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How I Eliminated Chronic Pain and Began Teaching The Feldenkrais Method® of Somatic Re-education

Maria Connolly teaching Awareness Through Movement® from The Feldenkrais Method®Six years ago, before I decided to sign up for The Feldenkrais Method®, a 4-year intense course in Eugene, Oregon, I often suffered from lower back pain. It seemed as if it would come up all of a sudden with no warning and no clue as to how it happened. At times, I would have to clear my schedule because the pain was so intense and debilitating. Perhaps many of you with high stress jobs where you sit in front of the computer all day can relate to having intense back pain for no apparent reason.

During the training, I learned to sense into myself more accurately and deliberately. The daily practice of body awareness through movement was a delightful discovery, an opportunity to know myself through my body in motion. Feldenkrais has enhanced the perception of both how I move and why I move. I loved it so much that the student has become the teacher. That’s me in the above photo teaching some of my clients an Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) lesson.

What is The Feldenkrais Method®?

I realize that many haven’t heard of this method, so let me give you a little background. It was developed by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, an Israeli physicist, engineer, judo master, soccer player and gymnast. After a knee injury, he began to pay attention to his own movements. Opting out of surgery, he turned to his knowledge of physics and using his own body as a research subject. Feldenkrais created a means of learning to move beyond habitual patterns of movement.

He believed that the central nervous system plays a key role in a person’s comfort, so he focused on encouraging awareness of the skeleton, muscles, and joints. This new awareness allows each body part to participate more fully in every action so that no one part is stressed more than another.

The skeleton is able to provide its intended support so the muscles feel more relaxed. This leads naturally to a decrease in tension and an expanded range of motion and flexibility. This new awareness helps a person understand their customary negative patterns of posture and movement and learn to create more functional ones.

He developed his discovery into a program called The Feldenkrais Method®. It allowed him to increase efficiency and range of movement, reduce stress, improve posture and flexibility, function and self-image with greater comfort and ease. After helping himself, he went on to help many others experience that same relief. Is that something you’d like?

How can you learn The Feldenkrais Method®? There are two ways of learning this technique:

Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) lessons. Generally these are group lessons. In a non-judgmental learning environment, the Feldenkrais teacher verbally guides the students in gentle and easy movement sequences. Students are supported in accepting themselves and their bodies by moving only within their ranges of ease and comfort. The emphasis is on curiosity, discovery and exploration, attending to the quality of movement, and especially observing one’s own internal process while performing the movement.  The above photo illustrates one of these lessons.

Functional Integration® (FI). This is done in individual, hands-on lessons.  The client lies fully clothed on a low table while the teacher uses gentle touch to explore ways that she can move more comfortably. The lessons are tailored to the individual and will be different each time. The quality of presence and touch in an FI lesson reassures the nervous system and can help restore inner balance.

Are you interested in exploring how this easy-on-the-body method can bring lasting pain relief and increased personal confidence? If you live near Ashland, Oregon, please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can work out lessons that help you become more aware of movements that support you as a person.  If you know someone who could benefit from this, please refer them to me so they can benefit, too.

Focus on Competence Not Perfection when Striving for Excellence

Focus on competence to achieve excellence in business and life skills.

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” ~ Dr. Harriet Braiker

Somehow, many of us have grabbed onto the idea that if we can’t do it perfectly, then there’s no sense in even trying. Where did we get the idea that never failing is good? This thinking robs us of the feeling of satisfaction and self-respect when overcoming obstacles and accomplishing our goals.

Perfection is like a digital clock. Every minute the numbers display the time. It’s either on or off. Those are the only two choices. It’s very rigid thinking. If you achieve your goal in just the right way, you’re a success. If your work doesn’t measure up perfectly, you feel like a failure.

However, competence is like an analog clock with its minute and hour hands continually changing to adjust to each moment in time. You have a goal and you know that each step brings you closer to where you need to be. And along the way, you allow yourself the freedom to discover that your original goal may not be what you need or want after all.

When you focus on being perfect, you’re less likely to allow for mistakes. Mistakes are necessary in the learning process to achieve competence in any field. To understand competency more fully, let’s break it down into its five stages.

The five stages of competence are:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence – Unaware
  2. Conscious Incompetence – Novice
  3. Conscious Competence – Technician
  4. Unconscious Competence – Artist
  5. Reflective Competence – Master

To illustrate these stages of competency, let’s think about something we’re all familiar…learning to drive a car.

