AT Teacher-Training Course goes remote!

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So many people are learning about the value of studying the Alexander Technique online. Well– there is value in training to teach online also. You will gain the ability to:

  • see your students with greater clarity
  • avoid teacher dependence
  • learn how to create community online
  • foster self care—for you and your students
  • recognize the magic of reaching people in their own spaces
  • and so much more!

Our faculty just met to plan our remote curriculum. And we are excited!

Meet our faculty:

Debi Adams

Jamee Culbertson

Bob Lada

Eliza Mallouk,

Aline Newton

For more information or to register visit the website

 

August 12, 2020 at 7:41 pm Leave a comment

Taking a Step Back

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Alexander Technique study requires a witnessing of our actions. When we are able to take a brief moment -a millisecond- to honestly observe our reactions, we are gifted with sight, with insight into us. It is a humbling profession. Sometimes we take a millisecond and sometimes we are afforded more time than that. Using that time to truly see ourselves so that we can truly see the world around us can bring us to profound insights, personal transformation and growth.

The current coronavirus pandemic has resulted in my being furloughed by the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. Is this a gift that will allow me to take that step back to observe deeply? If I perceive it that way then it will be. I have the choice to respond to this circumstance, as I might respond to others that are less complicated. I will take that step back to see myself being myself with all the truth that shows up. Will I like what I see? I don’t know. But hopefully I’ll be back to tell you in the fall. In the meantime, my Alexander colleagues will lovingly administer this page. I’m sure you will enjoy their posts. Stay well! Take a step back…..

(Please note: this post was prepared for the Alexander Technique at Boston Conservatory at Berklee Facebook page.)

May 15, 2020 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

Touch, AT, and a Pandemic

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Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

This article is not about how to teach or study the Alexander Technique remotely.  This is about touch.  What it means to be touched. What it means not to be touched. I had a very interesting lesson with one of my older piano students who lives alone. She said she thinks she is practicing piano more these days because touching the piano feels so good—and it’s the only kind of touch available to her right now.  It’s the only kind of touch available to her right now. Just think about that. We are touching our computer keyboards and our phones and our remote controls—and not much more than that.

What does it mean to touch? And can we truly touch something without being touched by it?  We often say that someone’s words have touched us deeply. Or we have been so moved by an artistic performance that we say it was touching. I have observed the arts community touching us all with extraordinary performances and creative solutions to ensemble playing. But I had not considered the act of touching an instrument or equating expression with touch in that way. I am grateful to my piano student for pointing this out to me.

The Alexander Technique brings mindfulness to life.  When I play the piano I may be inclined to sense my touch in relation to the expressive nature of the piece I’m playing. But isn’t it valid to sense my touch on the computer keyboard as I write this article as well?  And might that differ from my computer touch when I am irritated by something? Doesn’t that touch get reflected in the language I choose to use?  Touch and being touched. As I touch with anger or irritation I am receiving that sentiment as well.  And with my simple observation of that experience I can choose to touch differently.  And I will be touched differently. And then I will hear my anger and see the language of my email differently. And my receipt of a new touch will end up touching others differently than if I had not been listening.

May 1, 2020 at 8:08 pm Leave a comment

Summer Alexander Technique Retreats

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As we navigate this new world we live in, everything is becoming an online experience.  So many people have questioned the feasibility of learning the Alexander Technique (AT) online.  After all, it has historically been a hands-on teaching. This may surprise you, but learning and teaching the AT online is not only doable—it has advantages. Recently in my AT for Musicians classes at the Conservatory, I asked the students about the benefits of learning online.  As far as learning AT, they agreed that being able to have class at home meant that they were applying the AT principles more often in their lives than they had done while taking the class at school.  Fascinating– and not surprising when you think about it.  I also believe there is an empowerment that they did not expect.  There is much less sense of needing me there to help them.  I have always weaned my students from hands-on work.  So at this time of the semester we would have been relying much less on hands-on experiences than we did in January. But this empowerment came a little early and it works. Another benefit I had not previously considered is that some students may be reticent about the hands-on aspect of the teaching.  By studying online any fear of being touched is obliterated.

Now we are approaching the summer.  Usually there are several retreats to explore.  But the coronavirus pandemic means these retreats will be online.  Not “but”—AND! What an opportunity to study this amazing work, to learn about the patterns of behavior you may not have even known you had — and to learn that they need not be permanent.  I am teaching on several retreats.  You can visit my workshop page for more information and you can Google Alexander retreats to find more.

Happy AT study!

April 24, 2020 at 2:18 am Leave a comment

The New NOT-NORMAL

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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.

