Why is the Feldenkrais Method still a secret?

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Okay, okay.   It’s not a secret to everybody.  The Feldenkrais Method has many devotees and enthusiastic proponents, and by rough count, about 4,000 certified practitioner – teachers worldwide. However, it is still a surprising and pleasant rarity to encounter someone for the first time, and in the course of the “getting to know you” conversation hear them say, “Oh, Feldenkrais!  I’ve heard of that!”  Even more rare is to find someone who has experienced it directly.

Now that we live in the age of “the internets,” the way we get our information is vastly different from a generation ago.  We used to get information from approved authority figures, like doctors, teachers, lawyers, clergy, credentialed specialists, and from print journalists and broadcasters like Walter Cronkite, perhaps.  Now, our information comes increasingly by word of mouth — leveraged, of course, by email and websites — in the recommendations of friends, professional contacts, or others who can be counted upon to give us interesting, useful, and valuable information.  It’s more of a grassroots, groundswell, peer-to-peer model rather than from traditional authorities at the top of the “information food chain.” A doctor is now more likely to hear about the Feldenkrais Method from a patient, than vice-versa.

So, my first conjecture about why the Feldenkrais Method is not better known is that we haven’t yet adapted to the new ways that information flows. If you are expecting to hear about the Feldenkrais Method from traditional, “top-down” channels, you won’t hear much.  Like the subject of the old joke, looking for his keys under the streetlight because the light is better there than back in the alleyway, where he actually dropped them —  we’re not looking — or listening — in the right places.  We need to have our ear to the ground, so to speak — instead of waiting for a proclamation from “on high.”

One of the most profound ideas that Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais had to offer the intellectual conversation in the western world is that the subjective experience of an individual is valid, and important, information.  Granted, it is not the whole picture, but it is too important — foundational, one might say — to be discounted.  Word-of- mouth is about sharing one’s subjective experience, and social media tools help to leverage the extent, the reach, of that ability to share. It can shed light where the keys actually were dropped.

The Feldenkrais Method will become better known when people begin to share their own experiences of the work with their friends.  They can do this in the course of normal conversations, of course.  Even more excitingly and effectively, they can share videos, free audio lessons, articles from blogs and other websites — new and current content that is interesting and inviting.  The other refutation of the old “top down” model is that it is Feldenkrais students, not practitioners, who will best advance the Method.  Why?  They are unbound by professional jargon, free from the need to show their expertise via dissertation and argument.  They are just sharing information, with a friend, about something they enjoyed.  Simple as that.

There’s another related reason why the Feldenkrais Method is not better known.  When someone asks “What is the Feldenkrais Method?” people often mistakenly think that the inquirer is asking for an EXPLANATION.  Even seasoned practitioners find themselves at sea, or faced by a “deer in the headlights” expression, when attempting an explanation of the work.  The worst thing to say is, “It’s so hard to explain!”  Even though it is true.  The Feldenkrais Method is not just about movement, or emotions, or the body, or thinking processes, or rehabilitation, or elite skill development — although it encompasses all of these.  The Feldenkrais Method is about, and touches upon, virtually every aspect of what it means to be human.  This is not the stuff of which 30-second sound bites or Twitter status updates are made.  No — the reason why it’s a mistake to say “It’s so hard to explain!” is because the listener will jump to the conclusion that YOU think SHE is not smart enough to understand.  Why insult a new friend?    And yet, we take the bait every time, and feel we must begin to explain the Method. I would suggest that we abandon the unproductive strategy of offering explanations.

Here is what I have learned.  The questioner is not asking for an explanation. Their question contains an unconscious and unspoken subtext that is the true question:  “What’s in it for me?”  The best way to help them to think what might be in it for them is simply to share what it has done for YOU.

“I never have back pain anymore,” “I’ve shaved several strokes off my golf score,” “I feel more calm at the end of the workday” are authentic expressions of one’s own experience, and speak volumes more than any high-falutin’ foray down a bunny trail of neuroscience, cross-motivation, and mature behavior. How have YOU benefittd from the Feldenkrais Method?  That’s the best place to hang your hat.  Until you can talk about that, the Feldenkrais Method will remain a secret where it really counts.  And, until we can encourage our students and our fans to talk about how the Feldenkrais Method has helped them, they will continue to believe that they are not capable of “explaining” it.  They don’t have to explain it, or understand it.  All they have to do is share how it — and you — made them feel.

So — stop working on your elevator pitch to explain what the Feldenkrais Method IS.  Start having authentic conversations with people and find out what they are interested in.  Share how the Method has helped you. Invite them to experience a session or a class, and see for themselves.  Moshe Feldenkrais had tremendous confidence in people’s own ability to sense and think and choose for themselves.  The least we can do is make the opportunity available in a friendly, inviting, and interesting way.

[Feldenkrais Week is scheduled for May 6-15 in the USA and Canada, sponsored by the FGNA. To find classes and events near you, learn more about Feldenkrais Week here.]

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6 thoughts on “Why is the Feldenkrais Method still a secret?

  1. Love this one!
    great ideas are in the simplest things:
    talk about what it did for you…
    Am sharing….
    (from Israel)

  2. I also think it’s cause the name is hard to say.
    Anyone can say “Awareness Through Movement” or “Functional Integration,” and even have an inkling what they might mean.

    I’ve worked with a student for six months who still says “Feldenkris.” But she loves the work, so I’m, like, groovy baby!

    And I’m DEFINITELY on board with the idea of just saying 2 sentences about what it’s done for me to neophyte. Beats the heck out of “it’s hard to explain!”

    1. Interesting, Angela. The debate of whether or not to change the name — and I think it’s a red herring.
      To paraphrase Shakespeare, “The fault. . . lies not within our name, but in our selves.”

      I agree with you, though, about not setting an artificial barrier. I don’t say “I’m a Feldenkrais teacher” when asked what I do, because it further confuses them. They don’t want to know a technical term — they want to have a basis for understanding me and being able to have a conversation. I tell them I am a voice coach and a movement educator. That usually intrigues them. After I find out more about them, perhaps the conversation will get around to my work again. It’s then, later, that I say, “It’s called the Feldenkrais Method. Feldenkrais rhymes with ‘paradise.'” I think the key is in helping people to learn something new, and making the entry point as hassle-free as possible. There’s plenty of time to introduce the wonderful name later. The important thing is the ideas and the effects!

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