The distinguished theoretical physicist David Bohm (1917-1992), a star among Robert Oppenheimer's students, considered by Einstein as his "intellectual son", and by the Dalai Lama as one of his " scientific gurus" , was among the pioneers who revolutionised quantum physics. Bohm's multi-dimensional model of reality treats the whole of existence, including matter and consciousness, as an unbroken whole: Like the domain of discreet particles - characterised by amazing interconnectedness and mutual responsiveness over enormous distances -, the 'reality' we see about us, with all its apparently neatly separate objects and creatures, participates simultaneously in two orders. At the level of the explicate order of material manifestation, it is no more than the surface appearance of a second and "higher" or "deeper" layer of existence - the implicate or enfolded order. This can be described as a latent field of potentiality where everything is in a relation of mutual participation with everything else. It is ultimately from this order that everything unfolds. "Nothing is completely itself and its full being is realised only in that participation". (1) Most of us, however, have a completely different perception of reality because we believe that thought is a faithful representation of "truth" or reality "out there".
Bohm's lifelong exploration of the nature of thought and creativity crystallised in his Dialogue Model, a kind of practical laboratory for the investigation of thought as process or active movement: "Thought is movement, yet thought also attempts to hold fast to itself and seek security. It does so by entering more deeply into a particular thought..." (2) Locked up in fixed form, thought can be likened to the "lights of Las Vegas which prevent us from seeing the universe." (3)
"The first criterion of success in any human activity, the necessary preliminary, whether to scientific discovery or artistic vision, is intensity of attention, or, less pompously, love" (W.H. Auden).
When people describe their experience during a Feldenkrais lesson they often talk about surprise and amazement. For instance in the most recent issue of the German journal feldenkrais zeit (4), which is devoted to "Dialogue", a pupil observes the miraculous emergence of completely new possibilities of moving with ease; a practitioner suddenly notices that her hands are exploring ideas which have never occurred to her previously, etc. Nearly everybody who is familiar with the Feldenkrais Method will remember similar experiences. This article will look more closely at such moments of creative learning in the light of David Bohm's Dialogue model.
Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), an engineer with a Ph.D in physics and a martial arts expert, used to say "Our learning is the most important thing we have!" (5) and insisted that real learning is always instantaneous, organic, and entirely natural. (This is not the case in conventional 'learning' by rote, being trained like an animal, or academic learning leading to a diploma or degree.)
That was the way Feldenkrais himself had acquired the skill, competence, and knowledge which made him an accomplished Judo master, allowed him to avoid a knee operation with uncertain outcome in the 1940s, and turned him into the kind of teacher who does not "teach" but instead sets up appropriate conditions for genuine learning.
Replying to an interviewer wanting to know who had actually taught the by then acclaimed somatic thinker and teacher, Feldenkrais said in 1973:
"Myself. I refused to go to the university to learn medicine. I refused to be wired in like everybody else. I said I don't mind making my own mistakes, but I don't want to learn by the authority of a known professor. He will convince me that he knows better and in half a year I will lose all my curiosity. I'll be learning like everybody else - and get a good diploma." (6)
David Bohm's Dialogue Model can throw some thought-provoking light on the process of self-directed and self-organizing learning that is characteristic of the method which Moshe Feldenkrais developed in the course of his life.
Before tackling David Bohm's Dialogue concept, I would like to recount one of those magic moments from my own practice, when learning, or "self-improvement" as Feldenkrais also used to call it, emerges quite spontaneously and is consciously registered by the learner. The little case study will occasionally be referred to later in this article, serving as concrete illustration of complementarities between Feldenkrais work and David Bohm's Dialogue.
I really surprised myself
Seven year old William was standing on a chariot, holding the reins and whipping his horse in a wild chase across the prairie - all make-believe of course and entirely his own invention. I kept rolling the large rollers supporting the board on which William was balancing with astonishing agility. The horse was an oval physio-ball, the reins a length of rope. Suddenly it occurred to William that he should try a magic self-liberating Houdini-trick in this situation. I had to bind his wrists together, using elastic material to give him a good chance of extricating his hands from those shackles. All this seemed a bit daring to me; so I was extra alert, ready to prevent an accident...However, I could not help marvelling at the skill with which this child was twisting and turning to free his hands without losing balance on his continuously moving chariot.
