I have been having a difficult time lately with some hands-on work in Alexander Technique teacher training…namely with the concept of hands seemingly to connect directly to the back and feet…of using hands without gripping in the arms…when lifting. In other words, accomplishing lifting with the minimum muscular tension. I felt stymied. I was feeling that I couldn’t quite get the quality of the touch…that my hands were in fact totally disconnected from my back and feet. Then, during one class when I was working alone and intensely with my trainer, I had a breakthrough. It became clear to me that my hand had to meet the body part in question (in this case my hand under his shoulder or armpit) or object in question (in this case a board or book I was lifting) with the same kind of connection/pressure/intensity that I was receiving from the body part or object. I had to match the connection. I had to meet the same intensity. And when I accomplished this I did manage to lift with my hands using minimum muscular tension, especially in my arms. While I was putting hands-on over and over again, all of a sudden I remembered the sensations of dancing tango in Paris with a friend when we were just practicing walking around the room matching connection hand to hand, and chest to chest, giving back the same intensity of pressure as receiving. In a flash I intuited that these two connection situations were one and the same…
If practicing tango can help me with my Alexander Technique teaching hands-on, well, I am all for that!
my practice shoes
In this training hiatus I went down to have a lesson with my trainer. I have been so wiped out…jetlagged out…that I was experiencing a kind of vertigo when walking in the street…I’ve been feeling very fragile. The studio looked strange…everything in NYC looks a bit strange right now…but happy to report that being there did feel like being chez moi…
The lesson was the usual: chair table chair. Nothing more. That’s all I wanted and needed. I didn’t even ask how I was doing…if I had regressed in any way.
I told my trainer that I couldn’t get the notion out of my head that while I’m in this three year Alexander Technique teacher training I’m feeling like my life is on hold. Spending the time in training…the fourteen hours a week in class, plus the time spent doing all the reading…cuts into my schedule big time. My social life is definitely reduced. I have another two years of such a schedule. Time, energy, funds spent… I have to scramble to fit in everything important to me.
My trainer told me that he sees the situation in a different light. He said to me “this is your life now.” He said that no way is my life on hold. Wow! What a notion! Indeed…this is my life now! My trainer’s words are having a spectacular effect on how I am now viewing this moment in my life. I think he provided me with a kind of validation that the noise in my brain was obscuring.
I guess it’s all about finding the perfect balance. And for welcoming and embracing everything…especially this time spent in the training. And for living each moment of my life as fully as possible. Everything in present tense.
I realized when I left that my strange vertigo had mostly disappeared.
Some people go to a monastery to make a retreat…me, I return to Paris. Paris, according to a close friend of mine, is my spiritual place. I go there for my personal reset. And to get back in touch again with that part of me…I flip from being new yorkaise to being parisienne. For me, Paris in July means walking shopping hanging out walking eating drinking shopping hanging out eating drinking walking shopping, over and over again, oh, and having moments of pensive solitude too. No museums and stuff like that…too crowded for me. Gotta see my friends. Gotta go shopping…it’s sale month! I, and we, eat and drink lots of yummy stuff…in my favorite haunts, and chez moi.
Every time I make it over to Paris I say that that particular trip was a life changer for me. And so I say this about this particular stay. It was fabulous for many disparate reasons. It was life affirming. I am always ecstatically happy in my second city. Indeed.
As I always do when I am there, I went to see a wise friend for an Alexander Technique lesson. My friend trained under Walter Carrington. And then she assisted on his training for a good seven years or so before starting her own training. I rely on her input and guidance. As the lesson progressed, she kept saying how my body had changed since last year, how my back was totally different. “Hmmm,” I said “it must be because I am in a small training.” She told me that, indeed, I was getting double the attention. More like triple or quadruple I would say. I think that my trainer would be so delighted and gratified to know how my teacher in Paris was wowed by the progress I have made under his aegis.
