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Body Awareness, Self-Regulation and Conflict Resolution

An E-Book by

Paul Linden, Ph.D. EMBO D IE D P EA CE MA K ING
Body Awareness, Self-Regulation and
Conflict Resolution
Paul Linden, Ph.D.

First Edition

CCMS Publications Columbus, Ohio

Body Awareness, Self-Regulation, and Conflict Resolution by Paul Linden, PhD
Published by CCMS Publications
221 Piedmont Road
Columbus, Ohio 43214 USA
614-262-3355 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
Copyright © 2007 by Paul Linden
First edition 2007

Publisher’s Cataloging-in-Publication
(Provided by Quality Books, Inc.)

Linden, Paul.
Embodied peacemaking [electronic resource] : body awareness, self-regulation and conflict resolution : an e-book / by Paul Linden. -- 1st ed.
p. cm.
System requirements: Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Includes index.
ISBN-13: 978-0-9716261-7-1 (e-book)
ISBN-10: 0-9716261-7-0 (e-book)
1. Conflict management. 2. Interpersonal conflict.
3. Mind and body. I. Title.
HM1126.L54 2007


1 – Introduction ..............................................................................


2 – Relaxation .................................................................................


3 – Posture........................................................................................


4 – Power .........................................................................................


5 – Love ..........................................................................................


6 – Focus .........................................................................................


7 – Spaciousness .............................................................................


8 – Voice .........................................................................................


9 – Following Your Body ..............................................................


10 – Sensitivity .................................................................................


11 – Yielding ....................................................................................


12 – Concepts .................................................................................... 103
13 – Conflicts .................................................................................... 124
14 – Moral Education ....................................................................... 135
15 – Summary ................................................................................... 143
16 – Healing The World ................................................................... 149
Biography & Writings


Conflict has many sources and root causes, and work with any of the sources or causes can be an avenue for reducing or resolving conflict. However, there is one element in conflict that is always present and usually ignored: the body.
It is very common to believe that conflict and peace are fundamentally mental, emotional, spiritual, political, and cultural in nature. However, in addition to seeing conflict and peace from these perspectives, it is important to understand the crucial role the body plays.
Conflict evokes in us physiological fight-or-flight arousal, and that physiological state constrains us to think and behave in ways which perpetuate and escalate conflict. However peaceful a person may wish to be, their capacity to think, talk and act peacefully will be undermined if their body is not in a state of peace.
All too often, conflict resolution and peacemaking processes focus on how to think and talk. Though this level of intervention is crucial, for greatest efficiency and effectiveness, verbal conflict resolution and peacemaking processes must rest on explicit techniques for placing and holding the body in a state of inner and outer peacefulness. Those techniques are what you will learn in this book.

It would be interesting to define just what is meant by “conflict,” “peace,”
“conflict resolution,” and “peacemaking.” That, however, would be complex, and it will be enough just to indicate the general direction of such definitions.
A conflict is a struggle or clash between individuals or groups over such things as ideas, behaviors, or resources.
Peace is not the absence of conflicts. Given the complexity of the world, that is an impossibility. All conflicts eventually end, one way or the other, but new conflicts arise. Peace is the condition in which conflicts are dealt with and resolved in respectful, life-affirming ways. Peace can be achieved only when people have tools for resolving conflicts in productive ways.
I would suggest that resolving a conflict in the most productive way possible would, ideally, lead to a situation in which all parties would feel personally respected and satisfied with the outcome. In this book, I am concerned with building a somatic foundation for methods which would resolve conflicts in this manner.
“Conflict resolution” applies to the resolving of specific conflicts, whereas
“peacemaking” has the sense of a general style of interaction.
I use the word “embodied” in a way which may be unfamiliar to many readers.
Rather than using it in the sense of “exemplifying,” I am using the word to mean


Embodied Peacemaking

“taking into or performing in the body.” The word is often used in this sense in the field of somatic education1. In using the word this way, I mean to be pointing at the idea/experience that conflict resolution must be based on a particular way of living in the body.
This particular way of living in the body would be experienced as an inner feeling of calm, compassionate alertness; and from the outside it would be a demeanor of calm, respectful, compassionate strength.
The opposite of this is fight-or-flight arousal and aggression.

Conflict, as it is usually experienced, includes some degree of fear and anger.
When people are afraid or angry, they often lash out and try to hurt the people with whom they are in conflict. Sometimes they freeze in shock. This internal arousal interferes with people’s ability to think in flexible, constructive ways. It narrows their choices to opposition and conflict.
Your emergency arousal also reduces your opponent’s ability to function effectively. Your non-verbal body language shows that you are feeling/thinking
“threat, danger, enemy, fight, run!” and that non-verbal message will elicit the same fight-or-flight arousal in your opponent. His or her thinking will therefore also be narrowed to conflict and opposition.
The non-verbal fight-or-flight signals from your opponent reinforce your own arousal, which in turn reinforces his. In other words, you and your opponent create a vicious circle.
Your arousal also interferes with your ability to treat your opponent in empathetic, humane ways—which is important in peacemaking. Treating others humanely is a crucial element in resolving conflicts peacefully and building a lasting peace.
People have a deep need to be treated with kindness and respect, and satisfying that need is important in de-escalating conflicts and establishing cooperation.
And your opponent’s arousal interferes with his ability to treat you with kindness. Again, a vicious circle.
• • • • • • •
What is required is a simple, practical way of overcoming the body’s arousal and placing the body into a state of peace. That would make it possible to create a benign circle, an interaction in which you and your opponent elicit from each other escalating responses of respect and kindness. That is what you will learn from this book. 1Somatic

education methods focus simultaneously on body structure and on the lived experience of being in the body. See Discovering the Body’s Wisdom: A comprehensive guide to more than fifty mind-body practices that can relieve pain, reduce stress, and foster health, spiritual growth, and inner peace. Mirka Knaster. New York: Bantam Books, 1996.

