“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Yogi Berra
There are pundits nowadays who complain that we have too many choices in life. Barry Schwartz, in his 2004 book, The Paradox of Choice, says, “Autonomy and freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.”
Too many restaurants, too many options in the grocery store, too many channels on our TV. But really, is a choice between Ruby Tuesday and TGI Fridays really a choice? Between Cap’n Crunch and Lucky Charms? Between America’s Next Top Model and Keeping Up with the Kardashians?
What constitutes a real choice? Most of our choices are made mechanically, based on our habits, education and compulsions. The current presidential campaign is a perfect example. Ben Carson has become a front runner because “That smile and his soft voice makes people very comforted.” (NY Times) Jeb Bush on the other hand, “When discouraged….although a physically big man—psychically shrinks into his own feelings of hurt and rejection.” (Atlantic Monthly) Issues don’t matter nearly as much as a candidate’s affect.
So why does Feldenkrais emphasize the importance of choice? He says in his book The Elusive Obvious, “Without learning to know ourselves as intimately as we possibly can, we limit our choices. Life is not very sweet without the freedom of choice.” To me this means that the more I understand myself, how I move, think, feel and sense, the more real choice is available to me. Not just knee jerk reactions, not just opinions based on fear or conditioning. To be able to see the big picture as well as the details helps improve how I move, and how I move through life.
Interestingly, the subtitle of Schwartz’s book is “Why More is Less.” Feldenkrais emphasizes that “Less is more.” By doing less, there is more possibility to develop awareness. So what better way to develop choice, than to practice awareness through movement.