I confided to her about my bouts of emotionality and she told me that Walter used to always say to his trainees “don’t let anything get you down.” She told me that anytime I had a doubt about continuing with my training, or indeed about anything, that I should think of Walter’s saying. And so I shall! It is such great advice! It’s interesting to me that the teachers I know who studied with Walter, though they all have their own individual takes on teaching, they share a certain, strong commonality. I know that they are so lucky to have had the experience of studying under him. These are the teachers of the Alexander Technique with whom I seem to have a natural affinity.
I got some other great advice in my lesson…to think of the insides of my knees instead of the outsides when getting in and out of a chair et al. Hey! Works for me! And…makes me smile! When teachers would say to me “think knees away” or some such…well…I never thought of the backs of my knees! Seems counterintuitive. Knees are in the front. And of course when I think “knee” I think of my torn meniscus that led me to start writing this blog.
As I am writing this post, I am neither in Paris nor in NYC. I am someplace in between…even though I am physically home in NYC. I kinda haven’t left one city nor arrived in the other. I’m sticking to my neighborhood for the moment, as I’m in major jet lag mode. But soon enough I’ll be trading the #4 métro line for the Broadway local. Listening to Doucette the cat, purring by my side, will beckon me back gently to my native city.
Well instaweather chéri…it was actually raining…but you got the temperature right!
Training has wrapped up for a bit. Good thing because I am beat. Now we have a three-week break…and then we will meet for one month in the summer. So what did we do to end the year? Why, we ran through this new training’s “greatest hits so far” of hands on work. My trainer asked me if there was anything in particular I wanted to go over and I said “yeah I want to bring you into the chair” and so we did this lots. And we also did various permutations of monkey hands on table, monkey with hands on a chair, then I worked on a visitor who was on the table, and did various other hands on activities…running the gamut of what we have done since January.
I am very pleased to report that my trainer seemed light as a feather as I followed him into the chair over and over. Ooh…huge progress here! In fact…huge progress in all the hands on stuff I ran through. All in all a nice recap for me. “That’s really good Rena that’s really good.” “Yesssss!!!!!” Nice to know that my sensory appreciation is really getting more reliable. Nice to know that I am better set up than I used to be. I guess there is something to this Alexander Technique teacher training after all! 😀
the young FM Alexander
Serendipity. A seemingly casual or innocuous decision, can have a huge effect. I had a week off from Alexander Technique teacher training, and I really enjoyed being back at my “regular” life when…
Back at Alexander Technique teacher training after my lovely week off…something really astounding and delightful happened…that made it really fine for me to be back to training. My co-trainee, Brian, was working on a visitor to our training, rather than working on me, as was decided by our trainer, who knows why. Our visitor was standing, all the ready for Brian to follow him into a chair, with his hands placed on the visitor’s back and chest. So my trainer, Tom, asked me to put a listening (left) hand on Brian’s lower back, as I often do, and then Tom seemed to engage in pensive thought, and then he felicitously asked me to place my (right) hand under Brian’s right armpit as well. I was standing at Brian’s right side. So there we were…a trio…Brian, my hand on his back, and one under his armpit, while Tom, on Brian’s left side, was guiding him, and had his hand under the other armpit. So I remarked to Tom “well, my hand is there under his armpit to prompt him to widen…” Affirmative.
But…this was the really astounding and delightful thing: as Brian was preparing to follow our visitor as he went down into the chair, I was able to sense with great clarity with especially my right hand if/when Brian was coming down, shortening his spine and tensing up. And vice versa…when he was undoing with great success… It was totally an amazing experience! It was very palpable to me. I had a little inkling, right then and there, of what it might feel like to teach part of an Alexander Technique lesson.
Of course, my hands placed on my co-trainee prompted me to lengthen and widen, stay up, soften my upper and lower arms, and to have my hands connected to my feet. Etcetera. This was a given, and well, I mentioned this to my trainer. Pleased as punch…all around!
