Friday, December 20, 2013

An Exercise in Moving from Our Curiosity, with the Alexander Technique

Have you ever watched a toddler toddle through her day?  Where her curiosity goes, her eyes and body follow.  Her head turns towards where her eyes are looking, and often she wants to touch what she sees.  In order to touch, her body must move, so off she goes!

When we are very young, everything in this world is fresh, just ripe for us to discover for the first time.  Curiosity is what motivates and moves us.  As we get older and things become more familiar, curiosity tends to wane, and we slow down.  We become more stagnant, relying on things such as television, conversations, and books to stimulate our curiosity and our imagination.  Gone is the constant desire to touch something new and interesting, and the fully-integrated will to move becomes dormant.

How can we rouse ourselves up out of stuck stiffness, lack of vitality, and poor coordination?

Get curious!  Do you really think you know everything about everything in your space?  Even if you've seen the same things a million times, I bet there is something about every single object near you that you don't know.  Why not get curious, and find out?

The Alexander Technique re-awakens our curiosity and improves our coordination.


  • Without turning around, are you sure you know exactly what is behind you?  The exact color? Texture? What it feels like with your eyes closed?  How it smells?  What it sounds like if you rub another object on it, or tap it gently?  Are you sure you know every possible thing it's useful for?  I bet you don't. Are you getting curious yet?  Do you want to turn around to see what's behind you?  (Wait a moment...don't do it yet....!)
  • First, remember that you're FREE.  You're free to stay put, without any curiosity at all.  You're free to stay stuck.  You're also free to get curious!  And, if you want, you're free to move!  (But wait a moment...don't do it yet....)
  • If you'd like to turn around to look, try this: first let your eyes move all the way to the right, without turning your head, as far as they'll go.  Then let your head turn, too, then your spine, then your whole body.  Keep looking and turning, and feel the urge to reach out to touch whatever it is you see.  Let your body follow that urge to bring your body close to the object.
  • You are free to just look, and free to touch.
  • Now, find something across the room that you could get curious about.  What do you think it might feel like?
  • Let your eyes lead your head to lead your body to bring you over there.
  • Practice like this:
Freedom
Curiosity
Eyes
Head
Spine
   Limbs  

Is the quality of your movement different than usual when you move yourself from a place of curiosity?  I would love to hear about your experience!  

Enjoy! :)

"Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Are You a Creative / Performing Artist? 10 Questions for You

Hello!

I'm in the midst of an arduous and thrilling process to re-design the Alexander Technique programs that I do.  That means doing some market research - for the first time ever!

If you are a creative or performing artist, I would LOVE to receive your feedback on an important survey of ONLY 10 QUESTIONS that I've put together.  Your response is important, because the programs I'm designing are for you, and other people very much like you.

HERE IS THE LINK:

What are your challenges as an artist?  What keeps you awake at night?  What kind of programs would you be interested in taking part in?  What do you want to learn?

Please take a few moments to answer the survey questions - I would be most grateful!

I'm also offering a free Breakthrough Session to ten of the respondents who complete the survey.  Maybe you'll be one of them! :)

Thank you in advance for your time and thoughtful response!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Teaching, Gratitude, and the Alexander Technique

What does it mean to me to teach with the Alexander Technique? 

Above all, Gratitude.

I've written about Gratitude before (see this post: Embodying Gratitude).  I do not have enough words to express the All of Gratitude, but here are just a few more.

Gratitude, to me, is an experience that feels enormous, huge, wonderful, fantastic, awe-inspiring, essential, and infinite.  Gratitude is about receiving down to generously offer up and out, with endless expansion. It is such a key to the best of everything that I am confounded about why I forget so often to live in awareness of this gift!

Teaching...

to be one who is open to receive, and ready to pour
to be in the presence of one who is open to receive
to see the one before us open to receive, waiting for us to pour
to receive what comes to us from above, knowing that ego has no place here
opening up the whole self to the Grace that is constantly pouring, waiting for us to open up to It, taking off the lid-covering of ego
letting Grace pour down from on high, filling the chalice that we are
letting It stream down through this body that is lived in, dripping through feet to the floor, spreading
realizing that in order to contain this Grace, we must rise up, growing strong, grand, and great
a chalice of malleable gold, with strong, sturdy walls and a very high rim



in order to receive infinite Grace, the chalice must grow infinitely large
ready to pour out a faceless Generosity

Grace - full
Full of Grace

there is no smallness in true Gratitude, because everything is here
no smallness in true Generosity, because everything is given
no smallness in true Humility, because nothing is left

simple awareness of the awe-some greatness, the enormity of Grace that descends
to full-fill the original design, the intended space of the mind-body-person that is lived in

the other side of the sense of greatness is the disappearing expanding space of humility
ego-I becomes nothing, no longer interfering
leaving a chalice, royally and divinely rich with nothingness
empty, clean and pure
ready to be filled and poured again and again and again of eternal Bliss

true teaching must be the receiving and pouring of the most subtle Grace
which illuminates the world
in the instant the teacher disappears






Saturday, November 2, 2013

Rising Above Feeling Bad, with Alexander Technique

Here's another practical application of using AT "Freedom Directions" (see recent blogpost) in response to an unpleasant incident, in which I felt put down by a friend.  My process:

First, I felt bad in response to the incident, but there were no conscious negative thoughts at the time - I just realized that I felt bad.  When I sat down to work through it, I quickly wrote down the first thoughts that came to mind, without censoring them:

she shouldn't have said that
she isn't nice to me
she doesn't respect me
she doesn't realize or acknowledge or appreciate what a positive thing I did
she puts me down
she makes me feel bad

I am free to be nice to me
I am free to respect myself and take care of myself

she is free to say whatever she wants to say
she is free to think whatever she wants to think
she is free to not respect me and to not be nice to me
she is free to not "get it"
she is free to put me down
she is free to make me feel bad
she is free to offend and criticize me

I am free to feel put down
I am free to feel disappointed that she doesn't get it
I am free to feel bad
I am free to feel hurt, offended, and criticized

I see that I am putting myself down by reacting, causing myself to feel disappointed, to feel bad, and to feel hurt and offended
I am free to do that, and to keep doing that if I want to
I am free to stop putting myself down by reacting/thinking in certain ways
I don't like this feeling, and I want it to stop
I want to feel good and be happy

I am free to stop doing what puts me down
I am free to feel good
I am free to think good thoughts about myself
I am free to think that I am good, in order to feel good

I am free to smile and be happy
I am free to celebrate that I have overcome this challenge
hurray!


