Monday, August 14, 2006

What Is ATM Good For? What is Integration?

What is this picture? Is it light? Is it shadow? Posted by Picasa

This is a close-up of water. Given that statement, you already 'know' several things about it without my saying so. You know that it has depth. You know that it is wet. You know without question what it feels like. You can imagine it. You may even be able to conjure up the taste and the smell of it. This means you have integrated water, not just intellectually, but as an experience. And since our bodies are composed of at least 80% water, it is vital to your survival to know it. You could survive with just the most minimal amount of water, but what would your quality of life be like? Even so with the rest of experience. If you have not integrated your knowledge, you can usually get by, even thrive to some extent. But how much more depth could you experience in your life if you focused on developing a sense of how to integrate your knowledge into concrete experience? This is the very essence of what you learn in ATM. Integration is a global skill that translates from movement into many other facets of living to produce a whole that works better than fragmented parts.

How can one approach have such a profound effect on so many aspects of living?

Sometimes, the obsessive desire to understand can interfere with improvement itself, because the very nature of the question is concerned with theoretical knowledge rather than embodied experience. On the level of ego, the mind is often concerned with 'doing it right.' We have all been socialized growing up to learn according to external measures of success. SAT scores, grades, even parental affection is often grounded in this compulsive need for proof of worthiness. Yes, even fitness, which is very popular right now, is for the most part externally motivated, rooted in the desire to look better, to be more attractive or desirable. Most systems of movement training have specific theories about optimal movement as if it were an empirical truth that exists outside ourselves, as if there were only one right way to do things. Poppycock.
Everyone is different.

Is this not the age of diversity? Do you want to learn how to celebrate it? Become fluent in noticing how unique you are yourself! Given that individual ATMs have no function in and of themselves, why bother doing them? In most fitness training, the directions are generic. Stretching is generic. When you bend over to stretch your hamstrings, no one mentions that it makes a difference if your pelvis is tilted forward or backward. Silly little details, such as these, will dictate whether or not you are stretching the hamstrings or using your pelvis in a way that generates length. You and your trainer may not know the difference, but your nervous system does, I guarantee it. By discounting your own experience in favor of someone else's authority on the subject, you loose access to the most sophisticated applications of your own brain by abdication. It is a great violation we have wrought upon ourselves with the advent of the scientific age, to honor only as valid that which can be measured by others. It leads to a habit of discounting our own impressions, ideas and experience.

Basic functionality is a fancy way of referring to the stuff we do every day: such as standing, sitting, lying down and getting up from lying down. These can all be done in a complex myriad of ways. Most of us pick a few standard ways that we stick to without question. We then wonder why, forty years later, we have certain muscles that ache more than others. ATM retrains you to use parts of yourself you have not used in years! That's entertaining to be sure, but it's only when you learn to integrate these new options into your daily repertoire that you find you have the juiciest fruits of your labor. The way you know you have integrated a new option is when you are doing something on your own, completely unrelated to ATM, and suddenly, you notice you have moved in a way that you never usually do and that it feels really good! But this is merely the most superficial level of change. When people say that improvement with the FELDENKRAIS Method is usually global, what that means is that the impact often leads to improvement in several areas of experience at once. This is true integration, it's improvement on several levels without intentional thought to making it happen. It's spontaneous. Yes, you have to put in the time to get the result, but the result may not happen at that time. It happens eventually. It may lead to physical improvement, or lessening of discomfort. It may lead to greater clarity of thought. It may improve problem solving ability. It may even result in greater creativity.


  1. Dear Gabrielle,

    I am so glad you are back to blogging! You are one of the best Feldy reads out there - thank you!


  2. hello Gabrielle
    Iwas very much impressed at the clarity of your writing down about the reaction of our brain(C.N.S) to the ATMs.
    I hope to absorb your ideas and by doing so enrich my ATMs.
    thank you


Comments and questions are always welcome.