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The LearningMethods Library
Patterns of Joy - Your Internal
By Babette Lightner
Article copyright © 2016 by Babette
Lightner, all rights reserved worldwide. The names: "Patterns
of Joy" and "Wholeness in Motion" are trademarks of Babette
Lightner; the names: "Anatomy of Wholeness" and "LearningMethods"
are trademarks of David Gorman; the name "Sound Music Education"
is a trademark of Babette Lightner and Jen Moir.
we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
is the same for someone who doesn’t have salt for her gruel,
as for someone who doesn’t have sugar for his coffee.”
Joe has spent years learning beautiful old
Irish songs. His friend Sam is getting married and asked Joe
to sing at his wedding. Joe would love to help Sam, but says,
“no” because he is afraid to perform.
Mary is careful in how she moves. She had
an injury years ago and feels like she has to protect her back.
She feels like she has a ‘bad back.’ She doesn’t go dancing
Asha is often annoyed at her kids. Why can’t
they put away their clothes or get ready on time? She feels
like she’s becoming an irritated person. She knows that isn’t
who she is.
Fred is full of road rage. His friends don’t
want to drive with him anymore because he is always yelling
at other drivers.
Cindy is nervous about her friends coming
for dinner. “Is it worth it?” she thinks. She’s not sure she’ll
have dinner parties anymore.
Carol feels like she and her daughter are
constantly fighting. “Why can’t that girl ever say a single
word with respect”, she thinks. Then she wonders if she is a
Raj is self-conscious about dancing. He’d
like to go to that party but the invite said there would be
dancing. He feels weird dancing.
Martha isn’t happy in her job. She’s constantly
stressed. She feels like she’s losing herself.
Hubert is always tense when he plays second
trumpet in the orchestra. He wants to relax more even though
in order to match the first trumpet he has to play flat.
There are many stories of people struggling
in our affluent world. The scenarios above have either happened
to me or to someone I have taught. While these stories may seem
like different issues with different causes, there is a common
thread through all. The connecting thread is the human response
system and how it works.
As long as I can remember I have been interested
in how things work. A love of dance focused that curiosity to
a fascination with how the human body works. This curiosity
about human design led me to years of exploring almost every
somatic discipline from Yoga to BodyMind Centering to developmental
movement to Alexander Technique.
Most somatic approaches talked about how
beautiful the human system is designed and proceeded to teach
all kinds of techniques to improve this system. I believed the
idea of our beautiful design. Yet, the way I and others lived
life was full of constant monitoring and trying to improve our
bodies. It was as if there was this beautiful design and yet
we still needed to do something to get it. Lengthen my spine,
tighten my abs, tuck my tail, breathe, adjust my shoulders,
think tall, free my neck, pause. Even as approaches got subtler
and subtler there was a flavor of mind bossing the body. We
believed the human system was beautifully made, but spent our
lives trying to improve it.[endnote 1]
My curiosity about human design also led
to an interest in awareness. I spent years exploring various
meditation practices from Vedic, Kundalini, Zen to mindfulness
training, rolling on the floor in body awareness work, and also
doing various forms of therapy from Freudian based psychiatry
to transpersonal psychotherapy. An experience common to all
of these explorations was having stunning, often revelatory
“aha” moments of insight. Those insight moments felt so good
and clear. They gave the illusion that life would be different
from that moment on. It was as if the insight was the change.
It kept me and others a bit addicted to “working on awareness”
because the insight moments were such a reward.
As time passed, I began to ask: “Is the quality
of my life really changing; true long term change, not just
momentary change? Are problems actually going away? Am I happy?”
What I observed in myself and others was that problems were
going away at moments, but another version of the same thing
would eventually pop-up. We had all sorts of explanations for
‘back to the drawing board” times. Despite
my intellectual idea of how beautifully we are designed, the
awareness work, just like the somatic work, had a tendency to
keep me wanting improvement. [endnote 2]
In 2000 I began to apprentice with David
Gorman who articulated a holistic perspective on human design
(Anatomy of Wholeness) and a method of inquiry (LearningMethods)
that taught me how to learn from my own experience. I learned
how to pinpoint questions to get to the root of the problem.
