How Change Happens

Learning to think in patterns of relationships, in sensations divorced from the fixity of words, allows us to find hidden resources and the ability to make new patterns...In short, we think personally, originally, and thus take another route to the thing we already know.
— Moshe Feldenkrais

As adults we have developed thousands of tiny habits that compose our behavior, our movement, our facial expressions, and our sense of who we are at any given moment. We even develop habits to avoid our feelings and experiences.

These might be habits such as over-eating, smoking, drinking, or excessive exercise, and they fall under the category of compulsions. Compulsions cease to be useful and start to be harmful, yet they are as familiar to us as breathing.

Thinking in Patterns

The hidden resources Feldenkrais talks about are available to all of us. The ability to "make new patterns" in the brain can fundamentally change your life. One of the ways this can happen is by engaging in a Feldenkrais lesson. Feldenkrais lessons create the essential requirement for change, which is novelty. Without novelty, the brain follows its same old ruts. You turn toward ice cream in the same way you always did. Without creating a new option, the old option rules.

Anyone who's dieted or tried to quit smoking or drinking knows that it's very difficult to will yourself to change. You can't simply talk to yourself in stern language and get rid of the urge. Habits of movement or habits of behavior (which are the same thing) require a wordless sensation in our nervous system that there is another equally viable option.

This is important. We use habits for survival, and without an equally viable option, one that serves our life in the same way, we cannot change.

Finding New Options Through Exploration

This new option comes about through gentle, directed exploration. True exploration uses a completely different part of the brain than we normally use as adults. It takes us into unfamiliar, uncertain territory. We have to let go of what we think we know and let the sensation and experience direct us instead of the languaging and knowing part of our brain.

Each of the thousands of Feldenkrais lessons set up very specific movement patterns to explore. These patterns challenge the brain in new ways. The crux of the matter is that on a structural level these lessons give us new options for old habits. On another, more fundamental level, they provide the potential for novelty in the nervous system.

Accepting Novelty is the Key

This ability for accepting novelty can be generalized into the rest of our lives. It means we are less rigid and more flexible in our thinking and feeling as well as in our movements. It gets us out of old ruts.

Change happens by accepting the new and letting go of the old. And as much as we think we do this, it's always good to challenge that assumption by lying on the floor and trying a Feldenkrais lesson.