Category Archives: blog

Feldenkrais: What do you want to create? (A Short Video)

Would you be willing to engage with me and share your thoughts?

I am wondering, have you thought about where you want to go with the work of Moshe Feldenkrais? That is, what you want to create for yourself, for your friends or *insert your words here.* I would really like to know and so would your friends and colleagues. Take a moment and leave a response below or send me an email via the contact form at the bottom of the page?

Video Response to David Bersin and FGNA Posts and ***CENSORED***

Hi all – I wanted to share you with some feedback from the last two posts about DZB and The Service Marks and “Conspiracies Against The Laity.

I am also letting you know that a organizer of “Guild Certified” Feldenkrais trainings and a colleague of Jerry Karzen’s censored my posts by deleting them and the dozens of comments about them from the Facebook group “Feldenkrais practitioners around the world.” Yet another example of how the Guild system limits access to knowledge and material and tries to present a sanitized view of the work and the man.

But, fear not, change is on the way!

Comments are ENABLED for this post.

Click join my blog list.

Is This What David Bersin Did?

Sign-up now to get future blog posts. If you do not do so, you may miss them: join Ryan’s blog list. You can unsubscribe at anytime.

Over the years I have done a bit of writing on the early history and pre-history of the Feldenkrais Guild of North America including various blog posts on the subject. Below, I have published some provocative unpublished emails and first-person accounts of the events as well as some new archival material. You may be very surprised at what you learn. Some of the info below was published on my other Feldenkrais blog. I am putting this info here on so that the various bits of information can be found more easily and so that people keep in mind the dynamics of the Feldenkrais Guild and Feldenkrais “Trainers” as events unfold.

David Bersin Committed No Fraud

“I want you all to know that Moshe very much desired that his work and the words associated with his work be legally protected, and that he wanted and entrusted the Guild to protect them. This was Moshe’s expressed wish. He was also vitally involved in the formation of the Guild and wanted a strong Guild to act on behalf of his wishes. In registering the service marks on his behalf, I did nothing unethical or fraudulent…” David Bersin, 1999

Let’s do a quick fact check on what Bersin wrote. The creation of a Feldenkrais Guild was not Moshe’s idea but rather an idea of one of his students, Dub Leigh. There is no record of Feldenkrais wanting a “strong” guild to act on behalf of his wishes. There has never been any evidence that David Bersin registered the service marks “on Moshe’s behalf.” Nada. None. Bersin has never provided any evidence and neither has anyone else. There is no documentary evidence.

For those of you new to the community or new to the history, David’s statement above that he “did nothing unethical or fraudulent” was in response to a lawsuit filed by Anat Baniel that accused him and the Feldenkrais Guild of fraudulently registering the service marks.

The lawsuit filed in 1999, asked the United States District Court Illinois to nullify the Feldenkrais Guild service marks. In short:

[Anat Baniel asks that]…this Court declare that…the Guild’s registrations of the Terms Feldenkrais and Feldenkrais Method…were procured by fraud on the United States Patent and Trademark Office; and…order the United States Patent and Trademark Office to cancel [the service mark registrations]

Why nullify the marks? The lawsuit claimed that David Bersin mis-represented the Guild’s ownership of the service marks and committed fraud. In short:

“In June, 1983, the Guild filed service mark applications for the Terms with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In connection with such applications, the Guild, through its officer and agent David Bersin (AKA/ David Zemach-Bersin, hereinafter “Bersin”), represented to the USPTO that the Guild was the “owner”of the Terms, and that “no person, firm, corporation or association” other than the Guild had the right to use the Terms.

Bersin’s June, 1983 representations to the USPTO as described in I8, above, were materially false, as Bersin and the Guild well knew”.

You can find a copy of the lawsuit filing here: BanielLawsuitFiling.

In other words, Bersin represented that the Guild was the owner of Moshe’s service marks terms. Though some would like to say otherwise, it is not just Anat Baniel who doubts the Guild’s registration and ownership of the service marks. There are many others. For example, in a memo marked “confidential” to the Guild’s Board of Directors dated in 1985, just two years after Bersin’s application, we see that even some Guild officers had strong reservations.

