Making Peace With Yourself
All habituation is to some degree habituation of identity. Identify is a key part of what the Alexander work is all about: it enables us to forge a deeper sense of who we are, or certainly wish to be. We will be looking at identity in a lighthearted and supported way. We will look at topics such as fluidity of identity, identity in relationship, and identity as attachment to personal narrative. We will provide the time, space, and support to explore who you wish to be in a given moment in any circumstance. For the ultimate ‘use of self’ is to make peace with yourself so that you can be at peace with yourself... and others. For teachers: you can only bring to others what you have brought to yourself.
Holding Space, Withholding Definition
The Alexander work is often approached through a point of view that is broadly corrective: a person is caught in a given pattern of habituation in thought, feeling and perception, which binds a given individual to having to repeat themself when they would prefer not to. Something needs to be done so that she can experience more of who she could potentially be. The Alexander teacher takes a visual/kinesthetic observation through a light non manipulative touch noting neuromuscular patterns where the student appears to be using herself in some way out of accord with the way that we are designed to function based on millions of years of evolution.. The teacher can then use her skill to communicate to the student that there are other, more appropriate, forms of use. This approach can be very useful, and it can give the student an experience of a different way of inhabiting herself. However, there are also other possible approaches.
In my own experience, I find the work to be deeper and more meaningful when I work with the person’s potential, rather than working with a person’s “habit of use” as an obstacle that needs to be surmounted. There are several different ways of working with potential. In this workshop we’ll be exploring one of them, one that I have been calling “holding the space between stimulus and response.”
In this way of working, the teacher creates a small, albeit significant, change in the person’s state by diffusing the localization of muscular tension. Diffusing the localization of muscular tension creates a space absent from the familiar. This is a space of possibility and potential. The person can experience the absence of what they have been committed to while having a reassuring sense of being held in support.
At that point, rather than guiding the person into some approximation of “good use”, the teacher listens deeply, waiting for the student to show up and open into the space in her own way. As the student shows up, the teacher modulates her response. This modulation is a little hard to explain only in words, but we will be exploring it in the workshop through demonstration, hands-on experience, and discussion.
“I promise to leave you with the awareness”
Students often ask some version of the following: “When I leave your office, I feel wonderful; I am lighter, without pain and fully integrated ! But then I gradually go back to how I was before. How do I learn to find it on my own?”
The answer, of course, is awareness. But how do we explain this so that the student will understand, and how do we teach so as to emphasize awareness? What if we were to provide the student with an answer along the lines of: “When I am working with you through touch, with my hands I guide you into a different experience of being you; one more fully integrated and less inclined to and bound by habitual patterns of behavior. When this experience is fully integrated in your consciousness in a given moment, you have an expanded sense of awareness of what might be potentially available as your experience of being you, given what you are doing. And you might associate this newly acquired experience of freedom with my touch, my hands. If this is so you might try to recreate the experience I helped make viable. However no experience is meant to last or be recreated. What lasts is what is learned from your experience, even though it was your new experience that led you there. Experience and awareness go hand in hand, and these hands are closely held. Awareness born from experience is seamless and experience is often confused with awareness. In the moment of the ongoing present, conscious integration of your new experience awakens possibility of something potentially valuable and meaningful to you as a person. Though, when I take my hands away, and I will take my hands away, and you remember they provided you with the experience and you will retain that kinesthetic experience of freedom for a while, and you might wonder how you might achieve this kinesthetic experience on your own– however, as teacher I do not want to leave you spellbound by your new experience. Rather I promise to leave you with your awareness. You own that. My hands belong to me, I take them away, but I will not take away your awareness, this is yours to keep. It is more precious than the physical changes. And when you move into the next moment in your life with this awareness, something is learned. That you keep forever. The experiences that led to your change in awareness is now who you have become.
In this workshop, we will explore awareness, and teaching awareness. What does it mean to us personally and to our student, and what does it mean to us as teachers, to work always keeping in mind our promise to leave the student with their awareness?
Touching Without Defining
Moving Toward a Deeper Understanding of Professional Touch
We are quick to define who, how, and what we see. When we touch who we see – having defined the person in that moment – we have not truly seen the person in their full presence of being. Thus, we limit the moment of self recognition for both ourselves and them.
What would happen if we were to touch someone with fewer expectations and preconceived notions? If we were to withhold definition and allow more of the person to show up, how might that change our touch and the experience of being touched?
This workshop explores deeper ways of working with professional touch. We look at how withholding definition can allow us to touch the potential of a person, rather than working with the intention of correcting a habit.
As teachers, whether we are teaching the Alexander Technique, yoga, or another discipline, we are always touching people in multiple ways. We may connect with someone using physical touch, words, or with our being. In every form of connection, awareness is a key component. As teachers, it is critical that we develop our awareness of how we are connecting to ourselves, for this will greatly influence how we connect to our students. And in working with our students, when we teach them to work with their own awareness, we provide them with the greatest ability to make lasting change.
