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Lean into it
I am tired. I keep in mind the phrase “this too will pass” because I spend many hours per night awake. I lie awake because my shoulder pain is still with me. I experiment with many positions in the hopes I will find a spot where my arm pain can settle and thus I can sleep.
Yesterday, I got to lay on the sun lounger and fall asleep in the sun. I am sure I was never happier! The sun lounger is too narrow to find a place of comfort for my arm, which continues to catch my breath with the level of pain at times, and so my husband came up with a solution. He made a pile of several cushions to the right of me, and my arm lay on top of it rather regally, and the pain eased. I drifted off to the garden sounds.
The pain seems to have no pattern, it’s intense one moment, and doable the next. I save the analgesics for daylight hours though they don’t always do the trick. The Alexander Technique, hot packs, ice packs and TENS machine are also supporting me, plus exercise and imagining moving my arm (covert rehearsal).
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When I worked as a physiotherapist I used a process called Motivational Interviewing. One of the key elements to the process, which is about helping people change, is termed “rolling with resistance”. It basically is about not attacking and confronting someone directly. It’s a compassionate way of working with someone who is not yet ready to change.
Despite having years of working with people where I rolled with their resistance, my own habit, applied to myself, is often to go for the cure: attacking and changing something before I have accepted the reality of the situation. It doesn’t work, and it hasn’t worked in a specific instance and the habit is still there. There’s obviously some unconscious resistance. I am not ready to change. I am creating conflict by trying to change something that is not ripe to change. Thus, I have been working with acceptance this week.
I have been gently accepting this habit I thought I had changed, really wanted to change, but had not.
I have been using the Alexander Technique and inhibiting my urge to change the habit. Instead I have been accepting it’s presence and releasing to it. I have learned a lot more about it by doing that.
This same process can be applied to all habits of thought and action, to pain and discomfort. To anything that you want to change. First comes acceptance: doing nothing to change it but, by doing nothing, it’s doing everything. It’s being in the present moment, with it, just as it is, not as you want it to be. Being at peace with where you are.
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I got back to the present moment.
I know this is a wonderful moment.
(Thich Nhat Hahn)
This week’s “project” has been my breathing. More about why in this month’s blog. However, I was surprised to find, when I paid attention to my breathing, that it was often rapid, and in my upper chest. A deep breath felt difficult because my abdomen was tight and restricting the movement of my diaphragm.
Becoming aware of each breath, and maintaining attention on the breath, is a way into the present moment for many religions and disciplines.
Learning the Alexander Technique does free up the breathing. However, my discovery about my breathing reminded me that breathing can be affected by anxiety, emotion, tension, physical issues: many things.
My breathing has become slower and easier by applying the Alexander Technique. I will share the things I have been doing with you, over the next couple of weekly prompts. They have an indirect effect. They bring me to a place where I can let go of tension and my breathing does itself.
Here’s one of the things I have been doing (to bring about non-doing):
If you have not had any Alexander Technique lessons can I suggest you take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing without changing it?
You may like to think the phrase at the heading as you breath?
I always remember the chapter in Walter Carrington’s book “Thinking Aloud” on the whispered Ah
“just when people need to do whispered ahs most they feel the least inclined to do them. This is always so. You will find this in yourself. I noticed this myself this morning. Before I started work, I did a number of whispered ahs and I just hated every moment of it. I knew, I could tell, that I was in need of doing some whispered ahs.”
If Walter Carrington (one of the first teacher’s trained by F.M.Alexander) thinks whispered ahs are important maybe you might like to try a whispered Ah or two today?
Let me know how you get on?
Jane Clappison, Alexander Technique Teacher
Finding the present moment
through your feet!
I made my feet, especially my toes, a project this week. Can my feet bring me back to the present moment? It’s a kind of thinking to bring about non doing.
In The Use of the Self, F. M. Alexander talks about taking hold of the floor with his feet. He explains that that habit was part of a bigger picture. It sure is.
During this project I noticed I often try to grip the floor with my toes, sometimes I have a lot of weight on my heels, especially when walking. I got to be re-acquainted with some of the unhelpful habits I have, like standing on the outside of my foot when I dry my other foot. Doing that gives me less stability and area to balance on.
Does all that matter as feet are constantly adapting? What I do know is that I don’t have to do any of that extra stuff. I can do nothing instead. I can let my feet do what they are designed to do. It’s much easier and I get some amazing feedback through my feet for all the movements I do, if I leave them alone.
I was pleasantly surprised as I noticed the sensation of the bedroom carpet in the morning. I am always amazed at finding something new in ordinary, everyday activities. I enjoyed spotting the texture and temperature contrast between the carpet and the wood of the floor in the bathroom.
When I invite my feet to rest on the floor, and release to the floor, everything I do, because it’s part of a whole pattern, becomes easier. It also instantly takes me into the present moment.
Maybe you might like to make your feet a project too? Could be a 5 minute project as you do an activity or a longer term project.
You could focus just on noticing your feet in the moment, notice what happens if you invite them to release.
Notice what around you as you do all of that. Let the images come to you rather than forcing it.
If it seems your feet are illusive – try waking them up with massage, or giving them a wash and dry every nook and cranny, or roll your foot over a tennis ball. There are so many ways, and we do these kinds of things in Alexander Lessons.
If you know about the primary directions like “let the neck be free” add your feet into the picture. Can your feet be free to rest?
Let me know if you have any questions/how you get on?
Alexander Technique Teacher
Nowadays we might call it abuse, but back in the mid 70’s I didn’t question it. I was told to drink tea by my teacher Ken Parkinson (Fellow of the Gemmological Association) so I did.
Ken was already in his 70’s when I went to him to learn about gemmology. He was always smartly dressed in a brown tweed suit (including waistcoat) and was mercurial in the way he moved around his office.
Ken usually rang me up before a lesson to get me to bring him some Erinmore tobacco and moustache wax. I suspect Ken must have been a regular at the corner store as they sold both those things.
Our lessons would start with tea. As a coffee drinker that was abhorrent, but Ken insisted as I was British, I had to drink tea. The tea arrived on a tray, with matching tea pot, china cups and saucers, milk jug and sugar bowl. I had to drink it with lots of sugar at first to get it down, but that’s no longer the case.
During the tea pouring ceremony (because it was a ceremony with Ken) he also started to fill his pipe with the tobacco I had brought. Padding it down, sucking on the pipe, and taking great care with this ritual. The fact his handlebar moustache was ginger in the middle and white on the ends reflected the years of pipe smoking.
I loved those lessons, surrounded by cases of gemstones, sourced from around the world by Ken. Learning to open gemstone packages and Ken’s rather un- PC mnemonics for Mohs scale of hardness, getting to grips with spectroscopes and refractometers, filters, microscopes and the names and beautiful shapes in which gems grow. It was fascinating. My love of tea began then too.
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This is the fourth interview, in a series of interviews with students of the Alexander Technique (AT) about their experiences of learning the technique:
“It’s easy to slump. I can even do it stood up.”
“I notice slumping, I notice my neck position, I notice my feet. I am aware of the automatic patterns in everything I do: how to recognise them, get out of them and avoid them.”
Nick started playing the saxophone at the age of eight and plays in a band. Nick is also self employed in I.T. He started having Alexander Technique (AT) lessons because of:
- Shoulder pain, neck pain and pins and needles in his hand
- Tension headaches
- Chronic Fatigue syndrome (CFS) and brain fog
The main benefits he has noticed, if he pays attention and applies AT are:
- No pins and needles in his hand
- No depression
- Less tiredness and brain fog
- Rarely gets neck or back pain
- Rarely gets headaches which used to be every week & last for days, and now they might happen every 3-4 months
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