Chapter 1: Introduction


Conflict resolution and peacemaking must start with controlling the emotions of fear and anger and go on from there to cultivating feelings of cooperativeness and harmony. The difficulty is that emotions are very difficult to control or cultivate when you think of them as mental events. However, when emotions are looked at as body processes, that makes them more concrete and simpler to identify and manage.
Working with the body is effective precisely because the body is tangible and observable.
In this book, you will work with movement experiments, which are learning situations structured to represent conflict in scaled down, safe forms. In these movement experiments, you will have the time and opportunity to study conflict and practice peaceful responses to it.
The process will involve noticing and feeling moment-by-moment what is happening in your body as you respond to the challenges in the movement experiments. You will learn to improve postural alignment, stability, and mobility as a pathway toward calm alertness, power, and love. Then you will practice using this state of mindbody integrity as a foundation for responding peacefully to the challenges in the movement experiments.
It is important to remember that peacemaking is not an intellectual insight or commitment. It is an embodied process of responding to challenges in a physically peaceful manner. It takes practice to overcome old response patterns and cultivate a new, better habit.
Of course, the real use of the process is in responding to the challenges and confrontations that daily life brings. Through this book you will learn practical skills, and you will benefit immeasurably by applying embodied peacemaking in your life.

Before we begin the practical study of how to create the state of embodied peace, it will be helpful to gain a deeper conceptual understanding of the body states of arousal and calmness. The key to understanding this is the body’s distress response, which is the opposite of the body state of peace.
The body responds to any form of distress by contracting. When people feel threatened or challenged in any way, they typically contract their breathing, posture, movement, and attention, and this can take six related forms. It may take the form of tensing and bracing as a preparation for strength and effort. It may take the similar form of tensing and hardening in anger. It may show up as stiffening and constricting in fear. It may take the form of collapsing and becoming limp in defeat. It may manifest in numbing of specific areas of the body or in an overall state of dissociation2
(spacing out). Or elements of these can combine.

For an in-depth consideration of collapse, numbness, and dissociation, see my e-book Winning is Healing: Body Awareness and Empowerment for Abuse Survivors
(downloadable for my website).


Embodied Peacemaking

Contracting the body reduces ease and effectiveness. Acting in a state of contraction is like driving a car with the parking brakes on. Doing any kind of movement when the breath and muscles are made small (whether tensely or limply) will make the movement effortful, inefficient and awkward. But beyond this, the contraction response reduces the ability to think flexibly; it reduces the ability to function calmly; and it reduces emotional sensitivity and empathy.
The distress response plays a part in conflict. Fear, anger, effort, and dissociation all make it difficult or impossible to function effectively, and they thereby actually escalate conflict.
• • • • • • •
A key to improving functioning in life’s daily conflicts is overcoming the distress contraction. Since the distress response is a physical response of contraction, it is possible to replace it with a physical response of expansion. The exercises in this book will all focus on creating and practicing a body state of expansiveness.
In this book you will learn a simple, systematic way of putting the body into a state of relaxed alertness as an antidote to fight-or-flight arousal. This is an integrated state of awareness, power and kindness. In this state, you don’t feel afraid of, angry at, or alienated from an attacker – or from yourself. In this state, you have the ability to speak words of peace from a peaceful place, a place which is strong and dignified, which evokes respect and encourages friendship. This process of cultivating and using this body state is called centering.

Centering is the antidote to the distress response. It is possible to prevent or overcome contraction by deliberately placing the body in a state of freedom, balance, and expansiveness. Contrary to our customary ways of being, action is much more efficient and effective when the body is relaxed, free and expansive. Every activity, whether it is primarily physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual will be done with greater ease and efficacy when the body is open.
The centered state is a state of wholeness and integrity. It can be described in different ways. Speaking in structural language, the state of integrity is one in which the musculoskeletal system is balanced and free of strain. Speaking functionally, this state allows stable, mobile and balanced movement. Speaking in psychological terms, this state involves reaching out into the world with a symmetrical, expansive awareness and intentionality3 while simultaneously staying anchored in internal body awareness. Speaking in spiritual terms, this state is an integration of the body states of power and love. Speaking in ethical terms, this state creates an awareness

3 What I mean by “intentionality” will become clearer as you go through the various exercises in the book and gain a direct experience of centering.

Chapter 1: Introduction


of and concern for the effects of one’s actions on the wellbeing of others. Whatever terms we choose to use, they refer to one and the same mindbody4 state.
For some reason, it is easy and automatic for human beings to drop into the distress response, but centering needs to be learned and practiced, and it needs to be engaged in voluntarily and deliberately. The key to centering lies in developing and applying body awareness.

What is body awareness? The simple answer is that it is the ongoing process of feeling and noticing your body as you perform actions. That’s a simple answer, but there is a lot hidden in it.
To begin with, most of us do not feel our bodies very clearly or fully, but since we don’t have anything to compare that to, we don’t notice how little we notice. And of course, we aren’t directly aware of the negative effects of not noticing our bodies.
Being aware of your body means: noticing, feeling, sensing, savoring— the rhythms, tones, qualities, shapes— of your breathing, your muscles, your posture, your movements— how you deploy your attention inside and outside of your body— how intentions shape muscle actions and movements— how all that is a response to what is happening to and around you— how it affects your abilities to respond to what is happening to and around you.
The purpose of body awareness training is to wake up the human capacity for choice. Once you are aware of what you are doing as you do it, you will have the opportunity to choose among the various options of what to do and how to do it.
Rather than being a slave to primitive arousal reflexes, or to your past experiences of conflict, you will have the ability to choose peacefulness.

