Even apparently simple physical interactions depend on multiple cascading layers of perceptual/motor choice, producing broad patterns of activity involving the entire self. Most of these choices are driven by unconscious habits acquired over a lifetime of living in and interacting with the world around us. The Feldenkrais Method offers tools to reprogram this cascade to make it more efficient. Refocusing explores deeper unseen layers — dissecting internal experience to expose hidden tricks we play on ourselves and the limitations they create, then reassembling that experience in ways that serve us better. This leads to fluidity and ease where before there had been solidity and effort. It clearly demonstrates how expectations shape experience — how we unconsciously create what we don’t want, but can more consciously create more of what we do want. If you are a Feldenkrais Practitioner, you will find that this can enhance your professional skills as well as your personal life. Continue reading Letting a Ball move you
Refocusing is a way of exploring the connections between perception and physical interaction, and the ways that we we unconsciously impose limitations on ourselves. Bob Nimensky, a friend with whom I practiced Aikido, and I developed this approach in the 1970s, as we attempted to understand and replicate the fluidity in movement and apparent untouchability we saw in some high level Aikido players.
Involving each other in physically constraining interactions — choke holds, joint locks, and the like — we would look for ways to dissolve the apparent constraint and move as if it didn’t exist. We found we could do this by attending to and responding to aspects of the interaction that were normally unnoticed. When we were successful, the constraint would melt away, and the person being constrained could move as freely as if the constraint weren’t there. Continue reading Introduction to Refocusing
My previous post on Empowering Autonomy has generated interesting and worthwhile comments, pointing out areas where my meaning and sometimes my thinking were less clear than they could have been, or where I could usefully expand on something. These comments seem to bear out my earlier observation that we each understand the world through our personal perceptual lens, shaped by our own interests and past experiences, and to support the truism that the meaning of a communication is in the mind of the receiver.
The commenters focused on different aspects of what I had said, sometimes inferring meaning different from what I had intended. They raised additional questions about the ideas themselves, and expressed varying levels of agreement and disagreement with me. In this post I’ll attempt to respond to those comments, hopefully clarifying my position as well as acknowledging some of the areas of disagreement that I see.
Continue reading More thoughts on Autonomy
The Perceptual Process model describes the information flows we use in the composing experience. I want to shift focus now to look at some of the ways we manage that information. Two major processes through which we do that are awareness and attention. As a simplistic first approximation, we might say that awareness makes information available for use, and attention is how you prioritize that information. Using William Shakespeare’s metaphor that “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players,” we can think of awareness as how you light the stage, and attention as where on the stage you look.
The terms aware and awareness have many shades of meaning, all of which generally relate to availability of and access to information. Being aware of describes a relationship between an observer and something being observed. You can use information that you are aware of in composing your experience and your actions. That part of the perceptual stream is accessible to you at that moment. The term awareness also refers to the faculty through which you acquire information, as in broadening your awareness to take in more of your surroundings or narrowing your awareness to focus on a particular task.
I’ll use the term perceptual field to refer to the totality of information encompassed by your awareness at any particular time — the field of view, in effect, of your perceptual lens. This field is multi-dimensional, made up of different sub-fields corresponding to different perceptual dimensions, so I’ll sometimes use terms like visual field or proprioceptive field to refer to these sub-fields. Your perceptual field isn’t constant; it constantly changes. The content of the field changes from moment to moment, as the world around you changes and you change your relationship to it. The shape of the field — how much you take in from which different dimensions — also changes over time, as your interests and and your focus change.
So far we’ve been looking primarily at the perception of information impinging on you from the outside world. But human experience involves more than that. You are a physical being, with a physical body that moves through space and interacts with the world around you, physically and in other ways. You assess situations, make choices, and carry out actions. Your experience encompasses all of those things — your body, your movement, and your interaction with the world. Any description of how you compose your experience must take those dimensions into account as well.
I’ll use the term somatic to refer to those aspects of experience that relate to physicality. The term comes from the Greek word soma, meaning body, in contrast to psyche, meaning mind. Its dictionary meaning is “relating to the body as distinct from the mind,” though a shading of its meaning in the direction of “relating to the experience of living in a body” has been coming into common use in recent years. That latter meaning is more in keeping with my use of the term.
Our previous approximation for the Perceptual Process model focused on information coming in from the outside. Let’s now add the somatic information flows within the body and from the body back to the outside world. In the schematic below, these flows are labeled motor stream, proprioceptive stream, and external effects.