A new self-help process: personal growth through reverse googling

It’s divination for the modern era.

Get yourself a website, or a blog, and find the function to track the google searches that find you. Treat that like a divination, like a prediction of the future, like a message from the deeper wisdom of the universe about what to do or where to go next.

My results: a few weeks ago there was a flurry of messages for me from the universe, very specific and direct, that Lynette Reid needed (or already has? temporality is not linear in the world of google search divination) muscle memory training.

More than anything else, people care about one leg being stronger, longer, or faster than the other. That’s probably the number one concern of the “universe according to google” that brings people to kinesophics. It’s much more of a going concern than walking on volcanos, although there is an occasional volcano enthusiast out there.

What message is there for me in this? Is this the wisdom of crowds, or the mania of crowds?

science, feldenkrais, and professionalism

I was reading recently the Introduction to Moshe’s Elusive Obvious, and I was struck by his description there of his fundamental procedure in developing the Feldenkrais Method. He said he reads science, and he takes hold of thousands of heads between his hands, and he explores that science in his practice of helping people.

This touching, handling, manipulating of living human bodies enables me to see in the books of these superb writers and turn into practice the science they teach. Probably they themselves do not know, how useful their knowledge is already when translated into the nonverbal language of the hands, i.e. Functional Integration, and the verbal Awareness through Movement. (p. 3)

I was struck by how distant that approach is to what I (or dare I say we?) do in learning and practicing Feldenkrais. The closest things I know are our current fascination with mirror neurons, and here, along with Tom Landini, I’m not sure that we aren’t just hopping onto a band wagon that isn’t really ours. I also recall some lovely advice from Yvan Joly about how to spend your year of teaching Feldenkrais as a form of research project. Pick a theme; think of it as you do and choose lessons for class or form themes for workshops; do some googling and other forms of research to pick up on current scientific thinking, and try to relate that to your teaching.

Of course, I can’t entirely discount that at this moment Moshe may be playing up the scientific roots of his thinking and downplaying his long study of martial arts as a source, for some political point.

But still–we aren’t reading Nature Neuroscience and thinking “how can I apply that in FI?” Or, to put it in another way, “how can I test that in my methodology?” If we scan the science, it’s with the eager but somewhat unseemly desire to find out that science has caught up to us and validated us…in our insecurity. Not to learn something from science that we use or test in our methodology. For the IFF Research Journal we did a small interactive poster study, trying to draw out from practitioners their understanding of the place of research in the work. We were fishing for something that we didn’t find: an awareness that every FI, every ATM, is an investigation. Sometimes I fear that we, like Big Pharma, understand research as a branch of the marketing department.

This week on Feldyforum, Bob Chapra in New York was looking for some info on the physiology of hot flashes, and the process of finding that info reminded me of one reason (among many) that I missed academic life in the few years I spent “on the outside” as a full-time practitioner.

The discussion on Feldyforum moved quickly, as it often does, to herbal remedies, experiential accounts, and so on. All of which was great–we don’t have all the answers and we should be curious about other solutions, and the experiential accounts are close to the heart of our work–but very little of it answered his questions about what the basic physiology of hot flashes is.

In my years out of academic life, one of the things I liked the least was not having access to an academic library. Now that I’m “on the inside” again, I was able to track down an abstract of a suitable recent review article for the practitioner, and through my library access download the pdf to read (and share).

I joked to him that I had access to the article only through my ties with “Big Learning” (like “Big Business” or “Big Pharma”). But it’s not so much of a joke. There’s a wall between us and this stuff, with pay-as-you-go access to academic research at $30 per article or more. Way beyond the budget of most any Feldenkrais practitioner. It’s even worse than the new higher cost of Alexander Yanai volumes!

When I was young, anyone could wander into an academic library off the street, and pick up a journal off the shelf or from the stacks. This is not true any longer. Most academic libraries check cards for access to the stacks; journals are increasingly on-line and you have to log in with your academic library card to read them. As in so many areas of our culture, the gap between haves and have-nots gets bigger.

