieve good posture.

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