Saturday, May 25, 2013

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

~ A PLAY ~

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


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 I simply....


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...


(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! :)


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 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)  

(ETC. ETC. ETC. ad infinitum)

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

(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!

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

*stopsign image courtesy of [image creator name] /, 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:

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!