Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday, March 31: Other people's idiocies: Why take it personally?

I am right this morning having a wonderful conversation with my sister. She is fed up with a friend of hers and is trying to get everyone in the world to agree that she is right to reject that friend.

Hmm. Life is interesting. It’s no fun to be a friend to someone who blows off and yells at you most of the time, so separating herself from spending a lot of time with this woman makes sense. But her feeling of being at the mercy of this woman’s moods, ah, that’s the rub. If other people’s meanness or stupidity gets to us, we are going to have to live in a rather narrow world to keep away from these traits, since there are boatloads of stupid and mean people on this blighted planet.

Or this wonderful planet. Or this wonderful planet that we forget is wonderful when we are trying to get another person to be something they aren’t. My sister’s friend has a bad habit of yelling at and blaming people. Oh, well. I do that sometimes. Don’t you? So, who’s business is it that the friend is a mess sometimes?

The friend's.

If my sister gets bent out of shape, that’s her business, And sometimes it’s okay to put down your foot, but what we have to realize is that we are putting the foot down to help the other person, not to protect ourselves.

(Although, until we get clear on my busines, your business, God's business, it feels like we have to protect ourselves. But, if some calls us a jerk, or bad or a purple monkey, what's that got to do with us. They are just telling us their perception of the world.)

My mother, for example, likes to call me names. Oh well. The rule that people should have nice mothers apparently she hasn’t heard of. This is her business. If it bothers me, it’s my business. And occasionally, I just tell her, “Now I’m going to hang up the phone,:” when she starts being nasty.

Not because I can’t take it. It’s actually kind of fun to be in a good mood while she slashes away. No, the reason to hang up is so she can have the opportunity to see consequences to her meanness, because I’m sure she’s mean to others and to herself. That’s just the way the world is.

So, other people being stupid and mean and giving us a hard time is a chance to be happy while they are on their trip. It’s a chance to do the work of Byron Katie ( It’s a chance to follow our breathing and listen to them and ask about what’s really bothering them. Or it’s a chance to hang up the phone. If we always have to hang up the phone, we are a slave. If we always have to put up with their nonsense, we are a slave,

The point of life is to be present and happy and aware and useful to others, I think. Being a slave mitigates against that, in my opinion. What do you think?


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wednesday, March 29: Learning as a lifelong possibility

If a child wants to move, it moves. At first, the child is more or less moving at random, and in these random movements, every once in awhile some pleasing outcome will occur. The hand will touch the face, the feet will touch the ground in such a way as to move the body, the turning of the head and the pelvis will result in turning over.

The movements can then become learning, as the brain, the nervous system, the self gets very, very interested in the pattern that produces an action that is satisfying. Strange to say, and actually wonderful, this is how our brain is set up: to provide us with interesting and pleasurable outcomes.

What happens to us as adults? Why do we learn so little and do the same things over and over? To be safe? Maybe that a little, since avoidance of displeasure can come to overtake the pursuit of pleasure and learning as we grow older and ossify. Safe from what, is another good question, and this leads us to where the Feldenkrais work and the Byron Katie work overlap, where the pulls of outer approval can make us miserable in our emotional life as well as stunted in our learning life.

Fear of disapproval can lead us to say nothing in a relationship, when the whole world could change if we could just say, I wish we could spend more time together. Fear of not looking good or performing instantly with brilliance, keeps people from learning a musical instrument or taking up drawing, or even going to Feldenkrais classes. Complexity and ambiguity are both avoided, when in reality they are a great food for our lives and our learning.

Poor adults.

Lucky children.

And you won’t be surprised to find me recommending getting involved in the movement part of the Feldenkrais work to begin to recapture what it was once like to be a child.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tuesday, March 28: When in an Argument

When in an argument.

This is one of life’s ongoing elusive obvious processes. Maybe the central
ignored process in life. It goes like this:

A argues with B. From A’s point of view, B is stupid, bad, wrong. From B’s point
of view A is stupid, bad, and wrong. The arguers can be a parent and a child,
of any age, a set of mates, two friends on the outs, co-workers, neighbors. You
name it and people can figure out how to get into an argument.

So, this is the habit: I’m right and the other is wrong. And anything they say
about me that I don’t like just proves how mean and awful they are. On the other
hand, anything I say of a critical or vicious nature about them is just the
plain old truth and if they don’t like it, well that’s tough. They deserve
punishment, whereas, wonderful innocent me deserves not a speck of criticism.

And so it goes, me right, you wrong, me good, you bad, a carousel of blame and
counter blame.

And what is the way out of this? The Work of Byron Katie on my accusations is a
wonderful start, to sit down with our list of criminal charges and put them
through the mill: judge your neighbor (we’ve done that), write it down, ask four
questions, turn it around.

The turn it around gets kind of interesting: everything we say is wrong with
them is, at least in part, wrong with us. What a drag, but hey: welcome back to

And then the realization begins to dawn: what they say about us, that, too, is
partially true. This is hard to take, because criticism usually comes at two
levels: the content and the tone. The content may be “You are so selfish.” The
tone may be, you are an awful monster because you are so selfish.

This is a big step in life: to learn to listen to and see what’s true in the
content of criticism coming our way, and to ignore the you are bad/awful/evil
tone that comes along underneath.

This is a short little essay. If you haven’t been following these and
don’t know the marvelous power of the Bryon Katie work, please go to
and be woken to it’s power. You could also sign up for my end of April workshop,
which will include this work and the Feldenkrais work, and conscious speaking, a
form of communication where we are actually awake while we talk, another

Monday, March 27, 2006

Monday, March 27: Where am I now?

Where am I?

In a basement, in New Jersey, in the house of my sister Francesca and her husband Jack. I am sitting at the front edge of a chair and in the background a dehumidifier hums away. It’s a little after seven in the morning and I notice that I am not noticing my breathing.

