I know I am not on my own in often feeling like I need to get a job done as quickly as possible. When I need to rest, I don’t, and I tell myself “I’ve started so I’ll finish”. Even when I’m tired or aching and I know I should stop, I keep going. Often it is so that I get it over with and can do things I’d rather be doing. I’m pressurising myself to go faster, do it quicker, get it finished. I promise myself I will have a break afterwards or do the thing I really want to do later. I do this far less nowadays, but the habit, the possibility, is always there. My clients nod when I talk about it. It has become almost universal. Plus, no one has ever said to me “are you chilling out and relaxing?” No, they say “are you busy?” to which I say (nowadays), “No, and I don’t want to be.” I often get a rather strange look when I say that because it’s going against what is normally acceptable! However, I think we need to do things differently.
This pushing ourselves beyond tired and feeling like it’s important to cram in as much as possible is taking us away from ourselves. It’s become a bit too engrained and we humans are suffering for it. We are losing touch with the present moment, the joy of doing a task mindfully and discovering the ease with which our bodies can do things if we give it the opportunity. There’s no noticeable change in the speed with which the task is completed either, and all things become enjoyable.
There’s a simple Alexander principle which stops all of that pressure in its tracks. This process is so simple and so profound and all it requires is stopping! Stop your usual habit of rushing through a task and instead make a choice to regularly take time out from it! There’s more layers to it than that, but this is a way into it.
When I do this, the job becomes so much more joyful, richer and fulfilling. Recently, when I was washing the pots, I stopped and stood with my hands in the hot water, looking out at dawn breaking over my garden. I gave my body permission to release all the unnecessary effort I was making to wash the pots as quickly as possible and I just stood there with no agenda. Firstly I experienced that joyful effortless “physical” experience of releasing my habitual muscular tensions but secondly I got to experience the most fantastic dawn breaking across my garden and watched an Acer tree become a ball of fire.
I know I would have missed that moment had I been in my usual mode of “starting so I’ll finish” and instead I witnessed a breath taking event! I continued washing the pots with far more ease as I wasn’t trying to finish the job but take pleasure in every moment.
With practising the Alexander Technique I continue to experience these mindful events much of the time and it enhances my experience of life. I often see things I would otherwise miss in “rush” mode. I experience much more ease of movement and overall life is much more enjoyable and all I need to do is STOP. Why not book a lesson to learn how to bring these kinds of experiences into your life? Contact me?
Alexander Technique Teacher
Early morning after a frost. The bird feeders were refreshed with new seed. I was watching the daily arrival of the pigeons, doves, blackbirds and sparrows as they cautiously began to rest in the trees surrounding my garden deciding if it was safe enough to come closer. The sun was warming everything and the neighbours shed roof had a gentle stream of rising steam. The closest tree was magical. The frost was melting. The droplets of water from the melt steadily got bigger and as they did they twinkled and changed into many colours, reds, greens, blues before they dropped off. I’ve tried to capture that with a camera but the magic just isn’t there. I marvel at how my eyes can see natures version of twinkling Christmas lights. I feel blessed that I can be present enough to witness those seemingly ordinary but oh so profound moments. I am thankful that the Alexander Technique opens up my awareness to be there when it happens.
Certified Alexander Technique Teacher (Pocklington, East Yorkshire)
Late summer day. Cool breeze. Bluest of blue sky. I’m sat on the garden bench, warmed by the sun, reading a fabulous book: Die Wise by Stephen Jenkinson. The local Air Force are doing practice drills above my head. They always get me excited. The power of those jets, the sound resonating through my whole system. I imagine the burn from the jets, like those I have seen on space ships taking off. I can’t help thinking about how much they are polluting the air, but I am more impressed by their power. They come in pairs, they turn, somewhere over my head and then they disappear back in the direction they came from. All the while I am reading I keep hoping I will see them, but I can’t. Then suddenly, a flash of light under a wing, so far away, but unmistakable, and I’ve found one. I follow the plane. I’m leaning right back over the bench so I can see it. I’m sure my face is horizontal. I’m loving the stretch up the front of my body. The garden birds are going nuts. Flying everywhere in the garden. Then, I see the most magnificent bird. It seems like it is half way between the plane and me. It makes me gasp. It is such a spiritually profound moment. I can’t really put my finger on why. However, I totally forgot about the plane. I just gazed in awe at the ease with which the Red Kite circled above my head. Effortless. In command of all it can see. In command of the environment it is master of and at one with. I don’t think it cares about the fighter planes. I don’t. I watch the bird for as long as it is within eyesight. I feel blessed I witnessed it’s flight.
You know the Alexander Technique is so like this. It helps me be that easy Red Kite instead of putting out all the energy of a fighter jet. You might want to have a lesson and try it out for yourself?
Certified Alexander Technique Teacher
It’s an early autumn morning. I love the slight, almost imperceptible, cool air on my face that happens each time I move. The sky is bright blue and I am warmed by the sun, and happy.
