On or Off

In cueing in to our own experiences, we may refer to something as being subtle. I hear this a lot—I say it a lot—when working with clients. We’ll work this or that body part, free up a certain layer of gliding fascia, and I’ll have them stand up and feel what, if any, difference they feel in between the two sides (the one worked and the one not-yet-worked, or the before and after of a whole segment).

Sometimes the change is obvious and even a bit mind-blowing. Other times, the subtleties of experience begin to work their way in, a certain nuanced way of feeling and seeing deeper than gross motor experience, more refined.

The interesting thing about all this to me is that at the molecular level, switches are either on, or they’re off. The muscle cells are either firing, or they’re not. A neuron is either making the connection, or it’s not, across the synapse. A chemical receptor in the blood is or isn’t acting as a catalyst for a reaction. There is no such thing as a partially contracted muscle fiber, nor a partially fired neuron, nor a subtle variance of a reaction.

What we’re feeling, even in the most subtle of changes, then, is not a change in quality per se, though we certainly interpret it as such. It’s really a variance in quantity. As in, the amount of muscle fibers firing can change; the fibers themselves, though, don’t speak the language of gradation.

On or off. The most subtle changes are there in the very tissue of us, clear as day, on or off, this way or that. Interesting, then, that our experience often feels so different than this black-and-white reality, no?

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