I’ll be sharing more ideas on this topic – as well some new songs and games – in my presentation, Songs for Inner Peace, at the Children’s Music Network Conference Saturday Sept. 20 in Leesburg, VA.
NO! means FREEZE! I recognize what is happening to me when I experience the words “anti-war” and “no.” It is a primitive reflex, one of the first letters we learn in the universal alphabet of encoded, pre-formed movement responses. The technical name of “Freeze!” is Fear Paralysis, and this reflex appears between five and eight weeks in utero. The fetus experiences maternal stress, and stops moving. It won’t move again until everything is safe.
When things feel unsafe enough, we go back into this fetal response. You can see it – eyes are a little glazed, or darting around, or pretending to focus on you but are not emotionally connected. The body tends to curl inward, shoulders a little hunched, head a little down, hands curved and still. Sometimes, with young children, we see it overtly – in the baby who cries and won’t leave its mother’s arms, or in the child hiding in the corner.
We can see it in ourselves, too. For example, we may get up to give a talk and yet, we can’t really see the audience. Our breath stops. We are operating in some other zone, disconnected from ourselves. There can be many reasons for that FREEZE! response, and sometimes we can experience it many times in a week - sometimes even in a particularly stressful day.
Because the survival system is on, we need to turn it off. We need to say, danger is over! All clear! But once FREEZE! has kicked in, words aren’t always powerful enough to clear it. The language of movement is the language the survival brain understands. When we are physiologically in a state that is the opposite of FREEZE!, we turn off the survival alert and get back to normal functioning. We are again in a learning, loving atmosphere of YES!
Holding Feet. One of the simplest – and most effective – ways to release the FREEZE! response is to hold our feet. I’ve written about this – and lectured and demonstrated – so much that I feel as if I am a one-note aria. But it is so simple and effective.
There is a magic button on the bottoms of our feet. It corresponds to the first point on the kidney meridian, called Bubbling Spring. It’s the spot where we discharge electrons from our bodies into the ground when we walk barefoot on the earth, the way we were wired to do! And at the same time, we take in new, fresh electrons.
One good way to calm down a classroom is simply to let the kids take their shoes off – those rubber soles don’t allow that electron discharge, and the energy that goes down just bounces up again in an unending loop. A more targeted way is to sit cross-legged and cross your arms and grab your feet. Now you are holding both Bubbling Spring points at once. If you are sitting in a chair, you can cross one leg over the other and do one at a time. It is best to take off shoes, but it can be done with shoes on, if necessary. It still helps, as long as you hold the intention of release.
Most people want to press hard on that point (it’s between the two pads of the foot, between and below the big and second toe). But I find that it is most effective – and least likely to create a “pushback’ – if you hold very very lightly, as if you are taking a pulse. You are. After some experience, you may even begin to feel a pulse.
You can also hold children’s feet for them, at naptime or bedtime (or any time!) It is a wonderful way to release over-energy or fear, and relax into the calm needed for deep sleep.
And here’s a way to teach the children to hold their own “bubbling springs.” It’s a good circle time activity. I chant it on two or three notes - a version of classic “Na, na na boo boo” melody works great!
Criss Cross Applesauce! a game for calm awareness.
Criss Cross, Applesauce! (Sit cross-legged on the floor)
Criss Cross, Applesauce! (Cross your arms and grab your feet. Each palm rests on the edge of each foot.Thumbs rest between the two foot pads).
Thumbs in the middle, mmmmmmm
Hold them so lightly, mmmmmm
La la laaaaa, La la laaaaa
(Deep breath and sigh)
Note for CRISS CROSS APPLESAUCE: This game can be done on the floor, cross-legged, but also sitting on a chair. When doing it in chairs, just cross one leg over the other and hold one foot at a time. The thumb should be resting between the two pads beneath and between the big toe and the second toe. This is the K-1” point, or “Bubbling Spring,” and touching it lightly allows the body to release its over energy. You can often feel an actual pulse when you hold Bubbling Spring. Children’s feet are very small, so don’t worry – they will probably cover the spot!It is best to do without shoes, but it is helpful even with shoes on. Just hold a strong intention.