Awareness Through the Body – Part 3

By Michael Lisak

What is the connection between the body, feelings and the atmosphere around us?

After understanding the importance of paying attention to the body as well as where to focus that attention to, we can investigate further and try to understand the connection between the body and emotions we experience. On the topic of emotions there are many elaborations, we know they are with us at all times, they are not always controllable – as a matter of fact, and they control us. But where are they? How, in fact, do our emotions control us? How can we make use of them?

We are all familiar with different types of emotional pain (loss, bitterness, despair, anxiousness, etc.), these emotions are usually experienced as a jammed situation in life that can either come to pass, appear alternately or accompany us all the time. What is the meaning of “jammed”? Where is it jammed? If we exchange the word “situation” with the word “movement” it will be possible to understand that these emotions are a jammed movement in the body, a strong reaction that resulted from a significant emotional experience. The intensity of the movement (the emotional experience) scared us, and became jammed in the body like a wave frozen while in motion – it is not in its initial state (meaning, something occurred that cannot be ignored) and yet it has not been concluded (there is no acceptance of the experience). The movement/emotion/wave is being held in mid-motion, a process that requires much energy. In time, the body tires of holding the “wave”, and so it weakens and physical symptoms begin to appear.

For example, an emotional experience or trauma such as humiliation or insult can make us afraid – this is a paralyzing fear, not a moving fear. In order to cope with the fear, we acquire certain habits and reactions in order not to feel and not experience the emotional trauma. There is no acceptance of the ordeal and no letting go of it. The experience is jammed in the stomach, because the most terrifying thing is giving it ample space. The body tires of the effort of holding it back and at some point stomach aches and digestive problems begin to surface. In a different situation, the feeling of anger is not given room because there is a fear of its manifestations. This individual will adapt a series of habits that enable him to not experience the intense anger, and so it builds up in the diaphragm or the stomach, breathing takes on a frozen motion, and the shoulders and neck become stiff, which creates a setting for migraines.

What can be done with jammed and frozen movements/emotions?

We can search for them in the body. The body can be a very simple working tool in dealing with aspects in our life towards which we have developed a long list of beliefs and justifications that restrict the course of our lives. Sometimes, the movement/experience is not completely frozen, sometimes something moves if breathed into, sometimes the area is painful of uncomfortable – this is where we divert attention to.

After paying attention there are two options: going with it or going against it.
When the movement is jammed, we breathe, pay attention and then feel how the tone becomes clearer. The physical feeling is spiced up: something angry, sad or perhaps exciting? Then it is possible to play, investigate and look into it. If you want to go along with the movement, then you must overplay it, exaggerate it and give it all the space that the fear of accepting it did not enable. For example, if a serious person notices a feeling of excitement, then he must start breathing fast short breaths and give excitement room it never received before, enabling it to get out of control, this is thawing the frozen state without knowing where it’s headed. The jammed movement will complete its course and the emotional experience will be exhausted.

It is also possible to go against the movement, jam the frozen movement even more. For example, when noticing anger assimilated in the jammed movement (for example in the diaphragm), you close onto it even further and not allow it the room it requires in the body. You contract the diaphragm so that the “spring” in the middle of it wanting to open, is closed even further until it can no longer be contracted. Then you let go and allow the body to do what it desires, allow the frozen movement to continue in its natural path. The fear, which up until that point closed in on the anger, is dissolved around the frozen movement, begins to flow and turns from paralyzing energy to moving energy. The movement that was jammed in the body unwinds like a spring and is released with force; there is no way to tell in which direction or manner the spring will bounce, perhaps the anger will turn into crying. When you let go, the body can surpass its own boundaries: we may feel flow, tremor, crying, yawning, sweating, etc. On the path opened up by the body, we can follow: surpassing our boundaries as well.

The emotional-physical processes mentioned here can be understood from learning through the body. This includes, among other things, sharpening attention to the body and learning basic physical qualities such as: quiet, contraction, resistance, letting go and more.

The thoughts brought forth here are a product of understandings from working with people through the body by the Grinberg method and inspired by the book “Fear, Pain and some other Friends” by Avi Grinberg.


