Illuminating the Heart

ShineBright

Burrowed inside the blood beat of you and me lay tiny trails that watch and wait for action. They are snowflake membranes of walkways labelled fear, love, rejection and sorrow, which flash and light the way to our known target each time they are activated. As we walk down them. Again, and again. Regardless of the situation these clever trails seem to stimulate certain feelings in us. The external trigger pushes the start button and off we go rushing down the path in an attempt to hit the bulls-eye as fast as possible.

The heart pumps life, our blood and our patterns of experience through veins that serve us and our mortality. Over and over we travel through carved tunnels of stories held in the larder of our heart, mostly unaware that we have been here before, until we reach the loud tick of fear, the whoosh of love or the wheeze of sadness sitting alone in our chests. The heart is a well-trained Olympian it never really fails in its goal, willing us to be successful, no matter what. Data input from childhood grows and slowly gains a momentum that stretches into adulthood and without realising it we are completely in the long play record of relationship dynamics that we long to change, but can’t or won’t pick the needle up, and play a different beat.

Is it possible to re-direct the path to a rhythm that suits us? When every dark corner of the trail is illuminated, when you have purposely shone a light where there has been none, built a dam against the force of blood that always loops you back onto the trail you escaped, then maybe there is hope. Inevitably there will a come time when your new way is tested, for this is life. So the best you can do is hold onto hope and accept that even if you know how it will end, it will end. And you will start the trail again, with a renewed hope and a bigger shovel to build more proficient dams, and put up bigger diversion signs to send that  pain, fear, anger and hurt on a detour toward the light and back out into the world, so the tunnels of your heart can travel to places new and make other stories.

Keep hoping, Keep going….

 

The Forward Roll of Ageing

Ageing is a gradual, continuous process of natural change that begins in early adulthood.. Many of us however  live oblivious to this fact until something starts to give. People do not become old or elderly at any specific age, these days age and aging happens at different rates for everyone; a healthy lifestyle can help you feel younger and fitter for longer. Traditionally in the past you were considered ‘old’ at 65, when retirement set in; ergo you were old if you stopped work.  Now it seems that ageing is defined not by chronological age but by ability and our change in needs. If you don’t know any songs in the top ten , you take a flask of tea on a day out,  you wear glasses around your neck, you always leaving the house with a coat and choose comfort over fashion, and the very unfortunate (but research-proven), your ears are getting bigger, show signs that you are getting on.

It is likely that we have all noticed physical and attitudinal changes in ourselves as we get older. But for us 30, 40, 50 somethings even if your focus is on improving your health and quality of life you might find it hard to really grasp how you have  aged. Until that is you try to do a FORWARD ROLL!!!

After roughly 20 years of living happily without doing a forward roll everywhere I go, I was encouraged to try once again. Now I know how to do this, surely? My proprioception, (perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself), was still working, which meant I could give it a go….if I could find the courage. Finally after a few deep breaths  I managed, and to my surprise it went fairly well,, a little neck bruising and slightly off course but not bad. Thankfully, and obviously, I am still young and fresh as a daisy.

So to up the ante I thought I’d try a CARTWHEEL…….

After recovering from landing on my bottom, and laughing with my colleague, who I may add had encouraged me but not tried it herself, I realized that I am not exempt from the process of time. Even though my proprioception had not let me down, and I was clear about what to do, I lacked in balance, flexibility and sheer physical strength. Amazingly I thought this would be easy, I could always do so many things with my body and now I was faced with actual ageing and the need to embrace creativity over the precision of my youth.

We know there are serious issues as we approach old age, in that we can run out of time to prepare ourselves to meet the potential physical, mental and financial challenges. What is interesting is the general expectation across age groups that someone in the “older” age bracket will look and behave in a particular way., that is only age specific which others outside the ‘older’ age bracket cannot relate to. After this little ‘experiment’, has turned the clock of time directly towards me and I can see my own age process,  I find I am more reverent of age and the elderly. The insignificance of not being able to do a forward roll is not on par with once being able to walk unaided, bathe freely and remember my loved ones names, but it does bring me closer to understanding loss and experiencing physical deterioration.

