what the body learns
May 27, 2003 03:06 PM

At some point I learned to do this thing, a belly roll (bellydance parlance for making your tummy jiggle just so). It's a controlled roll of your stomache muscles up and down. My belly and sides still ache slightly from doing this all weekend.

I feel used. Literally. It's a nice feeling.

Thing is. I don't remember learning this. I don't remember knowing how to do this. I have been taught, but consistently failed to do anything even approximating it (managing, instead, to produce something akin to a belly tick). I practice regularly, failing at the same level at this one thing while I gradually get better at others. And then, last week, I was practicing again and suddenly able. Not brilliant, not flawless, but able.

Where did I get this?

I don't get a lot of these breakthrough moments. I tend, instead, to have the feeling of slow accomplishment - if any; if I don't give up after failing at perfection the first time, I can generally see myself get better and better until I'm good enough. But this. This I simply could not do. And then I could.

It's not dissimilar, this feeling, from noticing one day that you no longer have to count those dance steps, or constantly monitor your sideview mirrors to keep the car in its lane. It's your body having learned something while you weren't looking., But that notice, when taken, is more a sign that you've moved from what motivational speakers call conscious competence to what they call unconscious competence (meaning, basically, you do alright without paying much attention). This is more - yesterday I could not do this, period. And today I can.

I'm astounded, often, by what the body can learn and do.

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