SomaQuest Blog

A short read, and then to work.

This is for you. Yes, YOU.

I love you.

Even if we don’t know each other well, I love the idea of you. I love your “YOU-ness,” “U”-ness, uniqueness, and all that you have to offer to the world. I just wanted to say that first.

The killings in Orlando early Sunday morning have knocked the wind out of me. As an ally of the LGBTQ community, and as a conscious human being, I grieve for the senseless waste of life, vitality, intelligence, skill, creativity joy, love, and potential.

Many of my friends and clients are struggling right now. When under acute stress and distress, the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight/freeze/faint state) takes over. The powerful neurotransmitter acetylcholine runs the show, overtaking the brain. In response, the hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine flood the body. Effects range from anxiety and panic attacks to shortness of breath, hypervigilance, muscular tension, pain, insomnia, depression, digestive distress, and emotional dysregulation or “roller coaster” feelings. In other words, they are experiencing trauma. In times of national tragedy, we are all affected to some extent. None are more severely affected than those who feel targeted, hunted, hated, erased, eliminated, and realistically in mortal danger.

There will be a continuing debate about possible courses of action and responses to the massacre. One overlooked reality is that trauma has physiological effects, and it changes the brain. Your brain. Think about that.

No matter how close you are to recent events or those most affected by them, now is a time for self-care and recovery. There is nothing more healing than LOVE. We observe that in Feldenkrais lessons and classes, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which allows the process of recovery to begin. Heart rate and blood pressure normalize, body temperature drops, metabolism temporarily slows to allow the human system to restore itself. Feel-good neurotransmitters, seratonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, move life in a positive direction again, and enable trust and human connection. Physical improvement and a sense of emotional well-being return. Recovery takes time. We must create conditions where this overall healing can occur. Recovery, restoration, and improvement are possible. That’s the great hope that the Feldenkrais Method can offer to EVERYONE.

As a Feldenkrais teacher, I’m in the human potential business. My practice is driven by love. We can’t afford to waste the vast potential of human resources – not yours, not mine, not anyone’s. People are hurting. All I have to offer is a practice of self awareness for intelligent action in the world. That’s it! If you think that commodity is valuable and in short supply, come to a class. We all have work to do.

The Night #Feldenkrais Broke the Internet

SpellingBee3The title might be an overstatement, but I feel justified because Moshe Feldenkrais himself used hyperbole and humor on a regular basis to command attention and facilitate learning. If you’re still with me, you just might be one of the people who emailed, Facebooked, or Tweeted your delight thatFeldenkrais” was the winning word for one young champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee last night. Hearty congratulations to Jairam Jagadeesh Hathwar (who correctly spelled “Feldenkrais,”) co-winner with Nihar Saireddy Janga (he correctly spelled “Gesellschaft”).

My friend Sarah Shah pinged me immediately, but I did not see it until after one of my New York colleagues posted it – and I thought it was a joke or meme that someone had cleverly created. By this morning, my email inbox was full of messages from people asking whether I had heard. In our little Feldyverse, this is EPIC. Your heart can justifiably swell with pride because you have not only heard of Feldenkrais, you have experienced it!

In moments of public recognition (even if among the arcane intersection of Feldenkrais peeps and spelling geeks), it is wise to keep perspective and humility. Will this be our big breakthrough moment, propelling us into the mainstream? Or will it be a “15 minutes of fame” footnote? It all depends on how individuals respond.

The practice of the Feldenkrais Method can prepare you for your own moments in the spotlight. You learn about your habitual actions and reactions, within yourself and in the world. With many options for “your next step” available to you, you can make a good choice. We learn from those choices, and refine our actions going forward to create a better experience, a better life, a better world.


Check out our upcoming summer classes at the Jung Center of Houston.

New workshops for insomnia, life transitions, posture, and more.

Reflections on Pi

220px-pi_eq_c_over_d-svgHappy (Rounded) Pi Day!

Today’s date, represented numerically, is 31416, which also is the value of Pi, π, rounded to five places. This mathematical constant, the ratio C/d, has been calculated to more than 13.3 TRILLION digits. You’ll never run out of π, my friend. There’s plenty for everyone.

In devising his movement method, Moshe Feldenkrais made good use of the humble circle. Many lessons include the instruction to move one’s [name body part here – nose, elbow, shoulder, heel. . .] in such a way as to describe a small circle in the air, on the ceiling, or on the floor. The intricate, sub-cognitive calculations and calibrations of the nervous system are seemingly infinite, in this or any task.

In the Feldenkrais Method, you can improve, refine, deepen, expand, and focus virtually any action in the world. Dr. Feldenkrais himself posited that our potential for improvement is infinite. However, that doesn’t mean that we strive to have it all, or do it all; or, the bane of the perfectionist, to have and do it all NOW. Mature experience teaches that we can’t eat all the pie. Or all the π. We learn to appreciate that “enough is as good as a feast.” When we stop to savor each improvement, we learn how to make the next one. We become idea-generators, variation-makers, amd innovators of our own lived experience.