Rather than focusing on an insight made by a teacher, this work
taught students how to have their own insights. The anatomy
and the awareness work were woven together in this approach
to self-directed learning and clarity.
After years working with this material personally
and as a teacher of the work,3 I have seen long term permanent
change in myself and others on all levels of life. I have damaged
cartilage in my knees, but I have no symptoms. My computer crashed
and years of writing and contacts were lost. I felt calm. At
that moment, I realized with clarity that the work was part
of me. I had changed. Poverty, injury, divorce, deaths all have
come and gone in recent years. Life has not always been easy,
but the knowledge of how my system works has made these circumstances
rich in gratitude and joy.
Over the years I have found that one of the
most common reasons we have trouble making long term change
is that we don’t see the relevance in understanding how we work.
We mistake the symptom for the cause of our distress. We just
want the symptom to go away. Permanently removing a symptom
happens when we remove the cause of the symptom. It is easier
to find the root cause of a symptom when we understand how the
If our car stops moving it is useful to know
cars need gas to run. We can fill it with gas rather than trying
to push it down the road.
Pretend you are reading the following advertisement:
you a fantastic new app for hassle-free fuel management for
all your vehicles. Our app senses your average driving patterns
and then tells you when to stop for gas in a soothing voice.
You no longer need to remember to look at your fuel gauge or
worry about the annoying fuel gauge blink. In fact, just ignore
that pesky blink. Use our app and you’ll enjoy hassle-free fuel
Imagine using this app. It might work when
you stick to your average driving habits, but it's useless in
other circumstances, like taking one long trip or spending hours
stuck in traffic. On these occasions you’ll run out of gas if
you use the app. Here’s an app designed to override your car’s
built-in gas gauge. It won’t work and will cause you more hassle
and distress than the original guidance system built right into
Many of us live a life in which we constantly
ignore the guidance system built into our bodies. It isn’t even
so much that we ignore this response system, we don’t even know
This article is about the response aspect
of human design. When you understand how the response system
works for you, many troubles fall away and are replaced with
access to an incredible innate guidance system.
As you read this material I encourage you
to see if the hypothesis of an inner-compass is true for YOU.
Explore this material for yourself. Finding out what is true
for you is the root of empowerment.
YOUR INTERNAL-COMPASS – Part 1
YOUR RESPONSE SYSTEM
Gifted artists go unheard because of unnecessary
fear. People spend more time angry and irritated at each other
rather than joyful and grateful. People never meet their own
expressive self because of self-consciousness and doubt. People
are limiting their movement or constantly trying to improve
their bodies. Others stay in unhappy jobs or burn-out in ones
they used to like. The tragedy of all this self-limitation and
suffering is that much of it is based on overriding our guidance
Your built-in guidance system is your response
system. The response system is designed to help you navigate
in the world. You have a circulatory system, a digestive system,
a nervous system and you have a response system. All these systems
inter-relate and combine to be your whole interacting system,
PHYSICAL SENSATIONS OF EMOTIONS
– THE LANGUAGE OF THE RESPONSE SYSTEM
Can you tell when you are happy? Think of
a time when you were happy. Picture the situation, the people
and a few other details that come to you as you recall the time.
How do you know you are happy? What’s the feeling of being happy?
When I feel happy I would describe the sensations
I feel like this: light, a lively feeling in my chest, spacious,
buoyant and energized. I don’t have a sense of density in my
body, but more a sense of a lively self.
How about anxious? Recall a moment when you
felt anxious. Describe the sensations of anxiety. I’d describe
anxious as: tight everywhere, gripped jaw, jittery in my gut,
speedy, lifted shoulders. When you identify that you are experiencing
an emotion you are also experiencing physical sensations. Many
of us don’t register that there is a physical sensation connected
to emotion. When I ask people to describe the sensation of various
emotions I am usually met with a blank stare for a few moments,
especially when asking about positive emotions. So I start with:
Can you tell the difference between feeling frustrated and happy?