I’m back in, in the East to study with Anat Baniel, who was one of the apprentices with Moshe Feldenkrais thirty years ago, and has been forging a deeper and deeper understanding of that work for herself and others. She’s figured out how to teach what we all glimpse when we take a training: this work can help anyone, immensely. She’s also figured out how to have it start helping people almost instantly, which makes it a lot of fun to practice.

Practice can mean doing it with myself, moving in slow and mindful ways that open up new pathways in my brain, i.e. learning, or doing it as a lesson for others, which opens up new learning pathways in their brain. Learning is always in the present and always leaves us bigger and more full of life than before we started. So this is a process of becoming present to ourselves and become even more alive.

Right now, if I were to vary the position of my pelvis on the chair, and notice my spine as well as my breathing, I come into the present. If I notice areas where it’s not quite comfortable to move, I can slow down even more in those areas and get some hints as to what else I might try to make an uncomfortable area comfortable, a tight movement more fluid, a closed off area more open. Touching another, I do the same: moving slowly and easily, feeling/listening for what works and trusting in small experiments to learn what more can be brought into easy and efficient and pleasurable movement.

∑ This is where I am, back on the East coast learning how to learn and teach in easy and efficient and pleasurable ways. It’s nice.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Saturday, March 25: Learning at the Glitch Point

Okay. A new day, a new computer. Let’s call today Saturday. Let’s call this computer Jack’s. Let’s watch the breathing and wonder: what am I going to write about today. The training program is fantastic, with the crucial idea of learning as the core of what the Feldenkrais work is about.

Learning is discovering a difference that makes difference.

Learning is not knowing, and having this insane story that we have to already know everything gets in the way of learning. To learn we have to not know something, then we’ve got an emptiness which we can fill, then we’ve got a gap we can fill in, then we’ve got something we don’t know how to do which we can learn to do.

In Feldenkrais we have lots of small movements. Sometimes these seem trivial, to lie on our sides and move a shoulder forward and back, say. But to do this and notice what else moves as we move our shoulder, that then takes the movement to a higher level, the level of awareness. Can we learn to be more aware?

Other movements are complicated. We did one yesterday: lie on the belly and take the head and shoulder girdle right and left a number of times until grasping the right ankle with the right hand when bending that way, or grasping the left ankle with the left hand when bending that way becomes doable. In this, if little glitches get in the way, we have two choices. One, to just power on through and pretend we know it all. Two, to slow down and feel what is the glitch all about and how we can make it easy and sweet in this spot too. This will slow down our determination to reach the goal, the ankle grabbing, but it will give us insight and learning about how to more smoothly and efficiently reach that goal.

The lesson goes on. Take the right ankle in the right hand while on the belly, arch the back, bring the foot up and over and place it on the ground to the left of where we were lying on our belly so that we are now on our backs, with belly and back both arched forward and foot flat on the floor. This one is a great temptation to power on through and give ourselves the mental pat on the back: “Can do.” And in this powering we have lost the opportunity to learn something about arching, or our attention, or using less effort where it is not needed (the face, say), of being one with our breathing while we attempt something difficult. Many chances to learn, or the habitual way: power on through and pretend we know.

Not knowing, the gateway to learning. How to know when we don’t know? Ah, a good question. Slow down. Pay attention. Notice what is happening.

Good fun, eh?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Thursday, March 23: New place, thoughts on Non-Violent Communication

Non-violent /communication.

This is a way cool system developed by Marshall Rosenberg, and it’s on my mind this morning because I’ve been looking at a book here in New Jersey, while staying at my sister’s place. The plane flight was interesting, as long as I was just “there” with each phase of the trip, everything was sweet. Even being crammed into a small space on the long part of the flight was okay if I didn’t get into wanting it over. There was a book to read, on Feldenkrais and skiing, and napping to do, a big empty spaces of country with snow to look at. All and all, an enjoyable experience.

Anyway, back to nvc, the short for non-violent communication, with the idea being: listen to the feelings that people are trying to express, or at least are underneath what they say. Don’t get caught in their words, or even their judgment. In the Katie work we get out of other people’s business when they judge us ( if we remember), and just reflect back, “Oh, I hear you think that I’m a jerk. Maybe you are right.” In nvc, the goal is to hear what’s going on behind the remark. “Are you feeling angry with me?”

Listening to what they are feeling or what they need, and that’s a whole other subject the need thing, but for now let’s let it go. “You seem to need to feel validated and I haven’t been doing that,” or some such.

An aside: laptops are ergonomic hell. Either the screen is way down and you can’t keep your neck level, or if the screen is at eye height the way it should be, you have to type up in front of your face. What a mess, and I never knew that before.

Anyway, in nvc you listen, you take a guess what the person is feeling. You try to feel actual empathy for that. And if you say anything from your side, it is what you are feeling in the moment, rather than a program of how you want the other person to act. “I feel afraid when you call me a jerk,” “I feel small and worthless when you call me a jerk.” “I feel angry when you call me a jerk.”

But apparently you wait until they feel you have really heard them before you stick your two bits in.

This is all wonderful as examples of breaking out of habitual behavior, which is essentially to go to war when things aren’t going our way, go to war or go into hiding. It’s also an example of how Feldenkrais is so effective, by starting where people can move and connect with themselves and then moving on from that.

That’s enough for today in this weirdness of writing on a laptop.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Tuesday March 21: Just Relax, Dude

Just relax, say well meaning folks, and sometimes we can do it, and sometimes not. Often, when we can do it, it is the shifting of attention that does it, a shifting of attention into the present and the awarenesses that come along with that: Ohmygod, I’m all tense in my shoulders. My, my: I’m not breathing. Oh, no wonder: I have my jaw all tensed up or my shoulders crunched.

This gives us access to breathing into and releasing some of the holding in areas that we have discovered to be tense. It doesn’t do us much good with areas that we don’t notice, but hey, it’s a great start.

So, we could say that to “relax,” we come into the present, scan our selves for tense areas and do our best to allow those areas to become less tense. There are famous, help you to get to sleep, help you get ready for hypnosis or guided meditation exercises that specify an accentuation of that: you find what’s tense, make it more tense, really squeeze down and then let go. This is good. By taking responsibility for making the tension, we have a better idea of how to undo that tension.

