WHAT IS AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT (ATM)?
ATM...........It's Not A Cash Machine
What is ATM? Awareness Through Movement (ATM) is one of the two learning avenues of THE FELDENKRAIS METHOD. ATM is a verbally directed dynamic group (usually) learning experience. The Feldenkrais Method is about learning how you specifically learn through refining your own internal sensory experience while you move. This noticing while moving and acting is possibly the most unique characteristic of The Feldenkrais Method.
A particular environment is created during an ATM lesson (as they are called) in which spontaneous learning, knowing, or insight arises through noticing while doing. This spontaneous knowing is recognized on a sensory level-a felt sense experience-and can create a completely new or previously unrecognized way of being and doing-for anything in life.
The Feldenkrais Approach
Moshe Feldenkrais said "We act in order to perceive." Not we act in order to get things done or to get as many things done as we possibly can. Our nervous system is designed to continually refine and discern the quality of how we do what we do and how we are the way we are in order to bring that way of being to a level of increased ease and higher functioning. This perceiving the way we are acting (doing or being) is what allows us to access all sorts of untapped potential for creating increased ease, grace, comfort, wonder and mystery in our lives. It opens the door to spontaneity and wisdom.
ATM lessons create an open and expansive space where precisely acting or moving in order to perceive is what is being explored. Moshe Feldenkrais said doing an ATM lesson should be a ‘waste of time." He meant that any ‘goals' or attachments to achieving any right or correct way of moving or acting was useless. The learning occurs precisely from moving and exploring the sensory qualities of moving without this ‘image of achievement' as he called it.
He also meant that by acting in order to perceive and refining that perceiving (which is what ATM is all about) is what allows a spontaneous, unplanned, and often a ‘surprise' knowing or learning insight to arise from the movement exploration. Therefore, this unplanned and at times meandering sensing from the intellectual mind's perspective could be considered a waste of time! Nothing, however, could be further from the truth!
Awareness Through Movement & Self-Image
ATM is a powerful learning experience which has the capacity to change our very fabric of being. This is because it works below the level of the planning/striving mind. Moshe also said "We act in accordance with our self-image." Both ATM and the other avenue of the Feldenkrais Method (Functional Integration-FI) work primarily with and from this statement. Moshe is referring to an internal kinesthetic self-image that we carry around within ourselves and are for the most part habituated to on a sensory level.
This internal image creates our thoughts, emotion, beliefs, and actions-all arising as internal kinesthetic sensation. ATM lessons allow a special opportunity to become intimately connected through direct experience with our own internal image. Through this intimate direct knowing comes more options for allowing increased efficiency, ease, and peace and wisdom.
The Feldenkrais's Patterns of Movement
In ATM lessons there is a continual relationship with possibilities and with constraints. This relationship exists within the variety of movement positions one is in during a lesson, the movements through space being explored, and the multitude of ways attention is being asked to be perceived relative to the intention of the movements being explored. There are a finite number of ways we can line up our skeleton within the gravitational field we live in and with whatever movement forces are happening and still maintain the integrity of our joints and soft tissue. There are, however, an infinitely huge number of ways we can more and more subtly make tiny changes within the patterns of combinations of muscle fibers and the timing of their firing within our movements. These subtleties lead to differences within our perception of a wide range of nuances of effort and ease within our movements.
These are called ‘patterns' of movement in Feldenkrais. Patterns of movement have qualities such as directionality of body parts moving relative to other body parts, qualities of speed or acceleration/deceleration which can be perceived as jerkiness or smoothness, qualities of density or lightness, length or shortening, resistance or ease, and of connectedness, continuousness or fluidity. These are universal qualities and can be perceived by all with some training and directed attention on one's intention.
This is exactly what ATM lessons do-direct your attention to very specific intentions manifested through movement explorations. These movement explorations are exploring a particular relationship of ‘basic' moving patterning and systematically ‘playing' with asking you to change your perception of how you notice yourself do the moving. You may be asked to keep your awareness the same and do the intention (or the movement) differently or you may be asked to keep the movement the same and change your awareness or your perception through directing your focus on different qualities of moving.
Overall there is an intent to continue to pay attention for a universal quality of ease and fluidity of moving that manifests within our perception as grace. This sort of moving has a uniform distribution of work throughout the system and an ability to be neutral or equally easy to be or move in all directions at any given moment wherever we are within the range of a given intended movement.
By keeping our sensory intent on this quality and pausing and allowing a spontaneous change or movement toward this intended quality if we notice ourselves going astray from it (by achieving or trying to ‘get it right' or by forcing) we allow the deep inner wisdom we all have to arise and bring us to a more neutral state or a state of increased ease and wise possibility. This changes our perception from within allowing us to feel spontaneously how we can create a sense of increased flexibility, strength, efficiency, balance or comfort.
The Varied Awareness Through Movement Lessons
ATM lessons can be done in any position or combination of positions. The movements may be tiny or large. In fact, the exploration of movement may be so tiny it is done within the ‘inside' movements of our thinking or our imagining of movements.
The lesson may be done directly in a function such as exploring how one gets up/down from a chair or the floor or how one rolls over. The lesson may also explore a pattern of movement in one position that is seemingly unrelated to a particular function but then directly affects that function almost as a ‘surprise' to you.
There are countless different lessons as a lesson is organic and occurs only in the moment it is taught based on the persons being taught to and their individual and collective ways of perceiving. ATM is a completely individual experience done within a collective of others and is a powerful, awesome, subtle and fun experience!
Join Carrie Lafferty, PT, GCFP (cm), Master Healing Qi Gong Teacher for private and group sessions in THE FELDENKRAIS METHOD and Healing Qi Gong.