Now, it turns out that after some more poking around I discovered the article (despite Elsevier’s attempts to hide this from me) is available for free (see here). Perhaps because the workshop for which it was commissioned was funded by NIH (i.e. public) dollars and the NIH has got active in the last few years about ensuring that what is funded by public dollars isn’t there just to line the pockets of private, for-profit academic publishers.

Nonetheless, I have a certain hobby horse, which I will take this opportunity to ride. A couple of years ago Chiropractic almost got itself into York University (in Canada). An “alternative health” methodology in a mainstream accredited university. What knocked it out of running at the end was its distance from mainstream science. This is not a stumbling block for Feldenkrais. One of the things that made Feldenkrais for me more than an interesting experience but something I could invest years in learning and exploring was, well, that it doesn’t present an alternative metaphysics. Some of my best friends are intuitive shamanic healers etc; but I’m not. I value deep experiential exploration; and I value the critical and rigorous intellectual engagement of my academic life.

We have heated debates about the right model for our work, craft or profession, avocation or vocation, hobby or gainful employment, and (related) its epistemological base: intuition or science. In North America it’s shaped by a fierce American “get the government out of my life” attitude, and endowed with enormous entrepreneurial energy.

There are no easy answers to these questions. If things go well, we’ll answer them with “both/and” or “neither/nor” creative solutions. I personally favour a future that sees somatic education as something taught in a graduate level program in a mainstream educational setting.

But we may not notice that our (most specifically, FGNA) hostility to professionalization, in the world as it is today, alienates us from what Moshe describes in the Elusive Obvious as an important source of his work: the best science of his day. The choices we make to maintain our private on-the-fly training program structure and not to attempt to play ball in an academic setting keep these sources of knowledge out of our hands. We’re in a chicken-or-egg situation too: we’ve attracted people to the work who aren’t comfortable in that kind of setting. That sets our culture and where we will go to a significant extent.

If you’re a practitioner who likes to work from science, you can do what you can if you don’t have academic access. You can always search pubmed for information, and often see at least the abstract. I know one practitioner who has good experiences in writing scientists directly and asking for copies of their articles or permission to post them. Many researchers expect emails asking for “offprints” and respond generously.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking eagerly about what it would really mean to take the latest thing I read in my “neuroethics” reading and process it through Feldenkrais. Maybe I’ll try something out and report back.

What is the image, the feel, the thought, the action we want to capture?

My teacher Stephen Rosenholtz would say all the time, “You’re not in church! This is life! Teach ATM like you’re having a conversation.”

I was puzzled. Like a conversation about what? The Iraq war? Family gossip? It took me quite some time to figure this one out. But that’s a story for another day. It has something to do with the title of one of Moshe’s books.

I think at the beginning I taught more like it was a relaxation/awareness process.

Yochanan Rywerant has a section called “Modes of Control: Sedate, Aroused” (no. 13) in his book Aquiring the Feldenkrais Profession.

A tentative classification of the modes of control, not really exhaustive but pertinent to our subject, could yield the following: the sedate (or calm) mode, subdivided into apathetic (not interested) and inquisitive (curious, interested); then the aroused (or stimulated) mode, subdivided into euphoric (well being), alarmed (sensing some immanent danger) and distressed (sorrowful). For the purposes of Feldenkrais, you might prefer the inquisitive mode of control. (p. 12)

My favorite phrase from Feldenkrais for the mood of a lesson is where he admonishes people to do the lesson like they’re wasting time. Wasting time with a point, but wasting time.

I’ve got my eye out for somewhere in an AY lesson where he says more about this. I can’t put a finger on it right now, but when I do I’ll post it.

How do produce pictures that capture that feeling of wasting time? But with focus? And with the “inquisitive mode of control” as Rywerant puts it? It isn’t the same as relaxation; it isn’t the same as a spiritual awareness exercise.

