Category Archives: Moshe Feldenkrais quotes

Feldenkrais and Einstein On Process Without Language

I was reading a passage from the book Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less and saw a quote by Albert Einstein about his creative process. It instantly reminded me of some similar thoughts by Moshe on his process of self-use as reported in Body Awareness as Healing Therapy: The Case of Nora
Both quotes are below.

Einstein: When Language Interferes


“The words of the language as they are written or spoken do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements of thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which . . . are in my case of visual and some of muscular type. [These elements take part in] a rather vague play… in which they can be voluntarily reproduced and combined… This combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought, before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of sign which can be communicated to others . . . In a stage where words intervene at all, they are, in my case, purely auditive, but they interfere only in a secondary stage.” Hare Brain, p. 56.

Fascinating. To Einstein, visual and muscular “entities” are the essential elements of thought before becoming connected with words.

Feldenkrais: I make a special effort not to think in words.

Moshe Feldenkrais Image

“When I am presented with a trouble in function, I make a special effort not to think in words. I try not to think logically and in correctly formed sentences. It has become a habit with me to imagine the relevant nervous structures by seeing them with my mind’s eye. I imagine a part which produces a flow of fluid. Part of the travel of the fluid is electrical, then becomes chemical, and again electrical. After many transformations the flow will end in a muscular contraction, and the muscular play will result in some apparent outside action involving the body, or parts of it, that will affect or transform the immediate environment. Sometimes I am stuck at a point where I cannot imagine the pattern of the flow, nor the possible obstacles in its way. Then I ask, is the obstacle a diffusion, damping, deviation, loss of impetus, break of continuity, or an impossibility of one of the transformations.

I have found this way of imagining so fruitful that I cannot do without it. It often shows me where my knowledge is insufficient so that I know exactly what I am after and therefore in which books I am likely to find the information. I form a working theory and change it in the light of new observations I must add to make the theory work. This mode of thinking is often successful in situations where specialists with greater knowledge than mine have failed. Nobody is omniscient enough to think mechanically.” Body Awareness, p. 16

The Smallest Things That Can Make A Big Difference #1

In the human being…the nervous system is so affected during the prolonged childhood by its personal experience of the environment that it grows into a being with personal characteristic reactions, biological as well as emotional, that are unique for each personal experience. Moshe Feldenkrais, Potent Self, 1992, p. 64

Unique for each personal experience.

I’m a firm believer that doorways into new behaviors and change are everywhere. Gentle and effective Feldenkrais behaviors – the beginning of change and awareness – such as rolling someone’s head at the beginning of a Functional Integration session or doing scans during Awareness Through Movement have comparable actions in many areas of life.

Whether thinking, feeling, acting or simply changing one’s diet to eat a healthier breakfast, small changes make a big difference. We can train ourselves to find them and use them in small easy steps.

Care to try? The exercise below is useful for you – Feldenkrais practitioner or not – Guild certified or not – if you are looking for that small spark that can help you invigorate your practice or other business and create a new, positive focus (or to reinforce a positive focus that you already have. It’s quite simple. Ask yourself two questions:

What is one thing – no matter how seemingly small or inconsequential – that is unique about you and your practice?

What do you offer – no matter how seemingly small or inconsequential – that no one else offers?

Write that question down on a post it note, or copy and past it on a document on your computer screen, or send it to yourself in and email. And ask yourself every day for the next few days, “What’s unique about me, my practice and my offerings?” If you don’t get an answer right away, don’t worry. Just ask the questions.

Your answers may not only surprise you, but they could also spark some wonderful changes. But don’t go there just yet.

“How each individual can be helped to find his uniqueness and become unique in his contribution to himself and his social environment is too often neglected.”– Moshe Feldenkrais, Elusive Obvious, 1981 p. 99

Unique in your contribution to yourself. Unique in your contribution to the world.

For now, just ask yourself the questions:

“What is one thing that is unique about me and my practice?”

“What do I offer that no one else offers?”

How can such simple questions orient you and help you to small changes? If you need a scientific answer, it has been said that the hippocampus and related brain areas – the ones associated with storing and remembering information – will have no choice but to answer…if you ask nicely and in gentle feldenkraisy way (you are gentle when you roll someone’s head? When you pick up an infant?) Will you deliberately and gently ask yourself those questions for a few days? And take note of your answers?

“What is one thing that is unique about me and my practice?”

“What do I offer that no one else offers?”

