Movements in the wild

„Few people now talk about the relationship between thoughts feelings and behaviour as a linear process. In CBT the therapist sees thoughts, feelings and behaviours as reflecting a coherent system.” – Laroxe, forum comment at

Once a month (or so) I surf Youtube to see what others are doing, what channels became popular, and what I can learn from them. This is how I stumbled upon Mark Tyrell’s channel „Uncommon Practitioners”. As a next step I found the above comment under one of his articles.

Two thoughts came up. One statement, and one question:

  • Blog posts are different from articles (much to my relief)
  • What is behaviour in the context of movement?

At a first think-about-it „behaviour” appears to me like „movements in the wild”. Best observed by anthropologists and behavioural psychologists. And therapists trying to catch, study, alter or eradicate specifically undesirable specimens of behaviour, and enforce and grow the good ones.

Funny way to look at it, I know. Removes the actual person, the one who is behaving, from the picture.

To put that last thought into Abraham Fuk’s words: „This shift of attention is exacerbated by contemporary imaging methodologies, and patients, who in Foucault’s clinic became open to the medical gaze, are rendered totally transparent, perhaps virtual. Diagnostics becomes centred on the putative agent and therapeutics revolves around extirpation and conquest. Arguably, the most important effect of this framing of medicine is the eradication of the patient’s voice from the narrative.” – quote from Military Metaphors of Modern Medicine.

Somewhat contrariwise, the movement sequences and movement qualities I teach, as inspired by Moshé Feldenkrais, are very human-focused. We play with movement, its properties, connections, implications… we seed new knowledge and qualities… before releasing ourselves into the wild again.

May my eclectic thinking linger in your mind (or heart) for a little while, and allow me to imagine that they find fertile soil. Sprouting into something beautiful, rich, own-able, loveable. While you fly off into the wild.

Could you hand me that glass over there please?

Let’s say you’re sitting.

What could we say about this position? What do we know about it, generally speaking? Even if you would confirm that you’re sitting, what would your „configuration” have in common with everyone else who would confirm that they are indeed sitting?

Your hands could be almost anywhere. Your right hand could be on the top of your head, and you could be sitting on your left hand, and it would still be called sitting.

Your feet and legs could be in a whole lot of positions too, especially if you’re sitting on a chair. Your right foot could be on your left knee. Like this your knees are not close enough to call that „sitting cross-legged” just yet. And your left foot, you could sit on it, and it would still be called sitting.

What official definitions (and deviations) are there for sitting, for any position, in English… in any language?

And what does „sitting” say about its possibilities? What can you do in your specific way of sitting, that someone else in her/his way of sitting cannot do. Or can do just as well?

And what does „sitting” say about the feelings it may provoke? Maybe one way of sitting makes you tired, one way makes you more alert, one way makes you strong and happy, and another way of sitting makes you feel weak.

It gets even more elaborate with movements: How would a rotation (in which direction?) of a hand be described as it (may or may not) responds to the movements of the arm, shoulder girdle, neck, chest, ribs, eyes, breathing, weight shifting over one foot, etc… ?

And how could we commoners benefit from the Terminologia Anatomica for corpses? „Supinated” is well defined, but the movement of „supination” allows for ambiguity.  „Could you hand me that glass over there please?” I would like to hear someone ask that question in precise, conclusive, anatomical terms.

So far modern Sports and Dance seem to yield the most and best words and definitions. Robotics and Cybernetics may be something to look into as well. Let’s keep those words coming.

Movements feel good. Understanding too.

One of the first question patients ask when they wake up from a coma is not „How long have I been gone”, but: „Where am I?” At least that’s what I have read in a medical journal, years ago. I guess it’s still true today. Establishing a point of reference, context, knowing where we are is very important to us.

I’ve read the same thing about story telling. Every story needs to introduce these three things: 1. Location, 2. Main actors, 3. Plot. Some authors go straight forward in introducing these three components, some beat around the bush for a little while, but eventually all three are revealed.

