A routine skin check at my dermatologist office becomes a surgical intervention on Monday morning. A growth is removed for biopsy. No worries, just caution! The procedure itself involved a beautiful silver miniature scalpel, with which Dr. C. gouged out a crater. I exaggerate, but only slightly.
The injection of a numbing solution caused the startle reflex, and one of the nurses in attendance was kind enough to place a calming hand on my shoulder. I was then happily oblivious to pain until its effects began to wear off.
On the way to the pharmacy, I experienced searing pain. Observing the pain and my reactions to it allowed me to co-exist with the discomfort. My perception widened to include the whole of my physical self, my thoughts about the pain, and the aisles down which I walked to select my purchases.
Did the pain diminish?No. What changed was my relationship to it. I attribute this habit of mind, that of self-observation, directly to an on-going Alexander Technique practice. Startle, downward pull, contraction, one-pointed focus; all are responses to pain which can be ameliorated with attention.
And thenthe Advil did its job, taking the edge off the pain. What a team! AT and Advil.
Greetings, dear readers!The season of flurry and fuss is upon us and a few Alexander Technique ‘words-of-wisdom’ are in order. Let’s re-visit the benefits of Constructive Rest. Changing your relationship to gravity, even if only for a few minutes during the day, can have restorative effects.
This change happens when you lie down on your back, feet on the floor or yoga mat, hands comfortably at your sides or resting on your chest. Choose a firm surface, and prop a thin paperback book or two under your head. That’s it. You have given yourself a little present. And as you return to uprightness for your day, CR is truly ‘the-gift-that-keeps-on-giving.’
If you’d like to get fancy, you can, while lying prone, also give yourself a couple of prompts. “My neck is free.’ Or—-‘I allow my spine to lengthen and my torso to widen.’ Activate your kinesthetic sense by giving your attention to the places where your body is in contact with the surface on which you are lying.
And then, it’s on to the business at hand, with light in your eyes, and a lilt to your step!
Rescuers transport dogsfrom disaster areas to safety. Rescuers placed themselves in danger to save those caught in the fury of California wildfires. And then there is this rescuer of vintage and antique dishware, found at yard sales, thrift shops and yes, curbside trash piles.
The desire to rescue is a strong one, whether it be puppies, people, or vintage dishes. As an Alexander Technique teacher, I do battle with this powerful impulse, because rescuing is the last thing I ought to be doing with my students. And here lies the paradox: I wish to help my students but will only interfere with their learning if rescue is what I try to do.
Instead,the task of the teacher is to practice good use of oneself and permit the lesson to take its course. Always I have a plan. But, I have learned that in being present to myself and to my student, the lesson plan becomes a springboard to what really needs to happen. Rescue? NO! Attentive and aware? YES!
In our presentpolitical/societal climate, the stimulus of blaring headlines is powerful and the impulse to track news stories throughout the day overwhelmingly compelling.
And here is where I can practice The Pause. I did it just a few moments ago, when sitting down to my office computer. It’s Election Day. Wondering how the polls are being attended, I almost chose to go down the News Story Rabbit Hole.
But didn’t, choosing instead to access my wordpress site and do some writing. Here I am, with you, instead of with the endless news cycle. Yes! This is what practicing The Pause is all about. We catch ourselves in a habitual response, and with a slight pause, we can then choose what is best for us in this moment.
Cory Taylor’s bookwas recommended by a local librarian, after I told her I was looking for a good read, and appreciate a well-written memoir. What a gift, public libraries!
As a person viewing the world through an Alexander Technique lens, I am always on the look-out for well-expressed descriptions of what Mr. A. called The Self, the body/mind in which we each reside. Taylor provided an excellent one. She is writing about her childhood experience of body and consciousness:
‘I never thought of my body at that time as something separate from the bodies of the dog, or the kookaburra, or the mother cat up in my sister’s sock drawer. And I certainly didn’t think of my body as separate from my consciousness. They were one and the same thing, consciousness being a bodily sensation, just like sight, or touch, or hearing.’
We study the Alexander Technique to recover our childhood connectivity to the natural world, and to restore our body/mind integration. It’s a return to our inherent structure and our place on the planet, and does not require adding on something new. May your Alexander Technique practice bring you the poise of your youth today—–
‘There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice ‘the bloom of the present moment’ to any work, whether of the head or hands. I love a broad margin to my life.‘ Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Most of us do not make Thoreau’s choice to sequester ourselves in the woods. As we sit in traffic and arrive home to feed the children, is it possible to delight in a ‘broad margin’ to our lives?
Thoreau arranged his Walden Pond life in such a way that he could stop what he was doing, whether physical labor or mental exertion, and indulge in ‘the bloom of the present moment.’ For parents of young children, not going to happen. For the person commuting two hours each day with a full office day between, I don’t think so.
Perhaps we have opted to acquire a few more possessions than Thoreau, prefer central heating to a wood fire, and have tossed a few kids into the mix. How about a broad margin right in the midst of that life? Let’s find out if it is even possible by allowing the present moment to bloom, whatever that moment holds.
thanks, pixabay. This photo reminds me of fall kayak paddles.
We are at the zoo.Three generations: a two-year old, a 30-something, and a 60-year-old. In rapt attention at the glass enclosure wall, we watch two tiger cubs tumbling over each other in the morning sunshine. The moment shimmers with beauty and our amazement. And then the two-year-old says, ‘But I want to see the apes!’ His mama responds, “Yes, we will, but we are here now, with the tigers.’
What a vignette for an illustration of end-gaining, a term Mr. Alexander used to describe the habit of striving to arrive at the end-goal, get to the next place, satisfy our desires and wishes, complete our task. In attempting to arrive at the ‘end,’ we lose ourselves and the present moment.
This end-gaining habit starts early in life. Of course. We are born with a mind, and a healthy toddler has an active one. And so begins the life-long learning of mind/body integration. My body is here; my mind is there. Now what?
Follow the coaching of this child’s mother, and you will be on your way. Acknowledge that, yes, you would like to be done, you would prefer to be at the next place, you are getting just a little bit ahead of yourself. And then, notice where your body is in that very moment, and return to NOW.
That’s a primary practiceof the Alexander Technique, so useful for the arts, for self-care, for the living of life itself. It also comes in handy at the zoo—