Curious to find out what the Feldenkrais Method can do for you? Call us at 713.622.8794 for a F*R*E*E* phone consultation!

To Begin Again

happy-new-year-1063797_1280The year is new, still shiny, no dents in it, fresh off the showroom floor, with that New Year smell. I was chatting with a friend yesterday around the idea of resolutions and planning the year, figuring out how each of us would move forward on projects and intentions. My friend briefly shared the situation of one of his clients who had recently experienced a series of setbacks in her business. She was going to have to start over, he said. But, having created a successful business before, she knew the process and could rebuild using the same steps.

I know the feeling and the experience of starting over. When one endures losses and leaves an old way of life behind, the prospect of “starting over” is daunting. As I reflected more, it came to me that I sense a subtle difference between two ideas that seem the same on the surface. My visceral response is qualitatively different when I think, “Start over,” compared to when I think, “Begin again.” Do those feel different to you?

When I think, “Start over,” I think of poor Sisyphus pushing the gigantic boulder up the hill – only to slide back to the very bottom again and again. Indeed, “Backsliding” has some judgment loaded into it. Stop! Everything you just did was wrong. Irredemable. Trash it. You’ll have to start over. I hear the voice of my old piano teacher, or some other authority figure who knew the standard and determined that I had not met it.

But “Begin again” feels better somehow. Whatever I did before, even if it didn’t work, contains nuggets of information and learning that I can build upon, fine-tune, and improve. “Begin again” doesn’t stipulate WHAT I am to begin – it could be something entirely different, just begin. “Start over” makes it likely that I will make the same mistakes, because I am doing the same thing, again. Begin something, anything. Don’t stop beginning. When I begin again, I do it at my own pace and in my own way, not compelled by some outer influence.

The Feldenkrais Method has within it the notion of being a beginner every time one comes to practice. In the Method, one is a beginner every day, because there is always something new to learn, always a new circumstance to adapt to, always a different constraint or “wrinkle” in the system that wasn’t there before. Even the expert or master teacher is a beginner, having become expert at beginning. We work according to an iterative process: begin a movement. Begin it again, and add to it. Begin again, and vary it in some way. Through the process of many beginnings, improvements emerge and grow. In the Feldenkrais Method, there’s no need to reach the pinnacle of achievement or the height of one’s potential on the first attempt. We’re in it for the duration. Successive approximations, baby steps, will get us there.

One comes to understand the Zen idea of “the beginner’s mind.” In one way, a beginner is a novice, an innocent, someone with humility because they have no expertise or prior knowledge in the domain they are studying. This freedom from preconceptions enables one to see things with fresh eyes. The beginner comes with an “empty cup,” an open mind, ready to learn. My understanding of the beginner’s mind has evolved to include another aspiration: a beginner is one who begins, who makes beginnings like a potter makes pots, or a watchmaker makes watches. A beginner is someone who is willing to move out of physical, emotional, or ideological stasis and begin on some path, even if it’s not perfect. You can always adjust course as you go. How does one think before beginning? The mind of one who begins things is creative and courageous. In the face of seeming failure, of discouragement, or confusion, one can always make a new beginning.

What would you like to begin?

 

 

What would you like to learn?

This past weekend, I spent a glorious rainy three days in Austin with other Feldenkrais teachers from around the country. We had gathered for the opportunity to step out of our habitual teacher roles and once again to assume the role of student. The Feldenkrais Method® is about life-long learning, so we take our own personal and professional development very seriously. It is always a joy to lie on the floor as a class member, and enter the intriguing kinesthetic puzzle of Awareness Through Movement®.

The workshop had an advertised topic which was of interest to me, and the teachers were friends whom I don’t often get to see. I was “all in” for a great experience, and that experience was that I learned things I didn’t know were important for me to know. The element of surprise made the weekend learning exciting and profound. If you are coming for classes, lessons, or workshops in the near future, you’ll be the direct beneficiary.

It was after class that I had an opportunity to reflect upon what I was learning. It was fun and specific in the moment, but later I could appreciate the deeper levels, the broader applications, the wider implications for other aspects of my life. I thought about my students, what they say they want to learn, and what else they might learn. Are the deeper, unadvertised lessons a side-effect of the Method, or are they the true essence?

Moshe Feldenkrais sometimes spoke of assisting people “to live their vowed and unavowed dreams.” I think of a person who came to me for voice lessons because her dream was to learn to sing. What she learned along the way was how to find her voice, how to speak up for herself, and how to express her true self. That is an unavowed dream. When I work with someone, I think of the possible unavowed dream: to walk tall, to be resilient, to feel comfortable in one’s own skin, to feel a sense of power and agency in one’s life, to feel free.

