The water was inviting and clear, and I couldn’t wait to jump in. My family and I were at a Catskill swimming hole on our vacation. No one else was there, and it was absolutely serene and beautiful; I couldn’t believe our luck at finding such an idyllic place. I dipped my foot in the water, and it was shockingly cold. After I pulled my foot out, I felt actual pain as the bones of my toes thawed and they began to warm up again.
Just a few years ago, that would have been the end of the story for me. I would have deemed it too uncomfortable to try swimming, and then sat by the side of the water, disappointed, but sure that there was no other option. This time, however, I jumped into the icy water. shockingly cold.
I’ve spent the last 13 years immersed in the Feldenkrais Method, and one focus has been to learn, through increased self-awareness, to find comfort in movement. It may seem paradoxical, but that process of seeking comfort has made it possible for me to endure uncomfortable situations differently than before. At times, such as at the swimming hole, I can even enjoy aspects of my experience at the same time that I’m very uncomfortable in some way.
In Awareness Through Movement group classes and one-on-one private Functional Integration Sessions, my clients often find new comfort in one’s own skin, a sense of being grounded, balanced, and relaxed. While clients may begin Feldenkrais to address a chronic ache or pain, they may find that when the ache is gone, the method has led them to new pathways of personal growth.
Feldenkrais wrote an article on health in which he said that good health isn’t defined by a lack of illness, but by our system’s resilience. In the short run, Feldenkrais method may help your bad back, but in the long run, there will be other challenges for each of us to face. One measure of our health is how each of us will cope, and even flourish, the next time we face a difficulty. Through Feldenkrais Method, we can find untapped reserves of resilience that each of us possesses. We can then apply the learning we do on the mat to the rest of our lives, to live, as Moshe Feldenkrais wrote, our “unavowed, and sometimes declared, dreams.”
So in a small victory for that day, I jumped into that cold, beautiful swimming hole. I won’t tell you much about how long I stayed in, or about the yelps I made to my family about the icy water. But I will tell you that though I was freezing, the joy of swimming in that place, and the joy of having learned to step outside of my limitations into a new possibility was…delightful!
“In short, health is measured by the shock a person can take without his usual way of life being compromised….The outstanding difference between healthy people and the others is that they have found…that learning is the gift of life. A special kind of learning: that of knowing oneself. They learn to know ‘how’ they are acting and thus are able to do ‘what’ they want — the…living of their unavowed, and sometimes declared, dreams.”
Excerpted from “On Health” by Moshe Feldenkrais. As reprinted in Embodied Wisdom, the Collected Papers of Moshe Feldenkrais.
Dan Rindler is a Feldenkrais Practitioner with a private practice in Gowanus, Brooklyn NY