Feldenkrais®: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do….Or Not

Before I discovered Feldenkrais, I often found myself in situations that weren’t working out for me, or doing things I didn’t want to do, just out of habit. Even if I wanted to change, I couldn’t figure out how. The most glaring example was with my best and dearest friend. We met in ballet class 25 years earlier and established an unlikely friendship. She was quiet, reserved, shy, and highly intelligent. I was loquacious, demonstrative, outgoing, and just smart enough to get by. For some reason we got along famously.

However, over the years what had begun as a wonderful friendship based on mutual support, respect, and caring somehow turned into one that was demanding, controlling, and manipulative. Our social interactions left me feeling drained, depleted, and even angry. Her arrogant condescension set my teeth on edge. When I tried to limit our “girl time” she became hostile and belligerent. I couldn’t even imagine how she would react if I tried to break up with her. I was stuck in a rut and I couldn’t get out.

But once I started my Feldenkrais training, all of that began to change. I realized that our friendship had gone to the dark side, and I noticed how it was affecting my health and well-being. I also recognized that I was carrying a lot of baggage, and most of it wasn’t even mine. No wonder why I had back pain, neck pain, and incapacitating headaches. It was time for me to lighten my load.

In true Feldenkrais-fashion, I slowly tried to interrupt our habitual patterns and re-establish new patterns in our relationship. After all, we had been friends a long time, and I wanted to salvage our friendship if at all possible. Besides, we had shared our deepest secrets, so we both knew where all the bodies were buried, so to speak. Sadly, it didn’t work out that way.

She told me she didn’t like the way I was acting and didn’t understand what was wrong with me. But I wasn’t acting, and there was nothing wrong with me. As a matter of fact, I felt better than I had in years. My back pain miraculously disappeared and my headaches went away. Although I still greeted her warmly and graciously when I saw her in ballet class, she completely ignored me. Huh, I guess she reacted better than I had expected.

Feldenkrais makes everything easy and effortless. It helps you hurt less, feel better, and move through life with strength, grace and confidence. It helps you identify and eliminate excess baggage. It teaches you how to be true to yourself. Feldenkrais even helps you discover that breaking up really isn’t so hard to do, especially if it’s been coming for a long time. You just have to try it to believe it!

 

Feldenkrais® and Finding Friends….

One of the greatest rewards of being a Feldenkrais practitioner are the wonderful students you meet along the way. Occasionally, a student becomes a friend and ends up being the teacher. You never know when, or how, it will happen.

A few years ago I worked with a psychotherapist who specialized in Equine Therapy. He loved Feldenkrais (of course), and asked me to teach a workshop to a group of therapists at his ranch. It presented a fabulous opportunity for me as well as for the entire Feldenkrais community. You see, as a practitioner, I feel it is my duty to get out reach out to a variety of different populations and spread the word of ‘Krais,” so to speak.

The workshop was a huge success, and when it was over I began packing up my materials so I could leave. Suddenly my friend announced, “Now we are going to take it to the horses!” I was speechless. When I found my voice I said, “No, no….no! No horses.” I have nothing against horses. As a matter of fact, I love horses. I love the way they look, feel, and even smell. I just don’t have much experience with them, and teaching Awareness Through Movement to a group of them was far beyond my comfort zone.

It was too late. The therapist never even heard my protests, or perhaps he just pretended not to, which is probably more likely. He was already heading to the corral and I had no choice but to follow, especially since he hadn’t paid me yet. Maybe that was part of his strategy.

He reviewed a list of safety practices as I hurried to catch up to him. “Don’t touch the fence; it’s live and you’ll get an electric shock that will knock you on your ass. Don’t walk behind the horses; you’ll get kicked. Most of them are friendly, but watch out for the little one; she bites. And don’t let the big one head butt you; his head alone weighs twice as much as you do. He’ll knock you out.”

