Next to me at the swimming pool shower is a little girl, about 18 months old. She’s a tiny child, blond, with thin wet hair plastered over her scalp, wearing a pink bathing suit. She’s turning and allowing the warm water to cascade onto her back, her front, then on the top of her head, closing her eyes just at the right time to keep from getting water in them. Lifting her arms to feel the rush of water at her right side, her left side. Completely absorbed.
The water is on a timer and each time it stops, her mother, at the next shower head, says, “More water?” and punches the button to start it up again.
The child is acquiring an image of her volume, her outsides, her shape, her sensuality. She is creating herself by sensing from the inside the way the water sculpts her from the outside. She keeps turning and feeling the sheer pleasure of the sensations, unwilling to stop, unsmiling, serious.
In a comical way, she looks like an adult in a TV soap commercial—evolving all the gestures that adults make in showers: rotating, twisting, lifting her head to allow water to fall on her neck, lifting her arms. And it is as much the cascading of the water from the outside as her inner sensing that is helping her develop a complex human action: taking a shower.
Later, teaching a breathing lesson to my Awareness Through Movement® class, I think, This is how we create our self image—and I tell the class the story of the little girl.
In the lesson, we press down into the floor on each inhalation while we feel the floor press up into us. We arrange ourselves into unusual positions to allow every part of the outer housing of the lungs to contact the floor—the floating ribs, the long muscles next to the spine, the collarbones, the top and bottom of the breastbone, the pectoral muscles, the arch of the front ribs, the lower neck vertebrae. While we develop awareness of the lungs’ volume and space from the inside by breathing, we discover their shape from the outside, as, with each contact, the world meets us.
We become more ourselves, breathers, three-dimensional beings, filled with space. We use the world outside, and the sensory information it proffers us, and the sensing of dynamic volume inside, to create ourselves anew. Both real-life experience and an Awareness Through Movement lesson can create or recreate our sense of self, and show us that we don’t end at the edge of our skins.
Inside/outside, inseparable, giving birth to who we are.