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Using Awareness Through Movement® Lessons to Change Your Life

By Kathryn Goldman Schuyler

I developed and taught several sessions of a graduate workshop on “The Art of Change: Somatic Awareness and Systems Thinking,” using Awareness Through Movement lessons as a means to help people make changes in their lives and work. In the day-and-a-half workshop, we did ATMs, talked about the nature of change, and talked in pairs about the areas where people wanted to make changes. Then students departed with the assignment of reading parts of at least one book on the Feldenkrais Method® and developing a personal project to change some part of their lives. Several weeks later, they wrote papers about this experiment.

I was amazed by what they discovered and achieved after such a brief experience of the work. Here are comments from one student, a woman who was a project manager for an engineering firm who came to the course wanting to make changes in the way she approached her work.

She wrote, “I am never very aware of my body, and when I get busy, I completely overlook the needs of my body. I become, what I call a ‘floating head.’ My awareness is exclusively in my head, I don’t feel I have a body, and am disconnected from it.”

She planned to buy tapes and use them, but found herself too busy to do so. Instead, she began incorporating movement experiments directly into her life. For example, she played with the way she got out of bed, based on suggestions from Ruthy Alon’s book, Mindful Spontaneity (available from the FEFNA office.) “Her words echoed through my mind during my long days at work and I started to do two things, I started to notice and observe what I was doing at work and evaluate what I was doing. I watched myself pushing myself to the limit, using my determination to push myself again and again, not noticing what my soul or body needed. As I noticed all these things, I saw them in the light of Ruthy’s words, that only when we invest our last energy into something, do we have the feeling we have given our best, even if it means completely ignoring our needs along the way.” Gradually, she began to take note of her body during the day, attending to its requests and needs. “That we are allowed to search for easier ways of doing things was and still is a very challenging thought to me,” she notes.

She also began to look for ways to do things more easily. “The workload didn’t decrease, but just allowing myself the freedom to look at my choices, and even acknowledging that I had some choices as to how I viewed my work, was very helpful. I still worked long hours and was often exhausted, but I feel that I got through those weeks easier because of the small mental shifts I made. The biggest step was noticing what was going on, which is the first step to making change. Only when I am aware of what I am doing, can I evaluate it and look for other options.”

Others brought their learning from the workshop to a wide range of dreams: a single mother improved her relationship with her daughter; a man helped his baby sleep more easily; two other students enhanced their coaching of athletes; and a small business owner shifted her breathing and with it, her self image.

I was impressed by the way the students were able to use Feldenkrais Method ideas to shift their thinking about important issues in their lives. I would encourage students to experiment with seeing how they can bring their learning from the lessons into other aspects of their lives.

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