Boston: Beacon Press, 1983, hardcover; paper, North Atlantic Books, 1992.
The book outlines a plan for reclaiming unity among our body movements, senses, and thought processes. It describes how we are pressured to mold ourselves to fit others’ needs by attitudes fostered in religions, schools, the workplace, and the military. It gives special attention to how gender ideals shape us. Interweaving personal experiences, anatomical analyses, and the stories of men and women from various walks of life, the book explores how the mind/body split, concretized in our social institutions, coaxes us to distrust what our own senses tell us.
In marked contrast to the individualistic aura of books in a similar vein, this book argues that individual awareness alone is not enough to correct the social scars left by mind-body dualisms. Real change can only come about when we join together to alter the shapes of our social body: schools, churches, political organizations, businesses, and health-care practices. Throughout the book, there are practical yet sensitive exercises offered for bringing about a reunion of abstract ideas and flesh, a recovery of our forgetten genius embedded in the cells of our bodies.
Excerpts from Book:
“Conceiving of the human organism as a “brewing vat” [the origin of “body”, bottich] implies that its genius——its wisdom, justice, intelligence, love – is to be won through patient, cooperative work with tangible reality. Producing unique spirits requires a refined sense of smell and taste, the patience to respect natural processes of fermentation, and a sense of the right grains, soils, and water. A community of bodies, unlike the random collection of reactive corpuscles, requires a more enlightened politics which recognizes the unity f all bodies, human and nonhuman, and the insanity of imperiling these substantial bodies for the sake of ghostly ideologies.”
“Any techniques for dealing with our bodies——ranging from cradling infants to weight-lifting to orthopedic surgery——have neutral value. We can use them to make us more rigid and to train us to denigrate the value of our own experience, or we can use them to refine our ability to discriminate and reconnnect with our own power.”
“The dominant values of cultures throughout history have been reflected in hierarchical images of the body, in which one part enjoys preeminence in relation to others. . . . The work of the somatic pioneers revealed the significance of every part of the body for every other part. Tension in a person’s eyes and neck may be related to rotations in his or her feet. Ulcers, backaches, and anxiety have been traced to systems of stress permeating the entire body.”
“. . .the popular emphasis on the body does not necessarily lead to liberation in the sense of achieving more power to accomplish basic human goals. The body that is the object of so much attention is only a partial body; it is not the body as a source of intelligent decision-making. The many sensory and emotional resources we possess for finding our way together through a sensual world are impoverished by the way our physical selves are molded in the culture.”
“In The Case of Nora, Feldenkrais describes in some detail how he works with people…: I tried to identify myself with my patient. What was she actually doing when she intended to read? Where did she intend or expect to read? Did she intend to read the first word of the page, and then fail to direct her gaze, allowing herself to look far into the distance, as though looking at infinity, her eyes not converging at all? Did she see the words she said with her better eye or with both? How on earth was I going to find out?
“Notice the radically different model of authority and expertise that is operative in this case. Feldenkrais was expert in his extraordinary ability to allow Nora to teach him what she needed. He was not the traditional therapist, operating with knowledge external to the patient and telling her what to do, but a fellow researcher.”