Martin Weiner, 1943 – 2011

Marty Weiner, 1943 – 2011

Many of you in the Feldenkrais community and elsewhere have been made aware of Martin Weiner’s death. According to the reports of several people that have contacted me, Marty took his own life last Saturday, April 16th.

By nearly all accounts Marty was a highly skilled feldenkrais practitioner and over the years developed a tremendous number of fans and supporters. A former Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University, Marty left his position at the university after meeting Moshe and deciding to take his San Francisco training in 1975. He subsequently finished the training (while supporting himself with work as a bartender!) and became one of the early Guild Presidents.

Marty was the first person that I interviewed on my podcast series over four years ago in January 2007: A conversation with Martin Weiner and again in February of the same year: Further Down The Rabbit Hole With Martin Weiner. He was a great person to quote and I often found myself writing down or reposting some of his thoughts, such as this: The Limitations of the Medical Model.

Looking back on how and why I started my podcast series with Marty, I think it all boils down to a 20-second conversation that I had with him at the 2007 FGNA conference in New York. I had never met the man before and he simply had a presence and a way of being that was fully magnetizing and hypnotic. I felt like I was encountering an incredibly unique and individuated person and I wanted to know more about him. I asked him to be interviewed and he graciously accepted.

Marty Weiner and Jack Heggie

On Monday of last week, when I heard about Marty’s death, my mind raced back to the time that I heard about Jack Heggie’s death, which was also reported to be a suicide. His death was very disturbing to me. Jack Heggie was the person who introduced me to the Feldenkrais Method while I was attending an NLP conference in Boulder, Colorado in the early 1990′s. By some strange coincidence Jack also maintained a Feldenkrais Practice in Dallas, Texas where I was living at the time. I was a waiter, working in a Mexican restaurant and my first lesson with Jack was so powerful that I decided to use part of my rent money to get another session, paying my rent 5 days late and getting a fine. It was worth it.

My feelings about Jack’s death and Marty’s death are somewhat similar. Though I am mourning two men who touched my life and helped move me into new and exciting directions, I cannot say that I knew either man very well. So what I am mainly mourning is experiences with them that I will never have. I will never have a chance to see and feel the next creations that each man had in him. None of us will.

They were both inspiring and unique in their own ways. Jack Heggie wrote and published several books on applications of the Feldenkrais Method and I have often wondered what other new books and creations he still had to write had he chosen to live.

Marty seemed to be developing a new way of being and getting his work into the world. Many times in the last several years, I read some of Martin Weiner’s posts on online forums and wondered where he was going to go next and what he was going to develop. My sense was that he had a process and a method of communicating and being in the world that transcended any particular ideology and that he was getting ready to give birth to it in a new way. I would get slightly confused when I saw him spending so much time communicating about his ideas on the FeldyForum. It seemed to me that he needed a bigger space and a bigger platform and would do better to reach out directly to his fans via a book, his own website or some other avenue. Just last week, I learned that Marty was developing a center called The Center for Explorations in Consciousness. The website has some videos and writings from him that you may want to view.

Historicism

When someone commits suicide it is very common to want to make sense of the situation by inserting a story or narrative that explains things. We often hear that someone is being “selfish” or “hurtful” by killing themselves. We want to blame a medication or change in life events. We try to find and point to warning signs. That is the danger of historicism and causal thinking in general. Knowing the end state we can always look back and find a “cause.” After all, their MUST be one, right? Otherwise how can we make sense of things? We might all do well to realize that we can never truly know what is in a person’s mind and what his or her life circumstances might have been. Even with the most complete information, we are always operating with partial information. And the information that we have and perceive is filtered through our personal life history and biases.

That being said, for those of you who encountered Marty and knew him personally, I would like to add one small piece of information that might help your process. There was a post in 2009 on the FeldyForum in which he wrote to another person:

“I don’t know what you are actually feeling, but I have been seriously depressed and, at times, suicidal (probably as a result of those obsessive thought chains.) It is a state I have described as a place from which no light can escape or enter. Existence itself feels like an act rather than a given and it feels just too impossible to put in the minimal energy required to sustain it. As you said and demonstrate with your life, it takes courage and unbelievable strength just to stay here. In my worst moments, when people were telling me some version of “snap out of it” or “try harder”, I would try to let them know that they had no idea of how strong I was to deal with what I was dealing with without killing myself.”