In this workshop, we will be exploring awareness. We will look at ways to expand our awareness to encompass not just what we are doing, but how we are using ourselves to do it.
Learning How to Learn
People are always asking us about some version of the following: “When I leave your studio, I feel great! I want to keep this feeling. However, it fades and I gradually revert to how I was before. How do I learn to find this experience again on my own?” The answer of course, is not to try to find what no longer exists except vividly in your memory. No experience is meant to last. What endures is your awareness of potential (from the new experience in being you) apart from the probable (from the accustomed experience in being you). But how do we explain this so that they will readily understand, and how do we teach so as to emphasize awareness born from the experience? What if I were to provide you with an answer along the lines of: “When I am working with you verbally or through touch, you have a different awareness of potential in being you, and that lets you have a different experience. When I take my hands away, you will keep your new awareness born from your new experience. You own that. It is more enduring than the physical changes that are a part of your new experience.” You have learned something, and from this learning you have a deeper insight and understanding of you, of who you are or might become should you choose potential over familiarity. Inherent in any meaningful experience lies an exploration of awareness born from the new experience you just had as a means of making lasting changes towards making peace with yourself so you can be at peace with yourself. This can only occur through complete and total acceptance of who you are, have been and will become.
Seeming, Being, Becoming
In this workshop, we’ll explore working with the person’s potential for becoming other than who they are currently committed to being. For me this approach is preferable than working with a person’s “habit of use” in the negative sense, implying the necessity of correcting that which is wrong.
Habitual response is governed by an individual’s commitment to who they feel they need to be at a given moment. And no matter how committed to habitual patterns of behavior and identity a person might be, there is always more to a given individual than their habits reflect; perhaps even who they truly are, or certainly wish to be.
Enhancing Relationship through the Alexander Technique
From our first to our last breath, we are never out of relationship, to other people, to our planet, to the world, our ideas, thoughts, perceptions and yes, even our physical and emotional pain. Within this simple truth lie all our experiences in being alive. Our very identity is formed within the context of our response to what we find ourselves in relation to.
This workshop will focus on using the principles and concepts, which form the basis for the Alexander teaching, to foster and enhance meaningful relationships — with everything and everyone. The participants will work individually, in pairs and in groups to explore this theme. Prior to the workshop each participant is encouraged to think about personal and professional relationships in their life; those that have proved to be unsatisfying or complicated, and those which have always been easy and engaging.
The Heart is in the Hands When Teaching
Did you know that there are receptors in our fingers and hands which are connected to centers in our brain responsible for conveying compassion? How often however, even when we as teachers do not consciously attempt to impart a corrective cue through our touch does the person we are teaching feel corrected. Their commitment to who they feel and think they need to be at a given moment in response to a stimulus often outweighs immediate acceptance of the new experience even though personal acceptance of what their new experience offers might lead to the changes in their life they wish for. Change seldom endures in the presence of self judgment. Change is commensurate with self compassion, reaffirming for the student they did the best they could with what they had available to them at the time. Given that unconditional touch is already connected to brain centers responsible for conveying compassion, when teaching could not the Alexander teacher then instill that same non judgmental compassionate touch already built into the system within the quality of their touch? And would this not invite their student to accept their new experience as an already existing part of their identity less foreign to them. With this in mind we will explore the “heart” in the Alexander work, through hands-on demonstration, discussion and multiple exercises designed for your personal experience of acknowledging what nature has already bestowed and intended.
On Being and Doing: Our Still Point of Support in the Perpetual Dance of Life
You cannot not be… But you can not do…
The conundrum inherent in human design is the delicate tilt in balance between being and doing. Quite early in embryological development, before the “doing” you is created (the person capable of accomplishing personal goals and fulfilling personal desires), the “being” you is created (the person in relation to something greater than and apart from individual desires). In that order, all your organs, your nervous system, literally everything you need to sustain being alive on the planet is created before your arms hands and fingers; and before your legs, feet and toes. “Being” precedes locomotion. Why? Because life is lived primarily throughout your day in activity, so we are designed to be supported while doing what we do.
Although paramount in what we learn from Mr. Alexander’s teaching is that we tend to define ourselves more by what we are capable of doing at the expense of trusting the support of being: simply being in relation to something greater than our desires as a way of self realization. And when doing so we often lose a sense of belonging to something apart from what we ourselves create. The balance of life lies in integrating the inherent nature of being and doing. And that balance is too often compromised by your sense of identity: who you feel you need to be to be you in a given moment– defining yourself more by what you do rather than by who you are. And when life is experienced as if out of relation to support given the demands in the ongoing present there is often a sense of living in isolation. And you mistrust your choices because they are all based on past perceptions of what you expect from the future.
In this workshop we will explore self awareness and subsequent identity through the integration of being and doing from the guiding principles and concepts which form the basis of Mr. Alexander’s teaching. We will do this through dialogue and discussion, demonstration and group exercises.