There’s a paradigm shift happening today. More and more people are realizing we “think” with our bodies. This shift recognizes the differences of learning from the head compared to from the body. The two paradigms, though very different, are related. Education for over 100 years has focused on teaching from our heads. Now a revolutionary look of how the body acts as a mirror to perception is showing us how we learn. In other worlds our bodies are the filter systems to what information is taking in and “made sense.”
Katie, a 2nd grader got a glimpse of what her body did to her brain. The good news is even with only a glimpse the choices she makes in the future can further the unfolding of this powerful insight.
Life holds a mirror up of our history. The mirror is traced in the shape and function of our muscles and bones. The journey is first to recognize who is in the mirror. For Katie, this was foreign territory until One Winged Butterfly lesson. A movement lesson teaching compassion and balance inside and out.
“I can’t do this!” She pouted. It was the last day of camp. All week her attention seemed to be shadowed by a fear. I wasn’t sure of her history, only knowing she was a child of a single mother.
It was true, the lesson was challenging. A movement most children, or adults for that matter, had never done except maybe in the first year of their life.
Katie’s body looked like she missed that movement. Sitting on the floor, holding onto her feet, her clam shaped spine showed her hip joints were locked. She couldn’t sit up. With a cocked head backwards, looking out the bottom of her eyes she repeated, “I can’t do this!” And crawled to the corner of the mat.
There are no coincidences. Her attitude and body were locked in the same position. The two, her mind and body, mirrored each other. Chas on the other hand, an obese 3rd grader also couldn’t do the movement. Though his body was stiff, his attitude was full of giggles.
Watching him fly one leg up in the air while holding onto his foot, he tipped to the side landing on his elbow reminding me of a kid on a circus ride. But reversing the movement to him seemed impossible. Tumbling and giggling he preserved and then “POP!” To quite a surprise, he came to sitting in
The key to the lesson is to expand awareness between how his body moves with all its parts and how his attitude and body are one. To bring awareness inside the kids had to have enough patience and compassion for them selves to “muck around.” You know, mucking around is what kids do when they are having fun. Chas kept playing with his “timber” off to the side and back up to sitting with joy of a playful kitten.
The room was filled with giggles except in Katie’s corner. She sat there on the floor stilled curled up in a pout as if her whole posture protruded in the belly of her lower lip. There it is, the filter of perception wired into the muscles of her body and attitude.
“I can’t do this! I can’t do this!” Katie whined crawling off the matt and under the table.
““I can’t do this! I can’t do this!” Snarling with her head back.
“Katie, no one can do it at the beginning. Everyone has to play around with the movement to find their way of doing it,” I replied. She wasn’t listening.
“I can’t!” she said again with a frown.
Meanwhile Chas, grinning and giggling at his failures, trying again and again… was now rolling to his side and back up to sitting as if to be a ballerina.
The process is more important then the goal. Each time tumbling onto his back, he found a graceful balance. By the end of the lesson he could stay balanced all the way down to his elbow and back up to sitting.
In the One Winged Butterfly lesson the head and the pelvis learn to balance off each other. This gives a sense of stability and foundation between the up and lower body.
In other words in the movement, the pelvis has to feel the physical weight of the head and vice – a – versa. The physical sensation of weight and motion in the head and pelvis also changes with a shift in attitude.
This is a movement an infant does when he or she first come to sitting. But in Katie her hip joints were stiff like a rock she tumbled to the side the moment her foot lifted more than four inches off the floor.
I walked over to her. “Katie, have you ever had a new born puppy?”
“Yes,” she replied letting go of her feet.
“Did the puppy ever go potty in your house?” I continued sitting on the mat facing her.
She giggled, “Yes.”
“Did you get as mad at the puppy as you are getting to yourself right now?” She looked at me with eyes of wonder. It never occurred to her she was the one being so hard on herself. “Imagine if you were a little puppy learning something new. If you don’t get it right away would the puppy give up?”
I went on getting a bit to philosophical, “There will be times we want to give up. If those times happen every day it is up to us to see what we are doing that is are getting in the way of learning.”
This didn’t really make any sense to her. Though there was a glimpse of curiosity, her body’s motor pattern was still stuck in “I can’t.” She tried it again.
“See? I can’t. ” She whined.
I guided Katie’s to release her neck and head. That is where her body held attitude of “helplessness” is locked. Still sitting on the floor holding onto her feet I tilted her head towards a knee. Her neck tried to lock again as she tried to mumble, “I can’t.”
“Let go of the attitude ‘I can’t.’ It is getting you stuck. Let go of your head.”
Katie did it. She was shocked . . . and elated!
“Ok let me try on my own?” she asked.
She tried once and lifted her foot two feet above the ground before she fell over. Though she did better she couldn’t make it back up to sitting without letting go of her feet. It didn’t matter. Her attitude shifted, and so did the tension in her muscle patterns.
Class was over and we all met for the closing.
Sitting in a circle, the kids commented they felt taller. I asked them what changed. They weren’t sure. We laid down in Pancake Body to see if we could feel any differences. Most everyone felt, “the floor got softer.”
We talked about our process and how our bodies affect our minds. “When we get stuck in the movement, it can be very frustrating,” I mentioned trying not to look at Katie.
I continued, “If we don’t give up we have more time to play around with what we want to learn.” First Katie’s frustration made her want to give up, then her frustration was mad class was over and she didn’t have time to play.
“Remember this next time we are in school and we want to give up. See if we can play with even homework differently and if it helps we not give up. This lesson isn’t just about rolling on the floor, it’s also about how we are at home or in school.”
Katie raised her hand. “But I didn’t know how to do it?” she asked in her seven year old mind.
I asked Chas, “Did you know how to do it when we started?”
Chas nodded “No.”
“Pat did you know how to do the movement when we started?”
Pat nodded “No.”
“Wendy did you?” I asked each child in the class.
“Katie, did you know how to do the movement when we started?”
Katie nodded no, but this time had a smile on her face.
Awareness is the greatest teacher of life. Awareness shows us so clearly how motor patterns are addicted to attitude. The greater difficulty physical or mental pattern the clearer we can see it in how we move. The clearer awareness of how we move, the clearer recognition we understand to how we think. Our bodies form mirrors of our perception fiercely determined to help us recognize what we do that is getting in the way of truly who we are.
Catherine Mitchell is director of the Wellness Through Movement® and author of two children’s programs integrating the Department of Education’s benchmarks for elementary kids with the Feldenkrais Method®. www.WellnessThroughMovement® or email@example.com