By Dianne Trussell, BSc Hons, Goonellabah, NSW
It is possible to tune in to a particular part of the body to find out what is going on there and what is needed. Science confirms that all the cells of our body communicate with each other in various ways, and we can consciously access those messages.
I had a most striking experience of this while preparing for shoulder surgery late last year. I knew this would render my right (dominant) arm unusable in a sling for a couple of months and relatively useless for a couple more. Thus two weeks before the surgery I began training my left hand to clean my teeth, so that at least there would be something I could do for my own hygiene while in a sling. At first it was like trying to poke holes in my own face, as you can imagine! But it did improve and in 2 weeks I could do a fair job of tooth cleaning with my left hand. This is all very normal and expected – that one can, with time and repetition, train a part of the brain to co-ordinate an activity and muscles to carry it out when they are not used to doing it.
However something else happened in this left hand training story, which was quite a myth-busting surprise to me. One morning before the surgery I was lying on a mat doing my yoga, and there’s a move consisting of gently rotating my arms outwards until my palms face up, then back in again until my palms face down. I found that at a certain point in the rotation, my left hand moved in a series of little jerks, while my right produced a smooth movement. Makes sense – the left is not as ‘trained’ to make such fine movements as the right, right? When my right was going to be in a sling I wanted my left hand and arm to be able to do all the jobs the right normally did. In ‘neuroscience belief mode’, I thought it would be just a matter of ‘training’, i.e. doing the same move repeatedly every day. But that made no difference to the jerkiness. None! So what was going on there?
Then I had the inspiration to ‘ask’ my left arm what the problem was. And immediately got the answer: that I was expecting my left arm to be able to move in the same way as my right and it was trying to oblige, which it could not do. “OK, left arm, here’s what we’ll do…” This sounds hilarious, I know, however you could try talking to your own body sometime… very illuminating! I gave my left arm permission to do the move its own way, infinitely slowly, and claim or consolidate each successful increment without jerking before moving on. When I say slow, I mean SLOW. It felt lovely – a very deep, still connection with my body.
But here’s the cool and surprising bit. Just 24 hours later, ALL the unaccustomed movements I made with my left arm and hand were vastly, incomparably smoother and more competent. This was no muscle/nerve training exercise that takes weeks or months – this was a quantum jump. It applied not just to left-handed tooth cleaning but to brushing my hair, using the computer mouse, opening jars and slicing vegetables one-handed, drawing and writing, you name it. Our conventional anatomical and physiological explanations don’t cut it here. A quantum jump like this has to be sought in energy first, with matter following the lead and reconfiguring itself accordingly. It shows several things: the power of consciousness as an energy that can alter material reality, the responsiveness of the body to energy and consciousness, the wisdom and knowing of the body itself and its ability to communicate what it knows.
However there’s more to this story. After my right arm was free of the sling and could begin to resume normal activities, I chose to keep using my left hand equally. One day I was using the computer mouse left-handed and did a fast, complex series of moves very accurately. My left hand still felt awkward, ‘unco’. But hang on a minute! Didn’t my left hand just perform that complex series of moves fast and perfectly? So why do I think it feels ‘awkward’? Then I had an ‘aha’ moment: ‘awkward’ is a judgment, a belief, a label and a habit programmed in by the ‘association cortex’ of the brain. It is a label for the feeling in my body of using my left hand for anything normally done by the right. Labelling it as ‘awkward’ is no longer relevant or appropriate; it’s just different, and the perceived awkwardness is just an old association from when the left hand was previously uncoordinated in its movements. So I let go of associating that feeling with being awkward, and am learning to accept it as merely different, merely the way the left hand feels when it’s working at tasks that are relatively new to it. Way to go, leftie!
I look forward to the next ‘conversation’ with my body or part thereof, when something comes up that needs attention!
Read more on listening to your body’s wisdom: