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Reflection: Aware of the Unaware?

November 14, 2014

The other day, I saw a great article on

Why we are unaware that we lack the skill to tell how unskilled and unaware we are, by David McRaney


And, I’ll just say, when a Feldenkrais educator reads something like that about awareness (McRaney calls it ignorance, I’ll call it awareness), she sits back on her haunches and tilts her head sideways and the steam launches out of each ear, not from anger, but from the processing and thinking and considering and contemplation. Then, she’ll pretty much say, “yup, that guy David is right. That word nescient is the coolest word on the planet.”

Anyway, I did all that. The article is worth a read.

You see, when you’re lying on the floor in the Feldenkrais class, doing whatever it is you think you are doing and your teacher asks, are you doing what you think you are doing, it’s a safe bet at least one person in the room isn’t really following the instructions. The teacher is asking you to examine your own behavior and find out if you are doing what you think you are doing? Are you following the instructions she laid out?

Feldenkrais NotesTwo months ago, a good friend was attending a class I was teaching at the Vital Human: Community Feldenkrais Clinic. My friend, Heather Brockington, licensed massage therapist and nursing student, was lying on the floor on her belly and I was instructing the class, draw your right knee up by your side and turn your head to the left . . . blah, blah, blah. And Heather was lying there listening to me repeat the instructions a couple of times. She congratulated herself on knowing that she was doing it according to the instructions. And, when she discovered she was not, she laughed a good belly laugh, because she’s got a ton of Feldenkrais experience under her belt and she no longer worries when she’s made a blooper or if she’s not doing something exactly. And, we laughed together later because we’ve both done it, a kazillion times.

But, most students don’t laugh much about it. There’s a certain feeling of oh no, I made a mistake. Or, that was stupid. Or, even more disconcerting, I’m so stupid. Some days, it does feel shocking how our unawareness leads us around and seems to almost collude to keep other awarenesses from us. Though, it is easier to let go of the thinking we know it all as we age, because we do know we don’t know it all. In that instance of letting it in, that we don’t know it all, we have let a tiny bit of the behind-the-curtain awareness of all we don’t know into our consciousness. A. Tiny. Bit.

The McRaney article is so spot on. We may never know all we don’t know. My response is . . . so. So what. Not that we put our heads in the sand, but there is also no need to go rushing around, trying desperately to find the just-exactly right thing we don’t know.

In fact, it’s much more likely we’ll expand our awareness by remaining still and noticing, more noticing, gaining more perspective, and nudging ourselves to go outside of what we do know. You can do that with anything. Let go of the knowing. Let go of the certainty. Let go of I’m this, and I’m that, or the THIS is how it is. 

The classroom format of the Feldenkrais Method is called Awareness Through Movement for a reason.

“I think I like this idea [of nescience] because I often look back at my former self and imagine what sort of advice I would offer that person. It seems like I’m always in a position to do that, no matter how old I am or how old the former me is in my imagination. I was always more ignorant than I am now, even though I didn’t feel all that ignorant then. That means that it’s probably also true that right now I’m sitting here in a state of total ignorance concerning things that my future self wishes he could shout back at me through time. Yet here I sit, unaware. Nescient.” David McRaney

But, really, my favorite quote from the article is the one he used as the tag line.

Each one of us has a relationship with our own ignorance, a dishonest, complicated relationship, and that dishonesty keeps us sane, happy, and willing to get out of bed in the morning. By David McRaney

Yup, willing to get out of bed. Thank goodness we don’t know everything or admit everything to ourselves. Some days it’s too crushing and we might rather watch the reflection on the frozen leaves as they thaw and drip. Give me the thing in front of me so I can remain unaware of the other thing.

Really, that’s okay too.

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