Describe the difference? Where in your body do you feel: frustration
or anger or joy or peace? How do you know you are feeling it?
Describe the sensations of the different emotions?
Sensations are what we experience. Jittery,
tight, spacious, calm, soft, easy, open, stiff, and so many
more sensation words. Emotion words like happy, sad, afraid
are words we use to describe a collection of particular sensations.
The emotion word is the concept. The sensations like tight,
gripped, easy, open are the experience of the emotion.
Sensations are the way your response system
communicates with you.
What if your sensations were a reliable guide?
What if your response system is like an inner-compass that can
help you do everything from detect danger to recognizing beauty?
What if you have an inner-compass that over and over again shows
you your innate love and joy?
THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE RESPONSE
Rainy Day Story – Misattributing
Three people are standing in the park talking.
It begins to rain. One person smiles and dances for joy. Another
shrieks “Oh no!” and pulls her shirt up over her head to cover
her hair as she runs for cover. The third person dives under
the nearby bench, freezes in a fetal position in terror. Three
people in the same situation, rain starting in the park, with
three completely different responses.
We ask each person about his or her reaction.
Number one says, “The rain is great! I am so happy. I have been
in a drought area and haven’t seen life-giving rain for years!”
Number two says, “The rain is so frustrating. I just got my
hair dyed. It cost me a fortune. I have to keep it dry for 24
hours.” The third person can barely talk. But given time, the
story comes out that the last time he had been in rain a friend
had been struck by lightning and was killed. Faster than thought
his system says, “Rain is DANGEROUS! You may die now!”
1. Rain is good, life-giving.
2. Rain is frustrating, wrecks my hair.
3. Rain is life-threatening, very dangerous.
Let’s look closely at what is going on here.
A person feels a certain way in a particular situation and attributes
the feeling to the situation. People literally attribute feelings,
responses to the object/situation they believe is causing them
to feel a certain way. Rain is good; rain is frustrating; rain
Rain is just rain being rain. Rain doesn’t
possess an attribute like good or bad or frustrating or terrifying.
You are feeling the physical sensations of good, bad, frustrating
or terrifying rain in your body. You feel the good, bad, frustrating,
terrifying response in you.
It is common to misattribute feelings to
the objects/situations being experienced. You might say “good
dog”, “annoying driver” or “rude waiter”. These are all examples
of misattributing a feeling you have to an object: the dog,
driver or waiter. You feel the good, annoyed, rude feeling in
your body. The dog, driver or waiter don’t feel good, annoyed
It is useful for you to have the feelings
to tell you about what you like or don’t like in the world around
you. Your response system is showing you what you do or don’t
value. But, if you attribute those qualities to others you will
miss the point of your response system, at best, or blame the
world for your troubles, at worst.
is not a democratic experience; we are all czars in this realm.
If there is
a bee in your hand, what’s in your eye? Beauty. Because beauty
is in the eye of the bee holder."
See, I think that
joke is beautiful. You are entitled to think otherwise.
Nov 2011 p.34 The Age of Beauty, and Vice-Versa by
WHAT RESPONSES TELL YOU
If your feelings aren’t showing you an attribute
of situations, people or objects, what do they tell you about?
Let’s go back to the rain in the park scenario. There is the
situation – the rain. There is the feeling/response of each
person – happy, frustrated, terrified. You can see the rain
and you can see the different responses. These parts of the
response system are visible:
||FEELING / RESPONSE
Rain means something different to each person. The people in
the park don’t respond to the rain. What they each feel is their
individual interpretation of the rain.
Look at the chart below:
MEANING / CONSTRUCT
|FEELING / RESPONSE
||RAIN GIVES LIFE
||RAIN WRECKS MY HAIR
||RAIN KILLS ME
Can you see that the feeling/response each person had was caused
by each person’s individual interpretation?
The invisible column, the interpretation/meaning/construct,
is literally invisible to each person. They don’t even know
they made meaning or have an interpretation or a construct because
meaning-making/interpreting life happens in the other-than-conscious
processes. No wonder people get confused about what feelings
are telling them.
