Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Humans and Learning: Our Core Activity, Maybe

leaning in Ruthie
Adults learning in a Bones for Life class.

Human beings start out as babies. You and I started out as a baby. We knew hardly anything. We didn't know A, didn't know B, didn't know language, didn't know how to touch our nose, didn't know how to deliberately move our toes. We were more or less a blob.

We lay there. We knew how to curl up, the famous "fetal position," having, as that time in our just born lives, spend most of our "life" inside the dark, warm tropical waters of Mom. We knew sounds, but light was new. We knew movement, but gravity was new. We knew ????, who knows what we knew, and breathing, ah that too was new.




Learning all about those. Learning how to bring our hands deliberately to our mouths, how to grasp something, how to move our eyes and focus and find where the voice and sound is coming from. Explorations in gravity, lifting this part of us and that, learning to roll over, which always means pushing off against the floor or Earth. Learning to lift our head as we lie on our belly, which means getting muscles in our back (and pushing the belly into the ground), which means learning to bring our head to vertical, which means beginning to shift our gaze right and left from an upright head.

Rolling around.

Messing around.


All sorts of learning. Somehow we are fed. Learning who does that, and when and how it comes about. Being held, hopefully, picked up for feeding, picked up for love, cuddled for the joy of it, carried for the usefulness of it. As we are carried we feel our body moving, we feel the big body moving, we learn things, about our spine, about the Earth and the force through the spine of the one holding or carrying us, we learn our edges, we learn to be in contact. We are always exploring.

Always learning, and sleeping. And playing.

It's a wonderful life, but someone has to do it. The babies, the babies we were, this is how our life starts.

We learn a lot. Each little bit helps us learn more complicated things. We push down into the floor or the Earth with our hands, with our feet, with our elbows, with our chests, with our backs.

Learning, learning, hundred of things we are learning about how to move the fingers and toes, and arms and legs and neck and chest and spine and pelvis. We don't have many muscles in our arms. Our pelvis has the big muscles, so we use them the most. We are "centered." We are "grounded," and then one day, we put together 30 of the several hundred things we know, and we are crawling, zipping across the room.

Why do we crawl?

To meet in inner "developmental stage?" No.

To be like the other people? No. They are walking or sitting around.

To please the Big People? No. Later, walking will be an ego trip for some of them when we Achieve that, but crawling, nah, that's our game.

We don't copy. We don't know we are going to crawl, and then we do. Why? To get across the room or the yard or the dirt quicker. We've got important sticks to pick up, or cats to grab, or fallen cherries to put in our mouths. We crawl to expand our living.

This is why we keep learning. To expand our horizons. And for the pure joy of it. Learning is what we were designed to do.

This is why a life without learning is a life on the way to dying.

This is why the explorations and small movements and new configurations and delight in awareness and discovery of the Feldenkrais Method® are so good for keeping us young and vital and able to expand in all sorts of areas in our life.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Learning, Play and Love

Okay, here's the thing:

I'm interesting in giving people a chance to tap back into the way they learned when they were very young, when they transformed themselves from blobs into crawling, walking, sitting up, rolling over, talking beings.

This didn't come about by getting in balance.

This didn't come about by "relaxing."

This didn't come about by "going with the flow," unless the flow is a flow of life, a flow of playing around, a flow of messing around, a flow of discovery.

The flow of life: to learn, to create new and more complex and interesting and fun possibilities.

When I talk to a new client, or an ongoing one, I always ask: What's good in your life? What do you want to improve in terms of physical moving and functioning? What do you want to improve in terms of your whole life?

Because once you can make small and clear and amazing chances, you start to realize that the sky's the limit, that all sorts of changes, and even miracles can take place.

This work is about playing and learning and love. Those are what distinguish this from yoga, which does help strengthen and occasionally points toward love, and sometimes even involves play, but the emphasis, over and over and over is The Right Way to do something. There probably is a Right Way to crawl, but a child never learns this by having someone show it: here do it this way, it's the Right Way. The child discovers. The child uncovers, uncovers how its own muscles and brain and skeleton can skedaddle across the floor most easily in crawling.

The learning is by sensing and discovery. That's real learning.

And if this way is about Play and Learning and Love, what are the means?

Going slow, deepening awareness, honing to pleasure.

Slow, awareness, Pleasure, and add variation, which is what keeps it from getting boring, and keeps the learning alive.

Doing something slow enough to be able to try out new and unique and different paths of actions.

Being aware, so it's not just mindless movements. Brain research has confirmed: Movement + attention grows cells in the brain. Movement without attention has no affect.