“I’m sure that in the fall last year, I was very much taken with the notion of owning a service mark, and all the power and implications that went with that, and I was responding positively to Fred Goldberg’s [attorney] position that we were the owners of the FI mark and we should do all we could to keep it. However, several weeks ago, I began being haunted by the question, “Are we really the owner of the marks?” My stomach churned…. these are Moshe’s marks, how can we call them ours… . By what authority do we call ourselves owners – maybe we need another legal opinion; what legal grounds do we have to call ourselves owners. Frankly I was scared.- Bonnie Humiston, Former FGNA Director, letter taken from the lawsuit filing.”

My journey into understanding the “Great War For The Service Marks” began with email conversations to people in the San Francisco and Amherst trainings. This was before I had read any of the lawsuit filings or FeldyForum posts on the topic. I was honored by how honest and open people were in talking about the history. I was also little bit shocked by how often David Bersin’s name came up. Though I have not been a member of the Feldenkrais Guild for many years, I did serve on several Guild-related boards and committee’s including FEFNA and the Esther Thelen Research Fund. To my recollection, David Bersin’s name rarely, if ever, came up. Seemingly he has had no official role for many years. So I enquired.

Here is a part of a conversation that I had with a former student from Moshe’ Amherst training:

“Can you tell me more on why you would attribute some of the [service mark] issue to David? I’m certainly not going to argue the point, would just like more details. Could help for a future blog post.” – Ryan Nagy, email, 2010

And here is a reply, slightly edited to maintain the anonymity of several people referred to in the email.

“Ryan, your question is a good one. After all, David seems uninvolved in the Guild and publicly seems only to care about his training programs. The truth is that David ignores most everything other than training standards where he is like an eagle seeing movement from far away. When Anat spoke about her lawsuit it was all David all the time. David telling her that she couldn’t change her trainings and still call it Feldenkrais, David initiating and prosecuting the suit, David having “gotten the rights to the name Feldenkrais from Moshe” and etc. When the NATAB worked on curriculum it was David’s paper that closed the show, seeking unspecified higher standards – you trained under him, was everything so clear and were the standards of training so high as to insure that trainees would come out as well formed practitioners???

Even today, when the FGNA board wants to “Support an effective process for changing training policy” who is the 1st trainer to join to make certain that there will be no changes, other than those to raise barriers to entry, DZB. Who led the charge to exclude Yochanan, Mia, and to marginalize anyone who saw the world any differently than him? DZB Who will be the 1st to say that Mia is not doing Feldenkrais but some splinter application of his work when he finds out that she will do a training in the US, DZB, not the Guild, but DZB. Why do they feel so threatened???” Personal email to Ryan, April 2010 from a former student of the Amherst Training.

The above email sets the stage for you to understand what many people in the community know already: David Bersin is a behind the scenes player who does a great deal to attempt to control training policy, service marks and the guild. Several people have gone so far as to credit him with the genesis of the original service mark lawsuit due to his personal attacks and email tirades directed against Anat Baniel. However, I have not had a chance to read any of those emails, I only have second hand reports. I would like to get them and share them with the community if possible. Feel free to get them to me anonymously or just send them to me directly and I will gladly publish them.

This leads us back to the point of this blog post and the genesis of the Feldenkrais Guild’s control of what were Moshe Feldenkrais’ personal service marked terms. Does the Feldenkrais Guild truly own the service marks? Was it Moshe’s intention to give them away to David Bersin and his other new and very inexperienced practitioners?

Settled Out Of Court

To me, the most interesting part of the service mark lawsuit was that it was settled out of court. The Guild and its supporters spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting it, and in the end gave in to most of Anat’s demands. Though the Guild never admitted to any fraud or wrong doing, they did give Anat what she wanted, which was the ability to use the service marked terms, change how she conducted her trainings and to stop paying to have her trainings certified by the guild. (Click to read: Baniel_Settlement+Summary.)

