This past December after one of the many North Carolina snowstorms, we had no power for four days. No phone, no water, no light. No computer, no TV. It was hard to read by candlelight. So I decided to do something I’d been avoiding since the New Age Movement began. I was going to make a vision board.
A vision board is a collage of sorts. You gather images and glue them to paper – like a visual statement of goals or a non-verbal affirmation. Mind you, I had nothing against vision boards. In fact, I thought the idea was kind of cool. It was the cutting out and gluing part I was avoiding. The joke, “I flunked art in kindergarten,” was no joke for me. Give me a bottle of Elmer’s glue and within minutes it’s all over my clothes, the desk and of course, rippling up the images that are glued to the paper. Scissors, look out! I can cut myself on children’s scissors. And it never fails that my hand slips and slices off a part of the picture I was so carefully trimming.
I pored through every magazine. I snipped images, words, icons. I layered them, re-arranged them and finally, after two days, had my vision board. My husband Ron, who is an amazing fine artist, came over and stared. “Wow,” he said. “It’s so….neat.”
It was. Pieces fit together. No jagged edges. Cool ideas. I realized in that moment that as I had been working on the vision board, I hadn’t felt any rush. No compulsion to do a “good job.” My inner critic had taken a vacation along with the electricity. I didn’t even realize until then, that some little girl in me always felt a pressure to perform, even in doing art. In that pressure lie the roots of failure.
I’ve met people who are afraid to cook for others for the same reason. Others have even given up yoga because they weren’t “good at it.”. And yet this compulsion to perform comes from my own habitual behavior, it has nothing to do with the people we think we are performing for, or competing against.
One of the things I love about the Feldenkrais Method is that it interrupts this habit. Instead of asking students to perform, it asks students to investigate, to explore, to experience. There is no one watching how well you raise your head, or lift your leg. There is no one judging if you have “succeeded” at rolling up the “right” way. A teacher of mine once challenged the class to free itself from “the stench of striving.” And Moshe Feldenkrais would often advise his students to “Try not to try!”
It’s a paradox, that when I try less, but with more attention, more ease and presence, I accomplish much more than by straining, pushing and trying to perform. Feldenkrais lessons can help us interrupt not just our movement habits but our behavior, to allow enjoyment of every activity, not just what we are “good” at. And magically, we improve!