The key to body awareness is learning to use body-based language for describing feelings and actions. In teaching a person to manage the feelings that are part of conflict, I have her learn to notice and specify what she is feeling by giving detailed and complete statements of precisely where in her body there is something going on and precisely what she is doing at that location. Body-based thinking means pinning down thoughts, feelings, and intentions by defining them in terms of observable,

4 “Mindbody” is a term used in somatic education disciplines to refer to the whole person without any implication that “mind” is separate from “body.”


Embodied Peacemaking

physical response patterns and tangible physical sensations. This is a process of pinning down emotions through operational definitions.5
Normally, people are so used to feeling themselves as “mental” and “emotional” beings that they don't notice the physical substrate for mental and emotional events. However, emotional and mental responses can be defined in physical terms.
Thus, for example, rather than thinking of anger as something in the mind, you could look at anger as a complex physical action, which might include clenching your fists, tightening your jaw, breathing more rapidly etc. The mental aspect of anger, then, would be what is felt or experienced when these physical actions are done in the body. Becoming aware of the body events which bubble along within you, usually out of your conscious awareness, is important in the process of self-observation and change for a number of reasons.
First, taking a body perspective transforms a strong feeling from an overwhelming, incomprehensible experience to a series of simple physical events. Instead of feeling terror, for example, you may be tightening your throat, stopping your breathing, hunching your shoulders and so on. That alone takes some of the power out of the feeling.
Second, body-based language facilitates the development of a stable observerself. By stepping back from the whirlwind of emergency arousal and studying the body as the locus of emotions, a person attains some distance from and perspective on the emotions he is experiencing. That mental stability is the foundation for being able to know your self and make informed decisions about what to feel, think, and do. Third, examining your body will help you become aware of and understand what you are feeling. Very often our awareness is restricted to just one part of what we are feeling, but the whole of what we are experiencing is happening in our bodies. By scanning your body, you can bring into your awareness the body events of emotions you aren’t noticing, and you can start to feel those emotions and understand their influence on your actions and your life.
Fourth, by allowing people to compare the meanings they attach to the same emotion label word, body-based language allows people to achieve more precise communication. Just as the memories you attach to the word “cat” are different from the memories the word calls up in me, so the words we use to name feelings really have somewhat different meanings for each speaker. Thus, for example, someone who uses the label “anger” to denote an emotion which includes holding the breath is operating from a very different emotional state than the person who experiences anger as increasing the rate of breathing. By examining the physical content of each other’s words, people can gain more of a sense of what the other person means.
Fifth, body-based thinking anchors people in the lived experience of the present moment. Rather than allowing them or encouraging them to go off into memo5

Operational definitions define ideas not by using other ideas and words but instead by specifying tangible, concrete, measurable events.

Chapter 1: Introduction


ries of the past or verbal/cognitive statements about their lives, physical thinking helps them keep up a running pattern of self-monitoring, focusing on the current details of breathing, muscle tone, posture and movement. This helps people to feel their feelings by getting them to notice just exactly what they are doing as they do it.
Sixth, once you understand feelings as series of physical actions, you begin to realize they don’t just happen to you. They are physical actions that you are doing, even if you aren’t normally aware of your role in doing them. And once you realize that you do your emotions, you can do the opposite actions. You can replace one set of actions with another. Looking at fear, for example, instead of tensing muscles, you can relax them. Instead of reducing breathing, you can increase it. Instead of shrinking, you can open up. When you do the opposite of fear, you will feel the opposite of fear, and you will become the opposite of afraid. You will become relaxed, alert, and capable. Physical thinking offers a clear and distinct avenue for creating internal change. The body is solid and graspable. Once you can experience mental, emotional, energetic, intentional and behavioral patterns as lived body configurations/actions, you will be able to identify the configurations of dysfunctional patterns and then deliberately construct more positive patterns as replacements. By altering physical configurations, you will also be altering mental, emotional and behavioral patterns. MOVEMENT EXPERIMENTS
The key to centering lies in using movement experiments as vehicles for developing and applying body awareness. Movement experiments are concrete situations for observing behavior (and I include thoughts, feelings, intentions, movements and actions as behavior). Movement experiments are simple role playing situations in which you have a task to achieve and can observe yourself as you attempt the task.
A movement experiment presents a challenge for the student to deal with.
These experiments are safe, controlled situations which function as solid metaphors for or limited representations of the real life events or problems the student is dealing with. Because the experiment is a safe, controlled situation, the student can afford to focus his attention on the process of his behavior rather than on the results.
Real life, of course, requires you to focus on results, results, results. So you often do not have the time or energy to experiment with the process whereby you attain results. In a movement experiment, you will have the opportunity to learn how to monitor your responses, how to evaluate them, and how to construct new and better responses. IN A NUTSHELL
The process you will be learning can be stated simply and briefly. The essence of conflict arousal is physical contraction, and the essence of embodied peacemaking is the deliberate replacement of contraction with expansion.


Embodied Peacemaking

Fear, anger, distrust, egotism, jealousy, greed, deceitfulness, and other negative feelings involve compression of the breath, muscles, posture, and attention.
Compression creates physical weakness and instability. It creates narrow perception and narrow thinking.
Kindness, sensitivity, generosity, truthfulness, assertiveness and other positive feelings involve openness and freedom in the breath, muscles, posture, and attention.
Openness creates sensitivity, power, and compassion. Body openness creates open perception and open thinking.
By doing the exercises in this book, you will learn how to detect compression and replace it with openness. That will lift you out of the fight-or-flight physiology and place you in a mindbody state conducive to peacemaking.

Peace must be based on peacefulness, which is a body state. As you will experience through the exercises in this book, the human body functions best in a loving, empowered state. Fear, anger, effort and dissociation (the distress patterns) are weakening to the body and the whole self. Actions that are built on these feelings will create, escalate, and perpetuate conflict. I would say that peacefulness is the essence of moral behavior.
Morality is not some abstraction imposed from without. Morality is built into the very structure of the body. Morality comes from an integrated body state of power and love. Embodied peacemaking is an expression of the fundamental moral structure of the body. (This will be dealt with further in Chapter 14.) The method of peacemaking described in this book is not based on philosophy and beliefs but simply on how the human body works.