At age three, when I met William for the first time, he was still extremely insecure in his relationship to movement and space, and was going through very traumatic times - such at sitting at the top of the stairs at home unable to move for fear of falling; or facing a corner, hitting his left arm, crying with frustration, and shouting over and over again "I hate you." Once his hands were free the little boy quite unexpectedly jumped - landing straight on his horse's back to my somewhat shocked relief and delight, and exclaimed: "I really surprised myself!", adding after a little reflection: "I thought I couldn't do it, but I knew I wouldn't fall off!"
(This article intends to look more closely at the relationship between such thinking and implicit knowledge.)
Following that triumph William was ready to lie down and allow me to guide his body into exploring still unfamiliar possibilities of arching the back. This gave the little hero a new idea. Next time he would have his hands tied together behind his back while standing on his moving chariot! A few weeks later William decided to start our session with another chariot chase: "It's really fun because I am very good at balancing!" This was no empty boasting or wishful thinking. The little boy's self-perception - and with it his capacity to maintain equilibrium under challenging circumstances - had improved dramatically. William had proved once again that as long as there is learning "our self-image is never static. It changes from action to action.". (7)
Challenging Thought to Become Conscious of Itself, Action to Happen with More Awareness
Feldenkrais and Bohm both had a holistic vision of man as an evolving conscious being. Both were convinced that expansion and transformation of human consciousness far beyond its present limitations are possible - and in fact urgently needed in view of increasingly violent conflicts and serious problems on the individual, social, and global scale. Both believed that true understanding of these issues is gained by giving our thoughts and actions sufficient attention. They also agreed that a really adequate response to any situation in life requires the participation of a person's entire self. Feldenkrais put particular stress on the fact that the four components of action - thinking, feeling, sensing, and moving - are always equally involved in action, because they "never occur separately, never, not for an instant" (8) : As one aspect of the person begins to change, thanks to increased attention, the others are bound to change too.
"We have got to learn, somehow, to observe thought." (9) David Bohm challenged thought to become aware of itself and its consequences. We tend to assume that our representations are true pictures of reality rather than relative guides for action. "Thought is constantly participating in giving shape and form and figuration to ourselves and to the whole of reality. Now thought doesn't know this. Thought is thinking that it isn't doing anything." (10) As long as we are unable to see how our thoughts actively create the very reality they simply appear to reflect, we will never solve any of our problems: "We could say that practically all problems of the human race are due to the fact that thought is not proprioceptive. Thought is constantly producing problems." (11)
[The term "proprioception" is used by Bohm primarily in the broader sense, meaning "self-perception". Physiologically, it refers to the function of receptors in muscle and tissues that respond to stimuli produced within the body.]
Moshe Feldenkrais was convinced that "the only thing which is amenable to us is action" (12) and therefore focused particularly on movement as a relatively easily observable and changeable form of action : "We must understand our intention and how that intention is realized...If we know that clearly, then we have infinite means." (13)
Feldenkrais called the state of maturity based on understanding of what we are doing the " potent self", entailing freedom from compulsive conditioned behaviour, self-reliance, capacity for self-reflection, self-observation, and responsible thought and action. The " potent" self-image matches a person's potential capabilities much more closely than the average self-image, which as a rule reflects only a fraction of true potential and is often accompanied by a sense of inadequacy.
The concept of "self-image" is central to Moshe Feldenkrais's thinking and can be compared to what David Bohm calls tacit infrastructure (see below). An individual's (mostly unconscious) self-image, largely the result of early socialization and education, determines how that person thinks, feels, and acts throughout life. The frequently enormous gap between reality and a person's self-image can only be effectively reduced by systematic correction of the image - not by trying to improve particular skills and actions. Such radical adjustment is the cardinal aim of the method developed by Feldenkrais. The effectiveness of his dual approach to altering primarily the motor element in the self-image lies in its ability to access the nervous system's own innate processes to change and refine functioning.
• In Awareness Through Movement (ATM) students are guided, mainly verbally, to discover that mind and body are one and can indeed function constructively as an inseparable whole - instead of destructively, as is so often the case.
• In Functional Integration (FI) an individual pupil-client learns the same - this time mediated mainly non-verbally through touch.
In both the experience of skilfully structured, yet playful and pleasant movement sequences sharpens the learner's attention: even for subtle differences in self-perception; for the continuously changing relationship of the skeleton to gravity; for the fact that a harmoniously functioning whole (moving without superfluous effort) is qualitatively much more than the sum of its parts; for the incredible effectiveness of just imagining an action; first and foremost, however for the subtle emergence of hitherto unthinkable new possibilities, whereby the "impossible" suddenly becomes "easy", "elegant" and "aesthetically pleasing".
