Opportunities to learn

Opportunities to learn are everywhere, and they have a tendency to appear when you least expect them. I had one of those opportunities myself a few weeks ago when my husband and I went up to our favorite getaway, Estes Park. It’s located right at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park and is a fabulous place to hit the refresh button, relax, and to commune with nature. Or as I like to say, just to hang out with moose and squirrel.

The first morning we were there, I pulled the curtains open to let the glorious Colorado sunshine fill our cabin. I was greeted with the breathtaking sight of a small herd of elk milling about and grazing in the grass directly in front of our picture window. I’m still enough of a city girl to go a little crazy when I see wildlife, and I couldn’t contain the squeal of excitement that involuntarily escaped my lips.

I took a few moments to compose myself, made frantic hand gestures to my husband to signal the appearance of the elk, and together we quietly slipped out of the front door to get a closer look at these gentle giants. Of course, they wouldn’t have been quite so gentle if we got too close to them or threatened them in any way. But, while we stood still, they moved closer and closer to us.

They kept a casual but careful eye on the two of us as we watched them. I tried not to hold my breath as they came so close I could smell them. The elk moved in an elegant and effortless manner, with an ease and grace that belied their size. It seems like every time I come across these magnificent beasts they always have a major “take home” message for me. This time was no different.

Recently I had been struggling with several challenges in my life which were interfering with my goals and aspirations. I ended up exhausted, frustrated, and incapable of overcoming these road blocks that were preventing me from moving forward. However, as I watched the elk, I had one of those head-smacking moments. I realized that I had gone back into my old pattern of trying to force my way through obstacles in my path rather than accepting the challenges as opportunities to learn from them.

The elk reminded me that natural movement is always better than trying to force yourself into doing something that you think you should do rather than discovering what you could do. The result is effortless movement without stress, strain, or frustration. They silently told me that it is possible to move quietly through your changing environment with strength, grace, and confidence, as long as you are attentive to your surroundings and not allow anyone or anything to distract you. 

They also reminded me that it’s important to eat your greens. After all, there is always a blade of grass with your name on it, as long as you remember to keep your eyes open. Finally, they assured me that it’s okay to let people get a little closer to you, as long as they mind their manners and respect your boundaries–otherwise, there will be consequences. Like I said, opportunities to learn are everywhere. It was a powerful learning experience, and one I hope to remember for a very long time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artichokes, Feldenkrais, & Peeling Produce

I love Feldenkrais, and I love being a Feldenkrais practitioner. I also love artichokes, although I never even knew they existed until I was a young adult. I certainly had my doubts about artichokes, because they were so different from anything I had ever experienced up until that point in my life. 

Then I met a guy who was absolutely crazy about artichokes. Not only did he order them as an appetizer every time we went out to dinner, he insisted on preparing them for me whenever we made dinner together. I could easily have done without them, because they just seemed like a lot of trouble for very little reward.

However, I was fascinated by his excitement and almost childlike enthusiasm as he boiled the artichokes, made the sauces for dipping, and then meticulously peeled back the tough outer layers. The further he got into the artichoke, the more excited and animated he became. He would say, “Look! See how the leaves are getting softer and more delicate the closer we get to the center?” Then the magic moment would finally arrive–with reverence in his voice he would declare, “Here it is, the heart! It’s the best part, because it’s so tender.” 

He was right about that. I certainly learned to appreciate artichokes along the way, but it wasn’t until I went through my Feldenkrais training that I realized how similar we are to artichokes. We develop thick, protective outer layers as we mature. These layers are hard to get through, and often have sharp, pointed edges as an additional line of defense to protect us. Feldenkrais gently and carefully peels away these outer layers, just one layer at a time, gently coaxing us to bring us back to our true self, to find our center, and to open our heart.

I have heard some people say that Feldenkrais is like peeling an onion, but I disagree. Because when you peel an onion, each layer is just more of the same, you never quite get to the end, and every layer makes you cry. But when you peel an artichoke, the layers become softer, more tender, and more flexible. Until you get to the best part, the heart.

That’s what Feldenkrais does for you. It peels back the protective layers created by self-doubt and untruths about ourselves. It brings us back to our true self and teaches us the art of self-compassion and self-respect. It brings us back to the best and most tender part or ourselves–our heart. It is a process that awakens a sense of excitement and childlike enthusiasm as we get rid of each layer to discover the tenderness inside ourselves.

And that is only just a small part of the magic of Feldenkrais and what it can do for you. It truly is a gift, a gift of the heart, and the gift that keeps on giving. Feldenkrais helped me in more ways I could possibly explain, but the best thing it did was open my heart. I would like nothing more than to share it with you.