What would you like to learn?

The Rant That Wasn’t

Last Tuesday morning, I did something non-habitual.

Feldenkrais teachers often say that we help people to notice their habitual patterns of action, and then to explore non-habitual patterns to expand one’s choices for action in the future. This statement flies past most people, but it’s a really big deal. And it’s a big deal to notice when it’s happening. Usually, I facilitate this for my clients. Tuesday offered an opportunity to practice it for myself.

It was a tad before 8 a.m., and I had just had the first glance of the day at my Facebook feed. I can usually scroll past the annoying stuff, but Tuesday morning I got hooked by a pet peeve. In a flash, I typed a brief and brilliant slam of this type of post, and indirectly of those who post them. I was fully cranked and ready to give the world a piece of my mind. So there! And then, I took a breath.

I read over what I had typed – it really was good! And then I thought: do I really need to post this? Is this how I want to start my day? Can I just let this go? And you know what? I did.

What was really shocking was that this post received 95 “Likes” and stimulated 16 comments. Usually I have to post a picture of food, or my grandson, or one of my cats to get that kind of engagement.  While the comments ranged from “Oh come on! Let us hear it!” to “I’ve done that myself,” several expressed appreciation and admiration of my restraint. That sentiment intrigued me. Was this behavior so extraordinary, so noteworthy?

We live in a “Just Do It” culture. No guts, no glory. Stand your ground. My parents’ generation would say, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” But the ability to NOT do something – to inhibit action – is a greatly undervalued human capacity. This choice of doing or not-doing is called self-regulation. The toddler must learn to manage complex emotions of frustration and anger, and find ways other than temper tantrums to get her needs met. Teenagers push the limits and learn how to deal with authority to avoid adverse consequences and loss of privileges. As adults, we must regulate our appetites for food, sleep, alcohol, sex, and being right at all costs. The ability to intercept one’s habitual actions, and choose a better one, a more useful one, a more constructive one, is an ability worth developing.

As humans, we constantly navigate between the poles of engagement and detachment. Both are valuable, as are all the gradations of the spectrum. Each person must find a comfort zone in which they can function best. Moments of extraordinary courage or greatness will carry us outside of the comfort zone. For that reason, Moshe Feldenkrais advises that one should learn to move with efficiency, clarity, and minimal effort, to conserve vital energies for when they are needed.

Even though I have been a teacher of the Feldenkrais Method for over a decade, I am still amazed at the power of this work to break in and infiltrate my life in unexpected ways. The practice of teaching the non-habitual can become routine. And then, a revelation emerges – not on the floor in the midst of a lesson, but in the midst of life, lived. I noticed my available choices in a seemingly insignificant moment, and was able to shift out of “piece of mind” mode into peace of mind. I dare say my day likely changed course as a result.

The news, social media, our families and co-workers can all elicit strong reactions. Our increasingly chaotic, discordant, and violent world adds internal and external stress. If each of us could learn to shift from “piece of mind” to “peace of mind,” what effect might that have in our relationships, our communities, our nation, our world? I believe this idea is at the core of the Feldenkrais Method.  Who knows? This self-regulation stuff might just be the next big thing.

Did You Feel the Shift In The Force?

bluebellreBy the time you read this, millions of Texans will be happy. Completely, blissfully happy. It has been a cranky and upsetting summer, but not because of the myriad social, cultural, and economic flashpoints that rear their ugly heads all too often in the Lone Star State. For the past six (almost seven!) months, Texans have been forced to live in a world without Blue Bell ice cream. Troubling lysteria contamination resulted in three deaths and numerous illnesses around the country, so the main processing plant up the road in Brenham, as well as one in Oklahoma, was closed down in early April. Great was the distress, since Blue Bell is considered to be a major Summer Food Group in Texas. And, since summer goes on almost all year – well, you get the idea. But on Monday, August 31, 2015, the supply of frosty goodness finally will be restored. Texans will heave a collective and heartfelt sigh of relief as our National Ice Cream is slurped, licked, and lapped with a celebratory abandon worthy of the end of such a drought. THAT is the shift in The Force you felt.

Since I don’t do well these days when I eat dairy products, I don’t have a horse in this race. Or a cow. However, I still feel the pride and loyalty that all Texans feel toward Blue Bell. It looks like the brand is set for a big recovery. People love their Blue Bell, and don’t even suggest that they eat another brand. THERE IS NO OTHER BRAND OF ICE CREAM. Love for Blue Bell unites Texans across all demographic categories. It’s an amazing phenomenon.

I’ve used this dead-serious/humorous example as an illustration of the fact that we humans like life the way we like it. We don’t like change, we don’t like to change, and we don’t like it when our routines are disrupted. It is difficult to change our preferences and habits, and we experience loss when our choices seem to disappear. Physical pain and injury, or a decline in one’s ability to function, are examples of serious circumstances that affect basic quality of life.

