On the Freakonomics podcast episode “The Three Hardest Words in the English Language,” the hosts talked about the value of saying, “I don’t know.”
They claim these are the hardest three words to say, particularly in our culture. They may also be the most valuable as they allow people to learn. Saying “I don’t know” makes room for growth and discovery. When we think we know things, we stay where we are.
This applies directly to the Feldenkrais Method. Part of the joy of it is in beginning with curiosity, with not knowing. In starting with wonder, we see what there is to see and allow learning to happen. We learn how to learn this way.
On the podcast, Stephen Dubner suggests that the only way to learn anything is through feedback. This made me think about some of the ways Feldenkrais works. When we lie on the floor in Awareness Through Movement, we get a great deal of our feedback from how we contact the floor. We get feedback from how moving one part of the body moves another. The method is designed to give feedback about where we are to the brain. When we work one on one with students, the practitioner is providing this feedback to the student’s brain, both through how we are moving them but also through the feedback of the surface the student is lying on.
The Feldenkrais Method is seemingly designed to be giving constant tactile feedback, an on-going loop of learning. This is just as we learned as children – trying something, sensing what is reflected back to us and trying something else.
In a lot of cases in our culture, feedback can tend to mean criticism. When you make something, for example, and someone says, “Can I give you some feedback?,” you know they’re about to give you a critique. But feedback is much much more than someone telling you what they think is wrong. Feedback comes from the body, from the displacement of the air, from what you see, what you hear, what you feel, from the floor, from the chair, from another person. Paying attention to all of it makes for very full learning.
And the beginning of that process of paying attention is becoming comfortable with not knowing. Which leg feels longer or shorter? Your right or your left? Maybe you have a sense right away and maybe you don’t know. Not knowing stimulates the question, the question kicks off the investigation, which kicks off the discoveries. And you may or may not find an answer to your question but the exploration and the feedback you get while exploring will offer a world of learning. It all starts with the questions and “I don’t know.”