On being one’s true self

In an interview between William Coulson and Linda Ames Nicolosi, titled “Reflections on the Human 
Potential Movement,” published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy (JMFT) in December 2000, William Coulson said about Carl Rogers:

“Rogers’ books gave voice to something that was already brewing in the culture at that time. In his 1961 book, On Becoming a Person, he wrote a chapter called, »To Be That Self Which One Truly Is.« [..] He was a onetime American Psychological Association president, and he received the APA’s first Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award. He was a weighty authority, and he wrote persuasively. Behavior that would have been confronted by the previous generation as shameful now became obligatory—according to Rogers’ creed, »One must be that self which one truly is.«” —William Coulson

The Human Potential Movement. I was born at the end of it, in 1974, but still, my feet were touched by the dissipating wave as it gently rolled back into the ocean. As a kid this movement gave me much food for thought. 40 years ago the Western world was safer, or more unconcerned, and we kids used to walk home from school, or go by bicycle, bus, hitchhiking, whatever, nobody was in fear for it. One or two or more hours of unaccounted time, Monday through Saturday. Sunday was our parents’s day off, anyways. Lots of time to stroll around the fields with its high grass, hundreds of types of weed and flowers, grasshoppers, ladybirds and many other insects. Time to explore the forest, look for what’s new at the creek running down the foot of the mountain. Time in nature, time for self-reflection, and reflection about the world around us.

In these days I often got thinking about people and why they say what they say, do what they do. For example, some of the other kids in school started using words like “ego”, “cool” and “gay.” Like most kids, I didn’t know what that meant. But I, too, tried to find use for these words and see how grown-ups reacted. “Don’t be doing such gay work!” I once called out towards my father, he was working in the garden on a hot summer’s day. He was genuinely upset about that for days on end, and it took me another decade or so to find out about the bad connotation of that word. But in truth… I still don’t know why he was so upset.

Then, a few years later, the New Age wave hit the countryside. A seemingly never-ending stream of enlightened gurus came from all over the world to share their higher states of consciousness in town halls filled to the brim with students,  and charge real money, in both size and physicality, for one-on-one spiritual readings and partnership advice.

At that time I heard words like true self, higher self, lower self, authentic self, false self, bilocation, infidelity, promiscuity and enlightenment… an eclectic mix of helpful tools, fantastic stories and selling-out of various Indian Paramahansas, but also of Western influencers like Louise L. Hay, Eckhart Tolle, Richard Bach, Dan Millman, Esther Hicks, Carlos Castaneda, Leonard Orr… I guess the Goodreads list of New Age Books or the Wikipedia page of New Age makes for a nice walk down the old memory lane.

At that time we people were still searching, for something… something authentic, true, uncorrupted, pure, original, for That Self Which One Truly Is, as Carl Rogers promised. Or, “sold” I might say in hindsight. The New Age, too, is now in the past, and forever imprinted in our Western souls and bodies. And I’m still not sure what that really means, practically.

As I wrote in my previous blog post, titled “Why children become liars and toadies”, I wrote that by the time we finish compulsory schooling we all went through more than 10,000 hours of humiliation and suppression. I quote:

“In school, we spend well over ten thousand hours of having to sit still and be quiet, don’t move, don’t eat, don’t drink, ask to be allowed to go to the toilet, don’t have critical thoughts, read only from the poorly written, heavily censored and haphazardly formatted books that were pre-selected for us, and listen to whatever is presented, by whomever, however badly, yet stay alert and respond to arbitrary questions when addressed, in exactly the way expected.” — Alfons Grabher

There was no choice about it, no choice at all. Either comply, sit through it, or… what? Become drug addicts and child-sex-workers, “We Children from Bahnhof Zoo”? Was that the alternative?

There was no choice, we had to go through compulsory, institutional schooling. Not to mention the dire environment of it. For example, the school I had to go to was constructed in exposed concrete, with long, empty corridors. Everything was cold and hard, similar to socialist-style government buildings, or state prisons. The entrance area for students was underground, badly lit, and divided into cells made of metal bars and mesh. No teacher ever went down there. It seemed like teachers were of a higher status or something, yet one teacher was more miserable and strained looking than the next. And this was supposedly one of the best schools in our federal state.

