Wendy Hansenkemp’s article “Brain Karma: Is Delusion Hardwired?” was very interesting to me because much of what she talks about relates to another class I am taking: Feldenkrais for dancers. The Feldenkrais method involves doing gentle, slow, repeated movements by lying on the floor sitting, or standing. Much of it is self-exploration, as you are required to bring full attention to your body and how each part moves in relation to one another. This awareness through movement allows one to break free from their usual habitual patterns and develop new options, increasing one’s capacity for unconstrained, effortless action. It’s been proven to reduce pain, improve physical function and support one’s general well-being.
This method is based on the teachings of Moshe Feldenkrais, an Israeli physicist who believed that “rigidity, mental or physical, is contrary to the laws of life”. While Feldenkrais himself was not affiliated with any religion, his teachings seem to indirectly lead to the Buddhist concepts of interdependence, emptiness, and even enlightenment. In his essay on health, Feldenkrais questions what it means to be healthy. Biologically, the nervous system controls all of our life functions so naturally, one can measure health by how much shock a person can take without this system being comprised.
He bases his inquires on the realization of the dependent nature of our body’s physiology to external phenomena. Through science, he found that on a biological level our nervous system does not exist independently from the outside world. He explains that visual, external objects aren’t actually objects until we train our eyes and brains to recognize of them as such. As humans, we learn to conceptually process the world by differentiating our senses from feelings. It gives rise to patterns in our neurons and generates learned responses. He believes it’s by understanding the world through our senses that shapes our nervous system. This interdependence of mind, body, and the external world reminded me of the concept of emptiness that is so fundamental to Buddhism. It supports the claim that if everything is interdependent then there can be no permanent essence.
As Hemsklemp said, the dangers of this neuroplasticity are distortion of perception and the creation of self. However, if we formed our perception of self through through movement, contact and relationship, it is by the same means that we can continuously change it. She says,“With awareness, there is space—allowing us to interrupt habitual response patterns and bring intention to our responses, choosing to form a different association” (107). Similar to the effects of mindfulness meditation and yoga, we can train our awareness to the body by focusing on small, slow movements that eventually allow us to become uninhibited. Although the Feldenkrais method has no direct association with Buddhism, much of what goes on, at least on a neurological level, seems to lead to the same outcome. At its core, Feldenkrais promotes a healthier way of being through kinesthetic awareness. This makes me wonder about the relationship between self-awareness and self-transcendence. If we take it further and apply the goal of escaping samsara to Feldenkrais, can it be used as another practice to reach enlightenment?
Feldenkrais, Moshe. “On Health.” Embodied Wisdom: The Collected Papers of Moshe Feldenkrais, 53-58. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2010. Hasenkamp, Wendy. “Is Delusion Hardwired? Brain Karma.” Tricycle 18 May 2014. Print.