The Feldenkrais Method helps people to improve their quality of life. We help people with movement difficulties who want to LEARN how to recover, re-group, or even re-invent themselves to be better than ever. The practice of the Method grows the skills of resilience, focus, creativity, and adaptation across multiple domains in life. Best of all, it can elevate your mood without increasing your waistline!

So a new day dawns over Texas. While peace, harmony, and caloric levels will peak throughout the land as the first delicious scoops are served, perhaps your difficulties are not so easily dispatched. It might be time for you to try the Feldenkrais Method.

Find a practitioner near you at feldenkrais.com.
In Houston, TX, Schedule a F*R*E*E* consultation to find out if the Feldenkrais Method can help you.

Why learn to move better?

cartwheelIt’s human nature to adapt to whatever is “good enough.” People will seek help with movement if there is a problem. Pain, excessive exertion, perceived weakness, or lack of coordination in the aftermath of an injury or in the midst of some other difficulty frequently drive people to try the Feldenkrais Method. But why bother to improve if there’s no problem?

1) Feldenkrais lessons are useful because they expand your “movement vocabulary.” Another way to think of it is to expand your “database” of available movements for any activity. Why is this important? Because it’s good to have alternatives if one way of doing something stops working! Think of the Major League Baseball switch pitcher Pat Venditte, who can throw a baseball right or left-handed with equal skill and power. When he experienced an injury to one shoulder a few years ago, he simply threw with the other arm. He continued to play that season, instead of going on the injured list. With more movement options, you can stay active and avoid being on the sidelines for the pastimes you enjoy.
2) Feldenkrais lessons can help you learn to prevent injuries. As you become more attuned to yourself, to where your body is in space, and to the nice sensations of efficient movement, your brain gets a higher quality of “real-time reporting” from your body. If you are creating shearing forces through a joint, or straining in a muscle group, or simply experiencing fatigue and inattention, you will feel it sooner and be able to adjust your position, effort, or trajectory, thereby averting disaster.
3) Feldenkrais lessons improve all of your senses, including your sense of balance (literally and metaphorically) and your sense of humor. As you bring your attention to the simple and basic sensations of movement, your appreciation of life and your capacity for enjoyment will soar! Results may vary: unpredictable outcomes can surprise and delight!
4) Feldenkrais lessons can restore your faith in yourself, and in your capacity to learn, adapt, and change. Whatever your situation, there are aspects that are still under your control, where you have agency and ability to affect the quality of the present moment. As you catch glimpses of your potential and your capacity, your ability to improve is ongoing and virtually unlimited.

If you enjoy learning new things, and if you want to enjoy all your experiences to the fullest, then the Feldenkrais Method has much to offer you. Call us to find out how to get started.

Too Much of A Good Thing

Weather clipIf you live in the Houston Metro area, you know that our region has experienced torrential rains and record-breaking flooding in recent days. If you live elsewhere, the chances are good that you caught a glimpse of Houston, or some other part of Texas, on the national (or international) news. The years 2010-2014 were marked by record-breaking drought conditions, so you’d think the rain would be welcome. But 35 TRILLION gallons within a month, across the state of Texas? Devastating. As those who practice the Feldenkrais Method know, it’s not just the “What.” It’s the “How,” and sometimes the “When.” Who among us deals gracefully with too much of a good thing?

In my office, I regularly see people who have gone overboard with something and have injured themselves. Some people take pride in “giving their all” working out, cycling, running, doing yoga or Pilates, managing a busy schedule for multiple family members, or other activities they truly enjoy. Others spend hours in high-stress jobs, rarely pausing or taking moments for self-awareness and care. They all have lost track of themselves and how much effort they routinely expend. Their ambition or pursuit of a goal or a “should” causes them to ignore the telltale signs of distress and impending injury. They become swamped, it’s hard to stay afloat, they are swimming upstream — you get the idea. The gentle approach of the Feldenkrais Method can help!

Do you”deluge yourself” with too much of too much – even if it’s a good thing? Let yourself “absorb” improvements gradually. Be patient with yourself, make time for rest and recovery. I know you’re thinking, “Yeah, yeah, you don’t understand my life!” Or perhaps, “Wow, I’d LOVE TO. How do I do that?” Well, it takes a little practice.

In the Feldenkrais Method, we teach people how to pay attention and learn what’s really important. We DO try to understand your life, and we can show you how to create the “life preservers” you need. I help people who want to learn how to recover, re-organize, or re-invent themselves to be better than ever. Come rain or come shine, hell or high water, you CAN live your best life.

Many thanks to all of our readers around the world who sent emails or notes of concern on Facebook during our weather woes! Happily, we sustained no damage, and are deeply grateful to see the return of the sun.