Feel Function First

As a supplement to the Feldenkrais Method®, I enjoy working with the Foundation Training method. This work beautifully complements Feldenkrais. FT adds strength and more-concentrated organization to the freer exploration I love in Feldenkrais.

Recently my wonderful FT instructor started a Facebook conversation about how neatly the two methods dovetail. Practitioners of both methods chimed in, to emphasize shared values of working with awareness, from the inside-out, and of eschewing judgment-based, appearance-focused preconceptions of what’s “right,” “perfect,” and “good.”

One commenter remarked that re-shaping hurtful habits was of great value. Others focused on individuality and the evils of “cookie-cutter,” one-size-fits-all instruction and rote repetition to accomplish, for example, arbitrary goals like showing up on neuromuscular efficiency tests. Another wanted to guard against complacency, no matter in what method. Another emphasized functionality and rediscovery of forgotten movement potential. All these remarks felt entirely satisfying and heartening.

One comment, though, really got my goat: “Best way to do FT is often.” That crack, all by itself, got nine “likes” and one “love”!

Well – it reminds me of a joke my dad used to tell and I do love remembering my dad, no matter how corny he got:

Stranger to native New Yorker:
“Tell me, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

Native New Yorker:
“Practice, practice, practice.”

Other than that, though, the “best-often” comment, to me, was flip, content-less, oversimplified, and it made me want to holler.

FEEL

Usually we move from here to there by focusing on where we want to go or what we want to do. The phone rings and we’ve answered before we know it. We don’t have to feel what we’re doing. We’ve repeated and learned movement patterns so deeply that they’ve become habit. In this way, we are freed-up to pay attention to what we want to accomplish. We can be thankful for that.

The down-side, though, is that we can get stuck doing only what we already know. But our brains thirst for fresh input. Without it, they atrophy.

Herein is the brilliance and joy of Feldenkrais. The work calls on the brain’s capacity to receive information through the felt senses and, using this information, to think, to learn. Muscles don’t think. The brain does. So Feldenkrais works through the neurobiology of the felt senses, communicated into the sensory-motor cortex of the brain, to discover new movement options and attitudes.

It’s vital that we find gentle, relatable means to reach beyond the numbing effect of habit and learned self-use. Feldenkrais is invaluable in honing fine attention. With it, we can cultivate infinitely adjustable movement choices in what can otherwise be an overwhelmingly chaotic environment of the senses. Brains are made to differentiate, to seize what’s useful and to discard what’s not. To keep our brains lively and responsive, we need to reach beyond the tendency to stick with what we already know. We need to find ways to cultivate staying bright, alert, and curious, for as long as we can.

At the moment I’m healing from complicated foot surgery. I need to recover range of motion and muscle-mass in my wasted foot and leg. I’d be bored senseless if I had to use the physical-therapy belt to do repetitions of ankle-flexion. Instead, I love jumping on the elliptical machine. What could be more repetitive? But that machine makes me feel great. It’s like running on memory-foam.

The feeling of what happens. It’s the title of neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s book in which he explores the interrelationship between the external world and the internal felt sense. The feeling of what happens. Feeling builds the capacity for physically grounded creativity and curiosity. We need to feel our way through, to explore and experiment through the senses, to open up from narrowness, pain, and distrust of the new, into a safely enlarged reality.

So that’s why I don’t appreciate any “best-often” attitude. Mere repetition, without feeling, is an insult to our wonderful – filled-with-wonder – brains.

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Beauteous Benedict, practicing with feeling.

FUNCTION

In response to questions about what “good” posture was, Moshe Feldenkrais’ rejoinder was: “Good for what?”

For example, I could work out on the recumbant bike to build strength and range. I tried that, and I liked it for a while. But how much of my day do I spend waving bent legs around flapping my ankle? As against how much of my day do I spend standing and moving around on my feet? So again the elliptical does it for me. I love the feeling of stride and bounce and buoyancy. When I’m on the machine I remember walking, and when I’m walking I remember being on the machine. I feel good about that.

My FT instructor constantly emphasizes that the point of FT or any other method is to get out there and use it to live life, to do what you want to do. Moshe Feldenkrais studied infants. As babies we wanted something, and we experimented with how to go for it until we got it. You have only to watch the Baby Liv videos – here, and here – to see that.

Movement — what is it good for? That’s the question.

FIRST

Consider, in the course of my protracted recovery, the terror I felt when I let myself imagine that the surgery hadn’t worked, we’d have to go in again, then once again because that one didn’t work, and so forth until the last time to replace my foot with a prosthetic. After all, that’s like what happened (only worse) to the poor soul who suffered the first documented account of what I did to myself.

We can use our imagination to create anxiety, or we can enlist it to assist on our way to improvement. If I force myself to do what I don’t like or can’t use, willfully and in anxiety, I oppress myself. I don’t much like the chances of recovery that way.

Furthermore, everything changes constantly. From the moment my foot hits the floor in the morning, I feel echoes of what I did with it yesterday. Which was not what I’ll be doing with it today. Which was not what you did with yourself yesterday or today, so why should I move like you?

Sure, this is true . . . .

skeleton-pirate

. . . but it is also true that the way we move is our signature. I want to shape and to know my movement handwriting a little bit better every day. I want to use myself to make choices that serve me (and ultimately others) better. I want to move through life with more fluidity, sensitivity, and care.

So enough with the repetition. Feeling and function. Those are the first principles that matter to me.

dibf

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Rib by Rib, Stone by Stone

If you haven’t yet experienced the FELDENKRAIS METHOD®, maybe here you can get a taste of what it’s like. We enthusiasts know how hard it is to convey that taste. A trainer has written an article called Felden-what?  The title pretty much sums up the difficulty.

Feldenkrais applies movement as a stimulant into the brain. Only recently has this kind of approach become a hot topic. See Dr. Norman Doidge’s two recent books, The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain That Heals Itself.  The hot topic is neuroplasticity: How to access the brain’s ability to change, to elaborate on cellular connections and even to grow new cells. Exciting transformations can then emerge. These changes can be surprising, undreamt-of by many (but well known and built-on by Dr. Feldenkrais). This malleability of brain function and structure is the essence of the process of learning, adapting, and healing.

Come with me, then, as I describe an instance of how the method has just worked for me, in synthesis with the practice of Nonviolent Communication (NVC):  Feldenkrais to move along the physical aspect of self, NVC for emotional and social growth.

A friend is returning, after a decades-long stay in the U.S., to her home in Europe. We made one last lunch date, at which I hoped we would celebrate our friendship and send her off with happy well-wishing. We had a miscommunication, though, and she left in a huff. She then sent me a message on FaceBook that amply demonstrates why it is never a good idea to address this kind of thing through social media.

I was indignant, frustrated. Amped up.

My NVC colleague talked me off the ledge. She let me vent and express some anger. Not a lot, it’s not necessary to go full tilt into intensity, “less is more” works in NVC, Feldenkrais, and life, too, come to that. The key thing was, I felt no judgment from my colleague, no effort on her part to change what was happening. She remained willing to let the process unfold and move in me as it would, toward change and transformation.

It did. At the end of the session we found a way together to let up and let live, to return to well-being and for me to feel some empathy for both my European friend and for me.

Potential peaches

growth2 001

The next morning I was preparing my weekly FELDENKRAIS AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT® (ATM) class. The sequence I was working on helps dissolve stiffness and unnecessary holding in chest, shoulders, back, and hands. I was surprised to find, however, that I was approaching the work with a new attitude. I felt a remarkably easy willingness to go along with the program. I enjoyed allowing time to pass and subtly to work its magic in dialing down. I was also recovering from a bad cold, and I felt I could allow my recovery to unfold as it will. I could even enjoy perceiving the changes of illness toward health as a marker of time and progress of which, ordinarily, I am not aware.

In a rest-period during the ATM sequence, I recalled assisting a mother and a newborn recently. The baby had digestive issues and was screaming incessantly. When I put my hands on his ribs and abdominal muscles, I was amazed at how activated and board-like they were.

As I rested in the ATM, I wondered whether, for a long time thanks to my own early miseries, I myself might have been screaming just like that baby, only silently by now. Nobody could see me do it, I could no longer feel myself doing it, but the physical remnants of that scream might still be reverberating in me years later.

All the difference came with my NVC companion’s abiding presence the day before, subsequently reiterated in how I began to feel as the ATM went to work on my physical self.

In Feldenkrais, to persuade an overworked muscle to let go, the muscle is first supported in the unnecessary work it’s doing. Then the muscle (the brain, that is) can feel that the work is being taken on by another agency, and the muscle can be allowed to rest.

I got it: My old yelling thing needed a rest.

I could then feel the locus of a chronic back injury. I comprehended that if I held myself as stiffly as that screaming baby for long enough, that spot on my spine would naturally be where I would break. So I correlated that wounded place – which will doubtless remain with me, as it took 66 years to become and then to reiterate being wounded – to my habit of getting stuck in frustration and stiff resistance. This, in turn, motivated me to take more care, to watch out for that hurtful pattern and to intervene into it sooner. Now, I understood, the person hurt by all that is me.

With my new easy attitude, I was interested and heartened to feel the stiffness dissolving, rib by rib and bone by bone, through the hour I spent doing the ATM.

Peaches coming along nicely

growth1 003

To heal, we need ways and methods that work for us, that are hospitable to our individual history and our unique character. These ways and methods can be difficult to find, because our experience always has physical and emotional dimensions and, thus, healing can be a complicated enterprise. Adding to the complexity is the need to repair damaged social attachment. But if we are lucky to get help from skilled colleagues and companions who are willing to show up for us authentically, who are willing to stick with us when things get rocky, trust can be repaired and healing can emerge.

It can be a long road, this brain-and-body business. It takes time, patience, perseverance, and good luck to boot.

Its fruits, though, are the sweeter for the stones.

sunshine-peach

peach1

 

dibf

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Everything Is Changeable : The Neuroplastic Potential

Two important developments have brought me back to this blog after a regrettably long absence. First, FELDENKRAIS® features prominently in a new book by Norman Doidge, M.D., The Brain’s Way of Healing.

I’m so excited about this. Those who love FELDENKRAIS know it’s very difficult to talk about the work. Dr. Doidge is a respected scientist and a best-selling author, so the book has his credibility and it is no doubt well-written and accessible. I bought a copy but I haven’t started it yet. (I’m under time-pressure from the library to read Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps The Score.  I may (or may not) have to buy that one, too.)

Next, there’s a lengthy but inspiring video up on YouTube, featuring a symposium on neuroplasticity at the University of Alabama at Birmingham on October 25, 2014. Participants were Norman Doidge, Michael Merzenich, Edward Taub, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It is nearly three hours long (you can skip the first 26 minutes). The time spent, however, is more than worthwhile. Here’s a “teaser.”

Everything is Changeable

The discussion included such Feldenkraisian values and strategies as constraint, reversibility, intentionality, autonomy, dignity, and curiosity. Dr. Taub presented video clips of big gains in motor skills and these are impressive indeed. Dr. Merzenich presented a laundry-list of systemic functions his work has shown to be recoverable. “Everything is changeable in a positive way,” he says. The capabilities that can be recovered, despite damage or deterioration, include processing speed, brain chemistry, focus, prediction, memory, immune system function, growth, healing, and coordination.

Merzenich included recovery of social cognition, too. Reattachment is possible to friendship and interpersonal collaboration, where trauma or neglect had compromised those functions. Recoveries like those are vital, he said, because neuroplasticity alone is “not enough to deal with the complexities of life.”

2a_and_3a_part1_newneuron_cs3_v4

 Illustrations courtesy National Institute of Mental Health

HH Dalai Lama asked whether the scientists’ investigations had led to any techniques to reduce the “problematic emotions.” Taub pointed to meditation. Doidge explained that the healing potential indicated in Merzenich’s list affects the whole person, the undivided self. This includes how that self can learn to process aversive emotions. Taub concluded his presentation with a photograph taken by the Hubbell telescope, showing one of those beautiful images of some awesome thing like a galaxy. “This is where we’re headed,” he said. I recall his point was that the possibilities of neuroplasticity are infinite.

hubbell

 Image courtesy Hubble Gallery

A brief mention was also made of Merzenich’s website Brain Headquarters (cute name).  This site has Lumosity-like brain-games, but with the added credibility of Dr. Merz. Try a few free games.

