Fads, Passing Fancies and Other Societal Ephemera

No.11, November 22, 2016
THE WELLNESS SALON

Living in an age of temporal contraction

Musings on wellness from Donna Simmons, Feldenkrais ® Practitioner

We seem to be living in an age of temporal contraction1. Whether this is a symptom of obsessive interconnectedness, or whether the obsession springs from the dislocation of time that accompanies binge-watching, serial online shopping, and Snapchat™, the compression of time provides fertile ground for a proliferation of fads (a mid-19th-century contraction of fiddle-faddle). Whereas “Twerking”, selfies, beards on ballplayers, nose-rings and full-body tattoos represent (more or less) harmless cultural fluff, more recent contributions include “executive mindfulness classes” and, yes, Buddhism for billionaires2.

Concepts once thought to be the exclusive domain of the “enlightened” and seekers are being re-packaged as tools for the upwardly mobile. A classic example of marketing professionals taking advantage of healthy and useful tools for purposes less than aligned with the original intent. (This cannot end well!) And what of our own practice? Is Feldenkrais a fad? Have the concepts of somatic education and awareness through movement faded in importance or significance since they were introduced by Moshé Feldenkrais 40 years ago? No, they have not.

Attention to our corporal organization, awareness of our body’s response to motion and our center of gravity, these things are not faddish. They are only effective when practiced over the course of a lifetime, or at least over the length of time remaining to us on this earth. The Greek Stoic Epictetus (AD 55-135) understood that attachment to things not within our control leads to grief and turmoil3. But our relationship to our physical organization, the adaptation of the self to the body-mind expression of life and consciousness, these things are within our “control” to the extent that we give ourselves the freedom to experience them with acceptance, grace, and intelligence. Part of the lesson of our modern age is the necessity of sorting out the durable from the ephemeral. It is not necessary to shun all things that are temporary. But to identify the transitory parts of our experience is important if we are to preserve sufficient energy and intellect for the things that preserve us, that enrich our lives.

To quote from Moshé:
“We do not achieve the full range of play of each articulation by repetition, muscle exercising, or increasing speed and force, but by widening and refining the cerebral control of the muscular range. All we do is done very slowly. All difficulty in performance is relieved not by making strenuous efforts with willpower and force to achieve the projected act, but by using induction to make the faulty control perceptible. Thus, all contradictory action is lifted by recovering the ability to inhibit the contracted parts and excite the flabby, toneless ones. It is not rare to reestablish the full range of an articulation in a few minutes, while simple exercising would take months to do so. Moreover, the subject learns the art of learning, which is applicable to all function. And the gained control, once integrated into normal behavior, remains effective without any special attention and exercising of the articulation4.”

A gentle reminder: that which we practice grows stronger.
I wish you success in your practice, health, abundant laughter, and love.

Namaste, Donna


  1. I am using the term here in the sense invoked, e.g., by N. Thompson, Contractions of Time: On Social Practice from a Temporal Perspective Journal #20, November 2010
  2. Five Business Tips from a Buddhist Billionaire Bloomberg News Nov. 4, 2015
  3. The Encheiridion of Epictetus, Translation by W.A. Oldfather, 1928
  4. The Potent Self: A Study of Spontaneity and Compulsion, M. Feldenkrais, Frog Books, Berkeley, 2002, pp. 240

Donna Simmons

Donna Simmons graduated in 1993 from Berkeley Movement Studies Institute Guild Certified Feldenkrais Professional Training, in San Rafael California, and is a Guild Certified Assistant Trainer. She also holds a JFK Graduate School of Holistic Studies degree from the Department of Holistic Health.

Working with Donna you can learn new ways to move as an essential addition to the treatment of neurological, orthopaedic, chronic pain, and stress-related conditions.