In a therapeutic setting we think of touch beginning when the hand of the practitioner meets the body of the client. This contact begins a nonverbal dialog resulting in some healing, soothing or reset of the physical body.
I find the qualities of touch in a Feldenkrais Functional Integration® lesson expand beyond this. For example, consider “being touched” as in emotionally moved by someone’s words or actions. Something is meaningfully given and wholeheartedly received. It may not be totally life transforming but potentially shifts you a little deeper into your true expression of yourself or your humanness.
Among a handful of these touching moments in my life was the time I met Moshe Feldenkrais. I didn’t have the blessing of spending years or decades under his tutelage but his ability to “touch” me to the core of my being within minutes flipped the axis on the 28 year old world I thought was ME.
In May of 1981 an organization called Quest brought Moshe to my home town in Dallas, Texas. These recordings are still available to us and in the notes it says, “Moshe seemed overworked and tired”. Some of the participants interpreted that as impatience and rudeness. But what I felt was his urgency to get his message through to us. A message to drop the inefficient, ineffective effort in how I moved through the world. So I signed up for the full week of rolling on the floor with curiosity and self awareness innocent of where it would lead me.
Instantly, I got feedback from people in my life of subtle transformations. A neighbor seeing me rake leaves was so taken by the elegance of my movements he had to comment about it. My mother saw me emotionally hit pause and then reverse in the middle of us playing out an old, tired, familiar pattern of “trying to please” only to be met by disappointment. An endless roundabout…until that moment. We were experiencing an emotionally functional application of Feldenkrais’s principle of reversibility, the ability to reverse directions at any moment on the trajectory of an action. This skill was immediately available to me when the circumstance for learning arose.
My life was being touched by the process of embodying these Feldenkrais Method® concepts. Near the end of the workshop a big group of enthusiasts gathered around Moshe to thank him or seek personal attention. I was standing on the outer edge of those encircling The Teacher when Moshe spotted me and motioned for me to come forward. After asking my name he simply said to me, “ Your mother taught you that you are suppose to be shy but you’re not, are you?
It was a truth I had lived with for 28 years but I hadn’t clarified until his words defined it for me. His keen observation TOUCHED me, made me AWARE, confirmed for me that I really was who I felt I was and not who I was expected to be. This quality of being seen that says, I see you and you really do shine underneath those layers of learned familial, ancestral and cultural coverings. You just have to own it and express it …if you choose.
As I organize my thoughts and experiences to give a presentation this fall on “WHAT’S IN THE TOUCH IN FUNCTIONAL INTEGRATION®?” at the Move Better, Feel Better Summit 2022 in September, this moment is central to my understanding of its impact.
The intention in FI is to set up the circumstances for learning. How does that happen? Being seen, heard, understood, kinesthetically felt precedes physical contact. Then providing safety and support so the nervous system can rest in a parasympathetic state, opens the way to introduce functional movements for learning.
The qualities of a practitioner’s touch vary from gentle, quiet, clear, strong, safe or secure through this kinesthetic dialog. With gentleness a person’s awareness is brought to some part of their body or some connection within themselves that may not have been included before. Practitioners hands communicate curiosity, “is this easier? Or is that easier?” And they listen and follow and sometimes redirect.“ Can you go here? Is this angle available to you? Yes, then let’s get bigger or No, ok, let’s change directions.”
Functional Integration® is typically defined as the non-verbal application of Awareness Through Movement®. In these lessons we are instructed to move slowly, be gentle, be curious, play and enjoy a pause. This is a rhythm that gets the attention of our nervous system. This is a pace that allows for learning. It allows for observation and self-inquiry. The pause allows for a recalibration, a self determined freedom from habit, an opening for new choices to be made. Did I mention, this can result in pain reduction, as well?
These qualities are instrumental in the hands on, customized FI lesson. When the contact is meaningful and communicated with clarity of intention the whole nervous system integrates lost or forgotten parts of oneself. It may not be totally life transforming each time but potentially it shifts you a little deeper into a truer expression of yourself.
Contact Kachina to schedule a Functional Integration lesson. And look for upcoming information how to attend the virtual Move Better, Feel Better Summit 2022 this September 15th -September 24th.