This post is part two of an open letter to my colleagues and other devotees of the Feldenkrais Method.
While I focus on my experience with Feldenkrais Method, I believe what I have to say here is relevant to the serious practitioner of any form of movement.
Part one of this post explained the three principal reasons that I teach “Deep Listening”, my way of sharing the lessons of my life experience through my own unique interpretation of the Feldenkrais Method.
Around twenty years ago, I was taking time off from college because I was too lost to know what the hell I was doing there.
I was sharing an apartment with a friend because my communication with my parents was so bad that life in the same household had become pretty unbearable for all three of us.
One night, I was on a mission.
My mission was to walk two blocks to the corner grocery store, buy a gallon of vanilla ice cream, take it home and eat it all in one sitting.
My life had no other purpose.
As I walked up the street, my eyes fixed on the pavement, I heard the sound of laughter. I briefly raised my eyes to see a couple walking towards me, arm in arm, enjoying life. I quickly lowered my eyes in order not to make contact as they passed.
What I felt was that I didn’t truly deserve to meet their eyes.
After all, they were human and I was a slug.
I was afraid that if they did look into my eyes they would see right into me and know the truth: that I was a pathetic sub-human who didn’t deserve the oxygen I was breathing.
I was a fraud.
A lot has changed since then. Today I am increasingly comfortable in my own skin, in my life, and in relation to others.
My transformation did not take place entirely through the practice of the Feldenkrais Method, but it is the most important single factor that I can point to.
And when I look at my whole story, it’s possible for me to use the guiding principles of Feldenkrais practice as metaphors to describe each step of my journey, both the mistakes and the breakthroughs.
This understanding of my own experience has given me a clearer understanding of how transformation takes place. It has changed the vocabulary I use when I teach. I do not offer my students a practice that is simply about “better movement” with passing remarks that “other shifts might take place.”
Rather, I tell my students – even those who are mainly pursuing “better movement” – that each experience that creates a change in the body contains evidence of the fundamental principles of transformation.
I also tell my students that while growing self-awareness is important it is not enough. Actual change takes place by taking new actions.
From an evolutionary perspective, the importance of “better movement” – and everything else in life that it can be a metaphor for – is tied to the question of survival.
Moshe Feldenkrais, who lived through more physical danger and political turmoil than probably any Feldenkrais practitioner living today, always taught movement in relation to survival.
For example, in order to get his students to notice a movement bias towards one side as they lay on the floor, he would sometimes ask them to imagine a lion walking into the room – which way would they run?
While this kind of survival question might not seem relevant to the lives of the relatively privileged people in the industrialized nations – the majority of those who find the Feldenkrais Method these days – here’s something that is:
Will you grow old alone?
I live across the street from a senior living facility that is visited by ambulances on a nearly daily basis.
Back in the days when I was a slug whose only life purpose was eating gallons of vanilla ice cream, I probably wouldn’t have predicted I would reach old age surrounded with people that cared about me.
Being part of a community is key to survival. So a key survival skill is knowing how to relate. In my own life story, it was the Feldenkrais Method that helped me discover a healthy way of being in the world where I could make meaningful human social connections.
One night a couple of years ago, I went out dancing and met the love of my life. But before I went out that night I had a serious argument back and forth about whether I should go.
Luckily, by this time, I had significant practice in being more comfortable with discomfort.
This is why finding my own handwriting as a Feldenkrais practitioner has meant moving away from trying to sell the Method as a “better movement” practice.
To believe my own words as I speak them, I’ve found it necessary to find vocabulary that will point my students towards the possibility of experiencing the same kind of transformation that I did.
It became necessary to completely reimagine myself – including the part of my self-image that I’m describing when I tell someone, “I’m a Feldenkrais practitioner.”
What I teach is a process for learning how to become more comfortable in your own skin.
This, in turn, means arriving at a place where it becomes easier to show your insides to the outside world and connect with other people based on who you truly are – not a mask you wear to appear to others as you might think you “should be.”
Along the way, you will also experience “better movement”, but you will also experience plenty of challenges and the sometimes agonizing choice between perpetuating familiar and self-destructive habits or diving into the unknown without any guarantees.
My own transformation included a painful divorce, an enormous dose of lying to myself – then having to face a very ugly truth, training for a certification that I never used, declining an offer to join a prestigious masters program (followed by working a minimum wage job), and doing a massive amount of inner emotional work.
The Feldenkrais Method supported me every step of the way, but it was my actions in the world that made the difference.
If you are a Feldenkrais practitioner – or any kind of movement teacher, for that matter – what does this mean in terms of your whole life story?
Do you teach from your story or do you only teach from your training?
Do you teach from what you can describe in words or from what you feel deep in your bones?
I trust that you know yourself better than anyone else and you are the only one who will ever know if you are speaking with your own true voice or, as Feldenkrais would say, “writing in your own handwriting.”
My goal in sharing the story of how I came to find my handwriting is provoke you to ask serious questions about how you connect your movement practice to the rest of your life.
And if you are a movement teacher, I hope you will also ask yourself if you are inspiring your students to make these connections too.
If you are a movement teacher and you would like to connect online with other movement teachers who:
- Want to develop more creative and engaging classes for their students
- Want to incorporate more of their unique life experience into the way they teach
- Want to help students realize greater transformational changes beyond just “better movement”
Then you should definitely check out Creative Movement Teachers Expanding Horizons on Facebook!!