April 3, 2020 at 9:42 pm 5 comments

Vertical Buoyancy

 

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Photo by Diego Madrigal from Pexels

Sometimes while teaching, a phrase will show up that truly meets the needs of the moment.  And sometimes that phrase becomes part of your regular lexicon.  I was working with a student who was claiming great length from the inside.  I was concerned that he might soon add some effort to his uprightness.  That’s when we started talking about balancing the horizontal pulls in life with our sense of verticality. But “vertical buoyancy” seemed most appropriate.  Now I am using the term all the time.  I love what it implies.  Often when I talk about the relationship of our head to the rest of us, I show images of lily pads.  Our head rests on the top of our spine as a lily pad rests on water—totally supported and totally movable. It gives us that vertical buoyancy!

 

 

March 25, 2020 at 10:01 pm Leave a comment

What is the Alexander Technique at Boston Conservatory at Berklee?

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The Alexander Technique (AT) is an investigation into human reaction.  And what makes that exciting is that we investigate OUR OWN reactions—not just the generic ones.  We learn to observe ourselves in such a way that we become free to choose responses outside of our habitual network.  And that experience can be life changing!

At Boston Conservatory at Berklee, we spend most of our time investigating responses to performance situations—whether a studio class, an audition, or a performance, we explore the best ways to prepare for these events so that we can be the best artist we can be under potentially stressful situations.

In addition to the work we do with musicians, dancers and actors here, we also train AT teachers to carry this work into the world. Having the skills to teach this work can be a perfect complement to a performing career. It keeps your self-awareness honed; it spreads this work to a population that understands and fully appreciates its usefulness; it provides additional income to what can be a financially volatile career.

We are fortunate to have several faculty and staff at Boston Conservatory and Berklee who are trained as AT teachers.  Let’s introduce you:

Debi Adams

Sara Goldstein Gall

Shannon Lee Jones

Diane Hovenesian

Jessica Webb

Paul D’Agostino  https://bostonconservatory.berklee.edu/directory/paul-dagostino

Bob Lada https://www.berklee.edu/people/bob-lada

Here are our additional teachers on the AT training course

Jamee Culbertson

Eliza Mallouk

Aline Newton

We also have faculty currently in the AT training course who will soon be added to this list.

We hope you will enjoy our posts.

Here’s to the exploration!

March 18, 2020 at 9:40 pm Leave a comment

Rosh Hashanah and AT

I am a teacher of The Alexander Technique.  What’s that, you ask? Well—it’s the most simple and complicated teaching around. On one hand, it involves a heightened awareness of our reactions to the stimuli of life. This can be as simple as noticing a muscular tightening when I open my car door. Or it can be noticing a similar tightening or holding of breath when I encounter a particular person at my workplace. Learning to inhibit, or intercept habitual responses is interesting enough.  There is a richness of possibilities available in these moments that often comes as a surprise.  Who knew so many choices were available—simply by not reinforcing my usual response? And how do I allow for a new response during the most charged moments of my life? Deyanu—it would have been enough. For many it is more than enough to examine these parts of ourselves, to become intimate and honest with our own responses, and learn to allow for new ones to emerge.

 

But there is more. My mentor, Tommy Thompson, talks about “The Personal Narrative and the Universal Narrative.” Our personal narrative is the story we tell ourselves.  It is the belief we have about us—our potential, our limitations, our interpretation of all the events of our lives that have brought us to the current moment. It is a personal signature that is reflected in our patterns of behavior. It often causes us to operate in conflict with our inherited design.  That design is the Universal Narrative—the story of our evolutionary process. The “us” that lives beneath the created self is the neutral story—a story without judgment, a story without conflict, a story without preconceived notions of what we can or cannot be. We can use the Alexander Technique to tap into that universal narrative by listening deeply to those moments when we suspend our personal narrative in favor of what might show up instead.

 

As I participated in today’s Rosh Hashanah service I was somehow brought to these ideas of personal and universal narratives. My concept of God is Oneness.  I read the Shema, a defining Hebrew prayer, and interpret it as “our God is One—Oneness–unification of all.”  Our current struggle with climate change exists because we have responded as a people from our Personal Narrative, not the Universal Narrative that would protect us all from our own poor decisions.  The political struggles today are clearly a product of Personal Narratives.  Everyone looks out for number one and in so doing negates the oneness that would unite us in our decisions.  At the same time, every person responding from their Personal Narrative CAN inhibit that response, listen deeply in moments of high tension, release the muscular hold we have on ourselves and in so doing find those remarkable possibilities we never even knew existed. Cain y’he ratzon—may it be so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 3, 2019 at 12:49 am Leave a comment

Is direction necessary?

