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This month’s project started when I realised I was “screwing” my left eye up in response to jaw pain. The project evolved over time but was influenced by the ideas in a new Alexander Technique book written by Alexander Farkas, who is a fabulous Alexander Technique teacher. The book is called Alexander Technique Arising from Quiet.
In his book Alex talks about how F.M.Alexander was on an endless search to make the technique simpler. I tried to apply the idea to this month’s project but it got more complicated before simplifying.
I started off in a minimalistic way by thinking of softening an imaginary ring around my eye (probably influenced by knowing there is a ring of muscles around each eye). As I invited that softening, I noticed it caused a cascade of release involving my jaw, neck, throat and shoulders. I was also aware it re-connected me with the present moment.
I continued to invite softening round the eye, marvelling at how screwing up my eye was linked into a swathe of tension and also involved a disconnect with the present moment.
I also knew there was a lot going on for me which was likely to be influencing my tension so I began to use a “mindful bell” app as well. It gave me a reminder every 5 minutes to release my eye. By the second day, my shoulders weren’t joining in the habit and I was beginning to feel way calmer.
I then wondered how I might apply a more commonly known Alexander direction (or thought) i.e.that of lengthening and widening. Could I apply this to my head? I began by inviting the space between my eye and the back of my head (the occiput) to lengthen. I then applied the widening to the space from ear to ear.
Alex’s book then had an influence: things could be much more simple. I also wondered how to draw in the idea of non-doing. So I came full circle, to the wish that the whole of my head, the whole of me, release into the space around me. As I did that I also became aware of all the space around me. A sense of me in the continuum of things. That space where it is a joy to have a body and the sense of effortless in being.
I think the journey I went on this month did help in bringing me to a point where the wish to release into the space around me brought overall release (including my head, neck and shoulders). Rather like when someone learns AT the classical way. Traditionally we learn the directions one at a time, and eventually there comes a point when they happen all at once from a place of inner calm and quiet.
I have shared this project (the steps below) with a couple of my clients whilst they were doing active rest and they found it very useful. You might like to try the prompts below when you are doing active rest? Or maybe when walking (I found that was really interesting)? Or just before sleep?
Invite release around the eye
Invite release between the eye and the back of the head
Invite release from ear to ear
Invite your head to soften and release into the space around it
Invite your body to release in all directions into the space around it
Notice what happens
If you give this a go, let me know how you get on?
You might like to book an individual lesson and we can work through it together.
Jane Clappison MSTAT
Alexander Technique Teacher
Busy tongue seeking calm tongue!
After a tooth infection and root canal re-do of a back tooth last year I developed “burning mouth syndrome” which is exactly that: a burning sensation in the mouth, plus a numb tongue and odd sensations in my mouth. Fortunately it is settling but never-the-less I have become obsessed with “fiddling” with my back tooth. It went from fiddling one side, to sucking my cheek one side, to sucking my cheek both sides, to biting my tongue. I was causing sore spots and lots of pain and I felt I wasn’t in charge and I just couldn’t stop!
I have been applying a number of approaches. Holding a pencil between my teeth worked well as I couldn’t actually do all those things with separated teeth, but it’s hard to talk and produces lots of drooling.
Of course I have been applying the Alexander Technique to it all these months in a rather half hearted way. The discomfort of the facial sensations from the nerve irritation kept drawing me back.
One day last week, I got so fed up of the habit, I realised it just had to stop. I set a firm intention to stop. Thus this week’s project has been my tongue & mouth.
I started by doing nothing. Each time I noticed the habit I stopped what I was doing both mentally and physically and noticed the world around me: the kettle, cups and tea ready to pour, the bubbles of washing up liquid and the sink of pots, the office as I was writing an email. Stop, start throughout the first day. It was really enjoyable. Lots of moments of rest. Each time I stopped, my body let go of all the “doing” including my mouth and tongue and became aware of the present moment.
I also added some thoughts/wishes (Directions in AT language) as to what I would like my tongue and mouth to be like. Here’s a few of the things I did. They are rather delicious even if you haven’t got a mouth issue. Try one or two and see what happens?
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“That mindfulness doesn’t work for me, my mind is too full already. I need mind-less-ness.”
Yes, sometimes life is just so overwhelming you want a way out. You want to stop the whole world and get off. It’s just too much. David Whyte, describes it as:
“the meeting of two immense storm fronts, the squally vulnerable edge between what overwhelms human beings from the inside and what overpowers them from the outside.”
You feel like you are having to run to keep up with your thoughts. They are insisting on a conversation that goes round and round and round whilst you compete in an extreme sports competition. You try to keep up because you don’t feel you have a choice, but you know your legs are going to give out any moment, and you will collapse.
Sometimes it’s not quite so extreme. You always ran on fumes, talked fast, been on the alert, perhaps you physically shake in most of what you do. You’ve maybe had two jobs so you can make finances spread further. You fill your evenings and weekends with things to do. A game of squash usually helps to bring calm, or a long walk in the woods. Then something, almost imperceptible comes along, and that way of being just doesn’t work. Something gives, perhaps you find work becomes stressful or you develop a physical illness, start with persistent pain or simply you feel like your usual high energy approach just isn’t helpful any more. You crash and burn.
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I shared a bedroom with my sister until I was about 10. There were lots of pluses to our cohabitation. Excitedly standing at our bedroom window together, on Christmas Eve, trying to spot Santa on his sleigh, was one of them.
On the minus side, I was absolutely challenged by stuff all over the bedroom floor. I still remember the visceral reaction to the chaos. To my sister, the floor was her playground and storage space. It was bliss when I got my own room, though it was extremely tiny. My Dad built cupboards in the room for me. Essentially it became a cupboard from floor to ceiling, with a window and a bed in a recess. It wasn’t hard to keep it tidy.
Somehow, I coped with my sister’s chaos, and over the years I became tolerant to “excessive-to-me” sights, sounds, sensations, emotions, touch, movement: all stimuli. However, if you saw my desk right now you would not think I liked things to be ordered and calm, nor that I still panic when things get too messy. My husband describes my desk filing as a “sedimentary” system and when it gets to full height he describes it as shale. There is a logic in the chaos as the heap consists of things I am challenged to categorise and thus store, jobs pending, and things at the ready. I can tolerate the mess up to a point. When I have completed a job, or when I work out where they belong, they are filed away, A-Z style.
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