It may be that what drove Marty to take his actions was something he had been dealing with for many years. But then again maybe it was not. Many people, myself included, have had suicidal and depressive thoughts and are still with us today.

Whatever the case, and whatever narrative one chooses to create, Marty will be missed. He was an amazing man with a sharp mind, a soft touch and presence that could not be denied. He had much more to do in this life, and we had so much more to experience of him and his work. I am sorry that we cannot do so.

Goodbye Marty. Thank you for your immense presence and probing insights – at least while you were willing to be here and give them to us.

For those of you who want to know more about Martin Weiner there is a video of him and thoughts on his life and death on the website of his friend Nate Klemp: Life Beyond Logic and again, on the website that I mentioned above: The Center for Explorations in Consciousness. Several friends have posted remembrances of him: Celebrating My Friend Marty Weiner and A Sole For Marty. If you know of others do let me know.

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10 thoughts on “Martin Weiner, 1943 – 2011

  1. smadar orlans

    Sad to hear,when i lived in Ojai i had the chance to have FI lessons with Martin,beside being a Feldenkrais teacher he made beautiful sculptures out of stone…Rest in peace Martin.

  2. LeAnn Brightwell

    I am most appreciative of the research you had to have done to find the posting that you shared revealing his battle with depression & suicidal thoughts. Before reading this, all I felt was “pissed off” that he killed himself & didn’t ask for help. I just couldn’t get over being angry & believe me, since he’s on the other side, I sent him my thoughts on the subject.
    Thank you. This has helped me release my judgment on the premature ending of a precious life.
    LeAnn

  3. Edward Yu

    Thank you for your candidness in sharing your thoughts and feelings, Ryan. This is a touching and well-written piece. In this age of positive thinking, your words (and Marty’s) help me feel okay for just being human–”negative” thoughts and all.
    Warmly,
    Edward

  4. Istvan

    Ryan, some brilliant links here.
    About Marty. did not he have everything? Beautiful home, great profession, close friends…
    Nate Klemp’s latest bog is about the road. Did not Marty have the feeling that he arrived? And is not that the end?
    I am hesitant to say and nothing is father for me than to judge anyone, let alone Marty, but for me the only justification for taking one’s own life would be if they had some sort of terminal illness. However, few people have the courage at that stage. They cling with all their strength to ‘dear’ life. Have some hope usually until the last minute. Few have the courage of a Koestler or a Kosynski. I wonder if I would, but it is not sth. one can speculate about, you can only see when you are there. Is not something wrong when there are so many depressed people in the West? A very famous Hungarian psychiatrist committed suicide last year. He was only 53, was visiting Professor in the US where he spend some years, lectured psychiatrists, wrote many books and this was not his first attempt. Finally he hanged himself. What a brutal way – though it is said to be a gentle and quick way to finish it all. This guy had a family and kids, was exceptionally handsome also. He is rumored to be ruined by women.

    1. LeAnn Brightwell

      Istvan,
      I resonate with your feelings & thoughts about suicide. I believe it to be a real Spiritual “no-no”. I once knew a man who had a stroke in his late 30′s. Before the stroke he was a high-powered business man & after & for the rest of his life was a very simple & child-like person. He was told by his Spiritual Teacher that in another life he committed suicide & the karma for that was living in a body & a mind that was partially handicapped in this life by the stroke.
      LeAnn

