Thursday, September 3, 2009


As different as we all are, we have a lot in common. We were all born, we have a standard basic shape--spine, two arms, two legs--which allows certain movements easily. We grow, we eat, and we learn.

Learning is what makes each of us so individual. Every bird in a species sings basically the same song, and does so almost from birth, but we can learn any language on earth fluently if we start as an infant. Learning can also get in our way, especially if it is compulsive--striving to achieve something leads to habits of tension in both movement and thought. These can get in the way of clear action. When different habits pile up through years of experience, carrying out a simple action can get very complicated. Often even our original intentions get cloudy.

Awareness brings clarity. This seems obvious and simple but it can work in many subtle ways. Take for instance the following quote from a transcript of one of Feldenkrais' lessons:

Pay attention if you can distinguish each vertebra when you think of the spine, or not. Then you will see that there are vertebrae that have muscles that are efforting and disturbing the movement. It is impossible to pay attention to these vertebrae. They are sealed off, opaque. The moment that you distinguish them, all of a sudden, something organizes there that allows the movement to be softer, clearer, both in space and in relation to the body. 1

Sealed off and opaque, until we shine a light on them just by shifting our attention. We're not actually doing anything, not managing the movements of all those muscles. (In fact, trying to manage or control them would make them more opaque). Awareness helps them work in the way they are meant to, and all we have to do is sit back and let it happen.

As this light spreads, and more of our self-image is clarified, we begin to move more easily. Since movement, thought, feeling, and sensation are intimately linked through the complexity of the nervous system, thought will also be clearer. Those hidden original intentions may spring into view again--suddenly we're clear about what we want to do. Feldenkrais refers to this in his article "On Health," in which he says that "the healthy person is the one who can live his unavowed dreams fully."2

If we're clear about what our intention is and can bring awareness to our whole selves, then (just like the small muscles around the vertebrae) our actions will organize themselves around those intentions. It becomes easy and simple to carry them out. All we have to do is sit back and watch it happen.

1 “Pushing the Hip Backward,” Moshe Feldenkrais, Lesson #335 in Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais at Alexander Yanai, Vol. 8, Part A, p. 2291, International Feldenkrais Federation 2000.

2 “On Health,” Dromenon, Vol. 2, No. 2, August/September 1979.

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