How can we get a practical handle on what conflict is and what its physical effects are? What we need to begin the investigation is a small piece of conflict. It will function as a movement experiment, a small-scale laboratory version of a big, reallife event. If it is safe and small-scale, it will not cause unbearable stress, and it will be safe enough to study. But it must be real enough to arouse a response in you, or it will be not be worth studying. The following exercise will supply just such a realistic but minimal conflict.
This experiment will help you discover how you respond to conflict. For this exercise, you will need a partner. Ask your partner to stand about six or eight feet away (about two meters) from you and throw a tissue at you.
Well, as conflict goes, being attacked with a tissue is really pretty minimal.
For most people this attack is tolerable. Most people find that this mostly symbolic gesture does arouse some fear, but since the “attack” is minimal, so is the fear.
When you have a minimal attack, you can afford to take your time to study it and learn about your responses to it.
Calibration is important. The exercise must be matched to the student. I once worked with a person who had recently been in the military special forces. As you can imagine, having tissues thrown at him didn’t bother him at all. I had to increase the stimulus intensity a lot until we found an attack that was interesting for him to examine. In working with people who don’t feel much, it is often necessary to increase the stimulus intensity so that they get a response large enough for them to notice. I might ball up the tissue so it flies faster, or I might wet it so it hits with a soggy and palpable thud. Or I might throw a pillow instead of a tissue. I wouldn’t throw a stone, but I might surprise someone by picking up a stone and pretending that I was going to throw it.
On the other hand, I often have people tell me that even throwing a tissue at them feels too intrusive and violent. In that case, standing back farther, so that the tissue doesn’t reach them, makes the “attack” even more minimal. Or it may be necessary to do just the movement of throwing the tissue without a tissue at all.
Perhaps turning around and throwing the tissue in the wrong direction will help. Or just talking about throwing a tissue, but not moving to do so at all.


Embodied Peacemaking

The point is to adjust the intensity of the “violence” in this exercise so that it is tolerable and safe for you to examine. For most people that means revising the attack downward in intensity.
You get the point, I’m sure. The “attack” must be intense enough to arouse some response but so minimal that you will feel safe in examining it.
Once you have chosen your preferred attack, have your partner attack you and notice what happens in response to the attack. What do you feel? What do you do? What do you want to do?
If you are working in a group, you can ask people to watch as you are attacked. They can give you feedback about what they observed you doing. You may be surprised by their feedback. Very often, observers will notice clear, obvious postural and movement responses that the person him/herself is totally unaware of.
Many of the exercises in this book will lend themselves to this process of group feedback. I think it is helpful to get feedback from a group rather than from a single individual. If a number of people report seeing the same response, that gives some assurance that they are seeing correctly. If just one person says he sees something that you didn’t observe, the question arises as to which one of you is observing correctly.
There are a number of common reactions to the attack with the tissue. People being hit often experience surprise or fear. They may feel invaded and invalidated.
Frequently they tense themselves to resist the strike and the feelings it produces.
Some people giggle uncontrollably or treat the attack as a game. Many people get angry and wish to hit back. People may freeze in panic, and some people go into a state of shock or dissociation.
Most people talk about feelings and mental states. They are surprised, angry, afraid, spaced out and so on. They want to escape, or they want to fight back. However, a very different way of paying attention to yourself is possible.
Notice the details of your muscle tone, breathing, body alignment. Notice the rhythms and qualities of your movements. Where in your body do you feel significant changes? What are you feeling and doing in those locations? Rather than speaking in mental terms—about feelings, thoughts and emotions—it can be very productive to speak in body-based language. By paying attention to the physical details of your responses, you will begin to see more deeply into the ways you handle conflict. And learning to notice what you do is the first step in changing and improving what you do.
Notice what you do in your throat, belly and pelvis. What happens in your chest and back? Notice what you do in your face and head. Notice what you do with your arms/hands and legs/feet. What happens to your breathing? Is there anything else to pay attention to?

Chapter 2: Relaxation


Most people realize that they tighten up when they are attacked. They may clench their shoulders or harden their chests.
They most likely tense or stop their breathing. They may lean back or lean forward, but it is a tense movement. Sometimes the tension is fear, and people shrink away from the attack. Sometimes the tension is anger, and people lean forward and wish to hit back. Do you do any of these things? Do you also do something else?
Many people find that they get limp as a response to being hit.
Their breathing and muscles sag.
This collapse is part of feeling defeated. Many people find that they experience both rigidity and limpness simultaneously in different areas of the body.
Another slack response is to look away and space out and simply wait for the hitting to be over. This is a form of dissociation. People may feel their awareness shrink down to a point, slide away into the distance, or float up and away. They are coping with the attack by reducing their attention to and their awareness of the attack.
Some people find the role of the attacker far more difficult than the role of the victim, but we will focus on the responses to the role of the person being attacked. However, one idea might make the attacker role easier for you. It will help to remember that your attack is a gift to your partner. By being concerned and benevolent enough to attack your partner, you are allowing them the opportunity to develop self-awareness skills. Without your gracious cooperation, they would not be able to learn these skills, and when they faced real challenges in their lives they would be completely unprepared.
Once you have gone through the exercise, reverse roles so that your partner has the opportunity to study her/his responses to being attacked. (Though this role