If the Feldenkrais Guild did in fact own the service marks and have clear title to them, I am puzzled as to why they would back down and give Anat what she wanted. I have heard, but have not yet been able to verify, that the court did not find the Guild’s evidence of ownership compelling and made a preliminary ruling against its ownership of the marks. At this point, the Guild lawyer’s recommended a settlement so that the Guild did not lose its marks.

However, it is not just the court case that throughs doubt on David Zemach Bersin’ story that Moshe wanted his marks transferred to the guild and wanted the guild to “protect” his work. In fact, most first person accounts summarily reject David’s position. For example, below is a quote from Feldenkrais “Trainer” Carl Ginsburg who graduated from the San Francisco Training in 1977.

All We Have Is A Letter

“The Guild’s response letter [to the lawsuit] is as expected to the challenge and on the surface seems reasonable and correct. It matches the outer history of how the Guild got the service marks and what the Guild’s purpose is in controlling these legal protections. But there is also an inner history. Anat [Baniel] and Eilat’s view actually matches this inner history. Although the Guild’s letter tries to put the weight of Moshe’s intentions behind the legal stance, we have only his letter asking the Guild to make the service marks in his name and his initial promotion of the Guild as evidence. There is much more to know, and this has to do with what Moshe was saying privately. Here there isn’t much documentation, although I am told there are some taped conversations and statements.” – Feldenkrais “Trainer” Carl Ginsburg

Is that not fascinating? We only have a letter. A letter that may or may not have been written by Moshe. Carl Ginsburg is saying that Anat’s view matches the inner history…meaning what? Carl believes that the service marks were obtained fraudulently? That the “outer history” that is taught about the Feldenkrais Guild is false? That the “outer history” or public stories told about the guild are not truthful?

And how about this:

“I don’t think it was Moshe’s actual signature.”

“All I’m saying is, I don’t think it was Moshe’s actual signature on the document, although he “may” have given his tacit approval…but there was a lot of ambivalence there at the time…or possibly when David and Mark were in Israel with Moshe collecting signatures for certificates, guild business, etc…that he was not fully cognizant of what he was signing….whatever it was Anat knew and that is how she got the out of court settlement….” 2nd former student of the Amherst Training, March 2010

Keep in mind, that when David returned from Israel with the letter, allegedly signed by Feldenkrais, that Feldenkrais was near death and had suffered several heart attacks. Could Moshe Feldenkrais have possibly have consented to transferring the marks? Did he know what he was signing? Did he sign sign the letter at all?

“even if we put aside the possibility of fraud. I have often wondered about Moshe’s state of mind when he signed over control of the Service Marks to the Guild. From what I have heard, he was not fully himself after the strokes. Even though he wanted there to be a Guild, it is highly doubtful that he [Moshe] wanted to grant control over the structure and content of trainings to a group of his least experienced students. Did he realize that these relative newbies would become the final arbiters of the who and how of certifying newly minted practitioners to use the now Service Marked terms ATM, FI, and the Feldenkrais Method for the forseeable future? I don’t think that there is any doubt that this would not have been his intent. - Personal email to Ryan, April 2010 from a former student of the Amherst Training.

That needs a bit of clarification. Perhaps in today’s world David Bersin, Paul Rubin, Denis Leri, and the others from the first American training in San Francisco seem like “old hands.” After all, they have been training almost 30 years now. However at the time of Moshe’s death they were new to the method. Very new. Bersin states on his website that he has been a Feldenkrais Practitioner since 1977 which was the year of graduation of the San Francisco Trainer. He became a so-called “Feldenkrais Trainer” a mere five years later in 1983. And how did he become a trainer? Did Moshe ask him to? No, Moshe died in 1984 and was in Israel in 1983, terminally ill. David was actually “declared” to be a trainer by Jerry Karzen who was functioning as the Director of the (now defunct) Feldenkrais Foundation. According to a letter sent by Jerry to the Feldenkrais Guild:

In January 1983, I was asked by the Directors of the Feldenkrais Foundation to become its executive Director while simultaneously the No. [North] American Feldenkrais Guild established the Training Accreditation Board. Soon thereafter, I asked Mark Reese, Russell Delman, and David Bersin to serve temporarily as trainers in Foundation sponsored training programs…

- Full Text of Karzen’s letter here.

