Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Light Up Your Brain!

Since beginning my journey to become an Anat Baniel Method practitioner, experiences that usually would seem routine or habitual have become rich with possibility. Today, I especially felt as if my brain was lighting up. What do I mean by that?

Through neuroimaging, scientists can see which areas or structures in the brain are activated by stimuli or by engaging in different activities. During an MRI, things like meditation and prayer can activate the brain, causing the image of the brain to light up in the areas where the most neural activity is happening. Whatever was happening today, I feel pretty convinced that if you could see an MRI of my brain, it would have been lighting up in many ways, probably new ones.

How did I get to this moment? What have I been doing differently? Movement. According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, movement can be, "The act or process of moving; especially: change of place or position or posture." Since the first segment of ABM training, I have been aware of my movement. Slowing down and getting my brain's attention, I am moving in different ways. Not just physically, but emotionally. Let me give you an example.

Earlier this month, I took David to see an orthopedist. The office was crowded and noisy, overflowing with people. After I squeezed David through the crowd in his stroller and sat on the only available chair (a tiny kid's chair), I began filling out the necessary paperwork. I've done it a gazillion times, but for some reason, this particular questionnaire triggered some very raw and painful emotions. Questions like, "Did mom have any problems with the pregnancy or labor and delivery?" Or, "Was your child discharged home from the hospital when mom was discharged?" Feelings and images from all the trauma started flooding in along with the cacophony of the waiting room. People were staring when they heard the suction machine. I could have easily let this state of mind set the tone for the rest of the day. But I slowed down. I noticed the movement of my emotions. I objectively noticed what I was thinking and feeling and continued to observe until something changed. The stress passed.

The actual visit with the doctor went well. I was happy that she was attentive to David and to my concerns. Also important, she got it when it came to neuroplasticity. I was anticipating the suggestion of some invasive and painful surgery for David, but that wasn't the case. What started with a deluge of negative feelings later transformed into relief and appreciation for this open-minded doctor.

The emotional shift I experienced was powerful. Then there are the physical things. Exercise is more gratifying. Things like walking up the stairs, lifting a coffee cup, and driving have become opportunities for experimentation. I am moving myself and moving the people and things around me.

I have had the opportunity to practice movement lessons with friends and family. I am deeply thankful for everyone who is volunteering. These amazing individuals have allowed me to shift my thinking and have provided wonderful feedback about their own experiences.

 At home, Jeremy and I have started moving things around the house. I got him a hat stand for Father's Day. We were deciding where to put it and started rearranging a few things. I noticed that our family is occupying the space in our home differently, with more flexibility. The movement of physical things have further changed the patterns in my brain and my interactions with others.

So today I have been flooded with observations and ideas and thoughts. Today was intense. David had a great ride during hippo therapy. Driving home, the thoughts and ideas were flowing freely. Later, I found myself in my studio, filling up sketchbook pages. Before I knew it, I was painting on a large scale work that never solidified when I started it in art school. And I did it for the sheer joy of painting.

Before the Anat Baniel Method, there was an abundance of noise in my brain.  So I left the noise outside my studio. The artist Phillip Guston talked about painting this way: " When you're in the studio painting, there are a lot of people in there with you. Your teachers, friends, painters from history, critics... and one by one, if you're really painting, they walk out. And if you're really painting, you walk out." As my brush moved across my previously abandoned painting, my brain was lighting up.

"Movement is life. Without movement life is unthinkable." --Moshe Feldenkrais


  1. This is such a beautiful post Shana. A slight shift can move mountains. Sometimes I forget to create that shift, or need a new one! Today, you are that difference for me. Thank you!