Imagination trumps the will
Sometimes it’s hard to swim in the turbulence of life. It’s an immersive experience with currents that are hard to discern. One of the nice things about having a daily movement practice is that you train yourself to create stillness within the storm.
That of course, is one of the jewels in the crown. It’s a lovely way to be aware of where you are and to feel the roots of your connection to life.
Tomorrow evening I will be beginning a new theme for my Tuesday night classes. We’ll be exploring lessons created by Feldenkrais in his Tel Aviv studio on Alexander Yanai between the 1950’s and 1970’s.
During that period he gave daily classes that he recorded on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. He would record the lesson then in his next class play it back to see how it worked. If necessary he would re-record the lesson then try it again with the next group. He repeated this process until he felt the lesson was complete.
There are over 600 of them in this series. Even though he considered them masterpieces he never intended them to be commercial recordings. They are a treasure trove of wisdom.
I will be beginning tomorrow night with lesson #98 called Zen Sitting. It’s a very interesting lesson. The title refers not so much to the position explored as to a process he employs to make it easy. He achieves this using an attentional koan. The net effect is that you achieve something you were looking for without looking for it.
I hope you can join us. Each week we’ll be exploring something new that will often be surprising.
The following picture is of Moshe Feldenkrais when he was 16 convalescing after injuring his knee in a soccer game. It’s funny how adversity can sometimes be the most fortuitous thing.
That knee injury was the trigger for a lifetime of personal exploration that led to the development of his Method. He also read about Emile Coue’s work on autosuggestion whilst there. His thinking on the unconscious is a fundamentally important aspect of the work. Nine years later he translated then published, ‘The Practice of Autosuggestion by the Method of Emile Coue’ by C Harry Brooks and added two chapters of his own.
He was intrigued by an idea that in matters of self-direction and self-control imagination trumps the will. He was intrigued by the links between the conscious und unconscious mind in everyday life. How it organised digestion, assimilation, respiration and the like. He asked why it was that a person with no martial arts training will instinctively protect the back and sides of their head if faced with someone brandishing a stick? As a 25 year old he wrote, ‘The unconscious knows all: what comes first and what comes later.’
The method he developed found ways to enlist our unconscious resources for conscious actions as will be seen in the Zen sitting lesson we are doing on Tuesday evening.
Moshe spoke of the need to practice something a thousand times before it could become second nature. It’s one of the beauties of the method that no matter what movement or function we are exploring we are always practicing paying attention without correction. We are always spreading our attention to the whole body from a variety of contexts. We are always resting in order to move from stillness. It's a useful repetition.
Regardless of what we are working on in particular lessons, this background skill is so invaluable for those times when ‘life’ happens while we’re making other plans.
The lessons in the Alexander Yanai series are ingenious. They will all provide insight and inspiration your own daily practice.
I look forward to seeing you!