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Moshe’s Wish For the Guild

While doing some research for an unrelated topic, I ran across a few choice words in a FGNA publication called, “Learning By Doing: A History.” It was from a San Francisco training graduate regarding his memory of the creation of the guild. The publication quotes the “trainer” as saying:

“Interestingly, Moshe insisted on a rather unique point of view being represented in the organization: ‘No one.’ he said, ‘was to use the organization to put themselves above the others’.”

No one is to use the organization to put themselves above others, eh? I don’t think Moshe got his wish. What do you think?

It would have been interesting to hear what the “trainer” had to say about the statement and if he and the original guild architects had enacted Moshe’s wish. Unfortunately, the interviewer did not ask any follow-up questions. Which is itself an interesting communication. And the article was unsigned. Another interesting communication.

Feldenkrais on Functional Integration and Physical Therapy

An interesting lecture from Moshe Feldenkrais showing not only his thinking but also the times that he “slipped” and got away from his own work. Bolded font was added to several sentences by me.

San Francisco Training, August 15, 1977.

“I watched what you are doing now, and I wondered what is the difference between what you are doing now and physical therapy. Why do we have to call it Fl [Functional Integration]? Why not call it physical therapy? When I look at you, I can see that in most of your attitudes … and some of the people believe that it is …. These people reduce what they learn to physical therapy.

Why do I say reduce? What is the difference?

Now you know because I have said it a million times. I am attempting to put in another way again because I can see in spite of all my other explanations that some of you do not understand. I have tried to explain before why it is not a separate thing, and not a polarity treatment, a shiatsu, katsu, matsu treatment. What is the difference? The fact is that for many of you there isn’t a bloody difference. That is what annoys me. That is what I want to talk about.

Many of you reduce Fl to just ordinary physical therapy, which I believe is a very primitive sort of thing. It is not that it isn’t a useful sort of thing. However, physical therapy is only the first very primitive approach to ailment and improvement of function.

Anyone, who stayed with me one day, finds that they get clients whom doctors wanted to cut off elbows or whom physical therapists forced joints. We have lots of darnned things like that. We have a woman who have been seven months under traction and has had morphine injections. She had a back which no one tells can be nicer than that…, that can be put in the grave … How would she be … and she is after only a few Fl lesson … There is now more improvement than all seven months of traction.

How come I feel peeved that many of you reduce the teaching to physical therapy? What is the difference?

You can not maintain the difference unless you clearly know the difference. You touch someone, and muck about the body, and massage his muscles, twiddle his ass, and make his circulation better, and do a little bit of meditation, and give him a little bit of autosuggestion, and improve his breathing a little bit. What is the difference? Many of you do that are so unclear about Fl that you will do it with a little bit of Tai Chi, a little bit of Biofeedback, a little bit of psychology. Those people think it is all the same thing. What is the difference. For me, the difference is so great that, after three years of repetitions, I can not understand how intelligent people can not perceive the difference.

Maybe, I am cruel and final like that. Many of you perceive the difference for a few seconds, and then slip from it, as if it is too hard to maintain. Many of you slip away from it. Is there anyone here who can give me a good definition of the difference between Fl and physical therapy? I am not asking Mia, Gaby, or Yochanan. By the way, they may fail the test, also because I, myself, have been slipping between the two for years. This is why I haven’t written any books directly upon the subject. As of yet, there isn’t any book written directly about FI.

For the first few years, I would do something with someone, and it would work marvelously like a miracle. It was like almost every treatment I do now. There is a sense that it worked beautifully. Then, I would do the same thing to the same person the next day. It just did not work. Slowly, one day, it dawned on me, that I did not distinguish between physical therapy and Fl. Somehow, I slipped as if it was a pinnacle which I could not maintain. I could not maintain myself there, without a strictness of a clear pure idea. Every time I was a little tired or I had something where my ambition was in the way … where I was in a situation where I thought I would cure this in no time…. At those times, I would resort to physical therapy, and it would work. What is the difference?

Do you have a clear difference of the two? For you, it must be more difficult than for anyone else. You do body work before, while , and after. I will give you the time to think clearly.

I want to say one thing. You will not improve the status of FI if you say that Rolfing isn’t any good. You don’t need to say that this one is not good, or it is mechanical, or it is idiotic. That type of statement will not give any difference. The other day, you saw a little boy who could not speak. You saw how I set about working with him. How was it that a little boy of seven years who has speech difficulty … his father and mother bring him here. What was it I discovered in that half hour which anyone else would need a week or a month to discover? Plus, that person would need a physiologist, and a speech therapist. Each one must write a report with another person, putting it in the computer in order to make sense Out of it. Yet, the treatment was in a half hour. What was the difference?

