Questions

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Glenna Batson, faculty member at the 2017 Myrtle Beach Alexander Technique Workshop, encouraged participants to pose questions in place of  stating absolutes.  As an example, she defined the Technique with the question, ‘How do cognition and the senses become one?’

Questions she asks herself in the course of a day: Am I moving towards pleasure or pain?’  ‘What am I doing that’s excessive?’  ‘Who am I blaming for my current condition?’

This asking of questions is a relief from the futile attempt to have all the answers. Asking, instead of stating, allows for ease in my thinking, which then allows for ease in my physical structure as well. We cannot separate the two, mind and body, thought and structure. One of my most-used one-liners when teaching is, ‘As we think, so we move.’  And when we lighten up on our insistence for absolutes, and opt for questioning, mind and body benefit.

Inquiry is at the heart of the Technique, and the asking of questions invites curiosity and playfulness. May your day include a question or two about your Self, that glorious integration of mind and body. And as you inquire, may you be light of heart—

 

 

 

 

 

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For Those Who Are Weary

‘Weariness invades your spirit

Gravity begins falling inside you,

Dragging down every bone.’

Author John O’Donohue, in his book of blessings, To Bless the Space Between Us, has poetically described downward pull, and I’m guessing he didn’t even know it! Mr. Alexander observed that many of us habitually have our heads down and forward of the spine, which compromises head/spine balance. A feeling of heaviness and increased fatigue are often signs that we are engaged in downward pull. When head and spine are happily in optimal relationship with each other, we experience instead a feeling of lightness, along with a quiet and sustained liveliness.

O’Donohue goes on to offer remedies for weariness (and downward pull): ‘take refuge in your senses, open up to all the small miracles you rushed through.’   Cultivating our kinesthetic sense awareness is one of the principal practices of the Alexander Technique. We notice our feet on the floor, the contact of sit bones with chair; we invite the lengthening of our spine as the morning coffee is sipped.

He offers another antidote for weariness and its partner, downward pull: ‘Learn to linger around someone of ease, who feels they have all the time in the world.’ We find an Alexander Technique teacher who can model for us a different way of responding to the never-ending stimuli of daily life. And we linger. What a lovely word.

O’Donohue ends his blessing with this kind admonition: ‘Be excessively gentle with yourself.’  I shall. Whenever I think to, and wherever I find myself, which this morning, was at a new neighborhood bakery, Flowers&Bread.

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(With thanks to Sharon Stohrer, who gave me O’Donohue’s book. It’s a treasure, and  so is Sharon!)

 

 

 

 

 

At the Computer

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thanks, pixabay.  Look at that lovely balance of head on spine!

True confession time. I am a teacher of the Alexander Technique, and I have poor use of Self at the office computer. Pulling down the longer I type and read and scroll, I catch myself correcting with what I call ‘The Puff’— jutting out the chest, resulting in an over-arch of the spine. It’s an archaic understanding of what it means to be upright, a hold-over from my pre-Alexander days of life in a body.

In addition, my feet invariably will cross at the ankles and my legs draw back under the chair, applying excess pressure to the toes in contact with the floor. Unaware of this for a length of time, and, voila! Toe cramps.

As a long-time Alexander Technique student, and now teacher, I have not been ‘fixed.’ The AT study and teacher-training merely (and profoundly) provided me with the ‘means-whereby’ to coordinate mind and body in service of ease and poise. And this is an essential distinction for anyone interested in the Technique. We do not study to perfect ourselves, we study and practice to give our selves choices and options.

Quick fix? Nope. Useful tools for the business of being in a body? Yes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Away

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‘There is no away.’ This statement was in reference to the plastic trash in earth’s oceans, and the capacity of a single plastic water bottle to travel the world on ocean currents. An oceanographer made the comment in the sobering documentary, A Plastic Ocean.

There is no away. There is only here, where bits of plastic lodge in the bellies of water birds and hasten their deaths. Only here, at the grocery store this morning, despairing of finding buttermilk in a non-plastic container. Here, in the Heartland, where my consumer choices affect water health.

Our precious planet is 71% water. Our bodies are up to 60% water; the brain and heart 73% water. There is no away. Only us in our water bodies in a water world. We strive to keep our arteries unclogged for good health; why not extend our self-care to the waterways of lakes, rivers, and oceans? We study the Alexander Technique to take better care of ourselves and improve our quality of life; why not study and act on what will bring well-being to the water world beyond our individual ones encased in skin?

