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!

p.s. Read about my latest milestone related to finding my voice with AT, Sept. 6th

* Dog on Toilet image courtesy of Grant Cochrane /