ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER
The comfort zone's blockages to the free flow of achievement energy prevent us from directing our available energy toward our Dream. The energy is "damned" up inside ("damn this," "damn that").
Each of these limitations (fear, guilt, unworthiness, hurt feelings, and anger) has two aspects--a psychological (mental) one, and a physiological (physical) one. The psychological aspect--and how to reprogram it with visualizations, affirmations, meditations--we've explored in other chapters. In this chapter, I'm going to suggest some ways this energy can be physiologically freed.
As I mentioned before, each of the comfort zone's limitations has a favorite stronghold in the body--fear and guilt prefer the stomach, unworthiness the solar plexus, hurt feelings and anger the chest. It was the mind and its thoughts, of course, that created these limitations in the first place, but the limitations have been "living" in a certain part of the body for so long, that parts of the body have physically taken on the attributes of the limitation.
We know, for example, that mental stress ("pressure") can create tension in the neck and shoulders. In some people, however, that mental stress has been so constant and unrelenting that they have tension in the neck and shoulders all the time-- even when they're not under stress. It's known as chronic tension.
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
The same is true of fear, guilt, unworthiness, hurt feelings, and anger. We tend to have chronic limitations built into the structure of our body. This is why--even when everything is going great--we can feel "free floating" fear, guilt, unworthiness, hurt, or anger.
The comfort zone, then, is "built into" our body. No matter how much "mental" work we do, there is the physical tension in our body that will counteract it.
The good news is that, being physical, we can reduce these physical tensions through physical means. The techniques for removing tensions in the body are varied, plentiful, and, for the most part, pleasurable. The last thirty years have seen a rebirth of these techniques in the West. These include massage, stretching, breathing, exercise--and the old standby, hot baths. Entire schools are devoted to the study of just one form of tension relief--and there are dozens of these schools.
I am not going to explore all of them in this chapter. I will, however, mention a few. Know that any technique that relieves physical tension can be used to reduce the chronic physical tension of fear, guilt, unworthiness, hurt feelings, and anger.
Before I suggest any techniques, there is one thing to keep in mind about physical stress release: As the stress is released, it is usually reexperienced. If you've ever had your shoulders rubbed, you probably noticed that they hurt more as they were being massaged. Along with this hurt was probably a good feeling--one of release. This is often referred to as, "It hurts so good."
The same is true of fear, guilt, unworthiness, hurt feelings, and anger. As each is released, the feeling itself may intensify. But along with the intensity comes the good feeling of release. Often, that good feeling is the other quality of the limitation--excitement for fear, the power of personal change for guilt, worthiness for unworthiness, caring for hurt feelings, and the power for external change for anger.
SIR NATHAN MEYER ROTHSCHILD
In all cases, know that if the feeling you want to reduce, in fact, intensifies-- that's part of the process. To the degree you can, focus on the good feeling that accompanies it.
Breathing and Stretching: It's hard to tell which of the techniques for removing physical tension is the oldest, but I'd put my chips on breathing and stretching. Animals take deep breaths and stretch for the same reasons humans do--it relieves tension and it feels good.
Breathing increases the supply of oxygen to the body. Stretching moves that oxygen around (through increased blood flow to the area being stretched). Fortunately, we can consciously breathe into, and, by breathing into it, stretch each of the comfort zone's strongholds--the stomach, the solar plexus, and the chest.
Try breathing into each of these places, consciously expanding the area as you do so. If you like, as you breathe in, you can imagine a white light going to that area. As you breathe out, you can imagine any darkness (tension) that was in the area released with the exhale.
Breathing deeply into an area of tension can be done anywhere, anytime. You can practice it "formally," lying down (it's sometimes nice to place your hands over the area you're breathing into), or it can be used whenever and wherever the comfort zone wishes to remind you that "you can't have what you want."
Stretching through movement is a great way to break up the comfort zone's patterning. Leaning back--supporting yourself with your hands on your lower back--stretches all the areas at once. So does lying on the floor, face down, and arching your back by pushing the top part of your body off the floor with your hands.
You probably cannot touch your elbows together behind your back, but if you attempt it, it stretches the heart center. If you lean slightly back while doing that, it stretches the solar plexus and stomach as well.
Physical Exercise: Using the muscles in the area of a limitation can help break up the limitation. Does this mean people with washboard stomachs have no fear? Not necessarily. (Although they obviously have no fear of exercise.) There is, however, a definite zone-busting effect to increasing blood flow into an area.
Hot Baths: Is all that exercise too strenuous for you? Here's a stress-reduction technique designed in heaven--the hot bath. Alas, many of us don't take hot baths very often. We live in a "shower power" culture. Maybe if you considered hot baths therapeutic, you could find more time for them. There are few activities that release general physical tension better.
Touch: Simply placing your hands on the areas of limitation can have profound results. It is usually best against bare skin, but through clothing works, too. You can imagine a white light flowing through your hands, into the area, releasing the tension. This is especially useful if combined with breathing. Touching yourself is something you can do almost anywhere. (Some people have become experts at doing it casually in public, as though it were the most natural thing in the world--which it is. Others pretend to be doing something else, such as gently scratching an itch.) A touch can send peace to a disturbed area, or energy to a lethargic one.