Yes, all right. However, why is it called Functional Integration and not physical therapy?

[answer from student not picked up by the microphone]

Oh, don’t physical therapists deal with the function of the body when someone comes with the an aching arm or a leg operation? Doesn’t the person do something which has … whether he says it or not … the physical therapist deals with the different levels of the muscles, the bone, and the person. So, don’t hurry. We have all ready.

See, I am not examining you. I am trying to get clarity. I am trying to show you that you are doing something which is not physical therapy or Rolfing, or biofeedback, etc. You are doing something which contains all these things. Therefore, whatever you say which degrades the others, also degrades your own FI.”

The San Francisco Training transcript can be purchased through the International Feldenkrais Federation. Though they do have restrictive rules on who can do so.

Beware Trainers Bearing Grudges

“Sed quis Custodiet ipsos Custodes?” – Juvenal

Update: This blog post was first published in 2010. Since then, there have been some disturbing allegations of bullying, sexual harassment, and rape against some of the trainers mentioned in this post. And there seems to be a policy in the Feldenkrais Guild community to not speak publically about the allegations as evidenced by several published FeldyForum posts by Roger Russel and several Feldenkrais Guild Representatives.

A small investigation of something Moshe Feldenkrais attempted to teach….and what a few of his students actually learned.


Moshe Feldenkrais Lecture and Demonstration

Thursday, June, 23 1977, From the San Francisco Training Transcripts.

Moshe speaking during a Functional Integration demonstration:

“I used to take it differently. This is Yochanan’s way. [Feldenkrais demonstrates] Yochanan was watching me and finally, he brought to my attention that I was doing this. I thought it was so simple to take that. I never thought I’d do something like this …[Demonstrates] Then I just do that …[Demonstrates] Yochanan showed me that it means doing that … so it is a movement. There are many things like that which I learned from Mia [Segal], Gaby [Yaron] or Yochanan [Rywerant]”

Above Moshe is speaking about one of his earliest students, Yochanan Rywerant (recently passed away), who worked closely with him in Israel for many years. Feldenkrais was showing how Yochanan taught him something valuable. It’s a lovely demonstration of the kind of man and teacher Moshe was. He was not just demonstrating about the Method, but about his own ability to be a man of learning and to learn from his own students. He was open enough, wise enough, and yes – humble enough to learn from his own students. And he doesn’t just talk about the idea – he demonstrated it for all to see.

Moshe speaking to his students again:

“I want you to feel halfway between what you feel now and Mia, Ruthy [Alon], or Gaby. It is not that you do better than them. You should feel that in a year or two you will be capable of doing something similar. They will always have their twenty years experience. They have twenty years of watching me work all the time. People who [come] watch in Tel Aviv a month or two can see some of the things that are worth learning.”

Pretty wonderful, isn’t it? He is orienting his new students in San Francisco towards the eventual achievement of their own competence and ability to learn. It seems to me that he is also giving them an indication that there is much that they can learn from his original students with whom he worked for so many years in Israel.

If you know a little bit of the history that arose from Moshe’s American trainings, you may be aware that some of his San Francisco students were instrumental in creating what is now known as the “FGNA” or The Feldenkrais Guild of North America. Many have now taken to calling themselves “trainers” and they hold trainings that give people the right to use Service Marks such as “Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner” etc. That’s all well and good, but the question I want to ask is,

What did the San Francisco students learn? Do they comport themselves in a manner similar to Moshe? Did they in fact, learn to interact with, learn from, and value his original students from Israel and their own students?”

While you can rarely make valid generalizations about an entire category of people, there are a few comments from the San Francisco students that might shed light on what a few of them believe.

Trainer Emails

The quotes below are from emails that were forwarded to me earlier this year. They are from an email conversation in which a request was made to the Feldenkrais NATAB (North American Training and Accreditation Board) to discuss students in non-guild trainings getting educational credit for attending those trainings so that they could then finish and become “Guild Certified.” Several of Moshe’s original students, including Mia Segal and Yochanan Rywerant whom he mentioned above, have run their own Feldenkrais trainings outside the auspices of the Guilds (i.e. “non-certified”) and have been doing so for nearly 40 years.

I don’t know the names of everyone who was involved in the email conversation, parts of which I am posting below. I saw responses from half a dozen or so from the San Francisco Feldenkrais training, and a couple from the Amherst training. Presumably, some NATAB committee members and some FGNA directors were involved as well, though I do not have their responses. And though I received a great many emails, I did not get them all.