*Image courtesy of anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Direction of Universal Energy with Alexander Technique

We don't know much, but it seems that there is agreement in the scientific world that universal energy expands.  (Please correct me if I'm wrong on this, and enlighten me with anything more specific you might know about it!)

If that is so, then I can use that within myself (since I'm alive, and this mind-body energy within me is part of this universe).

Sure, you could say that's very abstract.  But how can I make it immediately practical?

Here's one way, which I am experiencing right now, so I know it works for me.

- I become aware of a very strong emotion at work within me - I feel its energy.
- I notice that there is direction to it.  What do I mean by that?  Well, I notice a sharp constriction in my solar plexus and throat areas (chakras, according to some).  As I pay attention to the sensation, I realize that there is a constricting, narrowing, tightening, compressing, contracting energy that is aiming inwards.  It is not expansive.  It is therefore aiming away from life and towards death - if we define life as the universal energy (I know I'm on shaky ground here, but bear with me - I'm doing my best to make it simple and practical).
- I don't like how this feels, in fact it is quite unpleasant.  I can almost say I hate it (but not quite, because I'm interested in it.....hmmm....that's interesting......as soon as I notice this, I realize that part of me actually loves it, and suddenly my face smiles and I breathe)
- I could just stay with the above realization, but something in me wants to investigate my first idea, which is a bit different.  So I notice the constriction again.  I want it to go away.
- Noticing the constriction, I choose to stop doing whatever it is I'm doing to cause that.  (Interesting again - as soon as I think, "I am stopping," it goes away!  ... but then it comes back as soon as I stop thinking that.....)
- Again, I could stay with the previous discovery, but I really want to try out the spatial direction of energy idea...
- So as I notice the constrictive inward direction, I remember that I want that to stop, and I choose to aim this energy in the opposite direction; what I mean is, I want those areas in the middle of me to aim outwards instead of inwards - I want the energy in me to be re-directed into expansion, like a shining sun. 
- Ah, that does work.

...So many ways to Rome.....with Alexander Technique ideas of observation, inhibition, and direction.

Smiling, breathing, shining out again.  And balanced, too, because the inward energy still lives in me, too, even as I am aiming out.....

Always more to explore!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Putting Alexander Technique Freedom Directions into Practice in the Now

I love my work.
I love when I practice what I teach, and to share my experience.

Here's an example of how I am using my Freedom Directions (see last post), right now, in real-time.

I notice that I'm feeling sad, and I don't like it.
Well.....

Now, I remember that I'm free to feel sad.
And I'm free to let sadness move within me and through me.
It moves me, emotionally, mentally, and physically..... I move.

I am free to move.
I am free to be moved by something I do not understand.
I am free not to understand, and free to simply experience what is happening right now.
I am watching the experience of this body-mind-person.
I am free to let the body take on whatever shape it moves into.
I am free to wonder about it...I am free to think whatever I think about it, and feel whatever I feel about it.  I am free to continue wondering and watching.
I notice that I am breathing freely.
I am free to breathe.
I am smiling....free to smile.
I want to aim up.
I am free to aim up and out and long and wide.
I remember that my body is free because I am free, and that includes my neck.
My neck - this neck that I am aware of - is free.
My head is free to aim forward and up, free from the spine, free to be poised above.
My torso is free to move, to breathe, and to free up.
I am freeing up.
I am feeling happy.
How nice.........

Directing into Freedom with the Alexander Technique


Hi!  I'd like to share with you the new sequel to my first podcast adventure (I wrote about the recording experience in a recent blogpost). These two talks, which are for anyone (but will make the most sense to people who have already experienced Alexander Technique work), are about a new way to use Alexander Technique thoughts to direct our body-mind-person into improved use.  I'm calling these directions "Freedom Directions", as per the great suggestion of my friend and colleague, Robert Rickover, who is conducting these interviews. Here are links to both podcasts:


Part I ~ http://bodylearning.buzzsprout.com/382/112493-an-interesting-new-development-in-alexander-technique-directing


Part II ~ http://bodylearning.buzzsprout.com/382/123626-an-interesting-new-development-in-alexander-technique-directing-part-2


I've written a few posts about freedom before, but these two podcasts bring my ideas together in a more comprehensive way.  I'd love to hear what you think about them, especially your experiences in trying them out.  So far, I've been getting lots of great feedback, and I'm so excited to share these discoveries with others and find that they are helpful!

Another wonderful AT teacher, Imogen Ragone, has also talked about the Freedom Directions in a recent podcast.  Here's a link to hers: http://bodylearning.buzzsprout.com/382/119822-the-power-of-alexander-technique-freedom-directions


***

See a real-time example of one way that I put Freedom Directions into practice for myself in my next blogpost:
http://balanceandharmonyat.blogspot.com/2013/10/putting-alexander-technique-freedom.html

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Great Thoughts and the Alexander Technique ~ A Daily Practice

I started a new personal daily practice about a month ago.  Every morning, I open up my mind to finding/creating a "Great Thought", which then becomes my personal theme for the day. I've decided to post my GTs here, in case they might inspire you to start your own GT practice. You can use mine, of course (GTs are pretty universal, so they don't "belong" to anyone in particular), but I think finding/creating GTs yourself is potentially a more powerful practice, since it is something that comes from deep inside of you.  That said, using a GT from someone else can work just as well if you let it resonate with the core of you which does in fact "own" the same GT.

Why are GTs important?  Because they give structure and meaning to your day, and bring you closer to what you really want.  I think it's very important to formulate a GT in the present tense, and it's important to formulate it so that you can really believe it (which is why it might be easier to create/find them yourself).

In case you're wondering what a GT has to do with Alexander Technique, I see it this way: AT is about improving our use of the body-mind.  The mind and body are inseparable.  Good thoughts are not just mental - they go hand-in-hand with the well-being of the body, so if you are choosing to think good thoughts, you are using your whole self well; you are going in the right direction.

Where does inhibition fit in?  Inhibition happens when you choose to stop thinking in the usual way for a moment and open up your mind to the possibility of letting a new thought arise.  Conscious, constructive direction means knowing that you want the new thought to be one that will take you into a better use of yourself.

Today's GT:

10/15  I am in the process of strengthening (through the practice of open awareness and repetition) the good thoughts that make me feel happiness. I am free to feel happy!

