Module 2. What’s the Difference?

 

What’s the Difference?: Left and Right (43 minutes)

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Guided Movement Meditation: Left and Right (16 minutes)

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Finding the balanced middle by improving left and right

How do you know where your middle is? Neither to the left nor to the right. And rather than trying to hold to the middle, can we find a way to let it happen by itself? Moshe Feldenkrais, in order to teach his students how to stand on their heads, first taught them to fall comfortably in any direction. Then to stand on your head is easy, just don’t do any of those! Good “posture” or balance is no-thing.

So if we want to settle in easily to the middle, we have to let go of the idea that it is some abstract center that we can calculate and match. Instead, by learning to move more easily to the right and left, the middle, our middle, emerges as a sensation of effortless balance.

Learning (through) Difference

In the last lesson we learned the importance of subtlety. Subtle movement allows us to feel subtle differences, and distinguishing differences that we hadn’t noticed before is the essence of learning. The trick is to approach it well. The philosopher Gilles Deleuze points out that in the West, since Plato, we have tended to think of difference as a discrepancy from Identity or Sameness. Translated into sitting: to feel a difference between your right and left would be a kind of failure. But Deleuze posed a more properly Zen question: can we think difference without reference to some fixed identity that we would judge it by? That’s what we will play with in these lessons.

Can we explore the difference between our right and left sides, as a way of discovering upright balance not as a fixed position but as a kind of spontaneous no-thing?

The paradox is to realize that we often distinguish between our two sides, while also being symmetrical beings¬† organized around an elusive mid-line. You can see it in the cross legged position: we cross our legs in the same fashion, but then one leg has to go in front or behind. (And sometimes above or below…) You might notice that you have a preference. Play with that. And as you meditate, you might find it interesting to try your non-habitual way of crossing. See what differences emerge…

The lessons above explore this theme. For the longer movement lesson, you will need a mat to lie on. The shorter guided movement meditation is done sitting on your cushion cross-legged, and can be used as the start of a longer sitting session or on its own as a meditation in its own right.

Regardless of which one you choose to do each day, set aside a few minutes afterward to write down in your notebook any thoughts, observations, or questions that emerge around differences you noticed, and sidedness…