Such a process of continuous differentiation or improved self-perception by way of movement exploration is spiced with considerable challenges. Most disconcerting of all is the unavoidable emergence of incoherences: for instance, intention and action are often incongruent, or what one thinks one is doing does not at all correspond to what one is actually doing. The sooner learners give up trying to use will-force in order to do things correctly , i.e. supposedly as expected by the teacher , the quicker they will realize that they can avoid unnecessary frustration and discouragement by beginning to listen inside, in other words to rely more and more on the inborn intelligence of their own nervous system.
The aim of both ATM and FI is to assist learners towards freeing themselves from habits of self-control and thought, which restrict creatively spontaneous responses to the demands of the present moment. The expected ultimate outcome is refinement and continuous maturation of the human nervous system as a whole; in other words ongoing acquisition of less dysfunctional and harmful habits.
David Bohm's Dialogue Model
Very early in his career Bohm had come to see one thing very clearly: In the world of science, ostensibly concerned with truth, fierce competition, hostility, and violent strife are in fact as endemic as in the world at large. The scientist-turned-philosopher gradually became convinced that contradictions and conflicts in the structure of human experience at all levels (individual, social, international) would only be resolved if one condition is fulfilled: all the largely unconscious, often rigidly narrow assumptions, value judgements, and beliefs underlying most thought, decision-making, and action (Bohm called this the tacit infrastructure and allocated it to a 1 st implicate order) have to be made conscious and effectively neutralized. This can only happen by getting in touch with the power of creativity inherent in all embodied life, a generative order or 2nd implicate order, which gives rise to change and evolution everywhere in existence. The practice of dialogue serves as a laboratory for exploration of such expansion and transformation of consciousness.
An Unusual Definition of Dialogue
While the word "dialogue" - in contrast to "monologue" - is usually understood to mean a conversation or discussion between two persons or the representatives of two groups, Bohm's definition differs significantly from that found in a dictionary:
"The term dialogue is derived from a Greek word, with dia meaning "through" and logos meaning "the word". Here "the word" does not refer to mere sounds but to their meaning. So dialogue can be considered as a free flow of meaning between people in communication, in the sense of a stream that flows between banks." (14)
It is important to realise at this point that such dialogue can be practised with equal benefit by an individual, by two people, and by a group of people .
The following dialogue criteria can therefore be applied in order to understand an individual's perception and learning during an Awareness Through Movement lesson as much as during a Functional Integration session - no matter whether this person happens to be in the role of "teacher/ practitioner" or "pupil/client".
This article can only indicate a few of the parallels and differences between Bohm's and Feldenkrais's approach to expansion and refinement of awareness, but I trust that Feldenkrais colleagues will discover many of these for themselves as they read on.
Bohm's Dialogue Group
Especially in a larger dialogue group participants soon begin to realize how much of the fragmentation, alienation, and conflict existing in society just seem to be waiting to surface in this microcosm. At least in the beginning stages of the process, different, often diametrically opposed, values and viewpoints start clashing more or less violently, providing opportunities for astonishing insight into the pervasiveness of habitual and compulsive thought-patterns and purely automatic emotional reactions. With some practice, the capacity for detachment, patience, and empathy with others and with oneself grows, and dialogue gradually becomes more self-reflective and productive.
Rules of the Dialogue Game - Essential Features of Dialogue:
• When a dialogue group meets for the first time, a facilitator explains principles, aims, and basic rules, and makes sure that these are understood, accepted, and respected. Once the dialogue process has taken off, the facilitator role becomes redundant and, in the best case, disappears altogether. The principles of authority and hierarchy have no place in dialogue.
• Participants agree that their group - in contrast to the usual work group - will get involved in free play of ideas and completely undirected inquiry - creating the path while walking.
• There will be no particular agenda. No decisions are to be made, no problems to be solved, no results to be achieved, no attempts made to change anything. There is only one task: to listen without prejudice to each other and pay attention to what is happening within oneself and within the group.
• Everybody's contribution is welcome, valuable, and valid. In other words, no idea, no assumption, however "bizarre", "mistaken", "silly", or "mad" it might appear, is to be rejected.
Those who cannot cope with a situation where neither cosy social chit-chat nor intellectual one-up-manship have a place will usually leave the group. The others will gradually begin to understand and live the spirit of dialogue. Eventually they may even learn not to feel too uncomfortable when the occasional long silence occurs - an empty open space - where anything can come in, where it is possible to communicate coherently in truth: "Truth does not emerge from opinions; it must emerge from something else - perhaps from a more free movement of the tacit mind." (15)
In Functional Integration we experience something similar as practitioners. If we remain "in neutral", i.e. practise inner silence, staying empty and open for impulses showing us how to proceed - especially when we have no idea what to do -, our hands will probably intuitively act in the most appropriate way, assisting the learner to discover ways of realizing unexpected possibilities.