  5. Peggy La Cerra

    Thanks for your remembrance of Marty Weiner. One small correction: Marty was an Assistant Dean of Students at Stanford, not a Professor in the Philosophy Department (although that’s where he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy). There has been so much speculation about why Marty took his life, not to mention judgment about his decision, that I want to share my perspective. Marty had struggled for many years with the pain that invoked his suicidal ideation — it was the same pain that formed and fueled his genius as a healer and an artist, and this past April, he decided to release himself from it. I lived with Marty for almost 9 years, and there were times that his pain was too much to bear for me; I can only imagine what it was for him. Yet, people came to him from far and wide with their physical and psychological burdens, and he transformed them with his touch and his words; others — many of them Feldenkrais practioners, students of ‘consciousness’, former clients and people who had simply heard tales of his abilities — came simply to hear him share his knowledge and wisdom. He carried on, sharing his gifts with others, in the face of his personal anguish, day after day, year after year, until his own pain was too much for him to take. From my privileged perspective, his path was nothing less than spiritually noble. Here was my eulogy for him:

    When I heard the news of Marty’s death, I grieved deeply the loss of this exceptional man, whom I had loved dearly, and who had been my life partner for 9 years.

    My heart broke sensing what I felt might have been his final moments of anguish and fear, and with the realization that my last moments with him were to be those gray and painful ones that I had spent preparing to leave our temple home for the last time.

    For the moment, I had forgotten the central point of his brilliant philosophy of life, and healing, and art.

    As most of you know, in addition to being an artist, Marty was a teacher and practitioner of a unique hands-on healing method, as well as a philosophy of conscious experience.

    His approach to healing the bodies, minds and spirits of others is perhaps best captured by a beautiful Galway Kinnell poem, which he kept framed in his treatment room. It is called “St. Francis and the Sow”:

    The bud
    stands for all things,
    even those things that don’t flower,
    for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
    though sometimes it is necessary
    to reteach a thing its loveliness,
    to put a hand on its brow
    of the flower
    and retell it in words and in touch
    it is lovely
    until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
    as St. Francis
    put his hand on the creased forehead
    of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
    blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
    began remembering all down her thick length,
    from the earthen snout all the way
    through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
    the tail,
    from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
    down through the great broken heart
    to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
    from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking
    and blowing beneath them:
    the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

    Marty saw everyone he touched as a beautiful and whole work of art – regardless of their medically-diagnosed conditions or personal sense of imperfection, and his lessons showed us new and more expansive ways of being, of experiencing our own wholeness.

    To hear the words he told us, about us and to be held in his healing hands was to be ‘reminded’ of our own perfect loveliness, to feel our own ‘self-blessing’, perhaps for the first time.

    But it was his private sense of irreversible imperfection and its attendant anguish that fueled his genius and every aspect of his life’s work.

    At the age of 6, Marty was diagnosed with a spinal tumor and admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital for a series of radiation treatments that would disintegrate his vertebrae in the region of the lesion, and require him to be in a full-body cast for six months, and on crutches for another year.

    His parents lived across the city from the hospital and didn’t have a car. They had four children, all told, with another small child at home to care for, and jobs to do . . . And so Marty was left alone, sometimes for days and nights at a time, in a dreary ward (which was characteristic of large municipal hospitals in the 1940s), with only rare visits from the professional-but-impersonal medical staff – left alone with his extreme physical pain, and his absolute immobility, and an excruciating sense of his own imperfection.

    This nightmarish experience was the seed of the bud that blossomed fully into Marty’s extraordinary healing talent, a talent that touched the lives of heads of state and industry, celebrities and star athletes, homeless persons and immigrant children with equal tenderness and love.

    The demons of his early experiences never left him; rather, they remained as his ever-present teachers, and his private struggle with them continued to fuel his powerful healing talents, his art, and his philosophy of life until he made the decision to end his own.

    Now, as I remember Marty and his core teachings, I see clearly the whole masterwork of impressionistic art that was his life.

    We can neither appreciate it, nor understand it by stepping in close and focusing on any one moment, dark or bright,

    and it is not in anyway diminished because the last dab of paint applied to the canvas appears to us gray rather than robins-egg blue.

    For us to see Marty’s last moment as a ‘senseless tragedy’,
    or his life as ‘imperfect’ or ‘distorted’ because of it, would be to miss the genius of his central teaching and the exquisite beauty and absolute perfection of the whole being that was, and is, Marty Weiner.

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