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?”
A – T – M times four
I was a bad student today.
My dear friend and colleague, Donna Blank, was teaching the morning Awareness Through Movement® lesson at the An AY a day study group for Feldenkrais® teachers and trainees this morning. For the second day of AYAD’s third-anniversary celebration, she chose Alexander Yanai 23: PALATE, MOUTH, AND TEETH.
This lesson — which is about way more than its title reveals, especially when taught by a tremendous teacher like Donna — is the one I remember from the first time I experienced it. It’s one of those lessons that is the Feldenkraisian equivalent of the 1966 sci-fi movie, The Fantastic Voyage, which is to say that these lessons are mind-altering, soma-revitalizing inner journeys. My sense of the proportions of my head, trunk, breath, of myself was forever altered.
You can’t teach Feldenkrais® online
Ever since I started talking about teaching Feldenkrais® online, at least ten or twelve years ago, I noticed a big difference between how my students responded compared to how my colleagues reacted.
My students and other members of the public were, by and large, mostly curious. Online meetings were a new thing and relatively rare in the pre-COVID 19 era so their questions mostly revolved around the technology and the specifics about how exactly this could work. For instance, they were curious about whether I would be able to see how they were moving during a class. Back when I first started doing this, online meetings were audio-only so the answer to this question has certainly changed over time. Those folks who equated the method with hands-on lessons didn’t understand how it would be possible to receive lessons without being touched.
Chemotherapy and radiation ended two months ago. I never lost the hair on my head but I did lose most of the hair on my face save my mustache. More importantly, I never lost my voice nor my ability to eat solid food. My radiation oncologist was dumbfounded; I am relieved and intensely grateful.
There’s a reason the Greeks wrote tragedies
At the beginning of this year, Cynthia Allen interviewed me for this year’s Feldenkrais Awareness® Summit (Affiliate link*). I was delighted that she’d asked me to be part of the Spirituality meets Physiology track, in part because I’m usually perceived as such a “sciencey” type.
Since I’d taught a new series of Awareness Through Movement® lessons for my (almost) annual ATM® summer camp, The Peculiar Power of Prayer, back in 2018, Cynthia and I have had a few conversations about Feldenkrais® teachers bringing our work to their communities of faith. We’d also discussed our shared fascination with the ways that both prayer and ATM use movement to change consciousness.
On the way to somewhere else
Doorways are marked by the physical traces of many a child’s growing up.
Exits and entries: you pass through them on the way to somewhere else. We don’t dawdle in the place between places.
In this time of sheltering at home, a closed door has come to symbolize safety. Nowadays, an entryway can also remind us of the places we cannot go, the ones we miss and the ones we don’t.
The good news is that I get to use a word I just learned.
I think I learned to use a bilingual dictionary first. It had words and pictures in it. I was five years old, going to kindergarten in East Orange, New Jersey. That’s when I developed my avid fascination with being able to learn what words mean, whether I read it in a scientific journal or the New York Times, on social media or on a wall.
Anyway, if you don’t know about it, the Urban Dictionary provides a window on current North American jargon from one of its main fountainheads, the language of inner-city culture.
Be that as it may . . .
The door to the invisible
Here’s a hint: Most of us easily identify friends, family members, and folks we know well from far away. Do you know what I mean?
Even from the other end of a long block, all bundled up in bad weather, you effortlessly recognize those nearest and dearest, usually in the blink of an eye. You know them by how they move and carry themselves . . . without even trying.
However, this kind of observation seems to only work in one direction. I mean that you — like just about everybody — would be hard-pressed to tell me, no matter how hard you try, what makes it possible for someone to identify you from afar.
How can that be?
Leadership, courage, and hard work
Three years ago, Ohio-based Feldenkrais® teacher, Cynthia Allen, offered the first international Feldenkrais Awareness® Summit ever. Employing state-of-the-art software to bring together leading Feldenkrais teachers from all over to give presentations about the method and its many applications, she created a kind of virtual conference, one that allowed participants to learn about the method without having to leave home.
That is no small feat.
More than performing the movements
Last Friday, I taught Alexandar Yanai lesson 101 — ON SIDE – LIFTING THE LEG AND STRAIGHTENING IT — for the 8:00 AM (Pacific time) An AY a day group lesson. Since the advent of the global coronavirus pandemic, participation has increased dramatically; there were 177 people online for this Awareness Through Movement® class!
