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.
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.
Beauteous Benedict, practicing with feeling.
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.
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 . . . .
. . . 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.