Feldenkrais®: A Lesson On Time

I recently met an alternative medical practitioner who was surprised and delighted to discover that a Feldenkrais practitioner worked in the same office building that he did. He went out of his way to introduce himself and welcome me to the building. I thought it was funny considering I have been there for over nine years, but some things do take time.

Anyway, he told me he had a brief introduction to Feldenkrais® in 1977. That certainly was a long time ago, and even though he never had a lesson he often found himself thinking about it over the years. Such is the power of Feldenkrais. It does get into your head, so to speak.

Now that he had a practitioner on his own doorstep, he felt it was the perfect time to learn more about it. I was thrilled, because there is nothing I love more than spreading the word of Feldenkrais®. We had a long discussion about the method, the lessons, the principles, the philosophy, etc. Finally, he asked if I would give him a lesson.

Before we got started he gave me a laundry list of his injuries, X-rays, MRI reports, and various diagnoses, including the fancy names that the medical profession is prone to use to label their patients. He stood in front of me and asked, “What do you see?”

In true Felden-fashion, I replied, “I see you.” He frowned and said, “But what do you see wrong with me?” I answered, “In Feldenkrais there is no right or wrong, just opportunities to learn.” That’s when things began to fall apart a bit. He gave me a suspicious look and stared at me in silence. The truth is he did look pretty tense, but I say that without judgment.

However, once we started the lesson, I could feel his muscles soften and his skeleton sink into the table. But just as I felt his nervous system and skeletal structure re-organizing, he abruptly lifted his head and asked, “Is this the typical standard protocol for a first treatment that you’re doing to me?” I reminded him that there are no protocols in Feldenkrais® and there are no treatments. I also explained that I wasn’t doing a lesson to him; instead, I was doing it with him.

I was rewarded with another silent stare. I continued the lesson even as I glanced at the clock to see how soon I could wrap things up and not feel guilty about cutting it short. Then I noticed he had fallen asleep while I was busy looking at the clock. Wow, that was fast. When the lesson ended and he stood up to walk, he stood and moved and walked with an ease and grace that hadn’t been there an hour earlier. He even looked taller.

I should have left well enough alone, but I couldn’t stop myself. I asked him, “What are you noticing?” “Nothing,” he answered.  I tried again. “What are you feeling?” He said, “I don’t feel anything.” Okay, I decided to rephrase it and tried one more time. I asked, “Is there anything that’s calling your attention?” “No,” he replied. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Suddenly I gave myself a mental head smack as a phrase from my training came back to me. “Trust the intelligence of your nervous system.” Some changes happen immediately, and some take longer. And sometimes it takes time to get out of your head and into your body. It was time for me to get out of mine and give him the time (and the space) to get out of his.

After all, it took him forty years to follow up on his first lesson. The learning will take place at his own timing, not mine. It was a powerful reminder and learning experience for me, which is another reason why I love Feldenkrais so much. The learning never ends, especially for the teacher. It’s a beautiful thing!