The Hand on the Wall
Touch is a rather mysterious sense that is at the heart of your connection to the world.
You can live well without sight, hearing or even a sense of smell. But a life without touch would be unthinkable.
The hands are what people usually associate with that sense but they're a fraction of the story. Air temperature, the food you consume, your proximity to other beings and indeed the way you move are all experiences processed through your kinaesthetic sense of touch. Even when there is no physical contact, such as when you've been touched by another person’s story, it's a visceral, felt experience.
A little conscious awareness of how we experience touch can go a long way. When you listen with your hand, particularly to things you cannot see, how do sensations within the rest of your body contribute to what you feel?
I've recorded another online lesson that uses touch to give you more freedom in your head, neck and shoulders.
It’s called ‘Hand on the Wall’ and you can find it on the online lessons page of my website - Click here to go there!
It takes place mostly in sitting with your hand pressed gently onto a wall. You explore how force can be expressed from your hand through to your feet via the torso. It’s rather like funnelling your weight through your skeleton. You have the opportunity to soften in your chest, neck and shoulders and the feeling when you stand is lovely.
To truly listen or feel with your hands requires a state of receptivity. This means that your hands, arms and shoulders are soft and fully engaged in the process of listening.
If your shoulders and arms are perpetually tight it's usually because they are involved in some form of unconscious background action. These actions are a response to the what we are thinking and feeling. It means that when you are doing something with your hands such as playing a guitar or climbing a ladder, your playing or climbing is being complicated by these other actions.
Feldenkrais used to call them ‘Parasitic Movements’. FM Alexander talked of a pattern of ‘mis-use’. It’s rather like someone lifting their head out of the water when they’re learning to swim. The background feeling motivating the unconscious lifting of the head is fear of drowning. It’s a parasitic action that interferes with their ability to effectively carry out the action of swimming.
Alexander recognised that there were often a series of habitual ‘parasitic actions’ that were unconsciously interfering with all our movements.
Actively listening for simplicity of movement through your whole body can have far reaching consequences precisely because so many of our actions are restricted by these unconscious reactive tensions. When you let them go you're free to listen more closely.
Tuning in can open doors to interesting places.
This online lesson – Hand on a Wall - uses a constraint. Having your hand on the wall whilst the rest of you moves can enable you to feel what is going on in a new way. For instance you may feel where one side of your arm was restricted but more importantly you can feel how the rest of your body is involved.
Gently unravelling your hands and arms can be deeply relaxing. Lying down on the floor during the rests is a lovely experience.
In the coming weeks we’ll be exploring this theme with the feet and legs as well. It’s actually a prelude to working with anti-gravity movements.
Refining the way you come up and down from the floor is a beautiful project. It is a life skill that will keep you feeling young.
To smoothly move from lying to standing requires a softness in your joints that can be discovered through deep listening. It’s a matter of spreading your weight evenly over the parts of your body that support you.
The lessons this term and the downloadable online lesson, ‘Hand on the Wall’ are opportunities to tune in to that felt sense of your body. They are an experience of deep touch that can bring a feeling of easy, connected movement.