APPENDIX 2: THE CALCULUS OF LIFE…NAVIGATING OUR PATH TO TRANSCENDENCE
AN ESOTERIC OVERVIEW ON THE TEACHINGS OF MOSHE FELDENKRAIS
Moshe Feldenkrais was a visionary pioneer in the field of mind-body studies. His revolutionary somatic method uses gentle, guided movement and hands-on touch to help people become more aware of how they move—and how they move through life. Feldenkrais’s passion for exploring human evolution through the development of higher brain function and expanded awareness has inspired much of this book. His most expansive, esoteric work, as discussed in the final chapter of his last book, The Elusive Obvious, is fundamental to his goal of bringing heightened awareness to the masses in order to address the existential challenges facing humanity.
This appendix is written as an introduction to some of the esoteric concepts and paths to enhanced brain function that Feldenkrais and his Kabbalist forebears championed. These phenomena are summarized briefly here, with references given to the sections of this book that provide more context and detailed explanation of the more enigmatic underpinnings of his work.
Feldenkrais taught that consciously refining how we move can enhance our awareness. This enhanced awareness can in turn improve our performance in any task or endeavor. It’s worth noting that Feldenkrais’s most well-known book, Awareness Through Movement, was originally titled Improving One’s Ability to Perform.
On a physical level, the immediate benefits of Feldenkrais’s approach often include the painless release of body misalignments, renewal of lost mobility, and relief from chronic pain. While these therapeutic benefits exceed those achieved through more conventional modalities, Feldenkrais’s vision extends beyond just improved somatic function and pain relief. In his larger world view, Feldenkrais believed that the practices he taught can help anyone become more of who they are at their highest potential.
Feldenkrais’s teachings reflect the fundamental relationship between movement and heightened awareness on both physical and more subtle levels of being. As a consummate explorer, Feldenkrais understood and referenced the nature of many esoteric traditions, including Kabbalah, Raja Yoga, and Zen. He admired the writings of the Jesuit theologian and mystic Teilhard de Chardin, and Russian spiritualist George Gurdjieff. His understanding and insights from these and other esoteric sources informed and reinforced his own teaching and method.
Even though the roots of Feldenkrais’s teachings include a variety of esoteric traditions, many casual followers of his work may not be familiar with them. These roots are fields of interest in which I have been immersed for decades—fields that fundamentally inform the underlying energetics of how humans navigate life. My term for this navigation is the title of this book: The Calculus of Life.
In The Elusive Obvious, Feldenkrais writes that elite musicians can provide a template in heightened brain function for others to emulate. He closes the last chapter of the book with a graph depicting the higher brain function he believes top-level musicians can attain in the realm of music performance. Even these experiences have a very narrow peak, reflecting rare moments of optimal awareness. This graph indicates that their level of brain function drops precipitously back to normal levels when they engage in pursuits outside their elevated zone of musical performance.
Throughout my career in the music world, I’ve witnessed countless examples of what Feldenkrais illustrates in this graph. In the field of music performance, top improvisational jazz artists are encouraged to expand into these heightened states of awareness for a living. Helping my clients experience these states of expansive integration—beyond what might come to them occasionally at peak moments onstage—has become a regular occurrence during table sessions. This is accomplished through a variety of mind-body practices anchored in enhanced personal and shared resonance, neuromuscular re-education, functional and Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, intellectual and emotional integration, and higher activations and integrations accessed through guided Raja Yoga meditations.
In the last pages of The Elusive Obvious, Feldenkrais suggests that pursuing increased brain function in all areas of human performance is the key to sustaining humanity’s evolution. He encourages his students and followers to help propagate this pursuit. To this end, Feldenkrais writes, “a quantum of thinking and other functions of the brain...is a useful way to understanding most phenomena of energy and its materialization.” The importance of this statement cannot be overstated, given that “the phenomena of energy and its materialization” defines every aspect of existence in our known universe.
Quantum thinking is the ability to engage in multi-dimensional awareness. This includes being able to hold several different dimensional perspectives at the same time; with the ability to simultaneously engage all of them. This is more complex than it may seem, as it involves first dissolving and then consciously moving beyond the perceptual boundaries of our normal awareness.
One definition of “quantum” holds that increasing a quantity of energy can be accomplished by raising the frequency of what that energy represents. An example of this in mind-body practices would be elevating to higher frequencies of being than most people are accustomed to experiencing. The highest of these states can be experienced as a merged vibration of unity with all of creation. This is known in various cultures as samadhi, satori, and nirvana.
Some who are familiar with these ecstatic experiences consider them to be an initiation: an invitation to bring a more enlightened perspective into our day-to-day lives. This profound jump in awareness is another level of what Feldenkrais mentions in The Elusive Obvious as being fundamental to our ongoing evolution as a species. The means for embodying these extreme expansions in awareness is so central to my method that it is described in various contexts and session descriptions in every chapter of this book.
Another specific example of this quantum awareness that Feldenkrais refers to is the direct experience of what the ancient Greeks, Chinese, Babylonians, Hindus, and other cultures have referred to as the source of all manifestation, known specifically by the Greeks as the Fifth Element of Aether. These cultures consider the Aether element to be the ultimate source of the “phenomena of energy and its materialization” to which Feldenkrais refers.
Elite musicians I work with sometimes talk about accessing this extraordinary realm of Aether. They usually refer to it as simply “the zone.” Some are able to bridge the gap between this multi-dimensional state of unlimited potential and our more dense physical reality by channeling spontaneous, improvisational musical content. They access this potential by expanding beyond themselves into an extraordinary state of receptivity and Dynamic Stillness. This allows them to become a conduit to manifest something much larger than they could otherwise imagine. Biodynamic Cranial practitioners and others devoted to advanced meditative practices are at times also capable of accessing this extradimensional space. This is discussed in more detail in Chapters 4 and 11.
A foundational path for advancing quantum thinking and this evolution of consciousness that Feldenkrais acknowledges is Raja Yoga—one of the “esoteric systems” he identifies in his book Awareness Through Movement as having influenced the Kabbalah teachings of his Jewish heritage.
Raja Yoga is the most advanced of the eight branches of Yoga. It involves accessing the highest state of human consciousness, called Samadhi. This subject is introduced in Chapters 2 and 6, with more discussion in Chapters 7 and 17. The second part of this book is devoted entirely to advanced Raja Yoga practices. This includes step-by-step techniques for experiencing expanded states of awareness such as those associated with the Fifth Element of Aether and the quantum thinking Feldenkrais advocates.
In the closing pages of his book The Elusive Obvious, Feldenkrais states that the time has come for humanity to expand into new ways of accepting and adjusting for its inevitable evolution. He states that enhanced awareness and function on all levels of being needs to be popularized as a means for meeting the challenges facing humanity. Since Feldenkrais passed away almost forty years ago, the level of these challenges has become even more apparent. Global climate change, and what my friend, evolutionary biologist Niles Eldredge, refers to as “Negligent Gaiacide,” has become an existential planetary threat.
To this end, the goal of Feldenkrais’s teachings—and this book—is to help anyone learn new ways to access more of who they can be at their highest potential. The resulting shifts into a more comprehensive awareness, if extended into mass consciousness, may light the path for humanity’s future.