Why Feldenkrais®?

I am in my 4th and final year of training to become a Feldenkrais Practitioner. Some have asked why I am taking this training. Here’s my answer:

It was May 2005. I struggled though half of my second Masters recital and got to the end of the Bach solo sonata and just couldn’t see the music anymore. For a moment, everything looked blurry and my body just couldn’t function normally. I think I just made up something and kept playing while I tried to get it together. I did finish the piece and the entire recital but it’s not a performance I want to revisit.

At the time, I was living and practicing with nerve pain and numbness in both arms. When performing, I battled dry mouth and blurry vision too. I seriously contemplated selling my flute and quitting my flute career. But it wasn’t due to the pain and the discomfort while playing the flute. I wanted to quit because I was frustrated that I couldn’t make music with my flute. My physical and mental limitations prevented me from expressing myself through this instrument. 

Luckily, a friend suggested that I attend a week-long flute masterclass that summer, where the teachers also taught the Alexander Technique, Body Mapping, and the Feldenkrais Method®. It was my first exposure to such movement related education. That summer class saved my career. The Feldenkrais Method, in particular, completely changed the way I taught flute students and how I learned new music. 

The Feldenkrais Method is all about curiosity, exploring possibilities, developing a better sense of discrimination, and absolutely no judgment. It’s the no judgment part that was so bewildering and empowering. 

As I near the end of my 4 years of Feldenkrais practitioner training, I am still impressed by the non-judgmental approaches to teaching the Feldenkrais Method. Instead of evaluating or judging a client’s movements, a Feldenkrais Practitioner would observe the person and ask questions (to the client or quietly to themselves) instead of labeling a movement or posture as good, bad, wrong, or right. When I touch a client in a one-on-one Functional Integration® lesson, I am looking to make a connection with the other person and their nervous system. I do notice when ribs are not symmetric or one limb moves differently than another but I just gather that information in a spirit of curiosity. I am never thinking, “Oh my. This person’s right leg is really messed up and I need to make both legs move the same way!” My goal is never to “fix” anyone or make someone do something the “right” way. My goal is to explore the client’s current potential and possibilities and help them increase their potential. One cannot be an effective Feldenkrais practitioner if they are not able to set aside their judgment when teaching the method.

The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.
— Jiddu Krishnamurti

Over the last decade, I’ve been fighting my own judgment reflex in all aspects of my life. Even when I was taking a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement® lesson, I would be disappointed to discover that my left shoulder didn’t have the same range of motion as my right. I would then try harder to make the left shoulder get as good as my right. This was a completely futile exercise, for trying harder prevents learning and there would be less improvement than if I kept an open mind. The best case scenario would be that my left shoulder would move better but my right would also improve so the differences were still there. It was only recently that I was able to start noticing my movements, thoughts, and emotions without judging myself. 

In my musical life, I used to compare myself to others constantly. I would compare my technical ability or my overall career to my colleagues. I would also think snide thoughts when I hear a less than perfect performance. I relished schadenfreude. It is embarrassing to admit this to the world. Unfortunately, judging others means that when I made a mistake in performance, I knew others were judging me as I had judged them. One source of performance anxiety was knowing that others would be there to judge me as I judged them. It’s a never-ending cycle. Once I stopped judging others, I was able to stop judging myself. Once I started forgiving myself for wrong notes, I was able to forgive and forget others’. And vice versa.

I know that I will be working on being less judgmental for the rest of my life. I am grateful though that if I want to be an effective Feldenkrais practitioner, I have to practice observing without evaluation — at least within the context of teaching the Feldenkrais Method.

I'll be teaching a free Feldenkrais Workshop at the Center for New Music on Monday, August 19th! 

Event info: https://centerfornewmusic.com/calendar/awareness-through-movement-workshop-improve-your-life/

This will be one of the few chances left to have a free Feldenkrais lesson with me!

Awareness Through Movement® Workshop: Improve Your Life

© 2005, Rosalie O'Connor. Used with permission of the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America.

© 2005, Rosalie O'Connor. Used with permission of the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America.

Flutist and Authorized Trainee Awareness Through Movement® Teacher Meerenai Shim will lead this 1-2 hour workshop for musicians. Please wear comfortable/loose/flexible clothing and bring an exercise mat.

