Conveyances

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Rain. Wind. A bumpy Chicago O’Hare landing. Hoofing it to next flight, I grab a rice crispy bar and scurry on.

As the packed plane pushes away from the terminal, I say to myself, ‘Only a 40 minute flight. Almost there.’  Brain ahead of body. This is called end-gaining* in Alexander Technique lingo.  Our pilot then informs us of weather delays.  And there we sit in the dark, rain pelting against the tiny window.

Time for some  Inhibition.*  I call it The Pause.  In pausing, I notice my head jutted forward. (Thank you, seat backs.) Bloated belly. (See rice crispy treat above.) I simply quit with my habitual response to discomforts. They remain, but I am no longer fighting them.

Next is the gracious giving of Directions* to oneself. Head on spine. This thought brings with it a gentle movement into length. Full contact of sit bones with seat.  Let the cushion receive gravity traveling through the body. Soften.  And so forth.

As the plane descends through cloud cover, a glittery scene presents itself. Columbus Ohio comes into view; a shimmering jewel, my home. We touch down, and I am grateful for the means-whereby* to have traveled with a bit of ease on subways, trains, taxis, cars, boats, and planes—-

  • *end-gaining:  to go directly for an ‘end,’ causing a misuse of the self, making the end unattainable.
  • *Inhibition: to inhibit is not to consent to a habitual reaction which causes a misuse.
  • *Directions:  use of words as an aid to organizing kinesthetic experience
  • *the means-whereby: Creating and using the best possible means to achieve any given end; pause, observe, choose, direct.

(Indirect Procedures: A Musician’s Guide to the Alexander Technique. Thanks to author, Pedro de Alcantara, for his AT vocab. definitions.)

 

 

 

 

Breathtaking

 

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moonrise, Myrtle Beach 3/11/17

What is it that takes your breath away? Most recently for me it was the full moon rising over the rim of the Atlantic Ocean, emerging from the scrim of a hazy horizon. It was four pelicans flying overhead, their wide wing-spans creating shadows on the sand.  And it was a shooting star, seen with a colleague at the annual Myrtle Beach Alexander Technique Workshop. (Thank you to faculty members:  Renee´ Jackson, Dale Beaver, Glenna Batson, and Robin Gilmore.)

Click here for the tune that kept circling in my mind’s ear as I wrote this post.  It was the theme song for the 1986 film, Top Gun. Never saw the movie, but the music was on the airwaves and became part of my life’s soundtrack.  Vintage 80’s!  a lyric excerpt:

‘turning and returning

To some secret place inside

Watching in slow motion

As you turn to me and say,

‘take my breath away’

May something or someone in your life inspire a breathtaking moment today.  A few days on the ocean guarantees a gasp or two or three, but the possibilities are endless, right where you find yourself. Turn and return to the beauty before you.

Soften

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anemone, soft coral

Coral beds can scratch and cut, and yet we jump in, all in the name of pursuing beauty with a breathing tube and googles.  And then there are the soft corals, undulating softly in the aqua waters.

My husband was working at the University of Hawaii’s East-West Center in the late winter of 1982, and I joined him on my ‘spring’ break.  After the gloom of Ohio’s grayness, Hawaii seemed surreal with its brilliant colors. The outing that stays in memory was an afternoon spent on a white sand beach, filled with families, both local and touring.  The abundance of whimsical striped and polka-dotted fishes, the coral bed hues of turquoise, pink and purple, astonished my Midwestern sensibility for the subdued, as this vast reef was anything but!

Fast-forward (a dated reference to the tape cassette, you younger readers) to 2015.  Mike and I vacationed in Hawaii for two glorious weeks with my brother Greg, sister-in-law Colleen, nieces Kenzie and Maddie, nephew Grant, and several of Colleen’s cousins. Snorkeling was a popular past-time and multiple beaches were visited for the purpose. Vibrant color and abundant life were found daily in the joy of being with my nieces and nephew, but alas, vibrance was not to be found in the coral beds.

This was disturbing.  Everywhere we went, the beds were gray, covered in a white-ish film that resembled yeast or a coated tongue.  Reading about the world’s dying coral reefs is one thing, snorkeling among them is alarming.  The corals, living creatures, are dying, their lost beauty a ‘canary-in-the-coal-mine’ reminder of what is happening to the planet’s eco-systems.

We live within the element of air, in the same way as the splendid creatures of the ocean live in their element of water.  Can we be as the elegant anemone pictured in this post, supple and responsive to water, as we can be to air and gravity?  Let us learn from these soft and beautiful creatures while they still live.  Give yourself the gift of the word ‘soften.’  Just a word.  So simple.  So priceless.

 

 

The Return

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Cincinnati, Ohio

It is the return to balance that is important, not finding balance and attempting to freeze it in place, thus producing the very tensions and holding patterns in the body which you wish to relieve.  The struggle to hold oneself in place is called ‘good posture.’  We will not be pursuing that goal.  Just keep coming back to your ease and freedom.  Be willing for something new to emerge; a recovery of balance and an integrated Self, able to engage in singing, speaking, standing, sitting, walking, running, you name it.

Come back.  Over and over again.  And then again. I was given an opportunity to practice The Return as I drove home after viewing the Cincinnati Museum’s DaVinci Exhibition. The drive is a 2 hour one, a flat farmfield route on Interstate 71; semis thick as thieves and road repair projects rampant.

Driving south, the coffee had kicked in, and anticipation gave me a buoyancy and lightness.  Not so much heading back.  The exhibition had been a disappointment.  I wanted to be amazed at the constructions of DaVinci’s inventions, but with a few exceptions, I wasn’t.  Staff was nominally friendly and several of my fellow guests were loud and intrusive.

As a result, on the drive north, I found myself in full-blown Downward Pull (tension in the neck, bringing head down and out of alignment with the spine). Noticing a habit is the most important step to benefiting from an Alexander Technique practice.  And then, having noticed, do nothing.  That’s right.  Under no circumstances are you to attempt a ‘fix.’  Observe.  Non-do.  Often that’s enough to get out of your own way, and the body in its infinite wisdom will thank you and move into length and width.

Should you wish a bit more encouragement for your Self than doing nothing, you can kindly provide a prompt.  Something like, ‘I allow my head to move up.’  Ohio University Opera Workshop students were given this one for their first week’s exploration of the Technique.  For the AT novice, this can be a challenge.  In giving oneself a prompt, the impulse is to accompany that prompt with effort. No need. Let the mind and the body cooperate with your intention.  They will, and happily.

Many Happy Returns of the Day to You—–