If rain created the feeling then everyone
would feel the same in the rain. It can NOT be the rain that
caused the feeling. Each person FELT the feeling of his or her
specific INTERPRETATION of rain based on the meaning s/he had
made or constructed about rain throughout life up to that moment.
In living life you automatically, unconsciously,
search for meaning. It isn’t a verbal process. It isn’t intellectual.
The meaning that you form becomes the way you understand the
world and yourself in it. It is how you: construct your Self,
construct your story of the world, construct your understanding
of the world, and construct your values.
You feel the meaning you’ve
made; you feel your understanding. Responses
tell you about your interpretation of the world, not about the
world. Another person’s response to something tells you about
how she interprets the experience. It tells you about her life,
her way of seeing, her perspective, her point of view, her values.
Her feeling is true for her. Her current construct
is true for her, even if it isn’t true for you. Responses/feelings
are part of an internal compass designed to help each individual
navigate their own particular life.
Sometimes the meaning made at a particular
time of life is no longer useful. It might have been perfect
to survive a particular situation. But, now the interpretation
is no longer accurate and is getting in the way of living life.
For example, if like the person in our rainy
day story, you are afraid of the rain then the tense feeling
of fear would be a negative message. You don’t like the feeling
of fear. Your intellect says “I want to get over my fear
of rain. I know this rain isn’t dangerous and I want to go to
my kid’s soccer game.” But the fear sensation of the inaccurate
interpretation is strong and gets in the way of living your
In this situation the common reaction is
to try to relax, to change the feeling. So you try to relax,
calm down; you try to change the feeling directly. “I don’t
like this feeling, I want a better feeling.” This approach can
help temporarily but doesn’t change the root problem. The root
of the ‘bad’ feeling is the no-longer-accurate construct you
have of rain based on the terrible experience in a storm. Remember,
you feel your construct – the construct is what feels ‘bad’
– not the rain. Changing a feeling is mistaking the symptom
for the cause. When you try to change the feeling you are in
effect shooting the messenger.
If, instead of shooting the messenger, you
recognize and stop to understand the significance of your symptom
in the moment it is occurring you can bring your ‘invisible’
construct to conscious awareness. When the invisible construct
becomes visible, you have options.
Your system isn’t broken or wrong because
you feel a bad symptom. It is working beautifully to wake you
up to your interpretation. The fear, feels bad and alerts you.
It is like your inner- compass says “Hey, Are you sure this
is true?” If it is a dangerous situation you can take action.
If it isn’t, you can investigate your interpretation.
Interpretations can be changed! In fact,
it is often easier to change an interpretation than external
THE HEART OF THE RESPONSE SYSTEM
— YOUR THREAT / BENEFIT ANALYZER
The most fundamental purpose of this
meaning-making ability is the need to stay alive, to stay
safe. To serve this fundamental need your response system
works as a built-in threat-benefit analyzer or
value-register [endnote 3]. Essentially your system is evaluating
your experiences for threat or benefit. It is like a compass
pointing you toward safe and warning you of danger. When your
system interprets a situation as a benefit, you just carry on
without any impulse to make a change; when your system interprets
an experience as threatening, you get a loud signal to wake
up and watch out.
In our rain in the park scenario, the meaning
each person’s system makes of the rain, (the interpretation
s/he has of rain) is what s/he is responding to. Each person
feels the feeling of the meaning s/he has of the rain. Every
similar experience and the meaning made in those past moments
contributes to the interpretation being made at this particular,
In our scenario the threat-benefit analysis
of Person One who dances is one of benefit, Person Two who covers
her head is one of mild threat, and Person Three who panics
is one of life-and-death threat. The compass of each person
tells each person how to deal with the rain based on what the
rain means to each person.
The compass is personal.
Our third person experienced a friend dying
in rain by lightning; he had a traumatic experience associated
with rain. On the simplest level trauma is the threat/benefit
analyzer carving a fast and powerful interpretation into our
systems to protect us. It makes total sense that our system
is designed to quickly and faster-than-thought alert us to danger.
