Archives For Dr Demartini

On Becoming

April 29, 2020 — 2 Comments

(This is nothing like anything that I’ve written before – and nothing to do with Pilates).

Logan Gelbrich, whom we’ve paid a lot of attention to  over the past year, likes to ask “Who are you becoming?” The implication being that there’s always room for growth, or perhaps there isn’t room for the kind of stasis that “Who are you?” might imply.

Logan is also given to reminding us that growth involves “transcending and including” – as we develop we bring all of our past experiences with us. They do not have to be abandoned, disowned or regretted.

When it comes to personal growth I’ve definitely talked the talk. I’ve embraced the catch-phrases, spread the word and believed wholeheartedly that I was on the right path. Perhaps the path that anyone ‘serious’ should be on.

I’ve also been very interested in the ideas of both self-actualisation and embodiment. On Instagram I describe my mission as “self-actualisation, my own and in the people I coach.” As a movement teacher I believe that embodiment or having the capacity to physically manifest and experience principles, ideas and feelings is an important goal, or quality. The more embodied we are the more understanding we can have of our bodies and, by extension, ourselves. I would say that embodiment and actualisation go hand in hand.

I’ve even been collaborating with a friend in developing a course/workshop for practitioners and teachers of yoga and Pilates to encourage embodiment. So, as I mentioned, I’ve been talking the talk. I’ve listened to the podcasts, read the books, blogposts and downloadable PDFs and discussed these ideas at length. 

I’m learning that this was too much of what Jay Griffith calls ‘dry knowledge’, rather than embodied, felt, hands-dirty ‘wet knowledge’. Ironic, really.

This learning has come about through the very same friend introducing me to a profound process of self-discovery and healing. There are a few words that I’ve had a difficult relationship with and am now repairing. Healing is one of them. In the past I might have had a subtle inward cringe at somebody being described as a healer, or a process or intervention being described as healing. This may be due to the disconnect of not feeling that I had anything to heal. I’ve spent some time in therapy and felt that my issues were fairly well resolved. 

I might also call this healing ‘coming into the light’ because I felt as though things that I had hidden from myself were bought into the light for me to see clearly. (The process happened to begin outside under the blazing sun, which may have helped with the imagery. And, by the way, I now know that the sun is white-silver, not yellow as I’d previously believed…) In an interview I heard Dr John Demartini declare that “Our illnesses are feedback mechanisms to let us know that we’ve stored lies about the magnificence of the universe.” This phrase powerfully resonated with me at the time and begins to make even more sense to me. 

I wouldn’t say that I was ill, rather that some of my behaviours and habits were unhealthy and that I was blind to them. Or I was telling lies to myself about the magnificence of the universe, and the beauty to be found everywhere, in order to explain away or justify my behaviour. I am now recognising this as an immensely egotistical defence – “This is the way I am, and everyone will have to like it or lump it. I’m not going to sacrifice my identity to make others feel more comfortable. I was guilty of what could be called ‘self-image actualisation’ – quite different from what Maslow was referring to. I had self-inflicted wounds that needed healing and the part that has bought me sorrow, along with the bliss (there’s another word I may have struggled to use before now) of discovering some powerful truths, is that I’ve been inflicting wounds on my friends and family as well. I think this is almost inevitable – that we use those around us to bolster our ideas about ourselves, and if some of those are lies there will be consequences.

As I mentioned above, a lot of my ideas about personal growth were quite dry. I’ve loved the workshops I’ve done with Fighting Monkey where self-discovery comes through very physical practice and even described the experience for me being akin to what I believe is the experience of a shamanic ceremony for others. In spite of that felt experience I had processed the information through my head, or tied it to intellect and theories. Heart is another word that I’ve been uncomfortable using other than to describe an organ, even though throughout recorded history it appears to have been recognised as the vessel of love and/or energetic centre. Ironically I wrote a Facebook post last year encouraging Pilates teachers to try saying ‘heart’ instead of ‘core’ while teaching. This was much more to do with my pointless personal crusade against the word ‘core’ than any insight into the nature of the universe and humankind – but maybe it shows that I was ready for an awakening. To come into the light. 

