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.
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…
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!
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…
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!
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.
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.
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!
The other day I brought in a flute to play for an activity in Alexander Technique teacher training. Each day that week, my co-trainees and I, we brought in activities. Some of our collective choices of activities were: typing on a computer, bending down to pick up books, shoulder stand (not me hahaha), putting on and taking off shoes, bending down to get a drink of water from the cooler, playing violin… My activities included typing at my co-trainee’s laptop, walking around with my usual bags…my heavy carryall which at times contains my computer, and my purse. And flute playing. I decided to bring in a flute and to start playing the Bach b minor flute sonata, which I had just started to revisit. I’m playing it differently than I used to.
As my training continues, my playing improves, as I am playing with better use of self. I don’t pull down as much as I used to. But this particular activity in the training class was revelatory for me. I think because my understanding of the whole process is improving, and of course, my sensory perception is getting more reliable. I hadn’t realized that I grip in my arms when I pick up a flute. So I must think…hands on back of chair…hands connected to feet…no gripping in the arms…when I pick up a flute and start to play. I tend to shorten my spine as I tend to bring my head toward the music I’m reading as I’m playing. Meh.
I hadn’t played in a training class and it was a long time since I played in an Alexander Technique lesson. So I was a tad uncomfortable as my trainer had his hands on me as I was playing. I felt he was impeding my neck, and indeed my whole body from moving, when in fact I was pulling down and I was feeling him counterbalancing that.
This time around he had nothing to say about my breathing. He used to tell me that I gasped for air.
So…as I was playing in French Baroque inégal style, thinking in couplets, making sure my tongue was pointing downwards so that the high notes would come out well, figuring out tonguing…tu ru tu ru tu ru…diddledy diddledy for triplets, breathing well and seamlessly through my nose with my mouth opened, playing musically of course that goes without saying, phrasing nicely, stopping and re-starting when I was not happy with what was coming out, listening to the acoustics in the studio…my trainer was assisting me to stay up, widen, have my neck free. So much was happening all at the same time as I was playing. Mega-multitasking!
Kinda cool, huh? I cannot wait to play again in Alexander Technique teacher training! 🙂
And…a funny thing…when I was typing…with some hands-on by my trainer…oh…I always type out or hand write out the Ronsard Ode XVII “Mignonne, allons voir si la rose, qui ce matin avoit desclose…” when I am trying out a new fountain pen or computer keyboard…it’s my go-to text…I forgot part of the poem and was weirded out by this. But…my trainer told me something fascinating. He told me that I typed in phrases, with rhythm, as if I were thinking musically. Well I guess I was punctuating out the lines of the poem with my fingers. I guess I always do this when I type out stuff.
Something completely unexpected and wild happened one evening last week in my Alexander Technique teacher training. I had a total meltdown. I could not stop crying. All of a sudden I was drowning in tears. I mean really crying, whimpering, sobbing, tears pouring down my face… Throughout our guided lie down when I took my socks off so I could wipe my eyes with a sock as I felt too paralyzed to get up to get the box of tissues; throughout my table turn, when I felt I was a crying zombie, looking up at my trainer and he looked like an impressionistic painting as the tears blurred my vision and I wanted to curl up and disappear and in fact I was curled up and all crooked on the table; throughout my chair turn when I felt I could at last inhibit and direct well despite the tears. This losing control, this undoing, was a phenomenal occurrence. I understood this, despite the despair and embarrassment I felt at completely falling apart. After the chair turn I went over to the other trainee present and apologized, while still sobbing, telling her I just could not help it. She just hugged me and comforted me. I ran out of the room to really sob and came back in and my trainer just held me and my co-trainee also had her arm around my back…this went on for awhile as I continued sobbing. I cannot know what my co-trainee was feeling as she witnessed my pain. I cannot know what it was for my trainer to work with me as I was continually crying.
And then it all abated. The angst and torment went away. Calmness. We continued on with the class by looking at some anatomy illustrations, doing an activity, reading some of Walter Carrington’s Explaining the Alexander Technique, and some hands-on work. We continued on as if nothing had happened yet everything had happened.
At a moment, after my storm had passed, I took a photo in the mirror to commemorate this profound event. I wanted to be obscured by my phone. Being shy. Hiding. But I wanted to celebrate the washing out. Look! No sign of tears:
I am astounded that this happened to me. How I feel about it all: well I am bone tired…but…bravissima to me! I do understand that only someone who has been through the training can understand what I am experiencing. I do understand that what I am going through might be more acute than what others undergo. I feel like I made a total breakthrough in the ongoing untangling of my dysfunctional psycho-physical self. It takes great courage to want to engender such change. One has to commit to spending mega-time and mega-energy. Of course it is all so very worth it, throughout the highs and lows, and that, dear reader, is a total but total understatement.
In the next training class I felt sheepish but happy-ish. I was tranquil. And hey, I managed to lift and extend my trainer’s (heavy for me) leg pretty well! And I managed to giggle while lifting et al. Putting it back up…well not so hot. Oh that working against gravity! Eh…whatever. I learn as much from my mistakes as from my triumphs. My trainer gave me a thumbs up at the end of the class. As we walked out together, my co-trainee told me that I my crying jag was well-timed. This made me smile so much!
As of tonight, now a week later…well…I am feeling that indeed, everything had happened!