When I was young, my Irish grandfather told me “Son, when you leave a place make sure to look behind you so you will recognize it on the way back.” I always considered his words good general advice. Now, poised between the first and second half of my Feldenkrais® practitioner training, I am both looking back at what I have experienced so far and ahead to what may come next. It is an exciting moment filled with possibility and challenge.
First, the obvious. I love the training. I expect most trainees do. I love the opportunity to learn so much about myself and others, and the guidance from my educational director, trainers, and staff. I love discovering the Awareness through Movement® lessons and beginning the practice of Functional Integration® lessons. I love the amazing, bright, interesting, and attentive classmates who are my companions on this journey. I love teaching Awareness Through Movement lessons.
The training is also a struggle. I take time away from friends, family, community, and my day job. I invest money and time and we seldom have enough of either of these precious assets. I discover obstacles in my body, in my thinking, and in my capacity to digest the changes to which the training calls me. I wonder how I will remember all the things I have discovered and what may come next.
Aside from the obvious activity, there are more elusive currents that I begin to see. When I began taking Awareness Through Movement lessons, they seemed complex, with many steps and a mysterious alchemical reaction that yielded the new and different feelings in my body at the end of the lesson. Now I see the patterns that underlie the many details. I am in on the magic trick and I can see how it is done. The Feldenkrais Method is no longer as mysterious, but no less effective at rendering changes in me. I see now that there is a method in the Method. It makes sense.
As patterns emerge from the details, I have begun organizing the observations and discoveries made along the way. I have worked in business process re-engineering for much of my professional career. I am good at organizing information and many divergent details – or so I thought until the Feldenkrais Method. I struggled to find a way to communicate and share what I have learned. I did not even know how to organize it.
Then I realized that my skeleton is my notebook. No database, no spreadsheet, no Google search can serve as well as the reference book I always carry: my own skeleton. I have come to count on my body’s capacity to remember and come to trust the body’s recall. I can find what I need by trusting my body. That trust represents a real challenge to someone like me so dedicated to my thinking brain. I am habituated to engaging the world through my head.
A Buddhist monk once explained to me that he went to pray in Christian churches because that way he had the help of two Saviors instead of one. I can appreciate that perspective more now that I feel that I can count on my body to solve problems as well as my head can. Now I have two intelligences instead of one. Of course, both have always been present. What has changed is my capacity (and willingness) to count on my body and to use the right intelligence for the right purpose.
My thinking has changed because my thinking brain no longer bears as heavy a load. It is strange to consider how lying on the floor exploring the articulations of your shoulder might reorganize your thinking. Yet I find that my thinking is reorganized, my priorities are clearer. I am much better able to communicate what I see and what I know in my consulting practice, my personal life, and in teaching an Awareness Through Movement class. No one has let me in yet on the secret of how moving my shoulder can reorganize my thinking (perhaps that is covered in years three and four), but those around me comment on the effect regularly. Because I see myself more clearly, I can see the world more clearly.
My posture has changed. Not that I look like a recruit fresh out of Feldy Boot Camp; I do not. Friends ask me how I lost weight – even though I am heavier. They ask me why I am so happy – even though I am no more or less so. They scratch their heads and look down at my shoes to see if I am wearing heels because “you look taller.” Well at least I feel taller! They perceive a change. They are often more at ease with me than before, more comfortable and at home somehow. I am more at ease in myself and it affects those around me.
Because I stand differently, I need to take a different stand. Having discovered better ways to use my body, I am better able to maintain my stability. That stability manifests as a new confidence. I was not exactly a shy wallflower before but the inner stability affects how I see and engage the world. I perceive work, play, and relationships differently and find myself called to express my own convictions more clearly. As I come to understand myself better, I get to be “more me.”
I am passing down a road others have trod before me. I look forward to the lessons and the learning of the next two years from my teachers and from my students. I am excited to embark on the new chapter of teaching more Awareness Through Movement lessons. I am reminded of one of my Judo teacher’s mottos (which he appropriated from ancient Rome): Docendo discimus, “by teaching we learn.”
Terence McPartland is a 3rd degree Black Belt in Kodokan Judo who teaches and practices at DC Judo in Washington DC. He is in the Milano-Levico IV training.You can reach him at email@example.com