Recently, one evening in Alexander Technique teacher training, as I was putting hands on one of my co-trainees, who was lying semi-supine on a table, I looked through the window and saw the most beautiful crescent moon.
At this moment in my training, when I put hands on my co-trainees, I am really working on myself. I do so slowly, I take my time…I put hands on, I re-organize myself…over and over again…every step of the way. As I was going through this, I exclaimed to my co-trainee that the moon was so beguiling, and she agreed, “yes!” We were so joyous with its loveliness; it kept us company. After working on her I made sure to take a quick photo. Good thing too, for shortly thereafter, the moon disappeared behind the buildings.
The transitory apparition of the moon kind of reminded me of the how ephemeral good use is, and how we can tighten up just by having the thought of doing something. I go to lift an arm or a leg and the mere thought of doing so makes me stiffen and pull down. And so I have to take a moment to reset. I take a moment and I think up, my back going back, I undo my legs and arms, feel the floor under my feet, widen my back, have my hands come from my feet and back, without tension, especially in my upper arms, etcetera, etcetera, and then I proceed. Over and over again. Intermittent moments of tension and pulling down alternating with moments of good use. Happily, the moments of good use are coming more frequently and and with more ease…
Looking out the window at TCAT-NYC…at the crescent moon…
My present training course, TCAT-NYC, is now officially a year old. Our second year is underway. I’m in the middle of the second year of my Alexander Technique teacher training. At this particular moment, I have found that my priorities have shifted. I am trying to have my training be a real priority in my life. I kind of feel at times that I have gone from merely training just for myself to training so that I can teach the Technique, as well as training just for myself. The fact that I will be teaching feels more concrete.
Up until now, I feel that this second year of my training has been a rocky one. My difficulties have in large part vanished. For now, at least. Now I really look forward to going to class. I am feeling a lightness of spirit as well as a lightness of body.
How did this change come to pass? I don’t know. I spent the winter break in France.
A few days before the barbarous acts took place, I stood, in the Musée du Luxembourg, in front of a a painting by Renoir, Les Filles de Paul Durand-Ruel, Marie Thérèse et Jeanne, and tears started to fall. I couldn’t stop them. For some reason my tears reminded me of the times I well up in tears in training. In training this happens from undoing; in front of the Renoir, well, I was overwhelmed by exquisite beauty and I wondered how such a thing could have been created. It seemed like an ethereal distillation of French aesthetic elegance.
I came back to NYC exhausted both mentally and physically, glad to be safe and soundly home, yet very sad and constantly teary. Traumatized. Every morning as I am sifting through the news from France, I cry. However, it would seem that I went back to training with a sense of renewal, feeling kind of centered. Go figure. Now, training has become my personal haven. I am so grateful to be able to go about this business of my life.
Je suis Charlie: it’s a refrain with many overtones, isn’t it? This slogan has nothing to do with Alexander Technique teacher training, does it? Well perhaps it does for my own, personal training…
View from the big studio at TCAT-NYC…
And so…the first year of training at TCAT-NYC has come to a close. A year of change. To recap: this is my second training course. I started at the now defunct ATNYC, then had to take off a semester due to knee surgery, and then re-started training here at TCAT-NYC’s inception. I’m well ensconced in my second year of Alexander Technique teacher training. In our last week, we were asked to bring in activities to work on. Activities included: talking, sewing, grating cheese, and writing. The activities I chose to do were: texting on my iPhone, writing with a fountain pen in my journal–yeah, yeah I am at the same time tech absorbed and very retro–and walking in my tango practice shoes, and street shoes I use for tango dancing outside in the street–both pairs of these shoes have 2 1/2 inch heels. Walking well in flats is difficult enough for me, so walking in heels is doubly difficult. Have to think up, up, up, move my knees, have my feet make contact with the floor… When I walk correctly, with my trainer assisting me, I feel lightheaded, like I’m flying, like I have vertigo. It’s so new and different for me to walk with good use of self! My usual habit is to pull down. Sigh. Walking with good use of self is so hard! But, hey! I can walk around in heels again, and this after the surgery for a torn meniscus. Not too shabby.
One day black tango practice shoes…
Another day…pink and yellow shoes…
We started up again in Alexander Technique teacher training, after the Thanksgiving break. After the guided lie down and the first round of turns, my trainer surprised me. He announced to the class that, going forward, he wanted me to put hands-on the other two trainees when he wasn’t working on them. Well, I was floored, as I had no advanced notice of this turn of events. Of course, at this stage of my training, my putting hands-on my co-trainees means that I am primarily working on myself. Transferring hands on back of chair, et al, to hands-on real flesh and blood people.
This unexpected development gave me a much needed shot in the arm, training wise. How I welcome this opportunity! It’s a validation that I am making progress. And I get to interact with my co-trainees in a new and different way.
My co-trainees seem pleased as punch that they are getting extra hands-on, albeit from a second year trainee. I do not have this same luxury. I work in a sort of isolation. Very different from my former training, where, as a beginning trainee, I was the recipient of lots of hands-on by my former colleagues.
I didn’t get a chance to get a photo of me doing hands-on, so I offer you instead this photo of one of my hands on Doucette the cat. My other hand, of course, was taking the photo…
hand on Doucette the cat
Right now, in my second year of Alexander Technique teacher training, I am feeling that the psycho part of me is yo-yo-ing back and forth between old, dark habits and new, healthier habits. A continual battle is going on. Makes me want to read about the goddess Psyche…in Apulius’ Metamorphosis…and read up on the etymologies of the word “psyche.” I love the fact that the “psyche” is also akin to a “departed soul” and is often represented by a butterfly. Since I’ve undertaken Alexander Technique teacher training I have often felt like a proverbial butterfly.
In fact training seems to be sapping all my energy. I am emotionally drained therefore I am physically drained. Not fun. At the moment I am one tired butterfly.
I have kept wanting to run away. So much anxiety… Am I finished with the desire to run away from this training? I think I’m (tentatively) at the point of no return…that I need to go on and finish this thing…well certify…for one is never finished with this thing that is the Alexander Technique.
The other night I was so stressed out that I kept waking up. A yucky night of insomnia. I had two nightmares that night. One was a really powerful one about my anxiety regarding my training scene. I woke up from it with my heart palpitating. I knew I had to quickly write it down so I could remember it. I got up and did so. While writing the dream down, I had thought that recording it would, once again, really tempt me to run away from training. It did the opposite. The dream was cathartic. Living through that dream was a cleansing experience that hopefully might assist me in carrying on.
It amazes me that the psyche can be jarred more by Alexander Technique than by psychotherapy at times. It is so very proustien. Instead of a taste of a bit of madeleine along with some tilleuil, the instigator to remember lost memories can be an experience of a particular chair turn. My trainer says to me now and again that a memory of a painful, past incident is different that the actual incident was. It is not as forceful. This is true, especially when it comes to physical pain, the quality of which is hard to pin down once it is over. We forget. We can know that it was horrible as we know we were screaming for demerol or some such. I guess this is true for psychic pain as well. But the remembered pain, both psychic and physical, is still pretty powerful, dislocating stuff.
Going deeply into the Alexander Technique via teacher training can provoke such remembrances, and, at the same time, does provide us with how to cope with remembered, thus newly uncovered pain. And it also provides us with the tools to stop the old pain in its tracks, to divert it, to stop old habits…by replacing them with newer, healthier habits and coping mechanisms. This process is so mysterious to me. But I’ll take it. I want to be a more authentic version of me! I don’t want my soul to depart…I just want the bad stuff to depart!
