Thursday, April 07, 2011

Awareness of The Fool Archetype Is Helpful?

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"He who can no longer pause to wonder, and stand rapt in awe,
is as good as dead; his eyes are closed." -- Albert Einstein

As a society,
we ridicule the adult 
who sees life with the innocent wonder of a child...
what can we learn from the FELDENKRAIS Method to alleviate this
violation of our own capacity for joy and aliveness?
Moshe Feldenkrais, who instigated this profound method for increasing conscious involvement in every facet of living, understood a fundamental truth: that learning, when presented in a way that mimics how children learn, is sticky.
It takes hold in an organic way that is available at any appropriate moment. Like learning to drive a car - imagine how dangerous it would be if you had to stop and think where the breaks are! Once you learn how to drive, it's a part of you. 
The irony is that even though there are plenty of studies in both linguistics and in psychology to affirm that people learn much more easily when they feel relaxed, safe and playful, our institutions do not take advantage of this. But institutions are always way behind the consciousness of the individual.
It's up to us as individuals to take the lead in actively using what we intuit:  that learning the way children do, with curiosity, playfulness and in a relaxed, unstressful environment is much more effective.
The way we learn as adults is NOT sticky. It's slow, painful and easily forgotten. How much of your college classes do YOU remember? Very little if you don't use it - it's the experiential nature of using it that makes it stick, that makes it a part of you that you can access without thought. Our institutions still promote book learning in environments that are fraught with the tension of deadlines, the stress of evaluation and a sense of duty and discipline that makes it feel more like an endurance race than a pleasure.
I well remember those first weeks of intensive AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT (ATM) lessons: what a different way to learn! There were moments of unbridled laughter in the middle of a lesson. There were times when I would feel awe opening like a light within me at the intricacy and delicacy of the human design, so accessible, and yet so unappreciated and so unnoticed by most people who live in a body.
Intuitively brilliant, Moshe Feldenkrais, found a unique way to access the way children learn. It uses our curiosity, our sense of wonder. It creates a fertile connection with the creative vitality of the childself. It spontaneously accesses the subliminal archetype of the Fool: the aspect of human experience that includes the wonder, the excitement ignorant of fear, and the ecstasy of the moment of comprehension.
I remember the relief I felt to find that we focus on what works in stead of digging ever deeper into a pit of pathology. The study of what's wrong with us is the obsession of Western Medicine. Finally, a modality that makes the study of what works it's main purpose! I remember the first taste of being given permission to explore, to investigate, to follow my own curiosity and strengthen my own intuition. This is the gift that every ATM provides anew.
The delightful energy of the Fool dances in and out of every lesson. It's not ever-present. As in life, there are serious moments punctuated by emotions and thoughts. But when it shows up, it's a wistful, fun way to move with playfulness around pain without challenging it head on.
This taught me to open myself to options heretofore unseen, and completely overlooked in all aspects of my life. Hence the ever-present expansion in new directions of greater fulfillment. Yet, this invitation is also an opening backwards into the profound wisdom of the childhood. The wisdom of the Fool is that when the judgment and the criticism of the mature adult is allowed to fade into the background, a certain divine insanity is free to take hold.
It's like spring fever. Thoughts, memories, feelings of past loves and sensations of openness, expansion and joy manifest as sensation. When you give yourself over to the profound power of the Fool archetype, you give yourself permission to access your own creative muse. In the process, you may find solutions to your problems that would otherwise never have occurred to your more rational mind.
Besides which, did it ever work when you were told to sit up straight? Did that change your posture, even if it was drummed into you? Of course not. Why? Because it was drummed into your mind and you cannot change behavior via intellectual learning. It has to be embodied by an arising sense of meaning welling up from a spring of deepening motivation, often fed by a tributary of strong emotion. Now personally, I embrace the Fool Archetype because wonder is one of my favorite, most motivating emotions!
On the other hand, it may well have changed you to be berated into postural submission, but it's doubtful that it changed you in helpful ways. Most likely, it pushed you into a rigidity that ended up being a habit of self-restriction, a.k.a. you developed the unconscious habit of moving with TENSION and FORCE. You know, like when you are in a hotel room and someone walks by in heels and you can hear it a block away. It's as if the woman is slamming her heels down into the ground. In ATM we call it, 'the use of excessive effort.'
(For those of you not in the know, that IS how concussion to your joints wears them out prematurely. The human body, if cared for with awareness of it's design, and respect for it's amazing capacity to regenerate, can last far longer than the paltry average age most of us assume as a given. See Frank Wildman's book, Change Your Age, which you can access from my feldenkrais blog for more...)
But back to the topic of the wisdom of the Fool Archetype. Our modern era has left us bereft of foolish heroes...It's not cool to be a fool. Yet, when you look back at the fairy tales of your childhood, you will find that many, if not most of them begin with a quest that the serious, promising ones fail at. It's the youngest, most foolish sibling that often finds the answer by virtue of his or her innocence and ability to see beyond the confines of the constant restrictions of reality.
The remarkable message of these tales is that being genuine and in integrity with one's own authenticity is more important in life than the intelligence or self-control. Yet, as a society, we value information, intelligence and control much more highly than integrity or authenticity. Clearly, as a society we have reached an all-time low with our lack of esteem for these values!
Therefore, hit the mat I say. Or, rather, kneel down gently with reverence and gratitude. For there it is that you WILL find your authentic self, if you embrace ATM as a practice. And with it, as the legions of authentic selves go out into the world, the lies and false values that permeate our institutions will be slowly, but definitely dissolved by the authentic integrity of the next generation.
Check out the Interview I did with FELDENKRAIS Trainer
Frank Wildman

What would Moshe Do?