The description of this kind of moment might bewilder any uninitiated who happen to stumble upon this blog. Just want to say…that having this kind of moment in training gives me the courage to persevere, and to continue to try to find a balance between my “regular” life and my Alexander Technique teacher training.
table turn at TCAT-NYC
I have just enjoyed an immensely satisfying week away from Alexander Technique teacher training. My trainer went out to the left coast to attend the AmSAT ACGM…ergo we were off. Hey! It was wonderful not to train for the week! Just absolutely fabulous! Who would have thought?
To my astonished delight I did not miss training one bit. I could breathe a little. Play flute more. Dance more. Work more. Tend to stuff more. Hang out more. Not one little bit did I miss training, and you know, dear reader, that I have just undergone a sort of breakthrough in my training. Kind of funny timing. One would think that I would be stressed out by the lack of training. Not. No way. Not one Alexander Technique lesson did I want from anyone!
Well it is true that I am experiencing everything in my life with a newly improved sensory appreciation, thanks to my AT teacher training. Okay. But I have to say that I sure am looking forward to the few weeks off we will have after the next two weeks of training. I need a rest. I’m feeling like it’s hothouse stuff and…
I am glommed onto the rest of my life at the moment. Well soon enough I will be back at training. For two more weeks…and then…some more time off!!!
Relaxing at home…contemplating my feet…instead of training…
One evening, about two weeks ago, I experienced my all-time best moment in all of my Alexander Technique teacher training. I have gone through almost a year now…excluding time out due to knee surgery. Well, what can I say? I was really, really, really tired…really. There was time for a second turn…a second chair turn as it turned out. I almost said “I am too tired how about a table turn” but I did not say this. And so…I just was hoping that I could get myself in and out of that chair. All of a sudden, in a flash, my trainer took me up more than I could ever do myself. On the fly… There I was entering an unknown zone…almost out-of-body stuff was happening. I was “up” more than I have ever experienced. I have felt something like this before in a lesson, but this time it was different, because as he exhorted me to stay up well…I did and I kept it going. Over and over he urged me to stay up and I did. I felt dazed. I felt light headed. I was in a previously unknown zone. That turn seemed to last for hours. Time stopped. He walked me around at the end of it and I felt that I was a butterfly. After the turn I had to take a little lie down. It was the only thing I could do. I heard my co-trainee saying “I want some of what Rena had.” He is so funny. I started giggling. He said to me on our way out “well you had a great class tonight didn’t you?” Talk about an understatement.
My trainer told me, in retrospect, that there had been a small change in me that permitted this all to transpire. I am happy to report that this new, better organization of myself is staying with me. Big smile here. I think I have taken a monumental step forward. I think I am really beginning to understand…
butterfly pin on jacket…
The beginning of Dammi il mio giorno, Salvatore Quasimodo
Dammi il mio giorno;
ch’io mi cerchi ancora
un volto d’anni sopito
che un cavo d’acque
riporti in trasparenza,
e ch’io pianga amore di me stesso.
Grant me my day; so I might yet search myself for some dormant face of the years that a hollow of water returns in its transparency and weep for love of myself.
I am coming up on finishing a year of Alexander Technique teacher training. How curious a thing is an Alexander Technique teaching training! Inexplicable. I often want to run away from it but doing so would be losing the battle. I think. I feel like an island unto myself…ensconced in my extraordinary, intense, intimate Alexander Technique teacher training. In a way I have lost myself a little. I’m in a maze and I must find my way out while smiling all the time. I feel unruly, like my hair which I am growing out… My hair and I don’t know how to be at the moment. The very core of me is changing so drastically. I strive to be in the present moment…however when the present is morphing into the future…I feel that hermetic poetry is in the process of being written… I feel that I am isolated and solitary, occupied and full, while I am engaging in this singular pursuit. I want to be calm and quiet. I want to hunker down and immerse myself in the work…while keeping grounded by all else that I do.