I have also just finished Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal.  Until I went to the Merzenich site, I had thought, wished, hoped, and protectively but apparently self-delusionally believed that all my somatic efforts would protect me from the travails of aging that Gawande describes.

Ummm, maybe not. My Merzenich-games trial has opened my eyes. It’s all very well to vibrate joyfully with the neuroplastic potential described in the symposium. It’s quite another to realize that my own function needs improvement. I mean, like, drastic improvement. I could feel my brain seizing up and my fingers not responding to my urgent direction. I’m glad to say that in another game, aimed at different skills, I did much better. But still. Improvement is called for! Improvement is possible, though, so that’s the good news. Everything is changeable.

brain-neuron P.S.  In a comment below, a close friend states her opposition to studies involving other species.  She tells me that one of the presenters referred to a study done on white monkeys.  I myself recall only the exciting data that was gathered from human testing, only, but if my friend heard the reference, it must be there.  I can only hope that the studies were at least interesting, and hopefully fun as well, for the monkeys, even though testing was no doubt imposed on them.  I wholeheartedly share in my friend’s pain around the issue of animal testing. dibf

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Movement Minus Sight

We rely on our eyes to see, to take in, the world outside. 

di-eye2

Photo by che

But it can be really interesting what happens when we take sight out of the equation, and move our eyes behind closed lids.

This connects us with delicacy. By feeling only the fine musculature around the eye, while subtracting the task of seeing, we can see clearly what we’re holding onto.  In the muscles of the face, neck, shoulders . . . throughout ourselves.

It can be astonishing what happens.

At the end of this week’s eye-movement sequence, one person reported that she could feel the space around her.

There’s just no telling what happens, when we paddle around in this inner world.

di-eye3-crop
This sequence:  “Eye Movements : The Pea & Tennis Ball,” done lying on the back, eyes closed.

dibf

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What Did We See . . .

. . . when we looked like this?

di-eye

I wish I could remember back that far.  But surely it’d be reasonable to suppose – not much?

And how different things are today.  Starting from when I open my eyes in the morning, I don’t give them a second’s thought and they work for me the whole day long.  For many, many, many hours.  These precious eyes.

There is an immensely complicated conversation that apparently goes on, between eyes and so much else.  Look what the American Optometric Association says:  Our vision is a complex collaboration between eyes and brain.  It no longer makes sense to “explain” vision by separating that function from knowledge and understanding.

For example, “vision is the result of parallel, distributed processing in multiple areas and through multiple pathways . . . . information gathered by the retina about color is processed in a different area of the brain than information about movement.”  Or, the involvement in vision of “extensive sensory motor pathways” suggest that more functions than just vision are involved, that vision also integrates functions like balance and visual-auditory localization.

So it makes sense, if we want to get into that complex collaboration and play with change and growth, to close our eyes and move them as, maybe, we once did before we knew what it was like to see.

This class we spent the whole hour on our back with our eyes closed, gently sequencing between actual movement, imagined movement, and the feeling of what happens as a result.  After class everybody was so energized and excited, they were chattering amongst each other like a flock of lively little sparrows.

This sequence:  “Eye Movements Along The Floor, Wall, and Ceiling,” done lying on the back, eyes closed.

dibf

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Another Fu(lfill)ing Growth Experience

And if quite another meaning to the acronym “AFGE” sprang to mind, well – stop that!  This blog is intended for a family audience.

The FELDENKRAIS METHOD® is all about learning.  This can be a tough sell.  It’s human to want to stay with the known, the comfortable.  But if we stick with that, we’re probably not learning.  Resting, which is good – but not learning.

This week’s AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT® sequence, a continuation of last week’s, made that point like few others can.  Arms pinwheeling around shoulder joints that could be a little, well, creaky.  How to use what we’ve got, how to stay cool with the creaky, in the presence of difficulty.

The other day I was amazed to see the attitude an eminent FELDENKRAIS practitioner is bringing to his recent experience of having a brain hemorrhage.  “Shocking but interesting,” he writes.

Can you imagine that?