Massage: Not only can we breathe into each of the areas favored by the comfort zone; we can also reach all of them with both our hands. (Is this luck, or just good design?) Physically manipulating the stomach, solar plexus, and chest is an excellent way to dissolve the patterns of limitation residing there. The process is made even more effective (and enjoyable) by using massage oil. (I like pure olive oil, myself.)
It's also good to get professionally massaged. Let the masseur or masseuse know the areas you'd like to work on. You can also tell him or her which limitations you're seeking to reduce. He or she may have some additional techniques for specific stress reduction.
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
Any of these techniques becomes more powerful when combined with mental work. Imagining a Dream while eliminating a barrier to that Dream can have profound effects. In this, you are reducing a limitation both mentally and physically. When a limitation is tossed out of both its thriving places often enough, it might just move back to the Midwest where it came from. (Or, perhaps, New England. As Cleveland Amory pointed out, "The New England conscience doesn't keep you from doing what you shouldn't--it just keeps you from enjoying it.")
All these techniques have an element of physical pleasure. In addition to enjoying it, use it, too. Allow yourself to feel good --physically--about your Dream. So often our dreams have been accompanied by physically feeling bad (thanks to the comfort zone).
More on this in the next chapter. For now, know that time spent doing body work is time well invested--reducing the comfort zone's hold, and providing more creative energy to pursue your Dream.
Most people have their passion hard-wired (often hot-wired) in a particular direction. It might be toward a person, certain foods, a TV program, sex, money, football, macram--whatever.
What we feel passionate about is our choice. For most of us, however, the choice was made long ago. We know what the choice is-- whatever we automatically feel passionate about--but we've forgotten having made the choice.
As we free the achievement energy within ourselves, it will naturally flow toward what we already feel passionate about. We're "wired" that way. The energy takes the path of least resistance. If that's the path to your goal, great. If it is heading toward something other than your goal, that newly liberated energy can be redirected.
Notice I said "newly liberated." I'm not suggesting you feel any less passionate about the things you currently feel passionate about--unless those things are not part of your Dream.
I'm saying that most of us have a lot more passion than we currently allow ourselves to feel. As you feel this energy more, give the overflow to your Dream. That overflow may be ten times what you currently feel, but give it anyway. Your Dream requires--and deserves--a lot of energy.
Usually our thoughts "wire" us to a particular passion. We think about, oh, sex, we feel passion; we feel passion, we think about sex more; we think about sex more, we feel more passion. It's an expanding cycle. Like the chicken and the egg, it's hard to tell which came first, the thought or the passion.
W. EUGENE SMITH
Also like the chicken-and-egg puzzlement, it doesn't matter. We have chickens, we have eggs--that's all that matters. We have passion, we have things we feel passionate about--that's what matters.
You can redirect the passion from something you currently feel passionate about to your Dream at any point in the cycle. All it takes is (a) remembering to do it, and (b) a specific image to feel passionate about.
Specific images are important. A general image of a Dream ("I want to be a movie star") is too vague. It doesn't have enough fascination to pull the passion from the current object of desire.
For someone whose dream is being a movie star, a specific image might be winning an Oscar. What specifically about winning an Oscar turns you on? Is it the moment you hear your name announced? Is it the moment you are being patted on the back by all those around you, and giving an obligatory kiss to your companion, whoever that may be? Maybe it's standing at the podium, bright lights shining on you, slightly out of breath, listening to the ovation, Oscar in your hand.
These are specific images. If some of your body work releases one of the limiting emotions, and that releases some passion, then direct that passion toward the specific image of your Big Dream. If you're thinking passionately about whatever you currently find passionating (as I said, what would a self-help book be without a coined word or two--this was number two), direct that passion toward the specific image.
As an exercise, find a specific image of your Dream. Say, winning the Oscar. Now, close your eyes and think about something--not directly related to your Dream--that you tend to feel passionate about. Let's say it's chocolate cake. Think about chocolate cake. Think about how good it tastes. In your imagination, see it, smell it, taste it--let the juices (and the passion) flow.
Then, snap, place in your mind the image of the Oscar. Let the passion built by and for chocolate cake be directed at Oscar. If cake comes back in (and it will), let it. Let the passion
build again, then, snap, switch to Oscar.
At first, you probably won't be able to hold the new image for long--the mind will go back to what it habitually feels passionate about. This is what I meant by "hard-wired." With practice, however, transferring passion from one object to another becomes easier and easier. Eventually, when you feel passion stirring in your body, it will automatically move toward your Dream.
As an advanced exercise, switch the thought from The Passion-Arousing Thing to the specific image while doing the passion-arousing thing. No, this is not an excuse to go have some chocolate cake. ("I ate an entire chocolate cake last night--it's an exercise in a book I'm reading.") Although I couldn't imagine any suggestion that would sell more copies of this book, I must advise you don't do The Passion-Arousing Thing just for the purposes of this exercise.
The next time you are doing The Passion-Arousing Thing, however, from time to time, mentally switch to your new image. (If another person is involved, do be discreet. "What are you doing?" "I'm sorry, dear, I was thinking about an Oscar." "Oscar who?!")
Copyright © 1991-1996 Prelude Press & Peter McWilliams