Feldenkrais Quotes

Picture of Moshe Feldenkrais With His Halo Digitally Removed
This started out as just a draft of some quotes by Moshe Feldenkrais that I had written down over the years. I wanted to keep them in one place, quickly accessible. Putting them online seemed like a good solution.

Do you have your own favorite Feldenkrais quote? Please post it in the comment section below along with any reference you have to its source.

"Once the method is found and the new pattern is clearly presented, many can do as well and often better than the originator of the method." - Moshe Feldenkrais, The Potent Self.

Below is a key quote from an Alexander Yanai session. Key because it gets to what Moshe was attempting to do and what has also been very important for me. Though, I do not believe Feldenkrais is enough to get one there:

“We do the movements just to test ourselves if we are sleeping or are awake. That means [to distinguish] if we are able to pay attention, to do what we want, or if something inside of us, by itself, does what it wants. In other words, we are trying to stop being machines, but rather to become something closer to being a human that has awareness, knows what he is doing, and does what he wants, and not that it is done by itself and is what “it” wants. In other words, “it” is not “me.- Moshe Feldenkrais, Alexander Yanai Number 359

Feldenkrais Process: How Not Why

The quote below is one of my favorites because it is a thought echoed by various thinkers who I admire. Not the least of which is Gregory Bateson. Asking "why" though sometimes useful, can also lead us to infinite answers each based on the personal belief of the person answering the question, as well as on the level or view of the system under observation. Asking "How" can be more useful, though not always, of course:

"I have tried to write only what is necessary for you to understand how my techniques work. I have deliberately avoided answering the whys. I know how to live and how to use electricity, but I encounter enormous difficulties if I attempt to answer why I live and why there is electricity. In interpersonal affairs why and how are not so sharply divided and are used indiscriminately. In science, we really only know-how." - The Elusive Obvious

Asking "How?" leads to discovering process, the keystone of Feldenkrais and his work.

I am adding this quote on "aimless" learning on June 8th, 2020. This is the first day that "nonessential" services have been open in Mexico and as I go about my day, I have been thinking of my "no purpose" learning:

"It is necessary to divorce the aim to be achieved from the learning process itself. The process is the important thing and should be aimless." Man and The World, Moshe Feldenkrais. Somatics, Spring 1979

I will not presume to speak for Moshe about his quote's meaning to him. But for me, during the Covid quarantine, I have been reading and studying a variety of topics - philosophy, mathematics, computer programming, Spanish, anatomy and entrepreneurship to name a few. And I have been doing so without any particular purpose or goal and with no plan. The result has been a deep sense of satisfaction and peace. Where it will lead, I do not know. But I am learning and it feels great.

“Movement is life. Life is a process. Improve the quality of the process and you improve the quality of life itself.”
-Moshe Feldenkrais

Maturity

Feldenkrais on "maturity." An important topic as maturation is critical to the work - emotional, physical, intellectual and functional.

“What I understand by maturity, is the capacity of the individual to break up total situations of previous experience into parts, to reform them into a pattern most suitable to the present circumstance, i.e., the conscious control effectively becomes the over-riding servo-mechanism of the nervous system”. "Body and Mature Behavior: A Study of Anxiety, Sex, Gravitation, and Learning,"Moshe Feldenkrais, D. Sc.

"Recognizing our insignificance, the unimportance of what we think, do, or cannot do, we find ourselves in full mastery of ourselves to the potential limit of our ability. That sort of unstable equilibrium that is abandoned in each action and recovered for the next is the essence of human maturity. p.216, The Potent Self: A Study of Spontaneity and Compulsion, Moshe Feldenkrais

"The aim [of the Feldenkrais Method] is a person that is organized to move with minimum effort and maximum efficiency, not through muscular strength, but through increased consciousness of how movement works."
-Moshe Feldenkrais, PhD

"No matter how closely we look, it is difficult to find a mental act that can take place without the support of some physical function."
-Moshe Feldenkrais

Thinking and words....not the same thing (except when they are)

The quote below jumped out at me as being similar to some ideas embodied by Einstein. I did a short blog post noting the similarites: Feldenkrais and Einstein on Thinking Without Words.