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts about this post, and - especially - about your own great thoughts!  Share them here, and you are likely to inspire me and others, too!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Becoming Strong with the Alexander Technique

Learning how to be strong....from the inside out.

I used to think I didn't "have" muscles.  I thought I was weak.  Do you know what those thoughts can do to a person?  What you think is what you get.  I wasn't weak, and I definitely had muscles, but I did not experience strength because I told myself those things, and I believed those thoughts.

Do you believe that you are weak?  Do you want to feel strong?

First, you must realize the thoughts you are feeding to yourself, and you need to realize that your body is innocent - it wants you to be right, so it gives you the experience of what you believe, to make it true.  If the body were to talk to you, it might say, "Oh! You believe that you are weak? That you don't have muscles?  Well, I love you so much that I want you to have the pleasure of being right!  I'm going to prove to you that you are weak, and make it true.  I will use my muscles less so that you get a sense of lack of movement and start forgetting the natural range of motion available to the joints...maybe the muscles will even atrophy someday so that you can feel really justified in your beliefs."  And the body will do this, because you are not sending messages to it to counter this process.

You are feeding the body false thoughts, and the body is giving you an experience to "prove" to you that you're right in believing those thoughts.  And then, you FEEL lack of movement and lack of energy and lack of power....so your beliefs are reinforced, and you continue to think the same thoughts - which are becoming true, little by little.

Is that what you want?  What DO you want?  To be and feel strong?

If that's what you want, don't believe your limiting thoughts!  Stop taking for granted that your thoughts about yourself are true.  Question them.  And stop thinking the ones that you don't want to be true. Don't trust how you feel in your body and rely on that.  Rely on your THINKING, and CHOOSE what you want to think!

What you think IS what you get!

1. Become aware of what you are thinking  ("I am weak, I don't have muscles")
2. Decide what you don't want, and what you want (I don't want to be weak, and I want to feel that I have muscles that work and have full range of motion, and strength; I want to be and feel strong)
3. Remember that you are FREE TO CHOOSE what to think and what to stop thinking (you are free to continue thinking those thoughts, or to stop thinking "I am weak, I don't have muscles"; and also free to think "I have muscles; I am strong!")
4. Don't pay attention to feelings in your body that are trying to convince you otherwise
5. Stick to your intention; stop what is unhelpful, and direct your thinking towards what you want, with meaning
6. TRUST your mind-body connection, and have the PATIENCE to keep this up.  In good time, you will start to feel strong, but mostly because strength begins in the MIND, and you are making your mind very strong by practicing this conscious, constructive, self-control.

If you actually do this, you are likely to be amazed by the results.  More and more, you will have opportunities to see that, indeed, you ARE much stronger than you ever thought.  Enjoy!

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, September 6, 2013

Finding My Voice with the Alexander Technique & Podcast

One of the many things that the Alexander Technique is extremely helpful for is meeting and overcoming challenges, so that at times it seems we are achieving "the impossible".  I wrote a blogpost recently about some of the personal milestones I've achieved in my life with the Technique, and I'd like to write about another milestone I achieved just a couple days ago, which means a great deal to me.


I was extremely shy as a child, always preferring to stay on the outside of a group, observing for quite a long time before daring to join in.  I didn't feel understood by other children, and I didn't feel that they really listened when I spoke to them, so after awhile I didn't bother to speak much anymore.  I knew that I could express myself fully through playing the violin, so I spoke through that instrument instead of through my voice.  Which was great for my music-making, but not so good for developing my speaking skills!  

Realizing that deficit, I took a speech class in college, hoping to overcome what had turned into an unpleasant fear of speaking in public - but I quickly dropped the class when I drew a complete blank on a poem I was supposed to recite from memory.  When I won an award for my violin playing a couple years later from TIME magazine, I needed to give an acceptance speech in NYC; I don't think I spoke more than three sentences, deferring instead to the expression of my recorded music playing in the background.

So....a very surprising and completely unintended benefit from learning the Alexander Technique has been that I can now feel quite comfortable speaking in front of an audience.  I now enjoy teaching group classes (oh, how nervous I was the first time!), and I even speak with ease to audiences about my baroque violin during concerts.  

The latest milestone in this regard has been a podcast interview that I recorded a couple days ago for Body Learning, a comprehensive online resources for the Alexander Technique.  These recordings are listened to by teachers and students of the Technique alike.  Yes, I still experienced some performance anxiety before the recording began, but I thoroughly enjoyed taping the conversation.  

Sometimes I wonder....who is this new person emerging with a confidence and abilities I never knew I had before?  Yes...little by little....I am at last finding a way to express mySelf through my vocal mechanism in addition to the violin.  What a wondrous gift this Technique is!!

Here's a link to the podcast interview, if you're interested.  It's about making good use of our innate free will, but it will probably only make sense to you if you are already a teacher or student of the Technique.  Enjoy!


*Image courtesy of Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Unhelpful, habitual thought-patterns can be stopped with Alexander Technique

I just finished teaching an Alexander lesson to a student who is learning about some of her habitual ways of thinking which interfere with the sense of freedom that she would like to have in her life.
Instead of compiling a list during her lesson to reminder her of what some of these thought-patterns might be, we decided to do some more hands-on work at the table, and I said I'd post the list in my blog, as it might also be useful for others to read about.  So....here it is:


Some "Red-flag" phrases that can alert us to notice 
when we are thinking in a habitual, unhelpful way:

- I'll try, I'm trying (implies effort)
- but (implies contradiction, argument, conflict, fight, tension) (good substitutes: "and" or "I wonder if...")
- I can't (implies limitation, restriction)
- I'm not allowed to  (implies limitation, restriction)
- I'm supposed to (implies obligation, lack of freedom of choice)
- I should (implies obligation, lack of freedom of choice)
- I have to, or I need to (implies obligation, lack of freedom of choice)
- I like / I don't like (there's nothing wrong with having likes or dislikes, but it can become an obstacle to get too stuck or fixed in our likes and dislikes, which creates rigidity and lack of tolerance and flexibility, and puts us into a restrictive box with a label on it of who we think we are)
- I am "shy" or "afraid" or other negative labels/qualifiers (these are limiting and restrictive)
- I'm just (this diminishes, implies limitation)

I'm not saying that these words and phrases are always negative, or that they should never be used. Sometimes, depending on the context and the intention behind them, they can be used constructively.  However, for most people most of the time, they are just unhelpful, habitual ways to make ourselves smaller, throw ourselves off-balance, and out of harmony.