So David Bersin had been a practitioners for five years, with no demonstrated competence as trainer, a virtual neophyte to the work, and he was thrust into the role of trainer by Jerry Karzen who himself was not a trainer and had no basis for his decision other than political and business reasons.

Keep in mind that at the time Bersin ascended into heaven as Feldenkrais trainer after 5 years, there were others, who had already been working with Moshe for more than 20 years! In fact, when David became a practitioner in 1977, Mia Segal and Yochanon Rywerant had already been working with Moshe for about 2o years and Mia was teaching independently having been given permission by Moshe. Mia, in fact, was an assistant and teacher at the training in which David Bersin’s became a practitioner.

There were others who had been working with Moshe for decades, including the rest of the 13 students from Moshe’s Tel Aviv training including Alon Talmi, Eli Wadler, Shlomo Efrat, Gaby Yaron, Batya Fabian, Devora Chisday, Myriam Pfeffer, Chava Shelhav, Bruria Milo, Shlomo Bracha, Ruthy Alon, and Fanny Loc.

But where this story gets even weirder and sadder is when we look at the attitudes that these young, american, neophyte practitioners had, and continue to have, towards their more experienced elders.

When she [Mia Segal] and Yochanon started their [Feldenkrais] programs I had already left my positions with the Guild and the Feldenkrais Foundation. However I told Guild board members then that they should sue both Yochanon and Mia for improper use of the terms. (…) I asked people why are you sponsoring Mia and Yochanon to give advanced programs and mentorships?  Why are you elevating them to such a high status in the community? – Jerry Karzen

I hold no grudges towards Mia, Yochanon or Anat for starting their own versions of the “true” Feldenkrais Method according to them.  More power to them. However it is chickenshit of them and their students to slam us and then expect to be welcomed into the fold. – Denis Leri

Fascinating, is it not? These young men who declared themselves to be trainers while Moshe lay dying and who took ownership of his service marks and legacy, continually degrade those who had been working directly with Mosh for many, many years, some of whom had in fact been their teachers.

And this idea that Mia and Yochanon were somehow creating their “own versions” of the Feldenkrais is fascinating, is it not? They had been working with Moshe for decades. In reality, it was the North American Guild, after getting hold of Moshe’s marks, who started their own version of the Method. A version almost entirely based on legal control of the service marks and the assumption that what Moshe was doing at the Amherst and San Francisco trainings was “true Feldenkrais.” Given that Bersin, Leri, Rubin, Karzen and the others were new to the work how could they have known what “true” Feldenkrais was?

I will skip for now the deeper question of discussing whether “true Feldenkrais” exists. It does not and cannot. Feldenkrais did what he did and you and I do what we do. There may be common principles and attitudes but true Feldenkrais only exists when you are true to yourself.

Let us also keep in mind, that these same people have stopped Mia, Yochanon and the other’s from conducting trainings in the United States. Do not believe me? Here is a first-person account from Paul Rubin of the time when Mia was forced to stop training in the U.S.

Here’s what happened that I know about in regard to Mia’s N.J. [Feldenkrais] training being called off. It is a painful memory for me all these years later. When Mia announced that she was planning a training in N.J., I was Chair of the NATAB. [North American Training and Accredidation Board] …and was neither officially informed nor consulted…I was asked by the Board of Directors and the rest of the TAB to speak to Mia about this, so it fell to me to tell my highly respected and beloved mentor that the Guild felt a strong need to protect the service marks and that we hoped that she would consider re-joining the larger community in North America and to negotiate to operate her training within that system.

It was the hardest conversation of my professional life. I did my best to explain that this was not about doubting her or the quality of her work…

This conversation took place as I was driving her from a workshop she invited me to visit that she was co-teaching at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco to where Leora [Leora Gastor, Mia's daughter] was staying in Palo Alto. A travel time of about an hour.

