This is my favorite time of the year. For me, the beginning of the fall semester feels like what January 1st must feel like for everyone else: the New Year. I love rituals and in addition to layering up for sweater-season, cooking cold weather meals, and escaping the city to get into nature, one of my favorite fall semester rituals is setting goals.
I encourage my students to chart out how they can be mindful to create a practice for themselves to achieve their goals. It may take a few drafts, or a conversation with a friend or teacher to reshape them into tangible and actionable goals. For example, someone might write, "I want to have good posture." This seems like a tangible goal at first, but let's take a closer look. Posture usually denotes something that is fixed so let's swap out posture for alignment because it's something that is more fluid and dynamic. This is a concept in Movement and Dance studies called dynamic alignment that is more focused on supporting the body to move efficiently and with economy of effort.
"...dynamic alignment responds to the body’s continual change of shape with ongoing adjustments that keep directing forces in the body to the support of the skeletal system." Klein/Mahler
A little reworking of the draft for this goal might read: "I want to learn about and develop awareness of my alignment habits."
- IDENTIFY: After our lesson exploring dynamic alignment, identify what habits are not serving you (over-arching lower back, sitting into one hip, locking knees, tucking tailbone under, etc) and why they're not serving you.
- INHIBIT: Check in with yourself multiple times a day and jot down when you caught yourself locking your knees, sitting into one hip, etc and write down what the circumstances were. Note when these habits creep in: is it when you’re tired, tense, stressed, scared, etc.?
- REPLACE: If you locked your knees, soften them, shift your weight so you feel your weight more evenly distributed instead of sitting into one hip. Let the muscles in your lower back release so your pelvis isn't tilting so extremely. Notice how this makes you feel.
- PRACTICE: This is the hard part. It requires mindfulness, awareness, and self-care. Why? Because you'll veritably slap your own wrist when you catch yourself doing the "wrong" thing. It's not wrong, it's just not serving you, so let it go. But also consider that in that situation you catch yourself locking your knees or clenching your jaw it very well may be serving you. These habits often develop out of necessity as your survival instincts. Maybe when that old habit crept back in it was because it was serving you to feel safe or protected. I use locking my knees as an example because I had surgery on them when I was young and always locked them after that in a protective way. Somehow that tension felt like I was in control of them, even though later I learned how much it threw my alignment and breathing off, and made me feel disconnected from the lower half of my body.
In class this week we discussed how we learn/replace habits. Here's a recap:
Unconscious Incompetence = I don't know that I'm locking my knees.
Conscious Incompetence = I'm aware that I'm locking my knees.
Conscious Competence = I'm aware that I'm softening my knees and replacing the habit.
Unconscious Incompetence = More often than not I'm standing with my knees softened and I don't have to think about it anymore. It's second nature. I've replaced the habit.
This looks a lot simpler than it is. It's a process and it takes so much practice to get to the place where you're not having to focus so hard on it anymore. Some days will be easier than others. Remember that it's not about mastery, it's about growth.
Those are my thoughts for today. Start checking in and reflecting. See what is serving you and what isn't. If it isn’t serving you, can you replace it with something that is serving you? You'll be surprised how many of our habits have been inhibiting our expressive potential.
P.S. From one knee-locker to another, be kind to yourself. Remember my constant refrain? It’s a process. It’s a process. It’s a process. You are human, 100%.
This reminds me:
Everlane launched a campaign called The 100% Human Collection where they donated $5 for every purchase, and sold out their collection, raising over $150K for the ACLU. They've restocked their collection and are doing the same $5 donation for every purchase to support Equality Now. This is not a sponsored web affiliation in any way, I just love Everlane's transparency about pricing, their products, and this campaign's mission:
"It’s true: We don’t always agree. Different politics. Different priorities. But it doesn’t mean we have to be divided. This year, let’s celebrate being 100% human," reads the collection's mission statement. "We think two things matter most now—protecting those rights and remembering that we are more the same than we are different."