It’s a question that I revisit often.  For now, I believe that inhibition is all that is necessary for us to function with ease and simplicity. It seems to me that direction happens –as a result of the inhibitive process. I have read The Evolution of the Technique countless times. Each time I am drawn to two spots.  One is when FM  realizes that if he prevents the pulling back of his head, then he does not depress his larynx and audibly suck in air. It is the inhibition of pulling his head back that results in his improved use. It’s what he does not do, not what he does that helps him. Then he attempts to put his head forward, etc.  Things don’t go well after that –until the second spot I’m drawn to.  This is near the very end of the chapter when he decides that he can make a fresh decision whether to speak or not or do something else like raise his hand instead. As my teacher, Tommy Thompson, puts it, “he is equally committed to not following through with his original intention.” Inhibition, no?

I also think about young children.  They are my best teachers. Children don’t “direct” themselves.  They are sufficiently present with what they are doing that they don’t project themselves into the future, into reactive patterns. A state of presentness is an inhibitive state. Reactions take us out of the present moment. And children are very much in the moment. But I must also admit that knowledge of what happens when we remove the interference from our primary mechanism, may be useful.  Years ago (20 or more) I remember a discussion with Tommy Thompson and David Gorman around not needing Alexander’s directions. I told them that I didn’t see how they could be sure they didn’t need them since they grew up with directions.  How could you know that you don’t need them if you never experienced this technique without them?  Now I realize that that may never be a possibility because no matter how you experience this work, you will probably read a number of books that include Alexander’s directions.  Oh well….So much for training a generation of teachers who are completely “directionless!”

Another reference for me is a spot in Frank Jones’ book where he has a line drawing of three heads: habitual collapsed, habitual erect and guided erect. It’s one of my favorites parts of this magnificent book.  He says that you can move from being collapsed to be guided up; and you can move from being collapsed to being held erect.  BUT you cannot move from being habitually erect to being guided upright.  First you have to let go. That doesn’t sound like direction to me. I listened to my thoughts all day today looking for any sign of direction.  Couldn’t find one.  Every moment I sensed myself out of coordination, I asked myself where I was. I allowed myself to just be.  What happened as a result of that?  Well, what do you know?  I believe my neck may have freed and my head may have moved –forward and up– and my spine may have lengthened and my limbs may have freed.  Isn’t that interesting?  Let me know your thoughts –really!

 

December 24, 2015 at 4:13 am Leave a comment

INHIBITION: A GATEWAY TO CREATIVITY

I’m a pianist and teacher of The Alexander Technique.  During a class that I teach at The Boston Conservatory, I recently made the comment that titles this blog: Inhibition is your gateway to creativity! Hmmm.  It just came out — and it is so true.

I cannot count how many times I have discovered myself about to play a passage or even a single note at the piano in a way that reinforced the way I played that bit every other time I played it.  We all do this.  In fact, we classical musicians often practice our music over and over in order to establish and refine our interpretation.  Several years ago I took on the challenging study of jazz.  You see, I’m a classical pianist, having received a Master’s Degree in Piano Performance in the classical tradition.  So after playing the instrument for about 45 years, I decided it was finally time to take improvisation on.  My interest?  I wanted to free myself up at the keyboard in a new way – find a way to let improvisation truly be a part of my playing. I began studying the Alexander Technique about 30 years ago, so freeing up at the piano has been a part of my interest for some time.

Inhibition is that lovely little window between stimulus and response that allows us to redefine the moment right then and there– not in a way that is based on past history and expectation.  Yes, it can be unsettling.  But more often it is incredibly freeing.  And the new musical possibilities are endless!  I have worked with jazz artists in the midst of improvisation where it seemed that the musical choices they were making were dictated by their physical and attitudinal “set.”  Inhibition allowed a new choice to be made by offering the student an opportunity to let go of the commitment to what they were doing.  Applying this moment of choice to a classical piece is at least as exciting – maybe more so!

So give it a try.  Just as you are about to play something – especially a part you have thought about and decided upon – give yourself a tiny pause to let go of the direction in which you are headed and allow in the possibility of something new.  I hope you enjoy your new experience!

March 16, 2014 at 9:01 pm Leave a comment

HOW MANY LESSONS DOES IT TAKE?

