Someone recently asked me about the relationship of movement to creativity. She had chosen to write something about it for a course. Interesting question. It has stayed with me for quite a while and there are so many ways you can think about it. Here are a few that came to mind and how Feldenkrais relates to them.
Right/left brain and ‘the zone’
The woman who asked me talked a little about how you often have ideas when you go for a walk – that kind of thing – and of course that’s one very interesting area. I guess one way you could think about it is to do with right brain and left brain activity: not just right brain=creative, left brain= analytical, but that while the left side of the brain is very useful for analysis and focussed thinking about details (needed for creative thinking too) the right brain takes in the bigger picture, is more to do with being present in the moment, with our relationship to everything else and many ideas come out of that more open and integrated place. There is a really wonderful description of the difference between right and left brain in a ted talk by Jill Bolte, a neuroscientist who had a stroke on the left side of her brain and describes the experience very powerfully: http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html
When you go out for a walk or a run or a swim – one of those repetitive kind of activities that go one for a while – you can get into what they call ‘the zone’ which I am assuming is related to right brain activity. That place where you are not specifically focussed on one detail or another but moving between them and noticing relationships of parts of yourself or yourself and the environment: a place where you are very present with yourself and your surroundings and the sensation of moving and breathing. A Feldenkrais lesson has that possibility too: the listening to relationships between parts of the self and self/environment, listening to sensation, being present with what you are experiencing in the moment, expanding awareness to include all of oneself and not focussing attention tightly. It may be that ideas, images, memories pop up unbidden during the activity or lesson or maybe afterwards. Its as if you have allowed a space for connections and relationships to simply emerge rather than focussing tightly on an idea that shrinks under scrutiny. And of course that can be a creative place in many different ways.
But there are other ways to think about it too. Creative thinking implies that more than one possibility is available. That you can see different possibilities and make choices or connections between them. On a very simple level, Feldenkrais enables you to discover you have more possibilities, more range of choice than you may have thought. Its possible to lie on your back with your right foot planted and roll yourself towards your left letting the right knee fall to the left taking the weight of the pelvis with it. This might be the only choice you think of making. It is also possible to press with the flat of the foot and let the knee travel forward over your foot opening up the front of the hip joint which is a very different kind of movement but still rolls you to the left. Some people do that as a first choice, some people find it feels very different and new and would never think of it without guidance. You might do the movement only with the lower back and lower ribs moving to allow the pelvis to move. You might roll the whole torso and right shoulder to the left. You might leave the shoulder on the floor and turn the whole chest and lengthen through the front. You might roll the head or leave it in the middle or roll it the opposite way…. It would take a whole post just to list a few of the possibilities here. But mostly we have one way we do it. And in addition we often want to know which way is ‘right’ rather than accept that there are simply many different ways we could do something depending on what we want to achieve. The latter is part of creative thinking. So can we contain all or at least some of those possibilities without restricting ourselves? But then we get into the whole big question of what restricts us and that gets into really huge territory that spirals into our whole relationship with ourselves and the world so I am going to make a creative choice to try to keep it a little close to the theme of creativity and especially for actors.
Transformation – for actors and for all
There was a wonderful article recently by respected author Jay Griffiths (‘Wild’,’ PipPip’ ‘A Stray Love Letter to the Moon’) about transformation, metaphor and the relationship of artists and healers to shamans http://www.aeonmagazine.com/oceanic-feeling/jay-griffiths-shamanism-metaphorv1/ and while her argument is in a slightly different realm to this post, it still set me thinking about Feldenkrais and acting. Because you have to be able to contain the possibility of transformation as an actor: that you could be like this or like that or something else. But we can’t always imagine ourselves as differently as we think we can. We may not be able to see ourselves as we are for a start – and Feldenkrais was famous for saying that if you don’t know that how can you make any choice about how to be or what to do. If we always walk holding the pelvis a little bit backwards we may not know that we do and if someone tells us we do we may not be able to feel or do anything with the knowledge. Once a Feldenkrais lesson actually gives us the experience of what it is like to feel the pelvis in a different way and in a different relationship to the rest of ourselves and how it could move this way or that way and what that does to the rest of ourselves we can begin to play with possibilities. Even then we may not be able to really contain the idea of ourselves as someone who allows the pelvis to hang and move differently like that. It may take time to integrate that as a real possibility out there in the world. Its not just about increasing range by finding physical possibility its expanding the person’s idea of who and how they could be.
When I get myself in a jam and my knee is playing up and I can’t find my way through it I head off to Gunther Bisges or some other excellent Feldenkrais teacher for a one-to-one because I know I need their imagination of how I could be because I have lost sight of it myself. I just can’t find how my ribs and back and belly could find a different relationship to my legs. But he can because he is not trammelled by the specific limitations of being me. And through him I can. And I know I do that regularly for other people too ‘Look, feel – it could be like this as well, you see? or this or this …’ And that’s what a Feldenkrais Teacher can do for you. They can help you see yourself as you are and imagine yourself differently, feel yourself differently: enable you to contain the idea of being or responding differently. Someone said of Moshe Feldenkrais that when a client walked into the room he didn’t see problems he saw possibilities and solutions. I found that mysterious when I heard it. I don’t now. Its such a creative place.
PS . I just found this c/o Deborah Lotus:
“Harding also points to the importance of bodily posture and the habit of motion that many creators cultivated: Dickens and Hugo were avid walkers during ideation; Burns often composed while “holding the plough”; Twain paced madly while dictating; Goethe, Scott, and Burns composed on horseback; Mozart preferred the back of a carriage; Lord Kelvin worked on his mathematical studies while traveling by train. Harding offers: It is possible that the rhythmical movement of a carriage or train, of a horse and to a much lesser degree of walking, may produce on sensitive minds a slightly hypnotic effect conducive to that state of mind most favourable to the birth of ideas”.