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Feldenkrais . . . What Should I Be Doing? and How To Let That Go

January 20, 2014

Last week something happened to me that I haven’t noticed in years.

In the midst of a seriously stressful and busy week, I hustled to my Feldenkrais class to lie on the floor and take the lesson. My co-teacher, Michael Wesson, was leading the class and I was looking forward to basking in the luxurious feeling of lying on the floor. Michael and I plan the curriculum together and agree on which lessons we’ll teach ahead of time. It’s a lovely arrangement. As many times as I get on the floor or practice using myself in a Feldenkraisian way in my daily life, it’s still more than wonderful to be among like-minded learners with someone guiding the process.

Other students arrived and greetings were exchanged. Several people had questions for me and we sorted through the answers and finally everyone was settled and ready to begin.

I took my place on my blanket and quietly waited for the class to begin. Or, so I thought. About then, in the stillness as everyone settled and Michael made space for people to begin the scan and noticing of posture on the floor, I heard loud and clear, “What Should We Be Doing Right Now?” Startled, I glanced at Michael but he wasn’t speaking, nor was anyone else in the room.

That’s when I realized the voice was inside my head. It had the jagged, coarse tone reminiscent of years earlier in my life when I judged not only my own performance but the performance of others. That judgment came out of a place of me being anxious about whether I was doing what I was Supposed to be doing and whether I’d get praise or condemnation.

Whew . . . I checked back in with my spine on the floor and looked around again. Only, this time I looked inside myself. I was wondering who the loudmouth was inside me who wasn’t content to wait and listen and then decide how to respond to the instructions when they came. Sure enough, that old part of me that needed to anticipate the answer, that needed to know what was coming so I could feel okay about myself for knowing what to do before I needed to do it. It was that part of me. The classic kid who’s pleasing the parent.

That kind of inner dialogue used to be my life. It was what went on in my head all of the time. And, there was a time it was useful. It helped me get through college, work in a trauma hospital with coma patients, help babies in NICU learn to eat, or witness the first bites of food from someone who’s had their larynx removed because of cancer. In so many cases, there have been times when knowing what needed doing, that being able to see the next things to do at least 10 steps ahead, was the exact perfect way to be thinking.

It is also not a way to be present in the current moment. In the above scenario, there is no current moment. There is only the future with future-thinking. I feel very fortunate that my 20+ years of study of the Feldenkrais Method has led me knowing more about being tuned in to the present moment and letting go of future-planning or past-ruminating. That’s why it was such a surprise to hear myself asking the question and feeling impatient about not knowing what to do. The plaintive cry, “Tell us what to do, please!” echoed through my head even after it was silently said and gone.

This process took less than 30 seconds and by the time I connected the dots and realized what I was doing, I laughed and patted myself on the internal back and went back to the present moment and participated in an amazing lesson highlighting the palate, tongue, jaw, inner spaces, and expansiveness.

I share this story because it’s pretty clear many of us live this way. We have a to-do list a mile long. We have stacks of projects we’ll never get to. We feel uncomfortable when there are empty moments with nothing to do. We think we should be doing something and if there is quiet time, we might feel guilty for not doing something.

You may tell me, “Oh Kim, I don’t feel that way. I quit worrying about what I should be doing long ago. I can meditate and I can sit and contemplate with the best of them.” And, I wonder, can you? Or, have you conditioned yourself to ignore the feelings of worry and anxiety that creep in within our productivity oriented society?

It’s not just children who struggle under the test-oriented culture that schools present. There is no such thing as measuring someone on the quality of the life they lead, the relationships and the events in that life. There is only the measuring of the how much, how many, and with whom.

Chaos-creating mental confusion, to be sure.

Can you catch yourself asking the silent question, “What Should I Be Doing?” Or, can you catch yourself admonishing yourself, “Oh, I can’t do this, I should be painting the garage (fill in any task).”

It takes practice to catch those little mutterings that the mind makes. They are like covert judges sitting in there, waiting for you to mess up and reprimand you. No wonder so many of us wander around feeling inadequate or somehow vulnerable as if we’re not worthy or doing enough. No wonder some of us work ourselves to the bone getting somewhere that looks and feels important.

The Feldenkrais Method is one way of interrupting those thinking habits. There are others, of course, but none so elegant as to include the whole self and the process of including the whole self in every aspect of life. It’s not about stopping life to do the Feldenkrais Method. It’s about living life with the Method, with quality, with grace, and with a ton of getting out of your own way.

. . .  

Feldenkrais classes with Kim and Michael, Wednesdays and Fridays, 10:45. Drop-ins welcome. More details here

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3 Comments
  1. Cindy Roundtree permalink

    Thank you Kim,
    Its great to know I’m in such great company.
    Even when I “know better”, that voice gets
    my attention also.

    • Cindy, indeed! The voice is like a tide, sometimes quiet, sometimes crashing in. Thanks for commenting. Hoping to get down your way this year, we’ll see how that might play out.

  2. Matt Williams permalink

    This was a great post, Kim! I feel lighter now that I’ve read it. Thank you!

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