Awareness is the space between thought and action

Avid readers of this blog know my fascination with movement to heal trauma (see here).
I finally got around to reading Moshe Feldenkrais‘ ‘Awareness through movement‘.
Feldenkrais is the father of body-awareness exercises with his classes still being taught all over the world.
How does he believe that movement classes can influence our thoughts and awareness, and subsequently heal trauma I hear you ask?

“When you know what you’re doing,
you can do what you want.”

– Moshe Feldenkrais

There the awareness we have when we’re not sleeping, but that is not all.
We can be awake without being aware.
Feldenkrais explains how four components make up the waking state:
sensation, feeling, thought and movement.
Each of these will influence another, and each of these are triggered when awake.
Feeling cold is sensation, struggling with esteem is feeling, thought is rationalising and breathing is movement.
But if we are not aware of these four components, how can we change them?

“In order to change our mode of action,
we must change the image of ourselves
that we carry within us.”

“Faults” such as low self-confidence, chronic pain or narrow thinking should be used to correct our progression and should therefore be cherished.
Let us not suppress or overlook our deviations from perfect health, but use them to attain it.
In his book, Feldenkrais explains how the brain, nervous system and connective tissues work together in a way that self-image and movement go hand-in-hand.
And while our image of ourself can be hard to tackle, movement is much easier.

“Nothing is permanent about
our behaviour patterns except
our belief that they are so.”

To summarise Feldenkrais’ biological explanation of the different brain systems:
There is a delay between a thought process and its translation into action, long enough to inhibit it.
There wouldn’t be any imagination or intellectual judgment without its ability to create the image of an action, and then delay or cancel its execution.
In this pause we can become aware of our intention and truly know ourselves.
But more often than not, this process is done automatically:
Doing does not equal knowing.

“In order to recognise small changes
in effort, the effort itself must first
be reduced. More delicate and improved
control of movement is possible only
through the increase of sensitivity,
through a greater ability to sense differences.”

This is where Feldenkrais’ exercises come in:
They all focus on slow, conscious, small movements, that help us become aware of them in our day-to-day life.
It’s what walking or breathing meditation aims to do too, but they are less varied.
Check out some examples of his exercises here (physical) and here (mental).
And here you can find a TED talk on Feldenkrais and the body-mind school of trauma.
Using movement to heal trauma and resetting my nervous system has done such a difference for me so I hope it helps you too!

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