Not only do we have a threat-benefit analyzer, but it is biased
toward giving us a loud signal/strong sensation when it detects
Think of this evolutionarily. A tribe walks
by a cave and a sabre-tooth tiger eats someone. From then on
everyone who was there gets strong fear signals when near similar
environments to warn them of possible sabre-tooth tiger haunts.
Fear, anxiety is a fundamental survival mechanism. This survival
demand even helps explain why we attribute our feelings to the
object. It is a survival shortcut to simply label tiger as bad,
The same kind of fear / stress response and misattribution
of feelings that we used to need to survive living with life-threatening
sabre-tooth tigers, we now apply to modern worries like: being
late, serving the less-than-perfect meal for someone, believing
you know what another person ‘should’ do or performing for an
audience. It is as if our compass was perfectly designed for
another era. It still works beautifully but to keep it from
killing us we need to know how to interpret the signals/sensations
we get from our compass.
and First Steps to Change
The rainy day scenario lays out the architecture
of the response system on the whole continuum of threat to benefit.
When all appears well, happy, beneficial or neutral you don’t
need to understand your interpretation. But, when you don’t
like what you are feeling or when what you are feeling interferes
with living your life, updating your interpretation of your
experience is the key to change.
In the rain example you would not want to
train the system not to fear rain at all times because some
rain situations are dangerous. It would be smart to be afraid
enough to go take cover. You don’t want to stop feeling fear
in case the current situation is actually a dangerous one. Instead,
when you feel fear in the rain, stop and assess the current
reality. Is there danger? If yes, the fear is a perfect signal
to take action. Find shelter now! If no, there are processes
to learn to teach the system a new construct. You would NOT
want to be rid of signals. That would be like dismantling your
gas gauge because you ran out of gas.
don’t like what you are feeling, understanding how your response
system works can be a powerful tool for making change where
change can be made, at the level of you and your interpretation
of your experience.
A challenging but crucial step to working
with your guidance system is to remember that your negative
sensations aren’t the problem. The feeling of fear isn’t the
problem. “This feeling of fear, that I don’t like, is a
signal my system is sending me. Fear is the feeling of an interpretation
I am having.” How to change interpretations starts with
recognizing that what you are feeling is the feeling of an interpretation
of reality. You feel your construct. So next time you feel something
is ‘bad’, ‘good’, ‘frustrating’ see if you can test this out.
“What is the interpretation of the experience that would
explain the feeling I am having?”
Below is the scaffold for the basic process
of updating an interpretation:
• Perceive Sensation – Wake up
in a moment of the response, identify the sensations of the
feelings. I am terrified. I can’t breathe and am gripped and
• Discern – Separate the response
from the stimulus. I am terrified but, it isn’t the rain that
• Clarify – What is my interpretation
of the moment that is causing my feeling. I am interpreting
the rain as dangerous. Is this true?
• Assess & confirm or update –
Is this interpretation accurate to the current, exact felt moment
of life. “Am I safe in this moment when it is raining? Yes,
I am. Feel the feeling in your body of how safe you actually
are. I can feel the ground and my breath and hear the kids
on the field. I am not in any danger. At this moment – there
is no thunder and lightning. I know how dangerous lightning
can be so I’ll keep a watch out to see if it starts. But, for
now I can enjoy this day as it is.” If when you assess,
you discover your fear response is appropriate to the situation,
I am in danger. Then you take cover or do whatever else is necessary
to stay safe.
This work is not about always having happy
feelings. It is about the happiness that comes from the clarity
you feel when working intelligently with your internal-compass.
It warns you of real threats and guides you toward benefit.
As you understand how your compass works you can navigate your
life toward joy and peace, and if you so choose, toward suffering
if that is what you want.
need to look any further than yourself to see a miracle every
I wrote that line to my mentor,
David Gorman, after exploring this
material through LearningMethods and suddenly “getting it”,
suddenly feeling the significance of being able to transform
my wellbeing myself. I was feeling my very own inner-compass
and it seemed to be guiding me to health, to joy, to my wholeness
with the universe.
