What Made Me Open-minded

How I came to value Alexander Technique

I noticed the difference between adults and kids was stiffness from since before I could remember. Despite resolving as a kid to never “get stiff,” I was only able to avoid a mental brand of stiffness by being open to change in my thinking and attitudes. Probably I first received this “inoculation” for open-mindedness by being the child of an inventor, who was an immigrant in a new culture. He was a wise parent – as was my mom. Aside from their open-minded attitudes, they were able to spend a great deal of time with us as kids.

I am living proof that it’s possible to never lose one’s own curiosity, despite the loss of original childhood-blessed coordination from many uncommonly difficult life experiences.

Physically adapting to circumstances to avoid pain, my having to adapt to a change of height or weight  – all these influences made my own “mis-use” pretty much irresistible. My parents didn’t have particularly good coordination at all. I needed practical ways to express my open-mindedness that worked to make real improvements in my life. If I hadn’t had them, I would probably have bitterly given up, resigning from discouragement and over-sensitivity long ago. Until I got the tools to heal a mind-body split from using the discipline of Alexander Technique, I had little chance of executing a change toward effortlessness in my coordination. “Little chance” meant that I was the victim of a thoughtless but well-intentioned medical procedure that had unforeseen lifelong consequences – as a baby. Doctors thought it was more “kind” to tie off a birth defect gristle on my ear with a rubber band. It caused me as a baby to tense up the side of my neck randomly because the four week experience was an irritant. Only two decades later did doctors realize the procedure was destructive. Children who had had this done developed random back, neck, hip and knee problems when they reached skeletal maturity around seventeen years old.

I am not sure if it was was purely the chance of having experienced, insightful parents that helped me remain open to solutions. Perhaps it was the sad experience of becoming an orphan when I was a teen that led me to reflect and reconsider the effect of my actions. In that era, there was no grief counseling (or depression medication, thankfully!)

My capacity for denial was the only tool I had to cope with grief. Looking back, I wonder if it was a back-handed benefit to be able to so completely shut myself off with denial. Because when I ready to come out of my shell to make a friend, evidently I opened up farther than most people were capable of doing.

I cannot think of any other reason why it was me who had “Peak” consciousness experiences perhaps fifty times over a period of a couple of years. These experiences of a “state of grace” allowed me to be in a “flow” state with effortless posture and energy for days at a time. Without ever having taken mind-altering drugs, I experienced sustained psychedelic effects similar to the effects of magic mushrooms. Because this was the late 1960s psychedelics culture of experimentation, I did not think of my experiences as a sign of insanity – merely a sign of enlightenment.

One of the effects of having had these experiences is I got to embody “flow states.” I noticed the difference between me when I was in these “states of grace” meant my posture improved. For instance, I could run indefinitely without getting tired. I could almost read minds by being able to anticipate where people were going to move next.

But in my everyday life, I didn’t know how to regain the energy I experienced while in these altered states. I had no idea how to evoke these special states – they merely happened to me at unpredictable times. Valuing the beautiful coordination and other characteristics of being in these “flow” states did not stop my physical limitations from showing up at seventeen. Until I discovered Alexander Technique I had the flash of enlightenment, but not the knowledge to “turn back the clock” to youthful effortlessness. Even then, I thought of it as a means to suspend time.

My desire for “flow” experiences did allow me to recognize someone who was practicing Alexander Technique. That one person showed me a whole new world of possibility, Yisrael Kenneth Feldsott. He was training with Giora Pincas and Frank Ottiwell’s ACT teacher-training class for Alexander Technique. I watched Kenny tie his shoe and was completely entranced by the beauty of how he moved.  I thought Kenny’s ability to move beautifully meant he was capable of enlightenment states – and I was right.

What led you to value the ability to walk the pathway you’re on now?

2 thoughts on “What Made Me Open-minded

  1. Yes, thanks for your Bon Voyage, as life is a journey!
    It’s always a risk to reveal the back-story on your personal situation. But it’s by hearing your personal story that invites personal interest from those who will be bound to experience personal insight while having lessons with you. So it’s only fair that the teacher “goes first” in revealing the personal bits of themselves. (Obviously, I value establishing rapport over authoritarianism!)
    There are many ways that I was quite lucky in how the surrounding circumstances of my life supported the challenging aspects of it – thanks for reminding me of that! From telling my story in person to many, I believe your situation was much more common; when young people have an “awakening” experience, they believe they must be “crazy” and quickly work as long as possible to forget it ever happened!
    This feature of human nature shows a similar reaction to whenever we encounter new and unfamiliar sensations when learning Alexander Technique – which offers new ways to move and sense coordination. As soon as we feel something a bit odd during an Alexander lesson, (which commonly happens) people tend to put ourselves back into the habitual postures where they feel ‘comfortable.’ The really weird point is, humans are capable of becoming used to doing just about anything to themselves and have it become their definition of “normal.” So it’s important to elevate and value “unfamiliarity” as a signal something new has happened.

  2. What a fascinating story, Fran! Thank you so much for sharing it with us through your blog. What an amazing journey. I’ve posted my journey on my blog ( http://www.self-kindness.blogspot.co.uk ) but in fairly minor detail as yet. Your blog has shown me the need to revisit my journey to Alexander in more detail, but I will say that I envy your open-minded parents (yet offer gentle thoughts on hearing how young you were orphaned), and that your ‘flow’ experiences were met with such trust in the 60’s…both from you and those around you. I don’t remember moments such as that, but I remember living in terror of feeling so different to everyone else, and sensing things very acutely, but I think if I had had moments like you I might have dissolved in fear, and would have had no support from home. In fact my parents were very keen on the ‘psychiatrist’s chair’ through their own fear of anything outside their ‘norm’, which was most things! (But just maybe I did have some of those moments and they have simply got hidden behind the fear!) So, my journey of letting go of the results of that fear has been, and of course still is, ‘interesting’ to say the least! It is so good to hear of other’s journey too, so thank you again, and happy travelling, Fran!

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