Embodied Peacemaking

change will not be specified again throughout the book, please do this role reversal in every exercise you do with a partner or a group.)
Before we analyze this exercise you have just done, let’s discuss a couple of things. First, in many of the exercises, I will talk about what “most people feel.” That is a way of focusing the discussion on the responses and experiences which I have seen in my teaching to be most common. That doesn’t mean that different responses or experiences are wrong. You may feel something different, and that is fine. If we were doing the exercises together, I could address the specific experiences you have, but in writing a book, I have to talk about what most people will usually feel. If you find yourself experiencing significantly different results in some exercise, that can be the starting point for heightened awareness of your particular movements and ways of being in your body.
Whatever you did in the exercise, it was important. It would be easy to dismiss the various physical responses to the attack as being nothing but ordinary tension that anyone would experience. However, the forms that you choose for your body and your movements—whether consciously or subconsciously—are expressions of your sense of what you are and what the world is. By experimenting with simple movement situations, you can discover the nature of the beliefs and strategies that underlie your actions. You can evaluate the efficacy of your choices, discover why you have become committed to them, and try out new movements and new ways of approaching the world. This learning is what will lead to personal change.
What message is contained in the movements you did in the Throwing Tissues exercise? When people pay attention to the motivation underlying their particular response, whether they tighten up or get limp, they generally sense that their response is a way of getting ready for the attack.
People experience that tensing is a way of bracing to withstand the attack. In what sense is bracing a way of being ready? Imagine walking in a park. It’s a quiet day. You’re listening to the birds in the woods and watching the clouds in the sky.
You are walking past a flag pole and you can hear the fluttering of the flag in the breeze. All of a sudden, the flag pole falls. Right toward you. You are about to be crushed. By how far does the flag pole have to miss you for it to not hit you? A mile? A yard? A foot? An inch? Well, it won’t hit you if it misses you by an inch. A yard (a meter) might be better in case it bounces when it hits the ground.
Do you freeze in panic as you see the flagpole falling? But if you freeze, you’re not ready to move. If you stop breathing or tighten up, your muscles and joints will be locked, which is not a good starting point for the simple action of stepping out of the way of the falling flag pole. Bracing is getting ready for getting hit.
If you are breathing with ease and comfort, and maintaining fluid flexibility in your muscles and posture, you are ready for dodging the falling flagpole. Being re-

Chapter 2: Relaxation


laxed is getting ready for avoiding being hit. If you are relaxed as the flagpole falls, you can easily step away from its path.
It is obvious, on the other hand, that limpness is an acknowledgment of defeat.
As people focus their attention on feeling the limp response, they very quickly sense that limpness is about giving up, knowing that there is nothing they can do so there is no reason to try doing anything.
Powerlessness is the hidden message in tension or limpness. Both ways in which people respond to the tissue attack contain a hidden belief that they cannot prevent getting hit. So they tighten up or get limp—and hope to survive the impact.
However, relaxation is actually the best preparation for effective action to deal with problems or threats.
The common denominator in responses of tensing or getting limp is the process of getting smaller. Fear and anger narrow us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Limpness also narrows us. However, softening the body is the antidote to contraction. By softening the body, I mean a form of softness that is energized and expansive—the opposite of both tension and collapse. The meaning and implications of this will become clearer as you go through the book.

The simplest relaxation technique I know is just to let your tongue relax and hang softly in your mouth. What does that do?
Most people find that as soon as they relax their tongue, immediately their throat, shoulders and breathing soften as well.
This trick is rapid, effective and totally unobtrusive. You can practice it anywhere, any time, and use it in any situation to help decrease your emergency, fight/flight/freeze arousal.

Get up for a moment and walk around. What does your belly feel like? Do you suck in your gut? Many people hold their bellies tense and sucked in. If you do, how does that affect your breathing?
How do you feel about your belly? Many people are ashamed of their bellies and try to hide them or make them look smaller.
In order to increase your awareness of how you hold the core of your body, consciously tighten your belly, anal sphincter and genitals and then walk around.
Really grip those muscles hard. How does that affect your movement? Notice how stiff and strained this makes your legs, hips and lower back and your movement as a whole. Notice how restricted it makes your breathing.


Embodied Peacemaking

By the way, as you try this exercise, notice whether your clothes are comfortably loose. If they are tight, there will be a constant pressure on your body.
Your muscles will actually tense up and fight the pressure, whether you notice it or not, and it will be hard to relax your belly. As a general rule, in relaxation and in everything else that will be discussed in this book, it will help to wear clothes that are as comfortable as possible.
Now, stand and alternate tightening your belly and relaxing it. When you relax it, let it plop out. Next try releasing your belly—without doing a preliminary tightening. Whatever is your normal way of holding your belly, just let it plop down. Along with softening your belly, for greater relaxation, consciously allow your genital and anal muscles to relax. Was there tension to release even when you had not consciously tensed your belly? What does it feel like to let your belly relax fully? Most people experience a noticeable release even when they had not first tightened their bellies consciously, and they realize from this that they had been unconsciously holding themselves tight and that they probably do so most of the time. Try walking around again with your belly soft. How does that feel? Most people experience greater ease, fluidity, and solidity in their walk. And that is how walking should be—not tense and constricted. (Occasionally, people who are very stiff will experience discomfort when they relax their abdominal muscles. That is generally because they didn’t relax the rest of their body when they relaxed their belly. If you are feeling such discomfort, as you relax and free up the rest of your body, you will feel more and more comfortable.)
Once you can relax your belly, go back to working with the Throwing Tissues exercise (2.1). Have your same partner throw tissues at you while you maintain your tongue and belly in their natural, relaxed state.
What do you feel? What do you do in your body?
Most people will find that they have no physical response to having the tissues thrown at them this time. Or at least it will be a greatly lessened response.
They will not be disturbed by the attack. They will be able to stay relaxed and alert.
The ability to stay relaxed and alert when something or someone is giving you trouble is the foundation for being able to handle the trouble. (Just to be perfectly clear, I am not recommending that when some dangerous object is actually thrown at your face you stand calmly with no response. You must block or dodge!
The tissue throwing exercise is solely for the purpose of teaching people to decrease fight-flight-freeze arousal.)
Almost always when I teach adults about relaxing the belly and letting it plop out, I must spend time combating the notion that sucking in the gut looks better.
(Young children usually don’t have this concern.) People very quickly feel for them-

