Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Awareness and Attention, and ....

hands on elbows, moving
It's easy to say Awareness. Just as it has become a cliché to say, the Here and Now. One of life's sweet ironies is that you or I can say Here and Now, and just be chattering along in robot mode.

Which is to say, we can be saying Here and Now, and nodding our hearts and heads vigorously to the idea, to the faith, to the Way of Being Present, and all the while not be present.


If we could just mutter: Be Here Now, and we were here now.

Of course, the words might awaken in us a realization that this is possible and might well encourage us to examine: am I here, right now. Am I Aware of myself in this moment?

And how can we tell?

It seems as if thinking about being present should give us good points in that direction, Brownie points, good little boys and girls points, to be sure, but what is the flavor of being aware?

I went the other day to visit a Feldenkrais® Training. I'm already a Practitioner, but after you've done your four years and 160 days of training, there is still plenty more to learn and to relearn and to re-view. So the trainings have a policy of allowing practitioners to drop in at half price and re-experience whatever is being taught. As in all trainings the combination is moving with attention lessons, and moving other people lessons and the theory and ideas behind this all.

This particular day, Dennis Leri, who was my primary trainer in my 160 day program, was the guest trainer in another program that was very near its final weeks. He brought up the distinction between attention and awareness. According to him, this was an important distinction for Moshe Feldenkrais.

(If you wish, see perhaps, Dennis' website, Semiophysics, its series of articles on the influences on Moshe Feldenkrais, from Judo to Gurdjieff to engineering and Darwin, some a bit challenging to read at Mental Furniture, and his quite amazing article on the core of the Feldenkrais Way, a copyrighted article Learning How to Learn.)

So let's see if we can experience the difference between attention and awareness. Right now, in the famous and elusive and always available (no extra charge, though usually extra effort required) Here and Now.

Here and Now we can shift our attention into sensing our right hand. We can feel the bones, the shapes of the fingers, the warmth or lack thereof, the general muscle tone, the feelings of nerves and blood and whatever else might be in there. The quality and specificity of our sensing might vary greatly from person to person and from day to day, but basically, we can do this (Now): sense our right hand.

And now we can do this. Shift our attention from in our right hand to inside our left hand. Sense our left hand.

This is a shift, this brings us into the present: first sense our right hand and then sense our left hand, and we can even go back and forth.

Very often in Feldenkrais lessons, a little movement goes a long way to helping to interest and hence focus our attention, so we could, say, first not only sense our right hand, but move slowly our thumb and little finger together and apart. We could do this a number of times.

Then we could rest and remember what that felt like and imagine doing this in our left hand.

Then we could begin to move our left thumb and left little finger together.

All this we can do with our attention.

What then is awareness?

Part of awareness, as I understand it just now, is a Knowing that we are Doing Something when we are Doing it. So as we sense our right hand and move the thumb and pinkie, we are aware of ourselves as a larger unity and we are aware that this is one of the things this larger unity (our ME) is doing.

We might even be aware of a sense of This is Me, doing this, as we move slowly our thumb and pinkie.

Why do I keep saying slowly?

Because once we start to crank something out, we often lose both attention and awareness.

Anyway, back to awareness: we move our right thumb and our right pinkie together and apart. We notice this. (Awareness). We stop. We notice how our hand feels when we stop. (More awareness.) We imagine doing this on the other side. (Another kind of awareness.). We try it out on the other side. (More awareness).

And on top of all of this, we can be aware of our awareness.

This is pretty cool, I think. But, you might protest, thumbs and pinkies are no big deal. Well, tell that to someone who's had a stroke, or wants to improve their guitar or piano playing. Or wants to improve their awareness. Anything that helps us know ourselves as alive right now and knowing what we are doing and feeling and thinking and sensing right now, is a rightful tool on the path to Awareness.

And what good is Awareness anyway?

Stay tuned, it might be good for lots.


Sensitive Strength


Waking up to now.
Embracing Change.
Learning to learn.
Loving to move, improve and transform.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Happiness Now

When's a good time to be happy?

Well, right now, that's a great time.

And if we are honest with ourselves, we'll see that we often are not so kind in when we allow ourselves to jump into that golden place.

No, first we have to do the dishes, or get the work done, or make the bed, or avoid making the bed, or make "enough" money, or "finish" whatever important "thing" we need to finish so we can stop worrying about getting done whatever it is we need to finish.

Does that sound like circular thinking?

Well, it is. Thinking about the "to do" list in the future is a great way to postpone happiness until some later time, which, not so surprisingly, like some rainbow toward which we are walking, always seems to recede into the distance.

Somewhere, over the rainbow, then we could be happy.

What a story? And is that a useful story, or a story to keep us stuck in a life of toiling away?

And what if we are happily engaged in our careers, and our pursuits, and our afterwork meetings. Well, if we are really "happily" engaged, then we aren't putting off happiness. If the career and the pursuits and the meetings are all with the price tag of … Happiness Later, Sorry 'Bout that, then we get to ask:

Is that price tag one we want to pay?

Is that a price tag we need to pay.

Pay. Pay. What do we owe. I've written before about happiness

( Happiness as a Choice),

and happiness now ( Happiness now),

talking about that sneaky feeling as if happiness now was some kind of sin, as if that was too easy, as if we really didn't deserve this.

But that's all a story, this set of words about happienss later and the pursuit of happiness and all that hoey.As the Work of Byron Katie part of Wake Up Feldenkrais behoves us to ask: Is that true?

Because these essays aren't about Feldenkrais per se. They are about Wake Up Feldenkrais. You can cure your back or shoulder or stroke or cerebral palsy, or vastly improve tennis, golf, skiing or yoga. And the deeper goal is to wake up to the moment. This moment, all moments.

And when we are really in the moments, though we don’t' talk about happiness, because chatter about abstract states takes us out of immediate experience, but because we are present, and aren't doing all the habitual things that keep us unhappy, we are back to the amazing default of real life on earth: happiness.

Believe me?

No. Don't.

Find out for yourself.

Experiment. Find the habits and thoughts that make you unhappy, and create variety and options and alternatives. Use the Work of Byron Katie to undermine and find the truth behind our stories. See what's left.

It may well be Happiness Now.


Sensitive Strength


Waking up to now.
Embracing Change.
Learning to learn.
Loving to move, improve and transform.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Awareness Though Movement: Some wonderful things to do in the morning

Key to all the Feldenkrais work, is the increasing of awareness, and the easiest way to do this is to move slowly, and gently, with lots of attention and curiosity.

Lessons either in groups, or one on one, where the primary focus is on verbal instructions guiding movements that led to discovery and ease and awareness are called Awareness Through Movement® lessons.

Throughout this blog, if you following the label Movement Lesson you will find many mini Awareness Through Movement lessons. If you come to my Monday intro class, at the Sonoma Ballet Conservatory, you'll experience them more in depth.
(See Current Offerings.)

Here's a series of movements, that if done slowly and with curiosity and awareness will led you to a richer, more aware and more ease full day.


1) Gentle rotate your head side to side. In this and all subsequent instructions, go only to 80% of your limit, with 300% of your usual attention and awareness. Try to easily and enjoyable sense, SENSE, sense what is moving in you and how that feels and works.

2). Rest always between movement. Now put the right hand on the left shoulder and the left hand on the right shoulder and gently and easily rotate the center of yourself right and left.

3)Rest. Then experiment: center and head to left and right together, and center and head in opposite directions. Go slow, not to crank out a Twist, but to learn about yourself, about sensing and about pleasure.

4) Rest. Then move the hips in rotation. If you are sitting this can be done by moving the knees forward and back. Do this slowly. Learn about your pelvis.

5). Rest. Then move hips and center and head in various combinations. Go slow. Enjoy. Discover.


1). Nod your head up and down.

2). Rest. Again put the hands on opposite shoulders. In this configuration nod your center, your ribs and torso and sternum up and down. Less with awareness is 50 times better than more done mindlessly. And safer. And happier.

3). Rest. Now move center and head up and down both together and in opposition. If this is confusing, go even slower and with less effort. Breathe and enjoy.

4) Rest. Now tilt your pelvis up and down. Tilt your tailbone under, bring your belly in and rock on your sitting bones to the back of your pelvis. The push your tailbone out and bring your belly forward and rock on your pelvis to the forward part of your sitting bones. Go back and forth. Wake up the power center, the sexual center, the moving center of you.

5). Rest. Try various combinations of head, center and pelvis is this up and down, folding and arching dimension. ( Want help: come for lessons!)

1) Tilt your head side to side. So that the left ear goes down and then the right ear goes down, as your face and nose stay looking forward.

