It was not an outcome I was expecting when I started learning The Method but practicing Feldenkrais has made me a great deal more intolerant than I’ve ever been.
This is somewhat troubling in the sense that I’ve always been a fan of Tolerance. I have been complimented on my great tolerance. I’ve been a part of Tolerance Education. I put those Teach Tolerance address labels on my envelopes. What I didn’t see was the shadow side of tolerance.
Before I started working with the Feldenkrais Method, I tolerated a whole host of difficult people, unpleasant situations and states of distress. It’s not that I was unaware of those things, I was just able to bite my lip, or clench my fists, and grin and bear it. I have lost much of that ability and I am grateful for it.
How does lying on the floor and paying attention to one’s self change how one reacts to the world? (Many Awareness Through Movement lessons involve these two things.) Well, as I started to pay attention to simple things like how my limbs were lying on the floor, I also began to gain sensitivity around what efforts I was using to keep them that way. I began to be able to distinguish between pleasurable sensation and discomfort. I began to understand how to avoid pain in my body and this led to a natural extension of understanding how to avoid pain in life. This made it harder to smile and nod at meetings in which I was not fully engaged, harder to censor myself, harder to deny my own experience.
I could see that any of these actions had a physical manifestation in my body, in addition in to the emotional work I had to do in order to tolerate unpleasant or difficult things. And there came a point where I could no longer tolerate things that I’d previously told myself were tolerable. I lost my ability to deny my own experience.
This has meant that I end up calling out things like sexism or racism when I see them instead of trying to make nice. It has meant quitting jobs that were my bread and butter (and really “not that bad”.) It has meant a lot more writing and creating and a lot less stuff I do just to make a living. Which definitely, while it does have its downside, has its rewards, too.
So I can still teach tolerance in some senses of the word but I can also teach intolerance now and perhaps an ability to know the difference.
by Emily Davis, Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner