99 Balloons well only 87 really


A great weekend, sailing on Saturday and then this morning I left to go to the Bristol Ballon Fiesta, up at 4 am, a drive to get there for the gates opening at 5.30 and I wasn’t the only one there! My intention was to take some photos, in the end just short of 400 shots. The weather was perfect for photos, not so much for the balloonists, I think they said 87 balloons took to the skies this morning, they didn’t go very far as there was little wind, so the hung around, ideal for photos.

I got me thinking as I clicked away, how conscious was I taking photos, do I need to be that conscious as I’ve taken tens of thousands of photos before, I know how to use my camera, which setting to set, which lens to use. For framing the camera, I’ve a good eye, so I know what to take, but for my own personal use, I did check myself out quite a few times; is my neck free, etc, etc. How I was bring my camera to my eye?

I guess some others would do anything to get the picture.

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As with everything, it’s the time spent training, there’s a number of hours, in the thousands when you may become proficient at your chosen skill, be it being an olympian, photographer or just plain you. You will become acclaimed at anything you spend enough time at. We generally think of the good things, Mo Farar just getting a Gold at Rio, Bradley Wiggins on his bike with more Gold. The UK does punch over its weight when it comes to sport.

We can also be acclaimed at other things that are not seen as good, but you have been very good at spending time at. There are many things but anxiety and stress come to mind, it’s the constant rehearsal of the what might happen and making sure it does happen the way you want it, for me it was in a negative ways, practice makes perfect, it certainly does when it comes to anxiety and stress. Both are self made conditions but may have been invoked my others to keep you under control; that’s little dark but for some its life.

Choosing freedom seems to be my thought over the past week or so, a hard thing to achieve when in a bad place but giving yourself time and space to be in the here and now. When your in the here and now it a safe place to be, as you can see what’s going on without the troubles of the future, a good place to practice being free.

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If you can’t find some friends to cuddle up to at a balloon fiesta perhaps a few lessons with an Alexander Technique teacher could be the safe place be, Alexander Technique teachers aren’t trained in enquiring about personal or psychological issues, so they won’t ask. The strength in the Alexander Technique is inviting you to be more conscious in your everyday live, teaching you new tools so that you can have conscious choices.

Go find an Alexander Technique teacher and experience and live a different life.IMG_0868.jpg

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The heart of the matter


An Alexander Technique Teacher once told me that I need to look after myself first before I can look after anyone else. I replied “surely that’s just being selfish!”, “no it’s being self-full”they replied.

It took me a while to believe this, being selfish I was told many years ago was a bad thing and you should care about others before yourself. Being selfish and caring about others are just the ends of a scale; neither is good for you and the people in your community. If you are selfish you will take from the caring and if you care you will give much to the selfish. Being self-full is in the middle of this scale you neither give or take too much, just the appropriate amount of giving and receiving.

I believe being self-full is the heart of the matter for life including the Alexander Technique. Being self-full you will look after yourself first so that you have the appropriate and purposeful energy for others. Have you ever worked with someone and felt absolutely wasted after, well you where either being selfish or giving to much – holding back and not allowing what needs to be allowed or pushing too much as you want to give them a good experience instead of allowing what needs to be allowed.

The art is to allow what they need without holding back or pushing, letting them have the Opportunity for freedom with your guidance.

This all sounds rather grand and idealistic, I’m work in progress but I know my intension; my offering is to guide whoever in their discover of their own freedom.

If you don’t live near me, find an Alexander Technique Teacher in your area and they will help you to find your freedom.

 

 

 

 

 

Blocked Paths


In the part of the forest where I regularly walk, one of the paths is blocked by a tree, the tree probably blew over in a gale. The paths in the forest had been there for a very long time and have been established by animals and people choosing to walk a similar route. This tree is a particularly beautiful part of the forest, a beech canopy with the sun breaking through, in early May before the bracken appears fields of bluebells that disappear in to the distance.  I walk this path quite a lot, a time to reflect, my dogs to range around having a good time. I’ve been stepping over tree for several months, refusing to walk around it as many others do. Why do I step over the tree trunk, is it because I can, is it because I don’t want it to get in the way of my journey; in the Alexander Technique world this behaviour could be construed as end-gaining, just pushing on regardless and a disregard to my safety.

