In 2020, Linda and Russell Delman gave an interview for the Esalen Institute about their EMBODIED LIFE work.
ESALEN: Do you feel it is more challenging today than when you first started your practice to live an embodied life? In other words, are there more challenges that are disconnecting us from ourselves and ultimately a feeling of presence?
RUSSELL: Without sounding too extreme, we are deeply concerned about the pervasive influence of “technology addiction” upon people’s capacity for Presence and for relationship. Seeing this in children, who do not have strong enough ego-forces to ward it off, is particularly distressing. We are not anti-technology, we are grateful for the great benefits that can come from using these capacities consciously. As an old Zen master said about drinking sake – “you must know if you are drinking sake or if sake is drinking you”. People all over the world seem more engaged in virtual reality than in the here and now. The potential negative impact of this for humanity can really not be overstated.
LINDA: Technology gives us a larger view of the world and with this we have the opportunity to realize the oneness of humanity, its joys and its sorrows. This can be informative, which leads to a new understanding of the world. It can also be overwhelming and stressful for us, as we realize that we too are part of the suffering and the challenges.
John O’Donahue, an Irish poet, states this truth so authentically, “There are days in your life when unwelcome news will breach your boundaries, whether through the measured sentences of an obligated physician or through the cold earpiece of technology, news of suffering, and unimaginable trials will arrive.”
In our lives, we have our own joys and sorrows and, now, with our new global view, we are challenged to digest the world’s joys and sorrows as well. How do we greet these experiences in a life-giving way? In the Embodied Life School, we practice ways of listening to how the challenges we encounter daily, live in our thoughts, and feelings, and are carried in our bodies.
When traversing the path of sorrow through a listening process, healing can arise, giving way to a greater affinity toward health and maybe even something like joy! The more we awaken our capacities to be present with anyone or anything, a kind of gratitude also may arrive which I believe brings a new reverence for life.
ESALEN: When did you first make the connection that embodiment led to a greater sense of presence and awareness?
RUSSELL: Both Linda and I were blessed with an early attraction to movement, first through athletics and then through intuiting a connection to the larger possibilities of embodiment. For me, the realization came first through Zen meditation, which is surprisingly “body-based”. I was experiencing a broken heart at 19 years old and was somehow open to meditating after reading just one article about Zen. I saw quickly that I spent 90+% of my life lost in mental chatter about the past and future and was rarely present. This realization was devastating AND very inspiring! I saw that IF I could be in my body, I could be present in life, because my body was always alive in the present moment. This is still the main insight that motivates these teachings nearly 50 years later. Not coincidentally, coming to Esalen for one month that same year, 1971, grounded this realization by working with Gestalt, movement, massage and meditation, with some of the early teachers of these practices.
LINDA: As Russell stated, I was an athlete and participated in sports, dance, and yoga in my youth. Studying with Moshe Feldenkrais was entirely different as he approached movement THROUGH Awareness. I had begun meditating in 1970 but it was really through Feldenkrais that the two forms became one.
ESALEN: How did you first come across the work of Moshe Feldenkrais?
RUSSELL: When I first came to Esalen, I heard Dr. Feldenkrais spoken of as the “leading edge in somatic consciousness”. Then in 1975, while teaching yoga in San Francisco, I came upon a flyer that advertised his first North American Professional Training. This three-year program was organized through the Humanistic Psychology Institute. A small group of us were also given the opportunity to do a PhD under Dr. Feldenkrais. Funnily, after the first summer of training, both Moshe and I decided that the requirements of the program were interfering with the “real learning” so we both dropped out of the doctoral aspect of the training. Linda did not do her formal training with Dr. Feldenkrais until 1980 in his second U.S. program but she freely attended the first program as a visitor. We both visited Moshe in Israel many times and, toward the end of his life, developed a close personal relationship with him.
ESALEN: For our readers who may not be as familiar with the Feldenkrais Method, could you share highlights of some of his teachings that are included in your upcoming workshop?
RUSSELL AND LINDA: We will do simple, profound, enjoyable movements that have surprising effects on our bodies, minds and spirits. That sounds like hyperbole but it is actually true.
Although movement was the medium Moshe chose for his teaching, his main interest was in human freedom NOT the physical body. Unfortunately, the movements are so brilliant and effective for helping the physical body that many people consider Feldenkrais movements a high level of physical therapy or gymnastic.
Feldenkrais realized that our mental and emotional patterns are held within the infrastructure of our motor patterns. Our habits of breathing, sitting, standing, and moving are not simply physical; they are expressive of our inner life. Any theatre director or sculptor knows that the disposition of the body is an expression of the whole person. Feldenkrais used this insight to develop more than 1000 movement lessons to help deconstruct the inefficient, compulsive habits that create both physical limitation AND limitations on the potential of the human being.
For me, the key is that becoming aware of the body is a doorway to Presence and this is essential for human freedom. Without this awareness, we MUST repeat the past; the brain will do what it already knows. Feeling better physically is what Feldenkrais called “the icing on the cake of awareness”.
ESALEN: Would you walk us through a meditation practice that our readers could use at home to feel more centered and grounded in our bodies?
RUSSELL AND LINDA: A core practice of “The Embodied Life” teachings is so simple that people cannot believe its potency unless they try it. – We call it “Ground, Sound, Breath”.
It begins with a PAUSE, eyes closed at the beginning, and sensing the ground under your feet if standing and under your bottom and feet if sitting. Then, without losing the sense of the ground, open attention to the external space by sensing sounds and the environment without looking around. This is followed by sensing three breaths from beginning to end, as you continue to sense the ground and external space. That is it! Too simple? Try it. Staying present for 3 complete breaths can change the rest of your day.
We do this without great effort, without fighting the thoughts that come and go. Thoughts are not the enemy of meditation. This whole process takes about 30-60 seconds. We recommend doing this 5-10 times a day. Can you spare 5 minutes a day to become truly more Present? Putting post-its in various places or setting the timer on your phone, as reminders can be helpful. Simply stepping off the train of “doing the next thing”, of the momentum of everyday life, and creating small “pattern interruptions” is incredibly powerful.
ESALEN: What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
RUSSELL: That is easy – the joy of being with people who want to become more Present in themselves and in their relationships. Hearing from people all around the world, how their lives have been enriched and transformed through the work brings great meaning and satisfaction.
LINDA: I agree completely. It is such a unique experience to be able to pass along the seeds that have ripened in our lives and plant these seeds in the lives of others. For me it brings a sense that the work of awakening can continue to grow for generations to come, and this is deeply satisfying.
ESALEN: What do you find most rewarding about teaching at Esalen?
RUSSELL: Anyone drawn to Esalen has a longing to realize their true potential, whether it is conscious or not. To be around the energy of human potentiality as it manifests in and is supported by the natural beauty of Esalen is incredibly inspiring. Also, hearing the ocean while lying in a tub or looking at the mist settled over the mountainside are images that are never absent from my inner life.
LINDA: The environment of beauty, quietude and ease is perfect for deep learning!
© Esalen Institute, Russell and Linda Delman | Foto: Russell and Linda Delman
Hier finden Sie die nächsten Termine des Embodied Life Retreats mit Linda und Russell Delman.