In Feldenkrais we don’t talk about relaxation much, we talk of spreading out the work, so that the lower back, say isn’t doing work that the things and the pelvis and the mid-back could be helping along, of the fingers are doing all the work on playing a musical instrument without the help of the wrists and arms and shoulders and back and spine and pelvis.

We also talk of letting the big muscles do the big work, and we talk of moving from the center of ourselves, which is about the same thing, usually. We talk of the core muscle, which is the brain: whose job it is to understand how to move us with ease and efficiency. You’ve heard a lot about core muscles around the pelvic area and if you want to be buff, get those puppies strong. If you want to be smart and flexible and strong, get the brain muscle working.

How? Just relax? No. Just wake up to the movements and where they are habit and where you can get out of those habits. How to do that? Come to Feldenkrais lessons, or else, have the patience to do ordinary things very slowly and vary the way you do them, and start making discoveries. When we start making discoveries our brain is very happy, and we begin to move in a more “relaxed” way, not to be relaxed, but for the pleasure and ease of it. It feels good to learn and to move with ease.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Monday, March 20: Rain

Today it’s raining. Again. This is good. Rain is water and we are mainly water and anyway, I have a bunch of indoor work to do today, so the rain makes it less difficult to stay inside. What a world, with an outside that is so beautiful and a world organized so that so much of our life has to take place indoors. Sooner or later I’ll have my Feldenkrais table set up in an outdoor patio area and have a shaded lawn or deck on which to do the roll around movements and then I can set up these amazing conditions for people to learn and change their lives without having to come indoors.

Sooner or later. Who knows? Today it is raining and that’s what is. I can complain, or love it, and the later feels better.

Feldenkrais as change work, in the guise of movement work, this is something I’ve come to understand more and more. This works a lot of ways, but mainly two that I understand as of now. One, that movement is core of what being a living organism is about and so to improve movement is to improve the entire quality of our lives. And two, that when we are young and our brain is at the best it will ever be, our task, the brain’s task, is to understand and organize our floppy blob bodies so we can roll over and sit up and crawl and eventually stand and walk. At the same time, the brain is figuring out the tongue and sounds and what these words things are that are all around us.

In the group lessons, very different than most movement classes, the movement is not modeled for the students. Verbal instructions are given: move your right arm forward while bringing your right leg back and rotating your head to the left. This activates a part of our brain that was acutely aware when we were first learning about language, as well as the part of our brain that has all along been acutely aware of our bodies. All along the brain, our brain has been keeping track of the left knee and right elbow, but we have forgotten about this. To start to move the two with awareness, is to begin to return to the stages of learning where everything was new for us, everything a discovery.

The goal of this work is discovery of a larger and more complete sense of our self, not just as someone who moves, but as someone who has intention and curiosity and awareness and the ability to learn what feels good, what feels easy, what feels useful, what feels powerful, what feels whole, what feels as if it opens up future possibilities. To call the Feldenkrais work “bodywork” is like calling what a violinist does, “finger work” and ‘wrist work,” or what an architect does “pencil work” and “AutoCAD work.” It’s crazy.

This work is about waking up our whole self, finding what is useful to a richer and more full life and reactivating the genius in us that we were when we where a baby. Cool, eh?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Saturday, March 18: The Big Picture

There is sun out today and hasn’t been much lately, so the big picture calls for a walk before writing today. How’s that for projection? I call myself to head outside and walk around a little. That is the big picture: paying attention to life and responding in a way that makes life rich and interesting. And if that isn’t enough, a spider just came down to visit this screen. See you after the walk!


The big picture is that life is a fucking miracle, eh? Walking down to be near the creek, the sun, the early almost spring green in the grass and the baby leaves coming out, the sunlight on the flowing water, my standing there, alive, being able to see that, being able to know I am seeing that. Man, is that wonderful, or what?

And then, walking home, the mind, my mind gets busy with this and that and I forget the miracle.

Oh, well.

The big picture is that we are born into this world pretty much as blobs. We can suck and flail around a bit, and that’s it. We eat, we sleep, we poop and pee, someone thinks we are adorable and takes care of us and then we lie around and start the wiggling. We move this, move that, try this, try that. We have a brain that keeps track of what we do, that is looking for the big picture, that likes to make order out of disorder, that gets interested, excited even when we discover a useful pattern of movement. Hey, when we do this we can reach out and grab the toy. Hey, cool, this way rolls us over. That feels fun and we get to see a different side of the world.

The blob starts to get organized, we start to figure out how our pieces fit together, we begin to realize that we can set out to do something and do it. And then we spend other times not particularly trying to do anything, just exploring, just messing around, just trying out the equipment, playing with the possibilities.

And the brain keeps scanning and organizing. This possibility plus that possibility and we can pull a leg up under our butt, and soon we are doing some sort of crawling. Now we can really get around, really make a mess, really explore the world. This is cool, and we aren’t a blob anymore, we are a learning organism, a discovery channel, a miracle of change and experimentation.

So, guess what? That miracle can continue, we can explore, mess around, put our attention on discovery. This is what a Feldenkrais lesson is about, and it’s also what a good daydream can be about, or a playful conversation when no one has an agenda, or a day with children and then guide us back into our sense of wonder and exploration.

What can we find out new today?

What wonder full things can we see and hear and taste and touch and learn? What bigger pictures can we create in our brain, which is to say: what can we learn?

Who knows. We’ve got all day to find out.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Friday, March 17: Thinking, Learning, Rolling

Yesterday I attended a rare event, an event in which a group of people got to express and think about real problems in their own lives in a way in which they were listened to with real attention. This was a group of high school students who were invited by a group of Sonoma adults who are interested in open dialogue, rather than just the usual talking only among those with whom we agree. The students ranged from honors students to those “into” computers, one interested in animals, one in cooking, one in philosophy. The one interested in philosophy was a recent convert, a former slacker who somehow got turned on by Plato’s Republic. Go figure. Anyway, he had that charm of someone who is passionate about his new discovery.

