Feldenkrais: The Three Educations
Moshe Feldenkrais, the founder of this method that bears his name, has become well known for an approach to movement that helps people reduce pain and regain comfort. This outcome, while wonderful in itself, is only a fragment of what he wished for us.
Feldenkrais’ broader goal was for us to become fully human.
He often shared his amazement at the ability of some herd animals to walk very shortly after birth. Newborn horses, for instance, can walk within two hours of birth. By contrast, human babies take about a year to do the same thing. The difference in behavior reflects a difference in brains. The horse’s brain is more wired in, while the human is more plastic. The nature of the human brain means that education is possible – and necessary.
In Feldenkrais’ interpretation of the meaning of life, this difference in brains also means that to become fully human means to be steadily involved in learning.
Feldenkrais identified three stages of learning:
1. The learning of the species. There are a large number of movements which human babies learn in their first months: to track with their eyes, to find their hands and feet, to roll over, to crawl, to stand, walk, run, etc.
2. The learning of the culture. At the next stage, each child learns how to fit into a particular community. One learns the language of the family and, beyond that, the family’s and local culture’s customs, skills and attitudes. This education makes the individual a functioning member of society, one who can stand on his own two feet and care for himself and others. For many people this is where “education” stops.
3. The learning one chooses oneself. The third level is education that one chooses for oneself. It is often also an education that one pays for oneself.
Refining the use of the body, the specific domain of the Feldenkrais Method, is a choice each person can make. It can lead one away from pain because it shows specific, better ways of self-use.
But with a broader horizon, the benefits are even larger. To be steadily searching for a better way opens one up. One experiences deep joy and an expansion of humanness. Through this process, although the body ages, the spirit is forever young.