Updated: Sep 7, 2022
By Mary Rudd
One day when I was about ten, my mother told me to sweep the kitchen floor. I recall that she was standing in the kitchen cooking dinner, and my young, active mind immediately thought of a reason to put off her request.
I protested, “But we will be eating supper in an hour, so why sweep the floor now?” We would inevitably be sweeping it again very soon, I reasoned, so, “Why not wait?”
Let’s just say that strategy did not work very well. My mother recited a string of questions along the lines of, “Why take a walk when you will just have to take another one?”, “Why do the laundry when you will just have to do it again?” and, “Why eat lunch because you will just have to eat again later?” And so on.
That exchange has given me a lifetime of reflective fodder on the art of shifting into a new way of thought, sometimes very abruptly. My mother was using a master technique of engaging curiosity using unexpected and thought-provoking questions to shift me out of my head and into action. In this case, she was successful in getting me to just give up my thought train and do the chore without asking any further questions. I distinctly remember grabbing the broom and complying with her instruction simply to give myself time to think about the examples she had just provided.
Curiosity is a motivator while judgment and shame are constrictive. My new pathway of thoughts led me to a realization that sweeping the floor as I was told to do was easier and more satisfying than the effort it was going to take to continue the “why” delay tactic with her. Her questions also succeeded in planting a deep message that I couldn’t grasp at the time, but was nevertheless powerful: Repetitive movements and awareness of ourselves and our surroundings while doing them are an important part of this embodied life.
I learned something that night without punishment, embarrassment, shaming, or judgment. It was one of many precursors to my future life as a teacher of the Feldenkrais Method.
Taking Time to Replenish Yourself
Perhaps you could use a day of mindful movement that will introduce fresh experiences with movement and new ways to consider how you inhabit your body and your thoughts.
There does not have to be something wrong, hurting, or troubling you to benefit from a nurturing mindful movement retreat. However, if you feel tension or strain in your body, are overthinking anything in your life, or feeling overwhelmed, then you could probably use a change of pace to shake yourself out of your patterns and routine.
For those wondering what a day-long Feldenkrais retreat might look like and why you would consider spending your time in this way, consider the following questions:
1. How are you experiencing your life energy these days? Are you being proactive in replenishing and rejuvenating yourself on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels?
2. Are you being heard, being listened to? How do you practice a nurturing self-listening? Does any part of you feel ignored?
3. At Wise Move Studio, students learn to rediscover ease in their movement. Could you use a day of recovering a sense of ease?
A quality Feldenkrais retreat experience should include beauty, relief from or at least awareness of some of the patterns that cause strain, rest, playful free time, choices about how and with whom you spend breaks, quality food, and low-stress, safe, enjoyable connections with others all while reconnecting with yourself.
In my thinking, these are all inherent in the teaching of Awareness Through Movement lessons and the overall Feldenkrais aim to experience ourselves as whole human beings.
Sample Outline of a Day Retreat at Wise Move Studio
*All snacks, drinks, and lunch provided
Morning: Two gatherings on the porch or around the fire pit
Discussions and Intention-setting
Mindful movement body scan followed by a short walk
Awareness Through Movement lessons
Early Afternoon: Lunch, then walk, play, or rest. Individual questions addressed.
Creative ways to apply mindful movement: Time to explore
Mini-ATM lesson, followed by discussion
Mid to late afternoon: Discussion: Example--What does it mean to incorporate mindful movement as a practice?
ATM lessons and reflections
Practical applications and constructing personal meaning
Closing body scan
Most of us have internalized beliefs about ourselves which are deeply embedded within our very way of moving. For example, without awareness and knowledge, we can become stuck in a shallow breathing pattern if we have had prolonged stress. We can also be oblivious to the warning signs of joint and muscle pain that result from sitting, standing, or walking the same way too long every day. Sometimes students will comment that their pain is a result of something repetitive that they do, but they do not know how to change what they are doing.
At Wise Move Studio we celebrate the chance to spend quality time with ourselves by exploring how to move with a sense of ease. Feeling better is enough of an outcome, as is taking the step of trying something new. There is no requirement for analysis or even understanding, though both will likely happen as your knowledge grows within a mindful movement practice.