The habitual can be a great comfort. I am a creature of habit and glad of it. Living an ordered life works best for me. However, fresh perception can be a delight, a surprise, an awakening, and often requires a change of habit.
In the practice of the Alexander Technique, we foster change in our habitual use of our Selves, re-activating our kinesthetic sense, which allows us to be in a state of readiness for what might happen next. A creative impulse, perhaps? A turn of phrase that has been elusive in a writing project?
Twyla Tharp, in her 2003 book, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, offers a series of exercises for cultivation of our creativity, and I’ll be adding one of them, The Egg,* to an OSU Alexander Technique class. Here’s her description:
‘Egg makes you move. I can’t say enough about the connection between body and mind; when you stimulate your body, your brain comes alive in ways you can’t simulate in a sedentary position.’
Yes! Body/mind Integration. It is this very habit of use we are developing as we learn the Alexander Technique.And then there’s the bonus of vignette’s from Tharp’s life and work. An invigorating read—
*The Egg: Sit on the floor, bring knees to chest, curl head down to knees and make yourself as small as you can. Having become as small as possible, you can only expand. Begin. Move. Occupy a bit more space. See what shapes your body seeks. Observe.
(With thanks to AT student, Michaela, for introducing me to Tharp’s, The Creative Habit.)
Best teachers, ever.
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—-
‘She has eyes in the back of her head.’
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 to recovering poise with body/mind integration—–
A doe has been in the back garden since yesterday afternoon, her front hooves tucked under her like a cat, her ears trimmed in black rotating like the disks of an observatory. Her eyes are dark and luminous, ringed with long thick black eyelashes. Why she is there, I do not know.
With dear friend Paula at the house for afternoon tea, we mused on the deer settled in the asters. Is she near death, about to give birth (wrong season), hit by a car? As we wrapped up our visit, Paula said, ‘Maybe she will rest and be alright.’
Calling the Ohio Wildlife Center for help, they requested photographs for an assessment of the doe’s condition. All agreed her coat is healthy, her face lovely and alert. Thinking perhaps a hip was dislocated in a possible encounter with a car, it was explained to me deer will recuperate, or attempt to, with a long period of rest.
There’s been a lot of resting going on in Alexander Technique class, too. Each session begins with Constructive Rest. It’s week ten of the semester—an operetta was performed by several AT students over the weekend, dancers are preparing for their upcoming concert, and academic demands are high for all.
To each of us today, those with two legs and those with four, rest well and be restored.
Avert: to turn away or aside: to avert one’s eyes
One word became a lifeline. Having re-lived countless times the heartbreak of a friendship’s end, this word came to my attention just when it was needed. I was ready to make a new choice.
I chose to avert my gaze, so intently directed inward at the friendship’s demise, and re-direct it outward to the deep green of trees lining the bicycle path. That ride is my first clear memory of benefiting from this practice, but there were many, many more times the choice was made, until, finally, the thought loops quieted, and I was able to live more fully and in the present.
If the Alexander Technique could be reduced to one word, as students were asked to do at Tuesday’s mid-term, mine would be ‘choice.’ Instead of relying on habitual responses which may not serve us well, we ‘turn aside’ and choose something different. The learning of the Alexander Technique focuses primarily on choices which affect our use of the physical self, but the basic concepts can also be employed for habits of use which involve emotions and thought patterns.
May you have a happy moment with a friend today—
(photo courtesy of pixabay)
‘Trying is only emphasizing the thing we know… let go of the wrong thing, and the right thing does itself.‘ F. M. Alexander
Me: Alright, Mr. Alexander, I will try. Oops. I mean, I will ‘let go of the wrong thing.’
FM: Yes, and the right thing does itself.
Me: ‘The right thing does itself‘? Does that mean do nothing?
FM: Well, yes, but it doesn’t mean that nothing will happen.
Me: Is this a zen koan? I’m confused.
FM: If you do what I did, you can discover what I discovered. Explore. Think. Apply thought to use.
(OK, then. Here’s an exploration: Sitting in my desk chair, I observe a thigh grip as I type this imaginary conversation between Mr. Alexander and myself. While quitting with the ‘grip,’ my feet seemingly move of their own accord, sliding back toward the chair legs, thereby relieving the thighs of their grip.)
Me: How was that, Mr. Alexander? Did I get it right?
FM: No. The right thing did itself, which is much different from getting it right. You did not do the right thing. You did not DO. Congratulations.
Dear Readers: Make of your daily life a laboratory, and play with all the possibilities for moving in new ways—-