Wishing, Attending, and Non-Doing

Posted by – November 03, 2015
Categories: Bodywork & Somatics Health & Healing New Release

Exercise adapted from NeurodynamicsNeurodynamics by Theodore Dimon

Our muscles work automatically as part of a total system, and we won’t bring about an improved functioning of this total system by working with parts, but only by thinking about the whole. We’ve got to get away from the idea that our objective is to correct specific problems; we are working with a system designed to work on its own, and if we try to do anything to correct the system, this can’t happen. We also can’t help matters by trying to relax or adjust specific parts of the body because we don’t really know what’s wrong and what to do about it. We have to be patient and, as a starting point, stay out of our own way.

Now of course this sounds simple enough, but when it comes to this subject, even people who are otherwise quite disciplined find it difficult to stay on track and end up thinking about what they are worried about, not what they’ve decided to think about. When we approach the problem in this way, we are thinking negatively, and we’ve got to find a way to think positively and constructively, to talk nicely to ourselves, to manage our emotions. We’ve got to learn to do for ourselves what a teacher does: stay on track, stay focused, take our time, and stay constructive.

One way to approach directing your minds constructively is to start the process by being aware of your surroundings. Don’t direct, don’t worry about your “use”; just lie down and look at the ceiling, the colors, the details. This may seem simple and basic, but in fact, few of us are able to be aware of our surroundings while we pay attention to ourselves; the moment we think about ourselves, we start to feel what is happening or lose ourselves in a train of thought, and both of these things are forms of inattention, forms of worrying and holding and interfering with ourselves. In order to think constructively about ourselves, we must first and foremost be aware of what is around us.

When you have given yourself some time to explore this, see if you can add kinesthetic awareness to the equation without losing awareness of your surroundings. While looking at the ceiling, for instance, can you be aware of the contact of your back on the floor? Being kinesthetically aware in this way does not require that you stop being aware of your surroundings. If being aware of your back takes you away from seeing the ceiling, then stop for a moment and go back to just looking at the ceiling, and then, without becoming too worried or concerned about it, simply add your awareness of your back to the mix. Being aware of yourself and what is around you at the same time is sometimes referred to as an “expanded field of awareness,” and it is the kind of awareness that this process demands.

Now obviously, just lying there and being aware of your back isn’t going to make a huge difference—or rather, it might and it might not. But even if we do not get any results, we have to begin the process of attending to ourselves in this way because, even if it doesn’t produce results, it is constructive and organized. We all start with the idea that we’ve got to feel what our muscles are doing, or work on particular problems, and we’ve got to be clear that that isn’t our job. We’ve got to organize our awareness in such a way that we aren’t focused on what we think is wrong but on the organization of the whole. If, for instance, you simply notice the parts of the body that are bearing weight—the back of the head, the shoulder blades, the back of the pelvis, the feet, and the arms—while still maintaining awareness of your surroundings, you’ll find that you’re organizing your attention in a way that actually corresponds to the PNR (postural neuromuscular reflex) system. Notice that you’ve also been thinking constructively because you haven’t begun to worry or to think about what is bothering you, or what you feel should be changed; you’re simply being aware without judgment. You’re also being aware in a structured way that doesn’t focus on specific parts of the body but on the whole. Nothing may happen, you may not feel anything happening, but you’re being constructive and kind to yourself, and that, again, is what you want.

Now if you’ve gotten this far and feel you’re ready for the next step, you can add wishing to the equation. Obviously when we lie down, we want to be aware, but we also want to ask for certain things to happen and to generate energy for things to happen. While noticing that your head is resting on the books and your back on the floor, see to it that you’re not stiffening your neck or arching your back so that your head can go away from your trunk and your back can lengthen and widen. You are no longer simply being aware but actually wishing for things to happen—for the neck muscles to release, for the head to go out of the back, for the back to lengthen and widen, and for the knees to release away from the hips. You are not trying to make these things happen, but you do want changes to occur. And if you’re doing this while remaining aware of your surroundings and sticking to this general framework, you’re doing very well, because now you’re attentive and aware of yourself and, in addition, you’re directing in an organized, constructive way, and if you stick to this process, things will start to happen.

If you engage in this process, at some point things will start to change. You may find that you were holding in your inner thighs and are now able to let them go, or you may have been arching your back or holding your ribs and can now allow the back to widen and the ribs to let go. When this happens, parts of the body will move, and when parts of the body move, this will draw your focus; you will feel the changes happening, and inevitably you will want to help. There is nothing bad about this—in fact, it is to be expected. But when it happens, you’ve got to see to it, first, that you don’t become too distracted and instead continue to be aware of your surroundings. And you’ve also got to see to it that you leave things alone. In other words, the process of directing will tend to produce changes, which in turn will tempt you to “do” the directions; your job is to make sure you don’t do them and get out of the way by continuing to notice your surroundings, to wish the directions, and to leave yourself alone.

To summarize, we have to:
a. Be aware of what is around us and maintain this attention.
b. Be aware of key body parts and think, or wish, for what we want.
c. Leave things alone as changes begin to happen.
d. Stick to this process over a period of time without worrying about results.

And when you get distracted or lost in thought—and you will get distracted and lost in thought—this means that you are no longer thinking constructively. At that point you have to come back to the process without worrying about results and without becoming distracted, and by sticking to the structure you’ve given yourself. So we’ve got to maintain awareness by noticing if we lose attention to our surroundings. And when we are doing this and things begin to happen—and sooner or later things will start to happen—we have to leave things alone so that we don’t interfere and allow whatever needs to happen to happen by itself.

Adapted from Neurodynamics: The Art of Mindfulness in Action by Theodore Dimon. © 2015, North Atlantic Books.

Tags: Theodore Dimon
About the Author

Bevin is the associate comms director at North Atlantic Books.