My visitors today

Sunday 30 March 2008

Back to my roots.

Discovering Truli the Trumpeter

Having experienced the wonderful homecoming at the Petö Institute I didn’t only spend my time at the computer posting blogs!

I was also welcomed into the adults' department and after the hellos were out of the way no one took much notice of my being there, it was like I had never left. Carrying on where I left off 15 years ago, I got up on to a plinth amongst the Parkinson patients, just as I had done as a student, and joined in for two very strenuous two-hour work outs!

I initially wanted to brush up for my future groups in Germany, but I ended up face to face with the conductive Seele, the one that I had experienced between 1989 and 93. and gradually discovered at that time that I also had. This is where I had lived and worked with it for many hours during my training, letting it soak through my skin like a plant in a process of osmosis.

The conductor whose group I was in beamed when I mentioned this at the end of her session. I had no need to explain, I know she had sensed my pleasure during the whole four hours. I realised I had been grinning from ear to ear while being motivated by her wonderful personality to stretch myself to my limits.

I somehow had the feeling I was watching one of my own groups working at its best in Germany and I realised this is where it comes from. This is where I learnt to communicate through my Seele.

After the session we talked for at least an hour about it, in Hungarian of course. She could have spoken to me in her perfect English just as easily, but a Seele discussion just had to be in Magyarúl. With the time too short for all our thoughts to be shared we thanked goodness for cyberspace. We will continue the discussion per email in whichever language we find runs most easily from our fingertips.

András Petö's plays

Feeling fit from the CE and refreshed by the discussions I went eagerly to my next port of call, the Hári Mária Könyvtár. a newly converted area of the institute where the entrance hall, the porter and the offices used to be. Bright and airy, what a difference to the old library.

Here my main missions were to purchase some books and, more importantly, to read more of András Petö's work.

I couldn’t believe it when I actually had one of Petö’s original typed manuscripts put on a table in front of me and I could read it to my heart's content. These were some of his plays, which I believe are the only original works of his in the library, much having “disappeared” over the years.

Being an avid theatre-goer I couldn’t help but wonder if any of these plays which Petö had written had actually been performed. From what I could tell from delving between the fragile pages these plays mostly describe family situations – scenes with girls trying to convince their fathers of the suitability of their chosen partners! In four of these plays I was thrilled to find characters bearing my name, once even with the English spelling.

I regret not having had the time to read them in more detail, but I translated passages from three of them chosen at random. I now know where they are when I want to read some more.

“Truli was a very individual person, hardly more than 30 years old, broad shoulders, tall (grown high), very gifted, very handsome, but with a beauty which one usually sees in women. His hands were distinctly meaty (meat-bashing hands). He was a trumpeter, he had a jazz band. The “TRULLISTEN” were widely known, he was trumpeter and conductor, and he was aware how ugly his meaty hands were.”

“Eduard met Susie there (at an orphanage). She was a noticeably pretty, well developed girl, with short hair, with sparkly, more distant than friendly eyes, and she had a wonderful spring to her step.”

“In a salon room in an out-of-town brothel in Middle Europe, between the two world wars. Nine girls , the so-called girls, some slept on a bench, some played cards, a fat blond read and the owner knitted. The blind piano player sat at a small piano and set off like a drummer on a drum. A dreadful noise. The girls didn’t speak, they wouldn’t be understood over the noise if they did.
One girl went over to the piano player and asked him to stop.”

Mária Hári's lectures
A book that I looked at, which I had not seen before, is Conductive Education for Adult Hemiplegia, written by Esther Cotton and Rowena Kinsman. While reading I was transported back to Dr Hári’s office where we British students enjoyed our classes with her. I could almost hear her voice as I mouthed the words I was reading. I could visualise her stepping amongst us as she recalled the people who may or may not have had varying influences on Dr. Petö and his work, Descartes, Bernstein, Pavlov, Sherrington, Bobath, Kabal, Rood and many others.

Mária Hári rarely sat down as she spoke, even in my last exam we both stood while trying to demonstrate some specific movements related to spastic diplegia.

I am not sure if people in the conductive world still talk about how Mária Hári would lie down on a table during her lectures to demonstrate her point. She actually did this often and I am apt to occasionally do it myself.

So while reading in her library I got transported back with a live film running through my head of memories, many long forgotten. One memory that returned was when as a group of fourth year students we all sat outside Mária Hári’s office, waiting our turn to be examined by her. I had my juggling balls with me, bought from the “More Balls Than Most Juggling Company” in Covent Garden. This was important because inside the box were instructions straight out of the “Petö Book”........

A Short Course in Life Enhancement!

“There are two, with money, time appointments, etc and this one.

At More Balls than Most Ltd we have found that one helps the other.

If you think you are clumsy, uncoordinated or generally inept don’t be put off - these pages contain a totally fool-proof and (almost) guaranteed method for learning the three-ball cascade.

In fact we have noticed that it’s the people who think they’ll never juggle that have the most fun with it.

What’s more, having learnt to juggle, there’s even more pleasure to follow - teaching others. It’s like offering people a wonderful gift that’ll last a lifetime.

Juggling is noted for its combination of mental and physical activity. From the start, juggling never ceases to stimulate the mind and body. It relieves stress and promotes agility, physique and plenty of laughter.

It taps into an innate and often forgotten quality.

We call it Physical Intelligence.

This booklet is about enjoying juggling.

More Balls Than Most Ltd is about enjoying life."

The booklet goes on to teach juggling through verbal, rhythmical intending combined with movement!

We all relaxed while trying to juggle outside the office!

It never mattered which question came out of the hat, she was always open to discuss anything and everything, even the art of juggling!

Professor Franz Schaffhauser, the new Rector

Mária Hári is no longer the Director of the Petö Institute. Many changes have taken place over the past 15 years. There have been many comings and goings in the management, stability being maintained through the work of the conductors and their groups.

I had read in the Internet and in the Magyar newspapers about the appointment of a new director, Professor Franz Schaffhauser. I wrote to him prior to my visit to Budapest and secured a meeting with him.

I found Prof. Schaffhauser as welcoming as the institute itself, so I am wondering if the generally more relaxed atmosphere I experienced has more than a little to do with him.

I actually only spent 45 minutes with Professor Schaffhauser , but it felt like hours. It seemed to me that we covered every subject under the sun and we found many common themes. We began our conversation in Hungarian but somewhere along the way, neither of us noticing when, we changed to English with a smattering of German.

I am very happy to have made this contact and am hopeful that Prof. Schaffhauser will be able to help in bringing “CE GERMANY” back on to the rails again, away from the very medical path that it now follows and back to the more enveloping, psychological, body-and-soul path which Dr Petö intended for it.

I came away from the meeting my head buzzing with thoughts and these words of his ringing in my ears…”You are an orthodox conductor”. I first understood from this that he meant a Mária Hári-trained conductor but he elaborated by telling me he thinks I am an orthodox conductor because I learnt about Conductive Education with the words and sounds of Hungarian songs all around me. This certainly was the first sound that I heard in 1989 and again in 2008 on entering the institute, as the children climbed the stairs, singing. It is these same songs that I teach to my very young, and my not-so-young.clients.

"Soul" again

I asked both my conductor friend and Prof. Schaffhauser about the word lélek (in German Seele, in English "soul") in the Hungarian language. Do they think it is as useful as in German and is it in such common use? It appears that of the three languages I speak it is in my mother tongue, English, that soul is such a “foreign” word, especially within the profession I work in, where it is needed most.


Conductive Education for Adult Hemiplegia, written by Esther Cotton and Rowena Kinsman,
Churchill Livingstone, 1983.

More Balls Than Most Juggling Company”, 11 Marshalsea Road, London SE1 1EP

One of my blogs on Seele and "soul"

Saturday 29 March 2008

"It is the Medikament"

When discussing Conductive Education with almost anyone who knew Mária Hári, specially with conductors who were taught by her, it is inevitable that the following sentence will come up at least once in the conversation: “As Hári Mária said……”

Last week, fallen ill in Budapest, once again the words of Mária Hári were recalled, in a desperate attempt to recover and carry on holidaying. Sitting in my hotel room, all shops shut on Easter Monday so no hope of purchasing any Vick Vapour Rub, I saw staring me in the face the bottle of Unicum which I had actually bought as a present for someone.

Mária Hári had said of it: “It is the medikament”. I was sure I didn’t like the taste of its herb and caramel bitters, but I had nothing to loose and after all I had already learnt so much from this lady I was sure she probably knew what she was talking about. It really would be a last resort but I thought I should have a go.

My first thought was I don’t have to actually drink it, I can use it externally like Vick Vapour Rub, treat the whole body and not just a part, as Dr Petö wrote often enough in his book Unfug der Krankheit-Triumph Der Heilkunst. This is what I proceeded to do, working from the outside inwards.

Soon the warming properties were felt and the smell drifting into my nose was not as unpleasant as I remembered. Maybe it was time to test its internal healing properties too. This was beginning to seem more and more like one of the "cures" from Petö's book.

As I took my first sip childhood memories came flooding back, my immediate association being Owbridges Cough Medicine which I had loved as a child. It had been known for me to feign illness in order to be given a spoonful of Owbridges, sometimes I even secretly took an extra swig when no one was looking. Now as an adult and with a bottle of Unicum I had no need for secret swigs, I could drink it from a glass, which I proceeded to do.

The first glass was not so nice, the second was a bit better, the third was rather good. After that...

Thanks to Dr Hári and medikament, I had a good night's sleep with no coughing, and my Seele was soaring again in Budapest.

I remember exactly when I first encountered Zwack Unicum, it was in a restaurant in Budapest, in a side street, in a pince (basement) bar somewhere behind the main post office in Moszkva Tér, on October 4th 1989. I had been in Budapest for only two or three weeks, everything was new but the city's Seele was already doing its work. On this first occasion I smelt the Unicum and then left it well alone, despite going on to buy many bottles as present for friends in the UK over the following years.

I loved the form of the green bomb-shaped bottles with the medicinal style red/gold cross on the label and the crazy vízesember (wet man) adverts which were to be seen all over the city in 1989, but none of this tempted me to drink it!

18 years after my first encounter it took the words of Dr Hári to tempt me in my the hour of need. I thoroughly recommend the Unicum treatment to anyone in need of a quick cold cure and with a childhood liking for Owbridges. It didn't actually work long term, but it helped take my mind off how awful I felt that evening and then carried me through the next day when I had an important meeting at the Peto Institute.

I'm back in Germany now and on penicillin, but my eye keeps wandering back to the bottle that I brought back as a present. I wonder what Dr Hári would recommend I should do.


This advertising campaign with the vízesember (wet man) poster was so prominent in the city at that time because in 1989 Zwack Unicum Budapest Kft. was re-established. vizesember poster

Unfug der Krankheit-Triumph Der Heilkunst by Dr med. Karl Otto Bärnklau (in other words, by Dr András Petö!).

Monday 24 March 2008

Conductive Upbringing

"Petö by Painting"

Being an artist, art teacher and art therapist, as well as a conductor, I am very much aware of the importance of the process of drawing in the psychological development of children.

Early scribbling and drawing is not only important as a pre-writing skill, and in learning to form letters and to move the pen across the paper.It is neccessary for learning about life.

The investigation of the immediate surroundings, the forming of a normal body schema, the exploration of family relationships, are all developed through drawing.

This developmental process is not able to take place when a child cannot grasp to hold a pencil, cannot move the fingers, the hand or the wrist, and when shoulder-movement is restricted.
Independently gathering the information needed to draw about this is inhibited when a child cannot crawl, roll, creep or walk.

A child who does none of this independently must be shown, assisted in discovering the world. How else will this child know that a toy train poking out from behind a sofa is not half a train, but also has a tender with the coal in it? How will this child discover that a table has three dimensions and has corners that are sharp, and how will he know that when I disappear out of sight that it is still me talking to him?

So what happens to these children or adults who have a disability that prevents them from reaching out in the world to gather the information neccessary for healthy psychological development?

As a conductor I need to accompany them on this journey and show them how to gather life skills.

I need to assist in the process which leads to holding a paintbrush loaded with gorgeous, sticky, vibrant paint. Provide situations where it is possible to move a paintbrush over black, white or green paper and look back and marvel at the results, the patterns and the interactions of colours and forms.

On Andrew Sutton's blog ('Outside the Conductive Education goldfish bowl' ) I commented on how a child with a disability sees and reacts to the wonder of a full moon. In the case of drawing and painting we have to provide individuals solutions in the same way as with the moon.

We need to show a child how to play with paint, pencils and paper and how to use this creativity to make discoveries about life.

I remember, before I became a conductor, when I was working in a special school in Hampshire, the fun I had with a six-year old pupil who, like I, just loved to paint.

For the "ART” lesson he would dress only in shorts. He could not hold a paint brush, it was difficult for him to balance while sitting, but he could move his arms and bring them to and away from most parts of his body.

We would set ourselves up on the floor surrounded by plates of bright, thick, gooey paint and with our hands as paint brushes he would paint himself and sometimes me!

He could not speak, but he could laugh and smile which we did a lot of during his very individual "art” lesson!

When the art work he produced was particularly spectacular it was difficult to get him to take a shower!

At the same school other children would be creative by sitting in a sandbox filled, not with sand but materials of different textures.

These children were offered at close range the experiences that they were not able to discover themselves through movement.

Throughout the years that I have been involved in Conductive Education I have always reached to "art” as a "tool of the trade”. Not only in the sense that I use artwork to produce storyboards to encourage speech, inspire craft work, develop movement etc., I also aid disabled children to develop the drawing skills which play such an important role in the psychological development of all children.

I can explore movement and creativity together with my clients . We can develop hand and arm movements, we can investigate the world together, open eyes and develop reactions to the surrounding environment. Together we can learn to paint it, often resulting in amazing works of art.

Our work is a spiralling, interactive process, hopefully with the aim of independent creativity, resulting in the ability to learn about the world through drawing.

Ten years of creativity

I began work with one of my clients in a group when he was seven years old.

