Feldenkrais Blog, Uncategorized

Learning to Learn

“One has to set about learning to learn … with serenity but without solemnity, with patient objectivity and without compulsive seriousness … learning must be undertaken and is really profitable when the whole frame is held in a state where smiling can turn into laughter without interference, naturally, spontaneously.” (from The Potent Self, p. xi)

-Moshe Feldenkrais, D.Sc.

Learning something new is different from doing things in day-to-day life that you already know how to do. To learn something well and really integrate it, you need the right conditions. In a way, the Feldenkrais Method is about creating these conditions. These are beneficial in all learning settings, not just to learning movement. Here’s a list of a few of the conditions that promote learning:

  • TIME: going slowly and giving yourself enough time to understand new ideas and to organize yourself around them
  • REST: pausing from time to time, especially if you notice you’re not really paying attention anymore – this is a sign that you need time to absorb information before you can take in more
  • PROCESS: staying with the process of learning rather than focusing on performance or a final product
  • EASE: reducing effort to be able to make finer differentiations and adjust accordingly – read more about this in a previous post
  • SHIFTING FOCUS: maintaining the ability to be aware of the background or environment while also attending to more specific details
  • PLAY: letting curiosity, levity and experimentation drive the process
How is Awareness Through Movement playful?
The lessons are contemplative and usually quiet, but they also emphasize curiosity and experimentation. The challenging nature of the lessons can get in the way of play, but also invites you to maintain a light attitude and stay playful in the face of frustration.

We all naturally possess curiosity, wonder, and the ability to play. It’s easy to observe in children – and childhood is notably one of the most active periods of learning that we experience. One of Moshe Feldenkrais’ students, Anat Baniel, calls it the “learning switch.“, saying “Repetition, drill, and everyday stresses, as well as habitual patterns of thought, exercise, and emotions, all tend to turn the learning switch off.”

So much of our lives are spent in these kinds of play-suppressing activities, it’s important to do things that purposely counter them. Just as Awareness Through Movement lessons bring us through developmental movement and help us regain a more youthful way of moving, the playful, experimental qualities of the lessons help us regain our curiosity and enthusiasm for living.

Homework (if you want it!):

1. Are you learning anything new in your life right now? If not, find something you’d like to learn! See if you can approach it with these ideas of learning and find out if they do indeed make a difference.
2. Further reading:

Todd Hargrove has a great post about why play is important in motor learning.

Moshe wrote a Learn to Learn booklet to help people understand how to “do” Awareness Through Movement lessons – you can see the text here).