Timing, Orientation, Manipulation... and Near Misses

Janelle and Maceo. photo: Nancy Medwell

Janelle and Maceo. photo: Nancy Medwell

by Janelle Keane Campoverde, Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner

Recently, as I was driving on Highway 99 on my way to teach class, a speeding car heading from the other direction bolted over the divider and was directly in front of me. My son was in the backseat, deep in his book. In a moment, I thought, "This will be a bad accident, but I'll do my best." Simultaneously, I turned the car, pressed on the gas, and sensed the outer lane peripherally. I felt the oncoming car slide along the side of our car. We were now parked on the side of the highway. My son said, "What was that?" finally looking up from his book. I waited to get a handle on the severity of the accident. What had happened? We were fine. Even the car was unscathed—minor scratches from slight contact. We arrived at our destination a few minutes before students walked in the door. I shared this miraculous experience with them, as it was still alive in me.

All the elements of this event coincided in such a way that we were unharmed. Saying I'm grateful is an understatement.   

I've spent most of my adult life as a Feldenkrais practitioner. So, I can't help but reflect on what Moshe Feldenkrais taught about movement and how it influenced this particular moment of action. 

Each movement or action contains three elements: timing, orientation, and manipulation. 

  • Timing: Turning a moment later would have been a disaster. In addition to the car in front of us, there were cars to our right during rush hour.
  • Orientation: There would have been impact if the turning had been at an even slightly different angle. Our relationship to the other cars, particularly those in the lane between ours and the side of the highway, was crucial.
  • Manipulation: How the foot pressed the gas, how the hands turned the steering, how the eyes focused forward and sensed peripherally the destination and the right lane (hoping for clearance) all contributed to our safe landing.

 As always, and particularly today, I feel deep gratitude for Moshe Feldenkrais, who composed the term acture (instead of posture), meaning: the ability to move in any direction from where we are without any additional preparation for action. He spoke of a tiger coming your way and, if you need a moment of preparation before you move, the tiger could overtake you. In our everyday life, it's careening cars moving at a fast velocity.

 I’m happy to share this personal story. Many of us have stories of near misses. In one moment life can be forever changed. I'm relieved that my son really enjoyed his book, wondering why his oddball mother suddenly parked by the side of the highway. Resilient boy!