Nobody of weight and importance seems to be talking about this. People talk about war, gender, abortion, toxic parents, geo-engineering, meat, paper straws and climate change, all difficult topics, but not this. Sure, they have endless talks about school reforms and school improvements, budget and safety—but none of this matters, we don’t heal. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s because of our extensive 10,000+ hours training in self-alianation, lack-of-compassion, deception and self-deception, self-deprecation and making fun of others, you name it, the entire seed bank of evil.

“Abraham Maslow [an American psychologist best known for his theory of human motivation and the hierarchy of needs] condemned Carl Rogers’ idea that we should follow our feelings whether they were right or wrong. Maslow had caught on to the fact that this idea of the human potential movement was a civilization-destroying concept. It failed to understand the reality of evil in human life.” —William Coulson

I don’t think we’re ever going to solve any of these psychological riddles, or dire conditions that plague our societies as a whole, as long as we don’t allow ourselves to look at what has been done to us in school. We need a reckoning. A process of introspection, reflection, and coming to terms with these past experiences, emotions, and traumas.

And then do something about it. Only when we allow ourselves to acknowledge and confront and act upon the difficult truths of what happened to us in institutional schooling will we achieve healing and reconciliation; in body and soul; and become able to live out of motives that are not influenced by the evil seeds planted during our time in institutional schooling. And maybe this will give us reasonable hope for a better future, instead of fear and uncertainty. If that seems something worthwhile having.

How children become liars and toadies

John Taylor Gatto, in his book “Dumbing Us Down,” delves into the topic of compulsory schooling:

“Children learn what they live. Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community; interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important; force them to plead for the natural right to the toilet and they will become liars and toadies; ridicule them and they will retreat from human association; shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even.”

This is one of the quotes that stick with me forever, it seems like. To me, John Taylor Gatto is one of the most brilliant, incorruptible speakers for humanity. He was born in his beloved Monongahela, Pennsylvania, US, lived from 1935 to 2018. For the longest part of his life he was celebrated for his achievements as a school teacher, was honoured as New York City & New York State Teacher of the Year, several times… and then shunned by the establishment, as soon as he turned on them. He died penniless, as far as I know. He tells about this turn in Chapter 4, “I Quit, I Think,” in his book “The Underground History Of American Education.” He barely got it published, lack of funding.

Contrariwise, just for example, Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson played it by the book and wrote the much acclaimed international bestseller “The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life.” The promotional text says:

“Our brains are designed to help us get ahead socially, often via deception and self-deception. But while we may be self-interested schemers, we benefit by pretending otherwise. Our unconscious motives drive more than just our private behaviour; they also infect our venerated social institutions such as school.”

From my perspective, this turns a blind eye on one key aspect: It didn’t infect schools. According to John Taylor Gatto schools are designed to teach deception and self-deception. But of course, who’d dare to say that part out loud? Apparently not Robin Hanson, who has tenure. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” is not just cautionary advice but more like Survival 101. Despite the widespread acclaim for the book, many reviewers noted the absence of a solid explanation or scientific foundation for its claims, leaving readers without actionable suggestions or guidance. And for good reason.

Looking at the originator of my own field of expertise, Moshé Feldenkrais, he too spoke extensively about dependency relationships, their origins and persistence, and called it childish in adults. But Moshé Feldenkrais fell short, too, and like most thought leaders, even today, he looked for the elephant only within the family, or was waving his fist of Goethe’s Prometheus against society as a whole.

