Category Archives: happiness

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.

Go find an Alexander Technique teacher and let them help you to rediscover your natural freedom.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was on holiday


Traveling overnight just makes a long day, up as usual in the morning, a full day making the most our last day on holiday, then flying home with a couple of hours back. Then I woke up at my usual UK time, why! Just a couple of hours sleep.

Ugh.

I suppose habits are usually helpful sometimes but not this morning, I noticed it was daylight so time to wake up, why!

It did give me time to put the holiday clothes in the washing machine and to weigh myself, obviously too much beer and baklava, don’t ask, I wondered why my trouser are tight.


Beer and baklava, another habit, go on holiday and let and other habit slip or is it a good old habit reemerge of when I was younger and fitter, I could eat and drink what I liked then and still be trim. The Mediterranean has so many good memories of good times, the heat of the sun, clear blue skies, the sea, food, beer and back then a lot of hard work. This time the hard work was missing perhaps my trousers were saying something.

But I was on holiday, time to relax and worry about things later, later is here this morning, now back on low/ no carb food without baklava and beer, I’ll miss them.

Allowing habits to take control may or may not be a conscious decision, I was in holiday mode and just ran with my habits, so I could claim that I consciously choose to revert to an old behaviour. It was good, I was on holiday!

It’s great to be home now, still on holiday but doing some things at home that need to be done during a weekday.

Some thoughts for you;

  • do you change to someone else when you go on holiday?
  • do you like your holiday persona?
  • Have you ever thought why you change?

Muddy paws on a London bus


I had a very lucid dream last night, it’s still with me this afternoon, without going into too much detail it was about not holding myself back. 

As with many dreams it was surreal reality, real people I know in what could be real situations, oh, with a dog (not a spinger spaniel) with muddy paws on a London bus.

I’m sure I’m like many others, I have a plan to do something then some thought or other pops up, “you can’t do that because ….” then I’m deflated and everything stops, if I’m forced to do something I know I can do well, another though pops up “you’ll get it all wrong” and then I mess it up.

Perhaps that sounds familiar?

Time for an experiment, either think back to one of those times it didn’t go to well or notice the next time you hear your words of doubt. 

Are the thoughts a verbal thought, were you talking to yourself even if the words were silent? Mine are.

Now for the scary bit, what would happen if you asked for these thoughts to be quiet whilst you got on with your task. This is very difficult as I find these thoughts just want to chip in and take control. There is probably a few ways to quieten these thoughts, I find the best way is to go somewhere these thoughts can’t get to. 

Intrigued, read on.

These thoughts thrive when I’m reflecting on the past or worrying about the future, they have free range in my thinking. The place they can’t get to is this very moment in time, I wrote about this place yesterday in the last grain of sand. Yesterday’s blog was how I had a panic in the sauna, panicking comes in many forms, my view on panicking is that it’s overlaying past events with future what ifs to guess what is about to happen.  I may steer the outcome and fail fantastically, failing fantastically was in my verbalised plan but not in my original plan, my deep down plan, this plan was all about success.

Not holding myself back. 

With a bit of practice you may start to notice some muscular tightening, mine is in my stomach, when these negative verbalised thoughts pop up. When I notice them it’s time for action, I observe something without judgement, if words rise I let them go and intensify my intention to observe something, for example, I’m in a hotel reception, there’s specks of dust on the white floor tiles. Just wondering, listening to the hum of busy people, I’m just here without judgment. 

This does take practice, I’d guess, my whole life to truly not hold myself back, so there is no time like now to start.

I’d say practice, practice, practice, but I don’t believe in practicing, just do it or even better be it, be a non judgmental human being.

I don’t know what happened to the dog with muddy paws, I woke up

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.

FORWARD = INTENTION and UP = ATTENTION


I’ve been thinking what all my training has been about, its been about a paradigm shift in thinking and how the show others how to achieve this change in thought.

We normally rely on our habits to conduct our day to day activities, just doing things without much thinking, take driving a car, have you ever been shaken out of you routine when a hazard suddenly appears and you have thoughts of “that appeared from nowhere”.

Why does this happen?

I have an idea why, we reuse old habits over and over again, driving down the same old road every day, its safe and nothing ever happens, so you have time to daydream and reduce your awareness of your journey, then something appears from nowhere, it didn’t, it was there all the time but it wasn’t on your previous journeys. It was your lack of awareness that created the hazard, if you had seen it earlier you could have taken early action around the obstacle instead of turning it into a hazard.

Relying on our old habits we switch between relaxed to startle in a moment. This is our normal thinking paradigm, Our thinking is either on or off,  on the seesaw of life, happy or sad, swinging between the two with no apparent control. Some think alcohol or drugs will help, they do to a point, they mask things but they don’t go away. I’m including the prescribed ones as well. I’ve certainly been on the seesaw of happiness and hatred and alcohol does mask things until the next day.

What I’ve learnt in my training is to slow the seesaw down so that it doesn’t swing too far either way, a lot of the time it works but not always, as they say, ever day is a learning day.

My paradigm shift in my thinking has two aspects, the first one is being content with not knowing what is going to happen, the second is knowing where I am in this moment. This thinking needs to be renewed continually, this needs practice.

Both of these aspects have many layers and they interconnect with each other everywhere, it is too complicated to understand, so lets not, this is the paradigm shift in my thinking, I am me in this time and space.

To make this simple I use thoughts of attention and intention, I have attention of myself in time and space, remembering to renew continually and the intension to move to perform whatever activity I choose.

I see this as FM Alexanders forward and up

FORWARD = INTENTION, UP = ATTENTION

So instead of driving down the road using the same old habits, I enjoy the journey even in traffic jams. You may be thinking about the developed habits in controlling the car, of course I use them, as I use the habits in developed in walking. These habits are all tied up with thoughts of attention and intention at this very moment

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Grumpy, miserable and sad


There’s plenty of words that describe people with mental health issues, I was going to write some but I’m not, as they are generally defamatory and demeaning. You also have your own list.

I’m really pleased that the Heads Together charity is the lead charity for this week’s London Marathon. It’s about time mental health is accepted and spoke about in public, I have a view that we all suffer from bouts of mental health issues, some are like a runny nose, some like flu and in some cases like pneumonia. My assumption is that we have all had the runny nose version and the runny nose can last for years and years. We just live with it because it feels normal.

I’ll let you into a secret, once upon a time I thought grumpy, miserable and sad was normal.

I was wrong, if you feel like that then you are also wrong.

My normal now is being happy (I do sometimes do get the runny nose but I have tools for me to return to happy).

Happy is a great place to be, I learnt this skill to be happy instead of learning the skill to being grumpy, miserable and sad.

Why is it so easy to be grumpy, miserable and sad? My answer is that where others want you to be because they don’t have the secret of not being grumpy, miserable and sad. The lowest common denominator is grumpy, miserable and sad.

I guess you want to know what tools I use to be happy, if you have read any of my blogs you probably know.

I’ve trained to teach the Alexander Technique, (a lot of hours over 4 years) you may already have heard about this, posture and reducing lower back pain may come to mind. It sort of is but the Alexander Technique is so much more, posture and reducing pain are just the sideshows that people can see, measure and brag about. What the technique is about is to change how you think during your everyday activities. If you are a stressed Eric as I was, full of anxiety, I was so anxious I couldn’t breathe without an inhaler, the inhaler ruled my life, ooh, I hated those years.

Learning to identify my anxious responses to everyday stimulus was the first step and then doing some different, even if the different thing was to do nothing, things started to change, I became less dependent in my inhaler. It took a long time, I’m inhaler free now.

The Alexander technique is many things to many people, it reduces physical pain, it reduces mental pain, I see anxiety as mental pain. It’s all this but what I understand the Alexander Technique to be is training on how to love yourself. If you love yourself from a safe authentic space then you can love others. Judgement of yourself dissipates as does judgement of others. Mindfulness is fine but mindfulness in activity is the key to this love and happiness; this is what the Alexander Technique is. My training as a teacher has taught me how to notice others and offer techniques and ideas to others, many of these ideas are indirect, this is an important aspect of the training as it helps you to notice your habits from a safe indirect perspective. Observing yourself, as I have written before it the first step.

If you are intrigued or want to get rid of your grumpiness give me a call.

 

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?