Writing about the Movement is paradoxical. It seems doomed from the start because it cannot be adequately described. Even a bad experience is better than none, and even the best experience won’t be able to encapsulate everything I want to express. To begin with an apology for the limitedness of the text seems right.
“The thing that expresses itself in language, we cannot represent by language.”
The immediate association for the word “Movement” will be different for everyone. Often, memories of sports, exercise, or work come to the surface. That is, nowadays movement is mostly associated with the “visible, physical manifestation of the body”. To put it even more simplistically, the only association is something along the lines of ‘exercise, muscles, sweat’. Let’s start somewhere.
A lifetime back
Years ago, at the bottom of my dark moods, I tried to think about ‘What is a good life?’. Lost between the worlds of adolescence and adulthood, I was looking for something to hold on to. It was obvious to me that socioeconomic success does not correlate well with personal well-being, and while they are not automatically mutually exclusive, the former certainly does not lead to the latter. In other words, one wasn’t worth pursuing at all costs, and the other was too nebulous to pursue directly. My life was spent exercising and sporadically reading books, looking for an explanation and a solution to the problems I was facing – lack of energy, depression, various musculoskeletal injuries and others. Alas, the information from the books I did not know how to apply, and the eternal truths or the information I read remained just beautiful words. All systems of work and disciplines with claims of potential transformations cracked under the slightly more critical gaze directed at the future or the bitter initial experience with it. I didn’t find much meaning in anything I did, feeling inside that it wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to be. Perhaps this too tilted the train of thought into thinking about the means to an end rather than the end goal.
Flesh and blood
At the time, I was making my living playing online poker. Even though I didn’t dig into the field and ended up unlucky, the game itself gave me ways of thinking that have served me well in the areas that I’m really drawn to. In poker there are revealed and hidden information, probabilities and unknowns. There is an element of skill but also a dose of chance, sometimes the right moves lead to losses and the wrong ones lead to wins. Sounds familiar?
The Rules of the Game Called Life – Are There Any? And isn’t that what philosophers are concerned with? Perhaps many laws and regularities are hidden from us, but the most obvious ones are the following:
- Existence is a given, but we don’t know if it is a choice. Chance determines where, when and to whom you will appear, and it is up to you to do what you can with what you are given.
- Invariably, life is bound up with the presence of body, mind and possibly consciousness*. Any serious damage to the system could mean irreversible damage to the experience. Even writing this makes me cringe at our fragility.
- The future is hugely unpredictable, time moves forward and nothing stays the same.
It is as if all possible manifestations (infinitely many) and experiences of each of us originate (or are mediated) by the mind-body system, because without it we can neither perceive the world around us nor affect it. Here is a meaningful anchor – I need to work with the body and mind to better understand and master them. This, it turns out, is the root of all valuable practices. Or to put it another way, if you get to the obvious, maybe you’re on the right track.
The development process
Our developmental path follows a precise sequence of learning some basic ways of working with the body, including head, torso and leg control, standing, walking, manipulating objects and acquiring our first language. Movements are gradually enriched, complicated and refined, allowing us to write, draw, use musical instruments and much more. Subsequently, we gradually develop our social and sexual functions to complete the first stage of ‘maturity’. The importance of motor development in children is well known, although it is not stimulated in the best possible way, even by well-intentioned parents and educators.
Two important things are missed. The first is that we were all children and did not always have a good chance to develop our functions properly. Oppressive or misdirected external intervention is often detrimental and tramples on the child’s inner instinct to try different ways until he finds the right one for action. In this case, the skill remains underdeveloped, and the person organizes around this deficiency and tries to cover it up. Elderly people can often be seen, in whose movements and physical structure one can notice the clumsiness typical of young children. Emotion, thought and movement have their intersections, through each of the three you can influence the other two…
The second important perspective concerns our latent undiscovered potential. If the first stage is the maturation of the skill/function, then the second would be their further development, but where is the line? It’s hard to judge. Looking at the actions of the best in any field shows that ever finer distinction, precision and consistency of execution is possible.
Well, movement is a way to resume our development to complete the maturing process and continue it as far as we can go.
Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984)
It’s funny, sometimes we find things we didn’t even know we were looking for. The first time I read a book I wished I had written was by Moshe Feldenkrais. Feldenkrais was a remarkable man who lived in the 20th century, who laid the foundations of somatic (body) work as a means of self-improvement and awareness. I happened to come across his book Awareness Through Movement and began to practice the lessons written in it on my own. In and of themselves, they didn’t transform anything great in me, but they showed me that everything we think and feel is a product of how we act. Next step – Copenhagen.
Books have always been very important in the transmission of information, but the best way to learn is direct – on the spot, from a teacher skilled in the method. Ido Portal is the leading figure in the world in terms of developing, understanding and using the Movement as a concept. In 2016 I attended my first seminar in Denmark and the feeling was – “I found what I was looking for.” For five days we were exposed to intensive work, moving 8-10 hours a day, in a variety of scenarios that showed us , that the body is the same regardless of the discipline in which we use it. Something in me instantly responded to the lessons imparted through the practice and I remember how at the end of the event I timidly raised my hand and said “I came because of the way you move, but I see that is the least valuable thing about you”. Seven years later, my opinion has not changed… And I continue to search and study the way the body works.
Shapeshifter is the name of the method that reflects the practice born from the need to not interrupt (or resume) the learning process, to deepen our self-knowledge over time and to be capable and adaptable enough to meet the challenges of life that will be served to us. Movement is a topic that covers and reflects our entire being and all the processes taking place in us, and our Practice is a way to connect with them, to perceive them and perhaps in time – to influence them. It seems that in the comfortable embrace of modern technology and comfort, we are losing some important qualities. Wouldn’t it be nice to have more energy? To be able to rely on our body in a wide range of conditions? To have mental acuity and the ability to concentrate for long periods on what we decide? To burn in us a childlike enthusiasm for the movement, combined with the cool maturity to choose the right practices for us? To unite and harmonize the opposition within us? Are you satisfied with what you are experiencing, or do you think there is room for improvement?
Movement as a concept encompasses much more than training methods that primarily develop the body. Such a comprehensive topic cannot be cornered and shoved into a box of our choosing, but it can be explored from different angles and perspectives. Slowly and persistently I struggle to map the territory we inhabit Which in us is subject to change, bound to movement. But we need funds, guidance and feedback. Many people seem stuck within themselves, entangled in mental cobwebs and physical blockages. For me, Movement is the connection with the mobile, living part of me, with the power of renewal and growth, with Life itself. It is imperative that we broaden our perspective and learn to work with ourselves using what is available – our body and mind. If we leave it at words, it remains a poorly molded philosophy, but we have a Practice around all these ideas. And this is what I want to share with you – through texts, videos, and above all – through the opportunity to touch and experience them in the processes that I lead. Because words mean nothing if they don’t have a cover.
*translated to English from Bulgarian