We now need to ask how the above Dialogue criteria can be applied to the little case study.
1) Abandoning the principle of conventional authority and hierarchy
As a Feldenkrais practitioner I was obviously a threatening adult for the three year old and the issue of authority needed to be negotiated very carefully. During William's first Feldenkrais session there had not been the slightest possibility of my hands getting anywhere near his body without him saying "I want to go home now!" However, it was not surprising that he was suspicious and scared. He had experienced violence very early in life. A victim of hydrocephalis and resultant cerebral palsy William had undergone surgery soon after his birth when a plastic tube was implanted under his skin. This allows excess fluid to drain away from the ventricles of his brain . His condition had been repeatedly assessed by specialists and treated by therapists . More recently a physiotherapist had hurt him while trying to encourage his spastic left arm to lengthen by pulling it away from his chest. Emma, the little boy's mother, refused to go through the daily arm-pulling ordeal as she was supposed to and instead decided that Feldenkrais might be a more promising option.
A break-through came several months after we started play-working together. While galloping on a pretend horse - supported by my hands from behind - the little boy suddenly turned round, looked me straight in the eye, and said: "Ilana, you are actually touching me!" At that moment we became friends and the authority-issue was settled.
It was largely thanks to his parents' enlightened attitude and unfailing support that William had been granted a fair chance of beginning to discover his potential and thereby developing a viable self-image. Many other children whose parents are given the dismal prognosis that their newly-born will probably never walk, never talk, will not be given the learning opportunities which William enjoyed - including having a Feldenkrais practitioner as a "friend".
2) No Fixed Agenda - Nothing to be Achieved - or Creating a path while walking
That was a difficult issue for both William and myself, especially during the first months. The CP symptoms - among them imperfect vision and spatial awareness, "Dyslexia", colour-blindness, a slightly spastic left side, and (what disturbed the little boy most) a "useless" left hand were not as seriously incapacitating as initially feared. However, the bright little boy's frustration at not being able to do everything exactly like other children was very painful at times. I really wanted to do something, to get my "Feldenkrais hands" to "help" William gain greater satisfaction by becoming more skilled. But faced with the little boy's colossal suspicion of all supposedly helpful "therapists" I had to restrain myself...
Initially therefore I had no choice but keep reminding myself of Moshe Feldenkrais's dictum "The only principle is that there is no principle" and follow the child's flights of somewhat compensatory fancy. This certainly helped to boost William's self-image which occasionally received a battering in the school playground because children can be cruel to each other. So the child became my teacher and I learned how to play - William's games of course . While I was accompanying and assisting him on impossible missions, killing invincible giants, attacking evil planets, rescuing children caught in burning houses etc, I kept looking for ways of turning those imaginary battles into actual triumphs in the Feldenkrais sense by creating not too challenging learning situations demanding alertness, continuously shifting attention, and growing physical agility. For instance, several weeks in a row we climbed up a ladder into the attic room for our sessions; William's left arm extended beautifully as he held on to the hand rail on each side. A wobbly big African basket served as a boat requiring the arms to extend sideways so it would not keel over; a plank became a more or less steep slope , slide, or ladder; a broomstick the pole in a fire-station serving the little fireman for quickly sliding down to where his vehicle was waiting. In this way we both learned lesson number three:
3) No idea - however "mad" is to be rejected
The self-liberation à la Houdini performed while standing on constantly shifting ground seemed pretty crazy to me. However, the fact that the attempt was crowned with success so that the child could say with great satisfaction: "... I knew I wouldn't fall off" proved what mental - emotional -physical achievement the seven year old was capable of. As long as he paid close attention to the complex multi-sensory stimuli assailing him during this demanding activity, the thought of failure had no power over what according to Bohm is the primary function of (tacit) thinking, namely guiding action.
By the time being touched was no longer threatening for William, both of us had learned a great deal about trust - or, in other words, about dialoguing in the Bohmian sense. Gradually our FI sessions became much more quietly contemplative affairs as we engaged in the dance or characteristic subliminal - i.e. proprioceptive-kinesthetic - communication, between two nervous systems as Feldenkrais also used to describe the FI process. It was not very long before William was beginning to look forward to the opportunity of listening intently to the touch of my hands - and simultaneously inside for that infallible sense of new qualities of freedom, ease, and tacit knowledge of "what works" - while his movement repertoire and self-image expanded accordingly.
Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking together in the same direction. St. Exupéry (Author of The Little Prince)
In some respects, and on a modest scale, the gradual emergence of the kinesthetic-proprioceptive conversation between child and Feldenkrais practitioner turned into an illustration of what tends to happen in a Bohmian Dialogue group. Phases of apparent chaos and frustration are followed by more orderly, self-reflective communication. Once individual viewpoints within the group begin to be less compulsively defended as being absolutely right, other people's opinions less vehemently rejected as being stupid or wrong, all assumptions and ideas within the group may ultimately be perceived as aspects of a common structure of shared meaning . As a consequence a shared purpose may emerge, and awareness will grow of unexpected resources of tacit knowledge available within the group. At that stage the microcosm of the dialogue group may become a seeding-ground for transformation on a larger social scale.
Anybody who has explored Dialogue will have experienced the excitement when this tacit knowledge and shared meaning suddenly become explicitly real . This happens for instance when one person expresses an idea and another exclaims with utter amazement: "I was just going to say the same thing!" As such surprises become more frequent, everybody in the group will find it increasingly easy to see their personal thoughts and convictions as just a small part of a vast common fund of tacit shared meaning.
As the dialogue group begins communicating at the tacit level , thought starts to liberate itself from the grip of futile assumptions, habit, and compulsion. A more archaic form of perception - still latent in the structure of our consciousness - is then reactivated: participatory thought . This kind of thinking is very different from the usual, much more limited literal thought (with its often practical orientation towards results). Moshe Feldenkrais considered such restricted, largely "verbal" thinking to be one of the main obstacles to spontaneous intentional action in response to the demands of the situation at hand - mainly because it prevents access to the kind of tacit knowledge and skill which have been wired into our nervous system in the course of the long history of evolution .
Participatory thought is deeply transformative since "We create a world according to our mode of participation, and we create ourselves accordingly". For this kind of thought boundaries are permeable; participatory thought can feel underlying relationships and sense that the movement of the perceptible world is participating in some vital essence.
Former Bohm student Anthony Blake, who is continuing to expand and refine the Dialogue model, talks about getting in touch with "the underlying structure of meaning that concerns our freedom...the unknowable in our midst...what makes us human. Awareness and physical reality are fused into one ." (16)
As already mentioned, once sufficient trust was established between William and myself, our FI play-work took on a new quality of peacefully exploring all the options available to the child but not yet part of his experience. To give just one example, William soon found it easy to stretch up his left arm to reach something above his head; or sideways in order to balance while walking on a narrow board; or down his backside in order to pull something out of his back pocket and so on. Communication at a tacit level, shared meaning and purpose, as well as participatory thought (as described above) all played an important role. We really started dancing together and it was just as Feldenkrais described such a participatory process: "There is a two-way communication...The other person cannot do anything else but move with me and move with the same gentleness." (17) He goes on to say that it is almost impossible to determine who initiates the movement.
Now we come to the most challenging aspect of Dialogue in what Bohm calls suspension.
The Principle of Suspension and Self-Perception - or Proprioception of Thought
Bohm was adamant about one point: In order to observe what is really going on in so-called thinking and communicating, personal assumptions, value judgements, and opinions have to be suspended. Only then will it become apparent how much violence is invested in any attempt to defend one's personal opinion or influence others by talking them into accepting one's point of view. This also applies to the conventional mode of conversing, i.e. conveying information: "We are assuming that what is happening is that we are transferring information from ourself into the other. It is not too extreme to call this an act of violence." 18 Moshe Feldenkrais approached the same issue from another angle when he said that we need to get rid of "all that junk put into us" with the best of intentions . (19)
Habitual emotional reactions, such as anger and hostility, also have to be suspended in the dialogue situation. Negative emotions tend to flare up whenever one's identity seems under attack. This happens when cherished values and ideas about reality - often misapprehended as our 'identity' - are questioned, usually when another person expresses a diametrically opposed view.
But suspension does not mean suppression: "...You could say, 'I shouldn't be angry. I'm not angry, really...That would be suppressing awareness. You would still be violent. What is called for is not suppressing the awareness of anger, not suppressing or carrying out its manifestation, but rather suspending them in the middle at sort of an unstable point - as on a knife's edge - so that you can look at the whole process. That is what is called for." (20)
What kind of things needed suspending on my part during the FI sessions with William?
