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There was a period not too long ago where I felt my life was becoming overly rigid. That feeling lingers to this moment. There is “legitimacy” to this rigidity: insomnia, tinnitus and anxiety. Deciding to break out of this rigidity I thought about some of the smaller, safer, easy things I could do. One of these, related to Feldenkrais, was the possibility that even in this rigidity I could stumble upon a new pattern of movement. Also related to was the idea of survival: if you were trapped in such a way that you couldn’t use your dominant side, could you use the non-dominant side to save your life? Martial arts has an emphasis on being able to use both sides of the body, if not to an equal degree but at least to a competent degree on the less coordinated side. There is also the idea of restrictions in Feldenkrais, restrictions that cause you to use your own resourcefulness in order to solve the movement puzzle the teacher has given you. This forces you to use yourself and move in unusual ways because the previous, automatic option is removed.

With all this stuff swirling in my mind, I conducted an improvised program with many of my habitual movement patterns. The most obvious was right becoming left and left becoming right. I’m usually a left leg first into the trouser leg, left foot first into the shoe person. The first forays into this were catching myself mid-lifting my left leg, putting my left leg back down and then lifting my right leg. To a degree I still have to do this, but more and more times I am able either to raise the right leg automatically or pause and be able to choose which leg I want to raise.

Other examples include pouring the kettle with my left arm (a little dangerous), switching which hand is on top to cup the water to splash my face with (left hand on top is still weird and not as able), left hand to brush teeth (I can do this with both manual and electric), left hand holding toothbrush right hand applying toothpaste (still weird), left hand with spatula to scoop rice into my bowl (this has become the default option), left hand using sponge to wash up (still hard), using right hand to hold and deal playing cards (I use the left because my older brother uses left and he uses left because of my left-handed Uncle)…I can’t think of anymore.

The most difficult changing of right and left are the fine motor skills such as writing and using chopsticks. Having done some practise I can write a little with my left hand but the chopstick situation is close to impossible.

Once you’ve jumped into switching right and left/left and right, then you can apply other Feldenkrais principles. Feldenkrais is often done with slowing down the movements, varying the range of motion, reducing effort, smoothing the movement, attempting to conform to straight lines or circles or some other shape (rather than jagged lines or contorted ovals), doing very quick movements, changing the trajectory of the movement, changing where your focus/attention is when doing the movement (e.g. focusing on the shoulder instead of the hand) and some other ones I probably don’t remember. An easier way to apply these principles is to simply ask oneself, “How many different ways can I do this?” In other words, you have an intention that wants to be fulfilled and you have various options in the way you can fulfill this intention. Some ways are easy, some are more difficult, some are weird, some are fun. These aspects can overlap. This starts to stimulate one’s curiosity and imagination.

By now you can begin to see that even though on a macro level one’s life may be rigid and the same but on the micro level there starts to appear massive variety. Things that were automatic, unconscious, choiceless become objects of enquiry and curiosity. And if you focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do, then you may find yourself doing things that were previously impossible or, more interestingly, things that were always possible but you didn’t know you could do them. A lot of Feldenkrais lessons operate on the principle that your body can do the things that the lessons wants you to do but you’ve just never done them before or you haven’t done them in a long time. And the first time you use your left hand for something you’re never quite sure exactly what you are going to learn. You have an intention, you may know how it feels using your right hand to do the action, but that first excursion using the left hand always feels different. Then you have to adapt and improvise. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to say that true learning happens when you don’t know what you’re about to learn. Breaking out of the habitual in this fairly easy way engages you in a process that you may not have experienced in a long time.

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