Saturday, October 24, 2009

Using "Formula" to Get to Self-KnowledgeThrough Experience

Many who read this blog know that I have had a setback in my plans to train for the Disney 1/2 marathon in January.  I wrote about this a couple of blogs ago, ( Plans ... The Best Made Plans )  where I explained how getting plantar fasciitis changed my plans.

I continue to learn new things about myself and the way things work from all the little "problems" that come up when one sets out to achieve a goal, or develop a skill.

When I originally set up my plan for training for my first half marathon, I chose a pre-set plan in Jeff Galloway's book that was designed for the ultimate beginner.  I also used the recommendation to run a minute/walk a minute.  I bought a training watch that would beep every minute, and even my dog, who came with me on my runs, learned that we started running when the beep sounded, and walked when it sounded again.  It was regulated and precise.

But I had a dilemma today.  Now my very carefully designed plan was no longer going to achieve the goal I wanted, and I lost my motivation to do the Friday run yesterday.  I put it off, since the plan was now not going to work.  "I'll run tomorrow morning instead."

Well, when the time came to run this morning, I realized that I couldn't, because I have a Kung Fu class at noon, and if I ran first, my plantar fasciitis would act up and it would be too much stress on my foot to then take my Kung Fu class.

My first reaction to this realization was "knee-jerk" and emotional.  "See! It's no use.!  It's all over now!  This is the end of my running for sure!"

As soon as I recovered from the irrational moment, I was able to start working on alternatives and solutions.

I decided that I could go for a walk instead.  After all, back in January and February I had been happily walking every day, leading up to walking a 5K, and I had been very happy.

The first steps out the door were a little disappointing, because it felt like I was going backwards in fitness.  But I had just read a new friend's post on this morning about how he has had to run slow after his marathon for a few weeks, and is just happy to be picking up his pace again now.  I thought, "Well, if this guy can hold himself back and run slower, then I can go back to walking for a while."

As we set out, I decided to use the time to work with my dog to try to correct the habit she has of pulling on the leash when we turn around to go home.  In the past, when I have tried to work with her, I have used the idea of the training.  When she pulls on the leash, stop and don't walk until she stops pulling.  Today, I discovered that I was using the intellectual idea of the exercise instead of feeling the exercise.  When she pulled on the leash and I stopped, I closed my eyes and paid really close attention to how the leash felt in my hand, and then I deepened it, to start sensing the energy in the dog herself.  When her energy was right, then I walked again.  This doing it by feel instead of idea was revelatory for me, and I experienced a great pleasure in what I was doing.  It became physically and kinetically very interesting.

Well, the walk felt great, but on the way back, it started to rain.  I decided to run the rest of the way home.  The run home was way longer than a minute, maybe about 3 minutes.  I was able to do it quite comfortably and it felt really good.

And it was during this mini run that I realized something.  I didn't need the watch that beeped!  I could go by feel.  Just like the dog leash experience.  I could listen to my body, and go by the energy levels.  I could pay attention to my breathing and when I started to collapse and lose my form, I could stop to rest.  When I felt like I couldn't run any more, I could stop and walk until I recovered and then begin again and so on.  I didn't need the formula, all measured out and spoon-fed to me.

Immediately, my brain, working like a fast computer, began to apply this across the board to all areas of life.

A lifetime member of Weight Watchers, I had used the plan many times to lose weight, and to maintain those weight losses for varying amounts of time.  Weight Watchers, which has studied overeating and nutrition and all the science around food and weight management, continues to develop and revise systems to organize and structure and teach about all aspects of eating, is not the end answer.  It has used study of the matter to give a person a starting place.  But it is up to the person to take it further and learn about their own body.  Each person is different.  Eventually, having started with a structure, a person will learn to listen to the signals of their own body, pay attention and have respect for when the body is hungry and when the body has stopped being hungry, and will begin to understand the daily rhythms of energy management.  All a diet plan or program can do is give a person a starting place, but it is not the answer in and of itself.

Many many people already know how to learn about themselves physically in this way.  Maybe they are the kinetic learners, or just naturally learned to be in their experiences.  For a number of reasons, I decided my head was a safer place to be than my body, and I enjoyed what was going on in my very organized mind much better than all the disorganized stuff that seemed to be going on in my body's experience.

Now we get to singing.  Another opera singer friend, Katherine Marriott, (An English Woman Abroad) has been reading my blog and has recommended the book Singing & Imagination: A Human Approach to a Great Musical Tradition by Thomas Hemsley to me.  I got my hands on a copy of this book and have been reading it.  Mr. Hemsley, believes that, "while not belittling the value of scientific investigation, when accurate and appropriate ... the modern methods of training have gone too far in the direction of the materialistic approach; that singing in all its aspects and at all times should be guided by the singer's feelings, intuition, and intention" (from the back cover of the book)

I think that the lesson with the dog leash, and the timer on the running watch, in conjunction with my being exposed to the ideas in this book,  is now about to infiltrate my singing.  I have truly had to spend a few years with an approach that is methodical and based on good science, because of the problems and difficulties I had in not being able to get it for so long.  But I think there is a strong message in my life to more and more turn it over to this experience of feeling, intuition and imagination. It's already been happening, but the seed of that is growing, and it's where I want to take things next.  I'm on my way to my own custom-designed technique!

1 comment:

  1. I too am prone to adopting a "thinking"-based approach to things rather than a "feeling"-based approach. In truth we need both, so I am grateful for the people and the activities that have helped me listen more to my body, hear what it is telling me, and nurture greater physical awareness.