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What little thing can you change about your life today?

As someone who struggles with occasional dysthymia and fatigue, I think about this often. It’s all too easy to become trapped in habit, and forget that there is always choice. Sometimes it’s remarkable how doing something different can shake things up and cause change. Waking up earlier, doing five minutes of yoga first thing, skipping the glass of wine before bed, opening a book instead of watching another episode of TV. Moshe Feldenkrais used to sometimes brush his teeth left-handed. They’re all small, but little things accumulate.

In my blogroll today, though, I saw something a bit more radical: Stop Being a Wuss, a post about an e-book called The Flinch. The post describes taking a cold shower – the first homework assignment in the book – and learning from the sensations:

I know that I’m on the right track to doing the uncomfortable things that separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and the successful from the rest of us. I remember my reaction. I’m going to use the momentum from this cold shower, and I’m going to use that to lean into the flinch – the feeling we get right before we do something big. Apprehension. Panic. Fear. That uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty.

Rubenfeld Synergy is often about listening to the subtle messages of the body, about honoring them and learning to heed bodily wisdom. It is beautiful work, but at various times in the training, I remember thinking, “Come on, can we get out of this trancey, super-gentle, nurturing yin space for just a minute and do something??” Transformation can happen in many ways. Sometimes slow and blossoming is best, but sometimes, we need something to snap us out of it.

Ilana knew this. She incorporated humor into sessions, snapping people out of trances of fear and sadness with laughter. Used appropriately and with a feeling of safety, this can help people to wake up and take a clearer look at themselves.

Facing fears and discomfort directly is another pathway: shocking ourselves into full consciousness.

A popular formulation in our training became: Make a move, change a thought. Sometimes such a move is as subtle as brushing our teeth left-handed. Sometimes, we have to jump in the icy pool of truth.

I’m not a huge fan of the formulation, “stop being a wuss.” In our culture, I feel that many of us are pushed too hard, from childhood onward. I know I was damaged by messages that I was clumsy, slow, and dreamy. I was also smart, creative, and artistically talented, but it took a while to get those messages; the messages around physical prowess and conformity were so strong. I’ve rarely found an instance where telling someone to stop being a baby, or oh come on, I didn’t really hurt you, or get over it, was particularly useful; in fact, it’s almost always damaging. But I think there is a lot of value in doing what we’re afraid of, stepping out of our comfort zones, and harnessing the power of fear – when we’re ready to, and with loving support.

Starhawk, pagan foremother extraordinaire, said, “Where there is fear, there is power.” The trick is knowing whether the fear you’re feeling is something you should run away from – the fear that tells you the hungry tiger is on your tail – or run straight toward. Sometimes, fear – or the “flinch,” if you like – is the signal that tells us we’re on the right track, and about to do something that will change a thought – move us into greater possibility and freedom.

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