How can I keep it?

The nature of forgetting was one of the topics I remember Moshe Feldenkrais returning to often during the beginning of the training he conducted in Amherst, Massachusetts, back in the early 1980s.

I didn’t get it.

I was in my early twenties, optimistic by nature and fully immersed in that wonder-filled, effervescent state evoked and sustained by doing one Awareness Through Movement® lesson after another, day after day after day. I found myself asking, “Why is Moshe talking about this again?” He lectured about forgetting so much that I remember becoming annoyed and increasingly impatient. Can’t we just move on?

Over that summer, and during the decades since then, I’ve realized (More than once!) that forgetting is part of remembering or, maybe it’s more accurate to say, it’s a part of the process of learning to remember, of learning. This puzzle, which confronts every educational endeavor, is known as the transfer of learning.

Why is it that, so often, whatever happens during the lesson, stays in the lesson? Or fades afterward, slipping through our fingers until even the memory of it fading eventually evaporates?

Students — meaning you, me, and human beings everywhere — forget even the most meaningful lessons. Sure, there are lessons that change us, when we cross a threshold and don’t go back. But how about those times when what happens during the lesson stays in the lesson, when you don’t manage to bring what you found you could do — and how you felt doing it — from the floor — or table — into your life? Have you noticed how easy it is to take afterglow, which will most likely diminish until it disappears, with you and to leave the learning behind?

That’s the question, isn’t it?

“How can I keep it?”

You ask — yourself, the teacher, other folks — because you know you’re going to forget, because you forgot the last time, because new learning feels fragile and precious. You ask because you feel different and you know these feelings fade, that it’s not possible to hold on to them, not usually anyway. Feelings change; sometimes it takes the ones you don’t like longer but they change.

(If what you’re feeling won’t change — when you’re locked in an emotional state — well, then ATMs® and what you learn from them can also be the key, especially when working with your breathing.)

“How do I keep what I learn?”

What if we consider that what happens during a lesson is the beginning of learning?

Then we can ask: How does learning unfold? How do you move so you notice something new or different or that you’ve been doing all along and didn’t know you were doing?

It’s insight — what you sense that you never noticed before — that makes it possible to move in ways you couldn’t moments before. Regarding lessons from the perspective of the sensory-motor loop, you can say that the movements you make in an ATM change how and what you perceive, that is to say, your actions alter your awareness.

When what you perceive changes, when you distinguish differently, that’s when new possibilities appear. And they disappear when you lose the ability to notice in that new way, when the awareness you gained is gone. You remember that you could do something but you can’t do it, you recall the door but can’t find the key.

If we consider that what happens during a lesson is the beginning of learning, then we can ask how do we find the key again?

This is a question worth asking because then we can find out how to take learning beyond the lesson?

If you’re interested in making your learning last longer, please check out how the groundbreaking labs in this year’s ATM summer camp, A Breath of Fresh Air, complement and extend the lessons. You have until tomorrow to qualify for the reduced early tuition.


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  1. Memory and Learning. Thanks for the blog about forgetting. When I learn something, I forget that I once could not do that action, have that thought. I am another person when I forget. Learning another language, even a new word, loving someone…normal