Awareness Through Movement ... and Clive the Rat
“It was early, which has always been my hour to begin looking at the world and of course,
even in the darkness to begin listening into it.” Mary Oliver
Nostrand Avenue Subway Station, Brooklyn, New York. 6.15 am. Waiting for the
Number 3 Train.
I was waiting along with all my fellow early morning passengers, many of whom like me
were in the People Care Business. We were waiting for the train to take us to our 7am
Most mornings, in silence, we would frequently watch the rats playing/grubbing for food.
Today we saw Clive. That is what we named him. He was a big, mutant rat with no fear of
humans and he would often disturb our standing repose while we executed a Beckham
dodge to avoid him.
On this day he was running along the platform and we were watching him, preparing to
dive in a different direction if necessary.
As he was running, a new lady passenger was walking down the steps oblivious to
everything going on around her. She was texting on her smartphone and was totally
absorbed in whatever she was typing. I must mention here that she was wearing open toe
Clive had decided to run up the steps at exactly the same time as this lady was
descending. On the last step they collided or I should clarify, Clive ran over her foot.
Much to our dismay, the Lady was totally unaware and continued to type. I and my fellow
passengers looked at each other and grimaced. All of us imagined the felt sensation of a
big, three pound rat running over our feet, but apparently our lady did not notice at all.
What should we do, we all thought? Tell her? Risk a hysterical breakdown? The train
solved the problem by arriving and we all embarked upon our journey. Our Lady of
Unawareness sat down, still texting but she started to rub her feet together with perhaps a
belated sensation of Clive’s little Ratty feet on her skin.
We all looked at each other with an unspoken agreement not to say anything. What our
lady did not know would not harm her.
This incident set off a chain of thought stories in my head of how frequently awareness or
more particularly, the lack of, is so obvious in daily life.
People going down the subway steps who stop midway to check their cell phones before
the signal fades, unaware of the ten people behind them who have to halt suddenly to
avoid dramatic fall down the steps.
Then there are those people again in the subway who stop in front of the barrier and
search for their ticket in pockets or large bags not realising that there is a line of people
who do have their tickets ready but who are prevented from moving forward. I could go
“You can tell by my attitude that I’m most definitely in New York.” Jay-Z
Perhaps this lack of awareness is just bad manners but Clive the Rat drew our attention to
the lady whose sense fields were completely closed down because she was absorbed in
There is a lack of awareness around us all the time, in thoughts, language, attitude, habits,
deeds, movement, manners and so on.
So what is this word Awareness, that so many of us in the ‘business’ throw around so
The great movement sage Moshe Feldenkrais offers a definition.
“awareness is part of the thinking mechanism which listens to the self while acting..
….awareness is knowledge of what is going on while it is happening
…..awareness means relating or having a dynamic relationship with our senses, our
emotions, our surroundings. This knowing happens without meditation, without
distraction in a non-verbal away. One senses oneself absolutely in action, one is in
complete relationship with oneself. Simultaneously we are in resonance with our fellows
and with the entire environment. There are no escapes, no doubts. There is no good, no
bad, there are no faults. The act of Awareness is success in itself.”
I think that says it all. Almost all cultures and religions employ methods to help people
develop awareness in the moment. Is it learnt or does it have to be awakened? It can
certainly get buried or lost.
Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais developed a complete somatic method that uses awareness,
sensation, imagination and movement. The process of organic learning through
movement and sensing can free us from habitual patterns so that new patterns of thinking,
moving and feeling emerge.
The Method explores the biological and cultural aspects of movement posture and learning
and how our habits can contain us to operating with a small portion of our potential.
Through our personal history, upbringing, culture, injuries, illness etc we adopt physical
and psychological behaviour.
Long before I encountered Feldenkrais Movement lessons, called Awareness Through
Movement, (not awareness of movement, there is a difference), I had tried many therapies
and physical modalities to sort out the residue of my injuries from a car smash.
Everything I learnt had some effect but I would often return to a default status, bits of me still hurt, and
other parts did not have complete range of motion. Then I encountered Feldenkrais
Awareness Through Movement Classes which were unique utilising the neuroplasticity of
the brain to remove traumatic history from the nervous system creating a new mode of
moving, sensing and thinking.
Awareness Through Movement lessons are especially choreographed movement
sequences with students lying on a carpeted floor/blanket or sitting or standing, always
Using a combination of guided attention and pleasant purposeful movements
each lesson guides the person through essential pattern of movement and actions. Unlike
traditional exercise where movements become mechanical and the objective is to burn
calories, stretch to train will power for its own sake, awareness through movement teaches
one the secrets to reducing unnecessary muscular effort and improves awareness of the
whole self in action.
This emphasis on sensory learning results in movement vitality that is
more flexible, pleasurable and free of aches and pains. The lessons are easy to do and
are of benefit to anyone of any age - and the results can be extraordinary.
Over the years I have taught many people of different ages with many different kinds of movement and
emotional challenges. Even learning to move efficiently and gracefully gives people who
suffer from poor body image a better view of themselves.
To learn more about this amazing Method that I am passionate about teaching, please go
Awareness of follow me on Facebook and twitter -
(written 12.3.2012, NY)