Here are a few excerpts. All of what is written below is from “trainers”:

I cannot begin to express what a slap in the face it would be if the Guild now decides that Baniel and/or MBS [MBS is the Mind Body Studies Institute, Mia Segal and Leora Gaster’s organization], will be given permission be – for every intent and purpose – to offer the first 90 days of legitimate training with none of the constraints we have agreed to, none of the loyalty to the community we have demonstrated and having paid none of the fees we have paid and continue to pay. A “cross over agreement” for students from these or any other organization would mean nothing more and nothing less than permission and encouragement to take the 90 days of class with an unaccredited program and then to join an accredited one for 70 more days with that plan bringing the same graduation as if the student had been in an accredited training all along! Once again, those people who have supported the Guild and have followed common agreements will have been taken for fools.”

I don’t know what the person means by “loyalty to the community.” But it seems to me that loyalty would involve a discussion about what would be healthy for the growth and needs of the various Feldenkrais organizations and members. But if the person views change as a personal “slap in the face” there’s really not much room for a discussion, is there? I guess his personal needs are more important to him. He is not in favor of inclusion.

Later in the same email:

When she [Mia Segal] and Yochanon started their programs I had already left my positions with the Guild and the Feldenkrais Foundation. However, I told Guild board members then that they should sue both Yochanon and Mia for improper use of the terms.  Instead a cross over policy was initiated.  If Moshe wanted either and or both Mia and Yochanon to be the only  trainers he had the opportunity to do so.

Sue Moshe’s most experienced and capable students? For what purpose? Who would that benefit? I believe Moshe wanted his students from San Francisco to learn from two of his most experienced students and colleagues. In fact, regardless of what Moshe wanted, one would have to be an idiot not to do so. Would you not want to learn from the most skilled practitioners you could find?

But the person above did not get the message. He wanted to sue them. Perhaps he still does. Why? What is it about Mia and Yochanon that gets this person so angry? After all these decades is he jealous of their personal relationship with Moshe Feldenkrais? Is he upset that they chose to independently teach their own training programs? What is it?

The idea of “suing them for improper use of the terms” seems like a smokescreen. Improper according to whom? According to guild lawyers? Could you imagine Moshe suing Mia or Yochanon because of how they used the service marks?

Why this is important

These are important to questions to ask for a variety of reasons. As you may know the FGNA went through a lawsuit 10 years ago. It spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend itself, nearly going bankrupt in the processs and then mysteriously settled out of court, giving the plaintiffs nearly everything they wanted.

Now, I’m starting to wonder if the guild is getting ready to start a lawsuit of its own. It recently convened a “portability committee” whose report is so convoluted and technical that it sounds like something written by one of Richard Nixon’s lawyers. (You can read the report online, you’ll need to scroll down the page a bit: Feldenkrais Portability Committee.)

I’d like to give you a full analysis of it, but I don’t want to step into the frame of reference that it represents. To me, the committee member’s report seems like typical political double speak and dissembling. They simply don’t have the guts to say, “We are worried about non-FGNA sponsored trainings happening in the U.S. and want to create a legal framework that will make it easier for us to sue.” [And bankrupt FGNA for yet another 10 year period?]

Here’s another response from a trainer residing in Europe:

It seems to be unofficial policy that most people should follow the training policies, but some people seem to be exempt from those policies, and the people who are exempt are those who express the least respect for those policies. Most of the accredited trainers in North America have made agreements to abide by the policies of the TAB and have done so as far as I can tell from my observer post in [names country]. While they are doing so, they are confronted with others who are publically ignoring those same policies. Now the question is if the students of the people who have basically thumbed their noses at the training policies, should be able to join the guild. If they are accepted, most likely on their own terms, or the terms are dictated by their teachers, then what is the training policy worth to those who have been abiding by it for many years?

That to me is one of the most fascinating responses. It is essentially saying that those who are not part of the Guild system are “thumbing their noses” and ignoring its policy. I simply do not understand the concept. If they have their own trainings and training policies what would be the purpose of following Guild policy? And remember the history. The people about whom he is speaking – Moshe’s original Isreali students – each had over 20 years of experience working with him and also developing their own work – before the Guild was created. Why in the hell would they now or – decades ago – have taken orders and directions from Moshe’s newest students?

