July 5th, 2022
Rest assured: this is not going to be a physics class.
But I’d like to invite you to sense Newton’s third law of motion in your own body.
You’re probably sitting or standing as you’re reading this. So take a moment to feel your base of support. If you’re standing, your base of support is your feet. If you’re sitting, it will be mostly your pelvis.
Consider yourself object A. Object B would be dear old Mother Earth. For you to stay in place, these two objects must exert an equal force on each other in opposite directions. Your weight presses down toward the centre of the Earth, and Mother Earth (through your chair) exerts the same force upwards.
Which of these two forces are you more aware of, the one that pulls you down, or the one that pushes you up? The first is the sensation of your own weight, your heaviness, the restriction of gravity, the reason you can’t fly, but also the source of stability; the other is the gift of the upright position, the ability to stand tall, the bird’s-eye view of the highly positioned sensory receptors (eyes, ears, nose), and also the ease of movement.
Spiritual traditions have always taught us that the way we perceive the world creates our reality. Science is catching up with this fundamental truth and is realising the protagonistic role of the observer in creating reality. Intuitively we all know that the way we perceive reality really matters. Where I place my attention and what I choose to ignore gives rise to the world I live in.
If the downward force is more present in your self-image, you may feel well supported and grounded, and you may find it easy to stay in one place and be motionless. You may also find it difficult to get up and moving.
If the upward force is more accessible to you, you may be in constant movement, you may feel light, maybe volatile; you may lack grounding, be restless and may find it difficult to just sit and rest.
This may be a metaphorical interpretation of Newton’s law. You may find it far-fetched. But I actually mean it quite literally.
Moshe Feldenkrais said in one of his recorded lessons: “Everyone acts according to the image of himself that he created during his life”. And he was a scientist. Feldenkrais talked about self-image mainly in terms of the brain maps we have of our body parts. The whole psychological construction that we refer to as self-image was, for him, a by-product of these brain maps.
This self-image is created in early childhood; it is created in movement, and this movement takes place in the field of gravity, and always in relation to this omnipresent force. We learn to move voluntarily at the same time that we learn to feel ourselves and create that self-image. Its building blocks are always these two poles: stability and mobility, or the downward force and the upward force.
Stability depends on the pull of earth. Mobility builds on the push upwards that travels through our skeleton. We fall forward with each step, and each next step bounces us back up thanks to that upward force.
If this still sounds metaphorical to you, just stand for a moment and take an inner look at your perception of yourself. You can choose to sense and emphasise either one of these forces at will. You can feel heavy or light, stable or mobile, grounded or ready to float. You can interpret the sensations in your feet as your heavy weight pressing against the earth beneath you, or as a push from below that invites you to get moving.
You can sense each step you take as hard work of mobilising your dead weight, or as an impulse that bounces you into effortless, constant motion.
These alternative interpretations are part of your self-image, and you probably have a stronger tendency toward one or the other. But you can also choose either one at will. You can alternate these two perceptions and use the one that befits each moment. Once you are aware of the choice, you have the freedom to choose. You can be stable and mobile, grounded but ready to fly.
Should we thank Newton for this? Or Feldenkrais? I am grateful to the gift of awareness that allows me to know my choices and be free to choose.
Want to improve the skill of awareness and upgrade your self-image?
Commit to three minutes a day: three minutes of awareness of yourself in movement.
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