Home Concepts Managing Stress & Challenges Oiling the Tin Man’s Armor and Healing His Heart III: Reich’s and Feldenkrais’s Treatment

Oiling the Tin Man’s Armor and Healing His Heart III: Reich’s and Feldenkrais’s Treatment

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Body and Mind: In one of the essays included in Embodied Wisdom, Moshe Feldenkrais offers the following insights regarding the multi-level processing of the human brain and the tight interplay between mind and body (Feldenkrais, 2010, p. 21)

What is important is that thinking involves a physical function which supports the mental process. No matter how closely we look, it is difficult to find a mental act that can take place without the support of some physical function. Contemporary thinking about the structure of matter indicates that it is only a manifestation of energy–something more attenuated, such as thinking itself.

He offers an analogy in seeking to make sense of the complex, multi-tiered nature of human thought (Feldenkrais, 2010, pp. 21-22):

It is our familiarity with certain phenomena that makes it difficult to appreciate them clearly. For us, speed is a very real thing–tangible and measurable. Even so, we can neither touch nor measure speed. It is an abstraction. In order to measure speed, we have to take note of changes in certain physical points in space. But we can go further by measuring an abstraction of the already abstract idea of speed: that is, we can measure acceleration and deceleration, provided we always take note of changes in physical points in space. We can even go to a third level of abstraction and trace out a statistical curve of the variations in acceleration. But in what way is this any different from what happens within us when we are thinking?

Holding to this analogy of three levels of abstraction, note its parallel to mental process: For example, I may read a page absentmindedly and then ask myself if I understand it. Whereupon I reread the page, noting whether or not I am comprehending it. Then I read the page a third time, asking myself why I did not understand it the first time.

Interdependence: It is at this point that Feldenkrais (2010, p. 21-22) brings the analysis back to the interweaving of mind and body:

. . ., [W]e can see the similarity of these two analogies, and we can appreciate that a change in speed is possible only with an accompanying change in the physical process supporting it. Any change in the latter means a change in the former. Mental process produces a change in its physical substratum, and a change in the physical substratum of thinking manifests itself as a mental change. In both instances, looking for the origin of the change is futile: Neither a change in speed nor a change in thought is possible without a change in its physical substratum.

While Feldenkrais is being quite abstract regarding the interplay between mind and body (as is often the case with his writings), Grabher offers very specific and detailed descriptions. He (2010, p. 77) begins by focusing on the physical movements and reflections on physical movements that are engaged during a Feldenkrais session:

In Feldenkrais classes, students are invited to quite a different way. Instead of trying to tell them how to move correctly, e.g. getting up from sitting to standing correctly, or sitting correctly, standing correctly, walking correctly, to turn correctly (and so forth), students shall develop the feel of what’s actually happening when they engage in a movement.

First and foremost this is about bringing attention to specific movements. For example, how a certain joint moves naturally, and how it moves in relation to the rest of the body. This can be as simple as the first (and second and third) joint in your pointer finger on your dominant hand. In which directions does it flex/extend easiest? From anatomy books we know it’s a hinge joint. An anatomy book may say: “A hinge joint allows extension and retraction of an appendage [..]” Such definitions are very precise, but also quite abstract – even with a nicely drawn, detailed picture. Some anatomy books go into great detail, with fascinating pictures from carefully chosen angles.

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