I’ve always been a feeler rather than a thinker. As a dancer, I’m highly kinesthetic, easily sensing movement patterns in my body, but not always able to logically analyze them.
I remember when I started my Feldenkrais training and we would evaluate the way people walked, I thought “I’m never going to get this.” Fortunately, it was a skill that could be acquired and now, like you, I’m sure, no one escapes my scrutiny.
Still, feeling into movement is my preferred method of evaluation. Perhaps it is just a way of experiencing physics through imagination. Or you can call it intuition. Sometimes the word intuition can throw people, as if it is something too woo-woo, or something they do not have. In actuality, we all have and use our intuition, in life and in Functional Integration. Intuition really is just about picking up information on a subconscious level and using it in your lesson.
Intuition may be experienced as the idea that pops into your head for a lesson, or about a felt sense in your body, or just a curiosity you have about your client. It may be a vision, it may be an emotion, it may simply guide your hands to the next place on your client before you have made a conscious decision to go there.
Studies have proven that intuitive decisions are better than those made with focused, thoughtful minds. Ap Dijksterhuis, a psychologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands, found distraction actually helps us make better decisions. In 2006 Dijksterhuis asked study
subjects to evaluate four models of cars based on 12 variables. He found that only about 25 percent of those who were given uninterrupted time to ponder their choice opted for the best model, compared with 60 percent of people who were asked to make a spontaneous decision after looking over the cars and then performing another task. "While they were focusing on something else, the unconscious mind was processing the information and integrating it into a valid selection," Dijksterhuis explains.
The same thing happens to us when we allow for a lesson to develop spontaneously while we have a Functional Integration conversation with the client.
When I first heard about Dr. Martin Weiner’s work in connecting one nervous system with another to access an intuitive response in Functional Integration I jumped on it. Even though I had not yet graduated from my training, I suggested our region host Dr. Weiner for an
advanced training and helped organize the event. It was exactly what I craved; the Feldenkrais Method interpreted through a language I understood.
As I develop my own practice, I am learning more and more how to access my intuition to best assist my client. One of the things Marty told us was to throw away the plan--to show up and see what happens. I work best if I can close my eyes and really listen into what I’m feeling,
so in fact, I do develop a plan. I check in with my intuition before the client arrives, getting impressions and seeing what lessons pop into my imagination. When I act on those impressions, when I follow that plan, the lessons are always successful. When I second guess myself and try to use my best logic and reason, or pick a more “tried and true” Functional Integration approach. The lessons still work, the Feldenkrais Method is magical that way, but they don’t seem to be quite as momentous.
As you begin to act on intuitive hits, they may not always be correct; however, in acting on them, you begin to refine your understanding. If you never acted upon them, you would never improve. Intuition is much like any muscle--it gets stronger when used.
I want to reaffirm that we all have intuition and we all are already using it in Functional Integration. However, using it consciously, making a point of really listening in and trusting, can make a huge difference. As our job is already to listen, extending your listening to your own gut
response is not too big a leap.
In fact, by acknowledging intuition in our practice, we can consciously intend to bridge science of Feldenkrais with the science of the heart.
We know as practitioners that when we work with a client, we are connecting our nervous system with theirs. Research has documented that the heart itself has a complex nervous system that transmits information, generating practical intuition. In a study by Rollin
McCraty, PhD, Mike Atkinson and William A. Tiller, PhD, titled "The Role of Physiological Coherence in the Detection and Measurement of Cardiac Energy Exchange Between People," researchers found when two people are at a conversational distance, the electromagnetic signal generated by one person’s heart can influence the other person’s brain rhythms. When an individual is generating a coherent heart rhythm, synchronization between that individual’s brainwaves and another person’s heartbeat is more likely to occur.
This study’s findings have intriguing implications, suggesting that individuals in a physiologically coherent state (able to listen with all their senses) become more sensitive to the subtle electromagnetic information encoded in the heart signals of others around them.
Individuals report becoming more aware of deeper and more subtle aspects of the communication that are not contained in the words alone. This is often described as an increased sensitivity and intuitive awareness of the other person’s underlying feelings and the ’essence’ of their communication.
By acknowledging the nervous system of the heart, practical intuition can be integrated into your practice. I have found paying attention to practical intuition increases results, expands my understanding (of the Feldenkrais Method) and revives my practice, increasing my sense of fulfillment as a practitioner.
Although this article is about using intuitive guidance for Functional Integration, we certainly use it in teaching Awareness Through Movement, as well. How you choose your timing--when to move on and when to rest, when to repeat a sequence, when to break things down, is a matter of sensing the students in the room and using that information.
Another way is just to go wherever you are drawn while you work with your client. I think most of us naturally use this method at some point during every lesson. Again, I think it is important not to curb the direction you are led, even if it does not make sense logically. Often, I find I am drawn to work with a certain movement movement function and I do not understand how it relates to the lesson until the entire pattern is complete. For example, I am drawn to work with a client’s hands and discover an entry point for accessing the ribs, or I suddenly see how the palate of the mouth relates to a diaphragm and pelvic floor lesson.
When I was in my training, Elizabeth Beringer said she had long since let go of the idea that there is one perfect lesson for a client. I was profoundly relieved to hear I was off the hook in that way and in fact, have come to understand the method stands on its own no matter what lesson we choose. And yet, what if there was a perfect lesson for that person on that day and all we I have to do is listen in to my guidance to choose it?
I would love to hear about how you use intuition, or any special experiences you have had when you have used it. My email is tucsonfeldenkrais @ gmail.com