In Alexander McCall Smith’s MyItalian Bulldozer, Paul is driving his rental machinery through the Italian countryside, and this happens:
‘…he felt as if he were suddenly lighter, able, if he wished, to float upwards and look down on the track, the trees, the farmhouse, the cluttered yard. It was a form of intoxication, a relief from self, a feeling of a sort to accompany being picked up by the wind and effortlessly borne away to a place that it alone decided.’
McCall Smith has aptly described the experience of release from downward pull. Students new to the Alexander Technique invariably use some version of the word ‘light’ to define their altered use of self.
And if you are seeking a light and heart-warming read, look no further. He has written several series; my two favorites are: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, set in Botswana with Mma Precious Ramotswe, and The Sunday Philosophy Book Club, featuring Isabel Dalhousie of Edinburgh, Scotland.
You have a pair of them. They are also known as the scapula, two shields on your back for protection of the ribs and lungs. Unknown to many is the happy fact that these ‘wings’ fly. Yes, they do. Try it out for yourself.
Ask someone nearby to place the palms of their hands on each of the scapula. Next, extend your arms out and up from your sides, initiating the movement with your fingertips. Both you and your someone will observe the scapula also moving out and up with the arms.
If you sufferfrom a stiff neck, try a little flying motion every 20 minutes or so as you sit at your desk, affixed to the computer screen. Bodies love to move. Get re-acquainted with your angel wings and take flight. And may you be lighter on returning to your earthbound desk.
(Thinking of you, dear nephew Colin, as I wrote this post. Your wings are so beautiful. I am wishing you well today and every day.)
We have a choice. We can view the natural world as scenery akin to a stage backdrop, or we can experience the natural world as a living being, the element in which we live. This was the primary take-away on reading David Abrams, The Spell of theSensuous.
It was summer 2009, and the annual Seven Oaks Alexander Technique Workshop was giving its gifts, including the discovery of Abram’s book, tucked onto a musty library shelf in the guest house. His writings dove-tailed beautifully with the daily AT sessions, and on leaving, I tucked the book into my suitcase.
Lest my readers think me a thief,be assured I purchased another copy and mailed it to the Seven Oaks Retreat Center, preferring to keep the wrinkled and worn copy of my happy find. Immersing myself in Abram’s scientific yet mystical world was akin to a previous summer’s reading of Diane Ackerman’s, A Natural History of the Senses.
As August ends,and the fall flurry awaits, either or both of these books will cast a spell over your habitual ways of viewing and being in the world. Here’s to a little magic –
Robertson Davies, in Curiosity Recaptured: Exploring Ways We Think and Move, makes this observation:
‘Commitment to the Alexander Technique is a lifelong sentence…… But it keeps the body alive, at ages when many people have resigned themselves to irreversible decline. It keeps the mind alive, for it demands unceasing vigilance.’
It’s 1:58 p.m., and the eclipse apex here in Ohio will be at 86% and occur around 2:30 p.m. The sunbeams on my office floor have disappeared, and the view out the window is one of the approaching darkness of storm. But there is no storm! Alert to the light, I watch; keenly aware; vigilant.
Driving to a neighborhood park, I see hundreds of people congregated around the library, where viewing glasses are being distributed. No one is hunched over their phone. Spines are long, bodies lengthened toward the skies, unceasingly vigilant to the wonder of the eclipse.
Alert aliveness is ours to claim, not only as we marvel at nature’s spectacular events, but also in the mundane routines of our daily lives. Here’s to ‘unceasing vigiliance’—–
(Thanks to Ellen and Phyllis, who traveled to Kentucky for the total eclipse, and told me all about it today. Wonderful to be with you both.)
What a concise, crisp word! To be fit is to be healthy and well, robust and vigorous. But what about illness, surgeries, accidents? Stuff happens. What then?
The Alexander Technique principleof body-mind integration is not another something to add on to the recovery list of physical therapy, rest, diet modification, exercise. Instead, this principle increases the benefits of all your recovery options.
An example: stretching. In post-hip-replacement physical therapy sessions, I was admonished to see how far I could go, and to count. Always counting. Stretch for 10! Stretch farther for 15! How about 20?
Counting takes me out of my body and into my mind. I prefer to be engaged in mind/body cooperation. And whadda ya know, when the choice is made to just find the edge of the stretch and be present to sensation and the body’s response, I can attest, the stretching is much more beneficial. Try it! Let me know how it goes——
Driving to Bangor Airportat dawn, I call out farewells and thanks to the Benjamin Point doe and fawn, the ever-changing waters of the Eggemoggin Reach, Bridges Point beach covered in worn-smooth granite, Brooklin General Store with its daily provisions of pastries and wine, the post office white trumpet flower, set in a big pot right next to the drive-up mailbox, and last, but not least, the clapboard cottage down Steamboat Road, where Susan, Ric and William are sleeping.
Sadness of leave-takingsAND gratitude for time well-spent. Quality of life is enhanced when AND takes precedence over BUT. AND gives us so much more of the big wide world in all its contradictions, variety, and wonder. BUT takes us to the narrow confines of either/or, black/white, yes/no, good/bad.
Practice of the Alexander Technique is the practice of AND. I am in this body AND in my office, the city, and all of life beyond. I am walking AND considering my use; head on spine, long and light. I tend to the sight-reading of the piano piece, AND I enjoy the stability of sit bones on bench.
Good bye, Maine. AND, hello to home and husband——-
Stuck in an airport, thwarted from an on-schedule travel day, I text my sister a litany of traveler’s complaints. She responds, ‘I hear a future Poise and Presence posting in all of that!’ What a great idea. I was too consumed with annoyance to consider it. My mood alters for the better. I re-align. Thank you, Judy.
The mind re-aligns from anger to acceptance. No psycho-babble required. The Alexander Technique principle of Inhibition suffices. After pausing and observing the disappointment, a prompt can be given for the head to release away from its compression on the spine. Body re-aligns from downward pull to length and lightness.
The plane did depart Columbus. (Eventually) Downtown Philadelphia did appear. (In a cloudless sky, no less.) The AA staff found a seat for me on a new connecting flight to Bangor. Yes, a planned-for Maine afternoon was lost to the confinement of airport terminals and plane cabins. AND yes, a warm welcome at the Petry’s awaited, on the evening shores of Eggemoggin Reach.