Our bodies contain a wealth of information from which we can learn. I explored expanding my awareness of body data in a setting that was highly conducive to the flow of learning with the Pacific Ocean as part of the scenery and sounds outside our window walled classroom. I spent 26 class hours at the Esalen Institute on the Big Sur coast of California getting to the bones of basic physical movements and how to use the learning for myself and with clients.

During the week of the workshop Building Awareness of the Physical in Coaching and Counseling that Wendy J. Evans, Ph.D. led, I became much more aware of my patterns and those of other participants. Becoming familiar with and gaining clarity about one’s own motor sensory experience is the essential pre-condition to recognizing patterns in others. Based on my training and how I am in the world, I go to my body first for information and consider my body as my best and most reliable assessment tool. As a result of the workshop, I have a more refined tool set for bringing physical data into the awareness of clients.

Gracefully and elegantly taught, this course differs from other programs on using the somatic. Building on the foundation of Cortical Field Reeducation and Gestalt, this workshop used bone as the primary source of information and worked only at the level of bone.

The following benefits results from focusing on the bone: 1.) Reduces possibility for resistance. 2.) Is neutral and safe—people do not suffer from?bone shame. 3.) Allows for immediate acceptance of data—people?do not have judgments about bone. 4.) Offers the fastest path to rewiring?neurochemistry and the most sustainable results. 5.)Holds you up for free; muscles charge or exact a?price.

Several prerequisites contributed to learning: 1.) Curiosity about and willingness to explore the?messages your body sends to yourself and to others. 2.) Tolerance for ambiguity to allow for separating data from interpretation

Participants received a sketch pad and box of crayons to use for creating a body diary for our eyes only of the data we noticed from lying flat on the floor with legs long and arms at the sides. We drew how we experienced ourselves at the beginning and end of the day and after exercises and activities throughout the day. The log helped deepen our awareness of our own bodies and showed the progression or regression of what data we were able to take in and even on occasion in relieving pain or soreness.

The first three days each focused on a plane of movement: flexion/extension, side bending and rotation. At the macro level, flexion relates to survival and protection and extension relates to happiness. Side bending relates to intellectual and mental thinking; rotation to emotional state. The primary places where participants were instructed to mine for data were the feet, pelvis and jaw, and neck and shoulders.

In working in pairs, participants practiced observing only physiological data, stating first what they experienced in their own bodies before moving on to offering possible emotions the client might be experiencing. Being transparent frees the coach and the client and allows for clearer learning.

Below are some postures and movements and possible interpretations:

Arms crossed in front usually mean anger of comfort
Hands on hips usually emphasis challenge or insolence
Hands behind the back usually mean safety
Hand on the chin is contemplative
Hand stroking chin is doubt
Touching your hair, face, or ear is flirtatious or bored and skeptical
Leaning forward is engaged and fully present or attempting to dominate
Leaning backward is distance, breaking contact
Foot forward is ready to move
Held cuff is discomfort
Eye rubbing is self-soothing or breaking contact
Foot wiggling is bored, tense, or needing physical exercise
Foot sliding is doubt, or needing to leave
Ankles crossed is discomfort, or contained
Knee over knee is comfortable
Ankle over knee is powerful or relaxed.

Noticing your clients in their postures or movements creates the opportunity for exploration. Simply notice what you notice. The more attention you pay to the data, the less likely you are to disrupt clients’ experiences. After obtaining the data, forget it and see how it comes up again. When it does, and it will, invite clients to exaggerate a position as a way of moving them deeper into the meaning they make of the position before inviting them to change their positions.

After 26 hours of lying or sitting on the floor, occasionally sitting on a stool and walking about the room or on the deck, I came away with more self-confidence and a deeper respect for the lessons I can learn from my body and how I can use those lessons to better support clients and help them shift. For example, simply inviting a client to walk disrupts the neural process and makes having a different experience easier.
The following are other easy activities to offer clients when they need to quickly shift their experience (e.g., during a difficult meeting). Each movement is doable while seated and is out of view to others: 1.) Push feet firmly on the floor (best done?shoeless) so weight is evenly distributed. 2.)Curl toes, release, repeat 3.)Rotate pelvis with butt firmly in the seat. 4.)Let tongue get heavy at the back of the mouth

Within 36 hours of returning to DC, I applied some of the tools for a client stressed out about two upcoming meetings: one with her boss where she was afraid she would get angry and one with her boss’ boss where she was afraid she would cry. To help her manage the anger, I suggested she do toe curls; she reported that the practice worked and she made it through the meeting without raising her voice. To help her maintain an emotional balance, I suggested letting the tongue get heavy. This practice also worked, as she reported making it through the second meeting without crying.

Author's Bio: 

With her steady, calm presence and personal goal of making people laugh several times a day, founder Renée Barnow, considered by some as the "crisis whisperer," immediately gains her clients' trust. Often called on in crisis, chaos and business transitions that can accompany organizational change, Renée quickly assesses a situation. She provides meaningful insights that support her clients in moving forward from being stuck in behavior and speech patterns. She works with clients to explore how such patterns affect their performance.

Visit http://www.right-line.com to find out more about Renée and her coaching and consulting practice.