As I understand, Moshé Feldenkrais’s early years were marked by unstable political situations and adventures, frequently moving houses, and focused studying, but there was little of compulsory, large-scale, institutional schooling. And even though he earned a diploma at an engineering school in Paris, France, around 1930 at age 26, in sum total, as I understand, he just didn’t do enough years in institutional schooling to have been able to say anything of substance against it; he lacked those emotional wounds and the humiliation, the thousands of hours of having to sit still and shut up, don’t move, don’t eat, don’t drink, don’t have critical thoughts, read only from the poorly written, heavily censored and haphazardly formatted books that were pre-selected for you, and listen to whatever was presented, by whomever, however badly, yet stay alert and respond to arbitrary questions when addressed, in exactly the way expected. Actually, well over 10,000 hours of that in your first 12 years of basic education. How do you remember that time of your life? Did you frame that as a pleasant, carefree, happy time? And filed it away into the darkest corner of your body & soul, to never be bothered again? After all, it wasn’t all that bad?

As I understand, Moshé Feldenkrais didn’t have to live through that. Mark Reese’s Biography on Moshé Feldenkrais, “A Life In Movement” describes a day at school like this (heder is a traditional Jewish school):

“In the morning I wake up, wash, get dressed, go over my homework to remember it well. Then I drink a cup of tea and go to the heder. The teacher has not yet arrived, and I review the homework for the third time. When we see the teacher coming, all the boys immediately sit down around the table. During the lesson there is silence. But there is one boy that tells a joke or makes a face and all the boys laugh. Then there is a very short break. We hardly get to take a book in our hands and the break is over. When I come home, I read in the book for half an hour. Then I do my homework for about three or four hours. The oral homework I leave for the evening. At the sixth hour all the boys who study with the same teacher get together and we go into the woods. When we are between the tall bushes I stand still and look at the sky like a dreamer. I dream pleasant dreams. When I return I drink tea or read or chat a little and then go to sleep.”

They sat around a table. No dark, airless corridors. No cell-like rooms with chairs in rows where students, as well as their assigned teachers, were confined to from one ring of the bell to the next. None of the ordinary madness we call good schooling. Good for him, good for us.

“America’s first national commissioner of education, eminent Hegelian scholar William Torrey Harris, said in a long essay in 1906 entitled »The Philosophy of Education,« that a prime purpose of the new institutional schooling was to teach self-alienation, and that this could be best accomplished in dark, airless corridors. It never fails to amaze me how people can hear words like that — and the school trail is littered with them — and ignore them, as if they were only idle talk.” – John Taylor Gatto, Weapons Of Mass Instruction

Regarding the twist on the metaphor “the elephant in the room”, The Elephant In The Brain, there’s no need to point fingers at Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson, or any other such thought leaders. They’ve been out on their profitable safari since their early school days, and we don’t know if they’ll ever want to find their way back. John Taylor Gatto warned us, compassionately. He laid it all out, the entire history of compulsory, institutional schooling and where it’s heading, and even included a roadmap for a way out. It’s just… we don’t listen. We’re too busy ignoring the elephant in the brain. Or maybe, considering how strongly these issues captivate our attention, I might suggest to inverse the metaphor, akin to the biblical cautionary tale of the golden calf, and call it The Golden Calf In The Brain.

In the past 6 decades (or so) people have come to accept looking at their childhood and their relationship with their parents, if necessary; maybe change their own attitude and behaviour accordingly, or maybe even establish strong boundaries. But institutional schooling? A textbook case of a blind spot. 200+ years ago the state still had to take children from their parents at gun point in order to tear the traditional family structure apart and put children through the schooling system. How times have changed, haven’t they? Nowadays parents will sue if schools refuse to process their children for them.

Well, what can I say. Maybe I could end today’s blog post on a quote by Charles Bukowski, from his novel “Pulp.” The main character, Nick Belane, best dick in L.A., seemed to be able to maintain a level head in the face of existential challenges and uncertainties of the modern world. I quote Chapter 40, back at his office:

“So, there I was the next day, back at my office. One assignment left: locate the Red Sparrow. Nobody was beating at my door with new work for me to do. That was fine. It was a time for a tabulation, a tabulation of myself. All in all, I had pretty much done what I had set out to do in life. I had made some good moves. I wasn’t sleeping on the streets at night. Of course, there were a lot of good people sleeping in the streets. They weren’t fools, they just didn’t fit into the needed machinery of the moment. And those needs kept altering. It was a grim set-up and if you found yourself sleeping in your own bed at night, that alone was a precious victory over the forces.”

Asking AI to help me understand a Feldenkrais lesson

For a challenging to understand movement instruction, let’s look at the beginning of Feldenkrais lesson AY #541, “Inverting hands including more.” This lesson involves movements of the arms, hands, and shoulders/shoulder-blades, and will be increasing body awareness, flexibility, and comfort in these areas.

According to the Copyright Information on the IFF (International Feldenkrais Federation) website, the IFF does not allow for quoting any of their original Feldenkrais materials to any length outside of private study groups and non-profit purposes, not even under Fair Use (to their own demise, I might suspect.) Therefore I paraphrase:

Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position, adopting an Eastern-style posture. Gradually, and with ease, begin turning your left arm inward between your legs, ensuring it feels comfortable and enjoyable. Repeat this gentle rotation of the entire left arm multiple times, aiming to eventually have the palm facing upward towards the ceiling. Allow your shoulder to participate in the turning motion, and let your body move naturally along with it. Once done, rest by lying on your back.

My paraphrasing is about as complete as the original, you wouldn’t find any additional cues or information. In the original class some students might have started with some movements to their understanding, and then all other students might have picked up, and since Moshé Feldenkrais didn’t object (as per the transcript) it might have been the movement he had in mind, and the class proceeded.

However, without the context of a live class, it might not be quite as clear what to do. All we know for sure is that Feldenkrais lessons are full of surprises and unusual movements. Or as Carlos Castaneda wrote, “non-ordinary states of consciousness,” which in the context of Feldenkrais classes might be “non-ordinary movements.”

I asked Brave’s AI Leo (based on Mixtral 8x7B), after having given it the original instructions: Turning my left arm inward, does this mean my elbow is starting to face the ceiling?

Leo: No, when the text says to “turn the whole left arm slowly many times with the intention to turn the palm of the hand toward the ceiling,” it does not mean to orient the elbow towards the ceiling. Instead, it is asking you to lift your entire left arm and rotate it slowly in a way that orients the back of your left hand towards the floor and the palm of your hand towards the ceiling. 

I then asked ChatGPT (3.5 free version) the exact same question: Turning my left arm inward, does this mean my elbow is starting to face the ceiling?

ChatGPT: Yes, when you’re turning your left arm inward, it involves a rotation that starts from the shoulder joint and extends down to the hand. Picture your shoulder as the pivot point for the rotation. As you start to turn your left arm inward, your shoulder will rotate inwards slightly, which means your elbow will start to move away from your body and begin to face upwards, towards the ceiling.

Note taken. Ask ChatGPT and not Leo. If this is indeed the right motion will show in the rest of the lesson.

If a movement is not clear in a Feldenkrais lesson then we wait for more instructions, or look at the lesson in its entirety. A Feldenkrais lesson is not like an original patchwork quilt, where various, diverse, unrelated patches of fabric are sewn together to make full use of leftover scraps of fabric. Instead, Feldenkrais lessons are an intricate weaving of the same silk and fine materials with a detailed, rich pattern that becomes easily identifiable when looked at it from a distance, in context of a person’s whole self.

Only occasionally we have to take more steps back and look at a challenging to understand part in the context of a lesson series. It’s a bit like life, really, sometimes we need some distance in order to understand something.

Why am I doing this to myself?

Today I had a lovely chat with a fellow Feldenkrais enthusiast. At some point she was sharing with me her experience of a time where she had some knee (?) pain, and upon rolling about with a Feldenkrais lesson (?) her knee pain resolved, but then she had shoulder pain. I’m sorry I can’t recall the exact details. But we were talking about this in the context of anxiety, body posture and what I clearly remember was that she was talking to her painful shoulder and she asked herself, “Why am I doing this to myself?”

