Category Archives: freedom

The missing elephant


I’ve been in the Alexander Technique community for over ten years, my question is “What is the Alexander Technique?”

Over the years I’ve thought I’d known what it is.

I thought it was moving in and out of a chair and somehow after I felt more at ease, sometimes I got a treat with some table work, I just laid there on the table and the teacher freed up my shoulders and hips. That was good.

The early years it was just a therapy, they loosened me up and I tightened myself up between the sessions.

I like what they did so;

I started my teacher training, I was taught sitting and standing, working with the other students on a table, oh of course the “monkey’ and hands on the back of the chair. We read Alexanders books, gave presentations, and a whole host of other activities. I really enjoyed my time at this school until the last two terms, however for me there was something fundamentally missing, non of it really joined up together, I felt we were skirting around the elephant in the room, It may have just been me, I was missing something,

I was missing the elephant.

I moved school.

I discovered that what was missing was psychophysical unity,

I read about it,

I understood it,

But I wasn’t it and didn’t want to be it!

I guess it was the approach the school went about it, their approach wasn’t for me, I just didn’t get it.

I get it now.

What has changed is that the Alexander Technique is about being your authentic self, it is not about chairs and tables. This is a huge difference, if you focus on chairs and tables you’ll just get good at chairs and tables, if you teach others to discover their authentic self, you may or may not need to use chairs and tables in this discovery.

The Alexander Technique is being your authentic self with psychophysical unity. You can replace psychophysical unity with freedom and aliveness.

If you want to learn the methods to rediscover your authentic self with all the freedom and aliveness you need, perhaps you can like this page so you will get a reminder when I next write.

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Humans think too much


My last few blogs have been about the here and now and the habits that just love to hold me back from being in the here and now. You could say this is the mindfulness part of Alexander’s discovery, what makes Alexander’s discovery different to mindfulness is his discovery works on the whole psychophysical self; you can’t have one or the other. Splitting ourselves into parts, whatever the parts are, we lose the point of the self.

We are more than the sum of the parts.

What I’ve started to understand is that the less I try to do the better I can do the thing I was trying to do. Letting go of the need to achieve and I can easily achieve what ever it was doing.

When letting go using Alexanders discovery there’s more clarity of purpose, the intention I’ve written about is intense.

Alexanders discovery is about the head, neck and back relationship, how the head leads and the rest of your body follows, it’s as simple as that. Simple for fish, tigers, lions, dogs, cats, hamsters and maybe all other species to achieve naturally but for humans it seems  difficult to grasp.

Humans think too much.

For humans to move freely we need to let go of unnecessary and obstructive thoughts. In many cases it is these unnecessary and obstructive thoughts that give you pain somewhere in your body. Letting go whilst allowing your head lead so that my body can follow is a wonderful calming thought, it contains the mindfulness part ‘letting go’ with Alexanders discovery ‘head body relationship’; the psychophysical self.

Give it a go, gentle rock on your chair if you are sitting, can you notice a change in the quality of movement. Try walking allowing your head to lead. Be safe. Did you notice a quietness and a change in you movement. Perhaps you couldn’t or didn’t want to move because what I asked is so different to your normal habits. Whatever happens, it is observing what has happened psychophysically, observing without judgement.

Somethings are hard to spot by yourself even when watching yourself in a mirror or video, on many occasions it takes the trained observation senses of an Alexander Technique teacher to notice and offer  nonjudgmental observation.

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The crucible of failure


How many crucibles have you been in through your life?

I’ve been in loads, probably more than I can remember!

One of the big ones when I joined the Royal Navy, the UK had a lot of ships then.

I arrived at the new entry training establishment HMS Fisgard, where I started my training to become an artificer. An artificer is someone who can fix anything on a ship; as you may guess that’s a lot of knowledge to know. There were different branches, for weapons, electronics, aircraft, and for me marine engineering. I’m digressing.

We were driven though the main gates to the parade ground, we were all asked to disembark, straight into the crucible, the orders started, get in line, names where called and we put into groups, then the welcome and then off to our mess blocks. My crucible was getting filled with strange orders, new rules, new faces. If they were like me, they were being very brave but scared inside, these thoughts were also added to the crucible. We met our seniors, they had either been in the Navy of a whole 4 or 8 months, they felt so senior, they deserved respect, another thought for the crucible.

