I am a “wiggler”. It is not in my nature to be still.
Like most kids, I took the ability to move around for granted when I was young. My body was a “thing” to be used to achieve the goals I had set and I was pretty hard on myself when it didn’t live up to my expectations.
At age twenty I began to experience the stressors of repetitive motion injuries from being a musician as well as chronic tiredness from studying and working 2 part-time jobs. It seemed my body was beginning to “betray” me. I became exhausted and developed a “mysterious” auto-immune condition that left me barely able to function.
Around this time I heard a radio interview with a young man who had been paralyzed and “miraculously” regained use of his legs. He described how he used his imagination to feel as if he was moving one leg and then the other while lying in bed. And then one day he actually DID move one of his legs a slight amount! Motivated by that accomplishment, he continued imagining that he was walking in his mind day after day until he gradually found himself taking tiny steps with support and then, finally, walking on his own. This young man had discovered the amazing ability of using his mind to rejuvenate his body. By focusing on the joy of moving his body he began to create new neural pathways that eventually allowed him to regain movement in his legs.
Before this I had been feeling frustrated and helpless about my health, but this interview inspired me to focus on imagining myself feeling healthy again. I decided to be kinder and more patient with my body. Although I still rested most of the day, I began to visualize myself resuming the activities I enjoyed at school and with my friends. Within a week there was a definite shift in my energy and soon I had the energy to move around and was feeling much healthier.
What I know now that I did not know then, is that the brain is designed to use the input from the mind to continually create and direct the flow of energy in the body. Whether it’s conscious of it or not, my body responds to my “mind-moves” (an Eckhart Tolle phrase) and because of this I have a choice in every single moment of both how and where I move.
Over the years I’ve discovered that If my mind says “it’s too much effort to do that/go there” then my body responds with effortful action. And if my mind asks “This is going to be so fun and easy!” then my body responds by organizing itself into the most optimal community of relationships to support me moving in an effortless manner. It is this amazing capacity for neuroplasticity that allowed the paralyzed young man to overcome a seemingly insurmountable obstacle of severe nerve damage.
There’s a magical way that I use to demonstrate this with my students. Give this a try and experience the magic of your own mind-body relationship:
- Sit or lie down and get comfortable. Choose either your right or left leg to experiment with moving.
- Now, physically raise and lower that leg in your normal way. Pause and reflect on what you noticed. What word(s) describe your experience performing this movement? Where did you feel fluidity and resistance in your body? Was it “heavy”/”light”/”easy”/”challenging”, etc?
- Now, close your eyes.. Feel the support of the floor or chair underneath you. Take a few deep breaths and relax. Say to yourself “How can I raise and lower my leg with more ease and less tension?”
- VISUALIZE doing the movement VERY SLOWLY:
- IMAGINE your ENTIRE BODY SUPPORTING the simple movement of raising and lowering your leg and FEEL the quality of movement being easy and relaxed. STAY FOCUSED and BREATHE as you give your entire attention to the experience of moving your leg with more ease and less tension.
- REPEAT this visualization sequence of raising and lowering your leg 3 TIMES (this begins to create new neural pathways, even though you are not actually moving yet!).
- NOW TRY ACTUALLY MOVING THAT SAME LEG:
- Take another deep breath and say to yourself “How can I raise and lower my leg with more ease and less tension?
- Physically raise and lower that leg and notice how it feels compared to the first time you physically raised and lowered it.
- What word(s) describe how it felt to raise and lower your leg the second time? Was it “lighter”/”easier”/”more relaxed”? Notice where in your body that you feel the biggest differences between the first and second leg lifts.
- What do you think shifted in your mind and body relationship?