Doing It Right is Not Always the Best Way

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By Jacqueline Rubinstein

My first job out of college was as a barista at a small café in Philadelphia. I had been a barista for 4 years in college, so one might think I was qualified for the job. What I didn’t tell my new boss was that the café in college was a bit of a joke. It was part of our college food service and we used machines where you simply pushed a button. Not to mention that our shifts were only 2 hours long.

On my first day, my boss stood right next to me and asked me to steam milk for a latte. I was so nervous! I had no idea what I was doing, and yet I felt that I had to prove I was good enough for the job. I began to hum loudly, without even noticing, because of my nerves. The moment was a blur of fear, and I felt like a failure before I had even really begun.

Well, it turned out my new boss didn’t mind teaching me how to steam milk correctly. In fact, she intended to teach me how do everything, just the way she liked it, even though, she was secretly worried that I would hum like that all the time! (Once we got to know each other, she gave me a lot of slack about that humming =) Once I wasn’t afraid of losing my job, I naturally stopped humming, slowed down, could feel myself again, and slowly, but steadily learned to make the perfect latte.

What does this story have to do with chronic pain and healing? A lot of chronic pain comes from unnecessary and unconscious effort that we are making. Places where we are playing tug-of-war with ourselves. How do we get so disconnected that we don’t realize what we are doing?

In this example (and boy do I have a lot of examples I could share about this topic), I really had no idea I was humming, which may seem odd, but I really didn’t hear or feel myself. I was so focused on trying to make the latte correctly that I had no idea what my body was doing.

This is actually super common. When we are trying to prove ourselves and feel the pressure to be successful, we use a lot of unnecessary effort to try to cover up what feels like our weaknesses. This makes it especially hard to learn something new or find a comfortable way to do something that currently causes pain.

We are so busy pushing past the place where we feel insufficient, fearful that someone may notice we are not perfect, but this is also the place where really beautiful learning can happen -if we just create the time and stop worrying about not being good enough.

Are there places in your life where you know you are pushing too hard, maybe ignoring some blind spots about what you are actually doing? Are there places where you are making unnecessary effort and work for yourself? Where can you simplify?

These are pretty huge life questions. They are also the questions I ask my students to pay attention to in their movement patterns. We all have places where we make a lot of effort unconsciously, and that effort is actually making our intentions harder to fulfill. With increased awareness, we can begin to uncouple the habitual links and get clearer and clearer about what our real goal is, where new learning is needed, and how to make life a bit easier and more comfortable for ourselves.

The Feldenkrais Method is counter-culture in many ways. It encourages us to not worrying so much about succeeding, it reminds us to go slowly, to do less work, and to be curious and playful. These values create the ideal situation for learning. And new learning creates lasting change in your life. Come explore how to get out of chronic pain and repetitive injury in a self-loving, awareness-raising, gentle yet profound and lasting way!

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