Now it’s very clear to me that many of my ideas around teaching, running a business and trying to be a leader were very head-centred, leaving little space for heart. I’ve recognised that judging others is a spectacular waste of time. It has become remarkably easy for me to brush negative thoughts aside. I’m no saint, I still might think to myself “Oh dear” when, for example, seeing someone wearing unflattering clothes but it’s now almost instantaneous that my heart says “They’re okay” and the thought is gone. It’s strange to realise that feeling compassion is a different think from enacting compassion knowing it to be the appropriate and professional choice.

This may be a little hard on my pre-revelation self – I do believe that I was genuine in the majority of my interactions with other people who deserved some compassion, and I even felt it sometimes (looking back, there may have been a hand-on-heart gesture as well) but  it was  mostly reserved for professional interactions whereas now it feels nearly universal.

The process that I’ve referred to is still ongoing in that I had my eyes opened to many things in the moment – the few hours of ceremony – and as I process and reflect and remember more many connections are made for me and I seem to uncover more hidden truths about myself and my place in the world. Some of these discoveries have been painful – recognising, for instance, that I was not fully the considerate, gentle and loving husband that I believed myself to be. Part of what has helped me to see a new, heartfelt compassion in myself is that, while there is a lot of sorrow attached to the revelations of my selfish actions and other failings as a partner, I am able to feel that sorrow without beating myself up. With the recognition that I didn’t know better. 

Part of the learning has been recognising that, too often, I didn’t listen well. I am granted some fresh insight and then my memory dredges up a moment when I was told where I was straying from the path but my ego persuaded me otherwise. There’s that self-image actualisation again – I suspect that my listening was impaired by the efforts involved in sustaining my own wonky self-image.

On a less troubling note, the sense of connectedness is both inspiring and affirming. All the books, workshops, podcasts and discussions all seem to be woven into a fabric that makes perfect sense and forms a map of where we should be going and who we must become. There are too many coincidences for them actually to be coincidences and I am recognising that we have received so many extraordinary gifts – even those that we’ve paid 100s of £s, $s or €s for have a value far beyond the cost, and I feel an immense amount of gratitude to everyone who has crossed my path and shared with me.

To be with someone for many years, and to believe that you know them ‘inside out’, and then to have a few moments (I don’t know how long it was but the image now lives in me) when you are able to see their infinite magnificence is an experience that I wish for everyone. I doubt that it’s possible to remain cynical about humanity (as I was) once you’ve had this kind of illumination.

I am writing this 5 days into this journey of discovery and, while they have been some of the most momentous days of my life, every morning when I wake up with fresh realisations and connections I know that the process will continue for a while yet. At the very least I doubt that the fresh insights and revelations will suddenly cease tomorrow.

‘Moving into the light’ hasn’t been like having a light switched on, even though the first phase was searingly bright. Instead, imagine sitting on the shore and seeing the first rays of the rising sun sharply illuminating the sea and realising how deep and wide, beautiful and powerful, and how full of life it is. As the sun continues to rise you see the landscape anew, shaped by millennia into its perfect forms, and you see teeming life that you’ve not noticed before and recognise that you are connected to all of it – a part of the same cycle that is life. And the sun has only been up for an hour and there will be so much more to see and recognise and remember – illuminating and exposing the lies you’ve believed such that you can’t believe them again.

 

The Alignment Problem

August 28, 2019 — 2 Comments

I imagine that there’s near universal agreement amongst Pilates teachers across the globe that alignment is important. Perhaps it is even the central tenet of the Pilates Method.

I’m increasingly of the view that the ability to clearly and succinctly define things is crucial to being able to implement, influence or otherwise effect those things. If you believe that ‘alignment’ is indeed central to Pilates, what do you mean by ‘alignment’? Can you define the concept in one sentence? The idea of defining what we do is a topic that features in the illuminating conversation between Anula Maiberg and Raphael Bender that helped spur me on to write this. I encourage you to listen to if you haven’t already.

