The way that can be spoken of is not the constant way;
The name that can be named is not the constant name
(Ancient Chinese book; Dao De Jing)
The author goes on to add that ‘as soon as something becomes fixed by words, form, language it loses its capacity to adapt, to be everlasting’.
As an acupuncturist I have many patients who hold tension in their shoulders. If I suggest they relax, the first thing they will do is to sit upright, stiffening their back muscles. If I ask them to relax their shoulders they will attempt to pull them down. In effect they are holding their shoulders up through tension and pulling them down with another set of muscles. This is no less than a tug of war and can be very tiring! An easier way is to just let them go and allow gravity to do its work. ‘Not so easy’ do I hear you say? Of course it isn’t otherwise there would be no problem shoulders.
What the author of the text is saying is that to really understand something somatic we also have to feel it. Traditional techniques such as Pilates, Tai Chi or Yoga and also progressive muscle relaxation techniques allow us to feel what our bodies are doing, to improve our understanding of these strange bodies we inhabit through endless repetition and practice.
When you walk briskly do you power swing your arms? Do you walk upright? Perhaps you lean back or stoop forwards. When you reach for the kitchen cabinet do you raise your whole shoulder or just your arm? The more I think about it the more remarkable it is how little body awareness we all exhibit. This is of course a survival tactic as we simply do not have the capacity to process every single sensation.
The buzzword on everybody’s lips at the moment is mindfulness. What I have come to realise is that you don’t need to sit in a darkened room and listen to relaxation CDs to be mindful. No self-help book will tell you how to be. You have to find your own truth. Feel your way through life. Wake up to your body and relax.
[Tension without trying]