First attention

A bit more about Feldenkrais.

Last Tuesday I was in another Awareness Through Movement class with Rainer Knupp in East London. We started sitting doing some very simple spinal rolls, drawing our attention to the possibilities in both flexion and extension. Rainer then asked us to lie down (on our individual mats), and then said, "Notice what part of your body your attention is drawn to first". But, I'd already starting scanning my body, not settling on a particular part or aspect of my attention, but scanning, hovering across a multitude of points of contact, of sensation, or tightness, or even absence.

I smiled at the time, thinking just how habitual this process of scanning (or channel surfing) the body is for many dancers (perhaps in particular improvisers?). It is undoubtedly an important part of attempting to tune into the body's entirety or wholeness, and yet at the same time it felt as if I had missed out on something. A simple chance to direct my attention to a specific part of my body for a longer period of time, to cease the need to try and notice everything! That's not quite right, but it was a gentle reminder to be aware of the ways and possibilities of noticing the state (or states) of parts of the body, and that these parts might become portals to an alternate kind of corporeal clarity.

Feldenkrais rocks.


This is from Eammon Forde’s article in the July issue of Word magazine. He is talking about the black hole created by U2 when they “sucked the life out of Irish music” in the 1980s.

A glut of ‘U-Me-2s’ naturally followed, such as Aslan, An Emotional Fish, The Adventures and Energy Orchard. What they all had in common was the swapping of intention and emotion for bluster and the husk-like ‘grand statement’. Bono is complicit in delivering us a generation of singers who over-emoted and painted in broad, grey, meaningless brush strokes about, you know, life and politics. He was also a massively conservative force, genuflecting to the past despite being forged in the furnace of iconoclastic punk. His reverence, too, for the blues and gospel was less about treating them as living, breathing, evolving, passionate genres and more about proffering them as signifiers of a romanticised ‘realness’, ‘honesty’ and ‘earthiness’ that he would absorb through the osmosis of false emotion. He took the organic and made it synthetic, all plastic words and polyurethane statements.

In my early teens I was swept up by the sound of Bono’s voice, his earnestness, the sense I got that he cared, and that what he and the band were doing was important, or that it mattered. But Forde’s writing about Bono’s appropriation of the blues and gospel strikes a very real chord with me.

It reminds me of the desire for spectacle in art works – in the synthesisation of ’emotion’ and ‘big ideas’ at any cost. I feel myself stepping further and further back from any sort of scale whatsoever. But negotiating personal integrity (whatever that might be, and however one feels it) with the lure of ‘exposure’ is demanding  … in carefully working through ideas, gently questioning their worth, their value, and then imagining and playing with the possibilities of their representation, and the ways in which they provoke other thoughts and actions.

And at the risk of ruining this entire post, I still listen to U2. The Unforgettable Fire album remains one of my all-time faves.



staying attentive

Here is Roger Federer, at the post-match press conference, following his remarkable victory at Roland Garros:

But it was very hard mentally for me to stay within the match during the match, because my mind was always wondering, ‘What if? What if I win this tournament? What does that mean? What will I possibly say?’

I don’t know.

You can’t help it, but to tell yourself, you know, once you win you’ll get all the time to think about all these things, but they keep on coming back.

Federer states the problem of performing so elegantly. In my mind it is not about the absence of doubt, or the absence of distraction, it is what one does with those distractions or doubts that is critical. I feel inspired hearing Federer’s words—the words of perhaps the most remarkable tennis player ever—because they ground his extraordinary psychological power in the everday.


On Monday I went to a group Feldenkrais session run by Rainer Knupp in East London. It has been some time since I did any Feldenkrais (the last was with Julia Scoglio in Melbourne). For those of you not familiar with Feldenkrais, it’s a somatic practice that asks you (and your body) to resolve certain ‘problems’ or questions. For example, in the session on Monday the task—whilst sitting on the edge of a chair—was to reach down and use your arm to pick up your opposite leg. It sounds banal and easy, but is neither of these things.

There are no ‘right’ answers to how you generate bodily answers to the problems, just a growing awareness through the physical movements (it is known as Awareness through movement). The actions are done very slowly, and quite a remarkable amount is revealed about one’s own movements and body throughout the course of the work/session.

What drew me to writing about the work was simply how wonderful it was to be engaged in this practice. To be involved in gently finding various unprescribed solutions, to be freed from a ‘right way’ or competitiveness. It was as if Feldenkrais, in this simple 90 minutes, was able to undermine the undeniable egocentrism of our cultural epoch.

It just seemed to matter.

And yet there were no KPIs, no mesurable outcomes, no critical responses, no audits or redundancies.

All this for a measly £8.

Not too shabby at all.