Chapter 2: Relaxation


selves that they breathe and move more easily when they let their bellies out, but often they feel fat and sloppy. They feel embarrassed to go out in public looking relaxed and balanced. For many people it takes a good deal of practice to feel comfortable with being comfortable.
Many people identify beauty and power with tension and constriction. Our culture places trimness before us as the ideal of beauty, but if you look under the skin of that idea, trimness turns out to be another name for tension.
Think about it for a moment. When do we normally and naturally suck in our gut? When something startles us! Tensing and sucking in the belly is part of the fear/startle response. Isn’t it strange that we are all encouraged to live in a permanent fear/startle pattern?
Holding tension in any area of your body makes your entire body uncomfortable, but the muscles in the belly, anus and genitals are especially important. They are the core of the body and the center of movement and balance. Holding tension in these body areas makes it impossible to relax and move freely, strongly and comfortably.
Sucking in your gut creates tension and weakness throughout the body. If you bring that commitment to tension with you to the task of discovering how to respond to conflict peacefully, you will be taking two steps back and one step forward. In order to become peaceful, you need to be willing to feel how your body operates and do what will make you truly relaxed and comfortable.
When I teach about relaxation, a question that always comes up is about the difference between relaxation and limpness. Relaxation is not just limpness, though many people think of it that way. I would prefer to define relaxation as appropriate work, that is, using only the amount of work appropriate to the task at hand. If you use one hundred pounds of effort to pick up a fifty pound weight, that is tense and unrelaxed. If you use only fifty pounds of effort, then you are as relaxed as you can possibly be while still getting the job done. If you are lying in the sun with your eyes closed, listening to the birds, resting and dreaming—and expending twenty pounds of effort in your muscles—that certainly is not relaxed. It is more work than the task needs. There is an important point to be made about the Soft Belly exercise: it produces a relaxation that is active and strong, not passive and limp. The Your Spot exercise (5.5) will demonstrate what this means. Until then, keep this idea on the back burner. The next place to go in practicing the skill of relaxation is breathing. Breathing is an interesting activity. It is something which is normally involuntary and automatic but which can be easily controlled consciously. By breathing during fight-orflight situations in a manner that is involved in rest, you can actually can keep your mind and body relaxed and alert and ready to deal with the problems confronting you. In addition to the direct benefit of relaxation, one purpose for relaxing your belly was to prepare you for relaxing your breathing.


Embodied Peacemaking

Before you learn the following breathing and relaxation exercise, you need to understand how breathing actually works. The key fact is that the lungs don’t do the movements of breathing. The lungs are passive sacks that allow contact between the blood and the air so that oxygen can be taken in and carbon dioxide released.
The diaphragm muscle is the prime mover in the action of breathing. It is a dome-shaped muscle that stretches across the chest, and it functions like a piston. When it pulls down, air is sucked into the lungs, and when it relaxes and goes back
Action of the diaphragm up, air is expelled. Below the diaphragm is the stomach, liver and intestines, and that all has to go somewhere when the diaphragm pushes down. Flesh, being mostly water, is incompressible, so it can’t be squeezed smaller. It can’t move up because the diaphragm is there. It also can’t move down because below are the pelvis and the web of muscles that comprises the floor of the pelvis.
When the diaphragm pushes down, everything below is displaced outward, primarily to the front where the abdominal muscles can allow movement (but to some extent to the sides and back since the rib cage allows some movement there as well). Have you ever watched a baby breathe? When babies inhale, what happens to their tummies? They expand. This is how infants breathe, and it is the anatomically natural way to breathe, but it is not how most adults breathe.
Stand tall. Throw back your shoulders. Suck in your gut! Have you ever heard this? We are taught to breathe wrong! Americans have enshrined the fear-startle response as their ideal of beauty and strength.
I wonder whether this tension-filled way of breathing is related to the prevalence of conflict in our world. The fear-startle response is the body’s response to emergencies, but people who get stuck in the fear-startle response will treat much that comes their way as a threat and respond to it in the spirit of conflict. Learning to relax your breathing is important in preventing and breaking out of fight-or-flight arousal. BELLY BREATHING: PRACTICE 2.4
Stand up. Now, put your hand on your belly and notice whether you suck in your belly or let it expand when you inhale. Then touch your low back, and touch your chest. Do they expand when you inhale?

Chapter 2: Relaxation


Let your belly relax, and keep it relaxed as you inhale. Let the air fall gently down into your tummy as you breathe in, and let your tummy expand. (Of course the air stays in your lungs, but this image will help you feel the movement all the way down through your body.) Your belly should be the focal point of your breathing, but it is important to let your chest and back also swell gently as you inhale.
Compressing your belly as you inhale rigidifies your chest and back and creates a lot of tension in your body. However, if you have gotten used to sucking in your gut as you inhale, breathing in a more relaxed. comfortable manner will feel strange. It may be so unfamiliar that you will feel uncomfortable breathing comfortably.
If expanding and inhaling is difficult, at first you may have to deliberately push your belly out as you inhale just to get the rhythm. Later you can give up this extra effort.
Some people find it very hard to figure out how to either expand or push out their bellies. A way to help with this is to lie down on your back, with pillows under your head and knees, put a fist sized stone (or something similar) on your belly just below your belly button, and concentrate on raising the stone by inhaling.
Ideally you should relax your belly and breathe from there all the time. However, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth is just for this exercise. In daily life, you should breathe normally, in and out through your nose.
Try walking around as you breathe from your belly. How does that movement feel? Most people feel that their movement is more relaxed, grounded and graceful. 24