These days, I’ve been contemplating serious illness a little more than is quite comfortable.  Watching another teacher grapple with increasingly dire cancer news – and still taking time to reply warmly to my e-mail.  Attending a benefit this weekend for a friend who’s had a heart attack.  Standing by watching, as others grapple with having been clobbered in various challenging ways.

Moshe Feldenkrais said what he wanted to contribute to was the cultivation of flexible minds, not flexible bodies.

I’m thinking this is about character.  It’s about the ability to get clobbered, and to get back up and moving again as soon as, or as much as, or, heck, as little as if that’s what’s up, possible.  To find the character – somewhere – to find such experiences “shocking but interesting.”

As we head into this winter, I’m remembering past ones.  I recall the bamboo on this land, grappling with its own recovery after being clobbered by an unholy amount of ice dropped on its head all at once.

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Bamboo standing up

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Bamboo clobbered

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Bamboo “resting”

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Bamboo up again – mostly

I dedicate this post to all who search for the character to cope, when getting clobbered in this life.

dibf

This sequence:  Continuation of “Arm Circles Under Self,” done lying on the side, exploring with floor-side arm.

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Take My Advice, I’m Not Using It

Well – despite all the years I’ve spent as a devoted student and teacher of the FELDENKRAIS METHOD® – week in, week out, preaching the gospel of “less is more” and “go gently” – reminding all and sundry that with this movement work, we are paddling around in the domain of the brain, the watery, the chemical, the electrical — and those media don’t respond well to force –

There are times when I just run up against myself.  And that is simply that.

Preparing for this week’s sequence, I collided with limitation in my shoulders and – I just pushed through.  That hurt.  I’m relieved to tell you I didn’t do myself lasting harm, as far as I know, but I write this in a somber frame of mind.

How unexpected this was.  I had such a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, I had no inkling I was going to collide with myself that way.

Only later I realized that I was also going through an experience like the one you may have heard about? the frog in hot water?  It’s a bit of folklore that may or may not be true.  Whichever, it’s an interesting metaphor.  It’s said that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it starts out in cold water and the heat is gradually increased, it will not perceive the growing danger.

I hadn’t noticed the temperature rising in my internal landscape.  It was a combination of things, as it so often is.  For two nights I suffered through Ken Burns’s latest PBS offering on the Dust Bowl. Just watching it (not to mention imagining actually living through it) was a horrifying ordeal.  Hour after relentless hour of harrowing visuals like this one –

– reawakening memories of when I was in West Africa, running hellbent from the interior to the coast, when the horrible Harmattan wind began to blow off the Sahara, possibly carrying meningitis –

photo by Kipp Jones

– and at the same time I was reading Anne-Marie O’Connor’s The Lady In Gold, about the spun-sugar fantasy that was pre-war Vienna – a world of unheralded women and Gustav Klimpt (who left behind him in ruins several unheralded women’s lives, so all was not quite mit schlag, but heavens, what an image!! of Adèle Bloch-Bauer) –

– and then the whole vicious sickening maelstrom of what happened subsequently to that woman’s family and that picture – which same maelstrom came within a whisker of engulfing my mother and her art and her family in Nazi Germany – the same story, to a T.  Read about my mother’s story here.

And all the while I thought I was doing just fine.  In my happy American life and this wonderful Thanksgiving.

Which just goes to show what I know.  Which is not much.

I’ve written before, in my cat-blog, about how we think we know, when we do not.  Look here, with thanks to Dr. Ginger Campbell and her essential Brain Science Podcast.  Last year Dr. Campbell interviewed Baylor neuroscientist David Eagleman, author of Incognito:  The Secret Life of The Brain.  Then, a year later, having quite forgotten, here I am naming my new blog DREAMS INCOGNITO.  So voilà.  Brain under construction.  And I’m the last to know.

Dr. Eagleman says:  “The conscious mind – which is the part of you that flickers to life when you wake up in the morning . . . it’s like a stowaway on a transatlantic steamship . . . taking credit for the journey without acknowledging all the engineering underfoot.”

He says his book is “about all the stuff that runs under the hood – all the stuff that your brain is doing that you don’t have access to . . . . [There are] massive operations happening that are just totally secret to you, or invisible to you. So, every single thing you do . . . is underpinned by these lightning storms of neural activity that we can study; but we’re totally unaware of those.”

