I’m enamored of the Olympics for one reason: humans are amazing. What we can do with our bodies is miraculous. For good or ill, the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics are a smorgasboard for the philanthropic (“human lovers”).
Watching the women’s ice skating short program, before Gracie Gold took her silver medal-winning turn, the announcers expressed concern as she swooped around the ice, warming up. I think it was Scott Hamilton (one of my all-time favorite skaters) who said this (in paraphrase):
“I’m worried for her. She needs to loosen up for a good performance. She’s wound pretty tightly right now…her body knows what it needs to do, she needs to not over-think this skate. She just needs to relax.”
There is good information here for all of us.
Heaven help the athlete who brings too much to mind while exerting themselves to the utmost…and heaven help the rest of us. When we are “going for the gold” in our lives, it definitely helps to train ourselves to think positively, but in the actual moment it’s crucial to relax and not think at ALL. Commentary doesn’t serve us. (And if you, like me, had quite enough of the announcers when watching the Opening Ceremonies, you know this is true! “Just stop talking and let me watch it” I kept yelling at the screen. Interestingly this could be a good mantra for my life.)
I’d rather have the body wisdom to just correct myself midstream, by instinct, than think “How am I going to…?” and then coming up with an intellectual answer that doesn’t correlate with what is actually happening. In asking the question, valuable time is already lost. Your body is already moving into the how. Best let it do what it needs to do.
I’m fascinated by the power our body has over our minds for a few reasons: personal experience and stuff I’ve been reading. A few weeks ago I spent nearly four days in the grip of flu, and during that time I realized my brain was not working. Tried as I might, i couldn’t think clearly, not for one second. It was as if my organs had a manual override button for my mind that I hitherto had not been made aware.
(Or, you know Doctor Who? When they have to jettison some rooms of the TARDIS if they want to switch into hyperdrive or something like that? Maybe that’s what happens in dire illness, or dire feats of strength: brain firings are considered nonessential.)
Along with it came a blessed quelling of scheming and worrying. I felt moribund, in the abject throes of despair at times, but behind that was no wretched attempts to improve myself, which is, I feel, is not only one of the great deceptions/maladies of our lives as Americans, but actually is a sin, if you consider sin to be a transgression of some sort upon yourself, as well as another.
One of my favorite authors, Fr. Richard Rohr, writes of the disservice that we in general (and Christians, in particular…he is a Franciscan priest) do to ourselves when our body is treated as a second-class citizen, in “The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of St. Francis“)
“There seems to be some bias against embodiment, against materiality, against physicality and you’d think if there was any religion in the world that would not think that way, you’d think it would be Christianity, ’cause Christianity is the only religion that believes God in Jesus became a body….became a human being.”
When the pressure is greatest, our minds do us the least service. In fact the best place for us to be is in our body, for that’s where our power and ability to be transformed – and to aid the transformation of others – truly reside.
Gerry Pyves wrote in his January 2014 article for Massage Today “The Psychotherapy of Massage: What Makes us Human?”
“So many bodyworkers I meet seem to just want to prod and poke and frantically “fix” the body; as if it is an enemy to be controlled. Do we really have to subjugate and control the body? Must we still follow these apparently touch phobic leaders of the massage profession (whether male or female) who seem so very frightened of simple nurturing touch?”
Before I give someone a session, we always talk a little (or a lot) beforehand. Talking things over is essential to establish trust and understanding, the “what” of the session. But the “how” is always figured out in the silence and beauty of the work: in the moment.
In our speech is guessing. There is no speech for when the body finally breaks through and surmounts, or lets go. Also, in our flesh, we can be present with one another. Physicality is best medicine, for most of us. We can talk all we like about getting better, but nothing really heals us until someone gives us a hug or holds our hand.
Or, gives us a massage that truly meets us where we are.
Our best moments – whether we’re an Olympic athlete or an average person just trying to figure it all out – could very well be when we don’t over-think things, and we just relax into what’s happening now…and now….and now.