„Frogs jump, caterpillars hump, worms wiggle, bugs jiggle” – excerpt from »Jump or Jiggle« by Evelyn Beyer
But do they? Do frogs jump? Whenever I encounter one of them they usually sit still and play dead. Why are you doing this, frog? Are you really that afraid of me? And sometimes, during hot summer nights, I would hear them make a loud, continuous noise. Much like cicadas make a loud, continuous noise during hot summer days. And I would have been interested to hear that cicadas are used as symbols of carefree living and immortality. And that they have been featured in many books, and in many pictures in ancient China. What is China? What does ancient mean? I would have liked to see those books and pictures. Many years later I would hear cicadas for myself at the Cote d’azur in South of France, to me they would become a symbol of hot summer days and a lavish lifestyle, with me lying on the soft, dry, sandy ground in the shades of large trees, or sitting with friends and family in front of romantic cottages.
I was a serious child. Maybe I was too serious. But I just couldn’t relate to my teachers. Not to their teachings, not to their books, and not to their ways of interacting with other people. My primary school teacher pulled a manic smile, like a crazy person, and then pumped forwards with her unrelatable teachings, her shrill voice, forcing me to ignore all of my questions, thoughts, and feelings. Why and when do frogs jump? I’ve never seen a frog jump before. I’ve once seen a big one sitting in the middle of a road, after the rain. But my mom said that’s not a frog, „That’s a toad.” I sat in class on my little chair in silence, hands on the table, without moving, as it was expected from all school children. I couldn’t feel anything, I didn’t know what any of that meant. My father brought me to this building every morning, where I would sit in silence on a chair, next to other children who did the same, while a strange woman would talk things in a loud voice. The other children would write something, and the teacher would order me to write something too – so I looked at my neighbour’s notebook and copied the letters and words he drew in there. Sometimes he would make an angry face and didn’t let me look into his notebook, therefore I had nothing to write and then the teacher would tell me to hurry up or come over and point into my notebook and tell me to write the same thing again, the thing which I have just written already. Sometimes the teacher would write something on the blackboard, so I copied that into my notebook. And at some point, every day, all children would get up and leave and I would be in front of the building, and everyone would be gone, and then I would walk back home again, just as my mom taught me to.
Come spring I found a little pond with tiny little frogs all over it. When I came closer they dived off, disappeared under the leaves and into the water. I saw some of them leap away in hurry. Frogs were a lot smaller than toads. And a lot prettier. Their skin was smooth, and their colours were bright. They were so cute! Some of them did jump indeed. Their tiny little legs did something and they looked like pebbles flying, diving, swimming, disappearing. The teacher didn’t lie.
Now, „Would you please come to sit down on the floor”, preferably on a hard wood floor, or on a big carpet. „And sit with your legs long, the knees extended. ” I would say. „How far can you spread your legs apart comfortably, without strain?”, I would ask. I would look at you to see if you’re comfortable. And whether or not you’re flexible enough to sit with an erect spine, or if you would sit with your pelvis rolled back onto your anus and your front side collapsed.
„Then please lean on your left hand, with your left arm extended”, I would say, and I would watch you attentively. I would be in neutral gear, alert, speak with a calm, slightly cheerful voice. I would give you enough time to respond, to turn my spoken instructions into a reality. I would see if you know how to lean on your left hand with a straight arm, if you know how to to shift weight onto your hand in this position. I would see how far you have placed your left hand away from your pelvis, in which direction you have turned your fingers, your arm, your shoulders, and how the rest of your body would hold and organise in response. By this time I would already know a lot about you, you as a person, just by looking at you, and how you’re doing and not doing things. I would look at you to see if you have any questions so far. I would look at you to see how you’re doing.
And I would stop you if you would be doing something you’re uncomfortable with, or something you could not relate to. If necessary I would explain: „Some folks can sit like this easily, and some can’t. Nowadays it’s not necessary to be able to sit on the floor like this, because we are using chairs instead. But I think it would be nice to be able to sit like this. To have the option. Is there any situation you could think of when sitting on the floor like this could be useful?”, I would ask. And maybe you would crack a joke about that you haven’t sat down on the floor since over a decade, and maybe I would sit down on the floor to join you, do the same thing. Maybe you would need that from me, and maybe, on some days, I would need that too.
„Then lift your right arm up, your right hand up as high as your right shoulder. Extend your right arm forwards”, that’s the starting position. „And then move your right hand to the left, as if you would point at something with your right index finger, and follow it over to the left.” Repeat this movement a couple of times. „Return to the starting position, and move your right hand, with your right arm straight, over to the left”.
When you observe yourself doing so you will notice that your head can turn, will turn, to the left as well. That the intention of point-and-follow and the physical movements are in agreement, congruent. And that you can do the same physical movements even without pointing and following. That you can shift your awareness entirely to your internal processes, as a choice. And that your right buttock, your right sit bone, will come off the floor a bit, and you will lean more onto your left buttock. A funny kind of feeling, to roll over your left buttock. And maybe deep inside, you might feel your skeleton, your left ischial tuberosity, your left sit-bone, the shape of it. And you will start to notice many more things. You will notice things about your structure, how everything moves and moves in relation, your habits, your way of doing things, yourself. Within a few moments you will have had a successful somatic movement learning experience. You will feel great. You will feel at ease. Attentive. You will want to go on, try more. And I will be happy to be there with you.