“How you do anything is how you do everything.” I, for one, can’t believe it is the end of January- already. Everywhere I go people are talking about their New Year’s resolutions. I have long stopped this practice, but still find it fascinating to listen to others participation. Personally, I like to look at each year as a clean slate. It is both frightening and liberating to me; a time with nothing specific planned and no big goals to master. It won’t last long as life has a way of giving me plenty of tasks to handle. However, during this time, I like to notice if any of my own bad habits have shifted over the past year.
As a body worker, I see many different personalities on my table, but the most trying is the driven client who, despite all the body’s careful warning signals, continues to disregard them and to push through any type of pain. He/she only knows the quest of pushing further and further. Not until their body completely fails or their nervous system literally freaks out, will they maybe see the harm of this cycle. I hope that the time spent on the table will bring awareness to this destructive path before they take their body over the edge. If I am not careful, this can be me.
This brings me to the yogic concept of samskara. It is defined as a pattern deeply ingrained in our subconscious that causes us to act out variations on the same theme again and again. Samskaras are our individual actions, ideas, or thoughts. Lumped together, they become all of our many patterns. These can be physical patterns of holding tension or postures that keep things in a constantly stretched position, as well as mental patterns harboring our fears, needs, and beliefs.
“How you do anything is how you do everything.” I have tried to find the source of this quote to no avail. But the gist of it is that your true nature will handle everything in your life in a pattern that you are not even aware of. It’s important to realize that our patterns are conscious choices to make. It’s up to us to choose them. If we aren’t aware of this, we are strengthening the old default muscle. Yes, we are creatures of habit, but it is important to see that we have a choice in our habits.
So how do we create healthier patterns? It doesn’t happen by accident, we have to call attention to it. The massage table is the perfect place to notice our habits. To start, I ask my clients to try using breathe instead of gripping, and a mental scan of the sensations they perceive as they receive the work. With only these two intentions, change is started just by their heightened awareness. These tools are then taken off the table, back to everyday life, where conscious choices can be made.
I know when my clients retain this awareness by the way that they communicate with me about their body. If they just want to hand it over to me for me to figure out, we won’t achieve the same results. If they can tell me a little bit about their pain’s behavior, together we are more successful. If they can give me insight about their body, I know they have taken the time to slow down and listen. This input they are learning to access is more valuable for their overall health than anything I can offer. This will serve to create healthier patterns.
Awareness is what helps us see our thoughts, behaviors and movements as patterns. It allows us to ask if these habits are working for us. Instead of wondering, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ Ask yourself, ‘What does this pattern have to tell me?’ And then you can act on it. On the table, I ask my clients to envision the change they are looking for. When we step out of our patterns, we can restore our bodies to more optimal health.
Are you open to the idea of a clean slate, to get out of the deep groove of a pattern made by year’s of endless repetitions? Remember it is your choice.
“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.”― Rumi