Mia listened to me and said on the spot, “Then I will not do this training. I do not wish to oppose what you are doing.” It was a very sad moment for me. I had been hoping that she would have said, instead, “then let’s explore how I can be a part of the North American community of teachers.”

Mia who had been doing the work for decades and was already a trainer in her own right was told by Paul Rubin, a new practitioner with little experience in the work, that she had to work under his rules. What would you do if one of your student’s told you to quit doing your work and to answer to them and their new policies? Would you consent?

Below is another viewpoint. We have been constantly told by David Bersin, Paul Rubin and others that Moshe was “vitally interested” in the Guild and saw it his vehicle for “protecting” the work. You may be beginning to see that is not the case?

“Moshé had no interest in the incorporation process, and not very much interest in the “Guild“ activities in the years following. I have a letter from Moshé, stating his unwillingness to give time to an organization, members accepted, no matter how ineffective. With Moshé working hard and traveling, he did not want to waste time with the “confusion”, common to the “guild”, with several factions, wanting to control and influence the “guilds” activities.”

Moshe did not want to waste time on the Feldenkrais Guild. Smart man. Apart from waking you up the reality of what the Guild is and from whence it came, neither do I. I have not been a member for many years.

Ryan Nagy
from somewhere in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.

Note: Comments are turned off for this blog post and they will likely be turned off for most of my blog posts in the future. Moderating takes too much time and I do not like to do it. If you have a respectful question or point to add, send me an email via the contact form below. Be the first to read my blog posts. Do not take a chance on missing them with your busy schedule: join my blog email list.

What George Bernard-Shaw Said About The FGNA?

“All professions are conspiracies against the laity” – George Bernard-Shaw.

I encountered the quote above on the website of The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. It is directly relevant to members of the Feldenkrais community, especially former and current members of the Feldenkrais Guild.

“The way in which professions acquire prestige, power and wealth is by taking unto themselves a body of knowledge and expertise and only relinquishing it in doses in exchange for payment. The creation of dependency is an intrinsic part of that process.”

Dependency And The Feldenkrais Guild

I have often thought about dependency and the Feldenkrais Guild system. Dependency is baked into the system. Although the work itself can lead to reductions in anxiety and increased ability to act in one’s own behalf, the Guild system itself works in the opposite direction. It both increases the dependency and conformity of its members while simultaneously sidelining and sometimes outright ex-communicating those that refuse to conform. Consider Mia Segal and Yochanan Rywerant. Both highly-skilled practitioners and trainers had already been working directly with Moshe for decades when the young american neophyte students took over. The americans tried to force their elders (and betters in my opinion) to conform to their own rules and vision for the Method. They refused. Conform or be cast out. In a future post, I will share with you a detailed first-person from Paul Rubin about how he sidelined Mia Segal and forced her to stop teaching in the U.S. Keep in mind that Mia was one of Paul’s teachers and mentors. If one of your students told you how to conduct your work and practice, what would you do?

“This is what Feldenkrais wanted,” is what David Bersin, Paul Rubin, Denis Leri, Jerry Karzen and others have been telling us for decades. If only it were so.

What is the function of the Feldenkrais Guild?

The behavior of a system cannot be known just by knowing the elements of which the system is made. – Donella H. Meadows. Thinking in Systems: A Primer (p. 7). Kindle Edition.

Even a casual observation of the history of the Feldenkrais Guild shows that its function is to limit access. It limits decision making to those who trained directly with Moshe or have been approved by the same. It drastically limits the number of people who can use the service marks to run trainings. This limits the number of trainings, artificially increasing the price. Thus, not only do 99% of all practitioners not have the option of learning to conduct trainings, but the training formats cannot evolve. The system has closed off experimentation of training and training formats. New ideas are not tested. New ideas are not used. The status quo rules. This, regardless of the fact that no more than a few people graduate from each training and begin their own practice.

For now, I will not describe in detail how the Guild system limits access to many of the materials and shuts out the public from purchasing nearly all of the materials related to training.

