Tag Archives: Mia Segal

Feldenkrais Video: A Functional Integration Session in Three Parts (Mia Segal)

Oohhh I love seeing all these videos of Functional Integration sessions online. So important. This one is from Mia Segal and Andrew.* The video and audio is clear…as is the demonstration. Thanks to all of you who record and share these. Keep them coming!

Mia Segal Functional Integration Session with Andrew, Part 1

Parts 2 and 3:

Feldenkrais Demonstration with Andrew, Part #2

Feldenkrais Demonstration with Andrew, Part #3

*Disclaimer: The material contained in the video herein are intended for mature and maturing audiences only. Should be absorbed with an open mind. Do not receive Feldenkrais sessions while operating a motor vehicle or heavy equipment. May cause drowsiness or sleep-like symptoms.

More Feldenkrais videos available here: Feldenkrais Video

Amherst Trainer: “The Old Battles Are Dead Ends”

In the previous post, “Beware Feldenkrais Trainers Bearing Grudges,” I promised to share with you the voice of a few trainers who have more balanced and inclusive ideas about the community. Below is a verbatim email as it was forwarded to me, only edited to delete several names:

Thank you [names trainers] and others who see that the old battles are dead ends. Practitioners are flocking to Mia, Jochanan, and others who are not officially in the fold. There must be a reason. Perhaps some practitioners want to get a better feel for what the method is as transmitted by those closest to Moshe. Perhaps they want to enhance their awareness or learn new skills not avaiable otherwise.

The FM as a method has been twisted, distorted, over simplified, changed into movement work, a feel good work. a relaxation method, a new age business, etc.  And I am only considering what those in the fully accredited guilds have produced including at times what official trainers have created to make their work popular and saleable. There is no way to control what people will do by creating service marks and protected domains. In Europe [there is no] service Mark in Germany and the world hasn’t ended. There are problems but not insurmountable. As for the crossover, there are many crossover practitioners who have contributed their skills and abilities to the work. They have added to the community, not detracted. 

For myself I have learned much from Mia, Anat, etc. that I would not have learned otherwise. In many ways the FM is a difficult life long process to get to the gold that Moshe developed. Why do we continue to argue over politics when there is much work for us to do to perfect and expand what we have and figure out how to transmit what we have to new generations so they can do better than us. There are no limits except those we impose on ourselves and I applaud [name Of trainer] letter which points out how we can have creative cousins. I applaud innovation that takes us to new more powerful realms.” 

How about that? Is it a message of hope?

I will have a great deal to say about the message in a future post. For I now, I want to take note of the trainer’s statement that practitioners are flocking to Mia Segal, Anat Baniel and others. I don’t actually know if people are “flocking” to them as I have not seen any numbers. But I do know that Guild-certified trainings are getting smaller in the United States- on average – and this has been happening for many years. What about in the rest of the world? Perhaps you can add a comment if you have more information.

Moshe’s Natural Monopoly

My own view of those “outside the fold” is that they have created what Moshe himself had – A natural monopoly. They are not the exclusive owner of any service marks and don’t try to own or control all aspects of their work. Rather, they are they are “the artist” if you will, or “the band” doing their work. They have the natural monopoly that comes from doing their own work and being their own person. Yes, they attribute Moshe and they give credit. But they themselves have marketing gravity and attention. And it’s not because of their relationship to Moshe, but because they chose the path of independence.

The attention and success that they have is something that a “Guild Trainer” will find very difficult to get. You can be succesful and noted within the Guild system. That’s wonderful. But when a person’s calls himself or herself a “Feldenkrais Trainer” they are, by definition, comparing themselves to a dead person. The comparison may be implied and it may not be immediately obvious to all, but it is there. In my view, it is an instant communication of second-rate status no matter how amazingly skilled the person may be. And similarly, a person who spends their time getting approval from lawyers, bureaucrats, committee members and the like and limits what they say and do to be a member of a rule and conformity-based system…well…look around…you can see the result. I’m not say it’s all bad. Who knows, it may even be necessary. But every decision that you make has consequences.

That’s all I’m saying.

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.

Mia Segal: Further Conversations

Mia Segal and Leora Gaster Podcast

This podcast was recorded on April 15th, 2010 in Austin, Texas. It was the third recorded conversation that I had with Mia and Leora. (The second has not been broadcast).

This last conversation almost didn’t happen. Both Mia and Leora felt we had covered a lot of ground during our previous conversations and weren’t quite sure what else needed to be said. But in the back of my mind I felt like something was still missing. So Leora graciously extended another invitation to talk before I left.

The conversation that you are about to hear is only about 20 minutes. But we cover a great deal of ground. Mia shares stories about Moshe, how fun he was and how full of laughter and jokes. We talk briefly about Moshe’s x-wife Yona Rubenstein. We also speak of Noah Eshkol who, according to Mia, was very close to Moshe in terms of personality. We end with a story of Moshe’s fears about the work getting diluted based on what was happening at Amherst after he left.