 

Yesterday I participated in a Wellness Fair in Brookline Village, the tiny neighborhood where my office is located.  Several local practitioners got together to share our expertise with the community. It was the first of its kind in this neighborhood.  The response was overwhelming — over 300 folks attended.  There were tables representing the local chiropractor as well as the acupuncturist, the T’ai Chi School and the gym.  You name it, we have it in Brookline Village — along with The Alexander Technique, of course.  My colleague Cecile Raynor assisted me in this venture along with soon-to-be teacher Rachel Prabhakar.  We explained the work to whoever came to our table and offered a few minutes of hands-on guidance to those who were interested.  Cecile and I gave a 10-minute presentation (each practitioner at the fair had the opportunity to present), after which our table had a line of interested visitors. Each person had about 3 minutes of work with us.  Some may have had a bit more — but not very much.  What struck me was that each person left the fair with more clarity on what this work is, with a new understanding of what they typically do all day, and with a realization that choices are available to them.  Is there any better lesson than that really?  I have no idea if any of these people will actually take a series of lessons.  But I am confident that the seeds have been planted — in ONE lesson.  I run a “boot camp” on Alexander Technique in June at  The Boston Conservatory (www.bostonconservatory.edu/alexander). I am often asked how much can really be learned in one single week of immersion.  Well, if yesterday is any indication, then an awful lot of information can be soaked in in a week’s time. I can’t wait!

April 8, 2013 at 1:54 am Leave a comment

What’s First?

I am always asking my students to find their integration first and movement next.  I find this to be true whether you are playing an instrument, are involved in any activity or contacting your AT students with your hands.  It’s an aspect of “endgaining’ to first bring your hands to your students.  Do I think you actually need to stop to do this?  Not really.  But the process of learning this inhibitive act can often be aided by waiting. (Please note that waiting is not freezing.) It’s amazing how much can happen when you do nothing! What usually becomes clearer is how much you were heading toward your student or your activity.

Movement is multi-directional.  Balancing these directions is an interesting process. If I am moving toward my activity without acknowledging the movement in other directions as well, I am limiting the possibilities of what might occur. I don’t think it’s an issue of “coming back to yourself.”  If you do that, you may have taken directional movement away from your activity.  That’s no fun!  I seek my movements to be inclusive of all directions.  New possibilities emerge.  That’s fun.

So what do I mean by Integration First, Movement Next? Integration is, after all. movement! But it is the balancing of the movement within with the movement with-out. It’s in the waiting, or in the absence of committment to the activity that integration will occur.  It’s really that simple.  If I am equally committed to not following through with my original intention I learn so much about myself. “What if I don’t…?” is a game I play.  I only do this to recognize what I thought I needed to do if I did. Ha! The language is great, isn’t it?

March 4, 2012 at 6:48 pm Leave a comment

ISN’T THAT INTERESTING!

As Alexander teachers and students we are interested in raising our awareness about what we are up to moment by moment. The danger that can accompany this level of noticing is that students are often judgmental, deciding that a particular habit is “bad” or “wrong.” I have adopted a phrase that I tell my students is the only way for them to respond to whatever they notice: “Isn’t that interesting!” This allows them to acknowledge whatever has come up without labeling it as anything other than interesting- which it probably is! I also find that students sometimes want to attach a reason for a particular reaction. Again, if they say, “Isn’t that interesting,” the reason becomes unnecessary and allows them to move continually into the moment rather than into the past.

January 18, 2012 at 2:43 am Leave a comment

MY THREE NECK THEORY

Anyone who has studied with me over the past 20 years, has heard me speak of my three neck theory.  I think it’s time I went public!  Alexander was very interested in the relationship of the head to the neck.  This is a rich area and acts as a sort of control tower for guiding the rest of us.  When I contemplate its power, I think about the neck as a connector.  We have so many senses that are housed primarily in our heads.  The neck is the pathway to connecting those senses to the rest of us.

So where do the other two necks come in?  If I look at the neck as a connector, then I see the wrists and ankles as connectors- as necks- as well.  Our contact with the world around us comes in through our tactile sense as well as those of sight , hearing, etc.  Taken in this context, the wrists and ankles act as necks.

Support for my theory: 

An Alexander teacher friend told me, upon hearing my theory, that the words in Japanese for wrist and ankle are neck of the hand and neck of the foot.  The words sound like: Kobi (neck), Te Kobi (wrist) and Asi Kobe (ankle).  I am happy for my Japanese friends out there to comment on this.

How does this enhance my teaching?

The first neck is the one we all know and love.  As an Alexander teacher I am certainly interested in its relationship to the rest of us.  But I do find that if I give attention to the other necks as well, I can more clearly help the student connect their reactions to various stimuli to the interferences they adopt in their necks.  We have a beautifully integrated system.  Information coming into one area necessarily informs the rest of us.  Give it a try.  It’s fascinating.

January 16, 2012 at 2:51 pm 5 comments


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