He had been involved Conductive Education for about a year in various centres around his country, which meant being weeks away from home and his siblings, which he did not like.
At eight years old he decided for himself that he only wanted to continue with Conductive Education if I could come to his home. This I have been doing for six to nine weeks a year over the course of ten years.

My client has the diagnosis Athetoid Cerebral Palsy. He learnt to walk independently at three years of age and was therefore able to experience his small world quite thoroughly.

However, in the early years he could not speak coherently so questioning was dificult. Therefore no answers were forthcoming to feed his developing and enquiring mind. He also found it very difficult to grasp, his jerky movements prevented him from producing the images and marks that he needed in order to represent something on paper.

The scribbling, so important in child development, both in letter-forming and in learning about life, had not taken place.

Together we developed ways to remedy this, it never being too late to learn!

Children usually draw and paint only up to the age when communicating with words becomes more efficient.

Of course throughout school they have to do "art” but usually not willingly.

Very few children continue to draw or paint throughout the teenage years and on into adulthood.
Those that do often develop cartoon or pop-art styles so as to remain acceptable amongst their peers.

So what happens in the psychological development of an athetoid boy who has difficulties speaking and cannot draw as he cannot hold a pencil?

Of coure, as a conductor I am always considering the whole personality as I work and with this child we discovered the way ahead through developing his art skills. We experimented and our creativity was amazing. The whole family was involved in producing tools and material that he could handle.

We cut up thick poles drilled them to fit pencils or brushes in. We experimented with painting in all positions, in sitting and standing, lying and kneeling.

At first I would be active in the process but by the age of nine this was no longer neccessary – huge pieces of paper acommodated his jerky movements, success motivated him.

My client began independently to produce the snowmen figures of a four-year old, which led on to the stick men of a six-year old and the forming of shapes.

Once children can draw shapes they can represent anything that they want to on a piece of paper. From circles, triangles, squares and rectangles they can produce anything, from a picture representng family relationships, to an animal, a car or a house.

We began looking for these shapes in the space around us and working out how to draw and paint them.

At 14 years of age my client was able to discuss an idea and tell me which materials he needed, which colours I could help him mix and indicate any assistance that he needed.

We developed from using cheap children's paint, we purchased artist's water colours, sable paint brushes, canvases and expensive watercolour paper. We cut the paper so small to encourage the finest of movement, we took care not to bend the bristles on the paint brush. We talked about stroking the paper lovingly and not scrubbing the floor!

Most importantly my client discovered he was creating works of art which were being noticed.

Then came the terrible teens, puberty and strike.

How can one motivate a 15 year old boy who has been involved in Bobath therapy, CE, riding therapy, physiotherapy, manual therapy and Tomates Therapy for his entire life, but never been in a football team, on a trip to the city alone, or had a paper round.

It was the last of these that held the key to the solution.

All of his siblings delivered papers and he was so dishearted that he had no opportunity of supplimenting his own pocket money in this way. He knew he was not able to put a newspaper in the letter box without tearing it.

We set about finding out what he could offer, what could he do.

He can paint. Then the answer can only be an exhibition.

Six months of hard work resulted in the first exhibition, in the autumn of 2006. The second one followed in spring 2008.

Both were professionally executed, with invitations (self-made of course), an opening speech (yes, his speech has developed so well that he composed it himself and delivered it in front of 30 people).

Both exhibitions were hugely successful he had orders to keep him busy for months.

These first exhibitions took place in the secure environment of the tiny village where he lives. Now he plans to ask his doctor if he can exhibit next year in the Children's Hospital in the nearest town, he is determined to organise it alone even down to the truck to transport the pictures!

Now at almost 18 years of age his motivation has returned, he is determined to be as independent as possible and understands that to achieve this he must exercise.

We paint, lying on the floor, sitting crossed legged, standing and stretching to a high canvas, kneeling and bending to a low one. He produces points for flowers or leaves with a finger tip or puts washes on giant canvases with a sweep of his arm.

With the painting planned, the size and the materials direct our "conduction”. We work far from the traditonal lying, standing, sitting and walking programmes which I learnt about in the Petö Institute, but the principles are all there.

The uncoordinated child I met at seven years of age, who become an agressive teenager, now stands before me as a confident, happy, young artist. Proud that he has learnt a skill which provides him and others with enjoyment.

In his village he is no longer seen as the disabled brother of his siblings, but as an artist.

Most importantly he is still "exercising”, he got through those rebellious teenage years through being given the feeling of success, finding meaning in his life.

He can contribute to the small community in which he lives.

He begins to realise that, the words of Ándrás Petö who told his clients they must "exercise” until they reach 80 , applies to him too.