Perhaps it is safer to walk around but why should I. Perhaps I could use another path in the forest and avoid the fallen tree. I want to enjoy my walk and this is a beautiful part of the forest so I’ve chosen to walk on this path. A conscious decision to face the blocked path as the benefits outweigh the difficulty.

The tree trunk is easy to stride over with little risk but somethings in life may be more risky. Taking time to consider and make a conscious decision to act, sometimes to take that risk, sometimes not, the choice is yours but you can always stop and reconsider.

Perhaps the stopping and reconsidering needs a little more explanation; you can only reconsider if you know what you are doing in the first place, a skill that I’ve been developing for sometime and will be developing for sometime more probably a lifetime of development. Knowing what I’m doing during every moment in my life is taxing and near impossible but tuning up my awareness when it is needed, for example making those important conscious decisions. This awareness takes time to practice and put into operation, for me it’s been years. It’s difficult, upsetting, emotional, fantastic, freeing. Peeling back the blocked paths that stop me from thinking freely, from me being me. It’s a real challenge but worth it.

In the Alexander Technique world this is inhibition, the inhibition of those thoughts and actions that prevent me being really me. Every thought manifests itself onto some form of  physical activity, this is where the Alexander Technique comes into its own, by noticing this physical activity when it happens I can ask myself what was the thought, this takes practice, a lot of practice, I’m the same as you, full of habits that I’m not aware of. The quickest and easiest way to notice these habits it to work with an Alexander Teacher, as was are trained to notice these physical responses and they will be able to help you. For example, if you have asthma you may notice at times of stress you will have greater need of you medication, I certainly was. Over time and working with my Alexander Teacher I learnt to notice the trigger events and instigate a countermeasure to the trigger, early on it didn’t always worked, but slowly I got better at noticing the trigger earlier and earlier and I now control these triggers without medication.

The countermeasure is very powerful and simple, it is to inhibit the trigger by being present, in the here and now, quietening the what if’s, stop worrying about the future. I’ve got little control of the future especially if it involves other people. There’s not many mind readers around and I’m definitely not one.

The Alexander Technique is not just about posture as may people think, it is about thinking and the physical activity from that thought.

 

 

Opportunity for freedom


Sunday walk again in the forest, I didn’t see anyone, just me and my four dogs, it gave me time to reflect on my week.

This week I visited an Alexander Teacher, it was three years since I last visited and just before I started my Alexander Teacher Training. We discussed various things but what I took away was that as an Alexander Teacher we can only offer an opportunity for freedom, we can’t make anyone do anything, if we try we fail, if we measure we fail, we can only offer an opportunity. For me this goes against my beliefs as I want to help and make better, see an improvement, want them back again so that I can make them even better.

A dichotomy, so if I want to help, I don’t help but I offer an opportunity for freedom and let them take it if they want.

My past blogs have been about stopping and inhibiting but little about what I was stopping. That’s the end-gaining, the bad boy of Alexanders principles, well the bad boy for me.  For me end-gaining is everywhere, and sometimes hidden. Wanting to help is end-gaining, worrying what others think is end-gaining, these are more subtle than the need to get things done at any cost sort of end-gaining. These subtle end-gainings, for me, are the difficult ones to recognise as they are well built into my being, so they are very strong, difficult to notice as they are me. I’ve been toiling for sometime to notice these end-gainings. Could it be this toiling thats kept my end-gainings hidden.

All I need to do was to offer myself the opportunity for freedom then I have time for choices, one of the choices could be, do I need to guess what others are thinking at this moment, I guess not, as it will probably be wrong anyway, perhaps a better choice is to give myself the opportunity for freedom to be myself.

 

Making considered choices


There’s something about blogging I quite like, I don’t know what is really is but it’s enjoyable, in the last blog I decided to write about what ever come to me whilst I was writing, I’m going to de the same again.