So it seems, when I’m having these flashbacks, the kind of nightmare-memories that aggregate into critical mass, I only find out about them later.  At the time, I’m not aware of them.  Instead I make myself resistant:  Physically hard, mentally granitic, emotionally numb.  That’s how I’ve learned to push back.

My awareness, stowed away on a transatlantic steamship.  On the Titanic, say.  And what lurks under the surface, waiting to be collided-with.

Composite photo-montage by Uwe Kils

So in the end, writing now on the other side of the experience, I take it as a gift any time I actually get to realize how much I don’t know about what’s going on in me.  It’s an opportunity to shine the light of awareness on experiences that are very real to me, no matter that I’m breathing clean air and there are no Nazis kicking in the door – yet –

And so the question is what else is going on, in this world, other than the nightmares.  What else is real, even if I can’t feel it.

The question is how to link up with alternative circuitry.  With other pathways that can become available for me, to connect me with clear air and peace at home.  To reawaken respect in me for the tender character that is the brain’s domain.  The watery, the chemical, the electrical.

To remember to heed good advice.  The emergency is in the mind.  It is real and yet it is not real.  To remember to get back down on the floor and, this time, to go gently.  Less is more.

And then other memories come back.  Of my grandmother, baking cinnamon rolls.  When I was four, playing in the kiddie pool.

Not just the nightmares. The dreams also.

This sequence:  “Arm Circles Under Self,” done lying on the side, exploring with floor-side arm.

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Going To School

photo by John Holmes

In this week’s AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT® we explored the interrelationship between use of the arms, and the capability and contribution of the shoulder blades, chest, head, and underlying support.

We looked to pay attention to discrete parts of ourselves, in a friendly, inclusive way.  In a respectful way.  In a way that acknowledges where we are in the present moment.  And then, when we come up against the edge of our ability, what can we do?  If we want to reach further, do more?  What other parts of ourselves can we enlist, call on, bring into the picture?

How can we feel ourselves as individuals, in unique beauty, as part of a whole but not lost in it?

I like what I read in FELDENKRAIS® colleague Richard Rogers’ pointing to a wiki-entry on swarm behavior.   I’m thinking about the three simple rules that swarms or flocks or schools might follow, and how these three rules might guide a general inquiry into discrete bits and their relationship to the whole.

In these three rules, I see the outline for how to walk that fine line between intimacy and engulfment, between collaboration and mob psychology, between cooperation and surrender of individual integrity:

Move in the same direction as your neighbors
Remain close to your neighbors –  but –
Avoid collisions with your neighbors

Going to school, in other words.  Fish are graduates at birth.  Good thing, too, given that their lives can depend on it – detecting and distracting predators . . .

Photo by Brocken Inaglory

This sequence:  “Sweater Lesson,” done lying on the back, drawing arms across self, over head, and back around in a big circle.

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Being A Bee

photo by Jon Sullivan

I was absolutely floored – blown away! – to see an astonishing episode of NOVA SCIENCE NOW about how a honeybee colony decides, as a community, where to start a new hive.  Here’s a link to a short clip.

There’s so much to be amazed about, it’s hard to know where to start.  What really got me was the connection made between the way bees communicate in a swarming colony, and the way our neurons aggregate in our brains.

Bees and me! my brain!  There’s competition!  A fight for primacy!  Volume and quantity rule!

The bees with the buzz on the best new hive-site drown out the bees who are less enthusiastic.  Same thing happens in our brains.  The more neurons that jump on board a particular pattern, the more the favored pattern gains strength and primacy – and the more suppressed and inhibited other patterns become.

We may not be well-served by patterns that take over like this.  Even the fortunate amongst us lead stressful lives at the best of times.  And for those who’ve been subjected to trauma, our brains can get to the state in which they are chronically feeding us bad news that disaster is imminent when it is not, actually.  This is not a healthy situation.

So how to tone down those dominant patterns?  Let the shyer, less-insistent patterns emerge?  How to smooth out the peaks of habitual hyperarousal and the valleys of inhibition and depression?  Give peace a chance.  Let dreams, not just nightmares, have their say.