The title painting to this blog is the first that is not one of my own it was painted by my client in 2006

"Petö by Painting" refers to "Painting by Numbers"

My comment added to 'Outside the Conductive Education goldfish bowl':

"Look for example at my lovely moon that we had yesterday evening. Point it out to non-disabled children and the questions will start pouring in, they will tip their heads and point at it and ask how far away is it, what is it made of, who lives there, the list is endless and endlessly creative.With disabled children do we even know if the child is seeing what we are pointing out. Can they tip their heads to look? Maybe they see 2 moons, a blue moon or a bright orange moon. If a child cannot speak, no questions get asked, do we anticipate the questions and provide equally creative answers?"

Unconditional Love (Faith and Hope)

I am still in the city of Liebe, szerelem, love. The 'Paris of the East'.

I have just read Andrew Sutton’s Easter Saturday blog “The Soul in Conductive Education”. My soul starting singing even louder than it always does when I am in this wonderful city.

I realised while reading that I really did understand what Dr Mária Hári was saying when talking about “kapcsolat”, contact, bonding an intelligent love from the very moment I had contact with her and her Institute. It would be nice to say immediately I stepped into the Pető Institute, but this is probably an exaggeration, although that is what it feels like now.

As I said in my last posting I felt immediately at home in Hungary, in Budapest, in the Peto Institute, but most importantly and also having had the biggest influence on me and my life, was that I felt immediately at home with Konduktív Nevelés, Conductive Upbringing.
I knew I had landed in the right place.

Throughout my training I thought I was learning by osmosis and not only in the first months when this was the only way because of the language.

Also throughout my training I often thought to myself: “this is common sense, it is all about life, about living. I asked myself why don’t all professionals working in this field use these methods."

Yes, we learnt the academic stuff, but it was the five hours a day, five days a week for four years working in a group which gave me, as a conductor, the “feel” of CE.

I learnt how much and how little to touch, how much and how little to talk, when to talk and when to remain silent, when to laugh and when not to laugh. I also learnt the importance of what Dr Mária Hári called the group atmosphere, which I believe is the most important ingredient in the recipe for a healthy Seele.

In the above-mentioned blog from Andrew Sutton ”The Soul in Conductive Education” he talks about faith, hope and love. Where would we be in our work as conductors without all three?

Somewhere along the way, in one of my periods of studying, I came across “unconditional love”. I think it was from Winnicott on good-enough mothering.

In my work as an art therapist and teacher this has always served me well, but as a conductor I believe it is what leads to the success of Conductive Education.

What ever happens, however tough the road is, the client must always be secure in the environment he finds himself in, surrounded by love. An unconditional love, an intelligent love. I think it is this “love” which Dr. Mária Hári called the “group atmosphere”. In my opinion this motivates the client to succeed more than any other form of motivation.

To achieve an atmosphere of security, full of hope for the future, where expectations are high, with a strong faith that these will be achieved, I believe should be the aim of us all.

"The Soul in Conductive Education”

Thursday 20 March 2008

Enriching my Soul at the World Famous Petö Institute

What a wonderful world, 2002, by Susie Mallett
I am writing this post from the Hári Mária könyvtár (library) in the Petö Institute, Budapest surrounded by the "Conductive Seele".

The actual building has changed quite a lot since I was studying here, but what about the Seele?

No, I can assure you all, that hasn't changed one bit, the Seele still oozes out of the orange, red, and green walls of the different floors. It can be felt in the voices of the conductors and it can be seen in their faces.

I hear the Seele singing through the corridors as I climb the famous stairs, past the crocodiles of children.

It is wonderful to be back, I feel like I have returned home, a seelische homecoming. My heart is light and once more I receive the confirmation that I have definitely chosen the right profession.

Old colleagues, friends and teachers welcome me back with open arms.

Strangers likewise.

Yesterday I was welcomed into the Mária Hári library itself, they were awaiting me. I was told many stories about András Petö and I was also able to read more of his work. I read some of his plays which, although typed, had handwritten corrections in the borders.

I was also able to find out more about the man himself from an 83-year old néne, (affectionate name, used like we would used auntie in English).
a conductor friend of mine introduced me to this lady in her own home.

Over tea and pogácsa ( savoury scones) I listened and was thoroughly thankful that I can still speak the language of the Maygars. This meant I could ask so many of the questions which were flooding into my brain and which this gracious lady answered so willingly.

I have enough information for a later blog.

This amazing lady had first received "treatment" from Petö in 1941, this was before he had an institute. He would visit her at her parents' house. Four years later, when she was twenty-years old and then working at the telephone exchange, she started to attend the twice-weekly evening group for workers.

Petö told her she would need to "exercise" until she was 80, which she has done and through Conductive Education she has lived, and still lives, an independent and active life.

This néne told me more than once that it was always András Petö's aim to bring the best out of people. This is the aim of all of us involved in Conductive Education, isn't it?

Monday 17 March 2008

Conductive Cooking

I don’t call this post Conductive Cooking only because when I cook with my clients it incorporates a standing programme, a sitting programme, a hand programme, maths, chemistry and whatever else cooking entails.

Of course the cooking includes all of the above and more, but this story about conductive cooking is as much about how we came to be cooking in the first place as it is about the actual physical activity of cooking.

I call it Conductive Cooking because of the conductive process which took place before the cooking could even happen, including the psychological changes which took place over the years, which are so necessary for this situation to have come about in the first place.

I have a group of CP adults, they have been coming to weekly CE sessions after their work for many years now. During this time they have developed into more and more independent young people. They are very much aware that their parents don’t get any younger and therefore will not always be there to give assistance. This group is highly motivated, with a central aim of reducing their dependency on others.

I enjoyed working in the Petö Institute in the “Workers' Group” mainly because of the group "Seele". I think that my evening group too has something of this atmosphere, it is very different to that of groups which take place during the day, during working hours!

"After Hours" groups are more like an evening class, not exactly a social gathering, but a coming together to learn something and at the same time meeting people and sharing experiences. We have all already worked a full day when we meet, then we have another two hours to get through. We are tired but none the less highly motivated. We have fun, we laugh a lot, we relax, we listen to classical music, we discuss everything under the sun and still seem to have time for a task series or two. All of it very conductive. All very much about living.

Now back to the cooking.

Last week I had an organisational problem, which meant starting the group 30 minutes later than ususal.
This was OK with all except one man who needed help with eating his evening meal and the late start would mean no help would be available.

Mária Hári often mentioned to us during our training how Conductive Education leads to spontaneity, activity and problem-solving and here I was on this occasion experiencing them all in a flash, in the space of less than 5 minutes.

A second member of the group, usually with a reserved manner, suddenly spoke up. Quickly and efficiently she solved the problem by suggesting that we cook that evening for her birthday, which would mean we could then eat in the group.

Between them, in the following five minutes they had the menu planned and the shopping and guest lists compiled.

A few years ago the woman who initiated this would not and could not have said 'Boo' to a goose, let alone have solved our dilemma!

Of course on the actual evening we did stand up to roll the pizza dough, we sat to chop the tomatoes finely, we walked to set the table and we bent down to reach in the oven, but the first conductive process took place in the weeks and years before, culminating in this perfect managing by the group of an unusual situation.

This is what I mean by Conductive Cooking.

The situation described demonstrates how it is the process of changes in the personality taking place through Conductive Education, parallel to the physical changes, that makes it possible for Mária Hári's spontaneity, activity, problem-solving and, of course, the team work to take place.

The pizza, by the way, tasted wonderful!

Thursday 13 March 2008

The Conductive Soul

The conductive soul

Some thoughts after a first reading of András Pető’s

András Pető was interested in many different schools of medicine and the effects that these have on different organs and bodily functions, and in turn how they affect people’s general well-being, their healthiness.

In the Unfug András Pető wrote not about fixing the soul and the body separately but healing all the parts of the body and its functions in order to heal a specific illness, whereas someone working more traditionally would just look at the specific symptom of an illness. András Pető’s method would lead to a healthy soul. The more that I read I came to understand that András Pető was using the word Seele in the same way that ‘the whole personality’ is used when talking about Conductive Education.

Die Seele (German) – ‘the soul’

This German word Seele is so difficult to translate or describe in English. Seele is a word that is felt rather than understood, not to be defined with a single word and maybe also not with a hundred either.

There is no single exact English translation of this very useful, meaningful word. In the dictionary we discover that it covers anything from the soul, to heartiness, to pleading, to the chest, the mind, the psyche, even to coughing up your guts and selling your granny!. All this and more is understood in the German language through using this one five-letter word.

By the way, the German word sounds a bit like the English ‘sailor’, not like the English ‘seal’!

What PONS, the big German-English dictionary on the Internet, has to say about die Seele:

die Seele aushauchen – to breathe one’s last
mit Leib und Seele – (literally with body and soul) – wholeheartedly
ein Herz und eine Seele – inseparable
die Seele aus dem Leib husten – to cough ones guts up
eine seelige Mensch zu sein – to be a good-hearted soul
es brennt auf der Seele – can’t wait (to do something)
jemand auf die Seele knien – to plead with someone
liegt ihm auf die Seele – is weighing on his mind
von der Seele sprechen – get something off one’s chest

Seelenfriede – peace of mind
Seelenheil – salvation, spiritual welfare
Seelenmassage – gentle persuasion
Seelenverkaufe – someone who would sell his own granny.
Seelenruhe – calm
Seelisch – psychological
Seelsorge – spiritual welfare

This selection shows how much die Seele is used in everyday speech in German and how little the word ‘soul’ appears in the translations into English. Does this mean the English are afraid to talk about their soul? Die Seele is full of meaning that cannot be expressed with English words except by using rather more. One has to know this myriad of uses in German before coming near to feeling the meaning of the Seele.