Yesterday, I walked into a menswear store and purchased a set of socks for my husband’s new suit. (The first wedding of the nieces and nephews is in April!) The clerk quickly and efficiently tossed them into a small plastic bag. ‘Thanks, but no bag please.’ It reminded me of Mr. Alexander’s Inhibition Principle. We merely say ‘No thanks‘ to habit and then observe what happens in place of the habit.  The socks fit handily into my purse and off I went. One plastic bag lighter. Just like when I inhibit a body-use habit and find that I feel lighter and freer.

Today, may we, pretty-please, say ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ to habits that no longer serve us or our planet—

 

 

 

 

Snow

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Yes. That white stuff is still floating through the air on this 13th day of March. It’s cold. I’m tired. My legs ache from yesterday’s strength building session (in preparation for kayaking season), and my spirits are flagging in the absence of bright sun. And what about our friends and family on the East Coast, braving their third storm in as many weeks?

But. The bluebirds have returned to the hill! M. and I saw a male/female pair flitting along the north perimeter lane on Saturday, their earliest showing yet. Within minutes of M. installing the bluebird boxes, the male was inspecting his housing options, perched on one of the box roofs, singing away.

So. The month of March does pull a person this way and that. In the Ohio Valley, one minute it’s spring and the next winter. What is left to do but flee to Florida? (Many Ohioans do) If that’s not an option, there’s also the choice to be present in the rain, snow, sleet, sun, cloud, wind, or bluebird sightings. It’s all here and all now in….May, did you say? Nope. Not yet.

The merry, merry month of May will arrive. 61 years on the planet have assured me of that. In the meantime, I pull overhead my favorite grey cashmere sweater, throw a wool scarf around my neck, and call myself satisfied. Pouring steaming ginger green tea into cups, Sharon Stohrer and I plan for future workshops. Content to be here. Grateful for now.

A fine day to you, whatever the weathers

Once More

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I have missed writing for Poise and Presence! And so….here’s a post written on returning from a recent workshop.

It was a winter Saturday afternoon at Ohio University’s Alexander Technique Audition Workshop. Singers were delighted with the resonant, full, and free sounds emerging from their mouths. The primary question was, ‘How do I keep this?’

The answer? ‘You don’t.’ Attempts to keep,  codify, cement, solidify; all fail. Why? Because they require stasis, and fine singing with good use requires movement and change.

Then. If it isn’t possible to keep a glorious sound forever, what are the options? For starters, come back to the present moment in which you find yourself. The magnificent singing is over, but this moment is yours. Claim it. Get out of your head, out of the loop which is replaying the past, that past when you sang your best ever. It’s gone. The sound waves have moved on.

Utilize the magnificent power of your cognition to think well in present time. Alright. Back here. Back to now. Returning to feet in my pink velvet heels. (Yes, a student was wearing a pair. Loved them!) Inviting length and width, merely by thinking of them.

And about those habits of use: right arm pulling in toward ribs, torso torquing to the left, thorax over-arched and off-balance with the pelvis. Note them, and be inquisitive. What might happen if you simply stop with the arm pull, the torquing torso, the over-arching spine?  What if there is no attempt to fix, but rather a decision to ‘NOT DO’?

Then sing. Watch. Observe. Feel. Fully engage yourself in the experimentation that is required to hone your singing craft. You’ll produce yet another glorious sound, particular to this moment.

Thank you, Ohio University vocalists. It was a lovely afternoon. Always give yourself one more chance. Once more, with feeling! Once more with presence, and yes, poise.

Signing Off

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2017 will soon be a wrap, and with it this blog. First posting was March 2016, and that’s a good long run. In 2017 alone, Poise and Presence had readers from 50 countries, almost 2,000 visits, and 42 followers.

The plan is to pull the blog contents off wordpress, followed by editing and reformulating postings. Who knows; I may publish a chapbook. Other 2018 writing projects include condensing 5 decades of journals onto a flash drive and also writing an account of my maternal ancestors’ 1834 migration from Virginia to southern Ohio’s Lawrence County. It’s a fascinating story for the nieces and nephews!

It’s been a pleasure writing to you each week, and exploring the intersection of the Alexander Technique and daily life. May you continue to pursue your interest in the Technique and make its principles and practices an integral part of your days—-

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