Deeper and Deeper

In the case of the Feldenkrais Guild system, though, the conspirancy against the laity is much deeper. The so-called Feldenkrais “Trainers” who started the Guild and still largely control it, have not only taken the archival materials and created barriers to accessing it. But they have also used the acquisition of the service marks (®) as a kind of mental and legal trick to say that they and they alone are doing “true Feldenkrais.” Moshe’s most experienced, and some might say, most capable students, such as Mia Segal, Anat Baniel, Ruthy Alon, the belated Yochanan Rywerant and many others, have been repeatedly and constantly belittled as doing “derivative” work and not “true” Feldenkrais. Why is that? The core of the matter is that they do not have legal access to use the service marked terms. That is it. There is not theoretical or educational measure. It is all legal. Not “true” Feldenkrais because they do not own the marks. And by the same messed-up logic if you do not pay to use the service marks or spend the money for a training you are not doing “true” Feldenkrais either.

Oh what a tangled web they weaved. But take heart! The end is near. The Guild is getting smaller and smaller. And if it does not end up in bankruptcy, another lawsuit will surely end it all. Some practitioners are scared of that, and in the short term, they should be. Things will get tough for a while. Especially if these practitioners have not developed their own email lists and marketing materials and following and ways of communicating intelligently about the work.

But even that may not be fatal as independent practitioners groups will likely spring up to take up the slack. But there will be a big difference. The new practitioner organizations that emerge will self-generating and self-organizing around practitioners needs and practitioners goals. The guild we have now is a “Trainer Guild” and it deserves its death.

“If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth.” Carl Sagan

I do not completely agree with Carl Sagan’s quote above, as the “truth” as created by a human being is nearly always a personal truth or a social convention. Even scientific “truths” are socially created, though it is heresy to speak of that. But people have sent me emails asking me why I write about this stuff and the usefulness (or not) of the current Feldenkrais “truths” is on my mind quite a bit. People often tell me that what I write depresses them. That puzzles me.

I write about these topics because I find it liberating and motivating. What could be more wonderful than discovering more and more of our own potential to act? Much of what you have been told about Moshe Feldenkrais is a myth. That is good thing. Discover the man for yourself, however you choose to do so. And a great deal of what you have been told about the history of the Guild is a lie. That is fantastic! Not only do the emperors not have any clothes, they are not even emperors! Screw them and their lame rules made to serve their own egos, pocketbooks and confused epistemologies. You can do what you want with this work. It is yours. Use it as you see fit to make THE world and YOUR world better. The Method is yours.

Thanks for reading. This blog post was just a warm-up. Much more is on the way. Be the first to read my blog posts and be deeply offended: join my email list.

“Liberate your mind and your practice will follow.” – Ryan C. Nagy
From somewhere in Mexico.

Note: Comments are turned off for this blog post and they will likely be turned off for most of my blog posts in the future. Moderating takes too much time and I do not like to do it. If you have a respectful question or point to add, send me an email via the contact form below. Do you really want to people to hear your voice? Get a blog or website of your own or start publishing on the one that you have now. You deserve to be heard. And being seen and read on your own website is an important way to be known and to come into the light.

Things Feldenkrais Was Wrong About, Part 1

Every so often I bump across an idea from Moshe Feldenkrais that is so theoretically unjustifiable and so out-of-date that it takes my breath away. I do not share that as a criticism of Moshe, but rather as a warning and a plea. Those of us who study and use his work need to realize that he has been dead for more than 30 years and the basis of our knowledge about the self and world has changed dramatically since he died. And like most mortal beings, Moshe made some mistakes and had some wrong-headed ideas. Consider, the quote below from the *Potent Self:

“In the state of hypnosis, one also loses entirely the ability to command oneself, but is at the highest state of involuntary suggestibility. Before this state of suggestibility is obtained, complete relaxation of the musculature must be achieved. Moreover, as Professor J. H. Schultz has shown; the relaxation must be extended so far as to relax the capillaries and the small blood vessels. ” page 144, The Potent Self

There is virtually nothing about that passage that stands of time. And even when Moshe was alive it was demonstrably false. In the state of hypnosis one does not lose the ability to command oneself. On the contrary, in hypnosis one can gain control over states of body and mind that had formerly been un-available. The state of hypnosis can be defined as a state of focused absorption. One is actively considering ideas and possibilities and how one might use them to beneficial effect. There does not need to be “complete relaxation of the musculature” before one enters a state of hypnosis or benefits from it. One can be in an active state of hypnosis and for example, be taking a shower, driving a car or hitting a golf ball.

