Trying

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‘Part of my difficulty is that I am always trying to be right. I must stop this trying to be right, for immediately when I try to be right, I do things wrong  (i.e., in the old way that feels right).  I must cease this trying to be right.’

That’s Goddard Binkley, in The Expanding Self, a memoir of Binkley’s Alexander Technique training. His journal entry continues:

Inhibit this tendency (to try and to be right) and I shall then be free to project the guiding orders, that is to direct my neck to be free, and my head to go forward and up. Moreover, if I can inhibit this tendency, which is so overwhelming, to try and be right, I can then allow nature to assert itself.’

Yes. That. What he said. Quit with the trying. That’s all this Alexander Technique teacher has to say. Just stop with trying so hard. Often the trying has produced the physical tensions and misuse, and merely stopping will be enough to restore ease and poise.

 

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Air

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Worthington Presbyterian Church vocalists are meeting every Thursday night this month, preparing summer season solos and receiving coaching from me and from colleague, Sharon Stohrer.  Talk about lifelong learning!  Here are women, several of them in their mature years, continuing to make beautiful music as they hone the craft of singing.

They are an inspiration to this singer of 60 years.  To inspire is to ‘infuse an animating, quickening, or exalting influence into.’  To inspire also means ‘to inhale’; ‘to take air into the lungs.’  Isak Dinesen wrote this about her Ngong farm in Africa:

‘The chief feature of the landscape, and of your life in it, was the air….Up in this high air, you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart.’*

The sound we produce rides the breath.  Soundwaves require air.  It’s what they travel on. And each full and good inspiration has in it the potential to inspire as the lyrics and melodies reach the ear of the listener.

May you breathe, and yes, sing, with ‘lightness of heart’ this first week of summer—–

*Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen, 1937.

Standing Still

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thrush, photo courtesy of pixabay

With new walking poles in hand, I traipse through the pine woods on an enchanted April morning. Meandering over the animal trails, I eventually pause in a small forest opening, catching a glimpse of a thrush hiding in low branches, waiting me out.

How often do we get to be face-to-face with a bird? That’s what happened next.  He studied me carefully, decided I was no threat, and continued his routine, hopping along the pine needle carpet, his beady black eyes intent.

Let’s redefine what it might mean to stand still. When I’m teaching choristers, they are encouraged to observe the support of their feet.  From there, they can let the body move ever so slightly in a figure-eight pattern.  These micro-movements prevent fatigue and fainting, both a hazard for choral singers who often stand in place for long periods of time.

Standing still in this lively way brought so much more of the world to my notice.  On leaving the forest opening by the same path, I now saw spring beauties, the bleached jawbone of a woods creature, a wooly-worm, and heard a deer snort nearby.  None of these wonders were in my field of attention on arrival.

Whether bird watching, singing, or waiting in line at the grocery, remind yourself that standing still can bring the world to you, and does not require freezing in place. May a few moments of lively stillness be yours today—-

 

 

Dressing for Ease

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“What should I wear to my Alexander Technique lesson?”  My answer:  ‘Wear what’s comfortable. Nothing special or particular is required.’  However, I do have a few directives for my own daily dressing:

No more heels. Hallelujah!

Denim on occasion, not everyday.

Natural fibers only. Cotton and linen are go-to’s, with some wool, if it is soft and light.

Camisoles exclusively.  Read:  NO bras.

 

Comfy Shoes: Easton Shoes  on Kenny Road. Owners Lenny and Marcia Comeras travel the world to bring Columbus the finest in footwear.  Finn Comfort, Hartjes, Thierry Rabotin, Mephisto, are a few of the brands carried.   Bi-annual sales make these shoes affordable.

Denim:  Just wear Second Yoga jeans, and forget about it.  You can get a committee-selected* pair at Cheesecake Boutique in Upper Arlington.  Pay the money and don’t blink.  * (Staff weighs in on the best look and fit. No baggy butts allowed!  Very fun retail experience, which says a lot, coming from shopping-averse me.)

Natural Fibers:  Still working on this one, and relying on friends for assistance.  Current-Paris-resident, Julie Donnell, swears by anything Eileen Fisher.  This line is way out of my price range, and I have yet to purchase any of their pieces.  Sales do exist. Susan Petry is gifted at finding fine fabric pieces in thrift stores and second-hand shops, so that’s always an option. (see photo’s aqua scarf for an example of the treasures that await your next thrifting expedition)

Camisoles:   A clearance rack at Anthropologie in the Short North District provided me with the best-ever-camis.  They don’t roll up my torso, and have one side v-neck, the other scooped.  Shelf-bra tops are an excellent alternative to camis and can be found at my favorite location for a mammogram, The Stephanie Spielman Breast Center.  The lobby houses a gift shop! amoena is the brand name.

Have a rollicking good time shopping your way to comfort——- 

Moss on the North Side

‘A home with moss growing is a happy home.’  —Marth’s mother.

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photo courtesy of pixabay

Moss grows on the north side of our city home and also the cabin on the hill.  Green loveliness even in winter months, if it stays mild as it has this season.  Other markers of a happy home?  A well-swept front porch. Rooms that receive natural light. The scent of cinnamon. A tea kettle in frequent use.

And the happy domicile equivalent of the body?  You’d be surprised.  Quiet is a good indicator.  I’m referring to the sounds of walking, climbing and descending stairs, in-and-out-of-chairs.

As an Alexander Technique teacher, I’ve been astonished at how much I rely on my ears to assess a student’s use.  Certainly the auditory sense was front-and-center as a voice teacher, but I had no idea the ears would be so important to my AT teaching as well.

Sweep the porch of your Body/Mind.  Receive light and love with the open window of your heart. Surround yourself with a pleasing scent. Sip tea. No need to seek quiet as a goal. That would be what FM called ‘end-gaining.’ AT teacher, Pedro de Alcantara, has this to say about end-gaining: ‘to go directly for an end (a goal) causes a misuse of the self which makes the end (goal) unattainable.’ (quote from Indirect Procedures: A Musician’s Guide to the Alexander Technique)

Peace and quiet with soft moss underfoot is my wish for you this fine day, both in your body-home, which the Elizabethans called the ‘bone house,’  and in your shelter-home.