So how to work with this?

1. Become aware of it when you use one of these "red flag" phrases.  Notice how they make you feel.  Do they make you feel empowered, expansive, and free, or do they tend to make you feel smaller, constricted, and helpless?  Get curious about this, experiment with thinking these thoughts and observe the results they produce.

2. Remember that you are human, and therefore are endowed not only with habit, but - above all - with the gift of free will.

3.  Decide to make good use of your free will by choosing first to accept how things are right now - even if it's something you don't like (such as having a habitual thought-pattern that is unhelpful). 
"I am free to think this, feel this, do this, be this, experience this, etc."

3. You are also, above all, free to choose a different way of thinking.  You can think:  "I am free to stop my habitual way of thinking, and choose what to think next:  I am free!"


Some new ways to think 
in order to make good use of your free will:

- I am free
- I am free to be "in habit" - to have habitual ways of thinking/doing which are unhelpful
- I am free to be human 
- I am free to feel ___________________.
- I am free to think __________________.
- I am free to want / do / be / experience _____________________.
- I am free to transcend and transform myself by stopping the habit of thinking unhelpful thoughts, forgetting to make good use of my free will
- I am stopping The Habit, right NOW, just by thinking in this new way
- I am free, no matter how I feel
- I am free to continue remembering that I am free!


I'd love to hear about your experiences if you decide to try this out.  Also, I'd love any suggestions to add to my lists above!  Thanks!

*"Image courtesy of kibsri / FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Personal Successes with the Alexander Technique

To me, the Alexander Technique is a huge help in overcoming life's constant challenges.  So many times in life, I have been presented with an opportunity to do something that I thought was impossible.  But, by staying open to the possibility that it might be do-able, and by applying the principles of the Alexander Technique to that end, I have witnessed seemingly miraculous transformations in my life.  Some of them may seem relatively small to the outsider, but to the person who thinks something is impossible, manifesting that thing into reality really is a miracle.

Today, I feel the need to celebrate some of my life's successes.  Why?  Because life isn't just about aiming relentlessly forward and up into the future, it's also about appreciating and feeling gratitude for what is behind us and for what we have overcome.  Our back is a very important support for our body - just as our past is a support for our present.  Another reason I'm going to look at some of my own successes today (and this really isn't about boasting or pretending I'm better than I am, trust me), is because when we're feeling down and suffering from a bout of low self-esteem (like I am today), it can be helpful to remember that we are in fact capable of fantastic things.  And, who knows, maybe the successes I've had in my life could serve to inspire you to do something that you think is impossible, too.

Some of the successes in my life that stand out for me as pretty miraculous:

Teaching in my studio
1. I remember getting off of the table during one of my first Alexander Technique lessons, awestruck, thinking, "Wow, this is one of the most beautiful professions I can imagine!  My teacher is SO lucky to be able to do this for a living.  I could NEVER do this!!"  Here I am, years later, doing exactly what he was doing that day.

Japanese temari ball
2. During my AT training to become a teacher, I walked by a display-case in the public library, and stopped in my tracks as the display captured my attention.  Inside were dozens of exquisite Japanese temari balls, which are embroidered with elaborate and colorful geometric patterns.  I was enthralled and captivated, and I remember thinking, "Oh my goodness - how amazingly beautiful these things are!  I could NEVER make those!"  But, because of my AT training, my very next thought was, "Hmmm....why not?"  So, I tracked down the person who had made them (who turned out to be the city mayor), and she offered to teach me how to make them for free.  I took a lesson from her, learned how to do it, and made several Japanese temari balls, all of which I gave away.  Here's a picture of one of them.

3. Two weeks before I was scheduled to graduate from my AT training course, I walked out of the class, ready to quit (for personal reasons).  Making the decision to leave and acting on that was as much a landmark success for me as going back the week after and finishing the course to receive my teaching certificate.  That certificate was earned "with sweat and blood", and I am SO glad that I was able to finish!

During our research study with surgeons
4. Less than two years after finishing my training, I was presented with the opportunity to design and implement a pilot study on the Alexander Technique for surgeons at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.  My habitual self wanted to scream, "What?! Are you crazy?! ME?!!  I'm just a little violinist who faints at the doctor's office and never liked science, and you want me to do what?!?!"  But I said "yes", and I did it.  The study was extremely successful, the paper from the study was presented at two national medical conferences, won a prize at the American Academy of Pediatrics conference, and was published in the top medical journal for urology in the world. Now, I am a published medical researcher, being referenced by other authors.  If that isn't miraculous....?

Carnegie Hall, NYC
5. When I was a teenage violinist, I won a competition in Scotland and part of the prize was to give a debut recital at a major concert hall in London.  I never did that recital (because I took my life in a different direction, giving up my soloist ambitions and getting married instead).  But, most musicians who aspire to be soloists dream of performing in recital at Carnegie Hall in NYC at some point.  Two years ago, I performed a piece of music composed by my husband at Carnegie Hall. One of my dreams as an AT teacher was to have another teacher backstage with me before the performance.  My friend and teacher Pedro de Alcantara graciously agreed to my whim, and we had a great time warming up before the concert, getting myself in shape for a concert of a lifetime (although I'm scheduled to do a repeat this November!).  Inhibition and Direction were invaluable aids to the success of that performance, and to preventing and overcoming performance anxiety.

6.  I've always hated running.  I could never understand why anyone would want to run - after all, most of the people I see running around the neighborhoods look like they're about to die!  But something in me was curious enough about why so many people love running to actually try it out for myself.  I wasn't looking for a book at the library, but I found a great one on running for beginners, by accident.  I took it home and decided to follow the 13-week program.  I could barely run for 30 seconds at the outset, but at the end of the program (just a few weeks ago), I could run for an hour without stopping.  To me, this has been a major achievement, and the biggest reward has been that my faith in my own capacity for self-discipline has skyrocketed.  It really seems like I've achieved the impossible with this one!


I love running!

7.  And last (but not least) for this list today...  When my first son was about 1 year old, I accidentally found a book at the library (yes, another library-related success!) called, "Toilet Training in Less Than a Day".  I thought the title was so preposterous that I checked out the book and read it.  I decided to try out the system, and it worked....miraculously.  My first son was trained in (just over) a day, and the second one was trained in three hours.  This success doesn't have anything directly to do with AT, because I hadn't even started taking lessons yet.  But, it's a testimony to finding a system, trusting it, being open to the possibility that it could work, putting aside doubts, and following the steps, one at a time.  No end-gaining, just following the means-whereby.  The Alexander Technique just adds words and awareness to something we can all do: inhibit and direct, allowing things to happen as intended.  And it also adds in the kinesthetic experience of the teacher's hands to give us even more support and clarity of direction. It's extremely difficult to aim forward and up on our own, without the supportive and encouraging guidance of a teacher or a good system.

So, please forgive me if you find this post arrogant or boastful.  There's a wonderful quote I found today, "What others think of you is none of your business," so you are certainly free to think of me whatever you like, because that's none of my business!  The benefit to me is that I feel much better now, after remembering all of these successes and writing them down, than I did earlier this morning.  Even my headache is gone!  (Of course, that may be because of the ibuprofen... ;)

Thanks for reading!  NOW, I would LOVE to hear about YOUR successes, too!  Do you have a success you'd like to share, in which you achieved the "impossible"?  Related to the Alexander Technique or not?  Whether you choose to write about it here or not, I know you have just as many or more than I do in your own life.  It's worth thinking about and looking for them.  Even the tiniest things can be HUGE.  (There's one more success that I didn't mention, but I think might be worth mentioning, because it was a tiny-HUGE thing:  when getting ready for the surgeon study, I had to watch a video of minimally invasive surgery, and I did NOT faint!!  I had to keep telling myself, "Don't faint, Jennifer!  You need to watch this, or the study will fall apart and it will never happen and this is really important... don't faint! don't faint!  inhibit!  aim!  forward and up!!!"  Yes, you can laugh - I'm laughing, myself!  But, the important thing is:  I didn't faint.  :)

...oh, yes...and one of the best ones I really want to mention...just remembered:
I'm finally able to listen to my own music and think, "Yes, it's good enough...for me." That one is really big.  Here, have a listen! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prrGTRIkVKE


p.s. Read about my latest milestone related to finding my voice with AT, Sept. 6th  http://balanceandharmonyat.blogspot.com/2013/09/finding-my-voice-with-alexander.html

* Dog on Toilet image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, July 1, 2013

Tips for Runners, Based on the Alexander Technique

I've just returned from a wonderful week at the Annual Conference and General Meeting of AmSAT (American Society for the Alexander Technique) in Chicago.  It was intense and exhilarating, and also beautiful, so close to the shore of Lake Michigan.  I learned a great deal, came home with many new insights, and lovely new connections.  Very glad I went (as always)!

I thought I'd jot down and share with you some of the main points I received from Malcolm Balk during a private lesson focused on running.  Malcolm is an AT teacher who specializes in running and exercise.  I'm pretty new to running, myself (I'm just about to begin Week 10 of a 13-week beginner's program - hurray!), so the pointers were very timely and welcome.  Here they are:

Malcolm Balk, center
  • Cadence, cadence, cadence! Run a bit faster, to a count of 3, with the beat falling on the up-kick of the heel, not when the foot lands down on the ground.
  • There is a bouncing up off of the ground as the reflex brings the foot up, not a pushing off of the ground.  Thinking differently about this can make a huge difference, and everything lightens up.
  • Think of lifting the feet up off of the ground quickly, as if you were running on very hot sand.
  • Make "circles" with your feet.  (This makes me think of PigPen from Charlie Brown...)
  • Of course, the legs don't ever straighten as they do in walking; they always remain with the knees and ankles and hip joints free.
  • Knees aim forward, leading.
  • The foot touches the ground pretty much flat - neither heel nor ball of the foot lands first.
  • Blink and look out in front of you as you run.  See where you're going!
  • Arms are not held tightly (no fists), at a slight angle to the body, with the elbows bent slightly out away from the body; hands slightly in towards the midline.  More ease in the arms and upper chest.  Less work!
  • Coordinate the breathing with your steps, to a count of IN-2-3; OUT-2; IN-2-3; OUT-2.
Of course, these tips will be most helpful when combined with the general, basic foundation provided by the  Alexander Technique, which helps to coordinate the whole body-mind into a forward and up direction, for fluid, easy movement.

Malcolm has a great book in print, called Master the Art of Running, which teaches running from an Alexander Technique perspective. 

If you're a runner, I'd love to hear whether you find these tips helpful.  Happy running!



Saturday, May 25, 2013

Taking Life Seriously...or Not!...with Alexander Technique

THE F.M. ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE, LIFE AND DEATH:
"TOO SERIOUS TO BE SERIOUS ABOUT."
~ A PLAY ~

This is a seriously not-so-serious "real-life", "real-time" application of the Alexander Technique.
Shall we play?  :)

FIRST, I STOP.  NOTICE. OBSERVE WHAT IS HERE IN THIS PRESENT MOMENT....

I am realizing that yesterday was an interesting day for me.  I remember that I wrote a "serious" blogpost about death in the morning, and in the afternoon I started thinking seriously about my habit of taking life "too seriously"!  I remember my initial reactions to the idea: first, agreement to the idea, then gratitude for becoming aware of it (again).

I now realize that my next reaction was to take the idea of being too serious really seriously, and I immediately proceeded to DO SOMETHING about it!  I decided to investigate and figure out how to stop taking life so seriously. (I realize you might be laughing by this point - please be my guest! Oh, and you can also laugh at my picture. ;)

I thought about it a lot, and I asked other people for their thoughts on the topic, and for any suggestions for how to take life less seriously.  A few suggestions were helpful, but most of them weren't really, even though they were fun at the time.  I certainly didn't find myself taking life less seriously just from thinking about it!

Today, I notice that the idea is still very present in my mind, and I am obviously continuing to think about it.  But I notice that I'm thinking about it differently now.  Interestingly, I find myself questioning the initial assumption that it is true that I take life too seriously.  "Is that true?" I ask myself (ala the inquiry work of Byron Katie).  But I stop myself when I realize that I'm starting to take myself too seriously in that direction....so I simply....

OPEN UP TO WONDERING...

As I notice that I am questioning, wondering, and doubting, I open up to the possibility that maybe it's not absolutely true.  (What?! Could it be?!  Could I actually be in balance, at least some of the time?!!?)  In fact, I find plenty of examples in my day-to-day life of not taking things seriously at all.  And I have certainly been reproached many many times for not taking things seriously "enough"!

