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Into the Unknown

June 21, 2012

Like many humans, I was conditioned with a strong dose of needing to know what the future would bring. Some of my conditioning came from living with my parents volatile relationship as they struggled to find their way, but much of my compulsion came because I learned to anticipate the future. I recall at the age of seven accompanying my dad to his job of building a house, proud to be chosen to help.

We played a game. I was the go-fer and I learned all the names of the hammers, the Phillips and slotted screwdrivers, the crescent wrench, and so on. I’d guess which tool he needed next and if I was right and it was the correct one, I glowed inside with feeling useful. If it was the wrong one, disappointed, I’d bring over what he had really needed.

The strength of my conditioning didn’t sink in for me until I was in the third year of my Feldenkrais training. As you can imagine, I prided myself on being able to follow the curriculum and most of the time I could readily see the thread of teaching and accurately guess the next step.

But, one training segment was different. Our scheduled trainer wasn’t available for the entire three weeks so we had a different trainer each week. The first week was all about lessons of using the self around the table since every Feldenkrais practitioner needs to learn how to sit and push without straining or hurting.

The second week was a bit disjointed because our trainer was sick when he arrived and the assistant trainers filled in as they could. That didn’t create much continuity between the themes of the first week and the second week. I struggled to fit it all together and to make a guess of what was coming next. Mind you, I never shared my guesses out loud. They were my private guideposts so I could keep my footing.

The third week arrived and with it the third trainer. He was soft-spoken and philosophical and not as succinct or obvious as the first or second trainers. He wanted students to sort through and come to conclusions on their own. By the second day of his teaching, I was very frustrated that I couldn’t find a single tie-in to the first two weeks and I abandoned my silence and grabbed the microphone when we were having discussion.

“What is this all about, where are we going with this? I could find a way to connect the first two weeks and now I’m completely lost. Will you help me make sense of this?” I requested in a frustrated and shaky way.

“No, this is for you to explore and ponder and come to your own conclusion over time.” The trainer was firm but not unkind.

I handed the microphone to the next person, shaken and quivering, and sat dumbfounded. Not only had I not known what was coming next, but I hand’t spoken on the microphone during class discussions. Together, my vulnerability and the sense of the unknown engulfed me. When it was time for our break, I walked alone across the field to go sit in the cemetery among the trees and grass and oldness with my a desperate need to sort things out.

I sat there and cried my frustration and felt my shame of not knowing. That was when I realized, as if someone was whispering in my ear, of course you thought you needed to know what was happening next, in your family you did need to know, almost as if your life depended on it. And there came a vivid image of coming home from school to silently open the front door and listen for voices raised in argument before I decided to enter the house normally or creep unheard to my room. And another image came of following my father around his job site trying to guess what tools he needed next so I could be helpful and he would take me with him again.

I let it all out, all the years of needing to know, in a good cry. It felt good to understand that as a child it had seemed like a matter of life and death, but that, clearly, those days were in the past. As an adult, I didn’t need to anticipate or know ahead of time. I could let go of that need-to-know and relax into the unknown.

I’m still on this journey, of letting go of the anticipation and the need-to-know. My need-to-know has softened and become more blurry. When I feel an urge to dig down in and solve a puzzle or get to the bottom of something, it is my need-to-know pushing into the forefront. Like my alpha dog pushing the smaller dog aside, my need-to-know shoulders in until there’s no room for anything else.

In those moments, I remember my good cry in the graveyard with the sun beaming down, warming the cold and scared places inside me, terrified of letting go of not knowing. It’s the memory of the warmth and relaxation into the not knowing, that allows me to coax the adventurous side of me out into the open. I have learned to wait for what comes next.

When my students first attend classes, I often see them searching and wanting to know what it’s all about. They want and need an answer to the what are we doing here question. I have come to realize there isn’t a good way to answer the question. This work is a process. I urge them to continue attending class and assure them that one day it will become obvious that there isn’t a way and we aren’t doing something to be doing something. We are in discovery mode to see what our patterns are, for only then can we make changes to our habits. I can’t explain in those first few classes because it’s terrifying to hear, that even the wanting to know what is ahead is a habit, even needing to know as if life depended on it is a compulsion. I urge them to join me in the waiting, the not knowing, and to hang out there in the dance of wiggling a foot this way, a shoulder that way, rotating or turning the other way, and of noticing what they hold onto for dear life. In those waiting and observing moments, they will get it . . . whatever it is that needs getting.

. . .  


Wednesday Noon and Friday 10:45am classes continue through August 17 (no class week of July 4).

Late summer break and classes RESUME September 22. Come and get it while it’s going on. Same with workshops, none now until September. Check the calendar and watch your email updates. Have a GREAT summer.

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  1. Gee, Kim, I don’t remember seeing you in the cemetery! I thought I was the only one there! Linda

    • Oh those days…..lots to process, I imagine all of us had our time there. Love the image of gaining solace among the ancestors.

  2. deborah skell permalink

    Kim, you have ‘it,’ a full house, courage, heart, balance and brains…I know, it sounds a little like Oz — thank you for sharing,

  3. Wonderfully told! Sounds like a wise woman’s journey to the heart of her universe, the place that the shamans go to turn the pain of their deepest wounds into the gold of profound human experience.

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