I had an exchange via Facebook with a teacher recently, around a post about an online course that, as I remember, used the phrase “it’s all about alignment”. I asked for a definition of alignment (I know, I should learn to leave things well alone) and the answer was along the lines of ‘it’s too complicated to explain in brief but the answer would become apparent if you read all our blog posts’. This may have simply been the best way to deal with an antagonistic social media user but, to me, it hinted at something that is endemic in the Pilate teaching world and, again, referred to by Anula & Raphael – that even though we know what we do is important we aren’t always good at defining what that is, teachers and continuing education providers alike.

For what it’s worth, if I have to define alignment I would say something like “the organisation of the 3 main body weight centres (thank you Jozef Frucek) relative to each other, and the optimal centration of the bones at every joint”. This means, to me, that there is no single appearance of ideal alignment. I also believe that the route to optimal alignment lies in practicing varied movement and not in practicing being in ideal fixed positions – I don’t believe in teaching anyone to sit well, for example. I would rather teach them varied and efficient movement so that their system has more options to deploy when they are sitting.

All of that said, I believe that there’s a different kind of alignment that is more important to teaching Pilates than the alignment of bones and body parts. Last year I was fortunate to attend an evening with Dr John Demartini, and Carl Paoli‘s ‘Freestyle Insider’ seminar. Both of these events invited/encouraged me to examine my personal values and my goals and, particularly in the case of Freestyle Insider, to articulate my mission.

I learned from Dr Demartini that when my values and my goals are not aligned I can expect to be dissatisfied, unhappy and unsuccessful. It makes perfect sense, I believe – if my actions aren’t in line with those things that I hold dearest I am engaged in self-sabotage. I learned from Carl that I need to be able to clearly and concisely express my mission in order to have a clear path to follow. So my values help to define my mission and my mission helps to define my goals.

This is ‘the alignment problem’ that Anula and Raphael raise in their conversation and, I suspect, may be plaguing the Pilates teaching community. I have asked enough teachers to define what they do, for a lay audience, in one or two sentences enough times to believe that the inability to do so is a widespread problem. The answer to many questions is often ‘It depends’ but in this case I’m afraid that will not do.

If you are able to clearly define what you do then you will be very clear in what you are offering to the people who might pay you; you will recognise more readily those people whom you may not be able to help; and the choices as to what specifically to do in a session with a specific person will be easier to identify.

To be blunt, “I teach Pilates’ is not a clear definition of what you do. We all know that there are many definitions and interpretations of that statement so it doesn’t represent clarity of purpose, at least to a layperson. What does ‘I teach Pilates’ mean to you? How can you break that down into something more meaningful? As an aside, I’ve found the exercise of asking ‘Why?’ at least 5 times to get the root of things really useful (eg. ‘I teach Pilates.’ Why? ‘Because it’s a really good way to exercise.’ Why? Because it can be adapted to meet the needs of many different people.’ Why do you want to do that? ‘Because I like to be able to reach different types of people.’ Why? etc etc

If we have a less than clear answer to this question, and an indistinct definition of what we teach it is that much easier to fall into generalisations of the ‘That’s what we’re supposed to do’ kind. For example, cueing a breathing pattern for an exercise to a client who may already be overwhelmed with inputs because ‘we’re supposed to cue breathing’; or teaching someone correct TVA engagement (!!!!!!!) before the Hundred ‘because that’s how my teacher does it’. What we’re ‘supposed to do’ rarely has any connection to effective teaching.

Assuming that we all want to be effective teachers, before we concern ourselves with the alignment of the individual on the mat or the Reformer in front of us, we should first be concerned with our own alignment. Is what we teach truly in harmony with the outcomes that we’d like to offer?

 

(This is one of the central ideas of a workshop that I’m developing with my friend and movement coach. If you would like to participate in a pilot form of the workshop (in London) you can message me via the Paleolates Facebook page, or Instagram @pilatesbutnot).