First and foremost all ambition about gaining the child's trust before he was ready to give it of his own accord. Next all hope of systematically implementing all the ideas I kept having about what was "needed" in order to empower the child to "do" what he "wanted". Instead, I had to let William become the guide on that path we were creating by walking it together. Then there was also the never quite abating fear of inadvertently squeezing the thin plastic tube running from the little boy's skull, down one side of his neck, to somewhere half way down his chest...Really improving fine motor skills in his weak left hand also remained a dream for a long time. Now, at the age of eight, and a year after he joined an excellent little school for children with special needs, William is really interested in finding ways of making his left hand stronger and more skilful. (His frequently incapacitating migraines have also stopped.)
The frustration about never being able to work really regularly with the child, especially in phases when he is highly motivated, is something I had to come to live with too.
The biggest task for William was learning how to overcome his fierce distrust of that strange lady who occasionally seemed to want to touch his body. Suspending his fear of having an accident was not a great problem as long as his mind was spinning fabulous tales and he was being carried away by his imagination.
However, when William began to become more interested in skilful physical action, he had to learn how to rely on his capacity to be fully present in the actual situation . During the Houdini trick lesson for instance he had to rely on some tacit knowledge of how to realize his intention - despite orin the face of fear of possible failure. In this situation William quite naturally achieved a kind of suspension that adults in a dialogue situation often find hard to accomplish. And once he had proved to himself that he was capable of organizing the complexity of ever changing multi-sensory stimuli into a coherent unity of intelligent, effective action, his expanded self-image allowed him to say with utter conviction: "I am good at balancing" .
According to David Bohm learning how patiently to hold in suspension everything that interferes with constructive interaction, communication, thinking and acting is absolutely crucial. Such discipline releases creative powers latent in us all. On the other hand, if individuals in the group keep insisting that there is only one possible or correct way and "It's got to be that way!" (Feldenkrais called that compulsion , Bohm spoke of the impulse of necessity), these powers, and with them constructive communication, will remain blocked.
Opening Towards New "Orders" and "Meanings"
Polarisation and conflict will diminish as soon as participants in a Dialogue begin to realize that stagnation and frustration can be avoided if they admit to themselves that: "Maybe it's not absolutely necessary after all..." Then exploration of new notions of what is really, creatively necessary can truly begin. Ultimately the creative perception of new orders of necessity (21) , so familiar to poets, artists, composers, pioneering scientists - and all those who come to really understand the Feldenkrais Method - may supplant the childishly egocentric impulse of necessity that is responsible for much of our incoherent and dysfunctional thinking, feeling, and acting.
As people in a Dialogue group begin to open up to the perception of new orders of necessity, they will notice more and more frequently that any misconception of one's spoken intent can actually lead to a new meaning being created on the spot - in the moment.
The explicit permission or even invitation to make mistakes - quite intentionally - in the Feldenkrais Method similarly leads to much more creative learning than any anxious striving "to get it right".
Dialogue partners may even experience a revelation: "In the creative perception of disharmony in the process of thought there may come about the deepest harmony that is open to man: an awed sense of the unknown indefinable totality from which all perception originates - the source of Intelligence". (22)
At such an advanced stage in the Dialogue process, with thought becoming proprioceptive, i.e. aware of its movement and consequences, a shared insight may arise "that we are all in the same position - everybody has assumptions, everybody is sticking to his assumptions, everybody is disturbed neurochemically." A constantly self-perpetuating process will be revealed: thought triggers certain emotions ; those emotions give rise to specific bodily feelings and sensations ; these in turn validate and reinforce the initial thought, thus sparking off another emotional upsurge, and so on and on "without passing through 'me'" (23) With attentive observation, the cherished me, which most of us cling to as the all-important centre, the central entity welding thought, feeling, sensation, and action together into unity, doing and experiencing everything, will ultimately prove to be little more than a figment of the imagination.