Embodied Peacemaking

Chest breathing

Belly breathing

Applying newly acquired knowledge is important. When you apply new information and experience success in applying it, that engraves it in your brain. We remember what works, and we will apply in the future what we’ve experienced success with in the past. So let’s use this new way of breathing in a conflict situation.
Let’s go back to the tissue attack. It will be the same exercise but there will be one difference: as your partner throws the tissues at you, use what you have just learned about softening your tummy and focusing your breathing in the core of your body. Relax your belly, and regardless of what your partner may do with the tissues, keep your tummy soft and your breathing soft and steady.
What do you notice? How do you feel? What difference does softening your tummy make?
Most people notice that they receive the attack very differently when they keep their breathing soft. The attack no longer seems so threatening. They don’t react with constriction, fear or anger. Most people experience that when they stay soft, they don’t dislike the attacker but can maintain a spirit of calmness. The attack becomes just an event to deal with.
In other words, softening the belly takes a lot of the emotion out of being attacked. It reduces the attack to an event to be dealt with. And it gives the defender the calmness and presence of mind that will allow her/her to find constructive and peaceful ways of responding to the conflict.

Chapter 2: Relaxation


One way to begin breaking free from the mental constriction involved in conflict is to focus on core muscles and loosen them. Once you can remember to remember to loosen your belly and breathe from there, you have begun the process of embodied peacemaking.
This exercise is logically the same as the Throwing Tissues exercise. Something unpleasant will happen, and you will experiment with regulating your response to it. However, this exercise will be even more interesting than the tissue throwing. You will need a partner for this experiment in using breathing as a means of reducing emotional stress. You and your partner should stand facing each other. In order to create some conflict to overcome, we will use a simple image and movement. Your partner was out in their garden last night, picking slugs off lettuce plants, and they saved all the slugs. Have your partner rub a handful of slugs in your face.
What do you do when your partner does that? What happens to your breathing? Does your posture change? Do you stay relaxed and alert? Do you tense up and pull away? Or something else?
What do you do in your face?
(Some people truly don’t find having slugs rubbed in their faces at all stressful. If you are in that category, you might consider consulting with your partner and figuring out something that would be stressful enough to be productive as an exercise for you. Remember that the exercise has to be safe and that your partner has to be comfortable enough with their role in the exercise to do it.)
The imaginary slugs coupled with the real physical intrusion of the touch almost always makes people very squeamish and uncomfortable. Most people who do this exercise pull away, grimace, tense up, and restrict their breathing.
Now, have your partner rub the slugs into your face again. Consciously and deliberately relax your belly. Relax your tongue and throat, and release your pelvic floor muscles (the muscles around your genitals and anus) as well. Choose to keep your breathing soft, steady and continuous. How does that affect the way you respond?


Embodied Peacemaking

Most people experience that relaxing the belly and breathing from the belly vastly reduces the emotional discomfort of the exercise. It is even more calming than only relaxing the belly. Many people even find that an intrusion which was very uncomfortable at first becomes quite trivial when they maintain their focus and relaxation.
Just for comparison, try tensing your breathing, throat and pelvic musculature as preparation for having the slugs rubbed in your face. Most people experience that tension not only brings back the discomfort but greatly increases it. Most of the pain/discomfort that you experienced in having the slugs rubbed in your face you created yourself through your dislike of the intrusion. Of course there is a certain real physical sensation because you are indeed being touched, but most of the discomfort was added on top of that bare minimum.
The real problem in conflict resolution and peacemaking is overcoming the emotions involved in conflict and violence long enough for rational discourse to evolve. The thrust of this book is that verbal, conceptual processes—without a body focus—are inefficient ways of making emotional changes.
Emotions are physical events in the body. Do you think you could be emotionally angry or terrified and at the same time physically soft, gentle and relaxed? Not likely. Could you be emotionally depressed and physically energetic, alert and comfortable? Emotions are physical events, and feelings are what those physical events feel like to the person doing them. The point is that if emotions are physical events, you can control emotions physically. You can replace the physical events of fear and anger with the physical events of relaxation.

Abuse, 137
Accuracy, 87
Aiki Extensions, 112
Aikido, 8, 65, 113, 116
Aiming, 71, 78, 79
Alienation, 40, 104, 105, 135. See also
Amplification, 85, 88, 103
Anesthesia, 136, 138
Anger, 2, 3, 9
Antidote. See Replacing body patterns
Apologizing, 121
Arousal, 2
Attack as a gift, 16, 113
Attention, 143
Authenticity, 87
Awareness, 4, 104

Being In Movement® training, 9
Belief, 17
Belly, 18, 22
Belly breathing, 22
Benign circle, 2, 132
Body alienation. See Alienation
Body alignment. See Posture
Body awareness, 5, 6, 72
Body map, 34
Body numbness. See Numbness
Body work, 9
Body, in peacemaking, 2
Body-based language, 5, 15, 50, 51
Boundaries, 107
Breathing, 20, 35, 63
Breathing anatomy, 21
Breathing exercise, 21, 62, 68, 71, 75

Calibration, 12, 14, 129
Center, 4, 54
Centering, 131
Challenge/response model, 8, 124
Chest breathing, 22
Child abuse, 137
Choice, 5, 7
Clothing, 19, 44
Communication, 6, 77, 130
Compassion, 121
Concepts, 30, 59, 103, 114
Concepts. See also Language
Confidence, 39

Conflict resolution, 1, 2, 130, 132. See also
Conflict, causes of, 21, 41
Consciousness, 82
Content & process, 40
Contraction, 3, 7, 18, 141
Criticism, 117
Culture, 20, 30, 43, 52, 59

Defeat, 3
Diaphragm, 21
Diaphragmatic breathing, 22
Diminishment, 118, 132
Discovering the Body’s Wisdom, 2
Dissociation, 3, 16, 41, 104
Distress response, 3, 16
Distrust, 104

