I have once wondered why people read as if they were trying to feel the words brushing against the tip of their fingers. I have once observed how musicians would move to the rhythm of the song they are playing, as if they were experiencing rather than expressing. I have once heard the phrase that explained these movements: “Limb Learning”
The very first time I heard this, I was about 9 years old. This was from my piano teacher at the time. He didn’t say it or called it Limb Learning; he called it “Arm Expressions.” He explained to me that in order to create emotions through music I would have to pour the emotions with my body language. I had to express the pressure of my fingers on the keys and the flow of my wrist and arms. Now, I didn’t get that at first, until my teacher showed me.
I observed: he slowly lifts his arms and then his wrist off the keys, almost like a wave, it becomes somewhat a guide for the melody to soften. This also showed how he gently returned his hands on the keys and moved in such a flow that the music seemed to be breathing; and yes, a different sort of mood was created, and for once I felt that the piece seems to be speaking.
The next time I heard of it was when one of my thesis professors in college, she told us to learn through our limbs. This is when I started calling it “Limb Learning.” As she explained it to the entire class, I was intrigued. She said it was learning through application and our senses, she said it is using our fingers, arms, and legs as an extension of our minds. She explained that if we wanted to learn something completely, or experience it to the fullest, we must use our limbs.
An example she gave was when we read books, she told us to practice reading it not just with our eyes but also with our fingers. She told us to point at the words we are reading and let it slide through the pages, allow your finger tips to feel the texture of the pages as well so our minds can remember.
She said it is the same when we appreciate music, that the next time we listen to music we should mimic the melody with our arms, almost like conducting it. Or maybe the next time we want to learn something or find something interesting, we must talk about it out loud and hear ourselves saying it, and feel the vibration of our voices.
She explained that using our senses creates a new learning environment for our minds, and we tend to remember these things we’re learning more provided that it has more to remember from. And since then I’ve used it, more than I can consciously recall; it has become somewhat an unconscious habit.
I started writing in journals, writing it with a pen and feeling the difference of my strokes depending on the emotion I was feeling and writing about. (And I noticed how the strokes really did change, harsher and sharper when I’m excited or upset, lighter and curvier when I’m relaxed) I started writing songs with my guitar and swaying my head or bobbing it to the beat. When I’m drawing the face, I try to feel my own to note the curves and its edges. I wanted to come up with ideas, so I took a walk and looked around. When I read, I use my fingertips, when I play the piano I move my arms.
Though it is not in books, and the term is not found in any psychology based research or some sort of therapy pamphlet, I do believe Limb Learning works. And somehow, because of this practice, my workflow and appreciation for learning grew. My mind demanded to be moved, my mind demanded to learn more. I became a bit more expressive, and this showed as well when I voice something out; I began to use hand gestures when lecturing or sharing something that I’m interested in, I became more excited and curious about life because I believe I desired to learn more, feel more, know more, and do more.