In San Francisco during the summer of 1975, Moshe Feldenkrais began his second training of teachers of what would become known as the Feldenkrais Method. Listening to the audio recordings, I’m struck by Moshe’s frustration with the word “try.” He’s in front of a room full of 65 people giving them movement instructions and he can’t stop using the word “try.” “Try to lift your head.” “Try to…” The word keeps sneaking in on him. You may ask, why doesn’t he just say “Lift your head.” My guess is that having them do the movements he’s describing isn’t of primary importance to him. In fact, if people just did the movements, they would probably miss what he was teaching.
“Sit down and bring your head to your knee,” is different than “Sit down and try to bring your head to your knee.” What I think he means is don’t do it to do it, do it to observe how you do it: to observe yourself. “Sit down and notice what happens if you have the intention to bring your head to your knee. Just begin the movement and observe where you initiate the movement. How do you organize yourself to do the movement? Compare your right and left side. Are you still breathing? What are your eyes doing?”
So what’s wrong with trying? Nothing.
Try implies that we aren’t yet. There’s an inherent incapability or dissatisfaction in the word. If you have a glass half-full perspective, then you may give points for trying. If you prefer a glass half-empty outlook, you may see failure. When we try to be some way (happy, angry, assertive, successful, graceful, present, in-love…), we are trying—I’m wondering who/what/where is under all that trying…
I know a rich man
Who washes 24 time a day
Trying to look like the ladies
And they wash themselves
92 times a half day
Imitating the queen
Who washes herself
400 times an hour of a day
And she tries to look like a duke
Who washes himself ten thousand
Times a minute of an hour
in a day through the week
Throughout a life time trying
To look like everyone at once,
he never gets out of the bath.
And I am glad I know a rich man
for I can’t add my life together yet.
What is the name of that soap,
A Different Mercy