Mia Segal, Part 2: Further Conversations

Feldenkrais Podcasts: A Conversation With Mia Segal

Picture of Mia Segal

Mia Segal

This conversation with Mia Segal and Leora Gaster was recorded on April 14th, 2010, in Austin, Texas at Leora’s home. Mia Segal began working with Moshe Feldenkrais in 1957 and she has a rich history and understanding of him and his work that few can match.

For me, this conversation has many “firsts” embedded within it. It was the first time that I had recorded a podcast live, the first time I had met Mia, and the first time I had been back to Austin, Texas after spending quite bit of time there in my youth. Likewise, there are many stories and anecdotes that I heard for the first time. Perhaps you as well?

Download Mia Segal Podcast

When Moshe Feldenkrais Received Alexander Sessions…

F. Mathias Alexander, Alexander Technique Creator

F. Mathias Alexander creator of The Alexander Technique

I’ve doing a bit of research for an interview that I will be conducting with Mia Segal one of Moshe Feldenkrais’ early collaborators in Israel.

I was looking for some information on Charles Neal, the Alexander Teacher that Mia Segal worked with before meeting Moshe. What I found was a rather interesting online article by Alexander Teacher, Walter Carrington. In the article, first published in The Alexander Review, vol. 1, no. 1, 1986, Carrington, describes giving some Alexander sessions to Moshe Feldenkrais at Alexander’s studios at 16 Ashley Place in England. The sessions occurred in 1949*

Carrington notes that:

At that point I did not know who he [Moshe Feldenkrais] was or indeed anything about him, except that he was suffering from a vocal problem: having temporarily lost his voice he was talking in a hoarse whisper. He had a very strong pull down the front of his neck and I subsequently attributed this to the performance of an exercise described in his book which consisted of lying flat on the floor and lifting the head off the ground a number of times in order to stretch the neck muscles. The purpose of this was said to be “to bring the head into such a position as to establish its normal relation to space and gravity”. In fact, it tends to generate such powerful pulls in front of the neck that loss of voice is almost an inevitable consequence.

Carrington’s causal reasoning is quite fascinating, isn’t? Spurious, perhaps – but fascinating.

Alexander Confronts Feldenkrais

However, what I find even more interesting is Carrington’s account of what happens when Alexander comes across Moshe’s recently published book, Body and Mature Behavior: A Study of Anxiety, Sex, Gravitation, and Learning and wants to determine if Moshe has stolen some of his ideas.

Carrington reports:

So, Alexander wanted to know what Feldenkrais’s motivation was and, in particular, why he had elected to come for lessons when he had already developed methods of his own. F.M. said that if Feldenkrais could not give him some satisfactory explanation he would not permit him to have any more lessons. Feldenkrais could not, and did not. It was the only occasion on which I ever saw Feldenkrais nonplused.

The rest of the article I will leave for you to explore. You may be interested in one or two details that do not match what is commonly heard in the Feldenkrais community. In particular, read the piece on Ben Gurion: Carrington on Feldenkrais

*To briefly put the year in historical context: In 1949 Moshe was living in England after leaving France 9 years earlier when France was occupied by Nazi Germany. In France, Moshe worked in the laboratory of Marie Curie and when in England he worked for the British military. In 1951, Moshe moved back to Israel.

Mia Segal, Feldenkrais Trainer, Teaching Intention, Differentation & Integration

Here’s a lovely 5-minute video snippet of Mia Segal teaching. There is more on a YouTube channel that she has set-up: Mia Segal Video. I heard from Mia’s office manager Danielle that she is planning a training in the U.S in Spring 2011. For now, enjoy the video.

Mia Segal Video:

Does the FGNA have free and fair elections?

Several weeks ago a friend told me that there was a discussion happening at the Guild over what to do about a group of Anat Baniel’s students who were petitioning to join the FGNA. Intrigued by what might be happening, I spent some time trying to track down someone who could tell me more.

I contacted several people via email. The first person* (see note at end of post) that I talked to told me that it was not Anat’s students who wanted to join the Guild but Mia Segal students. I then contacted someone who said that, no, it was not about Mia or Anat’s students joining the guild, but a discussion of what would happen if some of Mia’s “new” students did want to join.

Apparently, Mia Segal is planning a training in the U.S. and the FGNA Board of Directors instigated a discussion over what would happen if these new U.S. students wanted to join the guild. (I have been unable to confirm if she is indeed planning a U.S. practitioner training.) For those of you who do not know, Mia Segal was part of the original group of Israelis that Moshe Feldenkrais used to try and systematically train people with his ideas. For many years, Mia has been conducting her own trainings, independent of any of the Feldenkrais Guilds.

Who Does the American Guild Represent?

As I considered the various bits of information that I had gathered, I began to wonder a bit about the Feldenkrais Guild of North America. Who does it represent? From what I can discern, the conversations above were being conducted amongst the FGNA board of directors and a group of Feldenkrais trainers, many of whom live overseas. I found this to be odd.

Why were the trainers being consulted? What role do they have in formulating guild policy? I was under the impression that the FGNA is a member-financed organization. By all accounts, the guild derives 80% or more of its revenue from membership dues, yes? If you are a member, you have been paying $375 or more per year in membership dues. If this is the case, why are members not directly consulted in matters related to who can join the Guild? Why does the FGNA board of directors reach out first to the trainers? Are they the ones paying the bills or are you?

