In my enthusiasm to spread the word of Feldenkrais to the general public, I have found myself in some very strange situations. My most frustrating (but eye-opening) experience occurred when I accepted an invitation to teach a class at a health care clinic for their patient appreciation day.
The clinic was on the second floor of an office building, just above a beautiful atrium with an open staircase. The clinic didn’t have enough floor space to teach a class, but the owner and I decided that the large space at the top of the stairs would be perfect. I noticed that the acoustics were exceptional, which would make it easy for the participants to hear the lesson as I kept my voice soft and non-jarring to their nervous systems. Or so I thought.
The day of the party was a clear and beautiful October afternoon. I arrived at the clinic and saw the caterer parked in the lot, ready to serve the guests. “How nice,” I thought. It was a perfect day and wonderful weather for an outdoor picnic.
However, when I walked into the atrium, I saw dozens of tables and chairs set up. Patients were already sitting at tables with plates of food. Children were running everywhere. To make matters worse, there were several vendors booths set up as well. The noise was deafening, and they were just getting started. Uh-oh.
I walked up the stairs to set up for the class, and the noise got even louder. It appears I was right about the acoustics. By the time I started the class, the party was in full swing, and the noise was unbearable. I was in a panic and my brain was screaming. How could I possibly teach a Feldenkrais class under these circumstances?
I looked for a way out, but unless I jumped over the railing or slid down the banister, I was pretty much stuck. Besides, I couldn’t leave now. They had my mats. I took a deep breath, opened my mouth and bellowed, “SENSE YOUR CONTACT WITH THE FLOOR!” So far so good.
I took another deep breath and hollered, “SENSE YOUR BREATHING!” I continued screaming out the lesson, dividing my attention between the class, the noise, my anxiety, and the pounding in my head. What had I gotten myself into?
But then something incredible happened. Everyone on the floor began to change. People were breathing more deeply, their chests were getting softer, their hips and low backs seemed to melt into the floor. One person even fell asleep. I was flabbergasted. Apparently I was the only one who was disturbed by the noise.
My nervous system was overwhelmed my own anxiety as well as my expectations of how a class should be conducted. However, the people in the class had no preconceived ideas, so their nervous systems where open to learn and change. I was the only one who had the problem; everyone else was just fine.
All in all, it was a wonderful learning experience for all of us, but especially for me. It gave me an even deeper appreciation for the power of neuroplasticity, the magic of this remarkable Method, and the genius of Moshe Feldenkrais.