At 5 am, in the pitch-black front yard, Stella and I encountered a skunk this morning. Luckily, I had the blasting bright flashlight with me and saw the little guy before the dog did. I held on tight to the leash and got dragged a bit, but the skunk went on its merry way while we managed to slip and slide back into the house. The dead leaves have become treacherous for me on the paths and on the wet grass over the last few weeks. I am increasingly aware that I am afraid I’m going to fall again.
I’ve written and thought a lot about falling over the years, usually in relationship to riding my horses. So, I have some good resources to draw upon to overcome my new incarnation of this familiar fear. I have been working with Julie Connery Smith, an excellent Feldenkrais practitioner, here for a few months to help restore my balance and awareness of movement while I’ve been in physical therapy. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Feldenkrais, I will quote my dear friend, Mary DeBono, who performs miracles on people, horses and dogs :
“It is very common for people to hold onto protective habits since they once served a useful purpose. But these unhealthy movement patterns can cause pain, stiffness and damage to joints over time. They interfere with freedom of movement and quality of life. Most people, however, don’t realize that they have these harmful movement habits. The Feldenkrais Method works to uncover such inefficient habits of movement and help people learn how to move in a more comfortable, efficient and healthier way. Aches and pains often disappear. Flexibility, balance, posture and coordination improve. Simply put, Feldenkrais helps us develop awareness, so that we can move through life with ease and grace.”
I know what I need to do -- If I can let go of my fear of falling, I know that my range of motion will increase. As my movement becomes less braced and tense, I will be able to blend my motion and my intentions better. I did it successfully when I was riding my horse. Now, I have to do it while I’m walking on my own two feet. I think it has something to do with feeling grounded and solid while I’m just standing still. Some days, my whole body feels skewed towards the right since I spend so many hours in splints and exercising that weakened side.
Another great Feldenkrais practitioner, my old friend, Alan Questel, once wrote an explanation of what led Moshe Feldenkrais to develop his practice. He understood that we are always thinking, feeling, sensing and moving. To change any one of those things would bring about change in the whole person. Movement is the most immediate and concrete of those four aspects, and changing how we move will cause dramatic shifts in the other three areas and in how we perceive ourselves.
So I know I’m going in the right direction, even if I’m out there slip sliding around in the dark. As Feldenkrais said, “If you know what you are doing, you can do what you want.” And I want to move through life with ease and grace.