I have recently discussed the Seele with an Englishman (35 years in Germany, English teacher) and a German student (fluent English-speaker). The Englishman said that for him the only explanation of the Seele that he could give was the difference that he felt when listening to Aretha Franklin compared to Amy Winehouse. For me the Seele could mean listening to Joan Baez , Tina Turner, or Louis Armstrong. Whose Seele are we talking about in this case, the singer’s or the listener’s? Or a general atmosphere of Seele?

It is something to be felt and not explained? It is something to use to make life, work and communication easier?

Pető the mystic: Seele, atem, leben ( soul, breath, life)

András Pető wrote that these words are so near to each other in meaning that it is impossible to drawn a line between them. The Greek psyche, he wrote, means at the same time ‘life’ and ‘soul’. In many other languages the words used to describe the Seele include air, breath, breeze, mist, puff, whiff, as in breath of life, and demonstrate the closeness of the three. Pneuma (Greek) in the New Testament is the wind, a ghost and an intake of breath. Just as it is the nature of the wind to blow here and there, it is also the Seele’s. The Seele is always moving here and there, floating, invisible, untouchable when one grabs at it, when one wants to hold it; it is a floating, moving, breeze

He lists other words connecting breathing and Seele.

Sanskrit: anilis, wind; aniti, the breath
Greek: anemos, wind
Gothic: anan, breathing

Latin animus and anima, András Pető wrote, are two words with very deep meaning, that maybe could be translated into the spiritual soul Geistseele and the bodily soul Körperseele. In Arabic, the Seele breathes; it never rests, but moves in a rhythmical pulling together and pushing apart, joining with the breath outside the body, that is with the continuous breath/force of nature. In the Old Testament God breaths life into the souls of the people, (all three, the soul, life and breath)

The Seele that has had life breathed into it is the life of the person, the life of man is the rhythmic moving together of the life and of the soul, the seelische breathing:

‘the soul that stops breathing lives no more, it stops being a soul.’

András Pető: life and soul

In the western world we see the soul as something floaty and airy-fairy, the part that floats off when people die but to which we pay little heed while someone lives. Although we do say that someone is the ‘life and soul of the party’ we really mean something about the external character that livens up a room and not the inner soul. I think that he saw the Seele as more concrete, the whole personality, more tangible.

András Pető wrote about how yoga uses breathing. This section about the breathing is fascinating as to me there always seemed to be more to the breathing programmes in Conductive Education than anyone ever told us.

András Pető was thinking about a more concrete Seele than we think about in mainstream Western culture. Could it be out of his eastern/mystic influences he considered the Seele as being more tangible, not so altogether uncatchable as the Arabic that he quotes above suggests?

Die Seele in my conductive practice

I could not work without mine or without its being in touch with that of my clients and helping them be in contact with (or feel) their own. The clients cannot work to the full without the Seele being involved, without my first getting through to their Seele. But what exactly is it? Is it the inner voice, deep within? Not only the client’s Seele is important, and that of the conductor, but the Seele of the group, the atmosphere created, is also important. How does this come about?

Will this Seele remain if the construction of the group changes? Does a who or a what influence this tangible group Seele? The group Seele is certainly influenced by the individuals within it but is it strong enough to remain if a member of the group is no longer there?

I met a German parent a few weeks ago, in Reutlingen. He had recently had contact with several conductors in his search to provide Conductive Education for his daughter. He said: ‘There is a very special feeling when being around conductors’, meaning that it was also there with the other conductors. I am sure that he was talking about the Seele.

I am a conductor, I have worked with lots of conductors, and he is right. That feeling, that open Seele, is always there (when the conductors are good ones, that is). Without this presence, Conductive Education cannot or does not work effectively. The children do not respond well, the work does not flow and there are no smiles or loud laughter. With the Seele in action little verbal communication is needed to motivate and to achieve results, and the clients’ aims become more reachable.

Where does the Seele come from, how does it develop in Conductive Education? Why is it so important in Conductive Education? Is it part of the training curriculum, can one learn it? Do only people with Seele get involved in Conductive Education, or is it inevitable that this Seele develops precisely because of being involved in Conductive Education? Does the Seele evolve the more one’s understanding of Conductive Education deepens? I believe that it does. Conductors or academics must have a Seele to be interested in Conductive Education to begin with but I think the Seele becomes broader and more accessible, the more one gets involved, the more one understands the concept.

Why is the Seele so important in Conductive Education? It is because Conductive Education is about LIVING and HOPE. The doctors or teachers or therapists who offer despair instead of hope are certainly not developing their own Seele – or in touch with that of their patients and pupils.

How does this conductive Seele develop? Maybe through the interactions between conductor, parent and client, maybe with the introduction of hope into a despairing family.

