Mind in Motion Blog - Edna Caila Rossenas

Couldn’t have done it without you

Mind in Motion blog - Edna Caila Rossenas

For the past twenty-four hours, I’ve been thinking of Edna Caila Rossenas, who was known back in the day to her classmates as Edna Stott.

Having broken the garlic bulb into cloves, I was starting to peel the papery skin so I could chop it into tiny bits. I was standing in my college drama professor’s home; it was where Moshe Feldenkrais was staying the second year of the Amherst training. 

The voice I heard over my left shoulder asked, “Would you like to learn an easier way to do that?”

That’s when I turned, saw that genuine smile and your sparkling eyes, and said, “Yes, I would.”

“I learned this from a Greek lover many years ago.” As she reached across the counter, Edna grabbed the large chef’s knife, saying, “You line the cloves up in a row on the cutting board. Put the flat side of the knife over them and, then, smack it hard with your fist.”

Lifting the knife, Edna revealed the slightly smashed cloves, neatly separated from their former coverings.  I didn’t know it then, but that moment was the beginning of my apprenticeship. She was fifty-six years old, and I was twenty-three. 

It was not until later that summer, when we were at the Howard Johnson’s on Route 9 (I checked online just now, it’s still there) for the all-you-can-eat Friday fish fry, that it became official. By that time, we’d had many meals together, discussed literature, art, and the history of the world and our families, talked about cybernetics and Bateson, and she’d given me my first Italo Calvino novel (Invisible Cities) as well as a half dozen hands-on lessons. 

Along with Gaby Yaron and a couple of dozen trainees, she participated in the NeuroLinguistic Programming classes I was teaching one evening a week. I recounted how John Grinder and Richard Bandler, after studying Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir, and Milton Erickson, demystified these therapists’ marvelous, supposedly magical, abilities. I was teaching the methodology they created, which made the process of transformation accessible and learnable. 

Edna was talking about being in Tel Aviv with other members of the San Francisco training. After Moshe finished giving lessons, she described how her classmates, all of them a decade or more younger, were “puppy-dogging” around him, plying him with questions and vying for his attention and approval.

She had kept out of the fray, holding back and observing. Moshe’s ideas and strategy fascinated Edna, especially in the ways they built on the sensibilities and skills she had developed as an art teacher. Looking straight into my eyes, she exclaimed, “As important as that was, I became a Functional Integrator through osmosis: by watching Moshe give one lesson after another, from one day to the next.”  

That’s when she made that most startling proposal: “I’ll teach you everything I learned if you’ll help me understand what I’m doing.” 

Edna’s question, my enthusiastic consent, and the subsequent years of being her pupil — attending her classes and workshops, traveling together, getting lessons from her, and then, eventually, giving them to her, taking on her classes in Mill Valley when she retired — created the foundation for the teacher and, ultimately, the trainer I have become. And our relationship wasn’t just during the early years: by being on the faculty of the first teacher training programs I organized, she ensured our collaboration continued.

Mind in Motion Blog - Edna Stott

I am so grateful for Edna’s counsel and direction, her abiding belief in my abilities, and, most of all, her friendship. Teaching postgraduate courses, creating mentor trainings, and coaching colleagues, so much of my career has been about paying forward the debt of gratitude I owe her.

Keith called shortly after seven this morning to let me know that Edna passed just a couple of hours before. I am forever thankful and oh so sad.

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  1. Dear Larry, “forever thankful and oh so sad.” sharing the tears with a bouquet for the two of you …. stories of Edna abound from over the years. How the student surpasses her teacher is one of Edna’s gems of wisdom you shared with us. Enduring gentleness and peace, Katarina

  2. I have tears in my eyes. I’m so glad you can allow the thankfulness and the sadness. I suspect that Edna is present in every lesson you teach. Thank you for this heartfelt tribute.

