Posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’

The New NOT-NORMAL

IMG_3318

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 3 comments

Vertical Buoyancy

 

aquatic-beautiful-bloom-blooming-539694

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?

2019_AT_mparkos_62

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

Older Posts


Calendar

April 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Posts by Month

Posts by Category