“The buzz in the street was like the humming of flies. Photographers stood massed behind barriers patrolled by police, their long-snouted cameras poised, their breath rising like steam. Snow fell steadily on to hats and shoulders; gloved fingers wiped lenses clear. From time to time there came outbreaks of desultory clicking, as the watchers filled the waiting time by snapping the white canvas tent in the middle of the road, the entrance to the tall red-brick apartment block behind it, and the balcony on the top floor from which the body had fallen.” … … … 13 pages later … … … „Are you M-Mr Strike?” – excerpt from Robert Galbraith, J.K. Rowling, The Cuckoo’s Calling 

When a story does not have the real estate of a full book to unfold itself, experienced writers like David Sedaris may pull all three things together in one short opening sentence:

„A year after my graduation from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a terrible mistake was made and I was offered a position teaching a writing workshop.” – the first sentence of „The Learning Curve”, from David Sedaris.

„It was Easter Sunday in Chicago, and my sister Amy and I were attending an afternoon dinner at the home of our friend John. ” – the first sentence of „Big Boy”, from David Sedaris.

That’s also how dreams work.

If you’re into lucid dreaming, in any dream you will know 1. Where you are, or at least be informed about the set, even if it is minimalist – or kafkaesque in case you ate too much before going to sleep. 2. Who is interacting (and with whom), and 3. What the dream is about.

It could be similar with movement. There’s questions. Or at least: there should be questions. We could have these kind of questions:

  1. What is your starting position?
  2. What are you moving? Where to?
  3. How is the movement quality – fast, slow, rhythmical, choppy, tense, smooth, laboured, accelerating, slowing, … ?
  4. What is moving along with it? What isn’t?
  5. What are we trying to achieve?

With these questions in mind there’s suddenly a lot to observe in the physical world, and by collecting answers, we build understanding.

As decades passed by the nightmares also disappeared

School was dreadful. Talk of a total lack of appreciation. How did it come to this? I grew up in Austria, Europe, in the 80ties and 90ties, in a middle class family, and was given free, middle-class schooling. I was not sent to labour in sweat shops or factories. I was not sent to charity schools with educational overlords who use shouting, belts and sticks to help students focus. I was sent to good schools with properly trained and certified teachers. And yet it felt so bad I questioned the sanity of almost every teacher and hated almost every minute of it.

Hate is a strong word. Maybe the following would be a more mature expression: The first couple of years at school I was frozen and in shock. Then I was chronically displeased with schooling pedagogics and some of the teachers’s puppet-like self-submission to the broken system. Then I was disappointed. And then I was angry. And then I was broken.

In 14 years of compulsory schooling (plus 4 years of university) – if I think really long and hard – I could only think of very few teachers I liked and could relate to. One of them was a maths teacher of all subjects. A late, soothing experience at university. She brought me from barely passing math classes to being a straight A student. And that was not basic algebra. That was proper mathematics, with probability problems and integral wavelet transforms.

This stands in contrast to the old-school maths teacher I had in the prestigious federal high school I had to attend. I had absolutely no idea what that teacher was talking about when he tried to teach us elementary algebra. In fact, his teaching was so un-relatable that I failed to understand even one word he was uttering – while he was trying to talk me senseless. Like in all classes, I had to sit in his class for endless hours, in total silence, motionless, obedient. Like everyone else, I was only allowed to talk when addressed (and usually had nothing to say then) and only allowed to move when asked to demonstrate on the blackboard. I understood the „do not move” part, but I failed to give the right answers to his incomprehensible questions. As a result that teacher wanted to have me transferred to a school for children with special needs. A dead end road. Because to his mind I was too dumb to add up a couple of numbers.

At that time I didn’t know what any of that meant. I just tried to follow what I was told to do – as good as I was able to understand (because really I did not understand much of their world). It is only now, as an adult, that I can look back and express my helplessness I experienced back then, in anger. I feel lucky that I’m grown up now, and that I don’t have to go back to school.

I did 30 days of daily blogging

I don’t know which clown of a teacher said that flashcards need to have pictures on them. Multimodal learning and hacking the brain and all that nonsense. Maybe it was not even a teacher who said that, but a marketeer who was trying to get more views. No bad intentions, he probably was just trying to make more money. And who doesn’t love more money?


