The habitualcan 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:
‘Eggmakes 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.)
Poised while sick? Present while miserable? Wha-a-at? For 8 days of the holiday season, poise was given short-shrift, resulting in additional discomfort as my body assumed the downward-pull position and pretty much stayed there. However, in retrospect, I can speak to the benefits of being present.
By co-existingwith the onerous manifestations of flu, noting them as I suffered from them, the primary observation to be made is that flu symptoms are variable. They intensify, then subside. It was instructive to observe the ebb and flow of sickness, resting in the ebbs, persevering in the flows.
So there is that. It’s the most positive spin I can give to living with the Alexander Technique and flu simultaneously. Keep those hands washed, rest well and often, with my best wishes for a healthy winter—
Morehousewas crowded the day after Christmas. So many people living with cancer, which is who the ten floors of the facility are dedicated to serving. My name is called and I settle into the registration seat. The clerk has photos of her two young grandsons displayed on the cubicle wall, along with a scrap of paper containing the Dr. Seuss quote above. Unexpectedly, while just going through the motions of my annual thyroid cancer check-up, I am delighted to find, in Dr. Seuss lingo, a breezy summary of the Alexander Technique.
I’m consideringadopting it as my response at the next dinner party when asked, ‘What is the Alexander Technique?’ As we begin 2020, I wish for you a year of living well with life’s many questions, and the happiness of occasionally discovering good answers—-
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—-