This meeting had the flavor, to me, of a real opportunity for some amazing changes to happening, as when the automobile company Volvo had the bright idea of asking the workers how to better make cars. From this idea production went way up, accidents way down, and worker satisfaction skyrocketed.

What an idea: asking the students what was working and what wasn’t working in their school. They were pretty clear: testing wasn’t working, teachers who played favorites or were lazy wasn’t working, rote learning wasn’t working, reading for the sake of reading wasn’t working. What was working: talking to real live people about the real live world. Testing out new ideas. Learning new skills, be they on computers or with an oven.

What else wasn’t work was a feeling that, until this meeting, no one really was that interested in what they had to say about their education.

Behind all this, from my point of view is the distinction between teaching and learning. You can see this everywhere, art courses, tennis classes, yoga classes. Most teachers think if they show you the “right” way to do something, that they are teaching. Well, they are modeling something to follow, but they aren’t stimulating learning, they are just requiring imitation at best and slavery at worst.

What is learning, then?


This could be as simple as learning what 4+3= 7 is all about. Anyone can sooner or later memorize this, but to learn it you have to grasp a pile of 3 oranges here and 4 apples there and see that you end up with seven pieces of fruit. When this is learned, then the feeling of a room that is 12 x 14 can be easily imagined or even viscerally felt as different than the feel of a room that is 20x 30.

This is one thing that drives me crazy about teaching the Feldenkrais work, which a series of ongoing experiments, where people discover over and over how this way of moving feels comfortable and efficient and that doesn’t. There is never a right way to move, it’s all about learning and discovery. The thing that drives me crazy is people calling it “bodywork.” It’s brain work, because it’s about discovery, not about getting better at anything in particular, but about learning how to learn, which is about how to get better at anything you want to get better at. And in the field of the brain’s first and foremost learning: how to organize our relationship to gravity and our ability to move in this world.

What the high school kids want, what we all want, is real learning. Some of them are seduced by the lack of clarity on what thinking is, which is a new way of organizing your neurons so you can accomplish something you couldn’t before. Monkey sees bananas. Monkey sees stick. Light bulb goes off and monkey uses the stick to get the bananas. That’s thinking. Monkey talking about bananas is not thinking, it’s talking. Monkey talking about buying a better banana stick than his neighbor isn’t thinking. It’s talking.

Most people (go to City Council meetings to see this in action) confuse talking and thinking and I could see a couple of the kids has to false idea that if they could throw around words about something, they understood it, but at least they were trying out new sets of words. It was a start.

And there was some thinking: using a dance format to improve fitness rather than the usual PE, setting up a program to have non-English language at home students being given tutoring: these were ideas that could move and improve reality.

Which is what a Feldenkrais lesson is: an opportunity to learn how to solve various moving problems in a way that not only makes our life more pleasant and comfortable as we get in and out of a chair or out of bed in the morning or walk across a room, but set us back in the lifelong path of real learning that makes a real difference. Giving us a chance to think, not just bullshit, as it were.

So think about thinking, when it’s real and useful, when it’s rote and habitual, thoughts you’ve had over and over. Consider coming by Sunday to the Ballet Studio at 5 and getting back into learning how to learn.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Thursday, March 16: Useful and Idiotic Effort

If you go around town, you can find an interesting combination. On the one hand, people are too lazy to walk even three or four blocks, and drive a car to within inches of the door to the gym or the yoga studio. On the other hand, within that gym or yoga studio, people are grunting and groaning in a masochistic orgy of self-punishment disguised as self-improvement. Effort is what matters here.. Trying hard. Showing the teacher or the inner judge how hard we can work. You can see it in the faces, the strain, the tension. You can see it in the breathing: missing. You can see it in the fingers: tense. The necks: tense.

Ah, life, so interesting.

Now, bodies and minds love to move. Bodies and minds love to remember that they are one. They, i.e. we, love to learn, to do things with pleasure and attention. Of course, that’s almost sacrilege in our society, time is money, rush and hurry, get this done so you can rush off and get that done. Achieve this so you can get money to buy that so you can impress this person or that or the inner judge. So wearying all this running around to get somewhere when we already are: here, alive, a miracle that can be aware of its own life in this moment.

So what would non-idiotic effort look like? It would be only effort that was necessary, using the muscles necessary with relaxation everywhere else. It would feel pleasant. It would be reversible, which means that we could at any moment go in both directions instead of lunging ourselves this way and that. It would be conscious, with an awareness of how all of us was involved or not involved in this movement.

For example: lie on your back and curl up a bit. Which is to say, lift your knees toward your face and put your hands around each knee. Hug them to you a little and then let off, so the hands aren’t pulling as much as stabilizing your knees. (If you can’t get this far, perhaps you might look up a good Feldenkrais practitioner.). Then make this effort:: without using the arms or hands, bring the knees a little closer to your face. That’s all. See what muscles this involves and use only those muscles. Do this easily and slowly, many times, with attention and curiosity.

Notice if the jaw or neck want to get in on this. Neither are necessary for folding in the legs. See if the toes tense up or the breathing stops. Again, neither of these actions are helpful. Notice the eyes, are they easy and relaxed and actually seeing something while this happens.

That’s all; do this with awareness of the curving in your back and the length of your spine and noticing your breathing and your ribs and make it slow enough so that at any moment you could reverse the direction of your movement. If this seems boring to you, so be it. Primitive movement is, of necessity, fast and to the point, as when we slip on a banana peel. No time to think. At a higher level of functioning, we slow down, and notice what we are doing and have a chance to learn to act differently than how we always have before.

This chance to learn can be imagined or even perceived as “boring,” if we confuse our habitual rate of moving around with some idea of “how things should be.” It is uncomfortable sometimes, to begin to learn after years of being satisfied with our habits. Oh, well. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, once we get the hang of it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Wednesday, March 15: Love Is

Love is good. If we knew how to love we would do it all the time. What is the right time to begin? Now.

What is there to love now? The breath perhaps, our breath. Life, perhaps, our life. Love perhaps, our love. We can love loving our life and our breath.

Why not go the whole Byron Katie route and Love What Is. That would mean loving gravity which pulls us down and bones which hold us up and eyes that read this and lips that speak and teeth that chew and bodies that know how to turn chewed up carrots into our life, into fuel for our life. Do we know exactly how that is done? Probably not. Why not love the not knowing, the mystery, the miracle of processes that go on to help and nourish and keep us alive and we don’t know them.

I don’t know sometimes how to do something. A handstand in the middle of the room, how to speak Russian, how to balance on one foot for a long time with my eyes closed, how to wake up in my dreams. Big tragedy? Nah. Just stuff I don’t know. Maybe yet. Maybe never. I can love me in my not knowing state and my learning state.

It’s all allowed and not necessarily a waste of time. Indeed, it’s a great efficiency, since then I don’t have to go around trying to convince anyone else to like or love or approve of me. I can be the one that does that.

I love that understanding. Understanding is something sweet to love and so is standing. Standing on my head. I can do that. Love it. I learned that in my over fifty life. I love that. I’m learning how to run again. I love that.

Now I type and am almost done for today and I didn’t want to write and did and I love that. Ciao. Chris.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tuesday, March 14: Victimhood Addiction

I’ve never read the book, but I love the title: Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer. I have a client, we’ll call Sam, who is busy using their mind as a self slayer. No matter how good the lesson, Sam’s mind at the end of the lesson goes back to this mantra: I’m getting worse, I’m getting worse, I’m getting worse.

In another book, Why People Don’t Heal, Caroline Myss speaks of how people get addicted to the role of victim, the way it gives their life a definition, the way they always have an excuse when they fail to achieve their wishes, the subtle or not so subtle power their victimness gives them over people around them, the way it gives them an out from ever using their minds to come up with anything new to say. She suggests this for the friends of professional victims: listen to their story three times and then tell them, “No more.” Walk away or tell them to stop if they try the story more than three times.

It is almost like victims feel they are winning some war on whoever or whatever they blame for their misfortune: so and so will see how much I am suffering and feel badly and I’ll get even. Kind of like the foolish thinking of suicides: so and so will feel really guilty, if I kill myself. Maybe so and so will, for awhile, and then they can go to a movie or read a book or eat a fresh peach. These options are now closed to the dead provers that they are right.

This is it with the professional victim: it is more important to put attention on proving how right they are about how bad their case is than putting their attention where it will be useful.

And where would that be: on four places;
1) The present. If big pain is happening, so be it. Put attention on the exact nature of the pain: in my right hand I have a pain one inch by half and inch by three quarters of an inch. It is sharp and slightly burning. In my mid arm, I don’t have this pain. Now I am breathing in, now I am breathing out. When I follow my breathing the pain is slightly less compelling. When I put my attention of being relaxed in my ribs, the pain is slightly less compelling. Now my mind is starting the, “I’m getting worse, I’m falling apart story.”

2) Do the Work of Byron Katie on the story if the attention can’t be kept in the present. Write down the story, ask four questions and turn it around. Try, in the turn around part substituting “my thinking” for “my body,” so “my body is getting worse and worse” becomes “my thinking is getting worse and worse.”

3) Have curiosity about what is possible within whatever pain is up. Can I still move my tongue? How about my little toe? Is walking possible? Can I sit and sway side to side? Back and forth? What happens when I breathe in with my stomach out? What happens when I breathe out with my stomach out? How could I more easily roll over in bed or on the floor, how more easily come from sitting to standing? What strength and flexibility can I develop now.

4) Sense of humor. Hard, sure, but how can I laugh at and make fun of my own sense of self pity and trappedness? How can I find aspects of life to delight and amuse me?

All good things to do no matter what, wouldn’t you say?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Monday, March 13: Why the rush? Why so much effort?

It’s fun to be in a body. It’s fun to run and skip and dance and fool around. Especially with our lives so indoors and sedentary, just to get outside and takes a brisk stroll is a great pleasure, and in these constrained and over commercialized times, almost a necessity.

Now, nature and love. These seem to me the requirements for a sweet and good life. The now of breath, the now of sensing, the now of feeling what we feel and seeing what we see and hearing what we hearing and moving. The nature of moving and the now of moving. If we didn’t move we’d be rocks, or dead, but as living beings, even to drag a pathetic self from bed to couch to watch TV, some movement needs to take place.

Love is loving what you love, the flowers or the clouds or your partner, or the way it feels to walk briskly and smoothly on a beautiful day. Love is listening to someone talk and being thrilled just to hear their voice, which requires either having just fallen in love or being present.

And then the title question: why the rush? In our times of neglecting our physical reality, people like to go out and trash around, in mindless yoga, or mindless noisy exercise classes, or at the gym, pumping away on some machine to loud rock music. If the muscles burn we must be alive, right?

Well, sort of, but how about this: moving slowly enough so we can really feel who and how we are just now? To move slowly is to give ourselves the opportunity to learn something new. If we go fast, we have to go in our habitual way. If we want to dress quickly or walk down the block in a hurry, we can go our habitual way. But to learn a new way of moving, we have to slow down enough to bring what usually isn’t in awareness, into our awareness.

Same with effort. If we are trying and straining and efforting, our attention is on our effort and our grunting and groaning and our masochistic pleasure in hurting ourselves and living up to the absurd, “no pain, no gain” motto. With a reduction of effort, again we can return to reality, to awareness, to noticing what’s actually happening. We can feel ourselves in the sensing meaning and the feeling meaning. We can be here and we can be open to trying something new. Some variation that might be an improvement, if not at least a novelty.

Which is to say, if we slow down and reduce effort, we can become present centered learners again, as we were when we were young geniuses as babies. This is a very nice state.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Saturday, March 11: The Joy of Rolling

One of the great things about the Feldenkrais work is that you get to do things that you haven’t done since you were a child. Rolling is one of them. From Doctor Feldenkrais love of and immersion in judo, many of the lessons allow us to explore, improve and enjoy rolling up to sitting from lying down, or the reverse: rolling on down to the ground from sitting.

