neck lineFor the past few years I’ve been bothered by pain behind my left shoulder. It often nagged me. Yoga practice helped me relax but hurt the shoulder, rather both shoulders. Though yoga didn’t tell me to ignore the pain. That was all me. It started down the back of my head on the left side and continued beneath my left shoulder blade. It felt like something needed to be cracked. Like there was an electrical short somewhere in the wiring. Tingling and burning. Persistent.

I finally decided to face the problem and get help. I had seen my mother’s chiropractor a couple of times and was impressed with the results, even if only temporary. I got a coupon for the first visit to a well known clinic. I am suspicious of chiropractors, believing I should do on my own whatever they might do for me. I inherited a “Pull up your own bootstraps” kind of attitude from my father.

The coupon included a consultation and x-rays and the followup discussion from the tests. As usual with any exam, I assume the results will show my healthy condition.

Seeing the x-ray photos stunned me. Even before the doctor spoke, I knew. I had no curve in my neck. In fact I had some reverse curve. This was a little scary. At first I thought the cause of the deformation was my new tendency to try to lift the back of my head up, a practice which I also learned in yoga. But to yoga’s credit the advice implies to lift gently, not hang yourself, as I was doing.

The cause was not mysterious, though. The main culprit is my posture from playing clarinet 30 hours a week for 30 years. Despite my attempts to educate myself over the years about my playing posture, I didn’t have enough information to notice how I craned my neck and torso forward when playing. Habits.

Another reason for my poor posture is that I’m tall. Most people are shorter than me. So I often slouch to talk to people. Habits.

Another persistent cause is gravity. As I age, gravity weighs more.

While I analyzed my posture throughout the day I began to notice another, deeper cause for my neck problem.


At some point in my life I lost a lot of self-esteem. I think we all suffer those blows. Perhaps some of us are more prone than others. Self-esteem is a kind of love. Trust in yourself is both vital and fragile. It’s not just a blanket of forgiveness, but a compassionate look at both your strengths and failures.

Looking down is not only an effect of low self-esteem. I think it can become a down facing attitude, a negative outlook. I think it can aggravate a low self image. It can become a self-sustaining and chronic condition, both physical and emotional.

Just knowing or thinking about these things helps me begin to heal.

The chiropractor’s touch is also healing. I think the one I’m seeing is gifted. Not only does he know where things need to go back to, how much they’re out, and why they got that way. But he touches my skin directly. There it is again, the importance of touch.

These treatments will help me a great deal. But I also need to start seeing the whole picture. I need to notice on a second to second basis how balanced my body is. And the angle of my attitude.

A good attitude, both physical and emotional, is the beginning of healing.

19 thoughts on “Attitude

  1. What a thoughtful and deep reflection. You write so softly of this revelation and lift the curtain so gently. It touched my heart too. I wonder about my own emotional posture. What have I been talking myself out of? Thank you, dear friend for this reminder to heal myself of my troubles.

  2. Yes, I too am impressed by your careful gentle reflection on what must be a painful (in the neck, too) and protracted problem. Much more impressive is how you seek to treat it- with the due care it deserves. Sometimes we need something so drastic as this to focus our attention to niggling problems. Changing a habit is soo tough! All the best!

  3. I found this to be a deeply thought-provoking post. I am 6’2″ tall and so have long had a tendency to stoop, mostly because otherwise I often find people talking to my nipples and not my ears! I can’t hear the little people, I joke, so have to descend into their kingdom to hear what they have to say to me, the giant. I always notice people taller than myself or even the same height. They look huge to me, turning to my boyfriend and asking either ‘am I that tall?’ or ‘is s/he taller than me?’. I only recognise the impact great height can have on others in terms of presence when it isn’t me I’m looking at. Consequently, I’ve always felt eyes on me but never for many years had the ability to see it as a positive, only a negative – as in, not ‘they look at me because I stand out and that’s good’ but instead ‘they stare at me because something, somewhere is bad’. It was only in the past, what, few years I’ve come to terms with my height and my misinterpretations resulting from people’s reactions to it. But still the stooping remains, the bad posture and I do suffer from it. Attitude. Yeah, I had a bad attitude to self once upon a time, the echoes of which sometimes come back to haunt but with much less impact, just irksome reminders. I have neck problems and back problems. My 84-year-old father, who used to be as tall as me, is now much shorter and has a pronounced, permanent stoop. I wish I could avoid it but while I don’t now ever stoop from insecurity and a desire not to stand out, I do still do it in order to hear other people, to converse with them when walking out and about. I wonder sometimes about being tall and having a vertigo-related condition. I wonder if the atmosphere up here is thinner or something!

    Like I said, a thought-provoking post. Thank you. x

  4. When I teach at the wellness center, I often touch on this very topic. How insightful of you to glean this truth while living in a Western, Reductionist Society, Garnet.

