Snoring Observations

Can a person change their habitual routines  – while sleeping to prevent themselves from snoring? For most, that’s a pretty laughable sense of personal responsibility. It’s one of the odd “features” of Alexander Technique – that we are “responsible” for actions that are innate or autonomous.

Because using Alexander Technique requires awareness, I had assumed that it was not possible to use it when asleep. Sleep is a time when habitual routines have wrested control away from the possibility of conscious control…or so I thought. After some experimenting, now I think differently.

I advise my A.T. students to use their ability to influence their actions when they begin an action. It is the way someone begins an action that “sets the stage” for how it is possible to continue it. To create many “beginnings” is one of the easiest ways to practice and get the benefits of whatever you know about how to use A.T.

But – I had started snoring – when I never did it previously. This is a very common issue affecting sleep quality – but more important, it affects whoever else might be in the same room, (…or maybe in the next room if the snoring is loud enough!)

There are many logical reasons for snoring – a low grade allergy to dust or aging pillows, a reaction to smog, (or VOG in Hawaii, where I live.) There’s the possibility of gaining of weight and the sag of “aging turkey neck.” Maybe even sleeping with too many covers on or not drinking enough water for proper hydration or a low grade indigestion could also be factors.

After having addressed some of these, I wondered if a tendency to react by unnecessarily clearing my throat while asleep could be at fault?  Since when I’m sleeping nobody else exists,  of course “snorgling” seems like a good idea. Can someone have bright ideas while sleeping?

I decided to conduct an experiment, testing how far this A.T. idea of “personal responsibility” would work. Could I use A.T. to address my new snoring problem while asleep or partly asleep?

I couldn’t imagine that projecting suggestions would be effective while sleeping, (we call this “directing” in A.T.) I decided that giving the sleepless, disturbed party permission to poke me when I snored might work as pure animal training.  Fortunately, I fall back asleep easily, so all I needed to do after being alerted was to notice my head was scrunched in some way and undo that. Usually I had managed to scrunch up my throat area, causing my nasal passages to narrow. Undoing that part of my throat cleared the obstruction  – and I’d stop snoring. (Tried the “breath-rite” strips too, but they didn’t particularly solve my tendency to unconsciously tighten my throat.)

Another thing I discovered about my own snoring (that may be useful to others) is that snoring had to do with my jaw relationship to my throat.

It’s pretty much impossible for *me* to snore if my jaw is positioned forward. ( so my lower teeth assume a forward “under-bite” over my top jaw.) This suggests that designing a chin strap that pushes the jaw forward might work for others.  Of course, to use a remedy such as this, you’d have to already have a pretty free or “slack” jaw. I’d already spent a lifetime practicing for this slack-jaw freedom, because my own jaw wasn’t shaped by inherited shape in a very advantageous way.

Sure enough, there’s a “chin strap” product like this! (Of course, it’s ‘way overpriced for what it is. Being too close to a loud snorer makes those who don’t snore completely insane, making them willing to pay any price.)

My confused bedmate could not imagine why I could use this remedy of being woken at some moments and not others. Neither could I. Evidently I needed this “animal training” for around a month before it worked reliably.  Now my tendency to snore can be redirected – without me waking up too much. Not sure if my ability to solve this issue involves any discoveries that would work for anyone else. There are so many reasons for snoring.

(Checking out the chin strap solution might be worthwhile thought – if you do not have an issue with jaw tension.)

Perhaps, we can now add that A.T. can be applied as a remedy for snoring to the long list of advantages where it’s effective?

 

Describing A.T.

We who teach A.T. have this tool that allows us to bring to expression our most cherished values. We have a means that bring under our influence the most subtle of indicators that run “under the radar” of our intentions. If that’s not accessing the ability to be “spiritually meaningful,” I’m not sure what is… In fact, I’m kinda proud of my lack of certainty. Hopefully it indicates I’m still capable of learning.

All humans have an “explanation problem,” but it’s especially true in trying to explain why Alexander Technique means so much to those of us who have discovered its value. Our education and familiarity with what we’ve gained from learning A.T. can get in our way of making it accessible to others. For many, noting your passion about something becomes a red flag that they might have to fend off a ranting “true believer.” In fact, almost any scent of marketing scares people away because they are constantly bombarded with so much of it everywhere they turn.

Persuasion seems to be a skill in a standard by itself. Perhaps appealing to the desire people have to help those they know would be a more indirect means?
Maybe the most simple and accessible descriptions might go like this template, where you can fill in the blanks:

You know how you feel when _______?
(think of an example that makes you feel lighter, like carrying a weight for awhile and then putting it down. Or use an example that creates ‘flow’ or being in love; or use a release of pressure that can be created deliberately, such as by pressing your arms outward against a doorway for a whole 30 seconds and then stopping.)
Well, what I can offer is a way to create that and apply it to everything you do. Only it’s different because of the way ___________.
Here are some benefits________.
The reason it works is ________.
Why it’s important and meaningful is because of ____________, and _______.

