Optimal Learning, FELDENKRAIS & Writing

Learning is a function of focus: where you put your attention. Academic learning is purely intellectual. Yet, intellectual learning is the only kind of learning, nor is it in some way superior.

In centuries past, in the U.S. and in other countries, experiential learning was greatly valued: in the form of apprenticeships, for example. My family is from Switzerland, where those who opt not to follow an academic career have many other options. Hands-on learning has been respected there for generations, for another way people hand down knowledge is through tradition. There are centuries of knowledge about carpentry, masonry, horse shoeing, carving, black smithing and making things that are only proficiencies people acquire by doing, not reading.

Currently, the devaluation of other kinds of learning has meant that the humanities in general, and the arts in particular have taken a hit. Conversely, however, there are many studies that clarify that there are far more kinds of learning, and many other ways to learn than previously acknowledged. The concept of emotional intelligence has taken off. Additionally, it has long been know that there are different kinds of learning styles among students: kinesthetic, visual or audio, for example. New ways of thinking about learning are emerging. Even in Composition Studies, the relevance of the physical to the writing process, be it fiction or non-fiction is coming to the fore.

Somatics is a form of education that predominantly uses movement. Feldenkrais is a form of somatic education that improves the general capacity for learning which translates to every other realm of experience.

Feldenkrais is a form of somatic training that uses movement because we all move, thus, it's a form of learning by doing, except that it involves awareness, which engages the mind.. Every sentient being moves to some degree. Movement is like a language anyone can intuitively understand at a preverbal level. Movement helps the brain process abstractions by making them concrete. This is what good academic teaching does also. This act, in effect, transforms learning by rote into experiential learning. This makes it sticky, lasting, a known thing rather than theoretical. In composition studies, it is also becoming more and more clear that students who experience writing as a process do far better than students who simply think of it as a product.

This is a form of learning to write that views writing as an experience. The adage, "It's about the journey, not the destination," applies. The abundance of information now available to us is overwhelming, for example. It does not become remotely useful until it is felt to be something we innately know. Those in business have always maintained that real learning occurs in the doing of a task, in the execution of on-the-job training, for example, not in "book learning." Teachers at every level of education, from k-12 on up to college and university now are rallying to the call for things like "deeper reading," "embodied writing practices," and "multi-platform learning," which means constructing assignments across several media online in ways that engage students using different parts of the brain, the sensory motor system, the visual cortex and the audio cortex, for example.

Feldenkrais does all of that, hence it really is a way of working with the nervous system to improve learning. Some of the following posts are about Feldenkrais . Some are about writing. Some are about learning strategies for specific situations, such as improving scores for standardized testing for college entrance exams, which is one of the subjects I teach in addition to Feldenkrais. The Feldenkrais Method improves focus, as does writing, incidentally, by providing a framework for deliberately practicing awareness.

These fields are both a way of creating a feedback loop for learning that helps students learn to differentiate one thing from another with much greater sophistication and subtlety. Focus is like the sharp razor's edge that directs mastery whenever it is applied over time. It grows as a skill. The more you do it, the more momentum you gain. Perception, narrative and learning are linked, embodied experiences in the expression of optimal living, indeed, in the expression of optimal humanity. Thus, the range of topics in these posts is all related to learning at a deeper level.

Gabrielle Pullen