It was 1989 (or thereabouts) and I was a recovering drug user and drug dealer. I was living in a nearly vacant and almost condemned apartment building in Dallas, Texas. Some of the apartments had holes in the floor and you could see the apartment below. Thankfully no one was living in those apartments, though there was a beautiful red-headed lesbian in the building who had painted her entire apartment black. After several months she discovered that living in a black apartment was not a good idea. She freaked out and left. But for a time, she and I were the only ones living in the building.
I was barely making a living as a waiter at "Uncle Julio's" a reasonably hip Mexican restaurant in Oak Lawn, otherwise known as the "gay" part of town. I was very slowly and very painfully recovering from my drug and body abuse. In the 1980s Ecstacy (XTC) was legal...at least for a few months...and cocaine was about as common as weed. Sadly, methamphetamine ("crank" and "speed" as we used to call it) were easily available as well.
Have you ever snorted a drug that kept you up for 24 hours and made you forget to eat? That may sound like one of Oprah Winfrey's wet dreams, but trust me it sucks. In less than two months, I went from being highly muscled and weighing over 201 pounds to weighing slightly less than 148 pounds.
That is the glory of methamphetamine.
Very few things can fuck with your self-image more than staring in the mirror and seeing a scarecrow looking back at you. If I could have, I would have said, "What have I done to myself?" but those words could not come. I could only feel loathing as I turned away to look at something else.
I didn't realize it at the time, but my drug-using days were truly over. I would never go back.
I didn't realize it at the time, but my drug-using days were truly over. I would never go back. But I was still very much in the phase of trying to figure out what, if anything, my future had in store for me.
I had dropped out of an honors program in Philosophy and History at the University of Texas at Arlington. I had lost touch with most of my friends and nearly all my emotions. I had severed contact with my family. I really didn't have a clue what would come next and didn't have much in the way of resources, financial or otherwise. Watching Star Trek reruns 5 hours per day didn't make life more livable. Neither did masturbating 5 to 6 times (or more) per day. But the compulsive T.V. watching and masturbation did help to numb out the pain.
Thanks to the vagaries of recovering from massive drug use, I'm still uncertain of certain parts of my history from that time. What came before and after? Not quite sure. I do know that I eventually left the apartment to live in my car as I traveled to California. I had migrant labor of sorts, getting paid per signature to get support for political initiatives. I slept in national parks, cheap hotels, and beaches. I eventually ruined my credit. But my will somehow remained intact.
What kept me together during my journey back to having a life?
I had two lifeboats at the time. Two things that gave me some hope (however distant) and some sense of a future (however vague). My lifeboats were the work of two men - Moshe Feldenkrais and Milton H. Erickson. Seems like everyone has some crazy messianic jew somewhere in their background. Why not me? What the fuck. How did I find his work? I believe it was through a workshop that had a section by Feldenkrais Practitioner Jack Heggie. Though I'm not 100% sure. And somehow after hearing about Feldenkrais and while still living in that apartment in Dallas, I got a hold of a copy of Awareness Through Movement (the book). At a library? In a bookstore? I think it was a bookstore.
I was lucky enough to have the time and energy to experiment with the work for a bit. Still in Texas and with little to lose, I would occasionally spend my rent money on Feldenkrais sessions with Jack Heggie and spend what time I could doing Awareness Through Movement by reading passages from the book of the same name. I would read a paragraph and then lie down to try and "do" the movements. I was never quite sure if I was getting them right. But I continued to be stunned by the differences that I felt. It was an absolutely, positively life-changing experience. It was "learning how to learn" on my own, in my own time, and in my own way without the interference of anyone telling me definitively what was "right" or "wrong." I had to rely on my own resources and interpretations. If I had to do it all over again, I would have spent more time in that space, living in the unknown and doing the work for my own pleasure and at my own rate and my own time. I later took a Feldenkrais "training" and to this day, I occasionally have regrets about doing so.
But how does one get the materials and support to go more deeply into the work of Moshe FeldenDude? Where do you get the materials and sessions? For me, in the 1980's it was relatively impossible. It was a time before the internet as we know it today. It was a time before mp3 players and file-sharing services. There were no ebooks, iPads, iPhones or cellphones with headphones. The Feldenkrais materials available at that time could only be sent "snail mail" and they seemed ridiculously expensive - $69 for a tape set, plus $14.00 for shipping. It could have been $100 or $1000, no matter. It was out of reach to me. I did buy one set, but it only had 8 sessions, and afterward, I was left wanting and needing more.
As I fast forward to the world we live in today, technology has changed. Ideas can spread around the world in seconds, files can be sent in nanoseconds and we are awash in information. However, many people practicing the Feldenkrais Method have not caught on to the changes. They either do not see or are not willing to act on the possibilities. People routinely sell Feldenkrais CD sets for $1000, $200, or even $300 dollars. And usually, you still have to get the damn things mailed to you. And then what? What if you don't like the series or the person's voice or style, do you send it back? Who's got time for that?
The possibility of getting Feldenkrais to the masses is here. But people are not using the possibilities. That is why I have re-started a long time dream of getting high-quality material - and lots of it - into the hands of people that want it and doing so affordably.
I have started and stopped the project many times over the years, but have finally begun pursuing it in earnest. I am calling it "Feldenkrais Classics" (Formerly, I called it "The Feldenkrais Forty" but I decided to create many more than forty). And the first volume is ready for sale as a download. That means you can buy it now and start using it in minutes. That means some recovering drug user or another person in need can get materials wherever he or she might be. And the price is affordable. As I will soon be selling the Feldenkrais Classics series worldwide on Apple iTunes, Amazon MP3, and a few other services, though without the transcripts and other cool bonuses you will get if you buy directly from me. And who knows, as I create more volumes, I may create a package with a discount. Feldenkrais does not need to be expensive to change your life. Interested in proving that to yourself?
Check it out: The Feldenkrais Classics by Ryan Nagy.