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 took this photo that evening to commemorate my undoing…I am happy to be obscured by my phone…
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!
I’ve been writing this blog for a year now. Pretty wild stuff. Who would have thought? Hmmm…I guess I’ll continue…
As September is coming to an end I am thinking that it has been such a weird month for me. Now that the Attack by the Skateboarder is receding from immediate memory, and as my body is mostly healing up from the surprise encounter, I can get on with the business of Alexander Technique teacher training. And work. And playing flute. With my life in general as I am living it in this moment.
I had a chance meeting with an acquaintance who is an Alex Tech teacher. She told me that, as one goes through the training, one becomes more authentic, and one feels better. This scaled down description of what happens during the three-year training really resounds with me. So very true! I’ll take it!
A (non Alex Tech) friend of mine wrote this about what he is currently meditating on: “It’s never too late to become the person you were always meant to be.” I’m adopting this as my training mantra.
The news in my hands-on learning: I am continuing exploring on how to lift up legs. Figuring how to go about it for myself…with good use of self of course…how I need to move…etcetera. My trainer (so rightly so) decided that a table should be lowered for my petite self so that I can have better leverage for such lifting. Yay! I’m thrilled! Ahhh…the small pleasures of life that seem to have such impact!
This table has been lowered for my use!
While crossing 39th Street on the way to Alexander Technique teacher training yesterday I got slammed into by a skateboarder, who, judging from the huge impact to my ankle, was traveling at great speed, and of course, against the light. Before this happened I remember glancing around, as I always do, to make sure that nobody was jumping the light. The next thing I knew was that something was hitting me with force, and I was falling toward the pavement, and two guys were stopping me from falling. The skateboarder was highly apologetic. You know, I never saw him coming. At first I couldn’t walk and had to be helped to the curb by the skateboarder dude and another guy. I couldn’t move for awhile. Then I made it over to training, where I stayed just a half an hour. My trainer dug out an ice pack and an ace bandage so I hung out on a table with that stuff glommed to my ankle while he did a directed lie down. He worked on me for a bit. And then I left. I knew I could not continue with the class and had to make it home as soon as possible.
So now I am resting and recuperating. It feels like I was slammed by a mack truck the impact was so strong. Everything hurts. Of course I am wondering how my use of self was at the time of the impact, and if my training somehow mitigated and minimized the side effects. Better balance perhaps? Of course I am worried about my poor knee, the one with the repaired meniscus. It is hurting big time.
A friend of mine let me know that he, too, experienced such a run-in and he told me that lots of rest and icing my ankle will do the trick. I am adding heat for my sore muscles. It kind of fascinates me that I am so sore all over. I must have been all twisted up in the arrested fall. Well, meanwhile, nurse Doucette the cat, purr machine extraordinaire, will be taking care of me. She’ll be so happy that I’ll be spending lots and lots of time with her.
Nurse Doucette taking a break…
“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