After the first scary night sleeping in a room with 30 or 40 others, time for breakfast, I didn’t have a uniform yet and still long hair, ridicule in the dining hall, more for the crucible. Time for a haircut, I liked my long hair, of all the things that changed in those first few weeks, the first haircut was the most shocking, it wasn’t a US Marine cut, it was short but not that short, it was succumbing to someone else’s rules, it felt like an assault on my personality; more for the crucible. Then I had to put a uniform on, more for the crucible.

As you may guess many things were added to my new entry crucible, as with all crucibles the ingredients are heated to extreme temperatures to form something else from the raw ingredients. If it all goes well something uniform will be produced, sometimes it doesn’t work and its discarded. My entry started with 273 young men, after the first year there was only 150 left, the others had decided to leave and pursue another life.

Perhaps another crucible stopped me from quitting, the one that contained the shame and ridicule of failure. I pushed on for 22 years, I was successful in the navy but never felt I really belonged there, that fear of failure crucible just kept me going.

These crucibles that I’m describing are the pivotal points in my life that make me what I am now. If I could revisit them now I guess I would do things differently. In many of these crucibles I did things that I didn’t really want to do, I went with the flow for an easy life so I didn’t get noticed, some never felt right. Unfortunately many need to do things they know are wrong in their societal rules just to survive another day, luckily I have never needed to do anything like that. Hopefully you haven’t either.

I’m now careful what I put in my crucible, in fact I don’t know if I have one at the moment. I guess they just happen without anyone noticing, it’s only on reflection that they can be identified at some pivotal point in your life.

My plan now is to take each moment at a time and be happy to say no if I don’t like or want to do something, be content that I don’t know what is going to happen but have a strong intention to enjoy life, have fun and let the crucible of failure go.

What’s your plan?

 

 

 

 

Quickly drifting into the past


I’ve really gone off the boil with writing blogs, I’m content with myself so I haven’t anything to say. However I feel the need to write, this will be one of my blogs that I don’t know where it will end, this isn’t so uncommon with my writing. Though it feels different today somehow.

I guess it is just letting things be, I don’t feel like pushing anymore, not trying to please others, just pleasing myself in a gentle sort of way, just being me without my old baggage.   I guess there is still some baggage that I still need to work with but only when if shows itself. I’m not seeking it.

What has changed is the need to sort things out, to try to fix things. Firstly they probably don’t need fixings, I’m was just changing them to suit my purpose, whatever my purpose was. Secondly I was interfering in things that don’t need my interference. I now can let all that energy go and be used elsewhere.

Do things that I want to do instead of trying to please others. This isn’t always true as sometimes it’s easier to be led and do what others want, for the sake of a peaceful life, but bear in mind that it was my conscious choice to be led in the first place.

These changes have manifested from working with my attention and my intension to do something.

My attention is where I am in time and space, I’ve mentioned these thoughts many times in my blogs, suddenly I understand what this really means. The thoughts are beyond verbal instructions, the thoughts are non-verbal, just an image, just a wish. An image of me sitting and writing and conscious of what is around me. Conscious of sitting on my chair, of the keyboard and the screen, my words appearing on the screen.

My intention is to do something, in this case writing using my computer whilst maintaining my attention to myself and my surroundings.

This all sounds quite simple, it is with practice, it’s been a long and torturous route to get here. The need to please others was hidden everywhere on the route, dragging my down blind alleys, tempting me with quick fixes, believing that I could understand accademacally and that would be enough. The practice is to discover I needed to be me and no one else, there are no shortcuts and no quick fixes.

Attention and intention are just first part of this discovery, the second is to understand that these thoughts cannot be held on to, they age off as soon as they are thought. If you hold on to them you are quickly drifting into the past and your present moments will pass you by.

You will be day dreaming.

Thats fine if you want to and there are plenty of times you may want to reflect on the past, however there are times that is it is crucial you are in the present.

I build up my attention and intention and when the thoughts are formed I let them go and start again, my attention may be similar but my intention has moved on. I’m typing  a new word, a sentence or a paragraph. I let go and start again, over and over again. This does sound tiresome, it is in the beginning, practice helps. I experimented with non-verbal thoughts, This is easier as my words didn’t get in the way.

