Trying

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pixabay graphic

‘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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Truth

 

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thanks, pixabay! ulna and radius——

Truth-telling. Not enough of that in this present political age. Since I’m not in control of our society’s unleashed lying habits, I’m proposing to start here:

Be honest with myself.

Hmmm. As in, a long, hard look in the mirror?  What I see there these days is my mortality.

You too can stare death in the face with a read of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons From the Crematory, by Caitlin Doughty. It is not for the squeamish or faint-of-heart, but I found it to be bracing and yes, refreshing.  Death is acknowledged. No lies. No subterfuge.

My Alexander Technique teaching studio has two skeletons in daily use, along with multiple anatomy tomes.  Some students are uncomfortable with considering the bones beneath their flesh, and a bit of light-hearted cajoling is required for a engaged lesson of curiosity about the body and its structure.

Facing the truth of death and decay is to embrace living. In a death-denying and truth-negating culture, this can be a radical practice. Let’s begin with some courageous honesty all around, and who knows, we could be contributing to a new cultural norm; telling the truth!

 

 

 

 

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—-

 

 

Rumi Wisdom

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For my colleagues as we launch the academic year—–

You are the only faithful student you have.

All the others leave eventually.

Have you been making yourself shallow with making others eminent?

Just remember, when you’re in union, you don’t have to fear that you’ll be drained.

The command comes to speak, and you feel the ocean moving through you.

Then comes, “Be Silent,” as when the rain stops,

And the trees in the orchard begin to draw moisture up into themselves.

Rumi

Teaching is perceived as a ‘giving’profession involving a transmission of knowledge, from teacher to student.  Give, give, give.  There’s no better way to exhaust myself than to give, give, give.  However, if I am the student and my student is a student, ah, there’s the chance for engaged learning, shared problem-solving, the asking of “What if?” instead of, “Let me tell you what I know.”

“All others leave eventually.”  How true.  If I am a skilled teacher my students leave sooner rather than later. Students are suppose to learn and leave.  My first responsibility is to myself, not to my student.   This responsibility to self is an essential component of how Alexander Technique teachers are trained.  Teachers are required to tend to their own good use first and foremost.

Teaching is a balancing act, requiring the teacher to be the expert, the one who knows something the student might not, while meeting the student at a location of mutual exploration.  A teacher can squeeze the life out of a lesson with the need to assert oneself and be in control.  Teaching requires gently holding knowledge in one hand, and ‘I don’t know/let’s find out’ in the other.

The lesson is a partnership.  Here’s to participating with curiosity and questioning!  A rewarding academic year to all students and teachers recently returned to their hallowed halls—–