With little exposure to the Feldenkrais Method®, it might get labeled as a physical movement modality, but it is really a way of evolving all human movement which includes emotion and thinking. Feldenkrais himself survived (while some family and friends did not) times beyond most Americans’ imagination. His work was shaped by the desire to help others navigate such devastating times.
To have choice one must be able to discern differences.
Without differentiation, there can be no choice. If your brain doesn’t know your ankle from your foot, the ankle will be stiff and movement limited. The same is true of emotions. Without perception, there will only be compulsive thinking.
You cannot do what you want if you don’t know what you are doing. Moshe Feldenkrais felt knowing yourself from the inside out was the highest form of learning. Can you differentiate personal prejudice from critical thinking? Are you able to sense your internal reactions to someone who is different from you or does this simply fly past your radar? If so, it becomes easy to make erroneous assumptions about other people that are not based in reality.
Learn how things are connected.
To have differentiated anatomical parts and not know how to use them is of no value either. As we bring the differentiated parts back together into a whole, we create fluid movement. This is where thought, intention, and action become seamless. The hands know what the feet are doing and the heart agrees too.
As I consider how this is playing out in the American body/mind, I am wondering if we have over differentiated our parts. Republican, Libertarian, Democrat, progressive, alt-right. All this labeling–white, black, Muslim, Christian, educated, uneducated–helps when we have the tools to use it for positive change. When we don’t, it serves to dissect and isolate us into us/them relationships. How are you connected to that person you have labeled as “other?” It would serve each of us well to sit with this question.
Perhaps determining what is reality starts with the intention of sensing and observing in a nonjudgmental way. In the Feldenkrais approach, we are not oriented toward good or bad movement, but movements that are more or less effective. Ones which feel new or habitual, pleasurable or painful. We strive to become aware without shaming or blaming. This is the spaciousness needed to tolerate awareness. There is nothing easy about knowing yourself from the inside out. Judging makes it almost impossible.
Expand the quiet and lower reactivity.
We live in a reactive society. States of fear, anger, excitement, and self-righteousness make us adrenaline junkies. We are continually looking for our next hit because we only feel alive when we are in a state of disquiet. Through Feldenkrais lessons, we find ways to dip into the quiet and slowly lower our excitation. Only in the quiet can we actually hear the individual words and make sense of the sentences being spoken. In times of high anxiety where anger, depression, and despair are easy to flair, finding quiet is more important than ever.
Strange as it may sound, we listen to our bodies. We listen to our minds. We listen with curiosity. We listen to understand. We listen to learn. We listen to befriend. When was the last time you used listening in these ways?
Be honest about mental masturbation. Moshe Feldenkrais said (and this is from memory), “Thought which leads to no new action is mental masturbation.”
One can make a case for the value of self-stimulation, but that is a different topic. Here, this principle calls to mind all the rounds of hoopla we go through in the news and on social media. Most of it is mental masturbation in which we are unable to perceive the disconnect in our own actions or lack of action. We habitually lapse into our personal comfortable but ineffective pattern instead of being a quality thinker.
Ask yourself questions.
Asking a question with a genuine interest is enough to change the hamster wheel of thought addiction. One does not even need to answer the question. In the Feldenkrais approach, we ask questions almost in order to ask another question. There may be a fleeting answer present. There may not be. But the act of curiosity removes us from the known and returns us to a learning state.
Ken Wilber, a leading integral philosopher has said, “No one is so smart as to be 100% wrong.” Here is a question for your consideration: How is the person you perceive as against everything you stand for actually right?
I hope these principles might give you a helpful kick-start in these challenging times away from dysfunction and into solution-based process.
Cynthia Allen, GCFP, has been in some version of health care programming for eons. She completed her Feldenkrais training through Paul Rubin and Julie Casson Rubin in 2001. She is also a Senior Trainer in Ruthy Alon's Movement Intelligence work. She and her husband have a multidisciplinary practice called Future Life Now in Cincinnati, Ohio where she sees clients and teaches weekly classes.
This article was originally published on Future Life Now's Wellness and Health blog in November 2016.