Body-Image, Movement and Consciousnness:
Examples from a Somatic Practice in the Feldenkrais Method

Body-Image, Movement and Consciousnness,Ph.D.

(Published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6, No. 2-3, 1999, pp.79-91.)

as a thing. Observation of our experience indicates that we are actually consciousing, and that experiencing is closely related to movement and the muscular sense. The position of this paper is that mind and body are not two entities related to each other but an inseparable whole while functioning. From concrete examples from The Feldenkrais Method, it is shown that changes in the organization of movement and functioning are intimately related and that one cannot change without conscious experience. Implications for the resolution of controversies in the field of consciousness studies and the neurosciences are suggested.

Introduction: The Importance of Movement

It is odd that we have made the activity of sentience into a noun. We say consciousness and not consciousing, implying that consciousness is a thing. Yet for other related activities we say we are sleeping or that we are dreaming. The specific activities of a conscious mind are, however, verbs. We imagine, look at, think, listen, observe, feel, bring attention to, meditate, etc. We speak of consciousness as a state. Yet everything we know of consciousness is connected to movement. In order to see the book on the table across the room I must make an act of attention. I turn my head and eyes and focus at the distance. Whatever impinges on the retina is not what I see. This may be of a particular size shape and produce a certain color, but I see a book. That means my perception is organized to see a particular thing.

If I fix myself so that nothing moves and the image stays on the retina for so many seconds I will no longer see. But this is hard to do. My eyes naturally move all the time. If I watch my own process, I find a continuous shifting. My attention moves; my thought moves; there is an arising and falling of each distinct thought or moment of where my attention is directed. And as this activity continues, I have the ability to also observe the activity, the mind watching itself. Do we confuse ourselves by making a noun, consciousness? As I continue I will use both the noun and verb form.

I take a walk with my dog. My vision puts me in spatial flow where the movement through the landscape is my walking itself, and at the same moment directing my path. A rock wall comes into view and I skillfully step over it. I know in my sensation of my moving when I have lifted my legs high enough so that my feet come over the wall. I do not have to stop and think about it. It is all part of my immediate conscious experience. And yet I am surely not consciousing all the workings of my biological system. I stop to look for a rock to sit on in a dry arroyo. I find what I seek. Sitting, I am facing the sandy bed of the arroyo, and about twenty yards away a twisted mountain oak sprouting out of the rocks of the arroyo wall spreads its branches over the arroyo. I feel my breathing become easier, a flowing in my chest. I am enjoying the beauty of this view. My dog approaches. He sits looking at me. I lift my hand to pat his head and he licks my hand. I am attending, intending, interacting in sequence, and continuing that activity until I sleep again.