His final comment “what is the training policy worth to those who have been abiding by it for many years” is also interesting. Is he asking what the policy is worth to himself and the other trainers who created the policy? Is he asking how it would affect his own trainings? It’s unclear to me. But again, it would be great to have a conversation about what inclusion would do for the entire system, including the guilds, practitioners and students.

For the record, the first two years of trainings after Moshe’s trainings were essentially carbon copies of the Amherst training. I mean that literally. The first two years of the original trainings consisted of playing the videotapes from Amherst. Can you imagine? That was the skill level of the original group of self-named trainers. I don’t mean that as in insult, we all have to start somewhere. But the first few trainings after Moshe’s involved a huge amount of taped calls. With the newly minted “trainers” adding their own commentary where they could.

If you were someone like Mia Segal, already training “live” and in-person, not only with Moshe’s blessing and help but also with well over 20 years of teaching experience, would you have agreed to teach by VCR? Would you have agreed to let new students from San Francisco – that you had helped train – dictate to you how to proceed and how to train? I think that was the original “sin” of Mia Segal and Yochanon Rywerant and many of the other Israelis. They were mature, independent adults who kept teaching according to their own desires and needs. They didn’t give in to the pressure and machinations of Moshe’s American students.

As to the current crop of American trainers who I have been quoting? (It’s interesting that the angry, self-righteous ones often seem to be males and Americans. Excluding me, of course. I’m full of love and peaches and cream.) Their fear and insecurity is still plain to see after all these years. Here’s a few more choice quotes:

…this question is being asked to accommodate people who have been spitting in our faces for years and the best we can do is to be obsequious towards them. Its incredible. Where are your spines? They take away our students for two years and then their students want to come to our Guild to be called Feldenkrais practitioners.  People organize advanced and mentorship programs for them, is it any wonder that practitioner referrals for prospective students are for their ‘trainings’?  We actually elevate them to some sort of super status.  This situation is absolutely absurd.” 

Wow. Talk about fear and loathing. Who is spitting on whose face? “They take away OUR student’s?” Our students, really?! Someone seems to have entitlement issues. And notice the bit about other practitioners organizing advanced workshops “for THEM.” What’s wrong? Are his feelings hurt because people don’t want to organize advanced workshop with him? Poor fella. Sounds like a clear case of professional jealousy.

Here’s a quote from someone else:

I hold no grudges towards Mia, Yochanon or Anat for starting their own versions of the “true” Feldenkrais Method according to them.  More power to them.  However it is chickenshit of them and their students to slam us and then expect to be welcomed into the fold.  I was never a fan of the crossover plan even if I benefitted from it.  Either they believe in what they are doing and accept the consequences or they are fudging it and hypocritically somehow claiming the high road.  If we want to allow for crossover on what basis is it acceptable other than monetary?

hmmm. Have you ever heard of incongruent communication? “I hold no grudges against you, but you’re a chickenshit.” Gee, thanks.

I’m not personally aware of Mia, Yochonan, nor Anat “slamming” the guild. Perhaps they have. But ultimately, why would they? They have been too busy doing their own work and developing the method. That’s the funny thing about organic development. When you are deeply involved in tasks that you find pleasurable and are evolving yourself you don’t have too much time to look askance at what others are doing. On the other hand, when you rely on legal distinctions and social control while simultaneously look backwards to what your dead hero was doing 30 years ago…you have plenty of room to slam others. The FGNA trainers that I have quoted are doing just that – and they seem to be the ones doing the slamming.

As far as Mia Segal or Yochanon Rywerant starting their “own versions” of the Feldenkrais Method? For the love of god, what a load of nonsense. Words simply do not suffice. It’s an idea that is delusional and flies in the face of the facts, common sense, and simple human decency. It would be more accurate to say, that Yochanon and Mia kept teaching and doing the work in the way that Moshe taught them and that they learned. Neither did Anat start her “own version” of the work. She simply decided it was not in her best interest to abide by rules set by others. She created her own marks and her own brand.

Ultimately what Mia, Yochanon and Anat refused to do is bow down. They did not become slaves to the service marks, nor to the Guild, nor to lawyers, nor to what Moshe was doing 25 years ago, nor to a VCR, nor some delusional American licensing scheme which attempted to label and bottle up Moshe’s work like some type of McDonald’s hamburger franchise.

And the American trainers that I am quoting? They did a power grab. With Moshe’s service marks in-hand, and the videos of the Amherst trainings, and some legal and ethical shenanigans, they created an organization that they have done a pretty good job of controlling…and choking the life out of. Organic learning and development by way of committee and the approval of lawyers? How in the hell is that supposed to work?