Moshe Feldenkrais was equally convinced that holding on to the notion of an all-important 'I' or 'me' is infantile and ultimately dysfunctional: "Unless a stage is reached at which self-regard ceases to be the main motivating force, any improvement achieved will never be sufficient to satisfy the individual. In fact, as a man grows and improves, his entire existence centres increasingly on what he does and how, while who does it becomes of ever decreasing importance." (24)
The way Bohm dethrones the me (Feldenkrais's who ), and instead installs body-mind unity as the natural centre of activity, is particularly interesting in this context. In a way, due to"some self-reference built into the whole system", i.e. " proprioception or self-perception ", the body could be regarded as a kind of self whose inborn sense of coherence and tacit knowledge of order and harmony are constantly being tested in movement and action, and continuously refined through direct experience. Without the physiological feedback involved, no child would learn to walk or ride a bike; nobody would be able to realise an intention. In a process of perpetual approximation of coherence, harmony, or a sense of aesthetic satisfaction accompanied by simultaneous self-correction, the "negative" sense of incoherence plays a "positive" and very important role: As creative perception of disharmony it can serve as the surest road to coherence. (25)
During playful exploration of movement alternatives in the Feldenkrais Method this is also the surest way to "success", namely pleasure and aesthetic satisfaction. All learners experience this as they discover for themselves new and better options, as "the difficult gradually becomes feasible, easy, comfortable, elegant, and aesthetically acceptable " (26)
The notion that there is only one way (Bohm's impulse of necessity ) can occasionally be quite an issue in Feldenkrais work with grown-ups. Clients may for instance insist that " it doesn't work", that " it hurts" (their back, neck, or hip joint), preventing them from moving with ease. Unconsciously they may attempt to remain in such a state of alienation, especially if they can produce proof of deterioration or injury in the form of a medical report or x-ray.
Thanks to William's intense curiosity, active imagination, and still malleable self-image, the impulse of necessity problem did not even arise.
Of particular interest for me was that William was at an age when the struggle between "omnipotence and insignificance", which Moshe Feldenkrais talked about in his Berkeley lectures, is still noticeably occupying the nervous system. Feldenkrais explained there that we need to adjust our inner absolute importance (or omnipotence) to our insignificance while we are growing up. This task causes much of the drama, many of the difficulties of existence if the struggle has not been resolved by adulthood, because in that case a person's nervous system is not free to learn useful knowledge.
What is important is that you get the person to love himself, not just to like himself ...If you take a person who hates himself, has no confidence to stand on his feet. Well, who can do that? Moshe Feldenkrais June 20, 1977
Both approaches presented in this article can make a valuable contribution by highlighting and suspending (or neutralizing) the hidden violence we all carry within ourselves. Moshe Feldenkrais never tired of drawing his students' attention to the fact that relying on will-force to achieve something or surpass oneself is the cause of most destructive functioning. He saw such functioning as a neurotic and asocial phenomenon ultimately doomed to failure: "A person who gets himself a neurotic goal and uses neurotic means usually fails and often ends in self-destruction". 27 Constructive functioning requires suspension of unhealthy ambition and useless, self-defeating effort. That is an absolute prerequisite for harmoniously adjusting the poles of omnipotence and insignificance and making peace with them in one's own mind. However, Feldenkrais believed that will and effort have their rightful place: "Will-effort should be trained on higher human functions and not on how much pain you can stand or how much fatigue you can stand." (28)
Predetermined goals, on the other hand, are better suspended since "In knowing what to achieve before we have learned to learn, we can reach only the limit of our ignorance. " (29)
Meeting-Point: Unrestricted Attention
As pioneers of participatory research into human consciousness both Moshe Feldenkrais and David Bohm were way ahead of their time. Very occasionally parallels between their externally so very different approaches were pointed out, - for instance in the late fifties (when David Bohm was teaching in Israel) by Gideon Carmi, one of Bohm's students and later collaborators, a man who excelled in physics, music, and art, and also studied with Moshe Feldenkrais. "Carmi explained to Bohm that he believed in a deep connection between physics, consciousness, and these subtle, minimal movements. " (32)
It is now up to us to allow the seeds of a promising legacy to take root - maybe by occasionally exploring the two approaches in conjunction, especially as they seem not only to complement one another but might actually take each other beyond the point where each meets its own limitations.
In the case of David Bohm's Dialogue model such limitation lies in the absence of application and testing in practical activity where radically participatory ways of thinking could be schooled and continuously corrected. Bohm disciple Anthony Blake is attempting to develop the model in this direction: "As human beings, what we have to accomplish, including our own transformation, depends on creating artificial conditions and combining actions that in nature would not occur together." (33)
Shortly before his death Moshe Feldenkrais felt obliged to admit to some of his closest followers that his action- and movement oriented-method will not always and unfailingly lead to the intended result, i.e. "changes in a person's motor cortex also bring about the kind of modifications in their thinking, feeling, and sensory perception he had hoped for." 34 Anyone involved in Feldenkrais education and training today will sooner or later be confronted with this problematic issue and realize that incoherent or compulsively destructive patterns of thought, emotional reaction, and general behaviour can act as stubbornly disruptive factors preventing a student's/client's learning and transformation.
