by Marsha Novak, GCFP
The word “mindfulness” is everywhere these days and often associated with a sitting meditation practice. As we sit and follow our breath, we become more “mindful,” a term Jon Kabat-Zinn defines as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Although sitting meditation is perhaps one of the well-known avenues for exploring mindfulness, there are others. One of these is the Feldenkrais Method® of somatic education.
South American Feldenkrais® practitioner Lea Kaufman uses the phrase ”moverse para conocerse,” or “move yourself to know yourself,” to explain what the Feldenkrais Method is about. What I love about this, aside from aside from how poetic it reads in Spanish, is that it captures the totality of the Feldenkrais experience.
As Lisa Rein highlighted in a recent Washington Post article, people often come to the Feldenkrais Method because they are experiencing pain or a physical limitation. The two can also be intertwined. During Feldenkrais lessons, students explore through active, non-habitual movement or gentle hands-on work, what it would be like to move with optimal ease and efficiency. This often leads to less pain and improved physical skills. In this context, I would say mindfulness in movement is beginning to recognize unnecessary tensions and inefficient movement habits that are getting in your way.
There are, however, folks who come to the Feldenkrais Method for reasons other than physical challenges. Moshe Feldenkrais considered his work as a way to optimize human potential in whatever way appropriate to the individual. What I can say is that during a Feldenkrais lesson, movement is used as a vehicle for awareness, just as the breath used in meditation. One is asked to pay attention to the feeling of the action, in the present moment, and without judgment.
If there were such a thing as a “mindfulness muscle,” I would say that both the Feldenkrais Method and meditation are tools to strengthen it. Just as meditators have various answers when asked about the benefits of their practice are, so do those who do practice the Feldenkrais Method. For some, it is related to physical pain, but for others, benefits include being more creative, thinking more clearly, being less reactive in conflict, and feeling more physically spacious and open. Nearly all who take Feldenkrais lessons find themselves able to move in a more integrated and easeful way, not something commonly associated with sitting meditation.
Circling back, I’d say that in its essence, the Feldenkrais Method provides a vehicle for getting to know ourselves better – be it how we move in ways that keep us in pain, or self-limiting thoughts, or–you can fill in the blank.
Another Spanish phrase I will borrow from Lea is “re-conociendote a timismo” – getting to know yourself all over again – through movement.
Curious? Explore mindfulness in movement by trying this short Awareness Through Movement® lesson.
Marsha Novak, GCFP (Berkeley 3 2003) lives and practices on Bainbridge Island, WA. She is so grateful to have found work that she finds so personally interesting and creative and also improves the lives of others. Marsha particularly enjoys working with performing artists and other “high performers” as well as children with special needs. A growing interest in the Feldenkrais Method as a mindfulness practice has inspired her to create her first online program “A Year of Moving Well: mindfulness + movement for a year well-lived” that will begin in January 2019. You can learn more about her and her practice at www.movingwellbainbridge.com.