Saturday, October 27, 2012

Preparing for My Concert Tomorrow, with Alexander Technique

I have a concert tomorrow.

Habitual reactions to this idea have been surfacing over the last week, and more strongly today.
I mentioned this to a friend this morning, who, after encouraging me, promptly asked me, "Well, what is it that you really want from this performance?"

That question stopped me in my tracks (deep and perilous ruts of habitual thinking, actually).

What an excellent question!  What is it that I actually want?

It's funny how our own deeply-ingrained habits of a lifetime can hide our own truth from us so well!

I know very well what I want in life, but my habitual ego-reactions relating to my performance were causing me to lose sight of the fact that what I want in life is to be sought and found in every single moment - in fact, ONLY in the Present Moment, the NOW - and that includes whatever activity I am engaged in, including my performance tomorrow!

In my life, I want:

So, of course this is also what I want during my performance!

We performers know all about practicing and preparation.  If the above are my goals for my performance, as a subset of life, so to speak, then the best way to practice and prepare for my performance is to live these things NOW.

And when I stop to find the Now, I find that there is nothing else other than those things I listed.  In paying attention, I find everything is Here.  I have it All.

Smiling, I am conquering fear, because fear is an illusion - it ceases to exist when I slip into the infinitude of the Now.

This is inhibition.
This is direction.

The Presence of the Now is primarily in control, not my ego.
How absolutely wonderful.

I look forward to the Now of tomorrow, during my performance.  I wonder......!

Friday, October 19, 2012

My Experience Dealing with a Deficient Memory

Alexander Technique is about being exposed to a stimulus
becoming aware of our reaction or non-reaction, 
stopping whatever we are doing which is unnecessary and unhelpful, 
and directing ourselves into the next moment with conscious choice.

These days, I am noticing a familiar pattern in myself, and I'm going to write about ways I deal with it.  The topic is my memory - or lack thereof!

I don't have a "terrible" memory; I also don't have a "great" memory.  Of course, I have a memory - there is a lot I remember!  I always did well in school, remembering what was necessary for the tests; and I was able to remember long pieces of music without any problem.  My IQ is not low. But there is so much that I don't remember, too, and I constantly find myself in situations where I am expected to remember things but cannot.  This is a recurrent stimulus to me, which I must inhibit my reaction to, and direct myself well in response.

Here are a couple of examples of stimuli which have tempted me to react recently:

- I am an accomplished violinist, and I will be performing a violin/harpsichord recital in two weeks.  When I was asked a few days ago what is on the program, I could not recall more than two of the pieces on the spot.  Slowly, over the next few minutes, I remembered what I'd been practicing every day for some time, but it took much much longer than normal.  In fact, "normal" would be to be able to rattle off immediately all the details about the program.  Not remembering the pieces I will be performing is definitely not "normal"!

- A colleague recently shared all sorts of interesting information with me, a slew of facts on topics that I am actually interested in, and which I enjoyed hearing about immensely, but I knew that I would not be able to retain most (or any?) of what was said. If I had been tested on the material ten minutes later, I would surely have failed the test.  My goal while listening to people has often become simply to remember ONE fact from the conversation, and even that one often slips away.

How do I react to the idea that there may be something "wrong" with my brain?  
I smile to myself.  Truly.  Because I know it's not true.
Then, I inhibit the thoughts that tempt me to think things such as:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

5 Minutes to Conscious Control of Your Thinking, with Alexander Technique

Does it sometimes seem like your thinking goes around and around in circles and gets in the way of everything, keeping you from getting anything done? 

It’s really helpful in life to be able to think about WHAT you WANT to think about, WHEN you want to think about it. That can be very challenging sometimes, especially when you're feeling overwhelmed by many different things and are under stress.  So it's important to realize that this is a skill which requires PRACTICE! 

What if for 5 minutes every day, you actually CHOOSE what you’re going to think about? 

Here's one way to practice:

  • Set aside just 5 minutes, and make this "conscious-choice-in-thinking" time, or whatever you want to call it! Set a timer. This is a practice session. Very important:  DO NOT let yourself go longer than five minutes. When the five minutes are over, you can then CHOOSE AGAIN to do 5 more minutes, or to stop and go do something else, or to think about something else for another 5 minutes.  Or, you might choose a different length of time for your next session. 
  • Lie down on your back on the floor with your knees bent up to the ceiling, feet on the floor, head on a book or two (see link for more information on Constructive Rest Position, or Semi-Supine)

  • Then, take a moment to inhibit and think your Alexander Technique directions, if you know how to do this (if not, just rest without doing anything for a few moments; or, consider finding an Alexander Teacher to show you how to practice constructive rest - you will NOT regret this, as an expert's help with this is wonderfully insightful!).  
  • Now, CHOOSE what you want to think about as your activity for the next five minutes while you're lying down.  Are you going to think about work? food? relationships? travel? depressing thoughts? positive thoughts?  Anything is fair game for the next five minutes, but choose just ONE topic. 

You are training your brain to be selective in its thinking, to concentrate, to focus, to be under your conscious control...and that’s something we all need in life.  This is a SKILL that you absolutely must have to be successful at anything. You have to be able to focus your mind to get what you want! And you will never even know what you really want if you don’t have the skill of focusing your mind! 

A hidden bonus to this exercise is to gain the skill of STOPPING yourself from thinking about a certain topic.  This skill is at least as important as being able to stick to one topic.  You must be able to choose to stop thinking when it's time to move onto something else.  That's why setting the timer for 5 minutes and training yourself to stop is an integral part of this exercise!

Make a commitment to doing this every day for just 5 minutes. Try it every day for a week, or longer, and see what happens.  It really will work, if you make the commitment and PRACTICE. Even if you can’t do it for more than 30 seconds at first, PRACTICE this every day and it WILL get easier over time. 

*spiraling Image courtesy of Rawich /
* semi-supine photo courtesy of Imogen Ragone,