Whether applying Bohm's "suspension" as practised in Dialogue (see p.9) in Feldenkrais work could effectively reduce bias and distortion in the learner's self-perception is a question that exceeds the constraints of this article. So does the question of whether this would happen through gradually reducing hidden inhibitions within the tacit inner dialogue (between thinking, feeling, proprioception, and kinesthetic sense) which Bohm occasionally talked about.
These and similar questions would be worth researching since both approaches - David Bohm's focusing on constructive thinking and Moshe Feldenkrais's aiming at constructive intentional action - ultimately involve the same intensive yet relaxed attention:
• Moshe Feldenkrais: "Do not concentrate - rather attend well to the entire situation, your body and your surroundings, by scanning the whole sufficiently to become aware of any change or difference, concentrating just enough to perceive this." (35)
• David Bohm: "There may be a limited kind of attention, such as concentration, as well as an unlimited kind - the fundamental kind. Through such attention, we could move into more and more levels of the implicate order - the more general levels of the whole process. At these general levels, consciousness in one person differs very little from consciousness in another." (36)
Ilana Nevill, Bath 15.2.//22.6. 2003
1 -David Bohm, On Creativity, p. 106
2 -F. David Peat, Infinite Potential, p. 180
3- David Bohm, On Dialogue, p. 81
4- feldenkrais zeit, Journal für somatisches Lernen, Ausgabe 3, Loeper Literatur Verlag, 2002
5- Transcript of the Amherst Training Program, 9 June, 81, p.17
6 -The Forebrain: Sleep, Consciousness, Awareness & Learning, An Interview with Moshe Feldenkrais by Edward Rosenfeld, Interface Journal, Vol. 1,No.3-4,1973, p 47ff
7 - Moshe Feldenkrais, Awareness Through Movement, p. 11
8 - Amherst Training Program, 8 June, 1981, p. 2
9 - On Dialogue, p. 75
10 - On Creativity, p. 115
11- On Dialogue, p. 25
12- Amherst Training Program, 8 June 81, p. 2
13" " " " , p.6
14 - The Essential Bohm, p.294f
15- On Dialogue, p.35
16- Anthony Blake, The Working Group, p. 20 (not yet published)
17- Amherst 8 June 81, p.10
18- Anthony Blake, Trialogue, p.1 (not yet published)
19- Berkeley Lectures 1973 (Cassette No. 40?)
20- On Dialogue, p. 76
21- Sorry, unable to track down where I found that quote
22- Essential Bohm, p.325
23 - On Dialogue, p.74
24- Awareness Through Movement, p. 19
25- On Dialogue, p. 78
26- Amherst, 8 June 81, p. 12
27- Berkeley Lectures
28- " "
29- Moshe Feldenkrais, Learning to Learn , p.13
30- Amherst, 8 June 81, p. 9
31- " " , p. 10
32- Infinite Potential, p. 170
33- Anthony Blake, Structures of Meaning, p. 13
34- Russell Delman, Verkörpertes Leben, Eine Qualität des Seins ("Embodied Life, A Quality of Being"), Fendenkrais Forum, Ausgabe 41, p. 11
35- Moshe Feldenkrais, Learning to Learn, p. 13
36- On Dialogue, p. 93
www.duversity.org (Anthony Blake)
www.fdavidpeat.com (David Bohm)
www.feldenkrais-resources.com (Moshe Feldenkrais)
David Bohm Thought as a System, Routledge 1994
" " On Dialogue, edited by Lee Nichol, " 1996
" " On Creativity " " " " " 1998
" " Wholeness and the Implicate Order " 1980/1995
" "/David Peat Science, Order, and Creativity " 1987/2000
" " The Essential Bohm, ed. by Lee Nichol, " 2003
F.David Peat Infinite Potential. The Life and Times of David Bohm Addison-Wesley 1997
Anthony Blake, Structures of Meaning (This includes The Working Group and Trialogue ) , still to be published
Moshe Feldenkrais, Body and Mature Behaviour - A Study of Anxiety, Sex, Gravitation & Learning, International University Press Inc., 1949
" " Awareness Through Movement, Health Exercises for Personal Growth, Harper& Row,1972
" " Body Awareness as Healing Therapy, The Case of Nora, Harper & Row, 1977
" " The Elusive Obvious, Meta Publications, 1981
" " The Potent Self; A Guide to Spontaneity, Harper & Row, 1985
Transcript of The Feldenkrais Professional Training Program, Amherst, Massachusetts, Week 1&2,1981
Feldenkrais Learning and David Bohm's Dialogue Model, by Ilana Nevill