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The Present Moment in Moving with Awareness

In my present Neuro-Somatic Variations (NSV) teaching series I explore the theme of “Inner Time Consciousness.” In general, the NSV process integrates Feldenkrais Awareness through Movement® (ATM) lessons, Integrative Neurobiology and Micro-Phenomenology. As with previous NSV sessions, reflection upon specific conceptual themes is grounded in theoretical literature, especially from phenomenology, psychology and neuroscience. My thinking in this present series exploring the lived experience of time has been especially influenced by a number of theorists, including the philosopher Henri Bergson, psychiatrist Eugéne Minkowski and psycho-analyst Daniel Stern. A few of the issues that I have explored together with the other NSV participants include, for example the non-linear dimension of time, duration, the distinction between space and time, the idea of the continuous present, presence, and reversibility. This first-hand as well as intersubjective exploration of inner time consciousness has affirmed the deep connection between the experience of temporality and the consciousness of self. As neuroscientists Marc Wittmann and Karin Meissner have noted in their review of the embodiment of time via interoception, “Besides the flow of time, the unity of the present moment (or the feeling of “nowness”) is a basic property of consciousness, which comprises the qualitative experience of subjective experience.” [1, p. 63] A key phenomenological question that has emerged from this series is how the present moment bridges between past moments and future moments as yet to come – the issue of temporal extent. While this issue continues to preoccupy philosophers, the NSV process is singular in providing an experiential embodied lens with which to explore the present moment and its relation to the past and the future. Moving with awareness provides a profound resource for deepening one’s embodied understanding of living in time. The experience of time provides an incredibly rich terrain for personal exploration and conceptual analysis – much more than can be detailed here.

In his study of “Lived Time,” Swiss psychiatrist Eugéne Minkowski has noted the intimate connection that exists in the corporeal experience of time in terms of a “fundamental spatiotemporal of organo-physic solidity.” In other words, in terms of the embodied experience of time, spatial solidity and temporal fluidity are inseparable, like watching ink spread its fluid strands as it dissolves in a pool of water. [2, p. 23] While at first glance it may appear novel to explore the issue of temporality in relation to moving with awareness lessons, time is an intrinsic part of any corporeal movement. Every lesson contains various temporal dimensions, in terms of the duration of the lesson, and in terms of the rhythm and directionality of specific guided movements. The temporal elements of a lesson are key in terms of its impact on a participant’s sense of self. In an insightful paper, “Habit and Change: Discovering the Present. An essay on the invention of time in Feldenkrais method: learning through movement, questions of temporality,” Feldenkrais practitioners Marie Bardet and Isabelle Ginot make the intriguing point that, the Feldenkrais Method® “allows not a specific change but the very experience of change itself, as an absolute.” [3] In other words, the Feldenkrais Method® in providing a somatic modality to unwind habitual behaviors, is at its core about experiencing the flow of temporality, especially the present moment as the juncture between the past and the present moment.

In one of the early NSV sessions in this six-part series on the exploration of inner time consciousness, I taught a Feldenkrais pelvic-clock lesson as a cognitive anchor for exploring the relation between time and space. For those unfamiliar with these lessons, in the schema of these lessons one moves one’s pelvis in relation to an imaginary clock-face that one is lying on, moving through each of the hours of the day individually and in unison creating a full-circle. Thus, the awareness of a clock presents the conceptual spatial dimension of time, whereas the actual movement presents the possibility of experiencing duration. The sense of spatio-temporal solidity is embedded in these movements; however, each participant may shift back-and forth between the experience of duration and of succession, and of the transition in-between. One NSV participant noted that, ‘What was surprising with yesterday’s lesson for me was that doing the clock movement with the pelvis was more pleasurable when successively considering each hour, minute, second, rather than doing a “whole”, sweeping moment... contrary to the idea of the “whole” as more harmonic perhaps.’

Psychoanalyst Daniel Stern has analyzed in detail how the “present moment” operates in psychotherapy to bring about change. [4] Stern has elaborated at least eleven components of the present moment, including for example, that present moments are of short duration, generally about three to four seconds, and that the felt experience of the present moment is whatever is in awareness now, during the moment being lived. Stern distinguishes in the present moment between two possibilities, subjective and chronological time, between kairos and chronos – to use the Greek terminology. “Kairos is the passing moment in which something happens as time unfolds. It is the coming into being of a new state of things, and it happens in a moment of awareness.” [4, p. 8] Arguably, Feldenkrais ATM lessons provide an apparatus for subjective time to be experienced as a medium of personal transformation. Another element of the present moment is its relation to the self: The experiencing self takes a stance relative to the present moment. The intersubjective context of NSV explorations facilitates each participant to become aware of and to “take a stance” towards their embodied experience of temporality in a movement lesson. Verbalizing one’s pre-verbal experience of temporally based movement provides a means of consolidating the narrative dimension of time, of linking action to narration.

Minkowski has detailed how one’s personal élan vital is always pushing towards the future, towards the as yet unfulfilled in a process of endless becoming. Thus, the present moment bridges to the past in its emergence in the duration of now and in its unceasing movement faces towards the as-yet of the future. Prayer embodies the human capacity for directing one’s intentionality towards the future. Individuals afflicted with mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, or prisoners may be affected in terms of their experience of temporality, being trapped in a recurring past experience, or in the inability to take a stance on their experience of the present moment. Somatic practices provide a profound resource for accessing the embodied awareness of what it means to live in time and thereby touch the temporal foundations of self and foster personal and intersubjective healing.


1. Wittmann, M. & Meissner, K. 2019. “The Embodiment of Time: How Interoception Shapes the Perception of Time.” In The Interoceptive Mind: From homeostasis to awareness, edited by Tsakiris, M. & De Preester, H. Oxford University Press: pp. 63-79.

2. Minkowski, M. 1970. Lived Time: Phenomenological and Psychopathological Studies, translated by Metzel, N. Northwestern University Press, Evanston.

3. Bardet, M. & Ginot, I. 2012. “Habit and Change: Discovering the Present. An essay on the invention of time in Feldenkrais method: learning through movement, questions of temporality.” Writings on Dance, Summer (n° 25), p. 10-29. hal-02293867.

4. Stern, D. 2004. The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life. W.W. Norton & Company, New York-London.

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