I didn’t have to “breathe”, “calm down” or
try to change my symptoms. Symptoms didn’t really exist in this
response system perspective. I didn’t have to improve myself;
I just met my system as it was. What had felt like problems,
stresses, confusion, feeling lost, were actually signals to
wake up, look more closely at the moment and see clearly how
I was interpreting my experience. I was waking up to life. In
harnessing the beauty of this system I was literally awestruck.
My system was whole and in kinship with all that was around
When you can utilize this system you have
the key to freedom from being trapped in patterns of pain. When
you can navigate using your inner-compass you experience the
miracle of your own being. When you harness the beauty of your
response system, you will be led toward wholeness, peace, and
are the language of the response system. Notice the physicality
of your emotions.
the situation or another person for what you are feeling is
an indicator of misunderstanding your response system. Good
dog, annoying driver, terrifying rain. This is misattributing
your sensation to the situation.
3. Your response system is an
interpreting, meaning making system. It is how you self-construct.
4. You feel the meaning your system
has made, not the situation or the person/object that seems
to stimulate the feeling.
5. To change a feeling you don’t
like or is interfering with your life, you need to update the
Gratitude: Thanks to the
following friends, colleagues and loved ones for their editorial
advice, honest and wise counsel. It has been a challenge to
make these complex ideas simple. Thank you: Suzanne Baker, Elizabeth
Garren, David Gorman, Katharine Grant, Ben Kreilkamp, Aleda
McMonagle, Jen Moir, and David Robertson, Leon Thurman.
1. For more on this fundamental
question of human design see David Gorman’s articles: I Once was Lost but Now Am Found and A Basic Fact and a Fundamental Question. The article that started my journey questioning
The Rounder We Go, The Stucker We Get
2. See my article: The Coordination of Bliss
. For more information about
ways to work with me see: www.stonesinwater.com or contact me
or by phone at +1 612.729.7127
3. See Dr. Leon Thurman at
For more information about
Babette's work please contact her at:
or www.stonesinwater.com. I apply this material to music education
through The Center for Sound Music Education™ – A Pedagogy of
For more information about David Gorman's
discoveries and work, see other articles and pages on this web
Sound Music Education™ is a trademark of Jen Moir
and Babette Lightner, all rights reserved. Patterns of Joy™
is a trademark of Babette Lightner, all rights reserved. LearningMethods™ is a trademark of David Gorman all
There is a small biography
of personal details about the author below.
About the Author
Lightner developed The Lightner Method™ giving voice to her synthesis of 40
years of teaching and studying human design, movement and well-being. She has been
a Movement Educator for 40 years, a Certified Alexander Technique teacher for 30
years and a LearningMethods™ teacher for 20 years. She is an adjunct faculty member
at the College of St. Benedict's and St. John's University, where she is developing
a Body Mind and Performance class based on The Lightner Method. She is
a long-standing member of the faculty
of the VoiceCare Network and she has an on-going, twice yearly residency with the
Vocal, Conducting and Choral program at Western University in London, Ontario.
For ten years she taught in the Professional Actor Training Program and Music Department
at the University of Minnesota. Lightner has lectured and taught for many universities,
institutions and organizations including the Guthrie Theater, Sister Kenny Institute,
Balk Opera Music Institute, Taipei National University of Arts in Taiwan, and with
the internationally acclaimed a cappella group Rajaton.
Her explorations into human movement have taken her around the world, from dancing with a folk dance troupe
in the villages of South India to performing with a post-modern physical theatre
company in the warehouses of Boston.
She is the author of Your Inner Compass, Pedagogy of Empowerment, Coordination of Being
for Conductors and other articles that elucidate how your magnificent system can work for you
rather than against you. She wakes up grateful each morning because seeing people awed by their own
capability is like witnessing a miracle every day.
River Falls, Wisconsin, USA
Tel: +1 612-729-7127 web site: