As a writer, it’s almost always a good idea to sit with a draft and revise it after a pause, a night’s rest or even a much, much longer break! The opportunity to look at the words from a fresh point of view exposes the glaring errors and holes that need more detail.
With movement, it’s common to try to improve something without a pause or rest. I remember once while learning to sailboard, I fell off my board hundreds of times one afternoon without stopping to assess what I was doing to lose my balance. Boy, was I sore and did I feel stupid. I managed to learn in spite of my stubborn strategy of “just try harder!” Even though Jane Fonda retracted her statement of “No pain, No gain,” some people continue to follow this belief for improvement. I continue to hear of a similar training mindset used by some college coaches where athletes are pushed to train with little rest between seasons or competitions. Athletes who overtrain and push too hard tend to have more injuries and also get sick from a stressed and fatigued immune system. Without rest, the body cannot repair and revitalize itself fully.
On another level, the absence of rest also means a lack of time for reflection and learning. If there is no time given to feel, sense and reflect over an experience, a person isn’t given a space to make a clear comparison between “this position” and “that position.” I know today if I had taken a break during my sailboard introductory experience many years ago, I would have learned how to balance and sail much quicker and with less effort. One of my clients recently told me, If I ever get stuck with my crossword puzzle, I’ve learned to stop and take a fifteen minute break. When I come back to the ‘stuck’ question, I almost always immediately answer the question correctly!
She reminded me of how a good wildlife tracker will sit with another tracker and question each other on the details of what they are seeing in a track. They will look at one track and compare it to other tracks of its size to similar and different species they’ve seen. Sometimes, like my client with the crossword puzzle, they will walk away from the track, take a break and come back to get a fresh look at it.
The comparison creates a greater appreciation for where these tracks fit into the larger scheme of all tracks of all the species they have learned. This creates an internal mapping system to identify from these unique patterns and details. Then, this pattern is clearly separated from those that are similar but may have been previously confused with other patterns. This makes learning and memory recall clear.
Our brains work on these problems of pattern identification. If given the right amount of inquiry and rest, we can make sense of how to organize sensation information for easier movement. In a Feldenkrais lesson, a student senses what feels good, smooth and easy and compares this to movements that feel rough, jerky and effortful. We tend to prefer what is easier and feels better, no?
With movement issues, skillful inquiry about one’s movement (comparing the right side with the left, comparing one movement from another) stimulates a person to explore something new and different, better from what he or she has done before! After rest from this exploration, a mysterious process happens. The intelligence of the body, along with the person’s desire to move in an easier way creates a new, more harmonious pattern of graceful movement and healing.
The body (and mind) recognizes: This is easier. This feels better. I like this. I want this. The result is learning to move better as well as healing that lasts a long time.
Quality rest and reflection is the avenue for deeper healing and improved organization of movement. I’ll have more on this topic to come. Let me know if this explanation of conscious rest rings true for your experience of learning. Perhaps you have a story of “healing rest” to share.
©Annie Thoe, GCFP; www.sensingvitality.com 2012 - words on Feldenkrais, Healing and Nature