Relaxation in hypnosis is similar to relaxation in Feldenkrais. It often occurs as a by-product of the process of engaging in those activities. And it is not so much a relaxation as it is an efficiency. One lets go of habitual and unneeded muscular tension in order to focus on the task at hand.

The word “suggestion” that Feldenkrais used above is also problematic. It is an outdated term in modern hypnosis and psychology. One does not give “suggestions” to an involuntary person. Granted, if someone wants to be controlled and told to bark like a chicken, as you could see in a stage hypnosis show, a hypnotist can provide the context and suggestions to “give control” to the hypnotist. But it is a voluntary giving of control. In the early 1940′s Milton Erickson conducted experiments in which he attempted to get people to do things against their personal nature, such as opening other’s mail and stealing. In each and every case the person in question would not do what Erickson wanted and would terminate the research experiment.

Rather than talking of suggestions, a modern and more scientific understanding of hypnosis is that in the focused, hypnotic state one is given ideas to consider. The ideas could be to view new possibilities, to consider one’s past and future in new ways, to think about the self differently. The list of potential things to consider is endless. They are not “suggestions” per se, but ideas. If the ideas are beneficial to the person and can be integrated into his world view and abilities they will likely be used. Or as Feldenkrais would repeatedly speak and write, when the nervous system finds easier and more pleasant way of acting it is likely to adopt them. One can “suggest” all kinds of movements and thoughts, but if they do not fit with the person’s way of being and acting they tend to have no effect. In Feldenkrais as in hypnosis, one is learning to find more efficient ways of acting in the world.

Feldenkrais and Strategic Approaches

This brings me to the larger frame of the blog post. To me, hypnosis – especially Ericksonian Hypnosis – and the Feldenkrais Method share many deep similarities and each has principles that can usefully amplify the other. I am not saying that hypnosis is Feldenkrais and Feldenkrais is hypnosis. Rather, that a study and use of each can lead to greater potency as a person and as a practitioner.

I will not go too deeply into the topic right now, but I will say that I agree strongly with Yvan Joly who fits Moshe Feldenkrais’s ideas in with Moshe’s contemporaries who were often called “strategic therapists.” Here is Yvan:

“I profoundly believe now that what we do in this [Feldenkrais] work is what we can call a “Strategic Approach”. My family of belonging now is not so much with body-workers. I feel my belonging now as a professional is more with what we call strategic approaches. Moshe’s work is akin to Milton Erikson, to some of the Brief Therapies, some of the Watzlawick ideas or Gregory Bateson. And what does strategic approach mean? To me it means, very simply, that whatever we create for ourselves is the result of what we do and how we do it. The universe that we create for ourselves is the result of how we concretely create it. In traditional psychology this was not that well acknowledged until very recently.” From Yvan Joly’s website. I have also uploaded a copy here.

The operative word above is “how.” Much of effective psychology and psychotherapy, and effective changework in general keeps a person focused on how they can get what they want. That often involves a focus what is “right” with a person and leads to a focus on strengths and abilities and to acquire new ones when needed or wanted. Feldenkrais was not looking for what was “wrong” with someone, but rather how they could learn through experience to organize themselves more efficiently.

Just a few thoughts for now.

* I must note that the Potent Self was published after Moshe’s death. He chose not to publish it when he was alive, so who knows how he might have changed it, had he had the chance or if he would have burned it. Regardless, it is now part of the published Feldenkrais legacy and people often refer to it, so it is fair game to criticize parts of the book. That being said, it is one of my favorite Feldenkrais books.