Even though I have a long way to go, my sensory appreciation is getting more and more reliable. I am wallowing in those lightbulb-turning-on moments of kinesthetic awareness! They keep me going. And I trust in the future…
my hair myself unruly at the moment…
Life becomes, at times, très mouventée. Very turbulent. This happened in my life recently. At the end of this hyper-busy period I realized that a psychic shift had occurred within me…perhaps due to the confluence of the particular stuff that had transpired. All good…but…it so happened that I had no time at all to write on this blog.
Now…back to Alexander Technique teacher training: in the “hands on” part of the class, I am still moving (mostly) my trainer, forward and back while he is sitting in a chair, and then following him while he gets up from the chair. While doing this, an interesting thing occurred that helped me along in the more reliable sensory appreciation department.
I had been going about moving him very seriously, concentrating hard, no doubt furrowing my brow, and I was gripping, gripping, especially in my arms. And then one time he made a funny comment and I smiled, and he said “you smiled and you accomplished un-doing!” So then I smiled some more and I was delighted. Smiling brings about un-doing! When I smile and laugh it is easier for me to move my hands “from my feet” and to un-grip somewhat those flexor muscles. Even if these moments of good use are fleeting right now…I’m so happy about my progress! And well, it does make me giggle to realize that, indeed, I can move about a dude who is a foot taller than me and who weighs almost twice what I weigh. And I can do this with ease if I am set up well. He becomes light as a feather. Hilarious. Is this kind of a naïve statement from a still neophyte trainee? Well, I don’t care. It all delights me!
Activity with hands…exerting a little pressure down onto hands while lengthening and widening the back…the other set of hands resists…
The other day, while going down to work on the subway, I noticed a man sitting across from me who had eyes that really smiled…they smiled broadly in fact. Looking at him, this total stranger, brought joy to me. And I thought to myself that I will try my hardest to emulate this man!
As I was going about my morning the other day…feeding Doucette the cat, making my coffee, etcetera…I realized that I felt more lengthening and widening of my back going on. I felt more “up” than my norm, more elastic in my thoracic spine, and very calm. Clearly, I had achieved a step up in my sensory awareness. Clearly, this is a cumulative process, and I am wondering if my latest work in my Alexander Technique teacher training has given me a gentle little push in this direction.
I have been putting hands on others, first following them, now guiding them back and forth in a chair. It is all about my own use of self. I used to laugh with my trainer while telling him that he was hard to move. He said to me that he refuses to move if I am not set up and/or “I don’t have him”– in other words, if I am using my hands with poor use of self…if I am pulling him down because I am not lengthening and widening, if I am gripping with the flexor muscles in my arms, if I am not connecting my hands to my feet… And then all of a sudden he became easy to move because I was moving him with better use of myself. I was going up! I was widening! I was more successful at not gripping in my arms… I thought he was moving himself forward and back in the chair and jiving me but he wasn’t. He told me that I found it easy to move him because of my better use of myself.
Here is a great analogy, from Walter Carrington, as he discusses the issue of how a teacher’s hands should be. Teachers have to be “…going up themselves–they’ve got to have the freedom, co-ordination and flow of energy that is necessary to lengthen in stature. I’ve often said to students that it’s a similar situation to when you’re on an escalator on the underground. You put your hand on the handrail and you know immediately whether the escalator is traveling at the same speed as the handrail. Similarly, the more the teacher is reliably going up, the more readily they can feel what’s going on in the pupil. Then if you discern some fixity or rigidity in the pupil–there’s stiffness somewhere–you’re going to see whether with your hands you can give a stimulus to release it.” Personally Speaking, p. 114.
Later this evening, while in class, I must remember this analogy! Too bad I won’t be using a subway escalator on the way over to Alexander Technique teacher training today!
Here is what happened when I was trying to take a photo of my hands for this post. Doucette got into the act!
Mano a mano