The kinesthesia switch

byNancyLebovitz7y4th Mar 201223 comments


I've been working on improving my kinesthesia for about thirty years (for reasons which are not obvious to me, I've felt a strong motivation to get moved into my body), and I've found something interesting.

I was doing a chi gung exercise [1] which involves going up on the balls of my feet while pushing up with my hands, and I suddenly noticed that my body had mostly blanked out when I was in the extended position, which led to a realization that blanking out was a process rather than a thing [2]. I thought "kinesthesia switch on", and I could suddenly feel a good bit of detail about how I was wobbling-- I mean I could feel some of my bones moving relative to each other, instead of just feeling in a vague sort of way that the position didn't feel very good.

What's better, is that I remembered how to turn on the kinesthesia switch, and have continued to work with it.

A side effect of turning on the switch is that I uncurl my upper body (kinesthesia seems to have something to do with alignment), but deliberately uncurling doesn't work nearly as well as turning on the switch.

At first, I would try to turn on the switch as much as possible, but that began to feel bad-- probably because there was some perfectionism driving that approach. I've tweaked it to "as much as feels good to me".

The most noticeable effect (aside from better spirits and less akrasia) is that going up and down stairs has become a lot easier the vast majority of the time. Down stairs has been a problem for years because of accumulated knee injuries. Upstairs became problematic about 6 months ago because, for no apparent reason, I developed some sort of serious muscle tightness in my right leg. It started with pain in the back of my right heel which was clearly linked to movement, and eventually shifted to pain in what definitely felt like the muscle attachment to my sitzbone on the right.

This days, I'm mostly trotting up and down stairs rather than stepping down a step and then puting the other foot on the same step in order to avoid a good bit of pain.

The reason I'm doing this as a top level post is because I'm pretty sure the kinesthesia switch isn't the only switch-- I think other switches can be found in areas where you've done enough observation to have a chance of finding the path from one state to another, and I'm hoping there will be comments about finding other switches.

Another, and less cheerful switch: I haven't been in that state for a while, but I used to be mildly suicidal-- I wasn't making plans, but suicide was on the table as a possibility. What's more, I wanted it there-- I didn't want to be in a situation where committing suicide made sense, but I wasn't able to get myself to do it.

What I found was that I could chose to have suicide as a felt possibility, and I would deliberately turn that switch back on if it turned off. It eventually occurred to me that my reason for keeping the switch on wasn't good (it was impacting my current quality of life for the sake of something I wasn't sure I'd need), and I left it off.

I don't have a theory of mind or brain which does a good job of explaining switches. This is all just observation.

In Move into Life, there's a description of a learning switch. The book is by Anat Baniel, a Feldenkrais teacher who found that her students would become more vital and who decided to directly cultivate various aspects of vitality. In particular, she noticed that was a shift when her students became interested in learning. In her opinion, the major reason people stop learning is that they believe they already know enough.

The learning switch is related to letting yourself believe that you don't already know the answer, allowing in new information, and letting your mind drift to other areas of knowledge to see if there's a connection to what you're interested in. I haven't been able to get results from Baniel's description-- I'm just mentioning this as another example of a switch.

It's possible that my learning switch is already on, but my problem is finding my "do something useful" switch.

More generally, my impression is that once you find a switch, it makes accessing a different state easy. This doesn't mean it's easy if you haven't yet found the switch or if you don't have the motivation to turn it.

[1] This is part of the eight brocades set from The Way of Energy-- this book is a solid introduction to standing meditation.

[2] Recognizing that something you thought was static and simple is actually made of moving parts is probably in the sequences somewhere, but I can't think of anything in particular.