After practicing this week’s AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT® sequence, I reached up to scratch my nose and I hit myself in the eye.  You know how that happens, when you go to lift a bag you think is heavier than it actually is?  You use more muscle than necessary.

So – under the pressure of emergency patterning, I believe I tend habitually to use more force than is actually needed.  And when that pressure is relieved by the FELDENKRAIS® work – and the shyer, less-insistent movement patterns get a chance to emerge – less force is needed.

That’s just a sliver of what I learned about bees, by the way.  I had to stop surfing because I was just getting lost in amazement.  Just two examples of what’s out there:  Bees’ brains – which are apparently the size of a sesame seed – have neuroplastic capability that actually keeps them young.  Bee colonies behave like penguin herds – they rotate their outer edges, to distribute heat when it’s cold.  And so on.  Check out the video clip up top and bee amazed.  What a wonderful world.

photo by Stan Shebs

This sequence:  “Rolling Arms,” done lying on the back, with arms outstretched side-to-side in a “T.”

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There’s Something Happening Here . . .

And, quoting an old favorite band Buffalo Springfield –

. . . what it is ain’t exactly clear.

But that’s pretty much the subject of this blog.  It isn’t exactly clear, after all, how we can access dreams we don’t even know we have, by way of movement . . . so that sparks of ideas, intuited perhaps but just out of reach, can find the oxygen of attention and, thereby, ignite.  Become the fire in the green.


I wish I had the diamond-clear lucidity of mind to be able to grasp science.  I’ve been inspired to that wish by listening to Dr. Ginger Campbell’s review of neurologist Antonio Damasio’s Self Comes To Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain.  Unfortunately I haven’t  wrapped my brain around Damasio’s work enough to feel I truly own the ideas in it.  But I sure would love to hear from you, dear readers, if you can . . . .

What I do hear is Damasio exploring that fertile but elusive territory in which neurology, evolution, psychology, and philosophy overlap.  I hear there’s a radical idea being explored here:  That a sense of self cannot be separated from consciousness; that consciousness cannot be separated from mind; that mind cannot be separated from the brain-body and the emotions – and that the brain-body and the emotions are, therefore, central, core, essential founts of what makes us the mindful and creative beings we are.  Or can become.

This reminds me of the work of Barbara McClintock, Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine.  In an account of her wildly unconventional path to that great honor, A Feeling For The Organism, Evelyn Keller writes about McClintock’s assumption that “everything is one.  There is no way in which you draw a line between things . . . . I found that the more I worked with [chromosomes] the bigger and bigger [they] got, and when I was really working with them I wasn’t outside, I was down there.  I was part of the system.  I was right down there with them, and everything got big. . . . It surprised me because I actually felt [that] . . . these were my friends.”

So – do you get the sense that there’s something going on here that may not be exactly clear, but that’s very big indeed?

It seems to me that this is the opposite of insisting on rock-ribbed reliance on preordained theory rooted in alienation and confirmation bias.  Rock-ribbed – fixed, immovable.  Preordained theory rooted in confirmation bias – relying on fixed ideas of what’s out there, and then looking only for evidence to support those fixed ideas.  Alienated – the subjective self is unconsidered, ignored, excluded.

And the subject of this blog, and the FELDENKRAIS® work, is including, embracing, self and subjectivity.  Encountering and acknowledging the preordained theories on which we rely, as indeed we must – and, also, using sensation of movement to enlarge a sense of self, to become bigger than merely self, to encounter self in relationship to gravity, the environment, others.

Rock ribs.  What a picture.  This week’s sequence was aimed at melting rock ribs.  Exploring how variations in use of the musculature of the torso and abdomen could reach into rock ribs, to open up, to import into the self, a sense of space.  To feel the effect of delicate muscular work on our ability to welcome in, to receive, life through air.  And, thus, to cultivate approaching the world in a softer, more receptive frame of mind-self.

To feel comfortable in one’s own skin.  To find our place in this immense biosphere of other living beings.

To feel that chromosomes could be our friends.

This sequence:  “Seesaw Twist,” done lying on the back, occasionally with pelvis rotated,  exploring variations in use of chest and abdominal musculature and the effect on breathing.

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