In the process of pulling my ideas together for an upcoming
webinar series Substack newsletter called "Power Literacy : Becoming Your Own Authority," I remembered something that I first wondered about years ago: "How can I help make Feldenkrais more of a threat?" Now, before you run off telling people how crazy I am (and yes, I am crazy, but time to talk about that later) what I mean is, what would it take to make Feldenkrais something like Uber or Amazon or even certain religious groups, something that is growing so fast and changing the culture so quickly that people see the need to mobilize and fight against it (even while others, of course, support the services)?
To be considered a threat Feldenkrais needs to get better known and it needs to start growing exponentially. Then what? To be brutally honest, the work will need to start threatening the livelihoods of people. If thousands of people began cancelling their TMJ surgery or back pain surgery to do Feldenkrais, thereby costing medical practitioners millions of dollars - believe me - the attack dogs would come out in full force. And that is what we need; controversy, discussion and greater and greater cultural relevance for Feldenkrais ideas. It is great when books get written that mention "Feldenkrais" and when it gets mentioned in a national spelling bee (as it recently was). But we need more. Do you agree?
There is another idea that I am playing with, which is using Feldenkrais ideas to create new life scripts for people. The current ecological crises as well as the massive technology-driven changes in jobs (i.e. job loses and entire industries taken over by software) are slowly making many current life scripts irrelevant. It is a bit scary but it is a huge opportunity and need. What will happen when people spend their lives developing there awareness and ability to act and less on making money? More on that in a future post.
The third answer of what is needed to make Feldenkrais a threat is a little ephemeral, but just as real. It is something rarely spoken of. It centers on the fact there is a disconnect between the potential of the work and that of the people using the work. Feldenkrais fans spend a great deal of time talking about how great "the work is." That's fine. I agree that it certainly can be. But what is needed are the structures and processes to liberate the potential of people using the work. And that will require a massive restructuring of how people think of themselves in relation to work.
A Certified Person Is Not An Authority
As an example, consider this idea of "becoming your own authority". Well, talking about becoming your own authority and actually being your own authority are two very different things. Likewise, being "certified" and being an authority are also at odds. Think about it. Could anyone certify your sense of self? Could someone certify your personal agency and authority? If it has to be certified by an outside person or agency then it does not come from you and you do not have it. And if you do not have it, how can you teach it? Who certified Moshe Feldenkrais? Let him tell you:
Question To Moshe: "Who were your teachers?"
Feldenkrais: "Myself. I refused to go to the university to learn medicine. I refused to be wired in like everybody else. I said I don't mind making my own mistakes, but I don't want to learn by the authority of a known professor. He will convince me because he knows better and in half a year I will lose all my curiosity. I'll be learning like every body else and get a good diploma."
No one certified Moshe. And while I hope if you want to get a PhD or go to med school (or wherever) you go or not based on YOUR reasoning, not Moshe's, you still may want to consider the limitation of certification. No one can certify you as as an authority. No man, no woman, no organization. I will have much more to say about that in the upcoming webinar series on power literacy. It is a crucial piece needed for the growth of the work. And more importantly the growth of your work.
In the meantime, is not rather annoying that this potent and consequential work is seen by many powerful groups as peripheral, even inconsequential? Or...have we messed up and let the work become inconsequential? People see no need write editorials against Feldenkrais or protest it or pass laws banning its use. We could not even convince Obama to launch drone strikes against the Feldenkrais Guild nor any individual trainers. Hell, no one has threatened me at all the last few weeks. How lame is that?
But take heart. There is a solution. And yes, it involves awareness and action. But it will be scary to many people as it involves becoming aware of processes that are rarely written about. As I mentioned it, I am calling it "Power Literacy." It involves being literate in the processes that organize groups of people (and people within those groups). I am not talking solely about the Feldenkrais Guilds, but about any organization of humans whether a corporation, church or university.
I have never presented on this before, because I did not have the complete concepts to formulate it. And I mentioned, it is scary. But now I have the words and framework. Details on the upcoming webinars coming soon.
Many good and valid points Ray. Something I have encountered and see as an obstacle to one of your points is that insurance pays for those TMJ and back surgeries. Whether the problems are resolved by surgery, unfortunately, is almost beside the point for some people because “their” doctor said they needed such and such and it will only be a $25 copay and an afternoon of their time.
There needs to be a cultural shift away from the mindset of spending the least amount of money and time to resolve health issues. Livelihoods won’t be threatened until progress on this front is accomplished.
That being said, there’s no reason we practitioners can’t begin the revolution!
Always enjoy your posts Ryan-provocative and inspiring.
Looking forward to the next installment.
Yes, good points Steven. Thanks for commenting. We are dealing with a whole system that needs to be changed and people’s attitudes towards their doctors and the insurance industries are a big factor.
Thank you! I hope you are doing great out there. – Ryan
Hi Ryan, thx for the provocative post. I’d be curious in which context MF (where/when) made the cited remark. Based on my reading of the two new biographies by Buckard and Reese, MF’s decision to study engineering in a private “Ecole” rather than medicine at a prestigious university was taken mainly due to financial reasons. I also wonder how the proud self-attribution as “physicist” based on an engineering doctorate obtained in a special program at the Sorbonne, fit into your narrative… 😉
Hi Stefan – Thanks for the comment! I will post the reference in just a moment. Thanks for the additional contextualization. Doing something based on Moshe’s written opinion, would be foolish in my opinion. I have a Master’s in Developmental Psychology and attend a PhD training and I got a great deal out of it. And I imagine Moshe got a great deal out of his training. That is why I wrote this in the blog post:
“And while I hope if you want to get a PhD or go to med school (or wherever) you go or not based on YOUR reasoning, not Moshe’s, you still may want to consider the limitation of certification.”
So, yes, I think it can be the right choice for folks. I mean – hey – you really cannot be a medical doctor without some type of state certification.
Thanks again for commenting! – Ryan
Hi Stefan – You can find that quote in “Embodied Wisdom: The Collected Papers of Moshe Feldenkrais.” I got the quote from something called ““Forebrain: Sleep, Consciousness, Awareness and Learning: An Interview with Moshe Feldenkrais” by Edward Rosenfeld.
thx for the ref & clarification!
all the best,
this piece as well as others are very resonant with me. i want to learn and i think “power literacy” sounds like something i don’t know much about. keep me posted, pls.
Thanks Bonnie. Will do. You are the first person to follow-up about my “power literacy” comment. I have been procrastinating a bit on putting it out there. But perhaps it is time.
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