Then there is spiraling up from sitting to standing, and coming down in graceful and elegant ways from standing to sitting.

These transitions are part of what we learned to do when we were young geniuses, when we were six months to two years old, when we turned ourselves from a blob that knew how to learn into a being that could stand upright on a very small pair of feet, leaving our hands free for dancing or typing on computers or playing golf, or building houses or picking apples. We needed to learn and we did and then we get older and many of us stop learning. We get in a rut. We think the same thing and feel the same thing and do the same thing, only jolted out of our ruts by unexpected weather, the annoying habit of some people to die occasionally, and the equally annoying habit of dissatisfied partners to leave us, or vice-versa.

What to be done about our ruts? Come back to learning, and to learning how to move in ways that are easy and elegant. So much of our self-image is trapped in how we move and how we are limited in our movements (when was the last time you skipped, or ran?), that to begin to move in new and more youthful ways can stimulate us in many wonderful and unexpected ways.

So: come try some Feldenkrais lessons. Learn to roll around and become a young genius again.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday, March 10: East Facing Bedroom, Yeah!

Do you know the book, A Pattern Language? It’s thick and a bit expensive and for awhile, back in the Whole Earth Catalog days, it was the only book that had a whole page all to itself. It’s a compendium of folk and architectural wisdom from all over the world. The main author is Christopher Alexander, which is a good start by the first name, and there are several sub-authors. These people looked in small villages and large cities for what worked, what made life good and pleasant for people and came up with all sorts of things. I gave the book to my son so I can’t look in it right now, but here are some of the patterns that come to me:

Connect inside to outside.

A wall seat on the south facing side to sit in the winter.

Nooks for children.

Window seats and thickness in windows.

Half wall, half open between rooms.

Interior courtyards.

South facing kitchen.

Windows with lots of panes.

Chairs that don’t match.

East facing bedroom.

This last is why I’m in such a good mode now in the early morning. The window faces east where we sleep and after a cold night with the window open so we could have lots of fresh air, the light came pouring through our window and let us know that it was time to get up around a quarter to seven. ( It’s early March as I write this.). This is the way to wake, not with an alarming alarm, but with Nature.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Thursday, March 9: Weeds as Food for Soil, and Us, and Soul

Spring is coming along here in Northern California. Spoiled, we are, so a night that gets down to freezing, or a morning in the fifties still has the feel of winter for us, but the fields are full of green grass and weeds and the wild plums and pear trees are blossoming. Nature thinks we are springing on into the next season.

Weeds, weeds. A word that means, “something” we don’t want.

However, as ecological gardeners we can look at weeds as a source of food. Food for our soil and food for our bodies and maybe even food for our souls. For our soil, they are green, vital, rich organic matter. They are nature’s miracle, the taking in of the only free energy on this planet, the gobs of sun energy traveling across the solar system to our planet. This energy comes into the plant and the plant transforms that to growth, and the bigger the “weed” gets the more food it will have to offer your garden when we pull it out and give it to the compost.

Or better, be lazy. Lazy is often a sign of intelligence. Cover the weeds with newspaper, cover the newspaper with compost or straw and let the weeds decompose and compose right where they grew. No pulling and hauling required and the disintegration can take place both above and below ground level.

Also; weeds are often great sources of minerals and vitamins, they are what the plants were before they were selected out for mildness and became the lettuces and whatnot that we cultivate. Weeds are sources of super vitality. Dandelion, chicory, fennel, mallow are all ready to eat around here. Dock, too, full of iron. Soon to come, the wild amaranth, the pig weed, so called, a food ten or twenty times higher in minerals and vitamins that even a rich food like kale.

And the soul, food for the soul? Well, let’s try this: to remember how useful is a weed is a reminder that we can look inside ourselves and find “weeds” of our own personality, and instead of trying to destroy these parts, maybe we can discover how they, too, can be rich food and nutrition for our understanding and our lives.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Wednesday, March 8: Crashing Reality

Stimulated by the Oscars, I rented and watched Crash. I’d seen it, partly, once in the theaters, and had walked out, tired of what seemed like an endless set-up of many varieties of racial prejudice and mistreatment. By watching the whole mo vie I got to see a couple of redemptive moments and got to see that, if nothing else, the movie was a tour de force of multi-plot writing.

And still, the whole notion of racism as the ugly underbelly of America seems both profound and untrue in a certain way. This is not, not, not to say that there isn’t plenty of racism in this fair land, that we don’t have a propensity to drop atom bombs on dark people, or go savagely to war with dark people in Southeast Asia, or profile Arabs and Muslims as the new bad guys, or that black people aren’t still automatically assumed either inferior or criminal or both, or that the Spanish speaking folks in California aren’t seen as whatever, whatever, and still…

I think the primary ailment in this movie and in most human life is self-hatred. No one in this movie liked themselves, except maybe the shopkeeper’s daughter and the nice family of the black locksmith, and the Spanish maid. True to reality, these five people were the only ones in the movie who didn’t go “off” on someone of a different race, or “off” on someone of their own race, if they were black. Well, maybe the two thieves had epiphanies and were more clear with themselves by the end, but still, the drift of the whole shebang was people projecting self-hatred onto others.

Race makes this easier, but you can go to any town in the world and find at least half the people in some sort of major or minor feud with their literal neighbors. It may just be whispering among themselves about what’s wrong, or stupid or insensitive or crazy about their neighbors, but it goes on all the time, undoubtedly much more so if the neighbor is a different race, but it goes on.

And on and on.

So what’s the cure for self-hatred?

The phony cure is self-esteem, to pump oneself up with affirmations. I am good. I am worthy. I am wonderful. The real cure is to come into the present and find something interesting or creative or useful to do with ourselves. Then we can like ourselves for being actively and happily engaged in life. Then when our neighbor or the ethnically different car driver is acting “weird,” we have something better to do with our attention than get in their business and demand that they shape up.

