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.
Today is Valentine’s Day, a holiday derived from a Roman festival celebrating the coming of spring and made all the more romantic by the writing of both Chaucer and Shakespeare.
This year, I’m feeling gobsmacked. That’s British English for astounded and utterly astonished. Yup, I’m gobsmacked and grateful.
Upon learning that I’d been diagnosed with Stage Two HPV-related Tonsil Cancer, some of my Feldenkrais® friends and close colleagues reached out to ask how they could help. When they found out that the timing, length, and intensity of what was coming down — surgery, recovery, surgery, recovery, grueling radiation and chemotherapy, and a much longer, more demanding recovery — would challenge my financial resources to the breaking point, they spontaneously offered to do something about it.
A touching moment
Last Saturday morning, I took a turn teaching the daily 8:00 AM (Pacific time) An AY a day group lesson.
To follow up on the previous Saturday’s advanced training, community gathering, and fundraiser, Kwan Wong, the organizer of this international online ATM® study project for teachers and trainees, asked me to turn the session into a special extended session, a first time ever AY a day workshop. After brainstorming the possibilities, we converged on my interest in how Moshe, especially in the earlier AY Awareness Through Movement® lessons, asked students to touch themselves while they were moving.
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.
Calling all researchers
The fields of the arts, mathematics, and natural, social and applied sciences have relevant and significant yet-to-be-made contributions to a deeper understanding and wider recognition of Moshe’s method. To reach out to and connect with potential participants in this worthwhile endeavor, the Research Working Group (RWG) of the International Feldenkrais® Federation — the umbrella group of national professional groups and guilds the world over — has created the IFF Research Working Group Questionnaire.
The perfect complement
On Christmas day last year, I taught the morning Awareness Through Movement® lesson for the an AY a day online study group for Feldenkrais® teachers and trainees.
Why would I volunteer to teach that morning of all mornings?
Well, it just so happened that the lesson on the schedule, DRAWING A CIRCLE WITH THE ARM ABOVE THE HEAD SIDE-SITTING, also known as Alexandar Yanai number 62, is the perfect complement to the ATM® series we gave everyone with an account on the Mind in Motion Online (MIMO) website as a 2019 holiday gift.
This past Thursday, the start of radiation and chemo got postponed until the week after next. This unexpected reprieve got me thinking about one of the questions folks been asking me for a while:
What’s up next with the ATM® teaching academy?
A couple of years ago, I publicly declared that new Mind in Motion advanced and postgrad online programs would be about improving how we present and promote Awareness Through Movement® lessons. Rather than moving beyond Moshe’s method, my approach to contributing to the future of our work by developing an ATM Teaching Academy was — as it always has been — to begin with the basics.
A wing and a prayer
Thankfully, the prognosis for the kind of cancer I was diagnosed with last fall, Stage II HPV-related Squamous Cell Tonsil Cancer, is good.
Now that I’ve recovered sufficiently from surgery late November to remove the tumors — one on my left tonsil and a cancerous lymph node on the left side of my neck — I’m scheduled to start treatment next week. Depending on the results from tomorrow’s scan, I’ll be receiving radiation five days a week for the next six or seven weeks. And I’ll be getting chemo once a week.
Take it with you
To start off the New Year, I taught a new series of Feldenkrais® classes last weekend called, Take it with you (TIWY). This was an advanced Awareness Through Movement® workshop, designed to engage your curiosity, deepen your practice, and challenge you to become your own teacher.
What you take with you, Part 2
The first part of What you take with you described how Awareness Through Movement® lessons can help you develop your ability to learn as well as improve your capabilities and your coordination. It also addressed the challenge of transferring your learning from the lesson into life.
In that blog, I identified the kinds of ATM® instructions that are useful if you want to become a better learner. I went into how these learning strategies help and why they work. I wrote about the initial phase of learning to learn, which is about being able to shift the gears of attention. Then I described the following phases: recognizing the lead up to difficulty and tuning into the aspects of action you can change as they are happening.
What you take with you
One of the great mysteries of life is how learning seems so often to slip through our fingers. For instance, after a meaningful and effective Awareness Through Movement® lesson, you get up from the mat feeling particularly wonderful. You’re lighter, taller, feel more connected, and, perhaps, that persistent discomfort, the one that’s been haunting you for longer than you care to remember, has vanished.
Sometimes, you’re different from that moment on. More frequently, the feeling fades. Inevitably, you return to the state you started in before the lesson began. Your habit has returned. You remember that you felt different, but have no idea how to refined that feeling. You’re left lamenting the loss of learning.
20/20 in 2020
This coming January, the 8 AM Pacific time an AY a day online Feldenkrais® peer study group is going on its third Vision Quest. The 2020 series consists of 20 Awareness Through Movement® classes curated by NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) Feldenkrais® teacher and assistant trainer, Ellen Solloway, and contributed to by a couple of other members of the community.
The Quest begins promptly at 8:00 AM Pacific on the first of the year. This time around it will run 20 days in a row. Somehow doing 20 lessons over 20 days for 2020 sounds right, doesn’t it?