And while we were talking I didn’t think too deeply about it, at first, because I’ve been through so many philosophies, approaches and theories and books and courses already, and thousands and thousands of hours of Feldenkrais in both teaching and self-study and so forth, and been there, worked with that, at first at least that sentence of hers kinda fell into “the long tail.” Or into a Chinese post office kind of situation.

But while I was walking to the coffee shop I’m in right now and writing this, I was shouldering my messenger bag and could feel that old skiing accident in my lower back, which probably wasn’t an accident, and in fact 30 years later why do I still have that pain, there must be something I’m doing to keep that pain or keep recreating this injury, or at least I must do something so that that injury is not getting better, like ever, and clearly it’s neither the bad weather conditions from that painful day 30 years ago, nor my idiotic jump onto an icy patch on the downhill skiing slope, it must be something I’m still doing, and I too asked myself “Why am I doing this to myself?”

And it sounded like a good question. What am I doing to maintain that structural damage, that lower back area that was confirmed to be progressively messed up by X-Ray decades ago, why is it not healing up, what am I doing? How, in a kinestetic-biomechanical sense, but now more importantly in my topic of today type of question: WHY in a metaphysical, philosophical, somato-dings… psychosomatic, kind of sense, What is wrong with me? Why am I doing this to myself? “Really, quoi?”

Juxtaposing Feldenkrais’s reasoning with contemporary biomechanical principles

I was browsing through the book, “The Elusive Obvious,“ by Moshé Feldenkrais, Chapter “Awareness Through Movement”, when this passage stood out to me:

“This seemed to me the real gist of my knee trouble. I could repeat a movement with my leg hundreds of times, I could walk for weeks with no inconvenience whatsoever and suddenly doing what I believed to be the identical movement just once more spoiled everything. Obviously, this one movement was done differently from the former ones, and so it seemed to me that how I did a movement was much more important than what the movement consisted of.”

From a biomechanics perspective we could call this motion and motor patterns. His reasoning sounds smooth, and certainly sounds like as if it could be the founding principle of the entire Feldenkrais Method.

However, his reasoning in that paragraph is also incomplete in the light of modern research. Why is that? Two explanations come to mind:

1. His argument might have been part of his greater reasoning process, and is only one step on the stairs that ultimately lead to the creation of his unique lessons.

2. Maybe we are lucky that Moshé Feldenkrais’s was more excited about exploring the subjective “how” rather than solely the observable mechanical details—as it lead to the creation of his unique lessons, and the discovery of this beautiful “Feldenkrais” movement quality, learning and experiencing.

Moshé Feldenkrais argued that one movement with his knee was done differently from the former ones, and thus lead to his trouble. But maybe that wasn’t the problem at all.

In modern research we know about perturbed motion and motor patterns, but also take into account tissue load, stress and cumulative damage. In this sense we distinguish between tolerance and capacity:

Capacity: In the context of the knees, capacity refers to the structural integrity and biomechanical properties of the joint and surrounding tissues. This includes factors such as bone density, ligament strength, cartilage health, and muscle function. An individual’s knee capacity determines the maximum load or stress that the joint can withstand without experiencing damage or dysfunction.

Tolerance: Knee tolerance, on the other hand, refers to the ability of the joint and surrounding tissues to adapt and withstand stress over time.

In this light, maybe the way Moshé Feldenkrais walked and used his knees was fine. Maybe his motion and motor patterns were completely ok. Maybe his way of walking was well within the capacity of his knees.

However, due to the severe, lasting damage from his accident playing soccer, where somebody jumped onto his extended leg and forced his knee to bend forwards (ouch), causing torn ligaments and muscles, his walking might have exceeded the tolerance of his knee. He might have been able to walk just fine for an hour, or an hour every day, but then the normal load and stress added up and the moment came where he exceeded his knee’s tolerance, and thus his knee failed again.

