Attunement Through the Body

Cliff Smyth, GCFT

We often have requests from Feldenkrais clients who return after a while for a 'tune-up'. If we are talking about cars, we all know that a 'tune-up' is an adjustment that improves the car's working order or efficiency. While the car maintenance metaphor has its limits when it comes to the complex processes of our bodies and our lives, this idea of wanting a 'tune-up' did get me thinking about similar words, like 'tuning' and 'attunement'.

No so long ago, before digital radios with their 'auto-tune', we'd have to listen to the radio carefully and make fine adjustments with the dial if we wanted a clear, steady and static free signal, and then readjust it for different weather conditions. Our listening told us when we were spot on.

Likewise, there are ways to listen to your body, to tune in. You may go around putting up with a lot of crackling and distortion in the signals from your body. But, Feldenkrais Method offers ways to sense what you are doing, and how you are doing it. As you use your body in a Feldenkrais class you are guided to make finer and finer distinctions in movement and sensation. The results of your action can come more clearly into focus. What difference does it make if you use more or less force when making a movement? What is the difference if you are clear about the direction of an action? How can you move without pain, strain or even discomfort and still achieve your goals? Does it help if you are clearer about your motivations and intentions, rather than trying to do or be two things at once? It's all about learning to dial in with more skill. The same process is the basis of our hands-on work too, called Functional Integration.

One important practice in many meditation traditions is that of simply listening. You have no 'earlids', so sound is always coming in and you can take notice. Likewise with the many types of sensations of your body, you can take notice. You can observe the world that you experience through the body; and the way you respond. What is your attitude to all this sensory information? Do you listen? Do you ignore it like its just elevator musak? Or do you reject it as a sound you don't like? What if you listened to your body more, even if initially the sound is discordant?

What would your body tell you? That more sleep is needed? That the nagging painful part wants some attention and care? That better food or eating habits are needed? Or the body needs to move or to be taken for a walk? That thinking about that one problem over and over is giving you a headache? That you need to breathe comfortably even when you are stressed?

Being able to listen to your body is a fundamental kind of know-how for life. It allows you to know yourself better. It can help you work out what you need physically - and emotionally. The emotions are always felt in and through the body. Sometimes your moods are subtle, on the hazy horizon of your felt-sense, but learning what they feel like in your body is a first step on making the changes that you want to make for a healthier, more satisfying life.

That is the great thing: the know-how needed to be more in tune with your body is also the basis of change. As you explore new ways of doing and being, your ability to attend to thoughts and feelings, movement, breathing, and even to sleep, gives feedback about what is helpful. This know-how improves how you listen, what you listen to, and what you do with it.

You begin to be able to ask and answer questions like: How do I feel after I eat that? Is this exercise helping me? Am I doing too much or too little of it? Is thinking like this helping or hindering me? Does this new practice make me calmer?

Greater body awareness allows you to sense more and more what is healthier for you. You can differentiate between what is salutogenic or pathogenic.

Being attuned to your bodily experience will improve the quality of your life. Our workshop offerings this fall, are in tune with these ideas. Perhaps, you'll enjoy a Feldenkrais Functional Integration® session, workshop or class, our mindfulness based meditation program, a Sounder Sleep System® workshop. Each approach offers ways to attune, and attend to your whole self.

Cliff Smyth, 2011