Tilting the wrong way
It’s a tradition that each day of the annual conference of the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America starts with Awareness Through Movement® classes. Members of the FGNA teach a series of ATM® lessons that follow a specific theme before any of the workshops, advanced seminars, or forums get underway, giving the conference attendees a chance to connect with themselves and the personal practice of the method before engaging in professional development and politics. It’s a wonderful chance to experience how colleagues from all over teach and to find out what’s intriguing them.
Cans on the ceiling
My recent blog post about Perry Mason received all kinds of responses, including a few from folks who shared my childhood memories of watching the show when we were sick and had to stay home from school.
My Texan colleague Patrick Seibert recounted a description of folks in an Awareness Through Movement® class so delightful that I just have to pass on. It turns out that one of the episodes of the 1980s revival of this iconic series was being filmed on the University of Toronto campus concurrently with his Feldenkrais® Teacher Training.
Being your own authority
At some point during one of his talks during the second year of the Amherst Feldenkrais® Teacher Training, Moshe Feldenkrais was extolling the philanthropy of industrialist Andrew Carnegie. For instance, by 1930, Carnegie’s charity had funded the construction of half of the free public libraries in the United States.
Some of my classmates had the temerity to challenge Moshe, pointing out that Carnegie was known as a robber baron and was associated with the Homestead strike, one of the bloodiest and longest labor confrontations in US history. MF responded to this by goading the challengers on, calling them out as socialists and, once he got sufficiently riled up, critiquing them for not being able to argue both sides of an issue, declaring it showed how limited they were in their thinking.
“The human spine is evolution’s masterpiece.”
That’s the first sentence in Turner Osler’s beautiful TED talk, Active sitting – could we give our kids a future without back pain, and it’s not the best one.
This former emergency room physician and university professor, and current black belt in Aikido, believes we can drastically decrease back pain by improving sitting. How do you improve sitting? By sitting on chairs that move. He doesn’t mean a chair with wheels or casters that roll over the floor. Instead, Dr. Osler’s talking about a chair that has a movable seat, that allows you to keep making small, continuous postural adjustments while sitting.
My trusty steed
I’ve lost more than twenty pounds since the surgery three weeks ago. Even though I started walking around the hospital two days after the operations and taking strolls around the neighborhood since the day after getting home, I’m woefully deconditioned.
My bicycle — my trusted steed — is central to my plan to recover, get back in shape, and start gaining some weight back. I haven’t owned in a car in a few years; my bikes are my main mode of transportation. I say bikes in the plural form instead of the singular because I’ve also got a funky old bike in Holland for when I’m teaching in Amsterdam.
The Pattern Makes the Problem
In the early 1990s, Mind in Motion published a newsletter twice a year. Each issue featured a case study or editorial and map displaying where I’d be teaching in the coming months. Here’s one of those pieces, one about patterns, limits, and learning:
“I exercise and I stay in shape.” Casey says, “I can’t figure out what’s wrong. My back never bothered me before, but I guess everybody says that.”
Incompetent, irrelevant & immaterial
During the worst days after surgery, I wasn’t up for doing much of anything, not even reading. I could muster enough energy and focus to watch TV. I was pleased to discover that Amazon Prime had the first five seasons — over 200 episodes! — of the classic Perry Mason series available for my viewing pleasure. This show was comfort TV for me when I was sick and had to stay from school.
From the vault, Part II
While digging into the vault of workshops that I’ve taught and recorded to decide what to release Black Friday this year, I also found the boxed collection of cassette recordings of a workshop about developmental learning. I taught this course, Foundations of Learning, to interested parents, teachers, therapists, and pediatricians in Innsbruck, Austria in 1993.
This workshop brought together my practice working with infants, toddlers, and older children in private practice with what I knew about systems theory and what I’d been learning in my graduate Kinesiology program. Listening to it after all these years, I was struck by how I’d used developmental movement as an example of thinking systemically . . .
Nearly eighteen years ago, Marcia Margolin, a fellow Feldenkrais® teacher here in Santa Cruz, asked me if I’d be interested in seeing two identical twin infant boys. She didn’t work with children and knew that I did.
The boys were born prematurely and, at six months old, had no self-generated movement. Neither of them could grasp, reach, feed themselves, or roll from one side to another. One of the boys had little muscle tone, kind of like Raggedy Andy, and the other had so much that he was like the Tin Man.
She’s ain’t just clowning around
Back in the early nineties, when I was engaged as an assistant trainer at the Delman/Questel Feldenkrais® teacher training at Sarah Lawrence College, one of the trainers was talking about what it means to conduct oneself in a professional manner. Going over the basics such as appropriate attire and personal hygiene, the teacher was belaboring some of the details. After a while, one of the trainees jumped up, exclaiming, “Okay, okay, it’s me, isn’t it. Just tell me it’s me. Do I have bad breath? Bad body odor?”
More than twenty years later, I still remember that moment and the trainee: Lavinia Plonka. Lavinia was a mime and professional clown whose timing couldn’t have been better. She’s had an admirable career as a performer including nine years as an artist in residence for the Guggenheim Museum. Combining her theatre background and Feldenkrais® skills, she’s served as a movement consultant for television and theater companies from the Irish National Folk Theater to the Nickelodeon TV channel.