If you have respectful, on topic, well-reasoned and non-abusive comments feel free to leave them below. You may have noticed that the quality of comments on my blogs has improved over the last few months. That is because I moderate comments. Respect the ecosystem please.

Feldenkrais Amherst Training: The Original Advertisment

Amherst Feldenkrais Flyer (click to download or view larger size)

Amherst Feldenkrais Flyer (click to download or view larger size)

Have you ever been curious about how people found out about or decided to attend the Feldenkrais Amherst training back in the 1980′s? Elinor Silverstein posted one of the original flyers on Facebook and I have posted it below along with a copy of the text. When I was 16, I spent 3 months in Israel (not doing Feldenkrais, as I had never heard of it) in 1984 and did so after seeing a poster on a wall at my highschool in Texas. After all these years that poster still gives me a magical, mystical feeling when I see it. I imagine that many Amherst attendees feel the same way about the advertisement. I would very much like to hear about your journey into the Amherst training if you were there. Consider posting a comment below?

Feldenkrais Amherst Training: The Original Advertisment Text

Moshe Feldenkrais
Professional Training Program
Awareness Through Movement and Functional Integration

Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais is the world-renowned Israelist who has for the past 40 years taught thousands of actors, dancers, athletes, disabled and elderly persons a method for enhancing their physical and mental abilities The FELDENKRAIS METHOD of private sessions in Functional Integration and group classes in Awareness Through Movement integrates neuro-muscular skeletal and environmental factors. It has achieved highly successful rehabilitation in a wide spectrum of disabilities, including multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy stroke, degenerative arthritis and orthopedic as well as increased capacity for artistic and athletic performance. Among his books are Body and Mature Behavior, Awareness Through Movement, and The Case of Nora (first in a series entitled, “Adventures in the Jungle of the Brain”). Two additional books will be released this spring. His earlier works include Judo and Judo for Blackbelt Groundwork.

What: The Feldenkrais “Professional Training Program” is the first in a series of 3, and possibly 4, consecutive summer sessions leading to professional status as a Feldenkrais practitioner.

Where: Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. Swimming, Tennis and other recreational facilities will be open to class members. Housing (private, dormitory, communal) is available at modest prices

Tuition: $2000/summer session

When: June 9-August 8 1980 (9 weeks).

How: To apply submit a brief statement (3 typewritten pages maximum) indicating goals educational and work background, hobbies, publications, interests. as well as workshops, private sessions, group classes and Feldenkrais practitioners you may have experienced. Please submit at least two letters of recommendation with your application Send to “Feldenkrais. Professional Training Program”, 1968 Green Street. San Francisco, CA 94123. Enrollment is limited. Deadline for application is April 25. 1980 All applicants will be notified of their status within 3 weeks of receipt of their application. For further information call 415/921-7103or 415/383-0900.

In affiliation with The Feldenkrais Guild. 1776 Union Street San Francisco. CA 94123

A bit of commentary

Feldenkrais as Physical Therapy. There are many in the Feldenkrais community, myself included who criticize current training programs and practitioners in general for marketing the Feldenkrais Method solely for its ability to deal with physical complaints and issues rather than as a means of personal growth and development. I find it interesting to note that the flyer above does just that. It focuses on using with degenerative diseases and stroke and such with very little language about personal development.

Service Marks. Notice that there is not a single service mark or trademark symbol on the page. How about that? Moshe managed to make a living without service marks and trademarks. Heaven forbid.

Professional Status as a Feldenkrais Practitioner. Moshe was really reaching when he used the words “professional status.” His work had NO professional status anywhere in the U.S. at that time. And to all appearances the Amherst training program and the earlier San Francisco training programs were experiments that he was conducting to see if how he could teach the work and get it out into the world.

A Few Photos From the Amherst Training

The International Feldenkrais Federation has published some of Jerry Karzen’s photos from the Amherst training on it’s website.

Did You You Attend Amherst After Seeing That Flyer?

How about leaving a comment and telling us your story?


Ryan C. Nagy
Writing From “The Italian Coffee Company,” Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico.