The Sense of Self-Movement
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Welcome back, everyone! This week we will talk about the fourth of the foundational senses, the sense of self-movement. Rudolf Steiner speaks of the sense of motion as the sense that allows us to experience our own movement. Whether we are walking, crocheting, or speaking, we must be able to direct our bodies in order to accomplish our intended results. He associates this sense with the experience of the individual as a “free soul,” of our autonomy, and the role of self determination in the shaping of our lives. The sense of motion is “in its element whenever movement makes sense. When our overall body-soul condition is such that in its involuntary intercourse with the world we feel ourselves to be free and mobile beings, integrated into that world’s movement patterns, when we have a simultaneous experience of both sovereignty and connectedness, this results in a definite soul grounding.” Working with Anxious, Nervous and Depressed Children, by Henning Kohler. The newborn has no sense of his own movement. Over those first few months, he discovers that he can control that thing waving around in front of his face (his hand) and soon can direct it to do many things, beginning with bring things to his mouth. How much we build on this sense of movement in our lives when you look at it in this way. It is connected to our ability to direct our own lives. Rudolf Steiner said, and CWS’ mission is: “Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings, who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives.” When you look at it this way, you can understand why physical movement is such an important part of the Waldorf curriculum all the way through, from the simple circle movements and plenty of time for free play to the complex movements of sports and eurythmy, handwork and art throughout the grade school and high school years.
We also speak about being moved emotionally. This is also connected to the sense of self movement. Kohler says, “…What chiefly interests us is the phenomenon of free mobility on the purely soul [emotional and thinking] level. The sensing of autonomy contemplated on that level derives from the fact that we are not determined by reflected, passing, abruptly changing, unstable, unrelated states of feeling due to a particular situation, but rather self=experiencing occupants of our feeling world and as such in a position to provide for stability and connectedness.”
Another interesting aspect of movement and how it develops is how with the young child, movement often comes first followed by feeling and, possible thought. In adults, generally, when we hear an idea, for example, we think about it, then we feel a certain way about it and then we act. I remember one of our EC teachers telling a story about a little boy in her class. He was watching a goldfish swim in its bowl. Suddenly, he reached into the bowl and grabbed out the fish. Then he looked in amazement at the wriggling fish in his hand. He had no idea how it got there! It may be helpful to remember how this works with our little ones. Reasoning about these things isn’t helpful. Being watchful, creating an environment where the child can move freely and remembering where they are in their development can help us to support the child in a healthy way. They need to move and explore many different places and many different kinds of movement. It is also important to let them develop these movements as their bodies are ready. In the EC classes, if a child asks to be lifted up into a tree or onto a climbing structure, we don’t do it. We let them know that they will soon be able to do it themselves. Of course, if they do get up and need help coming down, we do, of course, help!