Therefore, his reasoning “Obviously, this one movement was done differently from the former ones” could just as well have been “Obviously, I exceeded the cumulative tolerance of my knee.” In which case the Feldenkrais Method might have become a series of strengthening exercises with weights and machines in the gym instead 😅😂

Furthermore, there’s the reality of healing. The body has a capacity to heal and repair itself to some degree. However, the wear and tear, the way and also the intensity that we make use of ourselves, as well as other lifestyle choices such as sleep, diet, smoking and drinking, etc, might impair healing; or maybe the cumulative stress we put on ourselves exceeds our capacity for healing. To take the time to lie down and to do small, gentle, slow, intelligently crafted and sequenced movements, became certainly one of the most iconic features of Feldenkrais’s lessons.

To end this blog post, a quote comes to mind, by Ludwig Wittgenstein:

“If someone is merely ahead of his time, it will catch up to him one day.” 

For the longest time I was trying to make sense of this quote. Now, with today’s blog post, I finally have an example that helps me with understanding this quote. Chronic pain and movement problems might be a motivation to start exploring Feldenkrais lessons, but Moshé Feldenkrais wasn’t merely ahead of his time. Instead, he made a substantial contribution to humanity. His lessons do not only help to improve function and provide means for recovery in a humane way, but they ultimately lead to a better understanding of ourselves, our possibilities in live, and our well-being.

In which areas did Moshé Feldenkrais fail, in which does he keep inspiring?

Re-reading and flipping through his books, it seems to me as if Moshé Feldenkrais has failed in some areas he wrote about the most. For example, about fostering independence and maturity, including sexual maturity, and encouraging critical thinking rather than blind acceptance of authority. To quote him verbatim, “not taking other people’s sayings for divine and immutable truths,” or from a paragraph written in more recognisable Moshé Feldenkrais style: “Only children must do things just to obey orders no matter how unreasonable; this is called, by some, learning discipline. But grown-up people must not treat themselves as if they were children.”

However, looking at the past few years, which have been dominated by harsh mandates, inhumane actions and disconcerting government spending, I have seen a widespread tendency to unquestioningly accept and act upon sayings from authoritative sources, including news reporters and government-appointed experts. This was especially notable among many of my fellow Feldenkrais teachers, including high-ranking trainers, all of whom I had indeed expected to display greater fortitude. Furthermore, issues surrounding sexual identity and maturity continue to create significant turmoil in society, and the positive educational reforms envisioned by Moshé Feldenkrais have still to materialise.

And yet, Moshé Feldenkrais continues to inspire us. Through his successive generations of practitioners and courageous, independent, do-it-yourself students, he’s still helping tens of thousands of people to improve their well-being, and thus live better lives.

This is just a short, personal blog post and not a comprehensive analysis, and on top of that it might seem presumptuous for me to call out Moshé Feldenkrais’s shortcomings. Nevertheless I want to write about two—probably premature and controversial—observations:

1. Limited access to Feldenkrais’s original materials and legal limitations

Moshé Feldenkrais’s legacy, his life’s work, is largely in private hands. Access to most of his original materials such as audio and video recordings and transcripts is largely limited to members of their membership organisations (headed by the IFF, International Feldenkrais Federation.)

Membership is tied to undergoing a lengthy and expensive so called “training,” with comparatively high yearly membership fees to maintain membership. Their license for members to view, distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon his work is very restrictive.

There is no “Moshé Feldenkrais Society” 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that I am aware of, that would allow the general public to access, study, discuss and build upon the large legacy of his, while striving to keep membership fees affordable and accessible to a diverse range of individuals and organizations.

For example, it is stated in the IFF End User License Agreement that:

  • You are expressly NOT ALLOWED to use the materials in the following ways: Any broadcast or distribution of the materials (for example: on radio, broadcast television, cable television, film, or by webcasting, streaming audio or video over the Internet, podcasting and all other forms of distribution), except with specific written permission of the IFF.
  • As an individual Feldenkrais Method teacher, practitioner or trainee you are expressly ALLOWED (licensed) to use the materials in the following ways: Private viewing for private study purposes, Limited exhibition for educational purposes (for example, Feldenkrais professional training programs, professional and public workshops.)