Who Elects the FGNA Board?

I began to wonder what mechanisms have been set-up at the Guild to represent members. You may believe that FGNA has a board of directors directly elected by its membership.

It doesn’t.

If you have been paying attention to InTouch and other Guild publications you may have noticed that each year, the board positions are never contested. That is, each “election year” you get a ballot that only has one name per slot. You can confirm the name, but you don’t have the option of choosing between two or more people. Why is that? Perhaps, you have heard the story that “not enough people want to serve”?

I’m not sure that’s accurate. I’m not aware of any outreach campaigns that the guild has done to encourage participation. Are you? When was the last time that anyone asked you to serve? Do you know how to be “elected” to the Board of Directors?

How to (Not) Serve on the FGNA Board.

Let me tell you my own story of trying to serve. In 2007, the President-Elect was Michael Purcell. After having a conversation with him about the board, board business and current make-up, he told me that to serve, I would need to contact the “nominating committee.” I called the chair of that committee (I believe it was the current chair, Nancy Schumaker, though I do not quite remember) and told her of my desire to run. After several days and apparently after consulting with the rest of the committee, she told me “no”. That is, she told me that I could not run for a position on the board.

Why? Two reasons. The person I would be running against was supposedly in the midst of some big fundraising or other outreach project. I have no idea what the project was. And secondly – this really blows my mind – I was told that my running for that position might be seen as a referendum on the person I would be running against. Meaning that if I ran, the current person serving might take it personally. Interesting, isn’t? We certainly wouldn’t want to take a chance that an election might hurt someone’s feelings!

Who is in Charge at FGNA?

My purpose in writing isn’t to criticize the nominating committee, the FGNA board of directors nor anyone else in the community. It would be pointless to do so. As a community, we have been down that road far too many times. It doesn’t help.

The current board, the nominating committee, and others in paid and volunteer positions do a great deal of hard work in often thankless positions. They want to help and they are trying to help. And let’s not forget that board work can be drudgery and that it takes up a great deal of time. Though the current board members and volunteers do have to take responsibility for any actions that they take, the current system predates any individual member. They didn’t design it. They didn’t create it.

The issues at hand concern the systems and process themselves and whether they support the “rank and file” practitioners who pay the bills. We are discussing whether YOU as an FGNA member have a direct say in Guild affairs and whether you have a meaningful vote. You may disagree with what I am about to write. It may offend you. Feel free to disagree. But let me state emphatically:

“You as an FGNA Member Do Not Have a Vote.”

You only have the option of voting for someone who has been pre-chosen for you. Is that a meaningful vote? No. Having only one option isn’t a choice. FGNA board members are pre-selected and chosen for you. You are given the “option” of either voting for the chosen candidate or not voting at all. It’s that simple.

You disagree? Fine. Give me an example. How is the FGNA accountable to you? I’m not talking about some vague emotional idea you have that its work (or THE work) is important. I’m talking about a direct pathway that you have to effect change at FGNA and to have your voice count. Where is it? What is it?

Again, I’m NOT talking about someone saying, “We hear you.” or whether you agree or disagree with certain polices. I’m asking you to look for and show me how – how specifically – you can affect policy and have your needs represented. What is the mechanism? Where is the policy? How does it work?

Elections? Tell me the last time you heard an FGNA board member telling you what he or she believed in and why you should vote for him or her. When was the last contested election? What does any current member of the FGNA board of directors stand for? What is his or her vision for the Guild? If you do not know, ask yourself why.


I will tell you my view. It’s not just that the current leadership has not been elected. But rather, the system is not designed for free and fair elections. The nominating committee was created to limit choice. It was created as a mechanism to make sure that no one “dangerous” can serve on the board. That is, anyone perceived as being too radical or not fitting the mold, can simply be told, “No, you can’t run for election.” For what other purpose would the committee be created?

Some may think it’s a good thing to limit choice. That’s fine. Perhaps they don’t trust practitioners to run their own ship. Perhaps there are voices in the community that they don’t want represented. Perhaps there are ideas that they don’t want considered. Voices that they don’t want heard. Perhaps they think the system is fine the way it is. I don’t really know.

But what I do know is that without an awareness of, and engagement with, the process itself, nothing can change. As Moshe said and demonstrated many times:

“…as you become aware of what you are actually doing, you can correct it. Before you become aware of the mistake, someone else can tell you a hundred times and it doesn’t help.” (From the Esalen workshop, session #13, head turning)

Are you aware of what you are actually doing in your interactions with the guild? Are you an active agent? Are you being heard? Can you effect change?

Only you can answer.

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Note: *Because the community is so small, protecting the identity of people who do not want to be named is very difficult. For this reason, I am not going to name gender, institutional affiliation and the like. I realize that this may limit the credibility of my writing and the facts written. But ce la vie. I can say that everyone that I spoke to for this blog post was in a position to know about the topics at hand.

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