Why Ask?

Because chances are, we don’t know as much as we think we know – about ourselves and others, about the world at large, and especially about communicating collaboratively with other species.

question1 035-cropThis not-knowing makes Bugs want to holler.

Readers of my last post will recall that I have become inspired by the work of horse-trainer Alexandra Kurland. Alexandra is famous for training a miniature horse named Panda to be a companion to a blind woman.

I am simply thrilled and amazed that Alexandra incorporates the Feldenkrais Method® into her clicker work. For years I, together with a large segment of the Feldenkrais community, have felt baffled about why the work that means so much to us is so little known by the public. So it is heaven-sent to find knowledgeable interest in a person as eminent as Alexandra.

question-stair-gif“It’s about time!”

Alexandra has grasped a fundamental Feldenkrais principle and made it her own: Ask, don’t tell. Alexandra writes, of Feldenkrais trainer Mia Segal, that “[s]he doesn’t tell the person what to do – bend your knees, turn your head this way or that. Instead she asks questions – how does this feel under my hands? Where does the movement begin? Where does it stop? How does it stop?”

So, likewise, Alexandra asks too. In a blog-post on schooling a horse to join with the handler and walk together quietly in a circle, she wants to know why the horse would leave the handler. Not to insist that the horse pay attention, not to jerk the horse around, not to punish, not to escalate – but to ask, instead: “[Is] the environment . . . too distracting? Are you leaving because you are so full of energy that you can’t walk at my pace? Are you leaving because you aren’t balanced enough to stay on a circle? Are you leaving because you’re afraid of me?”

Why ask like this? Because, “[a]s Mia Segal . . . would say, if you know the questions, you have the lesson.”

Or, as I would say: Because chances are, we don’t know!

question1 020-cropBugs emphatically concurs.

M.D. researcher Robert Burton writes that “[c]ertainty . . . is not a biologically justifiable state of mind.” He notes an increasing body of evidence suggesting that a feeling of certainty stems from primitive areas of the brain and is not the product of active, conscious reflection and reasoning.

I make a further case for “not-knowing,” here, based on brain science demonstrating our inherent biological cognitive limitations.

And then there’s family background. George Lakoff notices that those who find Donald Trump appealing subscribe to the conservative family model of the Strict Father. The analogy is painfully clear, too, in the way we relate to other species. Lakoff writes, of the Strict Father:

“When his children disobey, it is his moral duty to punish them painfully enough so that, to avoid punishment, they will obey him (do what is right) and not just do what feels good. Through physical discipline they are supposed to become . . . internally strong, and able to prosper in the external world. . . . [I]n a well-ordered world, there should be . . . a moral hierarchy in which those who have traditionally dominated should dominate.”

question2 014-cropHow Bugs feels about this.

This writer, on the other hand, subscribes to Lakoff’s “Nurturant Parent” model. This is one of being cared for and cared about, having one’s desires for loving interactions met, living as happily as possible, and deriving meaning from one’s community and from caring for and about others.

That’s how I want to live. And that’s how I want to relate to our brothers and sisters of other species. They are sharper than I am. They know how to pay attention. Their survival depends on it.

We humans can be distracted by thoughts and ideas, concepts of the way the world is or isn’t. We need those thoughts and ideas, but in balance. Balance is everything. I want to learn how to use my attention to perceive as much of the world as I can, as truly as I can, as innocently as possible of preconceptions and limiting ideas. That’s what the Feldenkrais work offers me and others, and that’s what I want.

Our brothers and sisters of other species can teach us about attention. Unlike them, we haven’t needed to know what’s going on around us in the natural world. Unlike them, our next meal comes from the fridge, not from the veldt. So we have rested on our laurels.

It’s time to wake up and listen.

question2 006-cropBarney says: Ask, don’t tell.

In the clicker-crate-training over here, the boys and I have progressed into the crates, through the house, out the door, into the yard, and have come to rest right beside the car. But when I opened the car door in front of Barney, he freaked. So now I open the car door first, and then get Barney and bring him right up to the open car door (not into it yet). Seems to be working so far.

question2 010-cropcatrun

About nadbugs

Anita loves cats. This must be because she, too, has had nine lives. She’s been dancing since she could walk, she was a commercial artist and advertising producer, she earned a third-degree black belt in Aikido, she is a drummer with the Afrique Aya Dance Company, she is an attorney, and she’s a meditator and a devoted student of Nonviolent Communication. She also spent one lifetime sidelined with a devastating back injury in 1992. Since then – FELDENKRAIS METHOD® to the rescue. The FELDENKRAIS METHOD is all about dreaming concretely – thinking intelligently and independently by way of a gracious and kind physicality. The work affords all who study it a process by which to reach, with movement, into the mind and the heart, to make nine lives into one whole being.
This entry was posted in clicker training, Empathy, Feldenkrais, Kindness, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Why Ask?

  1. Wonderful post! Cats and horses do go well together!

  2. Summer says:

    This totally makes sense… my human needs to integrate this more when she is working with me… or other cats, like she did with my half-brother Sizzle this weekend.

  3. Sofia says:

    Reblogged this on Historien om Alf and commented:
    Mycket intressant inlägg (på engelska) om att ställa frågor om.

  4. Sofia says:

    Intressant inlägg 🙂

  5. ChristineMO says:

    Loved the Lakoff connection: most of us (in the Western body traditions, at least) treat our own bodies like wayward children in need of rigorous disciplining…and push through pain, ignoring information until it is too late. Force a horse, ignore pinned ears, get a hoof in the knee; force your body, ignore pain, get a chronic back injury. Some lessons need to be learned repeatedly.

  6. Connie says:

    Fascinating! thank you for sharing

  7. Pingback: Creatures Great and Small | catself

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