Body and Mature Behavior: A Study of Anxiety, Sex, Gravitation, and Learning Paperback – Sep 8 2005
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"Of all his books, it [Body and Mature Behavior] remains the most succinct statement of his fundamental theory: A 'whole situation,' systems view of physical movement, thought, emotion, sensation, and environment."- Mark Reese, author of a soon-to-be-published biography of Feldenkrais and co-author of Relaxercise"Body & Mature Behavior powerfully presents Moshe Feldenkrais’s masterful genius in integrating body and mind, theory and practice, nature and culture, freedom and constraint."- Richard Shusterman, professor of philosophy at Florida Atlantic University and author of Performing Live"Body & Mature Behavior is a seminal work of creative thinking in which Feldenkrais articulates the philosophical underpinnings for the development of his extraordinary approach to human growth and learning, now known as the Feldenkrais Method."- Jim Stephens PhD, PT, CFP, member of physical therapy faculty at Temple University
About the Author
Moshe Feldenkrais, D.Sc., is the founder of what is today called the Feldenkrais Method. As a result of suffering debilitating injuries, Feldenkrais began an intense exploration into the relationship between bodily movement and healing, feeling, thinking, and learning. In the process of healing himself, Feldenkrais made revolutionary discoveries, culminating in the development of the method that now bears his name. There are two aspects to his method: an individual manipulatory technique of neuromotor education called Functional Integration and a group technique called Awareness Through Movement. His unique and subtle approach to facilitating human change and to improving functioning is spelled out in a number of influential books, including Awareness Through Movement, The Elusive Obvious, and The Potent Self. Dr. Feldenkrais was also the author of a number of books about Judo and one of the first Europeans to hold a black belt in the art. Today there are nearly four thousand Feldenkrais Method practitioners around the world. Moshe Feldenkrais died in 1980 and his insights continue to contribute to the development of the new field of somatic education and continue to influence disciplines such as the arts, education, psychology, child development, physical and occupational therapy, sports enhancement, and gerontology.Carl Ginsburg, Ph.D. is one of Dr. Feldenkrais’s original students and holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry. He has been involved with the Feldenkrais Method for thirty years.
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As for this book, Body and Mature Behavior, two things stand out to me. First, this is his most scientific and technical book (in fact, it was based on a lecture series he gave to a group of scientists in Britain in the 1940s). Second, this being his first book on what would become The Feldenkrais Method, many of his ideas are not as developed or clearly explained as they are in later works. That said, I don’t think either of these should deter a reader of sincere interest from diving into this incredible book and learning from it.
Well ahead of certain ideas about neuroplasticity and biofeedback, Feldenkrais demonstrated here that while many of our postural muscles are controlled by reflex, some are not -- and therefore our attitude (even dimly conscious ones) can affect our posture. Furthermore, because we are animals, nervous responses can be conditioned and reconditioned to something more optimal or appropriate to our task -- including our posture and ways of moving and interacting in the world.
Feldenkrais writes with a fundamental belief in humanity and human achievement, by the best means possible. He applies his readings in physiology, psychology, and hypnotism to their logical consequences -- that negative patterns of behavior, in the whole soma and sensorium, cannot resolve fully with psychoanalysis alone; the overall improvement of bodily function and motor habits is needed. “Improvement” here is not purely pragmatic, either, but a robust awareness of our own maturity in various human functions, be they physical, mental, psychological, or even spiritual. Any human function which is not fully mature gives us room for improvement, coupled with the biological possibility -- thanks to how plastic our nervous systems are -- that maturity is possible.
Dr. Feldenkrais goes on to say in the later chapters that maturity is not a static state, but rather a capacity to adapt oneself physically, socially, mentally, and emotionally to current circumstances with grace and flexibility -- perfect only in that the “uniqueness of man, his capacity to form new responses, or to learn, has reached its ultimate perfection.” Additionally, the issue for our development is not that the act is completed, but the quality with which it is done. Do you move without pain, or better, with grace? Do you find that there is a sense of comfortable self-assuredness in what you do? If not, then more learning is possible and there is work to be done!
Like all of his writings, I found this book brimming with a deep hope in what we can be. As both the performer and the person with a disability, I found his book to be very empowering, while still grounded in science and sound reasoning. I’ll close with a quote: “Many of our failings, physical and mental, need not therefore be considered diseases to be cured, nor an unfortunate trait of character for they are neither. They are an acquired result of a learned mode of doing.” Dr. Feldenkrais taught me that I can acquire new modes of moving, being, and doing in the world.
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