In 2019, I asked the participants in my ongoing postgraduate program for Functional Integrators, MASTERING THE METHOD, what subject they would like to address in our next cycle of three modules. Over our years working together, we had already explored topics ranging from “Length and Support” to “Walking Well.”
Breathe the way you were meant to
Don’t hold your breath.
You need to take a deep breath.
I need a breath of fresh air.
I can’t breathe.
What a year it’s been for breathing.
Foot on the head
Lesson number eight in Awareness Through Movement, the book Moshe Feldenkrais wrote to introduce his method to the world, is called PERFECTING THE SELF-IMAGE. In the comprehensive collection of his teaching, the Alexander Yanai transcripts, you will find a different version with the less poetic and somewhat more daunting title of FOOT ON THE HEAD.
Time to reconsider the curtsy?
The Oxford American Dictionary defines a curtsy as:
“A woman or girl’s respectful greeting, made by bending the knees with one foot in front of the other.”
May I humbly propose that it’s time to leave the confines of this antiquated definition behind?
What I’m suggesting is that we consider, in these gender-bending times, curtsying could be a remedy to one of the worst aspects of wearing a mask.
An old friend called the other day to say that he couldn’t find my house. He was driving over to drop off some herbs from his garden but hadn’t been here in a while.
There’s a six-sided corner — one where three streets meet — just a few blocks away. That’s the place where the standard checkerboard arrangement of roads gets distorted and where people seem to get turned around.
A precious waste of time
Earlier this week, in the morning An AY a day meeting, we did ON THE CHEEK (Lesson 25). It’s in this lesson that Moshe utters the following sentence: “You have to do this as if you wanted to waste your time,
but waste your time efficiently.”
Among troubles this year visited upon us, the oak moth returned in hordes. The eggs they lay turned into caterpillars, which devoured the leaves of the coastal scrub oaks in the neighborhood, including the ancient tree in my front yard. These voracious critters then littered the ground and walkways with frass (tiny balls of insect increment) and dead leaf bits.
Walking the walk
Dearest Ruthy -
When I checked my emails this morning, I found several folks had forwarded the email your daughter, Iris, sent out* informing us of the stroke you had last week.
Skip the lines
It’s a foggy December Saturday in Santa Cruz. The temperature is 56℉/13℃, yet some of the folks in line at my neighborhood Post Office were were wearing shorts. Thankfully, they were all wearing masks.
Whether you are up for braving the line there or queueing up at a store or cash register — or just entering a building at all — or not, getting holiday gifts to those we love is neither simple nor straightforward this year.
An accidental advanced training
When Aliza Stewart, the educational director of the Baltimore Feldenkrais® teacher training, asked me to teach THE ARTIFICIAL FLOOR during my upcoming stint as the guest trainer in the program last October, I was doubly delighted.
The other day I was thinking about Kunst Haus Vienna, the art galleries that house many paintings, prints, architectural designs, and other works of the Austrian artist, architect, and ecologist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He thought the effect of paved roads, sidewalks, floors, and the other flat surfaces we live on was to cut off from nature. Everywhere outside of modern civilization, the ground is uneven, and every step we take provides a rich sensory experience of the earth’s surface.
I received several skeptical responses to my recent blog about teaching THE ARTIFICIAL FLOOR at Feldenkrais® Institute of Vienna this coming week. In that post, I told you about Austria implementing (another) countrywide lockdown and how that meant we needed to pivot the curriculum for this postgraduate program, which is about a now-classic hands-on Functional Integration® lesson, to an entirely online format.
In the world of technology start-ups to pivot refers to the process of shifting your business strategy when things are not working out the way you’d hoped, either because your initial plans don’t pan out or because that which had been a success isn’t any longer.
Earlier this year, shelter in place orders and governmental lockdowns required fellow Feldenkrais® teachers and trainers to pivot. Like so many others whose professional lives had been conducted in-person, we found ourselves asking ourselves:
How do I offer my services in a suddenly changed world?
Long-distance and hands-on
Later this month, I will be teaching the classic Functional Integration® lesson called The Artificial Floor at the Feldenkrais Institut Wien (also known as the Vienna Feldenkrais Institute). During this hands-on session, the teacher uses a wooden cutting board or a rectangular piece of clear plastic to touch and move a student’s feet. This evokes a newfound feeling for standing and an easy, efficient, enjoyable way of walking by tapping into the foot’s neurophysical influence on the entire body.
Don’t hold your breath
In those cliff-hanger moments when we can change neither the context nor the circumstances, when we find ourselves anxiously waiting for something to happen or change, breathing falters and catches.
Without thinking about it, we hold our breath.
The thing is, no one can hold their breath forever. A full-stop turns into interference, a recognizable altering of the scope and sweep of your respiration. With that comes a kind of fixing of our physiology and the feeling state it elicits.
Children and families
One of our Feldenkraisian approach axioms is that instead of working with a child, it’s best to work with children and their families. The indefatigable Cynthia Allen, whose online summits have reached tens of thousands of people in some 60 countries in the last three years, is putting on a Turning Challenges into Possibilities for the Special Needs Family, a new conference founded on this very idea.
This summit is designed especially for the family or caregiver of an exceptional child looking for new avenues to developmental progress and a deeper understanding of the learning process. Not only that, but there will be plenty of information for professionals — teachers, therapists, somatic practitioners, and others — as well.
Time to vote
Election Day in the United States is this coming Tuesday, 3 November 2020. Given the intensity of the news coverage worldwide, I’m guessing you probably know that already. I’m pretty sure you’re also familiar with who is running for President and with all the controversy swirling around the choices and the process of voting this year. It seems quite crazy out there, doesn’t it?
