Wednesday, December 17, 2014


In the last section I brought up three points or lessons that my experience with physical balance showed me. The first was unconscious systems compensating for a compromised system. The second was conscious adjustments that can be made. Third was the concept of a 'new normal' or maybe better a 'fluid normal'.

I'd like to take a second to look at the definitions of conscious and unconscious before we continue. The number one definition of conscious that comes up in the dictionary is "to be aware of one's own existence, sensation, thoughts, surroundings, etc". Wow that's broad. So to me the first part of this is checking in with yourself to even be aware that those things exist. I've always firmly believed that before you can have meaningful action you first need intention but I don't see how you can even have intention without first checking in and identifying what even needs attention. The definition of unconscious then is "below the level of awareness, occurring below the level of conscious thought". Also very broad.

There are millions and millions of processes going on in your body every second that you don't consciously think about. Swallowing, breathing, digesting, sweating, focusing your eyes, growing your hair, regulating body heat, smelling, tasting, balance, and the fantastic amount of processes that go into each one of those. There are many more too. These processes we lump into a big messy category of being alive. An important part of it to is they are functions we just trust are going to happen and on some level take for granted. Thinking about all this I came upon a definition of unconscious as something that exists outside your sphere of direct influence. The key word for me here is "direct". I'll go into that more in a bit.

So what happens if one of these functions doesn't happen the way it is supposed to? Get cold?  Put on a sweater. Vision blurry? Get glasses. Losing you hearing? Get hearing aids. Also many of these functions can be regulated by medication. These are examples of direct influence.

If something we are calling direct exists something called indirect must too. To understand my concept of indirect influence I would like us to think of the body as a whole. We like to label systems and discreet parts of the body but anyone that has gone through physical therapy knows many systems work together. In my experience that is part of what physical therapy or any kind of body work does. It identifies parts of the body that are weak, injured, or otherwise need help and trains other systems in the body to compensate for the compromised system and also show us how the body might not be working as a whole.  

A few years ago Yoga was recommended to me as beneficial for the health challenges I was dealing with. In my own experience the jury is still out as to whether there is any direct benefit to my specific physical issues. What I have found to be a big benefit is an increased level of total body awareness. It has also increased my general level of physical conditioning. As I said I am fairly into cycling and was almost fanatical in my middle 20's. I was in fantastic physical shape (or so I thought) but what I found is I was conditioning very specific muscles of the body to do a very specific task. Unbalanced. I have also found some great mental and spiritual benefits to yoga that I will go in to later but for the sake of this section I want to continue to focus on physical systems. I've alluded that body is a whole and that whole is not just all the physical systems but also mental and spiritual so seeking a balance of the whole is key but I digress. The important thing here is that an increased body awareness and increased general conditioning improved physical balance. It also made me think about all parts involved in every movement.   

I don't intend this as an endorsement of yoga. I have found it extremely helpful as have many others. I know several other friends that didn't find the same benefit. There are plenty of ways to skin this proverbial cat. Yoga is working for me. The goal is learning to listen to your body and mind.
Our expectation of reality is shaped by experience. Both direct and indirect systems learn by detecting patterns of behavior. We know a pot on the stove with flame under it is probably hot because at some point we touched a pot with flame under it and it hurt. This formula goes for almost everything we do. We are not born fully formed. I'd actually argue that there is no such thing as fully formed. This again gets at this idea that there is this place when we've attained full personhood and no more growth is needed. I think we all know instinctively that this is not true but this unattainable goal of the perfect adult person exists. It is almost the stuff of myth. The problem for me with this idea is the fact that there is small window of what is commonly seen as "normal" in a given group. This is obviously the shared fault of a variety of sources which could be the subject of a whole other book so I won't spend time on it here. What is important is this "normal" cannot be attained and I'd argue does not even exist. We have this myth of getting closer and closer but as the paradox states, if we continually half our distance to something we never get there.  It think this only stirs up feelings of inadequacy and failure.  This is where I came upon the personal notion of the 'fluid normal'. In the next post I will go into that in greater detail as I need an aspirin at this point.           

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