The moral here is even if you are not losing  head hair but gaining it elsewhere, or have  not joined the National Trust yet, it does not mean you are not ageing. Go on and try a Forward Roll…….maybe a Cartwheel, and see how your time clock is ticking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dancing Cells?

To my knowledge cell movement is a complex phenomena. These little blighters are full of interesting and inexpiable notions that keep our scientists forever on the look out for new developments. Research says that cells begin to move in response to an external signal in its surrounding environment. And receptors detect the external impulse and decide what action to take, amazingly in order to keep our homeostasis ticking along at an even pace. And these are just your regular cells, other unspecialized cells let’s call them Stem Cells, actually their real name, are capable of morphing, dividing and growing in order to replenish our worn out parts and repair the damage we incur over time.

Now given that my understanding is limited and looking at this from the perspective of a psychotherapist working with the body and movement there does seem to be a common thread here. Take this picture for example of heart cells dancing to the beat of music, they look quite jolly to me.

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Supposing our cells react to not only our external but also internal stimuli,  I am convinced  that our cells look different according to our emotional state.  Recently research has started to acknowledge the effect our cells have on the way in which we relate to others, and the feelings that get created in relationships, which in turn has an enormous  impact how our cells perform, according to how good or bad they are feeling. A major influence on the state of our health,  and perhaps the link between a sense of holistic well being and ill health.

Ultimately cell research is a huge area with many sub-topics to be considered, my personal favorite being mirror neurons and dance movement psychotherapy. As a key component in the therapeutic  process of DMP (Dance Movement Psychotherapy), mirroring another’s movement is now the subject of neuroscience. Mirror neurons are certain brain cells that are linked to empathy and the ability to instinctively and immediately understand what other people are experiencing.  For example when you see a stranger bang their elbow you flinch in sympathy or when your friend laughs at something s/he is reading you smile along with them. These are the gorgeous interactive system of cells that allow us to feel engaged in the an action or expression whilst we are only witnessing rather than experiencing the event itself. Possibly this is why watching sport, in particular football,  is so popular since we inadvertently feel every  foul, each adrenalin filled goal as we urge our team to victory. It seems we do not need to ‘play’ the game in order to feel the physiological and emotional empathy towards the players.

Thus the use of mirroring in DMP has grown to really encompass neurological underpinnings which are helping us to understand how we acquire social skills and communicate our innermost feelings and intentions to others. And as psychotherapists, either directly or indirectly using the body,  we can help  build more robust or heartfelt attachments in the therapeutic relationship, laying the groundwork for more fulfilling personal relationships in life.

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The mirror neuron system also appears to allow us to decode (receive and interpret) facial expressions. Whether we are observing a specific expression or making it ourselves (a frown of disgust, for example) the same regions of our brain become activated. And the better we are at interpreting facial expressions, the more active our mirror neuron system. Thus, the more we are in relation to someone the more chance we have of developing ourselves. What an amazing thought! Studies have found that people with autism, a disorder characterized in part by problems that occur during social interaction, appear to have found a dysfunctional mirror neuron system.  An incredible discovery but does that mean we can really make a change?

The question for me is; if our cells are responsive to more than biological information and programming how can we affect them? Another massive topic where the word Meditation is screaming at me, although I am a great advocate of mediation, and do not dispute its benefits , my interest is more along the lines of movement; is our cell movement linked to our physiological movement. Can we alter defective cells by adapting our movement to support a healthy cell, and vice versa? Let’s say, very simplistically, that some cells, for example stem cells are not repairing our liver properly and this is causing liver disease. Is it possible to mirror the healthy movement of the cell designed to repair liver damage in our physical movement. Say the healthy cell needs to move side-ways in order to repair, could we explore more side-ways movements in our daily repertoire to encourage the cell, to re-connect with its original adaptive behavior. Alternatively could it be that our individual movement repertoire can reflect where in the body cells might not be functioning accordingly?

If this is so what are the implications of this connection? It is plausible to assume that we need to believe that healing is possible and that the treatment we receive is beneficial in order to activate the necessary cells to work for our good. I have a hopeful bias towards the synthesis between our cell biology, emotional map, movement and our outer reality. And feel sure our bodies can be changed as we retrain our movements so we retrain our feeling about the movement, that has to have a knock on effect on cells which emanate their actions from our positive or negative being in relation  to others in our world.