Effectiveness, 4, 143
Efficiency, 4, 35
Effort, 3, 52
Embarrassment. See Shame
Embodiment, 1
Emotions, 3, 5, 6, 15, 25, 53, 92, 108. See also
Emotions, negative, 8
Emotions, positive, 8
Empathy, 4, 92, 95, 105, 130, 136, 139
Empowerment, 26, 140. See also Power
Ethics, 5, 132
Evil, 139
Expansiveness, 4, 68, 71, 141.
Experiment. See Movement experiment
Eyes, 56

Face, 55
Fatigue, 11
Fear, 2, 3, 9
Fear/startle response, 20, 21, 30, 49, 138
Feedback, 15
Feedback loop, 2, 92
Feelings, 6, 25, 84. See also Emotions
Fight-or-flight, 2
Following the body, 85, 118
Forgiveness, 111
Function, 4

Going along with. See Yielding

Gratitude, 113
Gut, 19

Habit, 53
Hard power, 132
Harmony, 8. See also Yielding
Hatred, 48
Head, 29
Heart, 51
Hip, 34, 57
Humanness, 41
Humility, 140

Ideal, 4, 8
Iliacus muscle, 31, 42
Independent thinking, 11
Inguinal sitting, 32
Integrity, 4
Intention, 60, 63, 68, 70, 71
Intentional projection, 64
Intentionality, 66
Intuition, 86
Invalidation, 137

Judgmentalism, 129
Judgments, 129

Keywords, 12
Kindness, 2
Knaster, Mirka, 2
Kneeling, 62

Language, 29, 34, 48, 50, 51, 59, 65, 76, 81,
103, 109, 115, 123. See also Concepts
Learning. See Teaching
Legs, 43
Lengthening, 29, 35
Levine, Stephen, 51
Limpness, 20
Losing, 59, 115
Love, 50, 53, 54, 59, 111

Martial art, 134
Micromovement, 63, 64, 71
Mind/body connection, 65
Mindbody, 5, 48
Mirroring emotions, 130
Mistakes, 48, 103

Moral education, 135
Morality, 8, 54, 86, 135, 141, 142
Movement, 4
Movement experiment, 3, 7
Mumbling, 80

Non-opposition. See Non-resistance
Non-resistance, 44, 130, 133
Non-verbal signals, 2
Numbness, 3, 104. See also Alienation

Observation of people, 50, 93, 94
Observer self, 6, 76
Occiput, 29
Openness, 108, 133. See also Vulnerability
Operational definition, 6, 51
Opposition, 2, 44, 52, 130. See also Nonresistance
Origins, 8
Outcome, 132

Pacing, 11
Pain, 73, 75
Peace, 1, 8
Peacefulness, 8
Pelvic rotation, 26, 31, 35
Posture, 26, 57, 60
Power, 41, 42, 45, 46, 54, 57, 132. See also
Powerlessness, 18, 41, 42, 45, 136, 137
Practice, 11
Process, 132
Process & content, 40
Psoas muscle, 31, 42
Psychology, 4
Pubic symphysis, 32, 34

Readiness, 17
Reflecting message, 131
Relaxation, 20, 26, 30 belly, 18 tongue, 18
Relaxed alertness, 4
Repetition, 11
Replacing body patterns, 4, 7, 23, 25, 42
Resistance. See Opposition
Righteousness, 120
Rigidity. See Effort
Rowing exercise, 46

Safety, 12
Safety contract, 12
Self, 17, 76, 82, 85, 108, 138
Self-awareness, 11
Self-defense, 133
Self-remembering, 76, 141, 143
Self-worth, 118, 120
Sensitivity, 4
Sensitivity to people, 90
Shame, 20, 118
Sitbone, 32, 60
Sitting, 30, 32, 60
Slumping, 26
Soft power, 132
Softening the body, 18, 53
Somatic Education, 2
Spaciousness. See Expansiveness
Speaking, 77
Spinal Column, 28, 29, 46, 61
Standing, 33, 37
Staying present, 6
Straightness, 30, 31, 33, 42
Strength, 35, 43
Structure, 4
Summary, 7

Teaching, 10, 11, 48, 115, 129
Tension, 20
Thinking, 4

Threat, 3, 23
Tongue, 18
Towel sitting, 60
Trauma, 137
Trust, 103, 107
Truth, 86, 87
T-stance, 44, 80

Unbendable arm, 65
Using the book, 10

Verticality, 33
Vicious circle, 2, 137
Violence, 105, 132
Voice, 77
Vulnerability, 51, 53. See also Openness

Walking, 37
Who Dies, 51
Wholeness, 4
Winning, 59, 115
Women, 43

Yielding, 8, 96, 102, 130. See also Harmony


PAUL LINDEN is a somatic educator and martial artist, co-founder of the Columbus Center for Movement
Studies, and the developer of Being In Movement® mindbody training. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy and a Ph.D. in Physical Education, is an authorized instructor of the Feldenkrais Method® of somatic education, and holds a sixth degree black belt in Aikido as well as a first degree black belt in Karate.
His work involves the application of body and movement awareness education to such topics as stress management, conflict resolution, performance improvement, and trauma recovery.

He is the author of numerous articles on the application of body awareness training in various areas, and these articles are available for download from his website.

He is the author of a number of other books, all but the first being e-books and available on his website:
• Comfort at Your Computer: Body Awareness Training for Pain-Free Computer Use
• Winning is Healing: Body Awareness and Empowerment for Abuse Survivors.
• Winning is Healing—Basics: An Introduction to Body Awareness and Empowerment for Abuse Survivors.
• Feeling Aikido: Body Awareness Training as a Foundation for Aikido.
• Teaching Children Embodied Peacemaking: Body Awareness, Self-Regulation and Conflict Resolution
• Reach Out: Body Awareness Training for Peacemaking—Five Easy Lessons
For more information, go to Paul’s website,

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