(originally written Nov 2016)

How Much Do You Push Yourself?

Man pretending to hold a big boulder
Do you feel like you’re working too hard?

Recently, one of my Feldenkrais® students shared how she’s been applying principles from my class to other areas of her life. Specifically, she’s taken the idea of staying within a comfortable, easy range instead of pushing to the limit beyond movement.

In her daily life, she began to notice many ways she pushed herself too far, just as she often does during movement class. She over-books her calendar, takes on more responsibility in her friendships that she can reasonably manage, and tends to eat to the limit of being a little over-full.

In this culture, there’s an ever-present drive to do MORE—and to do it bigger and faster. We are compelled to do not only what’s needed, but to go above and beyond, even if we’re tired, uncomfortable or in pain.

The conversation with my student got me thinking about the places where I push myself beyond my range of ease. Surprisingly, one area I do this is giving private Feldenkrais® sessions.

Clients usually come to me desperate for relief from pain or injury. The stakes feel high: they’re paying me and want their pain gone now! Instead of staying present and seeing what happens, I can get caught up in trying to make things happen. No longer am I—my attention, awareness, support and skill—inherently valuable. Instead my focus becomes what I can do or produce. If a clear positive outcome doesn’t happen by the end of the session, I fear I haven’t provided enough value.

Giving Yourself the Time and Space to Unwind

Diver below the surface
Looking below the surface helps release accumulated stress

Many of us spend our days go-go-going, often to the neglect of our bodies, emotions and other needs. Stress and tension accumulate, never quite getting the full attention needed to let them go. It’s only when we slow down and listen that we become aware of the depth of what’s going on below the surface. When we take the time to acknowledge what we find—thoughts, feelings, tension, fatigue, memories, etc.—we create space for the process of unwinding.

Like many areas in life, this kind of awareness is key in Feldenkrais® work. It’s not about doing; it’s the paying attention and perceiving that generate real shifts. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed.” Ultimately, the most powerful moments of change and growth come from being rather than the doing.

Symbolic inner value
You are valuable just as you are

The reality is that you’re completely valuable just as you are. While you know this intellectually, other parts of you may have your worth tangled up with what you do (work, accomplishments, exercise, etc.). At some level, a part of you may believe if you take a break from doing, or even do less, you’re less valuable.

What if every part of you trusted that you’re inherently valuable without doing anything? This is the question I have to ask myself when I tie my own value with giving clients their money’s worth. My experience has been that when I let go of forcing something to happen, and instead just wait for things to unfold in their own time, that’s when my clients have meaningful shifts.

But in order to hold a space of present-moment awareness for my clients, I need to hold it for myself. This isn’t always easy. Fear, resistance, judgement, distraction and a host of other things propel me into trying to manufacture a particular outcome.

Woman resting in field
How would it feel to Do Less?

Want to Be More and Do Less?

So the question I’ll be asking myself this month is: Am I willing to just be present and aware without needing to do anything?

I invite you to ask yourself this question as well and see what happens. And if you find your answer is “no,” then you might ask yourself, “Am I willing to consider being willing to be aware?” or “Am I willing to be curious about my lack of willingness?”

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Feldenkrais® is a service mark of the Feldenkrais Guild of North America