How about practicing with your attention and intention, letting these thought go and starting again, let me know how you get on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When things get tough


Sometimes I feel that things aren’t going my way, something is said, I hear something, I interrupt what I hear in a certain way, it may be put across a certain way to make me feel small, inferior, inadequate.

It hurts for a while and the pain can linger for a long, long time.

These are their views on life, they conflict with my views but it is all they have. Pushing bad vibes onto others can only mean one thing, they aren’t happy with their lives, they feel inadequate, things and people aren’t responding they way they want, so they are forcing their will; they have no right to do this as it is against my will, my beliefs, what I live for.

So what is to be done, simply nothing for them but offer kindness, support and time. For myself move away from feeling small, inferior and inadequate, booze could help for a few hours but those feelings will be even stronger when I wake up.

It’s the old classic, quieten myself down and think of things about the present, become interested in everything I do. Making a pot of tea, writing this blog, the ironing is to come later this morning, make the ironing a game for myself to enjoy.

Being interested in things when feeling inadequate I feel isn’t that authentic, it is just doing a diversion, so how do I bring authenticity to the party?

Authenticity comes with being present, that is in time and space, with an intention to do something, I’ve mentioned time and space in other blogs but I’ll mention it again. For time, I ask myself where is my thinking is, am I fretting about something other than what I intend to do; writing a blog about feeling inadequate. If and when the fretting rises I ask myself is it true in this very moment, I find the answer is always NO.

If it isn’t true then why am I fretting?

I find the fretting disappears and I can get on with writing, I notice some butterflies in my stomach just before doubt appears, I use the butterflies as a trigger to ask this question.

For the space part, this is thoughts about re-establishing my thoughts about head, neck, back relationship, my head gently supported on my neck, this support passes down my spine to the bottom of my pelvis where my sit bones are, I have thoughts that my torso is fully supported on my sit bones and I have loads of space between my sit bones and the top of my head. I used to get a bit rigid at this point of my thinking, I now have thoughts that my torso and head can move gently to and fro or sideways freely as I breathe and type this blog.

Whenever those butterflies rise I repeat my thoughts again, this does get better, honest.

I now have thoughts about my intention whilst being here in this moment and space. My inadequacy has disappeared.

If you need more information, you can drop me a line, or subscribe to my mailing list, its free.

The last grain of sand


I was in the sauna today, I am on my holidays, I turned the sand timer over to start my time in the sauna, or rather, when I should get out of the sauna. Wow it’s hot in here, can I last until the last grain of sand has left the top bulb?

My instant panic surprised me, I’d set myself a rule and I’m going to struggle though, whatever!

So how am I going to struggle through, one way is to grim and bare it, I opted for another way. I decided to be interested in the wood on the walls, looking at the grain and knots, wonderering if any of the planks are off the same tree. I noticed that I was having verbalised thoughts between myself, I was saying words to myself, they were silent but I was definitely saying them to myself. 

I wondered if I could have similar thoughts without words, as it happens I can but words still pop up. I noticed that there is a different quality to non verbalised thoughts, they lack judgement. I have a sense of wonder, a quietening, a loss of time and in the sauna the heat became bearable, in fact it stopped being a nuisance. 

When words popped up I let them go and returned to observing without words. 

I felt grounded and content, oh, I looked at the sand and it was all at the bottom.

Time for the hot tub.

STOP WORRYING; if it was that easy!


You may think what is the Alexander Technique is and what it is to do with your mental health, from my point of few quite a lot; the Alexander Technique saved me from living  the rest of my life in depression or popping antidepressants to keep me happy.

The Alexander Technique sort of works the opposite direction to other methods in helping you with your pain be it physical or mental. We tend to not worry about what has happened in the past or what is to happen, The Alexander Technique is an educational approach that teaches you how to live your life fully now.

From my experience of mental health, I worry, I’m anxious. Worrying puts me in a place that is in the future, when I’m in the future I have no control of anything as I’m in a place that doesn’t exist, I’m worrying about nothing, I use a lot of energy worrying about nothing.

That can’t be healthy!

There is a premise that every thought produces a muscular action, we can only tighten muscles, worrying is thinking hence I tighten muscles when I worry. Tightened muscles get tired and eventually start to produce pain signals to ask for a rest. Continually worrying uses a lot of energy and eventually a lot of pain. You may start to blame the environment, chairs, beds, shoes, clothes, the food you eat. You may start to blame friends, family, your boss at work.

Take a moment to think; are they doing the worrying, they may be, but they are not doing your worrying, YOU ARE!

There’s a simple answer “STOP WORRYING”. If it was that easy!

I’ve noticed that when I worry I need to think about something, something not about me, something in the future or something in the past but definitely not about now. If I try to think about NOT WORRYING I need to think about something else, probably promising to be better in the future. This doesn’t work it is just more worrying.

It sounds absolutely hopeless, I thought that; back to popping antidepressants. However if you just could be in the moment then worry disappears, it’s true, there’s plenty of mindfulness practices that can do that. However the Alexander Technique has the edge on mindfulness, it is mindfulness in activity; knowing where you are in time and space as you engage with your daily activities.

You can teach yourself mindfulness in activity but we have a very good knack of not seeing how we move in activity, just try looking in a mirror and if you are like I was, you will do plenty of avoidance and that’s just looking at your face. This is where you need a nonjudgmental teacher to encourage you to observe yourself without judgement; it takes time but worth it.

It all goes back to those muscles you tightened when you worried, they learnt to stay in tension, if you just engaged in mindfulness it would some time take time for these muscles to release their tension, release their pain. With the Alexander Technique your muscular tension you developed over time, can be released by encouraging you to think differently, thinking the way you used to when you were a child, thinking that allows easy and freedom so you can do the activities you want to.

It worked for me, I have written a lot about muscular tension, all tension is related; by releasing muscular tension worry and anxiety disappear. It they reappear I’ve got the tools to let my anxiety quieten and disappear.

The opposite direction I mentioned earlier is to approach the muscular reaction to a stimulus instead of working on the stimulus to minimise the muscular reaction.

Intrigued, then why not contact me for more details.

 

 

 

Stop looking and it will appear


I’ve been studying Alexander’s discovery for a few years now, I’ve visited several schools and I have gotten a different definition of his discovery at each school. This is confusing and frustrating, each school appproaches the same thing from a different direction, but why.

The answer is quite simple, the discovery is very hard to verbalise so different metaphors and physical activities are used to explain this discovery. Some will work for me but not for you. I’ve found that if you go with someone’s definition and it doesn’t suit you will be led down a blind ally, you will pick up useful information on the way but you won’t discover the discovery. I know this as I did it. It’s frustrating, it’s time wasting, made me feel like a failure.

It is some of these but much more, learning that something isn’t for me is a very powerful learning point. I can choose to stop and change direction. I’m glad I did, then the thoughts that I should have stopped earlier arise, perhaps I should but was I in a position to notice that a change was available, probably not, I was thinking that the end of my journey was near and if I stuck with it, it would be over and then get on with the next part of my life.

So what is this discovery, well it’s a rediscovery of youthfulness. If you ever meet an Alexander Teacher, guess their age then add ten years to your guess and you will be pretty close, this discovery lets you look younger and physically fitter than the average for your age group especially as you get older.

So this discovery is the elixir of youth, perhaps it is but it is also the holy grail. If you seek it you won’t find it as it is with you all the time, stop looking and it will appear. The various teaching methods are just the way how someone discovered this discovery and they are telling their way to the discovery.

I’ve written around this discovery for many blogs, perhaps I didn’t know what it really is as I was trying to decipher somebody’s metaphor and it wasn’t working for me.

Unfortunately I’m going to state what the discovery is to me, this may not work for you.

This discovery is about me, and for you, to be the most important person in your universe, being conscious of the environment about you, that’s in the room and then beyond, as far as you can imagine. This thought will only last a moment, this moment can not be keeped or reused, a new thought needs to be generated and then again and again so there is a contiguous flow of thoughts without dwelling on the past nor trying to figure out the future.

This takes some practice, then applying it all the time is some feat. So these thoughts swing in and out. When they are needed I increase their frequency.

The next part is that we are continuously communicating with each other and animals. My dogs can read my mind and to some extent I can read theirs. Have you ever known who is calling you without looking at the caller display, or tried to call someone but they are engaged because they are calling you. This is our natural communications, this communication can be enhanced when we are near to each other and enhanced again by touch. Our communication drastically improves if we don’t dwell on the past nor figuring out the future.

The person we are closest to is ourself, we can communicate to ourselves as exceptionally well, we have the best communication within ourselves but we just don’t listen; we can tell ourselves so much to keep ourselves well and healthy but why don’t we listen?

The world is your oyster


In my previous blog A dog with a new bone I wrote about the shield I held in front of me, nobody saw it whether I was hold up or thrown it on the floor, my shield was pretty pointless, I know that now but for the past decade or so I thought it was very important to use, it protected me. In reality it stopped me from doing things I wanted, stopped me saying things I wanted to say, stifled my creativity and most important of all it stopped me from being the real me.

Have you ever thought that I could do that but decided not to because:

  • They won’t like what I say
  • It’s too hard for me to do
  • It’s out of my comfort zone
  • They don’t respect me so it’s not worth doing.

I have and now I regret things I haven’t done.

The thing is, these are your thoughts about whatever the topic is, no one else’s, they don’t know what you are thinking as you don’t know what they are thinking. These thoughts have been my shield, they prevent me from moving on.

What I did was experiment with these thoughts and turn the thoughts around by making them positive, for example ‘they will like what I say’ and get on and speak, notice their reaction, I’ve been pleasantly surprised, no bad remarks and thanks for honestly.

I’d got in the way of my own authenticity.

There is a little more to this, I NEEDED TO BE TRUTHFUL TO MYSELF, if I didn’t like what I was saying, it didn’t work; people know authenticity and they know the opposite.

What I’ve learnt and written in previous blogs is that these skills take time and determination to be developed, there is a shortcut, find someone to help you, I found the Alexander Technique and have since trained to teach the technique.

I learnt that the very first thing is to notice negative emotional and physical reactions to activities, once a reaction is noticed then the change can happen, perhaps turn the thought around to ‘they will like what I say’ then notice what happens. To start to notice things you need to know where you are in time and space, if you are too busy worrying about something else or hurting from physical pain then it will be very difficult to start noticing other things, I can help with this, part of the many hours of training over 3 years is to show people how to rediscover their capacity to be here in this very moment and also to enjoy their own space. From this point the world is your oyster.

Dogs are a mirror of your thinking


You may be wondering how you can have a quiet home with dogs, it’s easy. Dogs pander for the quiet, they can sleep or rest for most of the day but they also need exercise and mental stimulation, rather like us. We need all three, sleep, exercise and mental stimulation as well. When out walking with dogs you also get the exercise and mental stimulation.

Dogs pick on our moods and habits and try to do something about it to mimic or please us, they can’t vocalise so it’s normally something physical. If you can’t settle then you may find your dog running around or misbehaving, remember they are doing something that they believe you want, shouting at them could also be a greater stimulus to continue what they are doing. You are getting excited and angry by their behaviour and they think you want more of the same.

Remember, dogs are a mirror of your thinking.

The best action to quieten down you dogs is to be calm yourself, this could be a problem if you don’t know how to calm down. If your head is full of stuff that you need to do, you have things to worry about and now I’ve asked you to calm down for the dogs sake, probably the last thing on your mind and being calm is just impossible.

Your dog probably treats you as an alpha member of their pack even if there is the two of you. As you are the boss they will do as you say even if you don’t verbalise it, they just want to please and be a member of your pack.

Unfortunately the onus is on you and your family to have a happy well behaved dog. Have well defined boundaries, which of course, they will try to break. You just have to reassert the boundaries when they are broken, over and over again, just like with children.

Be a calming effect on your dog, here’s some tips.

Know where you are in time and space

  1.  Check out what you are thinking, if it’s worrying about something in the future or in the past, change your thought to being here at this very moment. Admire a  painting, a view, your dog, anything, the choice in yours, stay with those thought of wonder. Here’s some more ideas.
  2. Check out how you are standing or sitting, raise your awareness of your head, neck, back, shoulders arms, legs and feet. Notice any pain you have, do you notice anything else? Be inquisitive about how you move.
  3. revisit 1 and then 2, keep going around these two points over and over again and you may start to notice yourself quietening down, your breathing may soften, your dog should sense your quiet and settle down as well.

Repeat these points when you have a moment or if you notice being stressed, you’ll find that with practice these thoughts will only take a moment, nobody will notice and you will be back on track.

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