And when we are in the present and doing something useful or creative or interesting, when we are literally tending to our own garden or writing our own stories and songs, or taking a bowl of soup to a shut in, then we are wonderful, we are good, we are worthy, and we feel that way. We don’t need to pump ourselves up with affirmations. We are pumped with living life the way it is best lived: fully and happily, with curiosity and verve.

Of course Feldenkrais and the work of Byron Katie can help this transition, so could taking a walk outdoors instead of being depressed, or volunteering to help instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, or planting a garden of good organic food instead of sitting around feeling bad about our weight. If our job sucks, the cure isn’t to self-esteem ourselves into loving it, but to develop skills or outlets to find a job we love. Meanwhile, of course, hating the job is a waste of time, how can we be present and curious and learning even from a “bad” job while we are creating a world for ourselves so we can move into a better one?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Tuesday, March 7: Slow Down and Learn

In the Byron Katie work, many people, myself included go through times when we don’t avail ourselves of the marvelously transformative possibilities of this work. Instead of doing the work, we avoid one stage and stay stuck, stuck, stuck, stuck, stuck. That stage is “Write it down.” Instead we think the thought over and over and over and over and wiggle with it, and justify it, and wish it weren’t there, and think about doing the work. But we don’t, “Write it down.” ( Judge your neighbor, Write it down, ask four questions, turn it around.)

What is writing it down all about? It’s about slowing down the mind so we can see and notice what we are doing. For many years I “worked on” my relationship with my Dad. Once I wrote down, “My Dad shouldn’t have been so critical,” and begin to do the work, years of suffering melted away. The problem wasn’t my Dad. It was my habit of going over and over in my thoughts and making myself feel bad over and over.

Slow down the thoughts and then we can work with them.

The same in the Feldenkrais work. I went to a wonderful yoga workshop this weekend, but the teacher didn’t understand that learning needed to have a slowness to it, in which something absolutely new can be clearly experienced. When that happens, learning takes place. This teacher did a marvelous job of showing new ways of doing things, which is another secret to having a happy brain: variety, variation, novelty. But she didn’t understand, in her “moving things along,” that a certain slowness is crucial if people are to learn. Learning is an active process. New connections are literally made in the brain. This takes time. Not a lot, but some. In Feldenkrais, resting between trying our various movements is crucial to its huge powers of transformation. In these “rests” the brain can review and lay down new wiring. The tool behind this wiring is attention, awareness, the ability to know what we are doing when we are doing it. ( Sitting in a chair, how are we sitting now. Breathing in the air, how and we breathing now. Looking with our eyes, how are we looking now.)

Combine awareness with movement and you have heavenly food for the brain, whose first and still primary task is to figure out how to move us in the world. Make a model of the human body of clay or bronze. Get it to stand on feet as small as ours. This is amazing, and you’ll see why all human shaped statues have huge pedestals, or the figure has a staff, or both. To walk is actually easier than to stand. Walking is a sort of continuous falling and catching ourselves, but to do this requires huge understanding that we gained when we were babies, when we were the smartest we will ever be, when our job in life was discovery and exploration.

We were in no rush to learn to crawl, but we kept at moving this and moving that for hours, exploring, trying possibilities, going down dead ends, learning, learning, learning. We took time to pay attention. We were in no hurry. Time didn’t exist for us. Only the moment. Only learning.

( Workshops coming up in both Feldenkrais and Byron Katie work. New Sunday class of advanced Feldenkrais with yoga applications, at 5 PM, at the Sonoma Ballet Conservatory.)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Monday, March 6: Reality Kinder than our Story

I met a new person yesterday and she had a great example of something we come up with again and again when we do the work of Byron Katie. We find out that our story about reality is so much often less kind than reality itself. In her case, she had sent a demo tape of her singing to someone and hadn’t heard back and had decided, if that’s the right word, which it is, actually, that the guy who had received her tape hated it. Finally she called and he said he’d been too busy to listen to it.

Even in the worst cast, supposedly, the guy actually listening to and hating the tape, the story is usually something like this: this is the end of my life; this is a tragedy; this proves that something is wrong with me. That’s the story. The reality in that scenario would still have been kinder than these stories, the reality that he didn’t like it.

When people don’t like us or our music or our blogsites or our clothes or whatever they want to busy themselves not liking, it’s their business. If we tell a story about how their approval or lack thereof is important to us, then we make it our business and go about hurting ourselves.

But this is a choice we need not make.

Recall the work of Byron Katie: Judge your neighbor (friend, mate, parent, child, etc.). Write it down. Ask four questions. Turn it around. All of therapy and most of Buddhism in four steps, with the four sub-steps of asking four questions.

Judge, though, the first step. So and so should treat me better. That kind of thing. Or the self-judgments: I’m no good.

Second step: write it down. Face the reality of how short and brutal are the set of words behind our misery. “Dad should have been nicer.” “The ex shouldn’t have left me.” “I should have more money.”

Third step: Ask four questions. Is it true? Can I really know it’s true? How do I feel and react when I attach to this thought (i.e. believe that it’s the truth)? And who would I be without the thought, or without attaching to the thought?

Fourth step, turn it around. “I should have been nicer to Dad.” “I should have been nicer to myself.” “I shouldn’t have left myself when the ex left me.” “I shouldn’t have more money until I have more money.” The turnarounds work superbly in relationship. You are selfish. I am selfish. You don’t listen. I don’t listen. You don’t love me enough. I don’t love you enough. The upside down is always true, at least a little bit, which is enough to come to humor and humility.

And the third question: how do we react when we hold the story that so and so has listened to our demo tape and hates it. We feel frightened, or miserable, or depressed, or furious, or defeated, or whatever. These are all our job, what we are doing to ourselves with our story.

And without the story: So and so either likes or doesn’t like my writing, my demo, my Feldenkrais class. Our job, like what’s good in it, make what can be made better better, have fun going about this game. Once we start to examine our stories and how we make ourselves miserable with them, life can get pretty interesting. A dance of awareness and falling back to sleep and waking up again.

