My synesthete friend Gretta once told me that my name is white, green with shades of pink. Two musical synesthetes, from different parts of time and space have sung my name in an identical melody. I have often envied people with synesthesia: the ability to link sensory information in interesting and colorful ways. Alas, for me, words are black on white unless I’ve chosen a color in the font menu, and the only melodies I hear come from songs.
Although I wasn’t born with such sensory rich abilities, there is one gift we can all cultivate: kinesthesia. Webster’s defines kinesthesia as “a sense mediated by receptors located in muscles, tendons, and joints and stimulated by bodily movements and tensions; also : sensory experience derived from this sense.” We take it for granted, this ability to sense when to grab the coffee cup, when to yield to a chair seat, how to stroke a lover’s face. Yet this “gift” can be cultivated into a skill that opens the doors of perception and possibility even wider.
Every tension, every bodily movement contains within it an emotional background. How I grab the coffee cup; anxiously, eagerly, lazily, how I touch someone’s face; tenderly, shyly, angrily, are all contained within the kinesthetic experience. It’s reflected in the breath, the face, and the posture, telegraphing a story to everyone around us, including ourselves.
Awareness Through Movement lessons are a great way to study our movements, muscles and tensions in a neutral, nurturing environment. This heightened kinesthetic sense includes not just movement, but thinking, emotions and sensations. In the process, we become more aware of the unconscious stories we are telling at every moment.
Moshe Feldenkrais said it best, “If you know what you are doing, you can do what you want.”