I do have a plan, well sort of, something about me and my journey with the Alexander Technique, the past couple of blogs have been about how I’m a specialist in end-gaining, I’ve had plenty of years to develop these skills. At the Bristol Alexander School I’ve read Alexanders four books and others, it was difficult to read and understand especially as I was reticent to fully engage with the technique whilst learning to be a teacher, not a very good admission, the thing is I didn’t know I was being like this, I was being normal; I mentioned this earlier in Touching reality. However recently I’ve dipped into CCCI and read a few pages about mind wandering, he gets the point across and I enjoyed and understood it a lot more this time, I guess this is the classic view of you can only understand something when your ready to understand it, something I’ve never really understood until recently. I thought I was always ready to understand and learn, I guess I was, well to a limit. If my learning hit my boundary I would stop and pretend to carry on, rather like Bryon Katie’s ‘judge your neighbour worksheet’, I’ve read her book and she say’s if you have any issues with anyone including yourself complete a worksheet, read it and then throw it away. I haven’t done a worksheet yet, that’s beyond my boundary, I might discover something unexpected, something I don’t like, something that may upset the dynamics of my boundaries hence something to avoid.

I’ve been experimenting with my boundaries recently or should they be my walls, noticing what I’m thinking and how the thoughts manifest physically, for example what makes me anxious, if I catch the thought early, I ask myself:

  • why am I having this thought, probably a response to some stimuli
  • why does this thought attach itself to a habit
  • why does the habit have a particular physical response
  • was the physical response helpful in this moment
  • can I soften the physical response?

If I miss my thoughts but notice my physical response:

  • was the physical response helpful in this moment
  • can I soften the physical response?

The answers to the questions above really don’t matter,the important act is to recognise that I can have these questions and they stimulate a response. If I have a response I can work with it. Working with a response using the Alexander Technique is pretty simple on the outset but quickly becomes complex as I will be asking myself to change, if you are anything like me that is hard. The Alexander principle I use is the 5 point plan, have a search on the internet for a fully definition and it’s in chapter 1 (page 46) of the The Use of the Self by FM Alexander.

My take on the 5 Point plan is

  • inhibit – i.e notice whats going on
  • work out what I want to do
  • maintain my intent to do, get on with the activity, if I notice I’m not following my intent, stop and back to step 1
  • check if I really want to do what I planned, if not, back to step 1

I’ve only 4 points to the 5 point plan and if you read the fully script I’ve also a lot of words missing.

Alexander based his plan around speaking but as you my guess, my thoughts are that it is about life. This plan can be used anywhere and at any time, in fact I believe if has an infinite timeframe sometimes in picoseconds, second, minutes and possibly years, the choice is mine and yours. The art of life is to realise that I’m the centre of my universe and you’re the centre of your universe, from our centres, that’s our real centres, we can make considered choices and also observe ourselves dispassionately and others dispassionately and allow your love to evolve for ourselves and then on to others.

Touching reality


It’s Saturday and I’m not at AT teacher training, well it is the summer break so this is my first free Saturday for quite a few weeks, today I’ve managed to get the lawns back under control: my life seems to have been put on hold without I’ve been training. Did I put my life on hold or was it a conscious or unconscious choice that I’m just doing AT trying so nothing else mattered.

(I’ve decided to write this blog with no intension of what the topic or conclusion will be, an experiment to observe where my thinking goes.)

I think it was my habitual behavoiur to focus on the most important and ignore the rest, some my say end-gaining. End-gaining to train as an Alexander Technique Teacher, SURELY NOT! Where was my unified field of awareness and my presence, surely I could apply these to include the rest of my life whilst training. I guess many of us just get focused on what they think is important and ignore the rest, the rest is just a sideline that will interrupt what is really important.

Or is it?

I think the sideline is very important it’s the bit lost when you round things down, remove the n from XxX+n when you differentiate (or is it integrate) to make 2X. It’s what makes us human. Being too focused is bad for your health, focusing and trying to fix things by doing things that have always been done just makes things even more worse: surely doing the thing that made it worse in the first place and then keep on repeating it is not a good idea, I know, I’ve been rather good doing the same thing over and over again thinking that things will change, eventually the penny drops or someone shouts loud enough for me to understand that I need to change. The latest shout was (there wasn’t any shouting, I was just told over and over again) that I wasn’t ready to go it alone and teach the Alexander Technique. I did believe it but somewhere deep in my thoughts is still didn’t believe it. I didn’t know how to stop and change these thoughts, there was a belief that all will be fine by graduation day (that was last week), my belief was squashed when reality struck. Thinking about it now, I need that, I needed to meet reality so that I knew my believes were unfounded. Without this reality I would have just carried on in my dream.

Reflecting on this, though I really love the training and the changes I’ve made over the past three years I haven’t been 100% honest with the training and the Alexander Technique, I’ve kept it at an arms length, a habit that I’ve recently discovered, the habit has recurred in many parts of my life maybe the whole of my life once I developed it. It’s based on the fear of criticism; if I don’t commit fully then I can explain that I failed because I wasn’t fully committed. This has worked really well for most of my life but unfortunately the Alexander Technique only demands 100% of myself, nothing else will do. I only wish that I had learnt this earlier in my training but then I wouldn’t have learnt it as I needed to touch reality. For those Alexander Technique teachers reading this, I did have a thought of going though the basic principles and the five point plan overtly but I recon most of these principles are hidden in this blog.

 

 

 

Floating on Air


Keeping my feet on the ground has been a little difficult over the last weekend. Being somewhere because it was the right and proper place to be and to be seen, but at the sometime really wanting not to be there. I felt I was floating on air, not being part of the event and had the feeling that I was observing from afar. Not a nice place to be but I needed to be there. I guess many of you have been to an event you really had to go to but didn’t want too.

It all started several weeks ago, I was told I wouldn’t be ready to qualify as this July as an Alexander Technique Teacher, I really didn’t believe it and still didn’t believe it until I didn’t sit at the front of the room with the rest of my year on graduation day.

I had a huge conflict going on in my head, I knew I wasn’t ready, I really knew that, but I secretly wished that I was wrong and my teachers where wrong and would see the errors of their ways, but I really knew I wasn’t ready. I’ve been torn apart by being rational and irrational at the same time. Now I’m a failure, well that’s what my irrational, needy half thinks, my rational side knows that I have to develop and really be myself. I have to be my real self without all the additional habits laid on top. I’ve got a lot of habits and they go a long way back.

My rational thoughts had maintained the upper ground until last weekend when irrationality struck, I wasn’t at the front with the others, why? It felt like I was floating in the air, I was there but not really there, a really strange sensation. I was a ballon trying to escape gravity, luckily there were plenty of Alexander Technique teachers who helped be to the ground, bringing me back to reality, being grounded, being present, being in the room, being with the graduates, being with the other students, teachers and families. I was still lonely in a room full of people, I felt like an outcast, these were my thoughts, it felt real, sore, a really deep sore, it really hurt, it still does but I was there in the room and I witnessed to graduation from afar, I really was at the back of the room. I felt a failure, not good enough, why go on, I’ll never make it, pack it all in and do something else. I know these thoughts are irrational but irrational thoughts really hurt, it hurts so it must be real. But I also know that I’m great and wonderful – I’ve been told by too many different people for it not to be true – I’m great at everything I put my heart into, including the Alexander Technique.

So why didn’t a graduate? My self-doubt gets in the way, bloody annoying habits from a long time ago, really pernicious habits that I will need to resolve, to let go somehow.

I’ve noticed them for a long time and sometimes I can inhibit them other times they win over. Knowing my habits is the first step and inhibiting the next. The secret with habits is that there aren’t any in the present, in the here and now. It’s only when I step out of the present and think about the future or past that habits appear.

Now back on to my journey with a whole summer to reflect on this experience and others, this experience though very sore at the moment will be a benefit to me later.

Well done to the graduates, and also my teachers for helping us all to deeply learn about ourselves, so we can all become teachers of the Alexander Technique, I’ll be a graduate when it’s my turn.

 

Don’t try this at home


What a lovely Sunday morning, I like Sunday mornings; the doors and windows are open letting the cool fresh morning air into the house, a nice breakfast, tea maybe coffee later, it is quiet, I have room to reflect and think. I want to, have the need to, write but I haven’t a clue what to write, will it be about Jessica Wolf’s workshop at BAS, or further thoughts about how I feel about not being ready to qualify as an Alexander Technique teacher. The later I’m content with, so maybe this is could be about breathing, in fact about just a few moments during the workshop.

As you may be aware, I manage asthma with thought alone by using the Alexander Technique, no more inhalers for me I haven’t used one for a couple of years. This nearly changed on Friday. We were working though the various activities that Jessica was directing, silent ‘la’s’, whispered ‘ah’s’ and counting on our out breath, I’m not going to go in to detail here about these activities as I won’t give them justice. Jessica suggested that for a moment we imagine what poor breathing is like and perhaps attempt some poor breathing. I CAN DO THAT! I just thought of how I used to breathe and a little more poor use on top. It was a bad move, my chest tightened I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t count passed ONE , worst of all it was real and I was stuck with panic, fear and thoughts of how the hell can I get out of this breathing pattern. I didn’t have a clue what to do, I was really stuck in my thinking, old thoughts of trying to do something, just do anything so that I can breathe again. The panic was awful.

I don’t know how long it took, in reality probably a few moments. Luckily we were working in pairs, Jane had her hand on my chest and abdomen to notice my breathing during the various activities. I grabbed her hand, she stayed with me, my breathing returned to something like normal and I cried for a long time, tears are with me as I write. I’m not sure about the tears, are they about sorrow and loss of how I was for so many years, was it the panic I used to feel in just doing simple tasks, was it planning my life around an inhaler, ‘ooh thats’s going to be stressful so time for my inhaler’ My life was so reliant on inhalers, I feel depressed just thinking about is and it’s hard to see the screen with my tears.

Those moments of thought about my old bad use has taken me two days and a little more to get over. This has been a real lesson on the power of thought and how old habits can just reappear, it is also a really good lesson again on the power of thought, that’s conscious constructive control of thought, using indirect methods to help myself to breathe freely again.

The conscious constructive control I’ve learnt over the past few years during my Alexander Technique Lessons and my teacher training so I have the skill to return to breathing freely again. Don’t try this at home else you may be in trouble.

 

Bubbles, just bouncing in our bubbles


Continuing on from yesterdays blog I should have been annoyed?. It’s quite liberating to talk about how I feel. For years how I felt was my business, keep it tightly held to myself and its nobody else’s business.

I had the thought that we all bounce around in our little bubbles, it is safe in there with our habits that restrict and constrain our freedom. If there is a chance that the bubble can be burst we just add more layers of habits to protect us, this does lead to the problem that we are even more constrained and restricted with even less freedom. This has certainly been my habits, I did like my bubble, I avoided vulnerability, risk and had a quiet life. IMG_2148It was wonderful. Or so I thought. All these habits are really just thoughts and as FM Alexander wrote: “we translate everything, whether physical, mental or spiritual, into muscular tension.”

So being in my bubble I was generating unnecessary muscular tension. I thought I was having a quiet life but I was busy protecting myself unnecessarily for imaginary problems, I was making things up to keep the dream going. I can only guess that 99.99999% of the population love to do this as well.(I’ve got no valid reason for the percentage, it just looks good)

Well,  I’ve popped my bubble, or rather letting it down slowly. Too quickly and I may just turn into a babbling wreck. I’m starting to enjoy my vulnerability, instead of the thoughts of “I can’t do that” its “let it happen and see what occurs”. Without my bubble, life is a strange place, it’s actually great. But at the moment I’m not ready to go to far from safety but I’m pushing the limits and a little beyond them. I wouldn’t even know this place of vulnerability and wonderfulness existed with my Alexander Teacher Training. I’m not recommending you go on the teacher training course, but a few sessions with an Alexander Teacher may well introduce you to the land of vulnerability and wonderfulness.

Have you ever thought it should be easier than it is, I've got some secrets I'm willing to share on how to make your activities easier.