Robertson Davies, in Curiosity Recaptured: Exploring Ways We Think and Move, makes this observation:
‘Commitment to the Alexander Technique is a lifelong sentence…… But it keeps the body alive, at ages when many people have resigned themselves to irreversible decline. It keeps the mind alive, for it demands unceasing vigilance.’
It’s 1:58 p.m., and the eclipse apex here in Ohio will be at 86% and occur around 2:30 p.m. The sunbeams on my office floor have disappeared, and the view out the window is one of the approaching darkness of storm. But there is no storm! Alert to the light, I watch; keenly aware; vigilant.
Driving to a neighborhood park, I see hundreds of people congregated around the library, where viewing glasses are being distributed. No one is hunched over their phone. Spines are long, bodies lengthened toward the skies, unceasingly vigilant to the wonder of the eclipse.
Alert aliveness is ours to claim, not only as we marvel at nature’s spectacular events, but also in the mundane routines of our daily lives. Here’s to ‘unceasing vigiliance’—–
(Thanks to Ellen and Phyllis, who traveled to Kentucky for the total eclipse, and told me all about it today. Wonderful to be with you both.)
What a concise, crisp word! To be fit is to be healthy and well, robust and vigorous. But what about illness, surgeries, accidents? Stuff happens. What then?
The Alexander Technique principleof body-mind integration is not another something to add on to the recovery list of physical therapy, rest, diet modification, exercise. Instead, this principle increases the benefits of all your recovery options.
An example: stretching. In post-hip-replacement physical therapy sessions, I was admonished to see how far I could go, and to count. Always counting. Stretch for 10! Stretch farther for 15! How about 20?
Counting takes me out of my body and into my mind. I prefer to be engaged in mind/body cooperation. And whadda ya know, when the choice is made to just find the edge of the stretch and be present to sensation and the body’s response, I can attest, the stretching is much more beneficial. Try it! Let me know how it goes——
Driving to Bangor Airportat dawn, I call out farewells and thanks to the Benjamin Point doe and fawn, the ever-changing waters of the Eggemoggin Reach, Bridges Point beach covered in worn-smooth granite, Brooklin General Store with its daily provisions of pastries and wine, the post office white trumpet flower, set in a big pot right next to the drive-up mailbox, and last, but not least, the clapboard cottage down Steamboat Road, where Susan, Ric and William are sleeping.
Sadness of leave-takingsAND gratitude for time well-spent. Quality of life is enhanced when AND takes precedence over BUT. AND gives us so much more of the big wide world in all its contradictions, variety, and wonder. BUT takes us to the narrow confines of either/or, black/white, yes/no, good/bad.
Practice of the Alexander Technique is the practice of AND. I am in this body AND in my office, the city, and all of life beyond. I am walking AND considering my use; head on spine, long and light. I tend to the sight-reading of the piano piece, AND I enjoy the stability of sit bones on bench.
Good bye, Maine. AND, hello to home and husband——-
Stuck in an airport, thwarted from an on-schedule travel day, I text my sister a litany of traveler’s complaints. She responds, ‘I hear a future Poise and Presence posting in all of that!’ What a great idea. I was too consumed with annoyance to consider it. My mood alters for the better. I re-align. Thank you, Judy.
The mind re-aligns from anger to acceptance. No psycho-babble required. The Alexander Technique principle of Inhibition suffices. After pausing and observing the disappointment, a prompt can be given for the head to release away from its compression on the spine. Body re-aligns from downward pull to length and lightness.
The plane did depart Columbus. (Eventually) Downtown Philadelphia did appear. (In a cloudless sky, no less.) The AA staff found a seat for me on a new connecting flight to Bangor. Yes, a planned-for Maine afternoon was lost to the confinement of airport terminals and plane cabins. AND yes, a warm welcome at the Petry’s awaited, on the evening shores of Eggemoggin Reach.
It was my third day in Maine. The Writer’s Almanac for Tuesday, July 11, 2017 posted Rosie King’s poem, ‘Again.’ Her words expressed so well the experience of driving the familiar back roads of the Blue Hill region, walking the granite-strewn shores, and ending each day raising a toast with long-time friends.
Now is alwaysand forevermore becoming then. How is it that we manage to function in this confusion of time? Having traveled once again for the ‘crush of old sweetness’ that Maine offers up, I found myself in moments that gave, and yes, vanished.
Students ask, ‘How do I keep this balance and ease? What can I do to preserve this lightness of body and spirit?’ My answer is, ‘Don’t try to keep it. Don’t try to preserve it. It’s past, gone, over. Now we are in a new moment, and it is here that we return to ourselves.’
And so I too take instruction, from myself and the Alexander Technique, and continue rolling through the precious hours and days that are Maine. Here again, and again, and again.
May your magic summer placefill your heart and restore your body and spirit—–
Two handfuls of new.That would be Josephine. She slept nestled in her carrier on the living room floor as laughter, song, and chatter swirled. A band of rosebuds adorned her head, and with chin resting on chest, her rounded cheeks resembled a chipmunk’s full of nut treats.
So this is what new looks like. We who have been here awhile miss new sometimes. Our skin sags, our spirits lag, our curiosity dampens, our love of life somehow diminishes. Josephine is ‘all in,’ as the expression of the moment goes, and the rest of us long to live as she is, whether it be a dedicated nap or seeing June’s green for the very first time.
We all arrive in bodies and then there is the challenging business of living in them. We start out with inherent ease and balance, then lose it by degrees as we enter the world of schooling, of societal expectations, of familial patterning. Returning to poise and presence is possible, and I encourage you to—-
—find your ‘new’ today. It may be as simple as bending from the hips to look through your legs at an upside-down-world, or finding yourself renewed, as I was, in the fine company of a newborn.
(Next week I’ll be in Maine. Thursday posts will resume on July 20.)
Those ears! Sitting on the east porch with our morning coffees, we catch a glimpse of a deer along the meadow’s edge. The ears are prominent, sticking up above the grasses and bushes, one turning to its side, then the other. They remind me of the rotating scopes atop mountains, scanning for signs of alien life.
Mike and I were the aliens, and the doe was alert to our presence. Her eyes now visible, she studied us, and as I began to hum an improvised tune, she stepped forward. One step. Two. Stopping. Another step.
To be a Deer Whisperer, the following is recommended: Pause before singing. Feel your feet. Note the breeze bringing your scent to the deer. Receive your listener with an open heart. Have no expectation for a response. Send the sound wave and wait.
Back to the doe.She listens. She steps closer. Her gracious head leads with her graceful body following, just as Mr. Alexander exhorted us to do. She was born for beauty, and as I watch her finally leap back into the pine woods, she takes my breath away.
Let a four-legged creature be your Alexander Technique teacher today. Cats, dogs, hamsters or deer; all have something to teach us about living well in a body.