  3. Oh, Larry! I am moved to tears, both by the news of Edna’s moving on and the beauty and depth of your relationship with her. I was blessed to be in a training where Edna was on staff, for at least one, if not more of the summer segments. It actually was a training (San Raphael 2) where you were one of Frank Wildman’s adjunct faculty, speaking about your PhD research (as I recall) and motor learning, etc. I was impressed because here I am studying with you! Now I wonder if Edna had a hand in your attendance there. She had such a caring presence, an ability to pay attention in a way that left one feeling heard and accepted. She exuded such a sense of grace and ease. I remember thinking about her and Chloe Scott “that’s how I want to be when I’m their age!” My heart goes out to you — you share so generously that all of us who know you can also glimpse Edna through you. Deep thanks and peace be yours. Marg

    1. Hello Marg –
      Thank you so much for sharing your remembrance of Edna.
      I thought the same thing about Edna, and Choe Scott as well. Now that I’m older than Edna was when we first met I’m glad to have their example to follow.

  4. Thank you, Larry, for letting us know. Edna has left me with vivid memories of great lessons she taught us in her absolutely unique way. And on a special occasion she helped me find a new way of sitting up – we laughed a lot that day about how getting there took me a great while and then suddely became so easy. She certainly has influenced my teaching in the best possible way and I am so very greatful to have known her!
    Best, Janine

  5. I did not know Edna but your post was so detailed and so filled with love and gratitude that I burst into tears on reading the last paragraph. The time to go arrives for everyone but that doesn’t make the transition any easier into living in a world where the loved one is no longer physically present. Thanks for this moving remembrance.

  6. Thank you Larry, for the wonderful remembrances of Edna. Ahhhh, Edna! The mutual respect, admiration, and sheer enjoyment you two shared is palpable in your stories. It sounds like she was an artist of many sensibilities.
    Edna visited the Berkeley 1 training several times, and she gave me my first FI! I wasn’t sure I ‘got it,’ at that moment, but I was sure she was sharing something important with me, in my early attempts to allow an unwinding of my well practiced habits, and to listen more deeply to the options lurking within my sensations.
    Edna has been in my thoughts lately, and now it makes sense why. May her memory be an enduring blessing. Hugs to you, Jean

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your memories and feelings. I remember Edna from the Strasbourg training, wearing beautiful native american jewelery, teaching a lesson on becoming more sensitive in our hands, watching her giving a FI. It’s so vivid in me, doesn’t feel like more than 25 years ago.
    Memories of Muir Beach came up, of Green Gulch Zen Center, of the beach area where Edna lived.
    Your words make me feel how deeply this ia part of me. I’m sad and grateful for having met you, Edna and the time I could spend on the Pacific Ocean.

    1. Hello Helga –
      Thanks for sharing your memories of Edna in Strasbourg and at Muir Beach. You brought a flood of memories back — her turquoise jewelry, the places she lived in Muir Beach and San Francisco before then, our many walks together, and more. Sad and wonderful.

  8. Emue de te lire parler d’Edna que tu as souvent évoquée, de voir aussi les photos, d’en apprendre sur votre rencontre et sur vos échanges; émue de lire qu’elle vient juste de mourir; de tout cœur avec toi, cher Larry.

  9. Thank you Larry for letting us know about Edna’s passing from this world. And for sharing so deeply and honestly your deep sadness.
    It too brought up my memories of Edna at an early training in Melbourne (1989?), the stories she told. The 1 that sticks in my mind and comes up often is her saying to ‘Always choose the way of Beauty’.
    I was cycling to my trainings as I had flown across the country to attend and didn’t have a car so it created a wonderful way of choosing my routes to the trainings. A Beautiful legacy. A message that continues to enrich my life.

    1. Thank you, Linda, for sharing your story about Edna advising you to take the way of beauty. I’m still a cyclist and these words guide the routes I choose to this day.
      As you wrote, a beautiful legacy.

  10. Oh, Larry. I’ve heard you speak about your “Felden-Mom” Edna with such love and admiration so often and somehow I didn’t realize she was still with us- so this made reading your beautiful tribute to her even more poignant. What a gift you were to each other. And that she continues to be in how you teach and how you be in the world. I’m holding you tenderly in my heart. May her memory be a blessing.