As I get into middle age, I find that I’m not afraid of the usual stuff. Death? Been (almost) there, (almost) done that. Everybody’s story has a beginning, and everybody’s story will have an end. Disease? Meh. Kind of the same thing. You do your best and make your choices. No. What I fear, is fear. Times change, and every year is different from the last, and my fear is that I will find myself retreating to the sterile comfort of the familiar, while the completely amazing world continues to beckon with beauty and opportunity. People to see, things to do. That’s a big part of what attracts me to Awareness Through Movement classes, and why I teach them.
In Awareness Through Movement, we might say that we do these strange movements not because they’re hard (that would be Classical Gymnastics and Pilates, where you become strong by trying to function from a position of outright mechanical disadvantage), but precisely because the movements are strange to us. I love Awareness Through Movement and honestly believe that it can be pursued as a form of “enlightenment practice.” And anybody who knows me can tell you, I’m not into fluffy words, so I don’t use the word “enlightenment” lightly. I don’t think that’s for all the myriad physical benefits that one can gain using the Feldenkrais Method, but because of the nature of the Method itself. Moshe Feldenkrais created something truly unique, using movement in order to get to something much more profound.
In a class, we have something like the following:
You’re invited to do something with your body, usually something a bit unusual.
You’re not shown how to do it, but reminded to take care of yourself while you give it a shot.
You try to do it, while having your attention brought to various parts of the process.
Somehow a miracle occurs, and like magic, you learn. And after a while of doing that, you hurt less, and you can do more, with more ease. Put simply — your life gets easier.
Most of the time when people refer to the benefit of these group classes, they focus on Step Four, Where Students Become Awesome(tm). But what if we took it right off the top, instead?
How many times have you been confronted with some action or activity and had a reaction that can be summarized as “Oh, I can’t do that?” Our habits of mind fall into a rut, and anything outside of that becomes threatening to our self-image. I’m no stranger to that. Pushing fifty, I’m keenly aware that I don’t relate to technology the same way that my child does.
My wife’s hot-take on the same issue.
What would your life be like, on the other hand, if, when presented with some new and unexpected or novel activity (whether that’s calculus, painting, surfing, home repair…insert list here), we were able to try doing new things in a state of complete emotional ease, without hint of strain or anxiety? What if we could entertain new ideas (or old ones!) without being imprisoned by the ideas, skills, and habits that we currently say are “ours,” but which can be our prison just as easily as they can be our capacity?
I am not after flexible bodies; I am after flexible minds. -Moshe Feldenkrais
To begin with, the Internet would be a much more pleasant place.
In Awareness Through Movement classes, we are, literally, learning how to pay attention to ourselves, and thus take better care of ourselves in order that we can happily outgrow ourselves, and become the kinds of people who can embrace every opportunity we desire, rather than recoiling in inner turmoil at the (very real) terror of living better lives in a better world, because the price tag of learning how to do that is more than we know how to pay.
In Awareness Through Movement, we aren’t just getting more relaxed or limber. We’re not even just “learning how to learn.” We’re learning how to learn easily, so that when we’re confronted by the ever-changing, ever-accelerating world, the price of curiosity is something we can pay out of our emotional pocket-change. Opportunities and responsibilities move to feeling more like “fun and adventure,” and less like “stresses, strains, and burdens.”
Who would you like to be, if this were you? Who could you become? (Would you like to find out?)