What does it mean, anyway, to take life too seriously?

Ok, I'm getting the idea....  I'm still taking this topic too seriously.  Time to stop again!
I'm starting to drop the thought, drop the questioning, and I'm getting seriously tired of thinking about it...

ENOUGH REACTING, ME!  

(Aha!!  Here comes the famous Alexander "NO"!  I was wondering how long it was going to take before my application of the Technique was going to become more apparent! :)

NO! NO MORE REACTING!

I refuse to react any more to the idea that I take life too seriously!  SO THERE!  HA!!

Instead, I realize that I AM FREE (Thanking God!!  Saved from my over-thinking-over-serious mind at last, by the BIGGER MIND riding in galantly on a beautiful white horse!! I'm SAVED!!  HALLELUJAH!!!  Do you hear the rising chorus, by the way?)

ok, I seem to be on a roll. Let's continue on, rolling on down this lovely green hill, shall we?
So, what's next?

Alexander Technique classical directions, here we come!!

Because I'm now aware again that I am in fact free, I choose to think: "MY NECK IS FREE!"

(uh-oh, danger...Mr. Serious Doubt asks:  
Sure, but is it seriously free, or is this just a joke, or is it only partially true, or not really, 
or is it only a sort-of self-delusion trap, 
because all the muscles can't really be free
in other words....is it really truly free? )

My utterly not-serious (yet very serious) response: 
Do I really CARE?  NO!  I am now CAREFREE!!  HA!!

I'm just happy because I am able to think this lovely thought, and I know that thinking it and loving the thought and being open to the possibility that it might be true is fantastic and feels great, and I can actually believe in it because I've worked it out with beautiful logic plenty of times before, to good results, for both myself and my students...  Therefore, I'm going to leave this doubt aside and continue on my merry way in good faith!)

YES!!!  (That's the not-so-famous Alexander "YES", by the way)  
ONWARDS! NO MORE HESITATION!  AIM!

THE NECK IS FREE
THE HEAD AIMS FORWARD AND UP
THE TORSO LENGTHENS AND WIDENS, EXPANDS....
(ETC. ETC. ETC. ad infinitum)

drumroll....
taking a bow....
laughing and saying THANK YOU for Being Here Now
smiling

NOW, REPEAT!
(but only if you're serious about it...
because if you're not, just go ahead and enjoy your free, expansive Self however you wish!
Bye!)




p.s. Comments welcome, as always!  Seriously!  I mean it!  ;)

*stopsign image courtesy of [image creator name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net, by artur84

Friday, May 24, 2013

Alexander Technique Used as a Tool to Prepare for Death


There are times in life when we are called upon to do something which seems terrifying and impossible.  On the outside, we may not always have a choice about what happens to us, but on the inside we always have a choice about how we respond.  The Alexander Technique gives us a way to stop and choose how to react to the stimuli we are presented with; we can choose the habitual and familiar, or we can choose to move forward and up into the Unknown.  From this place of freedom of choice, we can learn to choose whether to let Principle or feelings be our guide,  and we can learn how to move forward in a new and more positive way.


As a performing musician, I am quite familiar with the feelings of dread and anxiety that can accompany the prospect of exposing my innermost Self in front of an audience, facing unknown and unpredictable outcomes.  Thankfully, I have been able to overcome those horribly uncomfortable feelings many times, turning them into positive excitement and successful performances, and the more I practice facing and accepting the fears, the better I get at doing this.  The Alexander Technique has helped me immensely with this, and it has brought me great joy - both during and after performances. (See my blogpost on performance anxiety here:  http://balanceandharmonyat.blogspot.com/2012/05/how-to-manage-performance-anxiety-with.html)

When I was a beginning Alexander Teacher with very little experience, I was presented with multiple opportunities which elicited a similar fear response, and I was also able to overcome them to good advantage.  Some of those moments felt like being thrown off of a cliff and being asked to fly with wings I was unaware that I had.  Or being thrown into a pool of water at the deep end, unaware that something in me already knew how to swim.

I sometimes look at life and see it as a school for learning how to accomplish or manifest into reality what seems to be utterly impossible.  I see the Alexander Technique as a tool for learning this extremely valuable skill in a very conscious way.  It is a tool for bravery - for helping us move through the inevitable hellish moments of life with greater ease and grace.  I am so grateful when I look back and see that every single time life has confronted me with a stimulus to learn something the "hard" way (through difficulty, suffering, and fear), something in me has in fact carried me through to the other side, and I have emerged from the trial with a deeper understanding and greater strength.

Learning to trust that "something" that carries us through - it doesn't really matter so much what we call it - is where the real work and art of living takes place.  As it is said, "Living is not for the faint of heart"!

The practice of being confronted with the seemingly impossible, facing the fear, and making conscious, principled choices about how to deal with the stimulus, is a practice that it would be better not to ignore, although most people do, most of the time.  F.M. Alexander said, "Anyone can do what I did, if they do what I did.  But nobody wants the discipline."  The first part of that quote used to be the more important part for me, because I wanted very much to know what he did, and how to do it; now I find myself even more interested in the second part.  The practice of increasing our conscious awareness and making principled choices in the face of fear and discomfort is the most difficult, but the most important, discipline.

We don't have to engage in this kind of self-discipline.  But, I personally choose to do so (at least, in general and in theory, when I'm conscious of the choice), because I know that someday I will be confronted with what seems to be the most impossible thing and the greatest Unknown: my own death.  And I do believe that the death of this body I inhabit is inevitable!  I don't know with absolute certainty what will happen when it dies, but it is possible that the prospect of no longer existing in material form (or otherwise? can I really know with absolute certainty? can anyone?) may fill me with the greatest fear response I have ever before experienced.  What if that moment suddenly presents me with the opportunity for a performance of a lifetime?  What if I will be called upon again to do something that seems utterly impossible, and more difficult than everything that has come before?


I would like to have a peaceful, positive experience of death when the time comes. To me, one way  to increase the odds of having that experience (not necessarily the only way or the only right way) could be to see this lifetime as a rehearsal, a learning, a preparation for that moment.  People say, "Life is not a rehearsal," but it is possible that this really means: learn how to perform Life well NOW, so that when death comes, it's just another moment to enjoy.  The rehearsal is the performance, and the performance is the rehearsal.

In any case, when death comes, I would like to be prepared as much as possible; I would like to have my "trust muscles" so strong by then, that I won't hesitate to fly off the cliff or dive off the diving board, into the vast, beautiful, heavenly Unknown.  And since I don't know when that moment will come, I am preparing in earnest.  I don't want to fall off the cliff to my destruction, and I don't want to drown.  I want to rise above my fear, and overcome the challenge.

For this reason, I am grateful for every opportunity life offers me to practice dying (living) well, no matter how difficult, seemingly impossible, or painful.

"Those who die before dying do not die when they die." - German proverb

I would love to hear your responses to this blogpost.  I welcome your comments!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Alexander Technique 13 Steps for Self-Help

Some reminders for myself and other Alexander Technique students:

1. I ask, "Where am I?" and realize that this is a simple question, referring to here in space, right now.  I know where up is (where is the sky?), and where down is (where is the earth?), as well as forward, backward, and all other vectors in relation to this human being that I am.

2. I recognize the force of habit.  Yes, I am exerting more effort than is necessary for the simple task of being here, doing nothing.

3. Right now, I choose to STOP making the usual excess effort to be here now.  I am making the firm decision, right now, to STOP doing what is unnecessary, what is unhelpful and inappropriate in this moment.

4. I give myself time to continue stopping, inhibiting my unhelpful, habitual reactions.

5. I allow all feelings, all thoughts, and I continue to inhibit my unhelpful reactions to them.

6. I remember that I am free.  I allow my neck to be free.

7.  I allow my head to aim forward and up, away from the spine.

8.  I allow my torso to lengthen and widen.

9.  I allow my knees to aim forward and away from the torso.

10.  I allow myself to fall out of wrongdoing, trusting the earth beneath me and the air around me to support me, and above all, my own innate wisdom.

11. I allow myself to feel gratitude, love, and peace.

12.  I continue onwards with my work, and I smile, trusting.

13. Go back to Step 1 if desired and repeat, without expecting to feel any results right away.

If you have taken yourself through these 13 steps, dear Reader, I would love to hear about your experience.  I hope you find this helpful, too, like I do!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Trust and Effecting Change with the Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is very logical, and it is simple, and it is an excellent self-help tool for bringing about all sorts of beneficial changes in oneself.

Yet, the mind tends to create all sorts of questions and doubts and other thoughts which interfere with putting the Technique into practice, especially without a teacher.  This is why having a teacher is so very important and helpful.

AT works on a very deep level, and is incredibly subtle.  So subtle that it can almost seem magical at times.  The changes that are experienced are real and fundamental, but very often the changes occur on a minute scale, slowly and imperceptibly.  We, as a culture, are used to thinking of change as something tangible, instantaneously perceptible, something we can measure and see.  If we can't see it or feel it, we won't necessarily believe it.

Yet, AT works, and there is plenty of evidence for that.  How does it work?  Here is a partial explanation.

When we're working with a teacher who is right for us (not every teacher is right for every student), something in the teacher inspires trust from the very beginning.  Our trust in the teacher allows us to make a leap of faith--however small--to believe that if the teacher says the Technique is working, it's working.  Then, after half-an-hour to an hour lesson spent trusting and thinking along with the teacher as suggested, something in us has changed and we usually feel much better than before.

However, all too often the student will deduce from such an experience that it was the teacher that made the change (especially because the teacher normally uses his/her hands to help with the process), and completely misses and under-appreciates the essential fact that it was the student's own trust plus the student's willingness to think differently that actually made the changes.  Yes, the teacher helped guide the way, but it was the student that actually made the leap.

After taking enough lessons, and experiencing enough perceptible changes, the student may be able to make the bigger leap of faith required to take full responsibility for his own trusting and thinking.  At that point, a teacher can still be helpful, but the student has matured into the role of self-teacher.

The best teachers look forward to that point, because, ultimately, that is what we are teaching.  We are teaching the Alexander Technique, which in essence is about learning to trust and think for ourselves to effect the changes necessary for us to flow through life with simplicity and ease.

*Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Do you have enough? Explorations with Alexander Technique

So much of our thinking is about not having "enough".  Believing that we don't have enough of anything is a trap that pulls us off-balance. Let's explore some questions about the idea of having "enough".



  • WHAT?  Not enough of what?  Time?  Space? Money?  Love?  Sex?  Attention?  Status?  Work?  Freedom?  Happiness?  Excitement?  Health?  Peace?  "Good enough"-ness?
  • WHY?  Why do you believe it isn't enough?  Why do you want more?  What's missing?  Are you missing a certain feeling that you think you don't have enough of?  
  • WHO?  Enough for who?  For yourself or for someone else?  
  • WHEN?  If it isn't enough right now, when will it be enough?  Are your thoughts projecting into the future, or comparing with the past?
  • WHERE?  Where are your thoughts?  Where is your attention?  Is it on someone or something else, other than the center of You?  Are they pulling your mind-body off-balance, off-center?
  • HOW?  How are you going to get more of whatever it is you want?  Do you have a specific plan?  

What would happen if you gave yourself the TIME and SPACE...even just a tiny little bit...........
right here...
right now...

to STOP your thinking
to STOP projecting into the future
to STOP relating things to the past
to STOP judging
to STOP wanting
to STOP defining and labeling and naming and associating thoughts with who you think you are and what you think you need

to just BE
simply BE

alive, breathing enough air to live
(yes, there is enough air, even if it doesn't feel like it!  The proof?  You're alive! :)

RIGHT NOW
HERE
I AM

if you really really really let your mind-body stop all the extra doing, all the pushing and pulling yourself off-center, out of the here and now.... what is left?

Whatever is left, is it possible that this might be "enough", right here, right now, for YOU?

...and then....
is it possible that this I AM-ness
might bring you into greater abundance
in ways you have never before imagined?

Is it possible?

Let the questions be enough.
No need for answers right here, right now......

Just open to the questions,
because the questions are enough for right here, right now.

Answers come when answers come,
and whatever comes will surely be "enough".

All in good time.
With patience, gratitude, and trust.

----

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this.  What do you believe you don't have "enough" of?  What happens when you stop?

*Photo by Chuck Felix. Image courtesy of [contributor name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, February 15, 2013

On Love and the Alexander Technique

In honor of Valentine's Day (yesterday), and by request of one of my students, I've decided to write about Love and the Alexander Technique.

Artwork by Paula Ziegman
To my understanding of life, there truly is nothing but Love.  It sounds so cliche, but the more I live and experience, and the more I think about it, investigate, meditate on it, and wonder, the more often I find myself choosing to believe this.  I firmly believe it is true that Love is all there is.

SO....I asked my class yesterday, "What is Love?  What does it mean to you?"  We discussed the meaning of Love, and many wonderful ideas came up:  selflessness, acceptance, mutual understanding, connection, loving thy neighbor as thyself, comfort, safety, happiness, motivation, freedom........

What does this have to do with Alexander Technique?  Everything.

To me, the Alexander Technique is all about making connections and joining things together that seem separate, and giving things that seem stuck and frozen space to move.  Yes, it's about the dynamic relationships between head, neck, torso...limbs, bones, muscles, fluids.....everything that can be thought of as parts of the physical body.  But, even more than that, it's about realizing that the mind is making those connections, and therefore connecting the mind and body....and the Consciousness that is realizing those connections.  What is that Consciousness that connects and joins and realizes?  Nothing other than Love, I believe.

I sometimes ask myself, "What am I teaching?"  I believe that, through the use of the Alexander Technique, I am teaching people to realize, to know, to be, to LOVE....themselves....in relation to everything within and around them.

We are making these connections all the time without being aware of it.  We are loving, joining, becoming one with everything that comes into our awareness, without being aware of it.  To wake up and realize that is what we are doing is the purpose of the Alexander Technique, for me.  To realize that we are already loving, already whole, already free.

Once we realize this and stop trying to DO all these things (trying to love, trying to be yourself, trying to be free, etc.), the obstacles that seem to be in the way of the specific things we want to achieve start to fall away.  The arm starts to move, the legs start to release, the music starts to flow, the work starts to become easy.  We start to enjoy life, right now.  Because we begin to be aware that we LOVE it.

One student yesterday said that he was at a loss for words when asked what Love is.  This is how I feel right now, as I do my best to write about my experience and vision...and as I find myself starting to try to do the integrating of my experience with my use of words....I realize that it would be best for me to stop and bring this post to a close.

I love you, dear Reader, whoever you are.
You and I are different, yet we are the same.
We are connected parts of One Infinite Whole.
Thank you for reading, and thank you for being, and thank you for the Love that you Are.

Your comments are very welcome.

*heart artwork by Paula Ziegman

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Teaching about Infinitude and Humility, using the Alexander Technique

This morning, I've been thinking a bit about what I'm teaching my AT class these days.  I must say, the more I think about the topic of direction, the more in awe I am of the topic and the fact that I have the opportunity to teach people about this.

Sometimes, it feels incredibly silly to be teaching people about where up, down, left, and right are!


But that's only for a split second when I lose sight of the incredible meaning beyond those words.


Life is lived at the center.  Each one of us exists right Here, at the perfect Center of Everything.  There is Infinitude extending from us in all directions, equally.


Yes, this is a belief.  I believe (with as strong a certitude as I can imagine at this moment) that this is true.

We cannot live without beliefs.  The problem comes in not recognizing that a belief is a belief, and that it is always possible that we might be wrong.....about anything.  Yes, anything.  (And I might be wrong about that!)

What an incredible relief to find the inner humility to recognize that I might be wrong!  You might be wrong.  Everyone in this universe might also be wrong.

This way of thinking is incredibly disconcerting to some, and not everyone is willing to make the stretch to allow doubt to enter into the mind.

But to me, Infinitude would not be Infinitude if it did not also include doubt.  And I would not be fully human if I did not have the humility to see that I may not know, and I might be wrong...about anything!

Yes, I am incredibly, awe-fully grateful to be able to think in this way, because I find it liberating.  I am free to believe what I wish to believe.  I am free to be humble and admit that I may be wrong.  I am free to see that my beliefs might be limited.  And I am free to teach this way of thinking because I teach the Alexander Technique, which - to me - is all about finding a way to be free in all circumstances, in mind, body, and soul.  The Spirit of the Technique is Freedom itself.  And this Spirit is found everywhere, in everything, in everyone.  It cannot be limited, because it is Infinite.  It is the Center that is found Here, everywhere.

When I think and teach about where 'up' and 'down' are, I am simply reminding people of what they already know.  Who doesn't know that they are Here?  Who doesn't know that there is always more?

I am very grateful to be able to help people remember these simple truths and to put them into practical application in their daily lives.  To me, there is nothing more important to do in this world.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Alexander Technique Solution ~ Part I


When a student is first setting out to learn the Alexander Technique to effect positive change, it can sometimes seem quite difficult and confusing, because many of the teacher's instructions go against our lifelong habits and common culture.

Last week, I told my new class at the University of Cincinnati that one of the first steps in the Technique is also one of the most difficult...perhaps the most difficult.  This step consists of not trying to change something directly as soon as we notice something that we don't like. 


The Habit:
- to try to change something we don't like in a direct and immediate way (example:  trying to relax tight shoulders and neck)
- to try to fix something now
- to try hard to get something we think we don't have
- to believe that we are wrong and need to do something right away in order to be right
etc., etc.

The Solution ~ Part I:
- once we notice something we don't like/don't want, we can choose to do something different:  stop interfering with it
(example: I notice that my shoulders are tight again, and I pause for a moment before doing anything about it)
- refuse to do give consent to the usual, which is The Habit 
(example: I do not try to fix the tightness in my shoulders or make it go away)
- observe what is actually happening in the present moment, without judgment
(example: I observe the tightness without judgment, then I open up my awareness, expanding my field of attention to include other things I might not have noticed before.  Perhaps I notice that my knees are locked and my arms are being held stiffly.  Maybe my breathing is constricted)
- in this way, I give myself an opportunity to come to know The Habit (myself) more intimately.  (What is The Habit?  Me - who else?)

How can I fix something if I don't really understand it?  I need more information.  I haven't been able to "cure" myself of tight shoulders before....so let me observe and gather more information.  If I immediately dive into making the shoulders "relax" in the usual way, tomorrow they will be tight again, and nothing will have changed.  I am a scientist, and I become my own experiment.  I am both subject and object.

One of my students commented in his journal that he had always been taught to "change everything that's wrong with me", and that it was nice to hear that there was another option.

Paradoxically, real and lasting change can only begin to come about once we stop trying so hard to get it.


*Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono /FreeDigitalPhotos.net