Ways of knowing Feldenkrais

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Understanding Feldenkrais.

For the past quarter-century I’ve been engaged in the practice of the Feldenkrais Method, a revolutionary approach to human development created by Moshe Feldenkrais, an Israeli physicist, engineer, and deep thinker about the nature of being human. Over that time the number of Feldenkrais practitioners has grown, from less than one hundred when I began to study with Moshe to several thousand now. The evolution of that community of practitioners into a coherent profession is still in process, in part because the complexity and heterogeneity of the Method makes it difficult to achieve consensus on just what it is that we do and what the profession should look like.

This series of posts will explore the question of knowing the Feldenkrais Method, from a practitioner’s point of view, or perhaps more accurately, the meta-question of understanding the ways in which practitioners might know the Method. I want to look, in particular, at the kinds of individual knowing that might usefully serve a practitioner in her practice, as well as the kinds of collective knowing that might usefully serve the practitioner community as a whole in defining the profession and in understanding the collective activity in which we are all engaged.

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Defining the Feldenkrais Method

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Understanding Feldenkrais.

To explore issues around understanding the Feldenkrais Method we need some definition of what the Method consists of. I don’t believe a formal definition is feasible; instead I’m going to suggest somewhat loose and fluid boundaries to the territory that contains it. Not everyone will agree with my choices, and that is part of the problem we face in trying to describe and understand it. 

The obvious starting place is with the ideas and techniques that Moshe Feldenkrais specifically taught. I’ll refer to these as his direct teachings. They constitute, in some important sense, the core of the Method, but even this core is not well-defined and universally agreed to within the profession. Moshe did not teach a formalized system that can be clearly and unambiguously spelled out. Instead, he taught a broad and revolutionary way of perceiving and understanding human functioning, drawing on his own wide-ranging background and experience. People internalize and apply that way of understanding in ways that match with their own interests, experience, and cognitive styles. Continue reading Defining the Feldenkrais Method

Empowering Autonomy

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Understanding Feldenkrais.

The Feldenkrais Method serves many purposes. It can help you learn to move more easily and fluidly, to lessen chronic pain and discomfort, to moderate limitations created by neurological damage, to perform better at many different tasks, to heal old emotional traumas, and to understand yourself and your ways of being in the world more clearly. As a student of the Method it has served me personally, and as a practitioner I have used it to serve my students, in all these ways and others. The wide variety of perspectives and ways of understanding Feldenkrais that I described earlier come in part from the many different ways in which different practitioners spread their interest and attention across these purposes.

For me the real core of the Method, though, is none of these, but the potential it offers for empowering autonomy. I’ll try to explain what I mean by that. I’ve written elsewhere that I see life as made up of choices — big conscious choices like the choice of a mate or a career, small unconscious choices like whether or not to tense your belly and hold your breath when someone asks you a question, and myriad others. Autonomy has to do with the influences that control the way you make those choices, and with how well they serve you. It is the ability to make informed and uncoerced choices that serve your needs, based on your deep internal sense of what is right. It is not so much about the particular choices you make as it is about the way in which you make them, and the sources of authority on which they rest.
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More thoughts on Autonomy

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Understanding Feldenkrais.

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.
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