Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday, May 19: Chapter 19: Connect, explore, play: life needs, Feldenkrais pillars

At an interesting talk last night, the speaker mentioned three levels of imperative to human beings. One is to connect, to connect as flesh and blood with other flesh and blood. To have someone we model ourselves after when we are babies and children, and to have people we relate to on a face to face, finger to finger, looking at and seeing, listening to and hearing level throughout our lives.

Another need, is to explore, he said, and I’d expand to explore and learn. This is what transforms us from blobs on our backs, to roly poly babies that can get to our stomachs, to hellraisers who crawl around and get into way too much trouble. This is what gives us the information to teach ourselves to walk and to talk. We try this out. We try that out. The more things we try, the less afraid we are to experiment, the more we will learn and the more skillful we will be, even though the experimentation is for its own sake, not to be better at crawling or rolling over or walking or talking.

The third imperative of all children, all animals, all humans, is play. Which is to go about something in a non-linear, non-programmed, non-relentless way, a way in which the going is the delight. Needless to say, this childish play can easily be converted into programmed sports with official uniforms and adults hounding the kids right and left to do better or “win,” as if the obvious could be completely ignored about games in which one team wins. The obvious, is that for one team to win, another team has to lose, and immense amounts of lying goes into saying it doesn’t matter if you win or not, it’s how you play, but watch the adults at child soccer or baseball games and listen to their voices, and you can tell what matters.

The speaker said all animals, when not watched by humans, spend big portions of their time playing. He must have meant non-domestic animals, because I can’t imagine cows frolicking much, but who knows, unwatched buffalo might, or might used to have before they were almost whipped out by the same sort of mentality that has lead to war after war, and leads people to power yoga instead of Feldenkrais. The “get things done, and if anything’s in your way, mow ‘em down” approach to life and obstacles and Enemies, by they the enemy of animals not totatlly dominated, or our own bodies not whipped into “shape,” or the coercion of nature by chemicals and poisons, into an agriculture that has almost nothing to do with nature or the natural.

This is the genius of the Feldenkrais approach: if anything’s hard, you don’t plough through, push through, or otherwise force yourself where you aren’t ready yet.

No. You apply the three imperatives, with my slight modification of the first to connection to the Self. There is a deep part of us, aware of the moment, and aware of our aliveness. This is what Feldenkrais, by slow and attentive movement, can open up for people. We spend so much of our lives in a trance dominated by our imagined picture of how we are being perceived by others, that we have almost no energy left over to actually pay attention to ourselves. A few people can meditate and come to this centering. Some can garden peacefully, and be in the moment with the Earth and their plants and their own bodies, but even here, many garden like robots with their minds chattering away at all the usual froth, and the emotional tone being not one of enjoyment, but of “getting things over, so I can get to the next thing.”

The second imperative, to explore and learn, is what sets Feldenkrais firmly out of the category of “bodywork,” into which people, whose minds are in deep ruts, love to place it. It is learning work. It is improving the self work. Learning through moving the various aspects of our body/mind system (i.e. ourselves) is just the quickest way to learn, because it is what the human brain is focused on doing when we are young, and is best at: finding pleasant and amusing and efficient ways of moving. People wake up to this a couple of minutes a month when they make love, or maybe for some hours of horse back riding, or walking, but then, between these activities, it’s back to sleep, back into the ruts, back to being a robot. Watch people yammering after yoga classes if you don’t believe me.

Learning by exploring, this is the essence of Feldenkrais lessons. There is no “right” way to move, but five or six or eight different approaches might be explored to find the one or two or three that are amusing and possibly useful new possibilities. Every lesson is different and there are hundreds of lessons. Many find them hard to tolerate, because there are big batch of time when you move slowly and without efforting and straining, so all that identification which says, “I am the strain and stress and tension of my efforts,” this part is lost.

We are left with the adventure, the play, the trying out of the new and the novel and the different. We roll around. We try things no one every thinks of. We do things the wrong way. We do things backwards, and on our bellies and our backs. We roll around. We have a good time. And this people avoid, preferring their good time in the cinema, or beating themselves up in power yoga or Pilates.

Oh, well. The effects of all this power and bashing and leaving the present and disconnecting from nature are all around us. Maybe a few of us can enjoy incredibly rich and beautiful and learning lives as the others rush off the cliff in their lockstep ruts.


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