Monday, April 02, 2007

Becoming Aware of What We Take For Granted: Notes from Switzerland

It seems to be a human trait to take for granted what we see all the time. While visiting family in the Berner Oberland, in Switzerland, the landscape which surrounds me is breathtaking, and yet, I sense how completely ordinary it seems to the people around me who live here all the time...

We become blinded by that which is familliar.

How can we see ourselves and our world anew so that we can appreciate the fullness and bittersweet beauty of life without becoming jaded and bitter or numb? I ask myself these questions as I travel the countryside of my own youth and realize how much I could not see when I was growing up here in Switzerland, and how differently I see it now that I have spent so many years with a variety of practices that develop the ability to see things from a different perspective intentionally. While growing up, I saw not only "the glass" as half empty, I focused on what hurt, what made me afraid and what I found hard. Granted, I did not have a perfect childhood, yet it is still amazing how much these things diverted me from the stunning surroundings that I accepted as simply a part of my daily commute to school.

Vacations are full of potential, not just for rest and recovery from the everyday grind of work and responsibility, but for experiencing a change in how we experience the world around us. Seeing the richness of life is something we easily become numb to as we fall into the automated rut of habitual work and struggle. A change in environment allows a perspective that often brings a richness to the very experience of sensing. It seems as if the grass is indeed greeener, the forsythia flowering nearby smells sweeter and the very clouds that float in the heavens more expressive and dramatic.

One of the many noteworthy benefits derived from the cultivation of Awareness Through Movement (ATM) as a practice, is that it allows us to see our environment, both internal and external, anew, as if never seen before. Taking the time to become aware of the sensation of the floor underneath us, the way that gravity can ground us and how to move through the world with relative ease and less effort, all these parts of an ATM practice make a substantial difference in our ability to appreciate and enjoy. But fitting a practice into our daily lives is only a piece of the puzzle. It is a maintenance program for fending off burn-out that must be supplemented by periodic changes in enviornment to give us time to integrate what we live into a life that has personal meaning for you as an individual.

There is a Toaist saying that that which we focus on grows. And even here, where the beauty is stunning and the quality of life incredibly comfortable, there are rumblings of increased depression and violence among teenagers. What are they focusing on?

One of the tactics used in professional FELDENRKAIS Trainings to help potential teachers make a huge shift in the perception of their own reality is to have the actual Training take place in an environment that is startlingly beautiful, so that an opening is already present for creating a doorway out of automated survival mode into relaxation, comfort and a more expansive attitude.

I have long been cogitating on how to make this same experience available to the public, for in my own life, I found it to be a gift of immeasurable value. So to that end, my cousin and I are discussing some possibilities, creating options, cooking up a plan. We have spent most of our time riding her stocky little western ponies along the pathways that separate tufts of mystical evergreen forests from vast grassy hills, accompanied by glimpses of the alps that run for miles and miles in the distance. She has a huge traditional Berner Oberland farm house on the top of a hillside less than an hour from Bern, the capitol of Switzerland. My cousin, Kati, has completely renovated this beautiful old wooden house and turned it into a gorgeous place for groups to stay, to do retreats, workshops or just experience the incredibly powerful peacefulness of the views which surround the hause in all directions.

Meanwhile, lie down, do an ATM lesson and reconnect with yourself. Remember what is most important to you. Why are you here? Are you living according to your values? Do you love the life you are living? If not, then it is time to take a "time out," to re-evaluate, to check in and reorganize yourself. This is fundamentally what the FELDENRKAIS Method is all about.


  1. That's a lovely story! I remember at my training, which was in Colima, Mexico, I certainly had the experience (as a Canadian who had never been south of Atlanta Georgia before) of awakening to a new surrounding. It also happened for local "Colimotes" in the course, which is interesting. The small city is surrounded by mountains, including a volcano, and one day after a class someone commented that they had never noticed their whole lives how the mountains were layered and differentiated in shade.


  2. Anonymous10:00 AM

    loved your letter... How amazing and how true!! Good for you!! I hope others are inspired as well by your description and honesty.. Glad to know you!! Bridget E


Comments and questions are always welcome.