The art of thinking backwards

The art of
thinking backwards

Genesis of the prequel

One remarkable aspect of the canon of lessons Moshe Feldenkrais left us is how well they live up to his promise of making the impossible possible and — eventually —  easy, comfortable, and reachable.

Sometimes, though, one or more students find the lesson impossible. Or they do the Awareness Through Movement® lesson only to experience pain or discomfort later instead of any possible benefit.

The question of what to do when this happens came up recently during a BEHIND THE CURTAIN (BTC) Question & Answer session. BTC is about what it takes to go from teaching a lesson to your students to teaching it for your students. Doing this requires expanding and honing our capacity to understand and respond to the student’s challenge as a “learnable” moment. Participants find out what good educators need to notice to suss out what’s interfering with a student’s learning, learn how to make sense out of what they detect, and explore the range of responses, from the least personal to the most direct.

Fact is, no matter how well you teach an ATM® lesson, sometimes a student needs more than what this one lesson has to offer. While some might despair or be disappointed, I’d like to suggest that it’s worth regarding this as a chance to come up with a custom built solution. With respect to a specific student not having been able to benefit from a particular lesson, sometimes I can’t help but starting to wonder what this student needs to learn. That’s when I find myself thinking, “What has to come before this lesson?”

Answering this question is a matter of reasoning developmentally but of doing so in reverse. Maybe it’s an odd way to think about it, but what I mean is contemplating what has to come before . . . or considering what could lead up to this student being able to do that lesson . . . and to do so without having pain afterward? Knowing the coordination the lesson calls for, we can unearth the distinctions the student isn’t able to make, which makes it possible to imagine and compose a prequel — or, if you prefer, construct an onramp — to the lesson.

BTC revolves around the lessons from the Feldenkrais’ book Awareness Through Movement. When I teach the mini workshop that’s part of BTC, I combine the lessons from the book to give the participants a sense of how these lessons can fit together. However, since these questions came up this time, I offered the participants — and they accepted — an opportunity to experience an example of what I mean by the art of thinking backwards.

This coming Saturday, 27 April, I’ll be teaching a mini workshop for the participants in the current BTC course. I’ll take Lesson 7 from the book, THE CARRIAGE OF THE HEAD AFFECTS THE STATE OF THE MUSCULATURE, as the lesson a student finds impossible to do without discomfort afterward. I’ll teach two ATMs leading up to Moshe’s classic . . . and we’ll have a chance to talk, after the workshop, about the composition of the lessons.

We decided to turn the course into a pop-up ATM workshop opening registration up to folks who aren’t enrolled in BTC II. If you’re available, spur of the moment, then you’re invited to join me for:

27 April 2019

10:00 AM to 2:15 PM California time


The class will be broadcast via the Zoom online video service. It’s easy to participate from the comfort of home or wherever you happen to be using your smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, or internet-enabled TV.

We’ll be taking a short break after the first lesson and a 45-minute break after the second one. After another short break, I’ll review the compositional design and learning logic of the series.

You’ll receive links to the unedited audio recordings of the workshop  — by the beginning of next week — as part of your tuition. You’ll have 90 days to stream the lessons as often as you like or download the MP3 files to the device of your choosing.

You can enroll by clicking here.

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