What’s not in the emails?

There are dozens of other choice quotes that I could share with you. But I will stop for now. It’s too depressing. Perhaps it would be better to talk about what is not in the emails. There is virtually no mention of what would be good for the Guild. There is no mention about what would be good for practitioners. There is no mention of how to provoke development and growth of the work. No. What we have here, is the same thing that we have had for 25 years. A small group of narrow-minded and selfish people fighting to preserve the institutionalization of their own prejudices and arrogance. They are kicking and screaming like children as they have been for years. In their minds, they own the work and they are in a fight to control it.

If you are in the FGNA hold onto your wallet. Because with angry men like that in the background, and I’m sorry to say, a toothless, cowed Board of Directors – who knows what will happen next. Personally, I have kept my guild dues in my wallet until such a time as it becomes a practitioner-oriented organization that lives to promote the Method and its ideas.

The Punchline

Ok, ready for the punchline? It’s pretty unbelievable. The conversation from which I am quoting above is not really about non-guild students wanting to join the Guild. There are no students who are doing so! According to an FGNA committee member who I spoke to in an unrelated email conversation, there are no Anat Baniel Method practitioners who are involved in the “cross over policy.” None of them are involved in becoming Guild-Certified. And I don’t believe any on Mia’s practitioners are doing so either. So what’s all the fuss about? Why are the trainers getting so upset about something that’s not happening?

Good question. Sounds to me like we are dealing with people who have some dependency issues. They are fighting battles from the long dead past – afraid of the shadows of past conflicts that they have not resolved. Whatever it may be, you may want to ask yourself:

Do these people have a vision? Do they speak for you? Do you want them setting policy for the Guild and Trainings? Are these people who are going to lead us into a new era and bring the work in its many guises and moral implications deeper into the world?

I don’t think so. But perhaps you think otherwise.

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Question: Were all the emails angry and negative?

No. There were some comments from other trainers that had a more “positive” slant. I will write them up in another post. Though as usual, the “reasonable” trainers never quite have the courage to challenge the system. I suppose it’s difficult to give up on a scheme that gives you a monopoly on service marked terms and the right to sell them. Some trainers are willing to criticize and provoke. But to date, only a few have developed the maturity and independence to do more than that.

Feldenkrais on Gurdjieff on Waking Sleep

Image of Gurdjieff


Thanks to a comment by Deborah Elizabeth Lotus on my post yesterday, Feldenkrais on Waking Sleep Walking, I was provoked to see if I could find references of Moshe speaking to similar ideas from Gurdjieff. Though I do not yet have the full corpus of Moshe’s work digitized and on my computer, I was able to find one reference from the San Francisco training.

The first paragraph will be familiar to you if you have either done or taught the work. It’s a common phenomenon. You hear a particular direction and think you following it but are not:

Somebody put his foot on the floor there, it’s not the same movement [that Moshe asked for]. Would you please look at that gentleman there. He has his knee bent, he doesn’t realize that foot stops participating in the movement of the hand. And I’m talking to him, you can hear — don’t bend your knee. Aha! Now, can you see what you need in order to wake somebody up when he’s consciously asleep.

That’s what Gurdjieff used to teach. You say they are in a waking state, but they are asleep, and that’s what it means. It’s not only that you tell it — you say five times, and until everybody stops and you make it clear to him, it’s only then that he realizes that his leg was acting by itself. He had no say in it. And that’s — what do you call it in psychology — alienation, schizophrenia? A person is not whole in himself. He’s divided in bits and one bit doesn’t know the other. Give it a name, and then you will never get rid of it! All right.
(Moshe Feldenkrais, June 16, 1975; Monday Afternoon, Tape 1A).

I know little of Gurdjieff’s ideas on the subject and I was not able to find a direct quote from him. From what I can tell he prefered to write about his ideas metaphorically or within the body of story (?). I don’t know enough about him to say, that’s just my first impression. But I was able to find one quote from his student P. D. Ouspensky:

…we are really asleep. We only imagine that we are awake. So when we try to remember ourselves it means only one thing—we try to awake. And we do awake for a second but then we fall asleep again. This is our state of being, so actually we are asleep. We can awake only if we correct many things in the machine and if we work very persistently on this idea of awaking…” (The Fourth Way, Peter Ouspensky Page number unknown.

I have no commentary for now. Just though I’d put the ideas out there.