Stage 1 Unaware: As a child, you know the car will get you to the ice cream parlor, but you don’t care how it works.

Stage 2 Novice: When you’re ten years old, your best friend dares you to drive the car, and you run it down the driveway into the neighbor’s mailbox.

Stage 3 Technician: In high school, you take Driver’s Education and you learn how to drive slowly and methodically.

Stage 4 Artist: As an adult, you can drive anywhere and can instinctively respond to deer in the road, rainy conditions, or cars swerving into your lane on the freeway.

Stage 5 Master: You become a racecar driver and can confidently maneuver around any track, even through complicated obstacles, at incredible speeds.

Stages 3 and 4 are the most challenging and frustrating. This is where people begin doubting themselves, losing faith in their abilities. They start thinking they’re not good enough. The inner critic is very active at this stage.

The trick is to stay focused on the task at hand by maintaining this attitude: “If I practice deliberately and methodically, I will become better and better. It just takes time and patience.”

In order to develop a higher level of competence in any area of your personal and professional life, these skills are vital:

  • Determination
  • Focus
  • Creativity
  • Big-picture thinking balanced with small, progressive steps
  • Deliberate practice
  • Curiosity
  • Positive expectation

If your child needed a life-saving operation, wouldn’t you rather find a surgeon who is highly competent rather than wait for one who is perfect? Isn’t competency what you want in your life too? Are you tired of perfectionism getting in your way? It’s helpful to have a coach who supports you in developing the level of competence you desire. Contact Maria and let’s work out a strategy that keeps you accountable and gets you to where you want to be in life.

Release the Power of Mastery – Never Stop Learning

Happy woman enjoying the confidence that comes from releasing the power of mastery“The ultimate form of power is mastery itself.” ~ Robert Greene

As human beings we tend to deeply admire people who have achieved mastery. Whether they are a master athlete, musician, business mogul, etc. we see the results of their hard work and we admire their dedication. Fortunately, mastery in any field is not something genetic, or for a lucky few. It is something we can all attain if get rid of some misconceptions and gain clarity as to the required path.

So what about mastery at life? What does that require? What are some of the most important life skills? Here’s a link to an amazing list of essential life skills that I think you’ll enjoy. (Click here.)

The Best Life Management Skills Don’t Focus on Feeling Better

Learn the best life management skills to get peace of mind and control over your emotions.“Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.” —Audre Lorde

Do strong emotions like shame, anger, guilt or worry hold you back from living your life to the fullest? Do you often find that you consciously or unconsciously avoid “feeling bad” for fear of “being swallowed” by painful and difficult feelings? You’re not alone in feeling that way; however, there is a way to live a more meaningful life.

To begin creating a richer life experience and better management skills, you need to understand this vital truth:

There’s a difference between disliking unpleasant emotions, yet riding through them because you accept they’re an inevitable part of life versus experiencing unpleasant emotions as unbearable and needing to get rid of them.

Often people are convinced that they “can’t face”, “can’t bear”, “can’t stand”, or “can’t tolerate” emotional distress. Being intolerant of experiencing emotional discomfort can actually produce a whole set of other problems, as it interferes with living a fulfilling life and can worsen any emotional discomfort you might be experiencing. If you recognize that you have difficulty facing your feelings or tolerating distress, then read on to learn ways to overcome this pattern.

Here’s another truth you must embrace: There’s a big difference between feeling better and doing better. When we focus on feeling better we’re consumed with wanting to get out of an uncomfortable feeling, NOW! When we emphasis doing better, we focus on learning to tolerate the feeling, being curious and learning that there are a lot of hidden gifts in staying present with what’s difficult and painful.

When you experience difficulty in facing your emotions, here are five simple truths to remember:

  1. Difficult emotions are necessary and useful. They’re also universal. Every human being experiences these types of emotions.
  2. No emotion is permanent or unchanging. Emotions tend to come and go like waves in the ocean, rising and falling in time. Sometimes it can feel like your rage, guilt or sadness will last forever, but it won’t.
  3. You can never hope to eliminate unpleasant emotions, and in most cases, trying to block these emotions intensifies your problems.
  4. Though you can’t block undesirable emotions, you can learn to experience these emotions without feeling such distress and without having to react impulsively.
  5. When you learn to be with difficult emotions, you discover hidden gifts, messages from your body about your external circumstances.