How does one give a Conductive Education centre a Seele, especially in countries where no word for Seele exists? Seele involves communicating without words, being full of high expectations, respect, love, hope, fun, smiles, understanding, common aims. I certainly do not mean that it cannot be created in the UK, America etc, but it is certainly is difficult to describe what one is searching for. If I started to talk about ‘the soul’ in English I would be dismissed as a bible-basher, a born-again Christian. If I were to talk about ‘lightness of heart’ I might be accused of smoking dope, being high. The Seele is part of everyday speech in Germany and if I talk about the Seele in my professional role there I will be welcomed with open arms. How does one do this where there is no such word?

It is a word to do with feelings it involves the whole body, just like Conductive Education does. The conductor’s Seele is full of hope and expectations for everyone involved. Conductive Education works because of its expectations… back to ‘hope’ I think. A good definition of having a Seele is to be full of expectations and hope.


The more I understand Conductive Education the more I seem to work ‘instinctively’, through my Seele and not my brain.


Karl Otto Bärnklau (1965) Unfug der Krankheit—Triumph des Heilkunst, Hannau/Main, Verlag Karl Schustek

PONS Online German-English Dictionary

Wednesday 12 March 2008

A Book of Nonsense or Triumphs? A Book of Hope.

I have been reading a very interesting book recently.
The German title is Unfug der Krankheit- Triumph der Heilkunst, (The Nonsense of Illness the Triumph of Healing).

It is written by Dr. med. Karl Otto Bärnklau, who is in fact Dr. András Petö, the man who developed the system of Conductive Education/Upbringing.

This is the type of conductor that I am, one who works in the field of Conductive Education. I am not a conductor who conducts an orchestra. I do “conduct” in the sense that I see my role as a guide for people who, due to a dysfunction/ disability, are learning or relearning to live their lives, or in fact orchestrating their lives, in order to live that life to the full.

I am also an artist and an art therapist, an art teacher and keen a cyclist, and all the pictures that I have posted are my own work.

Back to the book - it is full of little gems, which I hope will give me an insight into how this system of Conductive Education slowly developed out of the very diverse interests of “Karl Otto Bärnklau”.

He was interested in traditional and alternative medical practices and also in eastern religions. There are lots of interesting snippets, on many subjects, to be found in his book.
I find the German sometimes incredibly difficult to read, but then sometimes very easy.

One native German speaker has told me the language is “hifalutin” in places, another says it is old fashioned and very nice to read, with its out of date style. I am really enjoying delving into it whatever the style of the language.

I am searching the book for all references to the soul which I believe may be the key to Mr. Bärnklaus ideas and work. Maybe I will discover what I mean when I talk about the “Conductive Seele”!

More about this later.


The HOPE in this title refers to the Saturday, 17 November 2007 posting Cerebral palsy: some hope at

Die Seele - soul/ mind/ psyche/heart/breath

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Take Three Girls

Three friends coming together from three corners of the city to watch a film.

I imagine the orange trio looked something like this. That's me on the left.

Monday 10 March 2008

Nuthatch, Csuszka, Kleiber.

I had to carry my bike in a couple of places through the woods one morning on my way to work. Luckily it is now light enough in the mornings so I didn't come a cropper. Trees had come down in the storms at the weekend and they were crisscrossing my path. Getting off to carry the bike meant I had time to observe a green woodpecker. Woodpeckers and nuthatches have such an interesting way of flying, down and up, like a pelmet. You know, like Alan Bennett would describe in one of his 1950 drawing rooms, curvy shaped pieces of board used to conceal the curtain rail.

Sunday 9 March 2008

Before I am old I shall wear purple!

I picked the colour purple for the dots on my world map in reference to one of my favourite poems…When I grow old I shall wear purple by Jenny Joseph. The poem suggests picking flowers from other peoples gardens and making loud noises, eating all the wrong things and at last, in old age, allowing oneself to feel alive.
It was once suggested to me that I try doing some of these things before I am old. To do things which inspire me and to be a little bit outrageous now! So this is why I picked the colour purple for my “Map Dots”, to remind myself to follow my Seele (German: soul, inner self), to let my hair down, maybe forget the spitting, but go for the satin sandals and the summer gloves.

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
with a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we have no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers from other peoples gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow fat
And eat threes pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week.
And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph

Saturday 8 March 2008

The Little Black Dress

A Blog should most certainly be inserted in the list of the 10 most important things a woman should have, alongside the cordless drill and the little black dress.
I have just received this Blog as a present and I look forward to seeing how it evolves.
Will it become an art gallery, a poetry book, a bike maintenance workshop, a conductive education forum or even my autobiography?
I can imagine something from them all and more, but we will see. In the meantime thank you very much for this amazing present.

Friday 7 March 2008