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Jacek Paszkowski on the Feldenkrais Method

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I will talk today about somatic education. And I would like to introduce you today to the idea of a certain man, Moshe Feldenkrais, who contributed probably the most to the idea of semantic education in modern times. That's what I believe. And -- "We act in accordance with our self-image." What an idea. What a concept. Have you ever thought [that] your action, what you do, actually may depend on your self-image? And I do with people, assisting them in the process of self-discovery, in a process which we can develop, modify to some extent and change that self-image of ours. And I lead people through a process of very gentle movements. The Feldenkrais Method is a method of very small, gentle movements where we pay attention to ourselves. And actually, the movements are not the most important thing in this method. What's more important is the movement of attention which accompanies the movement of the physical parts. And in this method we learn the new movements, but also in this method we learn how to shift our capacity to act in a way which makes a difference in our lives. So, I'll tell you about how it looks practically. Actually, when I was invited to talk at the conference, my first response was no, and before -- Yes, I tell you honestly. Because this is an experiential method. And it's very hard to talk about experience if you don't actually experience that. So, I hope it will be a nice introduction to further experience. And, actually, I'm very happy to talk to you today about this. (Laughter) So, how it looks. It can be done either individually or it can be done in group settings. But these are movement lessons where we learn how to function better, how to learn. We learn how to function easier. And in a group setting, the teacher doesn't show anything. So there's no demonstration, so everybody's free to explore in their own range, in their own speed, and with their own interpretation of the words the teacher is saying. And we can explore with all variety of movements, there are thousands of movement lessons in the Feldenkrais Method. And they are usually about one hour long, and --- So the lesson may revolve, for instance, [around] rolling from side to side, or getting up, or sitting down, or jumping, or walking, or breathing, or the function of seeing. So, actually, any [of our motor functions] can be taken as a subject for the lesson. So, doing it for more than 10 years, I'm over and over again amazed and fascinated, and at the same time intrigued, [by] the profound effects such movement lessons may have on us, such gentle movements may have on us. And the effect of these movements reach far beyond what would seem a normal and expected result of physical exercises. And these are not regular physical exercises. [As] I said, what's more important than this movement is the movement of attention, and not the physical movement itself. So, when we think about physical exercises, one may think of an attitude like, "Faster, stronger, higher," or the "No pain, no gain" attitude to be the correct or right attitude. In Feldenkrais, actually, when we expect more results, that's what I mean [by] "right attitude." In Feldenkrais we do the opposite, we do less, we do slower, and we constantly ask for less effort. And we still, as if miraculously, I would say, gain more. And one of the basic assumptions is that change and learning can be much easier than most of us anticipate if we engage awareness, if awareness is used as a tool for this learning. And that's what we do in the Feldenkrais Method, we learn awareness, and we learn it through movement. So how do we go about learning this awareness? We direct attention. There's many tools we can use, I will tell just about a few. So, we direct attention. If I asked you now to pay attention to yourselves, probably everybody would go somewhere else, looking at different parts of yourself being right here, right now, of your experience being right here, right now. But the other thing, many of us, when we hear things like that, we don't even know where to look. We don't know where to listen, what to listen to, we don't learn how to listen to ourselves. So in the Feldenkrais Method, we learn how to listen to ourselves. Some time ago, I read about this research done by scientists of the Iowa University And it was a gambling research, I will say. Not really, but something about that. They had four decks of cards, two blue and two red ones. And they asked students to take one card at a time, and the goal was to maximize their winnings. By taking the cards one at a time, they were either winning money, or losing money. And what they didn't know, the red ones were a minefield. The penalties are higher than the winnings, and the blue ones give you small income, but even [smaller] penalties. And the question was how long it would take for the students to figure that out. It turns out, after about 50 cards, they start getting a hunch about what's going on. About 80 cards, they already figured the game out. They did some observations, did some calculation, they figured the game out. But what's more interesting is that they also hooked them to machinery registering their stress response. And what turned out already after the 10th card, when they were reaching for the [red] one, the body responded with stress. And