This lesson builds from fairly easy actions to ones that are more demanding and are done in a more precarious position. It recalls a movement that you may recognize from the HOOKING THE BIG TOE series.
Have Roller — Will Travel
I couldn’t believe it.
I was watching Shark Tank, a TV show where entrepreneurs pitch their product ideas to investors. Former National Football League tight end Nate Lawrie and his business partner Tom Hopkins demonstrated MORPH, a collapsible foam roller.
Wow! One of my dreams came true!
This was the response I received to a recent blog.
Appropriately short and to-the-point, this Internet acronym stands for “too long; didn’t read.”
That’s when I identified something familiar . . . and familial. My dad was of the same ilk. He was the kind of man who didn’t want to waste his time reading a mystery. He got to the good part by skipping to the end.
Rising to the occasion
To support my colleagues in presenting Moshe’s method online, demonstrate the potential of video conferencing to enhance our teaching, and give us a chance to meet together, I offered two Zoom meetings about The Art of Teaching ATM® Online this past weekend.
In the few days between announcing the meetings and conducting them, 384 teachers of the Feldenkrais Method® of neurophysical learning from all over the world registered for these meetings!
Did I ever tell you?
Did I ever tell you that I didn’t start out with any particular aim or wish to become a Feldenkrais® trainer?
In 1988, Dennis Leri and Elizabeth Berringer started the Somathematics training that met during the summer months in a gymnasium at Sonoma State University, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of San Francisco. That was during the middle of my master’s program in Cybernetic Systems at San Jose State University (SJSU) and when I was studying intensely with Heinz von Foerster, who had been in on the founding of the field along with Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, and John von Neumann.
The Art of Teaching ATM® Online
Let’s face it.
Teaching Awareness Through Movement® online is not the same as teaching in person.
Instead of looking around the room to get an overview of how students are moving and find the outliers, the ones who are having difficulties or aren’t quite following, your eyes have to hop between the views provided by each student’s video feed. Some students are only partially in view.
The quality of your student’s movement goes from being easy to track to being difficult to detect.
Crisp and clear
Seems like we’re all making phone calls and using online services to counterbalance the sense of isolation that comes with social distancing. I’m connecting across distances, short and long, with students and colleagues as well as with family and friends.
I find myself more interested in hearing and seeing folks in real-time than in sending emails or messages back and forth. Somedays, I’m not up for facing the camera . . . but even on those days, I’m heartened to hear someone’s voice.
This weekend I convened two live online meetings to talk about how we can use Zoom and other communication systems as the means to keep in touch and continue working with our students through the difficult times ahead.
This definitely turned out to be a timely subject: 90 people signed up for Saturday and over 70 made it to the meeting; on Sunday, 141 people signed up and over 90 folks attended. That’s the best attendance to any free online webinar I’ve offered to date.
The next best thing
Back in March 2018, I was the trainer at the Boston Feldenkrais® Teacher Training. The program was in its second year and Aliza Stewart, the educational director, asked me to teach the SPIFFER model to the trainees and to help the trainees prepare for their upcoming Awareness Through Movement® teaching practicums.
Exactly two years ago today, 13 March 2018, we woke to weather reports predicting the third nor’easter, a serious regionwide storm caused by low pressure off the East Coast of the US, in two weeks. More specifically, the announcement warned of a blizzard that would bring such heavy snow to the region that roads would be unsafe. Indeed, by the next morning, a record-breaking 14.5 inches (that’s almost 37 centimeters) of snow had fallen.
The day before yesterday, I took another turn teaching the 8:00 AM (Pacific time) An AY a day group lesson. When I’d checked the schedule a few days before I saw that no one had signed up for the slot. I’ve been managing the side-effects from radiation treatment (for tonsil cancer) so well that I still have a voice.
The other reason I volunteered was because the Awareness Through Movement® lesson on the schedule for that day, Alexander Yanai 98 ZEN SITTING, is one with which I’ve had a long and rocky relationship.
Walking home the other day, right next to the bus stop around the corner, I ran across this lovely bit of chalk art. I was so delighted to discover one of my favorite poems unfolding at my feet that I just had to capture and share it with you.