It’s a misconception to think that if you could only get rid of negative emotions you would solve all your problems. Life is too unpredictable. Life happens. You can only begin to tap into your internal power when you realize that you’re a spiritual being having a human experience. This allows you to peacefully embrace every one of your human emotions as part of your daily occurrence.

We are never done with learning how we relate to our world, others and ourselves. This CAN be a fascinating journey or a dread depending on your attitude. Doing better means that, in spite of what happens in your life you have the life management skills and resources to navigate it in an attentive and sensible way. Often it’s beneficial to have an objective professional guide you through this process. If you’re ready to do so, please contact me and we’ll unlock your potential for excellence  together.

The 90-Second Secret to Mastering Your Emotions

90 second secret to mastering your emotions“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus” ~ Bruce Lee

Psst…Want to know a secret?

How do successful people perform so well, whether it’s on the ball court or in the boardroom or on the stage? They’ve learned to control their emotions and make them work for themselves rather than against themselves. They know how to tap into the power of their own natural brain processes by fully utilizing the 90-Second Secret.

In an earlier blog, we discussed how the emotional response from cortisol only lasts 90 seconds in your system. How you react after that is within your own choice. You can either perpetuate the cycle or you can shift your focus to a more positive thinking process. Your thoughts are powerful. And it does only take 90 seconds to make significant changes in your emotional responses. One secret is to utilize visualization.

Here’s the key that many don’t tell you when they discuss visualization: Most of us visualize before we want something to happen. However, it’s much more powerful to use 90 seconds during or after an incident and visualize a successful outcome.

Here are five steps to making the most of those 90 seconds.

  1. Relax your body by breathing deeply and slowly until you have 6 to 8 breaths per minute.
  2. Be fully present in the moment, blocking out what others may be thinking or doing.
  3. Be aware of how you’re feeling, but don’t give in to it. Count to 90 and remind yourself that you get to choose your emotions.
  4. Engage both hemispheres of your brain. Often we’re taught to replace our thoughts and redirect our attention towards more positive and relaxing topics. However, this means you’re still relying solely on the left hemisphere of the brain. Before the thoughts take root in your left hemisphere and become your reality, move them to the right hemisphere, by choosing to focus on what you smell, taste, see, hear and physically feel.
  5. Visualize in great detail or play a movie in your mind of successful outcomes. What outcome do you want and how will it feel? Again, engage your whole brain by incorporating ALL of your senses – what you see, smell, taste, touch, and hear as you do this. It only wastes time and energy to replay negative emotions. You don’t want them to become your reality.

In practical terms, how can you apply the 90-Second Secret to real-life situations? Here are some examples:

  • You begin your day feeling unfocused, not knowing where to start. Take 90 seconds to visualize your desired results for that day’s important goals. (Feel the confusion leaving as you become totally centered.)
  • You have good intentions to accomplish so much, but days and weeks go by and you feel like you have nothing to show for yourself. Take 90 seconds every night and be grateful for what you have accomplished and the steps you’ll take to accomplish your goal for tomorrow. (Feel how this grounds you and keeps you on track.)
  • You really want XYZ in your life but it seems elusive and you tell yourself, “It’s never going to happen”. Take 90 seconds and visualize what you want, how you want it to happen and how it feels when it happens. (Feel your inner peace and confidence return and joy when it does happen!)
  • You feel the stresses of the day piling up on you until you want to scream or cry. Take 90 seconds to reboot and change the course of the day from that point onward. (Feel the tension release and the frustration dissolve.)
  • You’re tired and can’t focus. Take 90 seconds to recharge yourself with calming deep breaths and body movements. (Feel your energy and ambition renew.)
  • You’re nervous about an upcoming speaking engagement or difficult conversation or meeting. Take 90 seconds to become more deliberate as you go in with a positive attitude. (Feel your muscles loosen and peace and harmony return.)

This technique isn’t hard to learn, however, it does take some effort. Want me to walk you through this process in more detail? I’d love to help you master this technique so you can live a more intentional and peaceful life. Contact me and we can get started right away. It’s time to master your emotions instead of letting them control you.

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