To my mind these are some of the main reasons why you see almost nothing original from Moshé Feldenkrais on Youtube (and other social media), why there’s little to no research on his original materials, and why his legacy is falling more and more into oblivion.

On the upside, such restrictions might encourage some “Certified Feldenkrais Method Teachers” to create their own brands, courses and materials, inspired by Moshé Feldenkrais, rather than just copying and pasting. I’m thinking of students who published their own Feldenkrais-inspired lessons on traditional publishing platforms, such as Stephen Shafarman, Thomas Hanna, or Frank Wildman, but also of the many hundreds of less famous practitioners (including my own books, audio-recordings and videos, in this regard.)

These properly published, new materials, in turn, can be quoted under Fair Use and be used by the general public in accordance to whatever license they have been published under. They might not always be branded as Feldenkrais, and might not always be in accordance with Feldenkrais’s original message, yet, in this sense we can observe how the essence of Moshé Feldenkrais’s teachings, little by little, finds its way to soak through society and inspire all generations to come… and make life on Earth a little bit better for everyone.

Which is a bit like saying in the 8th century BCE, “You can’t just keep copying and pasting from Homer’s epic poem Odyssey, you need to write your own.” And look how many millions of books have been published since then!

2. Steep hierarchical, organisational structure

These membership organisations have a steep hierarchical structure and the compulsory training to become a member might cement dependency relationships, and require learning obedience in the image of traditional schooling environments, which might be the opposite of what Moshé Feldenkrais envisioned in his books regarding individual growth, independence, and maturity.

Furthermore, since Moshé Feldenkrais’s passing in the year 1984, a lot has changed in the fields of pedagogy and educational sciences, and often new findings take many (many) decades to be properly evaluated and incorporated in large organisations.

Maybe I could end today’s blog post on a quote from the book “Dumbing Us Down” by John Taylor-Gatto:

“Children learn what they live. Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community; [..] ridicule them and they will retreat from human association; shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even. The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly. Individuality, family, and community, on the other hand, are, by definition, expressions of singular organization, never of »one-right-way« thinking on a grand scale.”

Or maybe I shall end on a more empowering note, by paraphrasing the final words from Moshé Feldenkrais’s final book, “The Potent Self”, which was published posthumously in 1985. These might have been the very last words he had to give to us all:

“Make your life an occupation in which overcoming difficulties is an essential part of the pleasure of living. Learn from those who know how to live. And do all you can to make the road for those who follow smoother and less treacherous.”

Page-flipping through the books of Moshé Feldenkrais

To me, Moshé Feldenkrais is one of the most hilarious old school writers in the library. His books are spiked with knee-slappers. For example, I quote from “Body And Mature Behaviour,” chapter “Localisation Of Function And Maturity”:

“Psychoanalysis, in Freud’s writings at least, deals solely with psychic life. Only very rarely is there any allusion to the fact that psychic life does take place in a physical body. [..] Any such treatment is therefore bound to spend its usefulness rapidly, as it did.” – 

There’s plenty of critique about Freud nowadays, especially with the rise of fields like Somatic Psychology, Neuroscience, Psychosomatic Medicine, and Mind-Body Practices. But who else writes as snippy and is elbow-ing down everyone else in order to promote his own method as much as Moshé Feldenkrais did? Reading, I feel like watching an old school, American Coca Cola vs Pepsi comparative advertisement TV-Spot .. 🤣 LOL

Moshé Feldenkrais truly had a knack for promoting his own method amidst the backdrop of other psychological theories and practices. Let me drop another quote, for example, from his book “The Potent Self”:

“The person must now return to the initial lying position and learn what it feels like to act correctly. [..] Now a word of warning. The incompetent person [..] may think, like a yogi, that special powers are attached to this position, in which he may feel for the first time the sense of well-being [..]”

It’s hilarious. He’s dissing Yoga and at the same time saying that people will experience his exercises as something that has special powers, feeling a sense of well-being like never before.

But then, I can’t deny that, really. As you yourself might be able to confirm.