2) Rest. Put your hands again on opposite shoulder and tilt your middle side to side.

3) Rest. Combine and oppose head and ribs in tilting.

4) Rest. Tilt your sit bones from side to side, once lifting the left side of your pelvis and once the right. Do this slowly, with breathing and ease and awareness. Again, this pelvis is lost to many of us, sadly and with many consequences in painful backs and dull lives.

5) Rest. Try out various combinations of head, center and pelvis in the titling mode.


Life is rich and creative is you let yourself be.

( See Movement Lesson for a batch of these mini-lessons in this blog.)


Sensitive Strength


Waking up to now.
Embracing Change.
Learning to learn.
Loving to move, improve and transform.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Feldenkrais Method® and Rolfing; or Functional Integration® and Structural Integration

Many people have heard of Rolfing and the Feldenkrais Method®. Many more have not. Or, as I like to say, optimistically: not yet.

A lesser number know the names Ida Rolf, who, it is quite clear, is the founder of Rolfing. Likewise little known is the name Moshe Feldenkrais, the founder of the Feldenkrais Method. Ida Rolf at least has the advantage of one name that is vaguely familiar, whereas those of us who have completed a Feldenkrais Training, and become a Feldenkrais Practitioner, have to endure endless, Huh? responses to the name Moshe Feldenkrais and the work. Though this is changing and a surprising number of people have heard of Feldenkrais, rhymes with nice.

Rolfing involves a series of lessons, often ten, done with the client lying on a table. The lessons have been associated with deep and sometimes "painful" work, but the word is out, that this has changed greatly. The goal of the lessons is in their title: Structural Integration. The structure of a human body in relationship to gravity can be greatly improved, according to rolfers, by deep and clear work in the myofascia in a way to clear out stuck and structurally inappropriate patterns.

Many successful outcomes have resulted from Rolfing.

See, if you wish, Wikipedia on Rolfing and Wikipedia on Structural Integration).

bless their hearts,
and learning centers,
has written
in their PRESS RELEASE on
Rolfing®, Structural Integration and the Feldenkrais Method®.
Check that out,
if you are in the mood.

The Feldenkrais Method has two modes to improving human life, one, called Awareness Through Movement®, involving lessons wherein the student moves in aware and deliberate and curious and usually slow and often novel patterns, and from these "lessons" learns more about how to move and function in the world and in their movements in new ways. These so called Feldenkrais Exercises can be useful to a dancer or a person recovering from a stroke or a child with cerebral palsy or a weekend gardener with a sore back or a professional athlete with an aching shoulder.

The other mode, called Functional Integration, is the Feldenkrais parallel to the Structural Integration of Rolfing.

The work is done by touch guided manipulation of a client on a table.

The touch is aiming to produce a difference in the organization of the client.

However, in Feldenkrais Functional Integration "lessons," we aren't treating, or fixing, or rearranging anything but the wiring in the client's brain. Our aim is to create new pathways of connection and possibilities of movement.

The difference is obvious from the words, Structural vs. Functional Integration helps explain the difference of Feldenkrais from not just rolfing, but good yoga (not flop around yoga or work yourself to death yoga), in that good yoga and Rolfing are both concerned with alignment, getting the best alignment into our human structure.

We move the skeleton and the awareness. We aren't concerned with undoing any tissue.

In fact, it could be said that we say:

the issue isn't in the tissue,
it's between the ears.

In the Feldenkrais Method, we are concerned with function, which is a huge word, and can be anything from lifting an arm that has been laid low by a stroke, to crawling for a challenged child, to skiing better for someone who wants zest back in their life, to being able to run or dance again for another zest seeker. The Feldenkrais path is one of learning, and though we often imagine an ideal path of moving, the goal is not to "correct" or "fix" anyone, but to open up learning and options and possibilities, so that the person, as a learner, can discover easier and more pleasurable and more efficient ways of functioning in the world.

Many successful outcomes have resulted from both pathways of the Feldenkrais work.

(See , if you wish more learning on the Feldenkrais possibilies,
you might enjoy
almost any of the links in my links section to the left.
As starters, why not peruse....

The Feldenkrais Method® in wikipedia

and my own What is the Feldenkrais Method®? )

Whatever you do,
Please be Well.


Sensitive Strength


Waking up to now.
Embracing Change.
Learning to learn.
Loving to move, improve and transform.