By Danielle Hill
Recent MBS graduate Danielle Hill describes her experiences learning with MBS Academy. Like many other students in the 2011-2014 Foundation training, she returned to Bad Toelz this June to make up an earlier segment of the program, which she had missed the first time around. As a result, she directly followed the final chapter of the training program with the very first one. As it turned out, Danielle found that the lessons of Segment I only struck her more deeply.
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T. S. Eliot
I’m reminded of that Eliot quote often, but over the past week it’s kept ringing in my ears. Three years ago, I arrived in Bad Toelz for the first time. Prior to that, I had attended just a few group and individual lessons in the Feldenkrais Method. A friend had spoken highly of the method, and encouraged me to check it out. I had read one or two of Moshe’s books, and I had seen a clip of Mia teaching on Youtube. That got me. The dynamic language of Feldenkrais’ books resonated with many thinkers, meditators and other Greats, who I had read and admired. And right here – right here on Youtube – was a woman somehow bringing the method to life with such a beautifully quiet presence. I was moved by the light, wakeful quality with which she spoke and touched the students around her.
Although I was largely unable to verbalize any whys or hows, I felt uncharacteristically certain that I had stumbled on something of tremendous value. If I could be a bit creative, perhaps I could make regular transatlantic trips feasible. I began freelancing so that I could be more mobile. I couchsurfed whenever possible and, as if this explorative undertaking were permeating all that I encountered, I began meeting ever more interesting people.
Unlike many of those attracted to the Feldenkrais Method, I (thankfully) hadn’t had any injuries. I wasn’t a dancer or an athlete or a therapist; I had just worked with language, whether teaching, translating or writing. Nothing, it would seem, to do with the body. In fact, I would say that this retreat from the physical was wholly – if unconsciously – calculated. I’d never really shaken my teenage awkwardness, and even as a child, I had often felt ill-at-ease “in my own skin”, loathing athletics classes in grade school. Books, movies and the arts were far more appealing, and not just for their aesthetic pleasures. There was also that allure of escapism, of being divorced from direct physical experience, and even, it seemed, from my own habitual ways of experiencing the world: the relief of even a brief escape from myself. In hindsight, this unresolved tendency was what eventually brought me to the Feldenkrais Method and MBS. In the end, whatever triggers the greatest avoidance will present itself more loudly! And so eventually, I wanted to take a look at what I had been avoiding. I was eager for a means of learning completely grounded in direct experience and personal observation.
Flashing forward to June 2014: I am sitting with the other MBS students, listening to Mia. The training has just begun and many are gathered here for their first time. Mia asks a volunteer to come lie down on the floor and to lengthen her arms and her legs.
“Who,” Mia asks, “is hearing this instruction, and who is doing this?” She smiles. “Is it the mind or the body?”
Like a Zen koan, the question reverberates a moment. It blunts any strictly logical response. How absurd it would be to answer either “body” or “mind.” When we speak of mind and body, the words are simply place-holders for an imagined dichotomy, which we overlay on top of our actual experience. To become aware of one’s bodily movements is to become aware of oneself. How plain. How deep. How elusively obvious.
As I complete the final week of my training, I find myself floored by the very first lesson of all. It is nothing new. It is an underpinning. It is a first, fundamental clearing away of a misconception, a road-sign back to the obvious – back home – and yet somehow it strikes me down, newly. How fitting that we can find this hint – this pointing-out instruction of our wondrous nature – right in the very first sentence of any lesson: “Please lie on the floor and lengthen your arms and legs.”