Attention, awareness and consciousness

Friday night I attended a networking meeting for what they call Content Creators, a meet-and-greet here in Saigon, Vietnam. I was in conversation with a random person, when suddenly a tall, young man entered our circle. “Hi, my name is Max. I have a question for you guys: What is happiness?” Max was dressed casually, with a T-Shirt and jeans, he looked muscular, with full, blonde hair, and was wearing a mini air-conditioner around his neck. “Aha,” I thought “a pick-up artist. Good for him. Haven’t met one of his kind for what seems like well over a decade. But… what does he want of me?”

Max smiled confidently, told us proudly that he was an English teacher, and was happy to answer what that thing around his neck was. A pretty girl passed by and said “Talk to you later Max, I have your number.” Max’s smile widened even more, and he announced loudly “God, I love Vietnamese girls!” I first turned to look at the girl who was already gone, then to the circle of guys who fell quiet in admiration of the young stud, and lastly to Max, and thought “That seems like progress—because initially I was under the impression that you only love yourself.”

The next day I had lunch with my neighbour, a well settled, comely looking Vietnamese woman in her 40ties, who is into Yoga and Mindfulness. I brought fresh, organic salad from a local farm in Da Lat, Vietnam. Da Lat is known for its beautiful nature, forests, lakes and mountains. When nibbling on the leaves she closed her eyes and her face turned into a blissful expression. I thought “That’s happiness.”

Back home I wondered what the official definition of happiness, the noun, might be. I clicked a bit around the Internet. Wikipedia, Merriam-Webster, Google. My thoughts drifted to the book I’m reading these days, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. A 1976 book by the psychologist Julian Jaynes (1920-1997). I stumbled down a flight of words on Wikipedia. Every click a pit without bottom, it seemed like. Or call it an endless sky, if you will. All definitions from Wikipedia:

Consciousness, at its simplest, is sentience and awareness of internal and external existence.

Sentience is the capacity to experience feelings and sensations.

Awareness is the state of being conscious of something. More specifically, it is the ability to directly know and perceive, to feel, or to be cognizant of events.

Cognition refers to “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses”.

In philosophy of self, self-awareness is the experience of one’s own personality or individuality. It is not to be confused with consciousness in the sense of qualia.

In philosophy of mind, qualia are defined as individual instances of subjective, conscious experience.

“Interesting” I thought. One word leads to the next and they all go in circles. Seems like a whole lot of people have been spending a whole lot of time on these definitions. I poked around some more:

Attention is the behavioral and cognitive process of selectively concentrating on a discrete aspect of information, whether considered subjective or objective, while ignoring other perceivable information. 

Introspection is the examination of one’s own conscious thoughts and feelings. Introspection is closely related to human self-reflection and self-discovery and is contrasted with external observation.

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely bringing one’s attention to the present-moment experience without evaluation.

And then… I left it at this.

Certified children: framed, boxed and shipped

My neighbour booked two sessions with a fitness trainer. Turns out she only took one session, even though she’d already paid for both. “How was it?” I asked. “The fitness trainer said there’s basic ways of movement children need to learn. He said he teaches children the correct way to move. What do you think of that?”

“I downright disagree!” I exclaimed. And added “You’re pretty brave though. I probably would’ve walked out before the first session had finished.”

The rejuvenating human touch

I’ve just seen the famous speaker Jordan B. Peterson in a recent video, I guess, in a speech he gave in Jerusalem. I was thinking, “Oh, he looks more dried-up than ever.” Almost frail, his physical body dearly exhausted. I was thinking, here you have a person with all the money in the world, with access to the supposedly best clinics and best doctors, yet unable to find real help, quite obviously so.

Maybe that’s presumptuous. I don’t even know why I was thinking that, or why I seem to care. Maybe because I’ve read some of his essays, or listened to some of his earlier work, and found that helpful and inspiring. Now as much as I would like to work with him, see if he could get better, I have no way of contacting him. He is, I guess, stuck in his sophisticated network, essentially unable to try anything outside the world of the rich and famous. It’s almost ironic. Even more so when considering that his wife is a former massage therapist. Help might be right there, under his very own roof.