The first hour of the workshop will include an introduction to the Feldenkrais Method® and an Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) lesson. Using slow and gentle movement explorations we will get in tune with ourselves to rediscover our imagination and potential. Most people describe feeling more relaxed, grounded, centered, flexible, and alert after participating in an ATM class.

In the second hour of the workshop we will address any specific questions from participants. Possible topics may include repetitive stress injuries, sitting at a computer for long periods of time, ergonomics, and performance anxiety. If you have a particular issue or question, please email Meerenai ahead of time at flutemusic@gmail.com and bring your instrument or laptop if applicable.

Earlier in the day, I will have limited availability to give a few 45-minute long one-on-one Feldenkrais Functional Integration® lessons. Please email me (flutemusic@gmail.com) to schedule a free lesson.

The following are service marks or certification marks of the Feldenkrais Guild of North America: Feldenkrais®, Feldenkrais Method®, Functional Integration®, Awareness Through Movement®, ATM®, and FI®.

Matthew Joseph Payne

Me and Matt Payne after our performances at Rockage 2.0 in 2013.

Me and Matt Payne after our performances at Rockage 2.0 in 2013.

My good friend and collaborator, Matt Payne, released another album today. I've been a huge fan of his since 2011! And it's with a fanatic's delight that I share with you that my flute playing is on a handful of these tracks!!! 

Matthew Joseph Payne: Tension & Release

I met Matt Payne in 2011. He was writing instrumental parts for Jonathan Mann's "Song A Day: The Album" and I showed up on the last day of tracking. Then at Jonathan's CD release show, Matt's band, The Glowing Stars, was one of the opening bands. I was blown away. Matt was (and still is) an incredible performer and this was my first exposure to chiptune music. I found out that he was responsible for The Glowing Stars' Gameboy sounds. After that performance, I knew that I needed Matt's music for the flute. I needed his flute and Gameboy music!!!! After that night I started sorta stalking him on Facebook and emailed him to see if he'd write a piece for me. I didn't hear anything for an entire month (I just confirmed this in my old emails!) and was starting to get a little worried. Then, one day, the ball started to get rolling on my first Matthew Joseph Payne commission.

Since then, Matt has written a couple more pieces for me and A/B Duo. I've been a part of his band off and on when he was just Matthew Joseph Payne, and after the band became The Mineral Kingdom. I'm sad to say that it's been quite a while since I've performed with Matt. I hope he will get the band back together one day! But for now, Matt has released another excellent album of tunes.

"Tension & Release is a collection of songs which date back as far as 6 or so years ago, featuring a wide variety of musicians and collaborators. Most are new, original songs, two are covers of songs by artists near and dear to me. They all offer a solid representation of the MJP/TMK era." - Matthew Joseph Payne

I play on a handful of tracks on this album but my favorite tracks have no flute in them. Track 4 is called "PAWHAMMER" and it has a delicious 80's kind of sound with some of the signature MJP banjo and noise bits mixed in. "Pandatron 20X8" (track 6) was one of the songs The Mineral Kingdom used to play but we never got around to recording it. This version is Matt's original solo version. My favorite part of Pandatron is the Mike Patton-esque section at the end. In the liner notes Matt explains that "T. H. E." (track 7) was written in response to an online challenge to create a song which incorporated the following in 48 hours: "Two different Lord of the Rings related songs (the title of this piece stands for "Taking the Hobbits to Eisengard"), A song written by the person delivering the challenge (unfortunately I lost the song and the person's identity when 8bc shut down), salsa (the style of music, not the food), jumpstyle (also a style of music, which I had to google), my drumset." I don't know anyone else who could compose and perform such a well-crafted mashup within 48 hours. This is why I became an instant Matthew Joseph Payne fan in 2011.

RIP Lucy (2007-2015)

Lucy the Bernese Mountain Dog. At the dog park.

Lucy the Bernese Mountain Dog. At the dog park.

Lucy was diagnosed with bone cancer on April 13th. On April 22nd, we said goodbye to our precious baby girl. She was 7.5 years old. It's been a very difficult few weeks. Thank you for your emails and cards, etc. Dave and I really appreciate your messages. 

I made a video memorial for her since she was like a child to me: