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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