Fall 2006: Old and New Feldenkrais Classes; new newsletter system and blog


The nip of fall is in the air, there are handfuls (sometimes buckets) of blackberries ripening daily on the land around our new Halifax duplex, and the fall schedule is beginning at the Yoga Loft. This newsletter is to let you know about two Feldenkrais classes this fall at the Yoga Loft (one continuing, one new class with a new format–and the chance to participate long-distance).

Also, I’ll explain a new subscription function on kinesophics.com so you can subscribe to continue receiving this newsletter.

On-going Wednesday evening ATM classes

Wednesday evening Feldenkrais classes co-taught with Kelly Beale continue at the Yoga Loft, 7:15 – 8:15. It’s a great class for dropping in or for a regular commitment. See more information on the site here.

New Sunday morning ATM class format: DIY ATM!

Join me this fall for a new class on Sunday mornings where we approach learning Feldenkrais (and learning through Feldenkrais) in a new way. I’m writing an “Introduction to Feldenkrais” book, and we will be using drafts of books chapters in this Sunday-morning class. I’m calling it “DIY ATM” (Do-it-yourself Awareness Through Movement)!

Each week, we will spend some time talking about the principles that guide the creation and practice of Awareness Through Movement lessons. (Including Feldenkrais’s famous first principle: there are no principles.) We will do a brief (30-45 minute) ATM lesson, and then we will practice using those principles to create our own lessons building on the weekly ATM, and sharing them with one another.

You can read some of my background thinking behind this class on my blog by clicking here. The idea is to teach Feldenkrais in a way that enables you to make the work your own from the beginning.

Who is this class for?

This process is suitable for anyone interested in learning more about Feldenkrais, or anyone who wants to build more of a personal practice in the Method, or for groups who would like to explore Feldenkrais in a context where there is no Practitioner available. While we are learning the principles behind the work and creating ATMs ourselves in the class, it is not a Practitioner training. You can learn more about Feldenkrais Practitioner trainings by clicking here.

Participate long distance!

You can also participate long distance free of charge. Every week, I’ll post the materials and a recording of the ATM taught in Halifax on the site, and you can do the lesson yourself (alone or in a group) and do the creative exercises, even sharing your own creations and observations on-line with everyone else. To participate long-distance, sign up for an account on the kinesophics.com website [no longer operative].

The practical details

The class will be in the West (large) studio at the Yoga Loft, Sunday mornings at 9 – 10:30 a.m., October 1 to November 26 (8 sessions, with a break for Thanksgiving Sunday). Payment is by a regular Yoga Loft pass, but you do need to enroll specifically for this class rather than come by drop-in, because it involves participation between class and a specific learning sequence. Please email me or hit “reply” to this newsletter (your response will come to me) to register.

Yoga Loft passes are 5 or 10 classes; you can buy a five-class and pay drop-in rate for the last three, or buy a ten-class pass and attend any two other classes at the Loft (including the Wednesday evening ATM of course). If you already have a pass, just use that one for this class! You will be able to access all the materials on-line for the class you missed.

New newsletter setup and website functions

Kinesophics Newsletter

I have been making changes on kinesophics.com, including a new newsletter system and a blog. The newsletter is now specifically for local announcements about classes and workshops. I’m sending this issue to my whole mailing list; if you would like to continue to receive the newsletter, please go to the website to subscribe — look for the spot on the right-hand side of the page where you can enter your email to subscribe. If you are from my Saskatchewan or Toronto mailing lists, and it isn’t so useful to receive such notices, just do nothing and you won’t receive another newsletter again.

Kinesophics Blog

I’m now using a “blog” on kinesophics.com for longer thoughts and musings. You can find my blog on the site by clicking here. The blogging is interactive–you can leave comments, participate in, and create conversation! If you are accustomed to using rss feeds, you can get an rss feed to be informed of any changes to the site, or specifically for the blog postings.

Best wishes for a flexible fall,