It’s the time of year that those of us who find ourselves in the Northern Hemisphere start to ask each other, “What did you do on your summer vacation.” According to the calendar, autumn doesn’t begin until the third week of next month. In the US of A, Labor Day, the de facto end of summer, is next Monday. If you’re a Starbucks denizen, Pumpkin Spice lattes are already back as of a couple of days ago.
This summer my sister and I traveled to visit our aunt, uncle, and cousin in Brittany. Though the closest village was only a few miles away, the closest village with restaurants, grocery stores, florists, and a weekly market was further down the road. The mobile network was too overwhelmed by beachgoers during the day and so slow the rest of the time to make me miss modems and dial-up connections.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Internet connection to the house was broken. The bar and restaurant, less than a 10 minutes’ walk away, was civilization’s only outpost in a neighborhood surrounded by water on nearly all sides. During the day I didn’t want to spend much time stretching my coffee, away from the reasons for my being there. And at night, I could only lurk in the dark on the street, after closing hours, to connect to the Internet via my phone. What little time I could connect, I used to keep up with the personal side of life, but, whether I wanted it or not, my trusty, always-on tether to the interwebs was gone.
The heatwave that hammered Europe this summer was unforgiving and unrelenting. The family’s house stayed relatively cool, but some days were so unbearably hot that our walk around the promontory waited until dusk. When the weather broke, we ventured out en famille. I swam in the Atlantic again. The comforting – and delightful – constant were the daily sights, smells, and tastes of my aunt Michelle’s French cooking.
Away from home and my desk, far from any Feldenkrais® table or classroom, my Awareness Through Movement® (ATM®) practice continued. One rainy day, without the invading vacationers, I found a place I could eke out just enough of a connection to participate in one of the daily online groups of Feldenkrais teachers teaching teachers. I had recordings as well as notes and transcripts to guide me through other lessons. My sister and I did one lesson together. I spent time preparing the lessons I was teaching in this year’s ATM summer camp as well.
interrogating, testing, breaking, and learning from the new lessons I’m developing.
My practice is constant, well, to be honest, it’s practically constant. Please hear me out ‘cause I’m not just playing with language. What I mean is that some days it just isn’t practical to practice. You could say that I’m compulsively non-compulsive about doing lessons. I don’t do them because I have to, I do them – on the floor, in a chair, with a big sturdy foam roller, half-kneeling, and standing — because they call me, tap me on the shoulder, whisper in my ear. What I discover during the lesson, I bring into my life. Well, not quite. I don’t try to hold on to what I discovered or improved nor do I try to find it again. Instead of focusing on the result, sometimes I repeat some small section of the process, repeating a small experiment that leads to discovery, learning the path to discovery.
In some way, I practice for the same reason that I travel. When I return from a trip and after a lesson, my world is different, my perspective has shifted. Both in traveling and doing a lesson, as I explore unknown territory a new perspective emerges so that when I come back home, home is different. I experience new possibilities, without trying to do anything, they’re just there.
Besides doing and learning from existing lessons, I also do my personal R&D. When developing new lessons, instead of following existing directions, I start with an idea and a toolbox of questions. I apprentice myself to an action, feeling my way along the edges an action, exploring its textures and underpinnings, patiently searching out the path of least resistance, selectively closing off options to discover connections and possibilities, and listening while moving and when still.
The day my vacation was over, I marked the transition by teaching the same group I’d participated in as a student. The lesson du jour was taught some 50 or so years ago by Dr. Feldenkrais on Alexandar Yanai Street in Tel Aviv. It’s called WITH THE PALM UP, TWISTING (AY 386). There’s a moment in the lesson when by just moving your eyes, you feel the muscles of your back engage and your pelvis moving. It’s one of those startling revelations that I love so much about this way of learning: what’s usually made invisible by the hubbub of everyday life, is revealed. In the midst of the lesson, I sense the coordinating action of my nervous system at work.
Instead of teaching the lesson verbatim from the transcript, I followed the original score, paraphrasing the instructions, quoting some of the founder’s language to connect my contemporary interpretation to its source, so that I would be able to make the recording available without any copyright restrictions. For your transition back from vacation or as a contribution to your daily practice, I offer you this lesson. Please note that this is an unedited, raw recording of the lesson exactly as I taught, imperfect, in the moment. You can stream or download the file by clicking here.