Saturday, April 21, 2007

Staying cool during an MRI

After class this morning Darlene told me a story. She began by holding her hands up near her face and saying, “I figured I could count to 5,000 on my fingers.”

A couple weeks ago, during the break between Quarters, Darlene had an MRI. Because she was worried about it in advance, she had made a plan: she would use her long-time, personal strategy of counting on her fingers.

Darlene did count, and in 50 minutes she got almost to 5000.

But Darlene needed more than counting. She hadn’t anticipated the clanging; the noise was awful. She knew the space would be small, but her claustrophobia was worse than expected. The technician inserted dye into her right arm, and she could feel the warmth of it as it moved through her body; it was creepy.

In response to all this, Darlene felt her jaw tense, her shoulders hunch, and her abdominal muscles tighten. Breathing was coming to a halt.

Then a memory kicked in! At the beginning of each Feldenkrais class, which Darlene has been taking for about 5 years, I ask the students to lie on their back, close their eyes, sense themselves, and relax any tensions that are not needed while lying down.

It was a breakthrough for Darlene when she realized: “Being in this tube is just like being in the beginning of the Feldenkrais class!” She closed her eyes and directed her mind to focus on relaxing all her body parts.

Memories of the class came back, and through the associations she felt the tensions ease and herself growing calm. By the end, the MRI tube wasn’t such a bad place. And she didn’t go out of her mind with the clanging or with the anxiety.

Thank you, Darlene, for sharing this story. It helps us all to be reminded that, often, when the natural response is to tense, the better response is to relax. And it does help to have practiced in advance.

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