Moshe Feldenkrais once said that he wasn’t after flexible bodies, but flexible minds. I had a recent experience of that you might enjoy hearing about that has some bearing on our current situation.
In recent training, we had an exercise in which we had to tackle a tricky problem — moving through space in order to dodge, evade, or be in harmony with people who were, for the point of the exercise, coming through our own space. And to do that we were provided with a very specific tool — one particular piece of footwork, which worked brilliantly when performed well, and which fell apart when done poorly. At a certain point we each got to be the people weaving in and around those coming through our space, in order not only to make it easier for the group to manage it, but also to observe how we reacted to the people coming towards us.
This exercise made it very explicit that the incoming people were a living metaphor for “the difficulties one faces in life,” and the particular technique in stepping was a way to keep moving forwards (without getting crashed into). In other words, that technique allowed one to “swim upstream” rather than simply retreating in the face of difficulty. It was a great stepping technique, and I’ve already begun to steal it for my fencing class. But there are useful insights all around us that we can draw, and most of the best ones come from all the times we failed to step in just the right way. Things went wrong, and we could see ourselves and our fellow trainees react to “things gone wrong” in very different ways.
“Never let a crisis go to waste.” — old political proverb.
The world is in pandemic. We’re “living through history” as one wag put it, and there’s some real truth to that. With the incoming difficulties coming our direction, do we have the tools to keep moving forward? Or do we need to retreat, avoid, consolidate, or do something other than “making progress?” More specifically, with tempers occasionally fraying and all the partisan nonsense of an election year, what tools do you see your peers and neighbors using to solve their problems?
You can guarantee that in the face of serious difficulty, your friends and neighbors have picked the best tool they know how to use. If they’re failing, and especially if they’re being aggravating in the process, is that because, as my daughter calls it, they’re “being butt-cakes” that day? Or do they not have the tool for the job in their quiver? And how much better could their lives be if they had options available that let them move forward with less strain and dependence upon willpower? It’s a lot easier to be sympathetic to people when you can recognize “oh. He’s not being a jerk on purpose. He’s suffering because the only way he knows how to handle the current situation isn’t working for him.”
Awareness Through Movement classes such as I’m teaching online Tuesday nights are a lot like that. They’re “movement puzzles,” so to speak, where you try to follow the given directions, and sometimes it’s just a fun piece of cake. But most of the time, they’re tricky and difficult, especially if we’re trying to perform them well. The real learning then comes in, as we recognize our interior selves reacting to the spectre of failure, and looking for what our next choices might be. We might strain. We might move faster, or with less attention. We might stop. We might pause, and try again much, much more slowly.
Specifically, it’s the crisis of having to change your go-to plans and go-to habits that creates the opportunity for growth!
And the better you get at being able to switch gears and find the best approach to your situation, one which lets you prosper and thrive regardless of the circumstances around you, the better it becomes for everybody else sharing your world. Instead of “do the thing, but just do it faster and harder and more,” we can choose to do the same thing in a different way, or to try new approaches entirely. We’re developing more flexible minds, and with it, perhaps more patience for those who are doing the best they can, with the tools they know how to use, when those tools aren’t the best for the job.
Would you like to see it in action for yourself? Come join our online class on Tuesday nights. 🙂