The New NOT-NORMAL

April 3, 2020 at 9:42 pm 5 comments

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Like so many of my colleagues across the globe, I have been plunged into the world of teaching remotely for a good part of this semester.  Fortunately, I have taught the Alexander Technique (AT) via Zoom before– so I felt equipped to do so. But these are not the usual circumstances under which I have taught it. And the circumstances are the main event. A predominant pattern I’m seeing is that students feel as though they should be really productive.  They have more time and fewer distractions. Doesn’t that translate into more practice time? If only it were that simple.

One of the fundamental tasks of our organism is to find safety.  While our recent past has not required us to work very hard at that, we are now faced with safety –searching as a full-time job. It takes a lot of energy to feel safe which means there is little energy left for our to do list. I happen to believe we need to nurture that part of us that is lost, tired, confused, sad, and generally not feeling safe. Maybe nesting—cleaning out my closet and baking cookies—will make me feel like I am creating a comfortable environment at home. My senses want to be filled with things that are soothing. Seeing a clean space, smelling baked goods, listening to music—this will all help me orient to my new not-normal. These things will help me make peace with where I am. They will help define where I am in ways that are acceptable to me—and are within my control. If I do not contribute to creating this environment, I will feel out of control and terribly conflicted over trying to do things I think I should do in a space where I don’t really know where I am.

In AT we sometimes use a bit of jargon e.g. psychophysical unity. This is a word that attempts to express our wholeness rather than all the parts often used to describe our experiences. We are not a mind separated from a body.  We are one person with all the fascinating attributes that make us “us.”  One of my favorite AT articles is one written years ago by David Gorman called The Rounder We Go, The Stucker We Get.  

In this article Gorman describes the moment we are naturally brought to conscious awareness by some symptom—pain, tension, anxiety etc.  When this happens we try to change things to make the moment feel better.  But because we are not deeply acknowledging the reality of what is happening in this moment, we are creating conflict in our system.  Psychophysical unity is not possible.  Accepting what is happening because it is the reality of the moment brings us into harmony with all our seeming disparate parts—psychophysical unity.

What do I advise?  Clean your closets, bake your cookies, don’t practice or don’t practice the music you think you’re supposed to be practicing.  Create your safe space. I am sure that the passion you have for creating art will be revealed again and that you will have all the necessary energy you need to do what you want to do. Embrace the new not-normal, accept that it is not normal.  And please have compassion for yourself as you do so.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lisa Biow  |  April 4, 2020 at 9:09 pm

    Hi Debi. My sister, Cindy Shivers, pointed me to this post. (Cindy and I knew your husband as children and reconnected with him as adults.)

    I’m both a Feldenkrais teacher and Rolfer, and am currently unemployed in both due to stay-at-home orders. And I too, have been pressuring myself to use all the new time in my life to do something “productive,” to write more, read all the dense books I’ve been meaning to get around to forever, to do something useful. This post was a lovely reminder that the small daily efforts at making a safe space, of attending to the body, of finding ways to settle are in fact some of the most useful things I can do at the moment. So thank you. I benefited from your words and will pass them along.

    One last thought: Your post reminded me a bit of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, with the need for safety preceding and supporting the need, several levels up the pyramid, for self-actualization. Back to basics; first things first.

    Reply
    • 2. Lisa Biow  |  April 4, 2020 at 9:11 pm

      oops. I entered this prior comment in the wrong place, It was a response to The New Not-Normal. I just was so taken with that post, I started reading all your others.

      Reply
    • 3. debiadamsat  |  April 5, 2020 at 2:31 am

      Thank you for this. It’s great to know that it’s useful to post my thoughts!

      Reply
  • 4. alexandertechnique2016  |  August 9, 2020 at 5:32 pm

    Debi: many thanks for the splendid ‘In the Company of Support’ summer workshop. I, too, have a wordpress blog, and you can find me at Poise and Presence. (tried to give you a link, but not finding that option in this comment square! Best regards—–

    Reply
    • 5. debiadamsat  |  August 12, 2020 at 3:26 am

      You have a lovely blog! Thanks for attending our retreat. It was great to have you! Stay well!

      Reply

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