How do I approach a lesson mentally?


Don't worry about doing the movement perfectly. Just notice what you feel, because the more comfortable you are, the more naturally graceful your movement becomes.

An Awareness Through Movement lesson (ATM) encourages you to move beyond your compensatory habits, taking you outside your range of familiarity. As a result, they may seem puzzling at times. This is because they are new! So give yourself time to feel what happens.

Learning only happens when you are kind to yourself. Your nervous system does not learn if you are mean to it, and forcing movement only reinforces habits.

Don't ask yourself to be different in this moment. Just meet yourself where you are, go through the movements, and see what happens. Often we forget that we have spent years acquiring our quick-fire habitual responses. It is only when we slow down long enough to notice them that we can effect real change.

Follow these guides for maximum benefit:

1. Have compassion

Your patterns are here for a reason (likely helping you survive), so don't knock them. Instead, get out of your own way and allow the lesson to move through you. Your nervous system is wise. Given the chance to sense new patterns, it will shift in unexpected ways. Avoid judging yourself.

2. Engage your curiosity

Be curious when you hear an instruction. Explore the movement instead of perform the movement.

3. Sense more, push less

Pushing hard is the least effective strategy for changing old habits. Too much strain and all you feel is effort. It creates too much noise to hear much of anything else. Slow down and push less so you can feel more. This will generate exponential amounts of change, while pushing hard yields pretty much zero.

4. Prioritize comfort

If a movement pulls, pinches, clunks, yanks, or twinges, stop. Change the speed, change the direction, change the initiation point, or change the timing. Don't keep struggling in the same way. (That's called neurosis.)

Besides, if you struggle, you just take your habits with you. Make each movement comfortable, yummy, and pleasant, even in a tricky lesson. That way you can sneak around your habitual responses.

5. Focus your awareness

Do the movements with awareness, like a tennis player checking how the position of their arm relates to the direction and speed of the ball. If your awareness is flagging, either wake it up or give it a rest. Rests are a sign of intelligence, not failure. The point is to feel more and more human and less robotic.

6. Let go of your ego

You have nothing to prove. Don’t try to prove you can swing your legs overhead or shove your arm halfway up your back. There's no need for ambition and no reason to use force. To feel accomplished, get good at sensing. 

7. Skill, not will

Willpower is a finite resource, whereas improving your skill can go on forever. We rely on willpower when we feel a lack of skill. When we rely on it too much, it is cognitively, emotionally, and physically exhausting. When you let go of forcing things to happen, your life will free up in unforeseen ways.

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