"When thinking in words, even subliminally, we are logical and think in familiar patterns, in categories that we have thought, dreamed, read, heard, or said sometime before. Learning to think in patterns of relationships, in sensations divorced from the fixity of words, allows us to find hidden resources and the ability to make new patterns, to carry over patterns of relationship from one discipline to another. In short, we think personally, originally, and thus take another route to the thing we already know." From the "Elusive Obvious", Chapter: "On Learning"

"There are multiple descriptions of the same real-world situation. The only justification for language is to empower yourself. If the verbal description you create of the situation you find yourself in leads to paralysis and ineffectual behavior, then throw those damn words away and find yourself a new set. There is always some useful description of the world that empowers and gives you choices and your task, if you are going to use words at all, is to find that set of words."
Moshe Feldenkrais - This quote is under investigation! I am trying to verify the source. It may not be from Feldenkrais

"Movement is life. Life is a process. Improve the quality of the process and you improve the quality of life itself." -Moshe Feldenkrais

Compulsion, Spontaneity, Freedom

Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais noted that even so-called "normal"or "healthy" individuals often have compulsive states of neuro-muscular tension that limit functioning. He stated that:

"The object of education should be to eliminate these compulsive states and to help the person to acquire the ability for potent action; that is to be able to control the body excitations and act as if in the case of spontaneous action" (Feldenkrais, The Potent Self: A Study of Spontaneity and Compulsion, 1985.

This is where, to an extent, I differ with Moshe and some Feldenkrais practitioners. Compulsion, specifically related to trauma cannot necessarily be reached by doing Feldenkrais sessions. Sometimes one needs to add some of the latest findings on healing trauma. Peter Levine, Stephen Porges and many others have strategies that can be a big help to practitioners.

"What I'm after isn't flexible bodies, but flexible brains. What I'm after is to restore each person to their human dignity. "
- Moshe Feldenkrais

"You can do that much better than me if you eliminate the parasitic movements that you enact because you want to succeed. Make your own mistakes and keep on doing it and pay attention to the little things you become aware of." Moshe, speaking at the Amherst Training, June 1980.

The Unity of Mind and Body

There are many good quotes to choose from here. Below is a classic.

"I believe that the unity of mind and body is an objective reality. They are not just parts somehow related to each other, but an inseparable whole while functioning. A brain without a body could not think."
- Moshe Feldenkrais

"My inmost belief is that, just as anatomy has helped us to get an intimate knowledge of the working of the body, and neuroanatomy an understanding of some activities of the psyche, so will understanding of the somatic aspects of consciousness enable us to know ourselves more intimately". ~ Moshe Feldenkrais, D.Sc.

You will notice that Feldenkrais talks about the unity of mind and body but does not mention psychology.

Moshe on the topic of "scanning:"

"...I begin by asking people to lie on their backs (after the same principle of reducing gravity) and learn to scan themselves. That is, they examine attentively the contact of their bodies with the floor and gradually learn to detect considerable differences – points where the contact is feeble or non-existent and others where it is full and distinct. This training develops awareness of the location of muscles producing weak contact through permanent excessive tension, thus holding parts of the body up off the floor. Some improvement in tension reduction can be achieved through muscular awareness alone, but beyond that no improvement will be carried over into normal live unless people increase their awareness of the skeleton and its orientation..."

Moshe Feldenkrais, “Body and Mind”, 1980 ? I'm not sure what publication "Body and Mind" refers to. Checking now - Ryan

Find Your True Weakness (Or Not)

I do not particularly like this quote as I think it can be easily misunderstood and mis-applied. But the quote below is constantly cited, so I will include it. Just keep in mind that Feldenkrais, like many modern strategic change methods is ultimately a strength-based method. The work focuses on what is right with a person and what they CAN do.

"Find your true weakness and surrender to it. Therein lies the path to genius. Most people spend their lives using their strengths to overcome or cover up their weaknesses. Those few who use their strengths to incorporate their weaknesses, who don't divide themselves, those people are very rare. In any generation there are a few and they lead their generation."

-Moshe Feldenkrais

Feldenkrais, Science, Self-Delusion

My journey of using Feldenkraisian ideas to develop myself began with the Awareness Through Movement book. In the book, Feldenkrais spoke to the idea of "preventing self-education." That is, giving people the tools to grow and to realize that they are much more than they think they are. And that much more is possible than they realized. The quote below is NOT from the ATM book, but it evokes the idea to me:

"Don’t force it to be what you think of as right. Because, if you know that it is right, it is not learning. Learning is like research. You do it and then you say, “Ah!” However, if you research in order to prove what you already knew before is right, it is not science. It is self-delusion." Moshe Feldenkrais, June 22nd, 1977 SF Training

1 Comment

  1. Hi Ryan, the quote on scanning comes from the book “Your Body Works: A Guide to Health Energy and Balance” by Gerald Kogan 1981. it was an early anthology of articles pioneers in Somatics. Best Phil

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.