On the same note a lot has been told sold about “daily blogging benefits”. In consequence this produced 14+ million blog posts titled something like „Five reasons I recommend daily blogging”, „10 benefits of daily blogging”, „The Hidden Benefits to Writing Daily and Blogging”, „Unexpected Benefits of Blogging Daily”, „The 20 Biggest Benefits of Blogging”, „7 Reasons Daily Blogging Is Worth Doing”, and so forth… you get the idea.

I just don’t see it.

I sometimes look at old video recordings of Moshé Feldenkrais. In between movement instructions he sometimes just sat there and was forming thoughts and sentences. „Denken-Sprechen”, we say in German language… speaking new thoughts and fragments of thoughts out loud without filter. In this way we can peek into his mind, and watch his process of thinking. While entertaining, thought provoking, and maybe even inspiring, I have the feeling many people came mostly for his actual lessons, his movement sequences. Not for his rambling, not for his stumbling over words, not for his raw thinking.

I feel the same with blogging. While it is a daily statement (and selection) of the things I’m currently looking at and pondering, it just doesn’t give me the same satisfaction (and benefits) of actual teaching. And of actually producing, finishing, and shipping products. Finishing a blog post gives me a mini-high, a mini-satisfaction, but the feeling doesn’t come close to my „real” work.

Maybe I will continue with blogging for a while. See, observe, feel, how my experience develops, my judgement forms, my opinions change over time.

My Feldenkrais Book, 10 years later

When I finished the first draft for the text portion of „My Feldenkrais Book”, back in 2008, I gave it to my friend John Walker for a first feedback. He’s an experienced Yoga teacher with a love for continuing education and science based publications. I regarded myself lucky to have him look over the draft.

I can’t remember if he actually made a whole lot of annotations, but when he returned the loose pile of pages to me a week later, he just smiled at me and said amicably, „You have a lot of work ahead of you.”

I knew I had to look for a better structure. I researched the popular literature at that time and found two books for inspiration: „Purple Cow” by Seth Godin, and  „Rework” by Jason Fried and DHH.

These authors (and a whole bunch of others at that time) did something exceptional, something that stood out: for each chapter they identified a central concept, and phrased that concise-ly, strong-ly, and very memorab-ly. These were their chapter titles. Then they supplemented each title with a couple of paragraphs. Usually with examples, quotes, and stories – creating a renaissance for story telling along with it. All very tangible. To explain what they mean. Get their point across. Cement their objective into the hearts and brains of their audience.

For me, a pretty novel concept by then. And a bit annoying by now. Because for a whole while everyone seemed to be doing just that. And some are still doing it today. A few weeks ago I bought a copy of the bestseller „The Algebra of Happiness” by Scott Galloway: a headline plus a few paragraphs of text, then the next headline, mostly unrelated to the previous, plus another few paragraphs of text. However, for Scott Galloway I think we need to appreciate the fact that he doesn’t ramble about a single topic for more than a few paragraphs.

I still love „My Feldenkrais Book”. I think the structure held up nicely.

I think the choice of movement sequences is great, the presentation of central concepts compelling. In fact, I flip through it frequently, and I do still recommend it. In fact, I think I should write more of it.

Love and understanding, and meaning

„Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill.” – Stephen Krashen

Now that’s something I can work with. And it’s backed by science. What a change in perspective!

We must remember that most of us went through compulsory schooling, and thus have been strongly indoctrinated into accepting many unhealthy and highly inefficient practices when it comes to learning.

For second language acquisition we have been made believe that the study and memorisation of grammatical rules is an absolute must. Most text books indeed have more grammar rules, technical tables and word lists than conversations and prose. And that’s just one of the many things that always put me off in language learning classes.

The same, I guess, is true for movement learning. Studying anatomy is not an absolute requirement, neither are the numerous, standardised functional movement assessment tests and techniques.

We simply need comprehensible input. And an environment that supports our quest for learning. In other words: Love and understanding. Meaning and purpose (if those two are separate things).