I’m in a corner of our garden, behind our greenhouse, where the raspberries love to grow. The canes, which must be 8-10 foot high, are bent over with the weight of the fruit.
I can tell that the neighbourhood sounds are different. The summer has transforming rapidly into autumn and the light, the sounds, the birds, the trees, the dying, drying plants all speak to me and remind me that nature is getting ready for its next phase.
The dog is staring up at me with her beautiful brown eyes, longingly, waiting for her portion of our late harvest of raspberries to go her way. Sometimes she gets bored of waiting and that’s when I realise my dog has lips. She delicately picks the lower, dog height raspberries off the canes, deftly avoiding any prickles.
I love that my hands are sensitive enough to pick the very ripe fruit without squashing it. Just the right amount of pull. Too much and my hands become even more red and wet. Too little and they won’t leave their birth place. I can sense that the Alexander Technique has helped me be this way. I am grateful. Breakfast is imminent.
Certified Alexander Technique Teacher
The instructions said the cream would take 30 seconds to absorb. The way I was doing it, you would think I was determined to get that time down. If I had entered a fire lighting competition, I am sure I would have won.
Then I remembered, I had time. I could take all the time I wanted. I had nowhere to be, in any rush. I was probably going to be doing this every day for much if not all of my life. Perhaps there was another way of getting the medication into my system other than creating excess friction between my fingers and thigh?
I stopped what I was doing. I left my foot on the stool. I noticed the foot that I was standing on, was gripping the floor. I let go of that grip. The foot on the stool was poised and I let the weight of my leg release to the chair, my hip area dropped. My arms that had been in “get the cream in quick” mode transformed softly into rest and my shoulders dropped, shoulder blades sliding down my back. My neck released and chin dropped.
Ahh! Much more delicious a state to be in.
I remembered I knew many, many massage techniques and I could try a few to see what I enjoyed the most. Turned out just gently stroking, using my full hand, softly, in big circles was what was needed. Simple, meditative.
I took in the room, the sounds, the sensation of the massage, the ease I could do it with and I enjoyed the thought that this pace felt right. I felt right. No rushing, no stressing, no force. I discovered a delightful space that I rejoice in, every day.
What if every time you applied any cream you lovingly take time to apply it with all the time in the world? Perhaps you will find a pace that turns out to be calm, gentle and mindful?
It’s very easy and learning the Alexander Technique will help you chose how you do it. I would love to share my thoughts with you? Try a lesson?
Alexander Technique Teacher
Pandemic focus purchasing: Order completed over the phone. Smart walk into town, mask on, quick flash of my card to buy the flowers and a swift hand over of two huge bouquets.
I hadn’t expected them to be so big.
After about 5 minutes of brisk walking I realised I needed to carry these bouquets for at least another 10-15 minutes and I predicted my arms would probably ache. I was tightly gripping them in front of me, elbows at 90 degrees. I had hoped to put them in a large carrier bag I had brought with me. They were far too big to fit into it. I remembered I had studied the Alexander Technique for over 30 years and smiled.
What if these bouquets were actually two huge balloons and they weighed nothing, in fact they were holding my arms up? Immediately I let go of the strangled grip I had on all the flower stems. My hands felt so much better! My wrists and arms released, my neck and jaw released. I looked around me as I walked. I had a spring in my step. I enjoyed the mass of colour in those bouquets in front of me. I revelled in the late autumn air. The walk was a pleasure.
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This is the 10th interview in a series of interviews I carried out with people who have had Alexander Technique (AT) lessons.
This interview is with Dorothy, who is in her mid 70’s, retired, lives with a partner and leads a very full and active life. Dorothy has been having face to face Alexander Technique lessons with me for a few years.
Each time Dorothy comes for a lesson she tells me about something new that the Alexander Technique has helped her with. Since doing this interview, one of the things she told me was that she used to dread filling and emptying the washing machine. She told me the problem wasn’t so much getting down to the washer but getting back up. She used to need to pull herself up on the washer. Now, she doesn’t even need to think about it.
AT has influenced Dorothy’s life profoundly. She no longer rushes through life, ticking off everything on her “to do” list, but instead, experiences the richness of being in the present moment. Here’s her thoughts about that:
I would like to know a little bit about what impact having Alexander Technique (AT) lessons has had for you.
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My place of refuge, for many years, was snuggled up on my grandparent’s high backed two seater sofa between nanny and either the dog, Tiny (who wasn’t that tiny) or my granddad Joe (when he was home from sea).
The sofa would be pulled in front of the glowing fire on these occasions. We would be waiting for bread dough to do it’s magic. It’s receptacle, the wide mouthed red clay earthenware pot, would be sat on the hearth. The inner yellow glaze hidden by a damp white tea towel. I still have that vintage pot and I have made bread with it many times.
Nanny always gently patted the yeasty white mound, as if that sealed a secret agreement to rise, just before covering it in the towel. The memory is extremely clear in my mind, as are her gnarled hands which she believed resulted from stretching material over wings of planes during the first world war.
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