also they wouldn't notice they started behaving differently while reaching for the red cards than for the blue cards. So my question is, whether this gap of 40 cards, or 70 cards, to the full realization of what's going on in this game, has to be that big, or maybe by training our awareness of ourselves, we can decrease the gap, so we are becoming better listeners to ourselves, and we know what's happening to us. So, coming back to the tools we use in the Feldenkrais Method, we direct attention, but we give it very concrete dimensions. We listen to the weight, we listen to the distances between different body parts, we listen to the length, to the place where we initiate the movement, to the breathing and things like that. So then, we build a very precise and concrete and exact dimensions of our experience here and now. So it's something very measurable in our mind. The other thing we do to increase awareness, we ask to do less. Why? Because if you go to the very end range of motion, of movement, I would say rather, then we have a tendency to go with our habits. And then, if we do less, if we stay in the mid-range, then we create a sense of ease. And in a sense of ease, we interpret it frequently as a safe place, and in a safe place we give ourselves more permission to explore more freely and to look for more options. The other thing -- we ask to slow down. For instance, if you watch an instructional video of skiing, or windsurfing, or maybe you like the martial arts movies when they show those slow movements, there is so much detail happening in a very short time. So, if we don't slow our observation, then there is so [much] information which we miss. So, we have this option in TV sets with which we can slow the motion down, but we also have this option in our brains, in our minds, in ourselves, but unfortunately, we don't use it very often. So when we slow down, we become better observers of what's happening with us. We ask to do less, we ask to slow down, we also ask to exaggerate our initial response. So, for instance, if you do more of what you're already doing, then you become more aware of how you do what you do. Therefore, by increasing the response, by exaggerating what we do, [we're] becoming more aware of how we are doing what we are doing. Then, we ask to decrease the intensity, to work with less effort. Why? Because if we go very strong with the movement -- Okay, if we decrease the intensity, then we increase the sensitivity of our nervous system. It's like, for instance, you want to hear something, but there's noise around. So you want to quiet things around, so you can hear better. (Whispering) So it's the same when I whisper, you start listening more carefully, don't you? (Laughter) (Normal voice) So, the same is with the body. There is so much informational noise in our bodies. So when we quiet down, when we [act] with less intensity, we become more sensitive, we fine-tune our nervous system to become more aware of what's actually happening with us. So, these are some of the simple tools we use to increase awareness. And why would we increase awareness? Well, this is a famous sentence by Moshe Feldenkrais: "If you know what [you are doing], you can do what you want." So increasing awareness takes care of the first part of this saying. But then, at the same time, we do things to modify our behaviour. So we do variations during the movement lessons. We don't repeat. Repeating is boring. And so there's certain things we can do to do the variations during the lesson. We change place of different body parts, we change positions, so we do the same movement in different configurations, in different contexts. We change intensity, we change speed. We put limitations, also. Limitations, so it's like a constrict. So we limit certain parts of the body, so we become aware of other parts of our body, which we were not aware [of] before. So imagine you're driving to work, and you drive [by] the same road every day, and there's roadworks, so the road is closed, and you have to take the detour. There are maybe signs, or maybe there are no signs. So you may not like it that you have to take the detour, but what's sure, you will find things, you will learn things you wouldn't learn if you kept on going the same way. So if you restrict certain parts of your body from moving, then you learn other things about yourself, you become aware of other things inside yourself you [would not be] aware [of] if you kept on going the same way. And variations keep our learning alive, and maintain the curiosity which is necessary for learning. So these are certain things we can do to increase our awareness, and we can explore and experiment and play with doing things [a different] way [than] we usually do. So then, we may ask, why to do this? What do we get from this kind of training? Especially in times in our history, in a place where we are used to doing more, faster, stronger, and we believe this is the right way of approaching learning, doing things better. Bigger is better, we believe. So in the Feldenkrais Method, we do the opposite. So, what do we get from that? So, the first benefits which most people would notice, probably, most clearly, are the, I would say, physical benefits. We move better, the movement becomes freer, we feel taller, we breathe easier. We improve posture. Actually, Feldenkrais had a very interesting definition of posture, and he looked at it from a very functional point