Feldenkrais Infinite (What Moshe Was Doing)

There are at least two major ways of using Feldenkrais principles. One could be called Feldenkrais finite; the other Feldenkrais infinite. The differences between them create massive variations in the potency and maturity of practitioners and in the power and development of their work.

Feldenkrais finite is based on the familiar striving and contests of everyday life in the modern world. It is a game played with strict rules, played in order to be won, and to signal to others to you have won (evolutionary theory, more in a later post). Feldenkrais finite has endpoints (when someone wins a particular milestone in the game) and in certain aspects is a zero-sum game (one person's win is another person's loss). So, one joins a Feldenkrais community, takes a training and gets "certified." This is phase one of the game. Winning through certification. And signaling certification by quoting Moshe on Facebook, Twitter, a blog etc. The vast majority of people who encounter the work in a formal setting, never move beyond phase one. They are certified and they can quote Moshe.

After certification, phase two is to "win" again, this time by building a financially viable practice, a practice constrained by what they have been taught that the work "is" and what their role in the hierarchy has been constrained to be. And later (or simultaneously) getting certified yet again as an assistant trainer or trainer. There are limited slots available and few attain these game endpoints (thus the zero-sum game categorization).

There are huge limitations to Feldenkrais finite for both those who win and those who lose. It is a lose-lose proposition for all. First, in the process of playing the game one's reality and options get defined by other entities - rules, rule committees, trainers, lawyers, politicians, social norms. This "training" process is both explicit and implicit, conscious and unconscious. And as I noted, the worldview training happens to both the winners and losers.

The winners. Those who win do obtain a certain kind of knowledge and economic survival units (money), but their options are drastically curtailed. They give up the ability to develop their own protocols. Their own unique contributions to spreading the work is never developed because they are following someone else's protocols and scripts. Many spend decades working under someone else's guidance and never act under conditions of mature and independent potency.

The Losers. Likewise, practitioners who "lose" and do not win a spot in the training game rarely realize their own potential to experiment and develop their own products and trainings. One might think that by losing the person can step outside the bounds of the defined system. But most do not. They have accepted, however unconsciously, that there is such a thing as a "Feldenkrais Practitioner." The legal and social definitions in Feldenkrais finite preclude, for example, the normal and natural process of practitioner learning to teach "Functional Integration" (or some version thereof) and starting his or her own small mentoring or training groups. (It should be noted, that this option is also precluded to those who follow "the rules" and become Asst Trainers/Trainers, their actions are also limited by the system but are done so in a more formal manner via rule). This limits not only the development of their awareness and skills but also their ability to earn income from their fruits of their labor. It also makes it impossible for the work itself to evolve and develop new forms. If social roles and behaviors are pre-configured where could novelty come from?

Feldenkrais Infinite

Feldenkrais Infinite may seem mysterious and ineffable. It is not. You just need the road maps and the signposts to understand that you are on the infinite path. And it has the potential (though not necessity) to be more powerful than the finite game. The object of Feldenkrais infinite is not winning, but ensuring the continuation of learning. It is an important point, worth repeating: The object is not winning, but ensuring the continuation of learning. That is, ensuring the continuation optionality and choice and thus the continual development of new forms and behaviors. This could be labeled reaching maturity and mature independence if one want to use Moshe's terms.

The person engaging in Feldenkrais infinite experiments, tries new ways of speaking about Feldenkrais principles, of teaching Feldenkrais principles and of exploring the world, in general. He or she is likely to add to the body of knowledge by finding how certain Feldenkraisian ideas can be found in other modalities (or pieces of other modalities) and incorporated into the work for the betterment of all. The infinite player is likely to find new connections and new domains of action and knowledge to apply the skill. Of course, there will be times when a particular Feldenkrais infinite path for a particular person reaches a dead end and the explorations are not fertile nor useful. But this is irrelevant as all new knowledge comes from this type of exploration. It was, after all how Moshe developed his work. And it is necessary to note again, as I did above, that new knowledge and new forms and domains cannot come from the mimicry and static rule and hierarchies that exist in Feldenkrais finite.

In Feldenkrais infinite rules change, the boundaries of the work may change, even the participants may change — more and different people become interested in the work, more people teach, they change what and how they teach, they change the framing of the work, teachers become students of other disciplines and then come back and add to the body of knowledge, students become teachers, teachers and students change roles and responsibilities (even if only unconsciously).

What evolves matters not, as long as the game is never allowed to come to an end and learning continues. And there are no winners or losers. There are only those who benefit more (at times) and those who benefit less (at times). And the benefits are context-dependent as one who benefits less in a certain context will likely (if she chooses to continue play) simply redefine her playing field to continue the learning process in his or her own way and with his or her unique ideas and abilities.

More to come.

Ryan C. Nagy

This document is a rough draft. I will continue to add to it and change it as the ideas evolve and my ways of expressing the ideas evolve.

I based this blog post on ideas talked about by Venkatesh Rao and his review of Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse.