“The best results are gained when a pupil can disassociate himself from what is happening, as if he were standing on one side watching someone else being taught. If he can do this for a time he will find himself taking his proper part in the process, with an awareness that is quite different and greatly enhanced.” As I See It, Patrick Macdonald
Well in my case he is a she…and she is not a pupil but a teacher-trainee. And I came to this conclusion myself recently, before reading the Macdonald citation. This is how I decided to view my training going forward…as a dispassionate observer of what I am going through.
Here it is, la rentrée, the beginning of a new year of Alexander Technique teacher training. Now that I’m in my second year of the three, I am a teacher-trainee. New season, new chemical mix. My one other co-trainee, my pal, has gone. He is taking a hiatus. He will be back to visit from time to time. There are two brand new trainees. One visited us for a month; the other for a day. So, they are not strangers. It is fascinating for me to watch their first steps…their grappling essays at position of mechanical advantage aka monkey.
Now that I am in my second year, I am putting hands on, not just as an exercise, but for more “teacher-y” stuff, as my trainer says. And as for myself, I must remember about movement–I have to take a step when guiding a person in and out of a chair, and this while not losing the connection, and while keeping myself forward and up. I must conquer my tendency to sway back when lifting my hands to place on a tall person, because when I sway back I both shorten my spine and grip in my legs. Not cool! 🙂
Monkey at TCAT from last spring…au revoir mon ami et à la prochaine…
We have now finished up the summer part of our Alexander Technique teacher training. Now…off for a few weeks…
For over a week of this summertime study I had my trainer to myself. Classes for one. Intense! Huge progress made! Great work accomplished! On the last day, along with the multiple turns and many rounds of hands-on, my trainer took me for walks around the studio, exhorting me to stay up stay up stay up, back lengthening and widening. He asked me over and over to have elasticity in my legs, not to grip, to feel the floor with my feet, etcetera, etcetera, when I was walking. My head felt like it was starting to tingle, and I got very light headed, for I was walking in a way that I had never experienced. I felt vulnerable. I felt unprotected. Exposed…yet freed up. Because…I was not hunching in my shoulders to “protect” myself. I was not crunching down my spine to look down at the ground.
So round and round the studio I went, at times assisted “up” by my trainer, at times alone. And afterwards, I found that the walking helped tremendously with my hands-on work. I guess because I brought along that newly found sense of up with me. I found I was able to direct better, that I had way better use of self. Ergo my hands-on improved big time. Just like that.
I tried to get a video clip for this post of Doucette the cat walking…she whose smooth movement I admire…but she would not cooperate. 😀
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…