I wonder what that means for myself? For my own health. I surely won’t be able to go on forever, all on my own. I will have to find students to teach, so they can work on me hands-on. I can’t work hands-on to myself, I can’t move and massage myself the way I could be moved and massaged by someone else. We humans are born to be able to touch, to sense, to move, to massage and help others (and help all animals, that is.) It’s plain obvious, just like horses have hooves and are born to run, and birds have wings and are born to fly (and pass plant seeds out along with their droppings all over the land).

I do go to massages, like twice a month, and try a different place or practitioner each time. But no matter where I go, the quality is dearly lamentable, a faded shadow of what could be possible, of what would be needed. I’ve yet to find a massage practitioner I can talk to and teach. Usually there’s a language barrier, or an ideological barrier. After all, I don’t have a state certificate in massage therapy, so what could I possibly know about it? (That was sarcasm.) I wonder how much longer I myself can keep up without receiving the rejuvenating human touch.

I will try a new place and a new practitioner tomorrow. Never ever give up.

New Arms in Circles (a prequel)

omg omg omg … I was just rolling about and had the most amazing moment ever … omg omg omg

So- my next online workshop in China was re-scheduled to happen 3 weeks earlier than planned and will be held this Saturday. And so I was thinking, hm, what to do with my folks in China this time… I advertised the workshop as “Release tension in the neck and upper chest”, silly me. But easy. Of course I will teach ideas from my neck series, “Tight Neck? Here’s Help!”

However, my previous workshop in China, advertised as “Release tension around the hip joint”, I didn’t start with my Hip Joints Series 2, but I started with rolling the legs, bending the legs, and then diving deep into combinations, a quite wonderful experience. So I was thinking, this time I should start with rolling the arms.

And so I played with some ideas this morning, while still in bed, in lying supine. I set up a rule: keep the elbow in place, only the lower arm and hand can go round and round. That was interesting for a while. And then later in front of a mirror I tried the same thing in standing, quite the challenge actually, which quickly evolved into a sequence of silly dancing.

But then, just now, this evening, I got down on the floor, onto my back, and I was like, “Ok- but this time for real, what am I gonna do?” So I did the elbow and hand thing again, but in combination with the rolling of my head. Ok, the “New TMJ Exercises” lesson first. Then the circles with the lower arms. But in which direction should the head roll? In the same direction or opposite direction of the circles with the lower arm? Ok, then in side-lying. In this position the elbow need to move. Arm circles. Yes, this answered the previous question about the rolling of the head. The answer came through movement, the lesson works.

And then on the front-side, on the belly. Huh. Hm, goes to show how much forwards oriented in space arm movements are. A dead end? I took a rest, maybe a 10-minutes nap. Then I turned my head and tried circles with the other arm. Oh yes. There’s a way. And how about…

HOLY MOLY! I was as surprised as a toddler who gotta himself to stand on both feet the first time, just when nobody was watching. Or who come from lying supine to sitting, through a roll. Big surprise! Big revelation! Ok, this will be my next Youtube video. And I almost have the complete workshop lined up, as well:

  • New TMJ Exercises
  • Writing exercise: note down the lesson, share and compare notes
  • New Arms in Circles – the prequel to my “Tight Neck? Here’s Help!” series
  • Some choice bits from my “Tight Neck? Here’s Help!” series
  • Q&A

But I also was thinking: so bad. My “Tight Neck? Here’s Help!” series should be famous, like “Lord of the Rings”–level famous. And then my new prequel, the one I invented just now, would be the much anticipated prequel. Big deal. But it’s not. For most people my “Tight Neck? Here’s Help!” series is like… like when a monkey in a jungle trips over a statue made of solid gold, and diamonds, and sapphires. An annoyance at best, something hardly looked at and quickly forgotten. I imagine that’s what it’s like when my series’s thumbnail shows up in the Youtube feed of most people. They merely click on /Not interested/, if they bother to click at all. Well, I can’t help that.

There is some disappointment in my soul, but then I think of Youtube as a free video hosting platform, and a place where my videos are easily discoverable, and I think of my patrons on Patreon as my true audience, the people who appreciate and support my video creations; and all my students who can’t afford to be patrons, but watch and like and comment and share my videos, and try out the movements.

Holy bananas! What a lesson! I’m super excited! I will teach it tomorrow to my experimental online group from Austria and Germany, in German language. And then again on Saturday in the online workshop in China, and then I guess I’ll be ready to make the video on Sunday or Monday. Looking forward to present it to you!

About my use of the word »soul«

This was a comment on my video “Two types of burnout and many Thinking Hats” [link to Youtube]:

Dear Alfons,
      I discovered your channel about a month ago [..] And it works so well, it is amazing ! Overall I am feeling much better and managing to deal with runner’s pains way better than ever before. For this I am so thankful to you and the dedication you put in what you do. [..] 
      Then, yesterday, I happened to watch this latest video of you, which again is so peculiar ! [..] It is the use of the word » soul « twice. It really surprised me because your approach for me seems to be so concrete, so close to the body, to its structure, bones, muscles, nervous system, that this sudden appearance of the idea (?) of a human soul really stroke me! [..]
      I don’t know if I even need to ask you why or need explanations [..] I decided I will buy your Feldenkrais book and surely will keep on practising your movements as often as I feel I need to.
      Kind regards from France,

Dear AB,
      thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! I’m very happy to hear about your improvements!
      Concerning my use of the word »soul« … to me it’s something special and mysterious; something charming, handsome, delightful; something elusive yet concrete, something more durable than the physical body. And I think some viewers can relate.
      However, I also want to answer your question in terms of being concrete: When I give movement instructions, the movements are easy to think of in terms of being well defined and agreed upon. They are very concrete and close to the body, as you phrase so well. We all seem to know what is meant when we say, “bend the knee” or “turn the head to the left”.
      However, we might be a bit too sure about what we are talking about! Do we really know what “turning the head” means? What it is comprised of, what it touches and requires?
      To keep things simple and to not think too deeply about movements will turn movements into habits, automated movements so to speak, very practical and necessary for everyday life. However, at the same time it might strip much (if not all) mystery from movements. Or from the term »movement«, or »bones« or »flesh« etc. Therefore I sometimes like to use the word »soul«. It is my hope that this word, which is not well defined, not agreed upon, and “mysterious” to say the least, that it can inspire us to look at our flesh and bones and movements in a new light, to inspire us to be open to the unexpected, mysterious, elusive, … and to be able to improve and change our movements if need be. And to spark joy! Language and movement, what a combination!
      Thanks again for your comment and support,
      I wish you a good time rolling and running,

Movement as medicine

Starting mid June this year (2022) all the way to the end of August, I created my Hip Joints Series 2. Last week, when I watched through the six videos again, I could clearly identify the time when I started reading Owen Wister’s book The Virginian, published in 1902. To my own ears my English sounded so much better than in the videos before and after. It’s as if during the time reading this 120 year old book the language in it improved my English speaking.

I can’t say the same for George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire, though. Luckily I’m already down to the last book, 4 000 pages read, 400 still to go. In the beginning I really enjoyed the story and the story telling, and at times I still do (my favourites are Arya and Tyrion) but I don’t have the feeling that his language did improve my English in the same pleasant way Owen Wister did.

Now- I wonder if the same could be said for movement? Are there movements that improve our moving? Let’s say a movement—or movement sequence—may be the equivalent to a book, and our moving about is the same as our speaking.

And- I think it can. For example, when I practice to the first video in my Hip Joints 2 series, I definitely feel an improvement in my walking, and my moving about. It’s smoother, more pleasant, I’m calmer, more collected, and overall happier with my movements and myself.

Maybe- that’s why some people call those kind of movements not only stretches, workouts, or movement sequences but fixes, or even medicine. Or they invent some more elaborate terms altogether, like Awareness Through Movement or Sensory Awareness Movement-based Mindfulness Practice etc. What do you think, what is your experience?

I love myself for who I am

Sometimes I have the feeling I should take in a few more positive affirmations into my work. And that I should read positive affirmations first thing in the morning; completely replace my reading of the News concerning mandates and government spending with positive affirmations.

  • I can’t do everything today, but I can take one small step.
  • I acknowledge my achievements.
  • I love myself for who I am.
  • I am grateful for the people I have in my life.
  • I am in the right place, at the right time.

There you have it. I hope that will last for a while. /tongue in cheek emoji