On September 8, Russell Delman offers his life-altering workshop at the Open Center: The Embodied Life: Cultivating Awareness Through Meditation, Guided Inquiry and the Teachings of Moshe Feldenkrais
Russell was kind enough to sit down with Open Center staff for the following interview. Learn about how finding “presence” changed his life and why he believes that “inquiry” must be accompanied by a sense of humor.
What does it mean to live an embodied life?
Embodiment has a few meanings for me. First it’s a quality of presence. When one is “embodied,” one is present in their experience. Embodied doesn’t so much emphasize physical health or strength. It is the quality of your experience when you meet with the people and experiences of your life. When you are present, when you are “embodying” your life, it is the most substantial way of being grounded in your experience.
What are the three components of embodied life practice?
First, we engage in sitting meditation, stripped of all the Zen and all the Buddhism. This is the most important doorway to presence.
Then, we develop awareness through movement. I realized through work with Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais that we have this incredible gift, the physical body, that has wisdom within. Paying attention to our bodily experience in many ways, we can radically accelerate our understanding of ourselves and our lives.
Finally, we engage in guided inquiry: This is a combination of practices connected to a work called “focusing:” paying attention to yourself through paying attention to bodily sensations and learning the language of the inner body. Our feelings are speaking to us all the time. Usually we don’t listen. We are fighting them, or we are carried away by them.
The three legs of this practice help us develop life-affirming brain states, like gratitude or deep peace. The practice can help us train our imagination and reframe our personal histories to grow these life-affirming brain states.
What brought you to the practice?
I was very lucky when I was 18 — more than 40 years ago. I was in college, studying psychology and I suffered my first broken heart. I was reading an article on meditation. I’d never been exposed to it before but I realized very early that I was “absent” most of the time, and presence was key. I am actually teaching today off the insights I had in my first year of learning.
Soon after this introduction to meditation, I got interested in yoga. I trained as a yoga teacher and then a friend mentioned Moshe Feldenkrais. In 1974, I received a mailing that he was doing his first North American training and, in a confluence of events, I inherited the exact amount of money for the training. I didn’t know anything about the work except that it was body-based and that my friend recommended it. I signed up anyway. It was a three-year training, and I connected very deeply with Feldenkrais. He was almost like a grandfather figure to me.
I learned that the way we carry ourselves, how we walk, breathe, sit, is not only about our physical body, it’s about the “self.” This physicality has an impact on your emotional life. Much of what we think of as emotional issues can be addressed if you carry yourself differently, create new patterns and exist differently in your world.
Feldenkrais’s trainings had an air of acceptance, warm-heartedness, and humor. When we take something too seriously, we get tense. It’s not the best atmosphere for learning. Feldenkrais said, “This work is too important to do it seriously.”
How can this experience improve our experience of living?
The world we experience is based on what we pay attention to, how we pay attention and the stories we tell ourselves about our experience. All of these are malleable.
In any moment, there are an infinite number of possible experiences to have in that instance. Even if you and I are standing next to each other, we will have very, very different experiences. Then add to that the stories we are telling ourselves about our experience…
I had a neighbor who was having a party. I heard the noise and concluded they were having a party. Then I had the thought, they shouldn’t be so loud so late at night. So, I had a “something is wrong” experience. Then I realized, Oh, they are really enjoying themselves. The story changed. I could have created the story called “inconsiderate neighbors” but instead I created the story “they should have a good time.” The whole world changes when you change the story you tell yourself…
Who can benefit from your workshop The Embodied Life: Cultivating Awareness Through Meditation, Guided Inquiry and the Teachings of Moshe Feldenkrais at the Open Center on September 8?
If you’re looking for your next step — your next direction. If you’re experiencing a moment in life where you are questioning your job, your relationship, or whether you are on the right path, you will benefit greatly from this.
Sign up for Russell Delman’s training: The Embodied Life: Cultivating Awareness Through Meditation, Guided Inquiry and the Teachings of Moshe Feldenkrais