Tag Archives: antifragile

Falling into Winter

The fall caught me off guard. How about you?

The first time I really became aware of the seasonal shift was a few days ago when I noticed an familiar bird singing: a chickadee. I realized that I’d actually not heard a chickadee since I moved to Malden. Sketch of a black capped chickadeeSo I unfurled my Merlin Bird ID app, wondering who else was in town, and discovered that many of the birds I was listening to were quite different than the ones I’d heard last spring. House sparrows were still there, and Northern Cardinals and American Robins (English ones are different, y’all!) but now joined to the chorus were Blue Jays, Tufted Titmouse, Chipping Sparrows, White-breasted Nuthatch. Gone were Catbirds and Baltimore Orioles.

My neighbor and I chatted yesterday, as I went by on my morning walk with Boodie. He asked if I still walked three times a day in the middle of winter. I told him, yes, that’s why I had winter clothes, and we shared a laugh. But it made me think: how often do we give up moving because of bad weather? Stop going outside, and stay in controlled environments? Daily movement, whether you call it “exercise” or walking your dog or gardening, is essential for our health, in all senses. Winter, when flu begins to circulate, is exactly when we need to take even better care of our health, and yet that’s when many of us move less.

Movement is necessary, yet not sufficient. My neighbor walks regularly on the high school track. He’s rarely challenged by uneven pavement.

Yesterday on my walk, I tripped on the pavement and fell. No big deal: I fell well, got up and kept walking.

None of us can live forever in controlled environments. Electricity can fail. Shoelaces come untied and we trip over those. A tornado touches down (yes, even in Massachusetts). Pandemics arise.

Are you prepared for changing seasons? The changing seasons of your life, as well as of the earth?

How are you cultivating resiliency, and, better, anti-fragility? So that, whatever happens, you’re able not only to take care of yourself, but also others around you?

Today I’m sipping the first ginger tea of the season. Like to join me? Here’s my recipe, in another of my autumnal musings. (Scroll down to the bottom of the blog, and, if you like, send Finn Finn fond thoughts as you go.)

How Do You Define Strength?

Often we think of strength from the physical perspective. When I searched for stock photos showing “strength,” what came up were dozens of images of bulging muscles and effort.

We can certainly appreciate the skill required to evoke strength at an extraordinary level. Witness the remarkable weight-lifting of Taner Sagir.

Of course we all want physical strength. We want to be strong enough to lift our children easily, lift groceries, practice yoga, or garden. Some of us want to be strong enough to practice an instrument for three hours and then play a concert. Or to run a marathon.

Woman saws a tree branch

© International Feldenkrais® Federation Archive, R. Golden.

That was the kind of strength I was expecting to investigate during four days of advanced training last month at IOPS Academy (Ideal Organization & Profound Strength). But in his first talk our instructor, Dr. Jeff Haller, spoke of emotional strength.

Jeff described a client who’d experienced abuse as a child and has been living with its emotional weight for much of their life. That client is discovering a different way to inhabit their body, from the ground up, with clear contact of their feet, open chest, and unrestricted breath. The client can now feel the difference between this new pattern and the former. He’s gaining the tools to choose consciously between living in the past, with all its weight, and in the present with its relative ease, based on being aware of these patterns.

Group investigations that week allowed us to experience how we physically express fear. As they progressed, we were guided toward finding different responses—becoming pro-active, rather than reactive, assertive rather than cowering, calm rather than wary. In other words, Jeff invited us to discover emotional strength in ourselves, and observe its physical manifestations.

Above all, he invited us to be kind to ourselves.

I realized that I’ve held back from articulating publicly that there’s an emotional component to the Feldenkrais Method®. When a new client comes to talk about relieving physical pain, I’ve thought—oh, they’re not expecting to talk about the emotional side. So I’ve left it unstated. But when you discover limiting patterns of movement, you’ll inevitably discover related patterns of thinking and feeling.

In Body and Mature Behavior, Moshe Feldenkrais writes: “Every emotion. . . is associated and linked in the cortex with some muscular configuration and attitude.”

As you learn new choices, you learn new ways of thinking and feeling. Instead of being at the mercy of your past, you can choose what to keep and what to discard. You might literally feel more buoyant.

Strength is an evolving idea for me. A goal to move towards, sometimes approaching via the physical realm, sometimes the mental: two possible approaches to the same goal. I think human strength is synonymous with maturity. As we move through our lives, at each moment we have the choice between falling into old patterns or choosing the new. We can choose to relish our ability to thrive in uncertainty. As we uncover our inner strength, we can trust that we have the resources to respond without hesitation. We can aspire to anti-fragility.