Another touching moment

Last Saturday afternoon, the Aikido of Berkeley dojo was wall to wall with Feldenkrais® colleagues from all of the Bay Area. More than three-quarters of whom I knew or knew quite well, quite a few of them I hadn’t seen in years or, mostly, decades. They showed up for my new workshop about developing your potential for boldness and bravery, COURAGE IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF FEAR, which Sonja Sutherland, co-chair of the Northern California and Northern Nevada region of FGNA (Feldenkrais Guild® of North America), organized to raise funds for the financial aspects of the health challenge I’m facing.

“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential.

Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. 

We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”

Maya Angelou

The dojo was the perfect place for an afternoon exploring the value of framing Moshe’s method as the martial arts of daily life. I started my brief introduction addressing the relationship between fear and learning, pointing out that this understanding is the basis for our commitment to creating a safe learning environment for students. Then we jumped into a classic Awareness Through Movement® lesson exploring what happens when going from all-sixes (hands, knees, and feet) toward sitting on the heels. At one point, I interrupted the solo lesson, asking the participants to pair up so that one of them could “ride-along” the other’s motion. Placing their knuckles at the base of their fingers of one hand over the spinous processes at the top of the chest and the base of the neck and the knuckles of the other hand at the base of the chest and the top of the lower back, with their fingers making contact with the muscles on one side and the palm on the other, the passengers could track how a variation in the movers’ action affected their axial skeleton and the muscles along it. This gave us an experiential basis for examing the biomechanical underpinnings of the lesson.

After a break, we returned to the dojo to continue working in the same position. This time instead of sitting backward, the participants explored how their weight shifted when lifting one of their arms or knees from the floor, which led, eventually to tipping themselves over like a table, without bending, twisting, or flopping. Since this action requires falling and since that naturally elicits what Feldenkrais considered the primal fear — the fear of falling — the participants investigated the meaning of courage in a small but very real way. To raise the stakes a bit, once they’d played with falling on their own, I asked them to pair up and tip each other over. Reminding the participants of what they’d done in the first ATM®, shifted the focus to how the “tipper” moved to take the “tippee” off-balance.

I’d already asked the handful of participants attending the workshop who were Aikido black belts to be my co-conspirators for the last part of the class. The participants split into smaller groups, each of which was led by one of the black belts. They introduced the participants to a key component of the Aikido technique known as Kokyu-ho. (In case you’re curious, this turn of events wasn’t happenstance. I knew ahead of time that I’d be teaching at the dojo and that there would be at least a few black belts attending so I had designed curriculum around this community finale from the start.) 

Just between us, I was deeply touched by the support, both emotional and financial, from my colleagues, starting with Sonja offering to organize the event. After a lifetime devoted to helping others, finding myself at the receiving end has been one of the most daunting, nerve-wracking, and difficult aspects of dealing with my cancer diagnosis. I am most grateful for the graceful, generous, heartfelt backing of my peers and friends.

To follow-up on the workshop, Kwan Wong, the organizer of the international online ATM study groups for teachers and trainees known as An AY a day, asked me to teach a special extended session for the meeting tomorrow, 8 February 2020, from 8:00 to 11:45-ish in the morning (Pacific time). 

I’ll be teaching A TOUCHING MOMENT, focusing on how Moshe Feldenkrais, especially in his earlier Awareness Through Movement lessons, asked students to touch themselves while they were moving. I’ll teach an ATM, facilitate a discussion, and show you where, when, and how tactile tracking can deepen your personal ATM practice and contribute to your professional teaching abilities.

We’ll be recording the ATM, discussion, and interactive learning lab to make them available, free of charge, afterward right here on this website. So if you attend or not; whether you want to review the course or catch up after-the-fact; in case you want to teach the lesson, study it, or explore the teaching tactics with your study buddy or study group, you will have access to these materials.

The final of three sessions of my newest online course, IT’S A LESSON (IAL) meets the following day, this coming Sunday. 

This advanced online ATM program, which is part of our expanding ATM Teaching Academy curriculum for Feldenkrais teachers and trainees, looks at the art and science of giving 1-2-1 ATM lessons. If you’re intrigued by this idea, interested in the role of touch in ATM, want to deepen your personal practice, and/or are ready to develop your teaching skills, you can still sign up for  IAL. Your tuition of $297 includes access to all of the class recordings of the first two meetings, which means you’ll be able to review the materials and catch up on what you missed at your leisure. 

Since this is the first run of IAL, we are not selling the recordings separately now nor do we plan to do so later. Though the material from this course may be included in a future online program, for the time being, the only way to get access to this down-to-earth, pragmatic, and relevant resource is to enroll. Registration is limited; once the few remaining spaces have been sold, the recordings will not be available to purchase.

Mind in Motion is made possible by the amazing group of folks who work with and support me. Together, Trey, Lisa, Jade, Gifford, and I have been building a platform for the future of Feldenkrais, one that brings together the latest advances in technology with state of the art approaches to learning. So that we can continue to make these precious resources available and also keep developing the projects we’ve started while I’m going through and recover from my cancer treatment, I’m asking for your help and support.

You can support our work either by signing up for a year’s subscription at $5 or $25 per month or, if you prefer, by contributing the amount of your choice. The funds you give will be used to pay salaries and bills so that the team will have jobs for the duration and so there will also be one waiting for me when I am ready to come back to work sometime late spring. In the interim, I plan to continue writing about Moshe’s method and to, occasionally, keep you posted on my progress. 

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  1. The gift of cancer is to allow you to receive from the community you’ve generously given to these many, many years. When you look into another’s eyes, you see yourself reflected back.

  2. Thanks so much Larry for your words, the intention behind those words, the manner and humility in sharing your learning and the questioning that informs all of it. I find your posts incredibly touching and inspiring, especially at this time, not only in your life’s journey, also in mine. You are an elder statesman of the Feldenkrais lineage and bringing needed fresh approaches to galvanizing thought, discussion and experiential learning to The Method. Gives me goose bumps to read your words. Many thanks for your life, journey, and your increasing legacy. Love the way you are using everything to become even more aware of yourself, and then sharing in true human-ness.

    1. Thank you so much, Stephanie, for your kind words.
      Writing has always been important to me. One of the blessings of this phase of my life’s journey is that it’s giving me time to write; I promised myself not to waste the chance.
      Feedback like yours is what encourages me to keep going. I mean, what could be better than writing that inspires, touches, and gives your goosebumps!