The Principle of NOW: Nervous System

In feldenkrais, Walking by Cynthia Allen

Ways and rituals for dropping into the present moment are a well-traveled road. Meditation, yoga, centering prayer, the sound of a bell or the lighting of a candle. Any of these can be valuable for entering now.

One could say, at least in terms of marketing, being in the now has become a national obsession. As with idea of being GOOD ENOUGH, I want to ruffle your thinking about being in the NOW, because truly the nervous system is already hanging out in now. Its job is how to survive in this moment. It isn’t thinking, “Hey man, I’d like to be able to do X tomorrow.” No. Instead it is scanning the internal and external environment and making millions of microsecond decisions. If it had words, it would be saying, “I need to do X, Y, and Z right now to stay alive.” This is the essence of racial profiling as well as seeing an object that resembles a snake or an unexpected shadow. We act fast under the radar of conscious volition. 

Only when the cognitive brain comes to its fullness does planning for the future come into being. We know from personal experience that harnessing our capacity to plan for days, months and years ahead isn’t simple. Statistically, people don’t diet, quit smoking, or exercise for their future health. People who manage to do this are somewhat rare.

If you haven’t read my first article on the Principle of Good Enough, I recommend you go back and do so now.

You probably know that I am a bit of a gait/walking nut. And that I am co-creator of Integral Human Gait™ theory.  It isn’t enough to stop with bio-mechanics of walking. In a somatic learning approach, we seek to include the whole of human experience. As we become aware of the NOW principle in action, we may find an ability sink into the present moment quite differently.

We would hypothesize that much of our agitation with being still or fully attending is a highly active NOW concerned for our safety. Awareness of just how unsafe one feels is the beginning of growth. Nothing new here yet. Meditation teachers would say something similar.

Here is what you haven’t heard. Balance is a major nervous system pre-occupation. We need to be able to stay upright in sitting, standing and yes on one leg as we walk. We need to be responsive to unpredictable terrain. Balance in life then isn’t only between work and fun. Cognition and emotion. It is also between us and our surroundings.

Our primary job then becomes creating a learning environment for ourselves in which safety is felt. It begins with breathing easily throughout movements. We attend to any feelings of anxiety, and we look for ways not to simply talk ourselves out of anxiety but actually eliminate the need for the answer of “No” or “Maybe not” when the question is asked, “Am I safe now?” wherever possible.

The principles of GOOD ENOUGH learning and NOW, while incredibly important in our early lives need to be examined as we rise into our 30’s and beyond. To simply choose to walk in virtually the same pattern of gait that you have had from age seven makes little sense. 

It is also important to know that we are not striving for perfection. While we try not to settle for good enough in our own pattern of gait, we are also not obsessive. We are under no illusion that we will reach nirvana in gait or should this even be a goal. Instead we can use improvement of gait or any movement pattern as a conduit to meet life challenges.

The next principle coming in a few weeks will be The Principle of Least Resistance.

For now, think about how the first two principles affect your life. And please share this article with a friend or colleague.

Also, don’t forget we have a rich online library of movement lessons designed to help you fill the needs of the nervous system and grow beyond it.