A Teaching from the Tin Man

A Process Oriented Inner Work Exercise

I lie on my back on the floor and close my eyes, bringing my awareness to my breathing. I enjoy the feeling of relaxation and notice that I am reluctant to look for a disturbance. After a while, I notice a slight pain or stiffness in my left middle back, around the back of the ribcage. I focus on this, noticing that this area feels tight and stiff. I experiment with movement and observe that when I move my hips from side to side, the feeling of tightness and stiffness in my ribcage is intensified. Then I lie still and focus on feeling it more, and I become aware that the stiffness extends further, from my ribcage down my back on the left side, into my lower back.

Now I switch sensory channels, and make a movement that goes with the stiff feeling, holding my fingers and toes rigidly, and then my arms and legs, and making choppy movements. The image of an old Singer sewing machine comes to me, with its hard metal casing and the regular, rhythmic, sounds and movements of the steel needle as it stitches through the fabric, up and down, up and down. I mimic these movements with my feet and hands, and then sit up and make similar movements with my whole body. An image arises of a robot figure made of jointed metal, like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, moving stiffly and jerkily. I become this figure and make the same movements, and then I get fascinated with how to create the jerky movements instead of my natural, smooth human movements. It requires me to analyse my natural movements and break them into parts—to dismantle and then put them back together in a new way.

This perspective strikes me as being similar to the way I am now approaching Process work skills, by being more analytical, because I am trying to figure out how it works and how I can apply it with my clients. This is rather new for me because previously I preferred to learn new skills and then apply them in an intuitive way. Now I can see that these two approaches—the intuitive and the analytical—complement each other and work together. Having both perspectives gives me a fuller understanding and a more grounded confidence in what I’m doing.

The Tin Man

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