of view. Posture was the place from which you can move into any direction at any time with the minimal amount of preparation. So, when we look at anatomy books, and they show, "This is the correct posture, because the vertical lines go through your head, your shoulders, hip, and so on." But this is static posture. If I want to scratch my head, or grab a cup of tea or something, I have to change the posture. So he looked at it from a dynamic and functional point of view. So -- And I think it's in general, in life, it's an interesting idea to be able to stop what we do, and if we see that what we do is not bringing us closer to where we want to get, to change our behaviour. Actually, somebody sent me recently a definition of "madness." "Madness is doing the same and expecting other results." (Laughter) I think sometimes we are all mad. So then, there are other effects of this method, what we do. How about freedom? Freedom of choices? We learn things, but more important than that is we learn to do things we already know how to do, in a new way. In another way, and another way. So then, we have a freedom of choice, because we can do things we already know how to do in many different ways. This is an educational method, we learn how to learn. I think this is one of the basic things, and most important things in this method. We learn how to learn, we become better observers of ourselves, we know how to modify our actions, and we become, through that, better learners. And this is the learning which is universal. We learn, we experiment during the movement lessons, but then, we can take this learning anywhere we want in life. Whether we want to learn how to lean to play piano, or skiing, or into relationships, or building a business. These principle applies to every aspect of our lives. Curiosity. How about curiosity? One of the things about -- I'm sorry. Creativity, I meant creativity. If we think about creativity, one of the things is that it depends on our ability to be in the unknown, the uncharted territory. And most of us avoid [being] in the unknown. We gravitate towards what's known [to] us. So, in Feldenkrais, because we don't know the end result, the teacher doesn't show us the movement, the teacher just talks, or leads us with hands through the movement lessons, but there is no demonstration. And also, we don't know the end result. So we spend a lot of time in the unknown zone, in the uncharted territory. So, through that, we become more comfortable, more confident, and feel more safe in the unknown zone. And also, we learn openness. Any time somebody teaches us the right way of doing things, they impose limitations on us. And, of course, we do it to ourselves too. Once, I remember, I was preparing to run a marathon, a few years ago. I'm not a marathon runner, so it took me a couple of years to prepare. And [in the] final weeks before the run, I decided to run around a lake, which is narrow and long, like 8 kilometers long, so -- It was in a forest which I know pretty well, but anyway, by the end of the lake, it's important, by the end of the lake, I got lost. Can you imagine you can get lost in a forest too? So anyway, I thought, "OK, the lake must be on my left, so I go there, and I run along this little path by the lake, and I find a place which I recognize, and then I'll know where I am." Simple. And that's what I did. And I keep running, you know, with my fancy shoes, and a water bottle on my back, it was a hot summer day. And then, suddenly, I see this boy standing in a tree, like 2, maybe 3 meters above the ground. He looks like a local boy, about 12 years old. And he looks at me, "Why would you run in a sunny day like that, in the forest?" You know? And I'm thinking, "What is he doing here?" So I asked, "Hello? Is this the end of the lake?" And he looks at me even stranger, and says, like, "No, this is the beginning." (Laughter) So, there was a lesson for me for that day. When we think that somebody teaches us the right way, there is some limitations on us. And that also eliminates further investigation, when we think we have this "right way." And that also constricts our creativity. So, not that there aren't right ways of doing things, you know, but -- And most of the learning is informational today. And we learn from lectures, from books, and we let other people tell us what we should know, how we should interpret things. And don't take me wrong, it's a great learning, we learn a lot from that. And we all wouldn't be here if didn't get a lot through this kind of process. But the other kind of learning, the one that I'm talking about, the body-based learning, based in our experience, in our direct experience through our body, this kind of learning, we all experienced as children, is so important to us. We can learn how to be more inside our body, we can learn how to learn better. And what we can develop through this kind of learning, we can develop a sense of self, but a sense of self which is based on our internal criteria. And we can develop an inner authority. And I think this is a valuable thing, and nobody can take it away from us. Thank you very much. (Applause)

Video Details

Duration: 18 minutes and 1 second
Country: Poland
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: TEDxKraków
Director: TEDxKraków
Views: 3,081
Posted by: tedxkrakow on Nov 11, 2010

Talk delivered at TEDxKraków, on October 15, 2010.

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