Pleasure means the life is rewarding you for being here, for being now, for doing this in a way that feels good. That's why we were given pleasure, not to go on hedonistic binges (though those are useful once in awhile), but to bring our awareness to when we are living in a way that is clear and true to our real natures.

Variation keeps the awareness interested, keeps the pleasure in the momement, keeps us learning instead of grinding away at something we already know.

This is about Life, which is why it's about Love: it's about loving life enough to learn to be more fully and joyfully skilled and involved in living our lives.

Play, learning and love via slow, aware and pleasurable. Yes .


Sensitive Strength


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

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Nature, Big and Small

happy ganesh
We are part of Nature and we are a living Earth unto ourselves. What does that mean?

We can take a walk. The sky above, pleasure for our eyes, food for our lungs. The Earth below, something solid to move our walk forward, a place to get literally "grounded." Trees to give us pleasure, and oxygen, and maybe food, and often shelter for our flying and insect and other wildlife friends. The ocean to cool us and inspire us and evaporate water to the skies to create the rain and snow that we and the plants use to drink and stay alive.

Nature outside.

Nature inside is our bones and our nervous system, a brain that loves to learn and can sometimes get in a rut. This is our life. This is us, we can be aware of legs and arms and spine and eyes and ears and nose and mouth.

We are something like a little Earth unto ourselves. We have the rivers and the air in us, we have the solid and the liquid and the gas, we have electricity and we have this quality that is harder to pinpoint out in nature: awareness.

Animals, of course, have awareness, but this awareness is not like a river, not something you can see or touch or taste.

And yet it is core to who we are and what it means to be human, and for many creatures on Earth, what it means to be alive.

And why do I talk about this Big Nature out in the world, and this smaller, and equally amazing Nature we carry around in ourselves?

I talk about this because I enjoy and find useful the idea of Now, Nature and Love. Actually, I quite love this idea.

And sometimes connection to Nature means the obvious: get up off this chair, leave behind the computer, go to a door, open, walk out into the sky, find a place where my feet can walk that isn't paved, breathe the air that the trees and winds can provide.

And sometimes, inside, I can tap into awareness of being in this body, in this now, and notice my breathing, or my seeing, or the sensation of having a skeleton and arms and legs and spine. I can notice the rise and fall of my belly as I breathe. I can hear the sound of keys clicking as I type this into the computer. I can notice the weight of my body of my Sitz bones as I sit in this particular chair at this particular time.

I am alive.

You are alive.

When we sense that and are aware of that in our bodies, right now, we have also come back to a real time connection with nature.

This is good, I think. How about you?


Sensitive Strength


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

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Feldenkrais as Brain Work

I'm reading now, Train your Mind, to Change your Brain. It's a lovely tour of all the "new" discoveries in brain research, pointing more and more to our brain's ability to create new neurons, create new pathways, create a whole new way of perceiving and functioning in the world.

This is what the Tibetans and Buddhists have known for centuries, and the book is build around the explorations being held over the years between the Dalai Llama and western scientists, especially scientists in neurobiology and the fields around it.

Gone, gone, gone are the ideas that the brain is hardwired. In rats, monkeys and people, new brains cells can grow throughout life. Of course, if you do the same old thing, the brain can just scoot along the old pathways and everything is the same: living in the rut, literally.

When a researcher at Cal took rats breed to excel at mazes home, he noticed that with some handling and more varied environment these home rats seemed to thrive. They ran the mazes better. Their brains increased in size by 20%.

Moshe Feldenkrais(1904-1984), years ago, was telling people not to believe their diagnosis, but to start with what they could do, and in small and novel and non painful and highly aware ways, expand from there. And the crippled learned to walk, and the severely retarded ended up getting two Master's Degrees, and the stroke victims came out of their comas and went on to living and moving better than they had before their stroke.

From that back pain and shoulder trouble is a simple puzzle to solve.

And to excel at something someone is already good at, yoga or skiing or tennis or golf, this too, is wonderfully easy once this Way is understood not as body work, but brain rewiring.

The brain was meant to learn how to do things in easier and more elegant ways. Watch a baby going from awkward and extremely limited to a runaround yap-yap little tiger a couple of years later. This is the learning I speak of when I say the core word to explain this Way is Learning.

We aren't talking the boring learn from books learning.

We are talking the kind of learning when you finally learn a tennis serve, or first make love, or understand how to do the crow pose in yoga. This is learning that requires a core understanding in our deeper selves.

This is real learning.

This is brain food.

This is fun.

Come give it a try.


Sensitive Strength


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