The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory
About eight years ago I took a trip to Yosemite with my family. It was early spring-warm, and the snow was melting. One afternoon we picnicked on the valley floor and for the next few hours watched an unbelievable interplay of light and shadow. The sun moved in the sky, the temperatures shifted, the flow of the water falls changed, and the wind blew the water. The way the sun lit the saturated granite walls brought out black, pink, brown, grey and golden hues. There were drastic changes from minute to minute, yet our experience of time seemed to slow and almost suspend. We sat, curious to see what was going to happen next. Our senses so heightened, awake to every subtle shift and variation, the smells and sounds. The silence in the spaces between our conversations became a time to appreciate the show of the moment, instead of dead-air. We could’ve easily taken a snap-shot of any one of those magnificent moments and it would’ve been good enough to remember the whole day with. But, this would be a narrowing and constriction of the experience, to say that any one snap-shot would encapsulate the entire event that day.
Yet, it seems we live in a world that values constriction and narrowing. Culturally we have acquiesced to the idea that the fruits of our minds are more important than the sensations in our bodies. Embodiment of emotional and psychological stress is “normal” in today’s atmosphere. Our focus is on “doing” rather than “how am I doing [it]” or “how does it feel when I ___?” Instead of feeling, moving, breathing and quieting the mind to eliminate stress, our world is filled with instantaneous information, sound-bites, quantifiable outcomes, and data-accumulation posing as wisdom. Algorithms have been created to take the stress out of finding a mate. When we exercise we don’t have to tune-in and feel, because there is a computer to tell us how hard we’re efforting. (Whoa Nellie- isn’t that what the human nervous system and mind are for?) In fact, many have been taught to “push through” and ignore sensation while being told it would make us “tougher” to do so. We deny our own tactile experience by believing that we have to tune-out of sensation to meet our goals and then we’ll feel good. This constriction and narrowing creates a chain reaction, leading our stress hormones and fight/flight nervous systems to activate as though we’re fighting or running for our lives, yet we are barely breathing as we sit poorly at a desk or TV. Isn’t it a conundrum that we have created a world that seems to steer us wrong and works against living life in a more balanced and optimal way? It’s no wonder why many of us experience ramifications like chronic tension, pain, lack of sensation, anxiety, illness, injury, depression and burn-out. Even my grocery bag from Whole Foods tells me to “Eat Healthy” so I can “Do More” to “Hit Goals”! Is it not enough to just eat healthy to feel good??? How much “feeling good” have we overlooked and sacrificed in order to achieve our goals?
About a year ago I completed level 1 of the Franklin Method® teacher training. Since then, I’ve worked on integrating it’s principles into my life in holistic ways. There is one principle for which my appreciation has grown immensely. Ironically, it’s not unique to Franklin Method, but it has penetrated my reality to the core (no pun intended). It has changed how I think and teach- how I live in and move my body. It’s called the “Process Goal”, and it’s based on the fine art of noticing.
I had never even heard the term Process Goal before this training. The deepest I had ever explored the idea of Process Goal orientation (as opposed to Performance Goal) was when I would give my spiel to newbie Pilates clients. “Pilates is a discipline, akin to martial arts or dance or playing music. We never become so good that we stop practicing the basics- ever!” I would say. And sure enough, over time the proof (sans the pudding) would come from the process of practicing it religiously. The awareness and strength would grow… and finally, another Pilates devotee would be born (queue the singing angels- cigars and all). This philosophy seemed to work for business- yet never really felt quite complete.
It wasn’t until I allowed myself a year to refocus, sink-in and steep, to fit and feel myself into new and sometimes uncomfortable places the same way my breath finds new nooks and crannies to fill; that I’m beginning to realize how narrow and one dimensional that spiel was. I never talked about the “how and now”. For instance, how are you feeling right now? How are you sitting, standing, breathing? Do you have fun every day? Do you meet each moment with confidence and curiosity, or harsh judgment of yourself and others? Do you expect to feel pain when you move, or do you expect to feel absolute joy? Our thoughts, emotions, and expectations play a huge part in how we experience our bodies. Movement (and life) isn’t just about the doing; it’s about how we go about the doing. No matter what the doing is, the Franklin Method’s use of Process Goal (what I’ve come to call process-goaling) is about how I cultivate awareness in good sensations and thoughts during each and every moment that yields the most profound results. And by results I mean a better quality of life in the body and mind. Just like that day in Yosemite, I find myself looking at the same landscape, but through a different lens, and then a different one, and then a different one still. Process-goaling has gained me access to a new, more subtle and rich world. So, I guess it’s safe to say that over the last year I’ve gone from spiel to….. spelunking!
What I’ve noticed from noticing
Noticing my sensations in the moment with non-judgment has not only helped me to relax, but has given my body a voice. In this way my body has become the teacher and my mind the student. Noticing how I feel in the moment keeps me grounded in the present experience, rather than in what I’m thinking about, which may or may not have anything to do with the present experience at all. Noticing also gives me time and space to cultivate the sensations I want to have. In process-goaling the process is the goal- which has in it an innate sense of freedom. The tack I take is directed by my sensation and the quality of my experience, rather than by a goal or “snapshot”. It has enabled me to “un-do” some of the effects of the “doing” so I can focus on having more fun, working smarter not harder, and instead of ignoring or overriding my aches and pains, I let them inform me so I can tend to myself in a more meaningful way. I look forward to what comes next…
Want to Get Process Goaling?
- Practice Noticing– For one minute a day close your eyes and notice your sensations. Try to avoid “fixing” anything. Stay with the sensations of your breath moving in and out. Keep a journal about what you notice.
- Practice Curiosity– Become curious about your sensations. Become curious about how you would like to feel. Begin by posing a question to yourself, “How would it feel to be more ______?” For instance, how would it feel if I were more flexible, balanced, confident, energetic, etc.? Then move your body with that feeling you imagined. Now become curious about that…
- Practice Listening To Your Body– Sometimes the best workout is knowing when to rest. Sometimes the best way to get energized is to move and sweat. Trust your body, it will guide you. Let go of gym paradigms like “no pain no gain, mind over matter, or the ends justify the means”. I bet Machiavelli had a sore lower back and tight shoulders!
- Sometimes being in nature helps, a lot! (I hear Yosemite in the spring is nice!) The ocean is also another captivating place that helps us to sink into the moment and tune into self. As Joseph Campbell would say, “Follow your bliss!” Find an environment that speaks to you, where you feel electrically connected to it, and delight in practicing #1-3 above!
- Watch and learn from animals and babies. They have a lot to teach us about being in and sensing into the present, moving effortlessly, living/loving to play, sleeping, and other important things in life like food, water and touch.
Enjoy! I would love to hear about your experiences-
PS. Click the links below to watch two interesting and related stories from 60Minutes: