Monday, January 26, 2009

Accessing knowledge that was already there

This is a story about helping a beginning Feldenkrais practitioner access a huge amount of knowledge she had, but didn't know she had.

The training to become a Feldenkrais practitioner involves several months of concentrated work per year for four years. In the training students do a large variety of movement 'lessons’ (Awareness Through Movement) that look a little bit like yoga. Many of the lessons are modelled on the sequences that infants go through in the process of learning to crawl and walk. They help the brain develop more efficient patterns of coordination.

The training also includes body analysis to work out the patterns of poor coordination whereby clients end up with pain, and training in subtle physical manipulations that enable clients to make sensory discoveries that support improved coordination.

A recent graduate of one of the Feldenkrais trainings joined a practice group that I was supervising. The procedure was straightforward: to look at the body organisation one of the fellow students (none of us is perfect!), see something that could be improved, and devise an individual lesson to make the improvement.

This student felt stymied. She said, in anger, "I did learn anything from the training."

Ah. So my job was not to 'teach’ her, but to help her access the enormous amount of understanding about the body and movement that I knew she must have acquired.

So I asked her if she could recall an Awareness Through Movement lesson that related to the body patent she was seeing in her 'client'. She needed some prompting, so I suggested one such lesson, and asked her to come up with two more. She came up with three, and was thrilled because she now saw that she could bridge between Awareness Through Movement lessons she knew and the specific needs of clients.

This is similar to a way of accessing obscure knowledge that is used in Synectics, one of the world's great problem solving techniques. We use 'rich associations' to jump from our problem to analogues in other domains that may give us fresh lines of solution. So here she learned to jump from seeing her client’s specific need - say clarifying the organisation of the hip joint - to one of several lessons that include mobilising the hip is part of a larger movement pattern.

Often great ideas come from such play of the mind.

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