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AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT As A Spiritual Practice

By Gabrielle Pullen, GCFP

ATM As Spiritual Practice
The FELDENKRAIS METHOD is not in any way related to spirituality or religion, yet, it offers a way to practice spiritual principles. Just as Buddhist philosophy offers a conceptual framework for living without being a religion, FELDENKRAIS offers a concrete way to practice spiritual principles on the physical plane, through movement.

This is not by design, it's just that the physical laws of the universe are related to spiritual law. Certainly this is my own personal take on the what I get out of the practice of AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT (ATM). It's not 'orthodox' FELDENKRAIS thinking. But then, the Method is not an ideology. Rather, it's based on the principles of physics. It's based on the laws that govern the motion of objects (i.e. physical bodies), in space. It's based on learning how your structure responds to being in the field of gravity. This is where we live, and these laws are immutable. They never change, and learning how they affect us can be comforting, because they are so reliable. You can count on them. Once these principles start to become clear in movement, they become like old friends, familiar, easily recognized. After a while, somehow, life seems more secure, more comprehensible, less unpredictable.

Educated in a convent, now a lecturer on the 'Anatomy of the Spirit,' Caroline Myss proposes the idea that the spiritual almost always manifests in paradox. What seems desirable, like fame and fortune, for example, often turns out to be hollow. What seems unexciting, like a dependable job, can be the foundation for relationships that lead to an amazingly fulfilling career. These kinds of paradoxes crop up all over life. Our most painful experiences can turn out to be crucial crossroads that change the course of our lives for the better - should we have the strength of character to see things that way. The horrible accident that left Christopher Reeves a paraplegic after a fall from a horse could have been the beginning of the end. However, he was able to find it within himself to use this crisis in a positive way. A crisis in the physical body always amounts to a crisis in consciousness. Do you think for one moment that not being able to walk or even breathe on his own did not cause him anguish beyond what most of us have ever experienced? Yet, he was able to work through the temptation to give up. He eventually went on to change the consciousness of thousands of people in similar condition. He provided inspiration and guidance that still inspires today. He was able to see the paradox and run with it from a wheel chair: it's possible to turn a horrific experience into multiple blessings.

The FELDENKRAIS METHOD clarifies certain paradoxes, if you care to look deeply enough. Not that you can ever really understand paradox, but if you can distinguish what is and what isn't, you don't get stuck in the potholes as long. Some people take twenty years to move past trying experiences. Some people take twenty days to move past the same circumstance. Go figure.

How does paradox manifest in ATM? Well, here's an example. The structure of an ATM lesson is designed to take you to unfamilliar places, to take you outside the realm of your habits. Being deliberately non-habitual, it sometimes takes you to places that are uncomfortable. Human beings don't seem to like change. So, how is it that an ATM lesson can possibly help you feel more secure in your body and more secure in your life? The link between clarifying the paradox and you is learning. When you learn good coordination your body is more stable. The word 'kinesthetic' comes from the Greek 'kinein' meaning 'to move' and 'aisthesis' meaning perception. This translates to a feeling of emotional safety in your environment. Learning to sense how the laws of gravity affect your body kinesthetically, is an experiential sense of certainty. You know, literally, where you stand. It's not something you can comprehend until you feel it.

In a new ATM lesson (as opposed to one you have done before), you never really know where it's going to take you. Even if you know the general topic of the lesson, the lesson itself is almost always guaranteed to surprise you in some way. There are thousands of lessons, so you can always meet some part of yourself from a completely new perspective. Even with lessons you have done before, rarely are they done without new insight. Each lesson is like those rare books that you can read over and over and see something new each time. In the spiritual realm, it is not given to us either to know why things happen or what the outcome will be. Yet, it's human nature to obssess about trying to secure the outcome - give it up, it doesn't work! There are no guarantees in life. In ATM, I get to practice not knowing and giving up knowing. Not only that, I get to practice trusting in the process. I don't know why we're doing this lesson or where it's going, but I never fail to get something out of it. This, for me, is a spiritual practice. This is truly how I would like to live my life. For me, there is no other way. I've already tried the other ways and they all leave me feeling futile. This way I can learn to transmute experience into something that leaves me feeling fulfilled. The practice of ATM teaches me to use my consciousness as a magnifying lens to expand my perception beyond it's previous capacity.
copyright 2005 Gabrielle Pullen, GCFP, NCMT

Gabrielle Pullen,GCFP, NCMT is a feldenkrais educator, a massage therapist and writer living in the foothills of northern California. Her practice is based out of Nevada City where she teaches and works with both humans and equines. Her focus is on improved quality of life, enhanced ease and raising the bar of coordination for athletes.

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