On Self Image

I would not describe myself as a great reader, like those people who devour books on a daily basis. I would say I am a slow, plodding, poorly educated reader that occasionally stumbles upon a “keeper”.

Well I stumbled. As I was doing some research for my upcoming workshop I found an article written by Maria Popova about Ursula K. Le Guin and was so excited I ordered the book! (I have added the link below.)

Le Guin examines what it is to be a man in “an extraordinary essay titled “Introducing Myself,” which Le Guin first wrote as a performance piece in the 1980s and later updated for the beautifully titled, beautifully written, beautifully wide-ranging 2004 collection The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination”. 

It is a brilliantly political, and humorous article on the generic “he”. That in language, as a reflection of our self image we are all “he” and that a “she” is an “imitation of man” and a very poor one at that. Le Guin goes onto describe her body image, but in a way that makes fun of societal perceptions.

“I admit it, I am actually a very poor imitation or substitute man, and you could see it when I tried to wear those army surplus clothes with ammunition pockets that were trendy and I looked like a hen in a pillowcase. I am shaped wrong. People are supposed to be lean. You can’t be too thin, everybody says so, especially anorexics. People are supposed to be lean and taut, because that’s how men generally are, lean and taut, or anyhow that’s how a lot of men start out and some of them even stay that way. And men are people, people are men, that has been well established, and so people, real people, the right kind of people, are lean. But I’m really lousy at being people, because I’m not lean at all but sort of podgy, with actual fat places. I am untaut.”
Ursula K. Le Guin

This tongue in cheek commentary about being subpar, and not fitting what she is supposed to be, jumped out at me. At the same time I was preparing a workshop and had downloaded a Feldenkrais® Lesson about Self Image.

I chose to study this lesson for my upcoming Meditation and Feldenkrais ONLINE series.

Here is a quote from this lesson on Self Image by Moshe Feldenkrais:

“We usually act according to our ability. That means no one decides or plans what he does and knows how it should feel, what it should be. He does what he does and, at the moment, feels what he does. In other words, everyone acts according to the image of himself that he created during his life.
“What does it mean to continue to develop? To develop in a direction … in which direction? If you give an example to someone that he needs to be like this or like that-then he forces himself to adjust to this frame and stops being himself. He must be like the other one teaches him or demands of him. This is the way that is used in the whole world; not only in exercise, but with everything. People are educated how they should be.”

(As you can see the generic “he” is even being used by Moshe.) But, what he says does not contradict what we often feel about ourselves, and what the brilliant writer Le Guin complains about.

We (he/she) compare ourselves to others, to social norms, and to the detriment of our own wholeness.

Which brings me back to why I wanted to teach this workshop. Meditation, as an approach can bring us back to this wholeness, if it is done in an embodied way. I am not talking about the kind that guides you away from yourself with concepts, or thoughts, or imagery, but the kind that heightens ones sensory awareness.

There are many of Feldenkrais lessons that bring a person back to this sense of wholeness, and even though they are not called meditation, they are deeply meditative.

These lessons bring a person to a quiet place of sensing, focusing inward and resulting in an expansive experience, without expectation from others, without comparison to others, but to be fully and completely ourselves.