The semester wraps this week, and it’s a return to the rest of life. With the holiday season upon us, that’s good timing. To all the blog’s readers, I wish for you refreshment and restoration during the month of December. May your hearts (and bodies!) be light, and may you know the beauty of your existence on this one-and-only earth.
Best wishes for the holidays, and I will write again in the new year of 2020—–
Watchinga New Zealand rugby team perform the haka before a match, Paloma finds herself barely breathing in amazement at what she sees on the television screen. In a later journal entry, she writes this:
‘I’d noticedhim right from the start (a Maori player), probably because of his height to begin with but then because of the way he was moving. A really odd sort of movement, very fluid but above all very focused, I mean very focused within himself. Most people, when they move, well they just move depending on whatever’s around them. At this very moment, Maman just went by in the direction of the front door, and you can tell from the way she’s moving; she is headed toward. She’s going out shopping, and in fact she already is out, her movement anticipating itself…when we move, we are in a way de-structured by our movement towardsomething; we are both here and at the same time not here because we’re already in the process of going elsewhere, if you see what I mean.
To stopde-structuring yourself, you have to stop moving altogether. Either you move and you’re no longer whole, or you’re whole and you can’t move. But that player, when I saw him go out onto the field, I could tell there was something different about him. While the others’ dance gestures went toward their adversaries and the entire stadium, this player’s gestures stayed inside him…and that gave him an unbelievable presence and intensity.
So I watchedthe game attentively, constantly on the lookout for the same thing: compact moments where a player became his own movement without having to fragment himself by heading toward. And I saw them! I saw them in every phase of the game: with a player who’d find the right speed without thinking any more about the goal, by concentrating on his own movement and running as if in a state of grace. But none of them came near the perfection of the great Maori player who was running without moving, leaving everyone else behind him.’*
Paloma’s ‘heading toward‘ is Mr. Alexander’s ‘End-Gaining.’ My wish for each of us today is a moment when we are no longer getting ahead of ourselves, and can ‘become our own movement.’ No fragmentation or de-structuring required! It’s an Alexander-Technique-worthy pursuit—-
*The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery, 2008. Europa Editions, translated from the French by Alison Anderson.
(With thanks to Barbara H., who mentioned Barbery’s book, reminding me I was due for a re-read.)
…as the‘power of choosing one’s own actions,’ and also an abbreviated form of ‘William.’ Seeing only Women of Will on the book jacket, I eagerly picked up the tome from the library shelf, only to find in small print the rest of the title, Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays. Even better.
In Women of Will, Tina Packer writes:
‘Taking language into ourselves–having it spark in the brain, reside in memory, touching the cells in our bodies, calling up responses every time a word or phrase… is expressed–means that we are organisms in continuous response and action, creating our very being out of words.
With Mr. Alexander’s work, we are ‘calling up responses’ each time we utilize Directions to guide our thinking and thereby our bodies for optimal use of Self (body/mind). Although writing of Shakespeare, Packer’s words beautifully describe the process of the Alexander Technique.
We are, indeed, as AT practitioners, ‘creating our very being outof words.‘ Give yourself the gift of a few kind ones today—–
Miss Vivi, Extraordinary Guest Lecturer, will visit the OSU Alexander Technique studio today, providing students with the opportunity to observe ease-ful and glorious Use of Self.
She will, merely through being herself and exploring the world of the studio floor, demonstrate the second Alexander Technique ‘Law of Movement,’ as Barbara Conable terms it in her book, Learning the Alexander Technique:
II. In movement, when it’s free, the head leads and the body follows. More particularly, the head leads and the spine follows in sequence.’
The rest of us, to varying degrees, will demonstrate the first Law of Movement, as described by Barbara:
I. Habituated tensing of the muscles of the neck results in a predictable and inevitable tensing of the whole body. Release out of the tensing in the whole must begin with release in the muscles in the neck.
May you find yourself at ease today, practicing non-interference with your inherent balance and support. It’s available to all of us with a return to our beginnings—-
Have yourself a walk-about, and travel as if you did indeed have eyes in the back of your head. Notice what this thinking does for your inclusive awareness. Cultivation of one’s kinesphere* is integral to utilizing the Alexander Technique, and OSU’s AT class recently did so with a practice I call ‘Find Your Six.’
Include the six directions in your thinking as you move through the day: Below, Above, Beside, Beside, Before, Behind. Or, you could call the six directions: Earth, Sky, East, West, North, South.
*kinesphere: the sphere around the body easily reached while standing, and that moves with the person’s trace-form in space, (trace-form being the spatial consequences of our movement), as defined by movement theorist, Rudolf Laban.
Poise (pwäz), n. v., poised, poising. —n. 1. a state of balance or equilibrium, as from equality or equal distribution of weight; equipoise. 2. dignified, self-confident manner or bearing; composure; self-possession.
This one word delights, as it simultaneously addresses both body and mind. From The Use of the Self, Mr. Alexander writes:
‘I must admit that when I began my investigation, I, in common with most people, conceived of ‘body’ and ‘mind’ as separate parts of the same organism…My practical experiences, however, led me to abandon this point of view and readers of my books will be aware that the technique described in them is based on the opposite conception, namely, that it is impossible to separate ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ processes in any form of human activity.’
But how? How do we recover mind/body integration, lost by so many of us?
Observe. Inhibit. Direct. Repeat.
That’s Mr. Alexander’s ‘Technique,’ or, as Bruce Fertman writes in Teaching By Hand,Learning By Heart, ‘inquiry.’
‘The Alexander Technique is an inquiry into human integration, into what integration is, what restores it, and what disturbs it. It’s a foundational study. Integration underlies everything we do. The more integration we have, the easier it is to do what we’re doing.’
Here’s torecovering poise with body/mind integration—–
It’s the bestseason for cemetery strolls, so lovely when the leaves are turning, the fall breezes blowing leaves about, carpeting the ground. Union Cemetery, situated along the Olentangy River, is a long-time beloved one, now where John McCullough’s remains reside, catalpa tree branches bending over the grave site.
A distant cousinto Mike, John died in August. He was our mail carrier for many years, a kind and gentle man who often walked his route with Maggie, a neighborhood dog. John, his wife and their twin sons became an important part of our lives, especially after genealogical research revealed John and Mike were cousins, having the same several-greats grandfather. At the funeral, honoring John’s request, Mike read from the McCullough family Bible, discovered on-line during the research project. We are missing John, and will remember his generous spirit.
John Keats suggested this for a tombstone inscription: ‘Here lies one whose name waswrit in water.’ I like that. It captures the ephemeral nature of our brief time on the planet, and somehow makes me grateful to be in a body for the time being. How remarkable, this life, and then gone. But we are here today. Whatever your present endeavors, keep making, keep living, though it be ‘writ in water.’