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Zen, Feldenkrais, and the Art of Doing Less

I read an article in the New York times about a Japanese calligraphy exhibition, and was delighted to learn that in calligraphy, like Feldenkrais, the idea is to do just what is essential to perform your intention (a connection that isn't really that surprising given Moshe's expertise in Japanese Judo).

The article talks about Buddhist priests whose intention was to communicate the attributes of Daruma, the Indian monk and founding partriach of what became Zen Buddism, by way of only essential brush strokes. An unnecessary nose, for example comes across as a fussy afterthought; a few extra strokes in Daruma's robe, convey effort and thereby a kind of fragility.

In a Feldenkrais practice, where our intention is to physically feel ourselves and to notice whether our habits serve us, we need to quiet what amounts to preconceived ideas about "how to be good" and to give space to simply listening to the on-going process of our own selves.

This is surprisingly difficult to do. We all want to get there, finish the thing, put a shoulder behind a wheel and check off a box.

As a teacher, I joke with my students that the hardest thing about Feldenkrais is to do less. In my hands-on work, being crystal-clear, minimal, and comfortably in the process of something is much more difficult than it sounds. In both cases, it's very easy to layer in movement versions of anxious unnecessary noses and fussy robe strokes.

In our "Protestant work ethic" American culture, its definitely novel to think of effort as indicative of fragility. But perhaps it is.

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