    In class I teach, that people who curl the shoulders forward, are often protecting their heart. This manifests back pain. A docotr can offer therapy or pills for the pain, but it will only be a temporary fix, because the posture will not change.

    I tell my class to look into their hearts, to discover why they feel the need to be protective.

    Good posture is not about having a backbone, its about having an open heart.

  5. Liz- The songs of the chimes are developing unprecedented depth. Sometimes watching somone heal themselves is healing in itself.

  6. Shankari- When one comes from the point of view of complete freedom of the soul, the habits are easier to face and nudge in the right direction.

  7. Mr. S.C.- Nice to see you. Wow. That was a mini-post in itself. Funny and imaginitive.

    Yes, a habit ingrained in the body takes years, perhaps lifetimes to heal. I hope you are seeking advice and treatment. I recommend Alexander Technique. Do you know it? It’s all about optimizing posture through balance and awareness.

    Interesting that you misinterpreted peoples reaction to you. I can relate. I think I look more imposing than I feel. I need to be aware of that in how people treat me. Untangle it.

    Another culprit for my neck is kitchen counters. Most are too low for me. I even had one made for my height, but I don’t use it for cutting vegetable. So I stoop over a low counter. Habits.

  8. Kelley- What a wonderful comment. I may have to dust off the Glittering Commentari list and feature your wise words!

    Good posture is not about having a backbone, its about having an open heart.

    That’s a ringer, dearest healer!

  9. Dave,
    Whenever I come by, I usually find myself pleased with your recent posts. This one, especially, which I found could relate to in many ways. Gravity and age really do creep up on us, and the results sometimes are both amazing and alarming. I was looking a photo taken of me when I was in the Marine Corps and I noticed my ears seemed rather small, about the size of my son’s ears now. Today, though, it looks like they’ve been stretched out with fifty pound weights. I mean, damn, how did my ears mangage to get so big? Thanks, gravity. But like you, I started to aquire a few interesting aches and pains as a result of sitting at a desk in front of a computer screen for too long. Your idea of seeing a chiropractor sounds like a good one. I can’t imagine what my xray might look like.

  10. I’m having to sort out a similar problem. Pilates and physio help. Looking in the mirror helps. And realising that I’m a full two inches taller than I thought I was also helps. Also, knowing that I’m better than I thought I was…works wonders.

  11. Scot- Thank you for the kind words.

    That’s pretty funny about your ears. I’ve read that the ears and nose continue to grow as we age. Bummer for me. My nose is huge already.

    Though I didn’t mention it, sitting in front of the computer blogging further hurt my posture. I need a new chair. And a new attitude


  12. b- It’s nice to read such direct and simple advice. “knowing that I’m better than I thought I was” works wonders for me today.


  13. Many thoughts came to mind from this post, but one that stands out is that we live in a world where for some of us, it’s necessary to pay money for that healing touch. You received yours from a chiropractor. I’d have to find somebody selling it, too, but being cheap, I don’t. I’m just never touched physically, except by a friend much like yourself who insists upon saying goodbye after work with a hug.

  14. this post makes me see how much i take things for granted. i’m fairly tall as well, 6′ 3″ and of course i have the stooping problem along with others the most pressing of which is my hips. my hips are what stopped me from running any more a while back because it always felt like playing a guitar out of tune. this was abhorrent to me so seeing as i couldnt rectify the problem in my hips i just gave up running. this was a big deal for me because i had always loved running. its been about 10 years now since i have given it up although it has never left my mind. i always think i should be running but can’t seem to get back into because of my descent into low self esteem which was always low to begin with.

    so now im fasting trying to sort out a new beginning for myself; doing the yoga thing; trying to be aware of my posture. but what i found is that i am just way to tight everywhere. all my ligaments are stretched like piano strings. the pain of stretching is brutal. and now that i am concentrating more on my posture and doing a little weights things are falling into place. first thing is that you need some muscles mass in order to be able to stretch effectively so working out with weights is a necessity for me. i have noticed a huge difference in my upper body because of this. next week im joing a gym to be able to work the legs and abs more because those are the key to having a balanced posture. it almost feels as if im learning to walk, breathe, and stand from scratch. it certainly didnt help that i broke my back in a car accident but i guess we all got problems.

  15. Mark- I’d strongly recommend one or two Alexander technique lessons.

    Yoga is about being where you are, noticing. Be sure to take from a reputable teacher. To avoid injury, you need to stretch with awareness of the whole body.

    I also feel like I’m starting from scratch. Though I didn’t suffer such serious injury as you. I’m approaching it holistically and philosophically.

  16. I’m not into exercise or Yoga or chiropractice. Actually, I tried a chiropractor and was afraid teh real doctor was tied up in the closet and I was being worked on my a psycho!

    When I feel down, my mom used to give me an attitude adjustment. I like your reflection better…

  17. Pingback: Evolving Times » Carnival of Healing #52 - A Time of Balance

Comments are closed.