si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Month: October, 2011

The Subtlety of Posture

I’ve talked about posture before and how strongly our mind & body are connected. How if we’re feeling crappy, we can adjust ourselves physically and our mind will follow. We can do this just with our face (in the west, often the most outwardly expressive part of us) or with our entire bodies.

What I’ve learned recently is just how subtle this body/mind interaction is.

After 20 odd years of Aikido, this shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did.

In Aikido, we often sit in seiza. Basically, you kneel with your knees apart, your bum on your heels, back arched and head up.

This posture is well known across the universe.

Here’s Spock doing it

(From this excellent site on Vulcan meditation. Ha ha, you think I’m kidding. Oh Internet, you have everything!)

The most important part of all this? The arched back. (Spock does it well)


If you prefer more beard, here’s how it looks from the front:

Long white beard is optional. Grass, preferred. Katana, mandatory.


The basic Aikido pin looks like this:

Shake my hand would you, fool?


No, wait, like this:

No! You sit over *there*!



Ok ok, I’m joking around. It’s actually like this:

See? There’s that seiza again. And you thought we’d just been sitting like that coz we hated legs.

(a few minor corrections – most importantly knees apart will drop her centre more, but that’s actually pretty good)

Now here’s where the arched back comes in.

When you’re on the receiving end (i.e. face down, eating grass) if the person doing the pins arches their back or not makes the difference between:

“Someone’s leaning on my arm”


“My entire being is pinned to the centre of the earth by a large truck”

What’s even more interesting is that when it’s done correctly, zero effort is expended, and the person is not just squashing you as hard as they can – that’s actually a weaker pin.

Now, out of the dojo, and back to real life.

Here’s what I’ve noticed: When I’m healing, or hell, doing anything sitting down, if I sit just that little bit straighter, and yes, arch my back, everything goes much better and becomes extraordinarily easier.

Stuff that might have been tricky to drop or heal falls away instantly.

I feel more in control of my code, my writing, my life. Things become… possible.


The only thing I’m changing is maybe pushing my butt further back on the chair, and arching my back, very, very slightly. Of course, this pushes one’s shoulders back and also tends to raise the head slightly – but really, it’s just a little back arch.

Such a subtle shift, such huge effect.


    Why it seems the crap is never ending

    When you first start on a growing or healing journey (aka life), everything seems amazing. Gigantic problems fall away with ease, life gets better, people notice the change in you and for a while it seems like all your worries are gone.

    After a while though you may start to notice, there’s always more crap.

    What’s going on?

    It’s easy to get discouraged, feel that whatever you’re using “doesn’t work like it used to”, or even convince yourself that it never worked in the first place (I’ve seen this a lot).

    What’s really happening though?

    Well, there’s a couple of things.

    First of all, our problems expand to fill our horizon.

    We have this thing called our Ego (aka the nasty little voice inside), that thrives on misery. So, however big our problems are in reality, if we’re not fully present they can seem to fill our universe.

    I used to live with a girl. Not very smart, but lovely. I would come home from work and she’d be worked up into a tizzy, almost in tears. It took a while before I eventually figured out what she was so upset about.

    Shortland Street. The New Zealand soap opera. “Something terrible” had happened on the show.

    The first couple of times this happened I couldn’t believe it. Eventually I realised, this girl was serious. To her, this was a very real crisis. To her, this was reality and yes, it filled her horizon.

    Important lesson there too: Always respect someone else’s pain. (One I’ve mostly learned, although I do still slip up from time to time in my enthusiasm to help people).

    The second thing to realise is that as we heal more and more of our lives, we go through stages:

    1. You work backwards through time, dealing with earlier & earlier events in your life (and past lives, if you’re into that)
    2. You heal more and more subtle issues. You may have started with major life traumas, but the next thing you know you’re letting go of anger when you knock your coffee over (it’s still non-loving, so you might as well chuck it out, right?)
    3. You deal with higher and higher emotions (aka moving up the vibrational scale). Abraham Hicks have their emotional guidance scale. The releasing guys talk about AGFLAP-CAP – Apathy, Grief, Fear, Lust, Anger, Pride, Courageousness, Acceptance, Peace. It’s all the same. You start by healing the lower, duller emotions, then work you way through the higher ones.

    These three sequences are all happening more or less at the same time. So, there’s always new ways to look at things, always room to improve.

    Compounding this, our roguish ego often makes every step seem enormous.

    A good example is relationships:

    • First you realise that it’s not ok for them to beat you
    • Then that it’s not ok for them to cheat on you
    • Then that it’s not ok for them to shout at you
    • Then that it’s not ok for them to emotionally abuse you
    • Then that it’s not ok for them to disrespect, dismiss, be condescending to you
    • Then that it’s ok to have someone who supports you
    • Then that it’s ok to have someone who loves you as much as you love them
    • Then that it’s ok to have someone who works at the relationship as much as you do
    • Then that it’s ok to have a loving, peaceful relationship
    • Then that it’s ok to be perfectly happy & growing together

    (there may be more, but this is about as far as I can see right now)

    At each stage, the thought of accepting something earlier would seem utterly ridiculous. If you’re at the point where you will only accept a relationship where you’re supported, the thought of being with someone who is physically abusive is ludicrous.

    At that point however (looking further down the list) the thought of being with someone you can be happy with all the time may seem like a pipe dream. Mr (or Ms) Perfect.

    Transitioning from each stage to the next can be a major life revelation – a huge jump forward in your personal growth.

    As you grow, heal and mature, you do move further down the list though, until eventually (hopefully) those later things will all seem reasonable, normal and expected.

    Sadly it often takes several major relationships, maybe a marriage or two, before we see these things clearly. C’est la vie. This is how we learn. Bad choices lead to experience leads to good choices.

    Still, we’re all on our own paths and everyone learns at their own pace. If I was a faster learner, I wouldn’t be over here talking to you. Why, I’d be over *there* talking to you (and it’s so much greener too).

    To see clarity along the way, keeping a journal is helpful. As is talking to old friends, or family – to remind ourselves how far we’ve come.

    The important thing is to remember it’s a journey. Everything you learn, heal and let go of is improving your life. No matter how troubling things seem today, it’s so much better than it used to be, and best of all, it’s going to be even better tomorrow.