Tag Archives: moshe feldenkrais

1950 “Review” of Body and Mature Behavior.

A moment ago, I stumbled across a reference for what I though was a review of Feldenkrais’ book “Body and Mature Behavior” from a 1950 psychology journal. Unfortunately, it was more of a fortune cookie note than a review. None the less, the unsigned review is notable for it’s outright dismissal of the book and apparent need to show no supporting details.***


From Journal of Consulting Psychology, Vol 14(3), Jun, 1950. pp. 235.

FELDENKRAIS, M. Body and mature behavior. New
York: International Universities Press, 1949. Pp.
viii + 167. $3.75.

“The perplexing subtitle of this small book, “A Study of Anxiety, Sex, Gravitation, and Learning, may seem like a cross-out-one-wrong-word test item until the author’s thesis is disclosed. Feldenkrais examines the implications of the erect human posture, and of various modes of carriage and movement, for the development of personality and for psychotherapy. The theory has its points of interest, but does not quite persuade.”

***That being said, I must say I am only now after 15 years of experience and study coming to appreciate the utility of the book and its ideas. I’m going to believe that makes me an early adopter. After all, it is widely reported that a cure for scurvy was found in 1601 by the British Captain James Lancaster. Though it was not until 1795 – nearly 200 years later – that the cure was mandated by the British Navy.

Moshe Feldenkrais: Viewing Moshe With A Fresh Pair of Eyes.

Thanks to a posting by Deborah Elizabeth Lotus on Facebook, I found a recent online article about Moshe Feldenkrais in Tablet Magazine. The article benefits greatly from being written and researched by someone new to the work. I will not add any commentary, but highly recommend the article: Moshe Feldenkrais History

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

Feldenkrais Video: Dr. Feldenkrais Working With A Child With Cerebral Palsy.

It’s only a twelve-minute clip, but it’s worth watching. Do so now before it gets taken down for copyright violation.

Also, there are MUCH better ways to share Dr. Feldenkrais videos than simply using YouTube. If you really want to get him more airtime and to promote the work, I suggest you sign-up for a TubeMogul account. TubeMogul will help you to share Feldenkrais videos on many, many video sharing websites at once. You can upload a video of Dr. Feldenkrais ONCE and send it to multiple sites instantly. TubeMogul will do the work for you….and it’s free. If enough people are willing to do this, it will be virtually impossible for any organization to stop the spread of the work.

And if you get banned for sharing copyrighted material? Don’t worry about it. Just create another account from another email address.

Oops! I nearly forgot. I found out about this video from Barret Dorko’s twitter feed at: http://twitter.com/#!/wrtrohio Barret is a very intelligent man with some great ideas and links to many online resources. He, of course, has nothing to do with the content of this post. If you are a practitioner or fan of Moshe Feldenkrais and his work, I suggest that you follow Barrett.

Follow-Up Video

My apologies. I just noticed another video, post session:


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.

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.

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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