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Discovering the Body’s Wisdom

A Comprehensive Guide to More than Fifty Mind-Body Practices that Can Relieve Pain, Reduce Stress, and Foster Health, Spiritual Growth, and Inner Peace
(Bantam Books).

Excerpt: How to Get the Most out of this Book

Discovering the Body’s Wisdom is divided into three parts.

Part I discusses causes of body difficulties and what advantages you can derive from working with your body. It also introduces you to the principles that underlie this book: body alienation, or how we lost connection with the body; befriending the body; the miracle of the body; and body wisdom.

If your body sometimes feels like a stranger or enemy to you, Part I offers you the opportunity to investigate where your uncomfortable, even antagonistic relationship comes from, how you can move instead toward friendship with your body, and what that friendship has to offer you. I know very few people who are perfectly at ease in and satisfied with their bodies. However, if you’re one of them and want to skip Part I, go ahead.

Part II describes ways of choosing and interacting with a practitioner as well as deciding on which bodyway approach to work with. It leads you through a process of both evaluating the practitioner and assessing your own attitudes and preferences. I include such issues as ethics, curing and healing, treatment and education, goal and process orientations, and short- and long-term benefits. I also cover scope of practice, “hurts good” versus “hurts bad,” mixing and matching, and more. A chapter on psychological dimensions will help you understand why bodyways affect more than your physical structure and presents the practice of awareness as a useful prelude to trying any bodyway.

If you’ve had little or no experience in working with body practices and practitioners, Part II will guide you step by step in making choices about them. If you’re already familiar with the bodyways field, Part II can help you better understand some of the experiences you’ve had and suggest how to avoid the ineffective or harmful ones. It can also help you understand why you gravitate toward certain body disciplines and away from others. You may be following a habitual pattern, and it might be fruitful to try a different approach.

Part III serves as a guide to the bodyways field itself. Each section examines the foundation of a whole group of practices and how they approach the body. The explanation will enable you to understand how so many differently named disciplines can be both similar and distinct. The description of the bodyway includes its aim, technique(s) used, benefits, a section called “Resources” for more information, and in some cases, a section called “Experience,” which gives you a taste of the practice. Each Experience allows you to explore some aspect of bodyways with questions and/or with physical and visual experiments [see below].

If you’re a psychotherapist or other health-care professional, Discovering the Body’s Wisdom can assist you in identifying bodyways that are appropriate for your patients as well as help you work cooperatively with other providers. If you’re someone who is contemplating a career change, or if you’re a body practitioner who is considering acquiring new skills, the information here can help you choose and get started in a new direction. You may also want to refer your clients to the book so that they can become informed, responsible participants or consumers.

Experience: Everything is Connected

Stand up and walk around the room or through the house. Be as relaxed and loose as you can. How easy is it to move? Notice how you feel. Then stop. Now tighten part of your body. For example, tighten your right fist. Holding that tension, try walking again. What happens? Can you swing your warms freely, or does your whole right side get stiff? Does your throat tighten, too? Does your step change? And how do you feel overall? Is it possible to smile genuinely when your fist is a big knot?

Try this with any other part of your body--squeeze your buttocks, clench your jaw, suck in your belly--and see what happens. How we are in one part of the body can’t help but affect the rest of the body. And how we feel physically can’t help but affect how we feel emotionally.