Walking Backward

One of the great mysteries of Feldenkrais: how does that “phenomenological weight loss” happen? I weigh x pounds when I arrive for the lesson; I weigh the same an hour later when it’s over. How can I feel so much lighter on my feet?

This lesson explores the question at that very moment of shifting weight onto a foot.

How we learn (with) Feldenkrais

In his book Awareness Through Movement, Moshe imagines that a reader, after working through the twelve lessons he presents there, could continue with his or her own daily practice, thinking up new lessons and spending as much time as he or she chooses on them (p. 64).

It is not my experience that people approach their learning in and through Feldenkrais that way. I know that for years I enjoyed coming and lying on the floor, being guided through these beautiful sequences of movements, doing less, feeling more, and most importantly, having no homework.

But I find for myself and for many students these days, there is much more interest in having a “personal practice,” as we say now, influenced by yoga. I’ve been setting up a project I call [[DIY ATM|”Do-It-Yourself ATM”]] designed to create better conditions for the possibility of people doing just that.

If you sign up at [[DIY ATM]], you have access to recorded ATM lessons, and brief discussions of principles and activities to make use of in doing the work. And you can share your experiences and your inventions with others in the process.

Feldenkrais teaches a deep form of basic literacy–the “logic” of the human being in action. We all learn to write for ourselves, in our own handwriting; this does not mean that we do not appreciate those who have cultivated and studied more extensively the art of writing and do it as professionals. Indeed the development of our own capacity to compose strengthens our ability to learn from and to appreciate those who make it a life study in another sense.

Register (it’s free) and try it out.

The project may be interesting to you as well if you are a practitioner; you are welcome to contribute lesson recordings or schema and theme discussions.

Avowing a dream

I have a dream…an unavowed dream that is about to become avowed…

It is a dream that ca. US$300 a year per practitioner could buy Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioners a professional organization that wouldn't respond to its members' requests for support in practice-building with veiled suggestions that real grown-ups don't expect their professional organization to support such trivial and grubby things.

A dream that we had something, well, like our beloved FGNA only…a little less disparaging of us.

But alas the latest issue of In Touch came today. I'm so sorry to say that what we have is like FGNA, only more so.

Mission statements are important things. At some point when I wasn't paying attention, the FGNA adopted a mission statement that reads:

Because the Feldenkrais Method® transforms people’s lives in deep and profound ways, freeing them to enact their avowed and unavowed dreams: It is the mission of the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America, a membership organization, to act in stewardship of the legacy of Moshe Feldenkrais. (Mission Statement of FGNA, 2004)

That might be a nice mission statement for FEFNA, the Feldenkrais Educational Foundation of North America, whose membership is the public. But for the practitioners' member organization?

In Touch features a dreamy lead article gathering and sharing the fruit that such a confused mission statement could be expected to bear in an organization with a culture like ours, disparaging the very notion that the practitioners' professional organization should serve practitioners.

The analogy with IBM — yes that's it! Behind the member request that FGNA act as an organization serving practitioners is the selfish demand that FGNA turn out diet pills instead of doing that dream magic thing FGNA does so well! Diet pills to fill my personal bank account! Legacy of Moshe be damned.

The public encounters the method through practitioners. Practitioners look to their professional organization for support in practice building because small or non-existent practices mean two things at one and the same time: they aren't making a living and they aren't getting to share the magic they love with the public.

These two things, making a living and sharing the method, are not separate, and they certainly are not opposite.

If they were, why in the world would we have this whole apparatus of training programs and service marks and a Guild?

Refinement for the masses

The coordination of ourselves in the field of gravity as the fundamental form of action in the world is like the air we breathe, or like water for sea life. It’s so ubiquitous that we don’t isolate it as a process that can itself be investigated and improved–or as a kind of window on anything that we do.

We might study logic and argumentation to improve the quality of our thinking, or rhetoric and literature to improve our quality of expression. In doing so, we thereby improve our capacity in a wide range of fields of action. When it comes to the coordination of our physical body in action, we think that’s something for someone else. Surely top-flight athletes pay attention in a detailed way to the coordination of themselves in action, but you can only do that if you’re already superhuman — strong, accomplished, talented — and you’re attempting extraordinary feats.

Feldenkrais’s method demonstrates that anyone can make intelligent application of processes of subtle refinement (decades of training and natural talent are not required) in order to achieve improvements in capacity that are astonishing, from the point of view of our ordinary “folk science” (or advanced science) understandings of the nature of strength and flexibility.

Through gradual and patient experimentation with options for the coordination of yourself in action, not only do you discover a number of specific keys to improved function, you also strengthen your own capacity to sense more of yourself more clearly in your environment, and learn/discover/create fresh in each moment the most appropriate action available to you for your intention.

Take part in the Do-It-Yourself ATM process to check it out.

Extending arms and knees

What could he be thinking? How did anyone ever come up with the idea that you could lie on your side, top knee in front on the floor, turn your face and shoulders towards the ceiling, and tap your shoulder blades on the ground? It feels impossible – in an entirely unique way for each shoulder!

How about if you stop the recording whenever you find yourself pushing for the achievement, and invent a variation or exploration that’s easier than what you’re doing now? Each of these explorations can be a whole lesson in itself. And then when you come back to the recorded lesson, all sorts of surprising possibilities may emerge.