Did you wonder who “we” were in Nick’s e-mails? Today you’ll hear from Ilona Fried, who guided this project behind the scenes.
When Nick put out a call in a Facebook group for consulting expertise in August 2018, I sent him an e-mail. As he shared his plans, I knew I wanted to guide this project from conception to reality. My motivation had been partly selfish: his excellent lessons have helped me enormously and I wanted more of them! But the greater inspiration was the idea of creating a flagship for the Feldenkrais community and an accessible Feldenkrais “portal” for anyone, anywhere. To “Functionally Integrate” the Feldenkrais Method into the mainstream, it seemed important for Nick’s lessons to be presented accessibly. As a former management consultant, I knew we didn’t have to build something from scratch. I looked for “best practices” from sophisticated online venues that could inform the site’s concept and design.
As I dusted off my resume, I feared I would inadvertently dust off my business persona who had been more invested in appearing competent than in trusting the process. It seemed heavy handed, stressful and totally not fun to turn myself into “an expert who knows everything” (although I do know a few things!). Instead, I looked to the Feldenkrais Method, which I’ve studied in trainings and privately, for guidance. If that sounds strange, remember that Moshe Feldenkrais said: “What I’m after is not flexible bodies but flexible brains.”
In Functional Integration, a practitioner considers the whole person rather than focusing on their pain, limitation or complaint. The practitioner “asks” a series of questions of the person’s nervous system to see what feedback arises and to discover where movement is fluid or stuck. When I first spoke with Nick via Skype, he said he’d been hung up on a name for his new site. He thought he needed something catchy, as if a cool URL would generate traffic. Having once owned a small business whose clever name drew more kudos than customers, I wanted to steer the conversation away from word wizardry and towards fundamentals.
As I listened and asked him a few questions, I knew that he had everything he needed: his excellent recordings, the international community of donors that had arisen to support them and, among his local students, artist Anita White whose light hearted illustrations captured the feeling of doing ATM. Except those elements had been, as Moshe Feldenkrais would say, “the elusive obvious”, hiding in plain sight. Just as a practitioner helps a student make a connection to their skeleton, their true support, I wanted Nick to recognize that his concept already had good bones. They just had to be aligned and working together.
“What about calling it The Feldenkrais Project?” I asked.
“Project” reinforced the collaborative nature of Nick’s vision. He agreed. And, I told him he could change his mind if another name occurred to him. I tried not to be wedded to having “the answer” but to keeping things in play. Having done plenty of ATMs where the instruction is to generalize the attention and consider the whole self, I tried to apply that Feldenkrais wisdom to keep the process moving gently along, even when we encountered sticking points or unexpected detours.
Conceiving a new site involves a multitude of micro-decisions whose effects can’t always be anticipated in advance. These, like the tiny, seemingly inconsequential and even tedious movements in an ATM, can ideally add up to an integrated and seamless whole. It’s a Feldenkrais paradox, to both play close attention to details while allowing that not everything needs to be exactly as one wants for the whole to be functional, valuable and even beautiful. It can be difficult to fully embrace this paradox when time and money are involved and the outcome is uncertain.
Luckily, the Feldenkrais idea of “approximations” saved the day. Just as Nick, through his recordings, reminds students to not move at full range but to gradually repeat and enlarge a movement, I tried to remind him and myself that we were not going to get everything “right” on the first try. As Moshe Feldenkrais said, “Perfectionism is an idiotic way of living.” It’s also a foolish way to approach any complex task involving human beings! Thankfully, the method offered a framework for letting things rest and then revisiting them with fresh eyes. Each approximation allowed our thinking to evolve.
On one occasion, Nick received from me and his web developer seemingly contradictory advice on a key issue. What to do? Without the Method, and its emphasis on learning, I might have become entrenched defending and justifying my position. Moshe’s wisdom, that true choice requires at least three options, helped open my mind to a possibility that incorporated the developer’s perspective, too, without making either of us “wrong”. What a relief!
I’d like to emphasize that while I had a hand in creating this site, it’s part of a longer process, one that started when Moshe Feldenkrais brought his method to the United States decades ago, or perhaps even before! I hope you, reader and listener, will participate in this process by doing the lessons, leaving feedback, sharing the site with others and, if you can, becoming a member to help pay it forward.
Finally, I wish to thank Nick for trusting me with his “baby”, for his willingness to both learn from me and challenge me, and for his patience when I needed to attend to a health issue. He’s poured his heart and many hours into his teaching and brings to everything he does an indefatigable level of curiosity, rigor, respect and kindness. It was a privilege to work with him to spread awareness of the Feldenkrais Method.
May these lessons alleviate suffering, bring joy and benefit humankind.