Endless learning, as we can find in the Feldenkrais work, when we begin to discover deeper and deeper subtleties to how we move. (Coming April 21-23, a workshop that combines the work of Byron Katie and Feldenkrais. See the listing below on various offerings)


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Saturday, March 4: The skeleton

If we didn’t have a skeleton we’d be a blob on the ground or some sort of wormlike creature. This would be fine if we didn’t want to work in gardens or go swimming or play the violin or read a book, but otherwise might be kind of limiting. The skeleton is hard, and alive and it has a job, a simple job, a wonderful job: to support our bodies in gravity.

The skeleton holds us up, it pushes against gravity and hold us our head so we can look around and see where the beautiful flowers are and where the food is and where a sweet mate. The head is held up high so we can look around and discover the next thing to do. The head is held high so we can hear what’s coming, or what’s pleasant, or what’s worth hearing. Now the ears are for cell phones and i pods, but they can also be used in old fashioned ways, like listening to the wind, or to another person speaking to us, or music that isn’t recorded, just old fashioned instruments and singing with real people attached to them. What a concept.

The skeleton holds up the head, there’s a brain in there, the brain has a job: use the muscles to make the skeleton as easy as possible in gravity and move this bag of bones and blood and brains from one place to another. The brain loves to learn, an easier way to move, a different way to make a meal, a new tune to hum or sing. This brain is protected in the skeleton, and held up high, which might not be a good idea, since the brain is so valuable it might better be hidden, but it is so closely connected to the eyes and to our orientation that that’s where it is, up top.

High up the eyes and the nose and the mouth and the ears and the brain, held up by the skeleton moved by the muscles, and balanced on the feet, with their ten toes. It’s a lot of us that goes into even the simplest things we do. Getting up from a chair, walking across the room, walking out the door, looking up into the blue beautiful sky. Lot’s of life available from this way that we are put together. Let’s learn about and enjoy it, eh?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Friday, March 3: Healthy Backs, 5

This is about enough for back lessons, or you won’t get excited to come to my back workshops. Rest assured, there is lots more, there is always more fun and wonderful things to discover and improve.

And this is fun to do in bed at night. Lie on your side. Move very easily your top shoulder forward. Move this shoulder on its own, and move it forward by pushing your top hand out away from you on whatever surface on which you are lying. Just go easy. Sense deeply. Notice your breathing, notice your ribs, notice your spine. Forward and then back and do it over and over with attention and gentleness.


Now move your top hip forward. How? Let your top knee slide a little forward over your bottom knee. Feel the rotation in the pelvis. Feel the involvement in your lower back. Rest.

Move both your shoulder and your hip forward together.

Now explore moving the shoulder back. On its own. With the hand along the floor, pull the whole arm closer in to your body, and feel the shoulder roll back. Notice the effects and involvement in your spine, your ribs, your breathing.


Now, the hip back, your hip, your top hip, bring it backward, by gently allowing the top knee to slide backwards. This feels pretty great in your back and ribs. Notice the rotation in your pelvis. Enjoy this. Rest.

Now move your shoulder and hip both forward and both back together.

Now, the brain attention work. Move your shoulder forward and your hip back and your shoulder back and your hip forward. This is good. You are good.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Thursday, March 2: Taking the Back Back, 4

Okay. Are you having fun exploring your back? Are you taking back the attitude of exploration and discovery? In our discoveries we can begin to recover the mobility and youthfulness we may have let go in our adultness.

This is what is like to be a child: few habits, tons of learning. At about 13 years old we are about half habits and half learning. By adult we are almost all habit and little learning. The solution: play with small aware movements and learn to move and breathe and think and feel better.

Okay, the back, the middle of the back. We’ve moved it forward and backward, with tilting the pelvis. We’ve moved it side to side with tilting the pelvis. Now to put it all pleasurably together. Find the center of your back and bring it backward. Let the breast bone, aka sternum come back and slightly down, let the back round, let the pelvis tilt so you can feel yourself rocking back on your bottom.

Then come up a little and move the center of the back to the left, tilting to the left side of your pelvis and letting your head tilt to the right, so there is a nice arch in your back to the left.

Then bring this arch forward, bringing the center of your back forward, your sternum forward and up a little and your pelvis tilting forward. Feel the length of you in this position. Feel your top of your head getting long and up.
Then bring the center of your back to the right, as you tilt onto the right side of your pelvis, and let your head tilt to the left, so there is a nice pleasant arc to the right.

Then keep moving this arch around and around.

And then change directions. Take lots of rests and you go about this.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Wednesday, March 1: Healthy Backs, 3

And what is health, anyway? Is it perfection? Never being ill or sick? The absence of disease? Or something else?

Well, perfection is for fiction or the dead, so that’s not health. Never being ill is nice, but that’s not it, either. The opposite of disease is not health, but ease.

So, health is this: vitality and learning and improving. And the ability to recover from trauma. Some cold germs come along and you are healthy, you don’t let them get to you. That’s health. Your boss yells at you, and it either doesn’t get you down, or it does for just a little while, and then you see that it’s the boss’ problem, or you consider a new job, but you bounce back with going into a downward spiral. That’s health. You want something and things happen not the way you expected. You feel bad a little and then figure out what to do next. That’s health.

A healthy back likes to move, and if stresses come, it (the whole system, the brain/body/back) know how to deal with them, or to recover. Here’s another clue to healthy backs: they know how to use all the vertebrae, not just the ones at the top or the bottom. Use them all, all at once, a team effort. Health is coordinating the self to work well, and to learn to work even more efficiently and pleasantly.

So, taking the mid-back from yesterday, try this: move it right and left. Right and left relative to the head and pelvis, so the mid-back goes farther right than the head and pelvis when you move to the right, and farther left on the other side.

Notice what’s happening in the pelvis, a shift from one sit bone to the other, a shift from one side of the pelvis to the other.

And let the head do this interesting thing, let it tilt sideways to the hip that is lifting. I won’t tell you which hip that will be. You discover. That will be healthy.