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Feldenkrais on “Waking Sleep Walking”

We Sleep In Accordance With Our Self-Image

We Sleep In Accordance With Our Self-Image

In the Awareness Through Movement
book, which Moshe Feldenkrais wrote to demonstrate his ideas to the public, he distinguished among three states of human functioning: waking, sleeping and awareness:

Two states of existence are commonly distinguished: waking and sleeping. We shall define a third state: awareness. In this state the individual knows exactly what he is doing while awake, just as we sometimes know when awake what we dreamed while asleep. For instance, at forty a man may become aware that one of his legs is shorter than the other, only after having suffered backaches, having had X rays taken and the trouble diagnosed by a doctor. This is possible because the waking state in general more resembles sleep than awareness.

On the surface, those ideas could seem relatively banal. People are comfortable using and describing all three terms and most have an understanding of the experiences behind the terms. But Moshe was asserting something deeper; that a person can be awake but not aware. A state which he explains below as being closer to sleep:

I have heard it said that the waking state of most people is sleep while they walk — they still sleep; they are not aware; their awareness is not woken up. They can make some mental, intellectual efforts but their bodies are still asleep while they walk and therefore their thinking has the same quality as dreaming because in dreaming there is no connection between space and time; they are not directed by gravity or events ‘need not take place in sequence; there is just a notion of time separated from gravity. Events that happened first can come second; time does not have a direction.”

So it is that in the waking state that if the awareness is not really developed and evoked in someone, you will find that they act very similarly as in dreaming, and hence the very great importance of waking up to, that, and to making the scope of thinking wider and better and more differentiated.” (From the Esalen Workshop, Session #15, Foot/Hip Discrimination)

I have often wondered what ideas like that might mean to an average person on the street. Would they seem like so much nonsense? And if you are awake and yet asleep on some level, how would you know? How could you respond to the ideas? How could you understand them? I once had someone get quite agitated with me and state that, “I cannot recall even one time that I have done something for reasons that I was not aware!!!

Hmm. Think about that one for a moment.

I suppose, we would also have to touch upon the idea of who the “you” may be who is awake, as we are constantly understanding and processing and acting in the world through both conscious and non-conscious channels. Since Moshe’s time there has been an ungodly amount of research into the idea that conscious behavior can be “primed” or evoked through nonconscious channels. In fact, in the book Social Psychology and the Unconscious: The Automaticity of Higher Mental Processes
the Social Psychologist John Bargh, has gone so far as to say that no behavior has a conscious origin. He can be quite convincing. Even so, I think that the “conscious behavior” the social psychologists study is not necessarily “awake behavior” in the way that Moshe described it.

But again, how do you even have the conversation without sounding nuts? How could the ideas be understood, studied and operationalized? I will leave that for now.

On a more practical and personal level, enacting the states of being aware while being awake can be important. Though it’s an ever evolving process, I’ve certainly found it to be non-trivial in my own life. How about you? How do you not only experience it, but share it?

A (Not So New, But Interesting) Moshe Feldenkrais Biography

Moshe Feldenkrais Picture

Picture of Moshe Feldenkrais With The Halo Digitally Removed

While doing some research for a future slanderous and inappropriate attack on the FGNA and related organizations, thereby proving that I am a selfish, self-centered, dangerous and arrogant jerk who only cares about money and fame and should be avoided at all costs, I came across the article below about Moshe Feldenkrais from I thought you might like it. It has some details that you rarely see such as this quote by Michele Silice-Feldenkrais on Moshe’s soccer injury:

The situation was critical and they wanted to amputate his leg, but he absolutely refused. It took a very long time for the knee to heal. In the meantime, he read books that he’d brought from the Ukraine, especially math and physics books.

Luckily, Moshe did not spend his time reading the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, or we would be living in a very different world today.

Enjoy: Moshe Feldenkrais Biography Here is the article as pdf if you would like to download a copy: Feldenkrais Haaretz

Update: I just found a letter to the editor regarding the article above. It was written by Eli Wadler, one of Moshe’s original students in Israel. It reads, in part:

“The world accepts Moshe as a poet, a philosopher, and a person brave enough to make statements that are against what is known and widely accepted, in all areas related to the behavior of mankind as individuals and as a society. Nobody would have celebrated with so much love and respect the birthday of this man only because of his so-called “piquant” qualities, which have been given too much weight in the article.” You can read the rest here: (Scroll down a bit to the black headline that reads: “More than one way.”