"WHAT MAKES a person old? Some people think it’s wrinkles; others think it’s stodgy attitudes. But, really, the culprit is our habits. When we unlearn these habits and create new ones, we make our bodies and minds younger, stronger, and more flexible. In essence, we create a more youthful and intelligent body at any age." 
--Frank Wildman

P.S. Although brilliantly knowledgeable, Frank is one of the most playful teachers of ATM I know - in the right environment, even though he does look very serious here in this photo. Check out his excellent new book below, 'Change Your Age.'


  1. Wow Gabrielle, there's a lot of thoughts in this post! I totally agree that Moshe Feldenkrais "investigated" this Method.

    He himself writes in his ATM Book that it takes a genius to find something, but then he also writes: once it is found, his students can elaborate on it and become much better than the one who found it!

    Of course institutions are exempt from this. They rely on sponsors and government money. They can not just change their policies. And once someone is working inside such an institution, they are quite cozy and well embedded there. Adapting new ways would mean they put their fortunate life at risk!

    So yes, it's us individuals who can learn, evolve, and embrace better ways of thinking and acting. The first tarot card of the major arcana "The Fool" fits so well for your point!

    Thanks for posting.

  2. Institutions DEPEND on maintaining predictability to maintain a cultural system of competition and control. The paradigm of any organization, even the good ones, is to set things up so that the masses in the organization abdicate the burden of consciousness so that the leaders can deal with all that distasteful decision-making. Hence, any organization perpetuates a lack of awareness unwittingly. This is why we have so much apathy in the world.

    The good news is that it's ultimately individuals that make up institutions. In her book, 'Creating Partnerships: Unleashing Collaborative Power in the Workplace,' Dr. Cynthia King, states that "a fundamental challenge in transforming organizations includes the will and commitment to nourish personal leadership in everyone."

    Here's another place where FELDENKRAIS supplies much needed answers. How can a person be a leader of others if they don't know how to direct themselves. AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT teaches independent thinking experientially so that lemmings turn into people who stand for something and don't just go with the status quo 'because that's the way it's always been done...' (I'm not knocking tradition - I'm knocking the unquestioning mind that accepts all tradition without looking to see if it's functional!)

  3. Amelia2:10 AM

    Hi Gabrielle,

    Thank you for your thoughtful post. I just started training in the Anat Baniel Method, and I am experiencing many of the things you mention. For example there is so much laughter and connection among the people in class! It almost makes me uncomfortable, so much of learning for me has been under a state of extreme stress and tension. In fact, that is the only way I ever learned anything. Learning from such a new space is so foreign.

    I loved how you use the archetype of the fool. Indeed so much value in this society is placed on being "mature" and "adult". These terms actually often suggest the ability to criticize, judge, do what is "right", and operate under a lot of stress. Perhaps it is time to redefine what it means to be adult.

    I have another two years before I receive my certification and am not currently in the health and fitness industry. Do you have any advice on what I can do between now and the end of my training to further what I hope will be a career as a practitioner? Thanks!

  4. Amelia,

    I love your comment, 'Perhaps we need to redefine what it means to be adult.' As a society and individually, for each of us, I believe we do need to do that, for sanity's sake in a world gone more mad than the last generation, or so it would seem.

    I am struggling with it, because I can be way too serious anyway, and I am in a situation that has made me see life through the filter of mortality. I'm also looking at how caught up I got, in the last few years, in 'making' it work.

    So, with regard to recommendations for the time between now and the end of your training. Listen to your gut. Remember how kids are supposed to be given a chance to grow up without having to deal with issues that are a part of the adult world (issues that affect our innocence & trust)? When I read between the lines, I hear that you perhaps had less of that in your own childhood than you needed. So, take that time now to be playful and gentle with yourself until your training ends. The feldenkrais training is a gift. Honor it by participating fully in the playfulness and the heart-opening qualities of it.

    For myself, I have completely abandoned the health and fitness model in favor of the learning model as I present what I do. The medical and the insurance industries in America are worse than unhelpful to practitioners who are not in the medical field. This is a stark contrast at the moment, because here in Switzerland, where I am visiting for a month, the insurance companies cover feldenkrais and the doctors have respect for this amazing modality that works on parts of ourselves that have yet to be measured by the most sophisticated new equipment devised by modern medical science.

    I also recommend that, if you can do it without too much stress, start teaching atm as soon as possible. no more than one class a week, a finite series. For me, I think we were encouraged to wait too long, until we understood it better, but first impressions are really powerful with feldenkrais, and my advice is 'Go for it,' should you feel the draw, but without pressure. Its a fine line, that only you can sense within yourself. Thank you for your correspondence.

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Comments and questions are always welcome.