Cupid and Psyche
Hey, guess what? I promise that my next post will be way more upbeat! 🙂
“The brain is quiet and alive, listening out for the new direction which the teacher is giving.” From Aspects of a Lesson in Not to ‘Do’ by Fiona Robb
It is break time chez Alexander Technique teacher training…Thanksgiving break…time for me to reflect. On this Thanksgiving day here in the USA, this is how I’m feeling right now while training: quiet, really quiet, tranquil, observant, and alive. I feel I am disentangling with the speed of lightening…shedding toxicity. I am feeling better and better physically…waiting for the psycho part of myself to catch up. 🙂
In my hands-on work I’m now taking shoulders, and guiding my co-trainees and trainer into and out of a chair. I try to keep all my directions going to do all this successfully: hands come from feet and back, no gripping in arms and legs, stay up up up, hands connect to each other through the student, etcetera. If I am not “successful” at times I laugh it off rather than get all upset. Joyous is so much better than stressed out in trying to end-gain. It’s a much better space to be in. I do not question how it is that I have entered this calm space. I am just totally enjoying hanging out in it! As I feel my sensory perception getting more reliable, I feel I am understanding more and more what I am undergoing…
Monsieur le squelette hangs out in the corner and keeps us company…
September and October were two rough months for me in Alexander Technique teacher training. I experienced enormous emotional and physical upheavals. I’ve been truly exhausted. Is this second year of the three a turning point?
Quite suddenly, the storm abated. I feel a quiet descending. I feel calm, peaceful, and kind. I am obtaining a poise that has always alluded me. My thinking is in the process of changing. I feel it! It’s palpable! I am so lucky that I have discovered the Alexander Technique and/or it has discovered me, that I have started training to become a teacher of the Technique, and that, indeed, I am well ensconced on this extraordinary journey of self-discovery and awareness.
My lucky horse shoe hangs in my kitchen. I’ve had it for years. I think it was purchased for me, and engraved with my name, in Coney Island when I was a little girl. But I cannot be sure. Well no matter where it came from…looking at it makes me smile, and makes me believe that I have true luck!
my lucky horse shoe
Will I ever get used to this particular roller coaster ride?Yesterday in Alexander Technique teacher training I took the right leg of a co-trainee and placed it down on the table. Then I lifted it up and bent her knee to place the leg back on the table. I did it well. I did it smoothly. And right after, I promptly burst into tears. Tom, my trainer asked what the matter was, if anything was wrong. I shook my head no.
Why the tears? Moving a leg is something that for sure will become prosaic and automatic. Why was this time such an emotional release for me? Maybe because I was so thrilled that, petite me, I managed to lift so well a large leg? I cannot do so without being well set up. I just do not have the strength. I would hurt myself pretty quickly if I made an attempt with poor use of self. So it was a real victory for me. I went to the other side and did the same thing with her left leg. It didn’t go as well as this is my weaker side. But it was okay.
I have just started reading Not to ‘Do’ — the account by Fiona Robb of her lessons with Margaret Goldie, taken while the author was in training herself, to become a teacher of the Alexander Technique. This book resonates greatly with me. Here is something Ms. Robb noted that blew me away as I am experiencing exactly this: “When she was speaking about getting out of the chair, she said that I was not to think about it–I was not to think about what the teacher was asking me to do–the key was to let it happen. I realised that I could not do this. I was anxious about it, not believing that anything would happen unless I made it happen, and disturbed on seeing how much effort I was making.”
I read this last passage out to Tom (who had lent me the book) before the class. So we had an impromptu, serious discussion about all this. Now he has said the same thing to me many, many times with different words. I have read similar statements by Walter Carrington and by Patrick Macdonald. A big click happened when I read this particular passage. Yesterday, during my chair turns, I tried to just let it happen. I tried not to think about it. I tried to put my anxiety aside. I was pretty successful.
So all in all I had a pretty amazing class. Tom kept congratulating me. I shrugged it off (“whatever…”) as I was trying to hide how thrilled I was. So I gave him a little smile. And then I went off to go shopping…an attempt to regularize my day. While I did my stuff, I was very conscious of trying to go up with every step I took.
after class…what I really needed for this post was a photo of me lifting a leg…sigh…
Our recent activity in Alexander Technique teacher training has been walking. Walking…very challenging and sobering for me…as I walk with bad use. I’ve been walking the wrong way all my life. And I’m a big walker…by nature…and in living in NYC…we New Yorkers tend to walk lots. My habitual habits: pulling down of course, a tendency to lean forward to get where I’m going…etcetera. My balance is off. When Tom my trainer walks me around the room and I manage to walk with better use (according to him…I don’t feel this yet) I am de-stabilized as I am walking in a way I am not used to. So my balance feels really off.
I was born with congenital, complete hip dysplasia: the balls of my thigh bones were completely out of the sockets. I had to wear a big black brace for two years or so to correct this. So I walked late. I didn’t crawl. Well, according to my cousins, I sort of crawled…pulled myself along with the brace, and apparently I was hilarious: tiny me, with a shock of bright red hair, messing about with the big, black brace.
I have no remembrance of this. I have only one, faded photo of me in the brace. When I do walking activities (so poorly) in training, and I try to think up, not pull down, as my knees are bending and my feet are rolling on the floor, and I am concentrating on making contact with the floor, and I am finding a balance, and I am trying not to grip, I think about all this stuff that happened to me that I don’t remember. I know that practicing walking with good use in the Alexander way will benefit me greatly in every aspect of my life, including teaching of course. But right now, ooh this is all so painful on a psychological level. Hopefully the next time walking activities come around, I will have made some progress.
pensive…thinking about finding balance…
I have been told, by Tom my trainer, about various famous teachers of the Alexander Technique who were short in stature like me. None of them were as slight as me…just to set the record straight. Well anyway I think about them as Tom and I explore together what I need to do to successfully lift a long, heavy leg. I call these esteemed teachers up, as it were, for some moral support.
The evening of the flute playing activity for my hands-on I extended, then lifted, my co-trainee Elizabeth’s leg a few times; and then Tom’s leg a few times. My two co-trainees and my trainer are way bigger than me. So what else is new? And Tom is the most dense/hardest to move…whatever. You get the drift. So there I was…at the last try on lifting Tom’s leg…thinking forward and up, neck free, going into monkey, redirecting, hand on the ball of the foot to be lifted, other hand under the knee, redirecting, putting pressure with the hands but no gripping no gripping no gripping in the arms, redirecting, putting more pressure more pressure more pressure really pressing, redirecting, hands had to come out of the back, redirecting, hands had to be connected to each other, redirecting, hands had be be connected to my feet, redirecting, neck had to be free, redirecting, staying forward and up…when…as I was putting more and more pressure on Tom’s foot, and up into the back of his knee, all of a sudden I felt his foot sort of shift backward as I got him to stretch his leg out…ahhhh…and he said right after that “yes!!!” And so, with both of my hands continuing the pressure, I came up from monkey and lifted! I brought his leg up and got his knee bent, and placed it on the table. Smoothly. And I managed to do so because I was using myself well! My little hands were coming from my back. I was not gripping in my arms! Yay me! Okay, so that right leg of his wasn’t placed in the same way his left leg was. Who is quibbling? These details will be sorted out. How I need to take a step? Eh…no problem. That I need to start lifting as I am coming out of monkey? Eh…no problem.
So what happened that night was that I discovered a missing piece for me in this leg lifting business. I felt with my hand when his leg was stretching. That needs to happen to be successful in this manoeuvre. But of course for me to do so is to be set up well. That night I sort of was.
But in the next training session after that one I felt I hit a brick wall in the leg lifting department. So humbling! But then in the next class, it went a whole lot smoother.
And then…hiatus…my hands-on now is hands under neck, hands under head…so…I didn’t get a photo of me working on a leg! Here is a non-sequitor photo…of a hot dog cart where I walk on the way to TCAT-NYC…near to where the infamous Attack of the Skateboarder happened!
On the way to TCAT-NYC