Feldenkrais, Sex and Self-Development

Kama Sutra Illustration
Image via Wikipedia


Last night I was doing a session from the 1977 1972 Esalen workhop. The Esalen workshop was one of the first public workshops taught by Moshe Feldenkrais in the United States. I was doing lesson #13, called: Head Turning (Cervical). In the middle of the session, the transcript reports Moshe saying;

“Some misuse the penis by using it for something that shouldn’t be done with it, and some misuse their tongue for doing something it’s not meant to do…”

Whoa. Interesting! My first thought was that I was mistaken about the lesson. Perhaps it was really called, “Head Turning and Penis Use.” Or maybe, “Differentiating the Penis by Turning the Spine.”

But no.

Moshe liked to whack people on the head from time-to-time to make sure he had their attention (No comment on the pun). And he usually had multiple reasons and meanings for doing so. But in this case, Moshe did not explain what this “misuse” of the penis or tongue might be. But he did give examples of bodily “misuse” in general.

To his mind, misuse meant doing an act without an awareness of what one enacts and how. Without that awareness, one’s choice is limited and its difficult to choose something else – or to do something in a new and creative way. I am willing to say that the entirety of Moshe’s work comes from that idea: Learning to discover if you are doing what you think you are doing, so you have the option of changing what you do.

To use Moshe’s words from the same session:

We don’t all use the same muscles for the same purpose…I don’t mind…whatever you do..but I want you to know what you do. I want you to know when you are rolling head, and when you are just oscillating the axis around which you roll it as a substitution for rolling.

In the context of that particular session, Moshe was demonstrating multiple ways that a person could turn his or her head and cervical spine. It was an attempt to show that there were more possibilities than his students were using. He wanted them to know what they were doing, so they could have a chance of adopting another movement pattern. It’s a common strategy, used over and over again in Feldenkrais’s work.

Feldenkrais, Sex and Self-Development

But what’s up with the penis talk? What does choice and awareness in movement have to do with sex? A great deal. In the preface to The Potent Self: A Study of Spontaneity and Compulsion Feldenkrais mentions that:

“… it is impossible to correct and reform adequately the general use of oneself without recovering sexual spontaneity.” He also mentions that one of his goals is for students to increase their sexual potency.

I can imagine someone taking exception to that. How does improving movement lead to great sexual potency? And what business is it of Moshe Feldenkrais?

To a large extent, is was none of his business. Nor should it be the direct concern of anyone teaching Moshe’s ideas. However, it is an illuminating insight into the nature of self-development. It expresses a crucial idea on how we grow as human beings and creative individuals. To use Moshe’s words:

Although I as a teacher set out to increase the student’s mature sexual potency, it is not for the sake of lust or pleasurable indulgence as found in the immature person. Sexual maturity arrives at the end of the development period, and is the most vulnerable function because of that. All the consequences of improper and inexpedient habits formed through personal experience in the preceding growth period bear on it and mark this function more than any other function that matures earlier. Any arrest in development that may occur during this susceptible period of childhood and adolescence will of necessity affect the function that has yet to mature. Similarly, it is impossible to correct and reform adequately the general use of oneself without recovering sexual spontaneity.

To Moshe, evolving one’s self, becoming more creative, empowered and alive could not but help increase one’s sexual spontaneity and power.

“But isn’t that a no-brainer? Doesn’t everyone know this?”

Not only “no” but “hell no.” For the majority of people in the industrialized world, evolving one’s self means to make more money and achieve more status. To do this, people ignore their bodily needs. They ignore that inner voice and those feelings that tell them that the “success” they have is not quite what they need or want.

To quote the dead guy again, from the preface of Awareness Through Movement:

The need for constant support by one’s fellows is so great that most people spend the larger part of their lives fortifying their masks [RN: Their false self]. Repeated success is essential to encourage the individual to persist in this masquerade..The actions and the drive that produces them—necessary in order to maintain a mask free of flaws and cracks lest he be revealed behind it—do not derive from any basic organic needs. As a result, the satisfaction derived from these actions even when they are successful is not a revitalizing organic satisfaction, but merely a superficial, external one.

Very slowly, over the years, a man comes to convince himself that society’s recognition of his success should and does give him organic contentment. Often enough the individual becomes so adjusted to his mask, his identification with it so complete, that he no longer senses any organic drive or satisfactions. This can result in the revelation of flaws and disturbances in family and sex relations that may always have been present but that have been glossed over by the individual’s success in society.”

At which point they go to a Doctor to ask her for a prescription of Viagra. Or maybe Prozac. Or maybe a lobotomy. They are all equivalent. As H.L. Mencken once wrote:

“For every complex problem there is an simple answer that is clear, direct, and wrong.”

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