The big one must have been listening to all of this, because he lifted his magnificent head and stared at me while I received my marching orders. I tried to avoid eye contact in the hopes that he would ignore me. He didn’t. He slowly walked over to me and lowered his head. Uh-oh, here comes that head butt I was warned about. I closed my eyes and braced myself for the impact.

Instead of the blow I was expecting, this gentle giant lowered his massive head and nudged me a few times. I looked at him and I swear he winked at me with his soft, sweet, intelligent eyes. He seemed to say, “Don’t worry, I’ll show you the way. We’ll do this together.” What a horse! The next two hours were exhilarating, and more fun than I had in a long time. Best of all, I knew I had found a friend for life.

I was heartbroken to learn that my special teacher and sweet friend passed away a few weeks ago. I will always remember that afternoon, and the many lessons he taught me. Teachers come in every size, shape, age, and even species. Opportunities to learn are everywhere. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone, no matter how terrified you are. And sometimes, you have to say good bye to a friend. No matter how much it hurts.

Feldenkrais® Training: Who’s that lady?

My Feldenkrais training was held in a beautiful old dance hall, complete with hardwood floors, huge windows, gorgeous chandeliers, and small mirrors strategically placed around the room. It was a beautiful room, and the perfect venue for our training.

We often had visitors who would come to spend a day or even an entire week with us. Sometimes we only had one or two strangers in the room; other times we had a full house. Each morning the visitors were invited to stand up and introduce themselves before we proceeded with our first lesson of the day.

In the middle of my third year of training, I arrived at the dance hall to an unusually crowded room. I wondered who all those people were and what they were doing there. I felt annoyed and irritated to see so many interlopers in my training. In all the chaos there was no time for the customary introductions, and I took my bad mood with me as I looked for a spot on the floor to set up my personal little campsite for the day.

We began our first ATM: Lie on your back, spiral to sit, reverse the pattern, and return to lie on your back again. Ahhhhh, the sensation of spiraling up to sitting and back down felt so lovely, and luxurious! I felt my irritation melting away as I became lost in the sensation of moving. We stopped to rest on our backs while I marveled at the magic of Feldenkrais, and how just a few minutes of movement could change my mood so quickly.

The lesson progressed:  Continue your spiral, and allow the movement to bring you to standing. Keep turning until you complete a full circle. Then reverse the pattern to lie on your back. Repeat the pattern to make it faster, quicker, and lighter.

I was so absorbed in my own process that I was oblivious to everyone and everything around me. I felt like I was the only one in the room, until I spiraled around myself one last time. That’s when it happened; that’s when I saw her. I will never forget that moment.

She was standing quite a distance behind me, and I only caught a quick glimpse of her, but that was enough. She was stunning! She was so graceful, alluring, and even seductive in the way she moved. But, she was also very casual in her movements, as if she didn’t know or care if anyone was watching. Her carriage, her confidence, and even the curves of her body were incredibly appealing and attractive. “Wow, ” I thought, “Who in the world is she?” 

She certainly made an impression on me in that one moment I saw her. I desperately wanted to know her, and I hoped we could become friends. At least, if she could lower herself to be friends with a clod such as myself. Ooops, here comes that habit of negative self-talk again. I really should do something about that.

The lesson was over, and I was determined to introduce myself to this remarkable woman. I simply had to meet her. I searched everywhere for her, but she was nowhere to be found. Deeply disappointed, I gave up and made my way back to my mat. And there she was, standing directly in front of me! My face lit up and I gave her a big smile, which she immediately returned. Perhaps she was as anxious to meet me as I was to meet her. My smile quickly faded as my pleasure in finding her turned into disbelief.  

That woman was me. I was looking at my own reflection, and it was my own image from one of the small mirrors that caught my attention during the lesson. A tsunami of emotions swept over me as I stared in the mirror and saw myself as I had never seen myself before; without judgement, preconceived ideas, expectations, or negative self-talk. I saw myself through someone else’s eyes. And, I liked what I saw.

Feldenkrais….it’s full of surprises. You never know how it will change your life. But, you’ll never know until you try it.