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. I’m sorry for taking so long to follow-up. I wrote that I’d keep you posted here, but soon after treatment began I realized I had no desire to divulge the difficult moments of going through radiation and chemotherapy publicly. I felt that even more strongly with the advent of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and global shifts of all kinds, which has had everyone dealing with their own dilemmas.
When I finished treatment at the end of April, I was pretty darn tired. I had little energy, so I focused on doing what I love — writing and teaching, which provided much-needed inspiration and kept me in contact with folks — and on taking care of myself. Then, at the end of the summer, the road to recovery got even more challenging. My get-up-and-go got up and went. I found myself dealing with nausea and such extreme exhaustion that I couldn’t continue. I had to hit the pause button.
We’ve heard it all before.
This is going to ruin relationships, isolate people, damage your eyesight, and destroy your ability to remember.
What is the cause of this cruel crime against humanity?
These dire warnings have all been issued by “experts” about smartphones, computers, and, originally, many centuries ago, about books and writing. And now people, including some of my Feldenkrais® colleagues, are saying the same things about online learning and videoconferencing, especially as relates to training teachers online.
Moving training online
Back in March, I had an online conversation with Patrick Gruner. Patrick’s a fellow trainer and a longtime friend and colleague. We met back in the 1990s when I was the guest trainer for one of Mark Reese’s training in Germany. Patrick, who was a newly-minted Feldenkrais® teacher, was the co-administer of that training. We shared a common background as Neuro-Linguistic Programming trainers, which made for many inspiring, insightful exchanges.
Last Tuesday, I taught the first class of this summer’s Awareness Through Movement® summer camp, The Human Frame. I call the lesson that I presented:
Like all the lessons in this series of ATM® lessons done in a doorway, this is a relatively recent creation. Though it’s new, it relies on the same learning logic as the archetypical lessons that Moshe Feldenkrais invented. I’ve been developing, learning from, and working with this contemporary score for the last couple of years; this past spring I taught it in several different classes. Last week’s version definitely benefited from my long apprenticeship with it.
Continuing the conversation
The next installment of A feeling for gravity is coming up on Monday, 6 July, at 9:30 AM Pacific time.
During these live feeling4gravity online meetings, I continue my conversation with engineer, psychologist, and NASA scientist Gary Riccio about the connection between Moshe’s method and movement science. We started talking back in the spring of 1989 and haven’t stopped.
Nothing worse than a good idea
Gaby Yaron graduated from the Feldenkrais® Teacher Training directed by Moshe Feldenkrais, the founder of the eponymous method, in Tel Aviv in the 1960s. She went on to become one of the method’s leading trainers, conducting programs in Europe and the United States.
In the early 1990s, I had the good fortune to assist Gaby in the training she was directing in Evanston, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. We had met at my teacher training in Amherst, Massachusetts, during which I had the opportunity to receive individual hands-on Functional Integration® lessons as well as to watch those she gave to my classmates and to members of the public.
A map and its territory
“A map is not the territory it represents,
it has a similar structure to the territory,
which accounts for its usefulness.”
— Alfred Korzybski
So often, people misquote Alfred Korzybski.
They say, “The map is not the territory.”
Okay. I have a confession.
Black lives matter
The word “unprecedented” has been used so often lately in reference to COVID 19 that I was getting tired of hearing and reading it. That was until George Floyd’s murder by policemen in Minneapolis ignited an unprecedented international movement against police violence and institutionalized racism.
Due to my current circumstances — because I’m still recovering from radiation and chemotherapy, I’ve been under strict doctor’s orders to maintain social distancing and to keep sheltering at home — I haven’t been able to participate in demonstrations. However, this afforded me time to reflect on the start of my political activism and to consider what we can do going forward.
A feeling for gravity
How do we know which way is up?
The answer to this question is not quite as obvious as it seems. Unlike light or sound, our nervous systems have no way of directly detecting the pull of gravity. We know which way is up thanks to the results of gravity acting on our bodies — like where we’re making contact with support surfaces and the amount of pressure in those places — as well as from cues from other sensory systems.
A lesson the founder never taught
In the summer of 1991, I was lying on the floor of the gymnasium at the Vienna International School. I was there as a member of the faculty of the first Feldenkrais® Teacher Training in Austria. The trainer and educational director, Dennis Leri, was teaching an Awareness Through Movement® lesson.
A few minutes into the lesson, I found myself wondering what exactly was going on in this ATM®. The movements were familiar, but I could sense there was something different about how the lesson was unfolding. As it continued, I started to get an inkling of what might be happening; thing is, I could not quite believe that my guess was — or even could be — right. I was as sure as I could be that I had never done this lesson before.
Moshe’s dream has come true
In the 1970s and 80s, Moshe Feldenkrais often spoke of his dream of teaching Awareness Through Movement® lessons on television around the world. His inspiration was the leading-edge technology of the day, the Telstar communication satellites, which made international television broadcasting possible. His hope was preempted by the prohibitively high cost of doing so.
Thanks to the spread of the Internet, accessibility to high technology, and the advent of the novel coronavirus pandemic, we’ve made Moshe’s dream come true on a worldwide scale that few would have imagined as recently as the end of last year.
An unmistakable and powerful experience of lengthening
Do you know the long-running television game show, Jeopardy? The contestants receive clues in the form of answers and have to phrase their responses in the form of a question.
I’m asking because I enjoy playing Jeopardy with Feldenkrais® lessons. I do that by considering, “If the lesson is the answer, what question is it answering?”