Horsey Therapist

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Shoulds and shoulders

It struck me -- there is a 'should' in 'shoulder'. I wonder if that is coincidence or perhaps the creators of our language had a sense of humor?

My shoulders are where I carry my 'shoulds'. The expectations I have internalized from others. The ideas that at times go against my inner nature. I should this, I should that. Years of 'shoulds' have left my shoulders bunched up around my ears. OK, I exaggerate, but I do carry my shoulders up and forward in a defensive posture just about all the time unless I am paying attention, 100% here and now.

About a year ago some changes in my relationship with RNB accompanied some great letting go of some major 'shoulds'. This was good, except that my left shoulder starting hurting. Why did it hurt? Because suddenly I had no need to hold it up, yet despite the new level of openness of my mind and heart, the body's fascia was still holding on! So gravity was free to help my shoulder drop into its natural resting place, and my fascia complained. That conflict between fascia and gravity meant pain, which dissipated within a few months as my body adjusted to the change in my internal spaces.

Some humungous 'shoulds' were holding my shoulder up. Those are gone and my shoulder rests in more balance than before. But some smaller, more subtle 'shoulds' still run my life, and those manifest in this smaller up and forward stance of both shoulders. I would hardly notice except this affects the rest of my body, especially the biomechanics of my arms.

In Aikido class a few weeks ago the teacher was helping me understand the fundamental purpose of a particular exercise which, of course, was: self defense. Self defense against someone attacking me. I got it, and I allowed the strength of self protective intention to fuel my moves, and clearly recall his stopping, putting his hands on my shoulders, and admonishing me to "Relax your shoulders!"

As I defended myself against his attack, I brought my shoulders up as I brought my arms up, about as high as they can get even as I proceeded to execute the defensive move. Raising my shoulders does not protect me. Raising my shoulders in fact undermines the natural movement of my upper body's bones and soft tissue. Raising my shoulders interferes with centered softness in motion.

So, just what are these hidden 'shoulds' I live with? I wish I knew.

Although I do not know today, I fully have faith in a future where these smidgeons of realization will surface at the time I am ready to face another level of exposure, and adjust with as much grace as I can muster as I integrate the unknown with the known.

Meanwhile, I make it a meditation to attend to my shoulders and keep them in place, noticing what are the circumstances -- external events and internal reactions -- when I find my shoulders floating upwards again. And remind myself to keep breathing...


At 07 April, 2008 17:54, Blogger Victoria Cummings said...

I've been told that I have boulders in my shoulders, so what you are saying is just what I need to hear. As I child, I was constantly told to sit up straight. So, I think that the defensiveness in my shoulders may be rooted in that message.

At 22 April, 2008 11:46, Blogger Michelle said...

Wow Lasell, I am experiencing the same thing. My chiropractor always tells me that it is stress that tightens our shoulder and chest. I have a lot of pain in my chest and shoulders, and always carry myself in a curled almost fetal type position. Lately I've been thinking it could be related to my tendency to hide behind myself, and all the attention given to my *ahem* "early development" as a young lady. Perhaps there is even more to it than that.

Hmmm, yet even more to think about.

At 24 April, 2008 09:26, Blogger Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

I carry stress as tension in my shoulders, too. I don't buy into astrology, but this is supposedly a classic Taurus trait...

Anyway, I blogged yesterday on The Barb Wire about consciously relaxing when training horses. I wonder if part of the mental relaxation that results from spending time with horses is due in part to the intentional, physical relaxation.



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