There is a quote by Viktor Frankl which is so hopeful.
“Between stimulus and response there lies a space. In that space lies our freedom to choose a response.”
But the more I collaborate with individuals who are seeking change, the more interested I become in what fuels the responses we are already in the habit of choosing.
Take this example: I never really learned how to swim. It's not like I need a floatation device to get from point A to point B or anything. It's that if the water situation lasts longer than about 3 minutes, I produce enough splashing and chaos to get a sincere, “You okay?” from the nearest person.
So I decided to pay attention to what it was that made swimming such a physically taxing activity for me. The first thing I noticed when I met the water was that my breath was shallow and fast. The second thing I noticed was that my legs were not acting as paddles–they were sort of running in place. And the third was that my arms were doing most of the work.
When I saw the whole pattern, I started to giggle. These movements are all linked to one very clear, and reasonable, intention: to keep me from going under. The thing I had inadvertently taught myself to do, as a child, was not so much linked to swimming as it was to not drowning. And the irony was that it looked a lot like the thing I was trying not to do!
If we take a moment to consider how our nervous systems use our physical movements to interpret our level of safety, it’s easy to see how big a role our intentions play in creating not only our individual responses to stimuli - but our realities too.
My intention to avoid something (like drowning), produced a very particular pattern of movement that kept my brain on a tightrope of survival. But the movements involved in my intention to learn something new kept my brain wide, curious and engaged in what it does best. And even though I could probably use some expert instruction on the path to aquatic bliss, I didn’t need swimming lessons to find the softness and ease required to move safely on the surface of the water. What I needed was a shift in orientation.
One unexpected benefit of learning through movement is how seamlessly our brains translate the understanding to other areas of our lives.
My not-drowning insight reminds me that my intention to not offend is also one of seeking common ground; and that if I flip my intention of not making a mistake, I have better access to all of the wisdom I've acquired to navigate a life filled with unknowns.
Here's to the joy in finding new physical, neurological, and personal connections as the seasons change once more ☘️