Awareness Through the Body – Part 2

By Michael Lisak

There is a question: where in the body should we focus on?
In the previous post I wrote about the reasons for diverting attention to the body, let me sum these up:

  • The body is our basic working tool.
  • A behavioral habit is almost always manifested in the body.
  • The body can become a “prison” and this condition manifests itself as physical symptoms.
  • The body enables our most direct encounter with life.
  • The body is an eternal student.

During some of the processes I have gone through with patients, I have seen that most are capable of understanding the importance of paying attention to the body. But one question arises: What part of my body should I pay attention to? My whole body? This would have been nice; however this is not an “all or nothing” situation. Everyone has to pay attention to a different part according to their personal situation.

There are, however, some basic guidelines regarding attention and the body:

  • We focus on parts that are painful: this is obvious, we all pay attention to pain, it gives us no choice, yet, if the pain is still manageable, it may still be possible to “explore” it, to try and notice whether it is short and acute, dim and prolonged, where it begins and where it ends.
  • Another thing is protrusions in the body: scan the body while lying on your back, stopping in protrusions of discomfort: stress, constriction, relaxation. Notice the protrusions without changing them, just letting them be. Sometimes this is enough for something to change.
  • Breathing: is it shallow, short, deep, how far into the body does it reach. Is it constricted to the chest? Does it reach the diaphragm? The lower abdomen? Do the back and shoulders take part in the breathing?
    Breathing is our most useful tool for diverting attention to the different parts of the body. Breathing will assist us in paying attention to the body as whole and to specific organs as well.
  • Key points in the body: the diaphragm, neck, shoulders and pelvis. Places in which tension or constriction will be easier to spot, being “junctions” in our bodies.

In conclusion, diversion and focusing of attention to the body is an ongoing learning process. If you would like to practice this, it is recommended first to allow proper conditions: not after a heavy meal, not when tired, without constrictive apparel, when the body is comfortable.

Lie on your back, close your eyes and listen to your body. After paying attention to the physical feelings, it is possible to sense more physical phenomena. It is then possible to move on to the next level, the phase where the experiences with the body become interesting: the point where you notice the connection between the physical feelings and atmosphere and emotions. I will attempt to write some other time and elaborate on this.

My insights here are from years of treating people in the Grinberg method.


Awareness Through the Body – Part 1

By Michael Lisak

Questions regarding the body arose in me in the first years of practicing martial arts, some twenty five years ago. These questions were acute but some were answered in the following several years. I was, and still, working and teaching people In my line of work – The Grinberg Method, where my only working tools are the body, the touch, the breath and the movement.

I’m writing in order to present these questions:

  • Why and how does one pay attention to the body?
  • Where, in the body, should we focus on?
  • What is the connection between the body, feelings and the atmosphere around us?
  • What are the techniques that sharpen awareness in the body?

I might also be able to address the relationship between attention to the body and the practice of martial art.

  • Why is it even worthwhile diverting attention to the body?
  1. Because the body is the most significant and obvious tool that I, as a person, have. I can utilize my body in order to sharpen my attention to life (to other people, the environment, to myself).
  2. Because it’s there: the body is with us in whatever we do, from good to evil. Every habit or behavior will eventually be manifested in the body. Stress will come together with contraction, excitement with butterflies in the stomach, calmness with relaxation, and many other possibilities.
  3. Because the body can become a prison that holds in it certain thinking patterns (the bars will be expressed as stiffness, chronic symptoms etc.). Coming out of that prison is only possible with the help of the body, borders can be crossed with its help.
  4. Body = reality: the body enables the clearest and most real encounter with life. With the body things are clear, when in pain, there’s no room for second guessing, when it feels good, it’s obvious.
  5. The body is a “student”: Like the saying: “you never forget how to ride a bicycle” – the body “remembers” everything. The body enables me a learning process filled with experiences and feelings that are not easily forgotten.
  6. I am the body and the body is me: think about this, even if I was put in solitary confinement, my only substantial physical possession would be my body.
  7. Working with the body enables us to begin with what we already have: we can read all the books in the world, we can learn of every capillary, nerve and tendon in the body, but it is much simpler to just lie down in a quiet place and listen to the body. With the addition of attention, the learning process could be extremely meaningful.