People have never thought about how consciousness develops. You’ll see, in the long run, people will have to become skeleton conscious. – Moshe Feldenkrais (Amherst, July 2, 1981)
My mother used to sing this tune to me when I was growing up. Perhaps you’ve heard it, too.
Toe bone connected to the foot bone
Foot bone connected to the heel bone
Heel bone connected to the ankle bone
Ankle bone connected to the shin bone
Shin bone connected to the knee bone
Knee bone connected to the thigh bone
Thigh bone connected to the hip bone
Hip bone connected to the back bone
Back bone connected to the shoulder bone
Shoulder bone connected to the neck bone
Neck bone connected to the head bone
Now hear the word of the Lord.
Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around. Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around. Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around. Now hear the word of the Lord.
The spiritual, inspired by the Book of Ezekiel, and put to a catchy melody by author and songwriter James Weldon Johnson, is rousing and interactive for adults and children alike. It’s also a deceptively effective explanation of how the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education works.
What happens when when our bones aren’t connecting optimally, or when we’ve tensed our muscles to rush somewhere, meet a deadline, or reflexively suppress a strong emotion? If we are not aware of these habits, and repeat them enough, sometimes throughout our lifetimes, we experience stress, chronic pain, tightness and a sense of dis-ease. Whether or not you believe in the Lord (!), it can be difficult to hear the word of intuition, to sense a subtle but important feeling or follow a spontaneous impulse when one’s skeleton, or even just one toe, is amiss and one is distracted or hobbled by pain or discomfort.
My experience with tendonitis is that, at first, the pain and the fear of what the injury meant for my future consumed a huge amount of emotional energy. I felt that my left leg, if not much of my body, had turned to lead, and that in dragging it around my life itself would be a drag. After many Feldenkrais lessons, I began to move with such lightness that it felt as if I had been handed a new body if not a new self. When one’s suffering has been alleviated in a surprising and dramatic way, it’s hard not to imagine that a higher power had a hand in it. That such results are attained without the striving and effort we’re taught to esteem if not worship in the Western world is, if not a miracle, a huge paradigm shift that can make one question everything they had learned and believed until that moment.
In his book The Ezekiel Code: A Vision of Living Bones, practitioner David Kaetz breathes life into the biblical story of the prophet and connects it to the Feldenkrais Method. One of the many gems in this slim yet dense volume is as follows: “If, with every movement, the spine lovingly connects our inner intent with our outer action, then with every movement we are like that legendary shoemaker who, with every stitch, connected heaven and earth.”
While today’s Halloween skeletons are supposed to be spooky and make us jump out of our skins in fright, perhaps instead think of Dem Bones. Become conscious of your skeleton, spend a moment feeling how the bones connect, dance around, and experience joy and lightness. It doesn’t have to be just an occasional treat.
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