The High Holidays embody the spiritual significance of Awareness Through Movement. Or is it the other way around?

The Shofar calls us to wake up

I always feel the depth of the Feldenkrais Method most keenly around the Jewish High Holidays.

If you’re Jewish, and you take the High Holidays seriously, you might have had the experience that, as the Days of Awe progress, you’re just beginning to touch something, just beginning to see and feel your life for what it really is, just beginning to realize what it is that you need to do to really turn over a new leaf in the new year … and then … it’s all over. The final shofar blows, and … you feel lighter! The Holidays have worked their magic once again.

But what of that glimpse? What was that possibility of redemption? Of transformation? Of some fundamental shift in your relationship to the way you inhabit your life?

It is for this reason that we are invited to begin the process of self-examination a full month before Rosh Hashanah. To “prime the pump” as it were, in order to discover what it is that we feel the need to address in our lives before the gates open, so that we can allow the magic of the season to work more deeply upon us, and help us make the changes we need to make in our lives.

What, then, do we practice in Elul? How do we cultivate this deep awareness of ourselves and our actions?

Some people make sure to pray every morning.

Some set aside time to meditate.

Some write in a journal.

I practice Awareness Through Movement.

At its deepest level, the Feldenkrais Method invites us to notice ourselves. To notice our actions – yes, our habits – on the most fundamental and subtle level: in the way we make every single movement. As we do that, we also become aware of our assumptions about ourselves and about these habits, and realize – finally – that we are not our habits. Our habits do note define us. They are not truths of our bodies beyond our control like the shape of our bones, nor are they immutable aspects of our personalities. The way we have always done things is not our destiny, is not how we must do things forever. By becoming aware of ourselves in action, we open ourselves to choice. We open ourselves to Change. We open ourselves to Life.

In the language of the High Holidays, this process is called Teshuvah: Repentance, Return.

And so, in the month of Elul, I like to teach a class in Embodied Teshuvah, that helps my students – and me – develop our awareness of this capacity for change, focus on what we need to change this year, and approach the High Holiday liturgy and practices in an embodied way.

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