On the subject of transforming limitations into possibilities, Anat Baniel, well known Feldenkrais practitioner and teacher, describes aspects of her work with children in a teaching video, which depicts her working with children and also talking about the work separately from being with them. I found my reaction to what I saw changed over the course of three complete viewings over the course of one day. The first viewing I watched nearly straight through only pausing a couple of times to look again at something or to better hear what she said by repeating a section. I didn’t take notes. The second time I used a pause, stop/start, rewind, review, and make notes kind of method. The third time I watched in order to fill in aspects of my notes, and to watch most sections several times, each time with different intentions about what I was trying to see. I tried to see it from her point of view, and then from the perspective of the child as well. There were several parts where the two blended into a coherent whole as they moved together. As I watched the video, I began to see more and more of what was taking place between she and the child that was part of her non-verbal physical presence: elements of this included tactile, kinesthetic, and emotional/vital flows that had wave-like properties. From my notes I made summaries to facilitate my understanding of three of the main points conveyed in her discussion and tie them into my understanding and experience thus far. Three qualitative elements of the work emphasized were: VARIATION, SUBTLETY, and SLOWNESS.
VARIATION……fast only gets the brain to do what it already knows. Sensations barreling into our nervous system without pause prohibit us from being able to listen and learn & prevent our ability to make connections. Our interactions with the surrounding world and our participation in it with awareness and intention require us to spend time between perception and interpretation. By doing this, we begin to be present and assume a role in the reality of our experience. What seems to be out there becomes connected to what seems to be in here, making perception more simply experienced as what is-from a particular perspective. An apparent duality collapses into unity. Using meditation and mindfulness practices that allow us to cultivate detachment, we can improve our ability to move between and through perspectives. If that which is aware within us catches the moment between the receipt of a perception and the attribution of meaning to that perception, we can find multiple shades of experience within it. This is a way to bring variation into each moment and helps us become aware at more levels of understanding, eventually allowing us to watch several aspects of our being simultaneously as we go about doing whatever it is we are doing at the time.
SUBTLETY…..becoming quiet often corresponds to gaining the skill or remembering the ability to listen to one’s own body. By avoiding excess, pushing too hard, forcing, or trying too hard, we are ushered into the world of fine differentiations. The amount of force required to accomplish a task is the correct amount of force to use. Skill, finesse, and the ability to make fine distinctions come from participation with awareness, being present fully as we act. The ability to perceive subtle differences is the foundation of intelligence. A characteristic of wellness in all living things is the ability to make subtle corrections early on when deviation from equilibrium has occurred. This allows the organism to remain adaptable to the environment. This occurs at all levels of organization. Examples include receptors in our feet which send continuous feedback to our brain so that we maintain our balance as we walk, the constant changes in rate and depth of breathing we make to keep up with our level of activity, and the maintenance of a constant concentration of sodium in our blood by little filters in our kidneys that continuously monitor it and decide when to keep or let go of water so that our chemistry remains in balance. Everything in us is intelligent. Bringing that to bear on issues of movement means we take the sensations we experience and remember to integrate them smoothly into responses that keep us in balance.
GOING SLOWLY…. Gives the brain a chance to pay attention. Intention, intensity, precision, and control can be honed by participation in activity with awareness. I am here now, and I am awake. The experience of being in a boat that slows its speed is a good example of how this works. As the speed slows, the boat sinks into the water and settles more deeply into where it is at the moment. If you are in the boat, you notice the change. More can be felt in the place you inhabit when you slow down. A depth of experience becomes available that is simply not available when you are speeding past. Clarity of perception and depth of understanding are gifts we learn from slow. Not surprisingly, beauty and joy become much more available as well. To appreciate something in depth requires awareness over time. Applying slow to all skills in the use of our body facilitates cultivation of our abilities and allows us to grow and evolve at whatever we choose to do with our selves. The breath is a bridge between our thinking and our feeling aspects, and settling it as we prepare to act is an excellent way to bring all the elements toward coherence as we begin any endeavor, so that the fullness of what we are doing can be appreciated.