How do I get mentally unstuck? / by Katie Getchell



M sends the following question:

How do you get mentally "unstuck" when you have come to believe that your body is beyond repair - and therefore you are in a vicious circle ?

M, thank you for asking. I think that your experience reflects most people's greatest obstacle to movement.

I'm going to address the mentally-stuck part of your situation.  I don't know your particular physical history, so leaving open the question of whether your body is actually "beyond repair," I want to affirm that there's a lot of pleasure and health to be found in the process of investigation.  For most of us, unless we were unfortunate to suffer permanent illness, injury or disability, more movement is always possible.  

Anaïs Nin said, "We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are."

Right now, you see your body "as you are." In your own words, you're in a stuck place, and your beliefs about your body are keeping you in a negative cycle. The unmoving, painful body lives with the stuck mind, and together they reinforce a vicious circle of hopelessness. 

Becoming mentally unstuck starts with the decision to make small, manageable and consistent changes in your movement habits. As your body starts to move, it powerfully affects the "as you are" part of the equation.  The amazing interpenetration of mind and body will become vividly obvious when you use the physical realm to dismantle the stuck mental realm. The mind that's seeing things as unchangeable starts to mutate when its fleshiness receives what it needs.

The hardest part is breaking inertia. You just need some momentum. Once you make way for the momentum, it will build and give you the energy to make many transformations. I need to say it again: The HARDEST part is breaking inertia.  If your mind and body are enjoying their stagnancy, they'll give you a thousand clever justifications to continue it, but you have to cheerfully ignore these. Practice care and awareness as you choose new habits - but commit to them, and move from the place in you that asked the question, the part that is sincerely tired of being stuck.

There's no movement too small or too brief or too insignificant to start breaking the cycle. It's important, especially at first, to make the changes manageable, so that you can fold them into your life without feeling the backlash of dread or self-sacrifice or defeat.  I'm not talking about going to the gym, taking up a yoga practice, beginning to run miles or lift weights. I'm talking about gently, very gently, but with unwavering firmness, taking hold of opportunities to break out of the comfort zones that limit your body's movement.

Walk a little longer or a little farther. Sit on the floor instead of in a soft chair. Sit less in general. Go outside after dark and explore the winter streets, instead of being at home by the television.  Stop and use as stretching places the trees, the railings and doorways in your environment. Carry more things instead of wheeling or driving them. Choose the steeper path. Take stairs instead of escalators or elevators. In your daily tasks, squat down, reach up, extend out. Use hand kitchen tools instead of electric ones. Carry little ones in arms instead of in a carrier or stroller, even for a few minutes. Make a decision to spend a weekend exploring a new place in nature instead of tending to the list of things you "have to do" at home (stagnation justification alert!)  Move more, even if it's doing toe lifts instead of just standing at the stove. It's actually that silly but true. This is the start. It's the trickle that breaks the dam. 

(I can think of no better examples of generating the momentum that breaks vicious cycles, or of movement repairing the body, than the stories of Ben Pobjoy and Arthur Boorman, so check out these links. I'm pretty sure that Arthur thought he was broken and beyond repair, but when he challenged that idea unbelievable things happened.)

Gradually your reference point, the "as you are" that's mentally stuck, will change as the body gets fresh nourishment from increased oxygenation, circulation, nervous system stimulation, pressure and movement through the joints. From these your body gets a renewed message to heal itself. Esther Gokhale teaches that blood is the best healer, and that anything we can do to promote its flow brings immense benefit to our well-being.  If stasis is your habit, then simply look for novel movement patterns and you'll probably be on the right track. 

There are hundreds of small choices before us each day: we have to consciously notice those that beguile us with convenience and comfort while robbing us of the movement our bodies need. The paradox is that we have to keep a kind attitude towards ourselves while being absolutely ruthless in our resolve to notice what's holding us back. 

The body is beyond repair only when you're beyond movement : it actually depends on movement to relay and enact the messages of cell regeneration. 
The demands you place on your body are, in essence, its instructions to remake itself: so commit to placing some new demands (however small they seem) on your body and it will surprise you with its capacity for regeneration and vitality.