Here’s an example of filling in these blanks that I told the local librarian…

Learning Alexander Technique is as useful as learning to read. Perhaps think of it as movement literacy. Like reading, you can apply it to deepen any specific subject or goal you happen to become interested in or want to gain benefit through. It’s like getting a benefit through the study of how to practice. Unlike something you do, like practicing a specific somatic discipline like Yoga, you can get its benefits (aside from the time it takes to learn it) without devoting an extra dedicated hour out of your day to specifically practice it. Alexander Technique only demands remembering to use a moment of well-timed extra thought; a bit of awareness, a new intention or imagining an experimental question.
Using Alexander’s Discoveries will improve other factors as well: decision overload, directing attention, gaining better impulse control, expanding perceptual sensitivity, getting a more patient and longer learning capacity, improving practice quality. But the thing it offers that nothing else does is the ability to clear muscle memory nuisances when you’ve learned to unintentionally repeat what you don’t want to do. It gives you the power to change anything about your previous conditioning that you’d rather avoid, such as clearing unnecessary affectations of physical poise, self-image, talent or stamina.
How it works is by learning to quiet and subtract the unnecessary effort going on underneath your “radar.” It’s not substituting a supposed “better way.” on top of a “worse” one that will only need to be later revised. Instead learning A.T. works by subtracting what is unnecessary extra effort so a default physical grace can re-emerge.

What does using Alexander Technique feel like? Let’s say you’ve been carrying a kid on your shoulders for awhile and finally the kid wants to walk by themselves again. You would feel lighter without the kids’ weight, right? So, imagine if you could put down the extra unnecessary effort you are using to make every move that is going on underneath your radar. You’ll feel a similar lightness and ease of motion. Wouldn’t that be worth learning?

Now it’s your turn. How would you describe Alexander Technique to a curious open-minded person?

Remembering to Wake Up

Kathy In the first post titled, “Sense a Wake-Up” promised were more factors for remembering and recognizing a need to take the reins back from routines and go into action. Here’s more about that.

Significance that is gradual, (that happens in increments or over time) doesn’t seem to register very well on the human sensory system. Humans are much better at the “put out the fire” attitude to get motivation for doing something to address what has been obviously staring them in the face for some time. People slip gradually into decline without noticing because they’re able to ‘get used to’ just about anything.

Since a gradual slippery slope was how it started, it must be possible to slip gradually out of a limitation too, but this slip out needs to happen by deliberate design. One of the obvious tactics to affect change is to create this resolve to change your circumstances on purpose. Then try out  options to find what is most effective. Be persistent if your first ideas don’t work so well.

The ability to comprehend and put together the writing on the wall from a gradual worsening of circumstance seems to be determined by three factors:

First would be the readiness, willingness or resistance of the person who would get the possible benefits from a new experience. Sneaking past a sense of “Danger! Danger!” is one of the techniques that incremental improvement offers. But at some point, you’re going to run into resistance to any change whenever you try to improve things for yourself – so have a strategy ready for dealing with this nuisance of resistance.

Then there’s how open, distracted or habituated the person is starting from. Raw sensory information, (no matter how important!) can be selectively ignored it if it doesn’t obviously match expectations, self-image, the goals, or what the customary state of affairs.

Finally, there is the context, feedback and judgment of how things are happening. It’s an advantage to be able to revise and design as the experiment happens, but do this deliberately and not as a knee-jerk reaction to instant judgments. You’ll want to shape what might be more effective for change as the experiment is being conducted.

Addressing the last factor first, the most important thing to do on the front end is to guarantee safety. Set up the experiment so that the reasons to do so are not going to hurt or embarrass. Find a confidante or group of people who appreciate what you’re attempting to change. It’s hard to go it alone.

There’s a deceptive pitfall in the second factor. The more auto-pilot activities that are in place as habitual routines, the less new sensory information will be available for your ability to sense what is really going on. Nothing will stand out. That disappearance is the whole the point of having a routine – it simplifies what would become overwhelming so new processes can be added together during skill building. Think of when you first learned to drive a car; what was overwhelming at first became commonplace. It’s easier to add something onto the front or back of an established habit than it is to refuse it. But if you need to refuse a habitual reaction, it’s easiest to do this before it gets started in full force.

Unfortunately, that “disappearing” effect is also how the dulling of sensing sensory information happens. If frogs are famous for sensing only that it’s just getting a little bit hotter in the gradually heating stew pot (until it suddenly being too hot to jump out) – why should humans be different?

Perhaps jadedness and unreliability of sensory feedback also depends on how many habits someone has trained themselves to use, tolerate or select from. Especially when having to deal with pain, opposing directives will seem to flood or shut down the sensory system. Humans find it challenging to make a choice from too many options, so paint a black and white picture for yourself to quiet the urge to recite old self-justifications.

One of the strategies for getting a benefit out of gradual improvement is to note literal, incremental progress as if you were doing a research study. Note-taking and other factual documentation will show gradual progress that isn’t obvious through moment to moment sensing. This is very handy when you’re making such long-term changes such as getting skinnier or recovering from a serious injury. Celebration of little milestones is in order!

But if you’re not the “documenting research” type, you’d better get more strategic about resharpening your senses. You can do this by learning the ability to observe yourself, or by using tools or other people that you think are great observers to give you trustworthy feedback.

There are many types of resistances to self-improvement. Sometimes we want something so much that we can’t bear to be disappointed again. Of course, there are many more reasons why we resist doing what is good for us.

Alexander Technique is great because it sneaks under the radar and affects the building blocks of results below the level of what you would imagine should matter. There’s also something Alexander people call “Directing” that is designed to influence the background readiness humans use as a prerequisite for decision-making and going into action.

The action can be as simple as a shake of your head.

Now all you have to do to start is to set up the factual feedback situation or find a great observer, right?

Oh, that’s simple. That’s an Alexander Technique teacher.

 

Change Denial (part one)

A “habit of my life” is to not look at what I do not wish to acknowledge. How can I go against the habit and change it if I don’t even notice it?

Mostly everyone acknowledges that self-perception is, at best, challenging – if not impossible. It’s much more common to see what is wrong in the behavior and situations of others than it is to gain perspective on one’s own habits and attitudes. How come it is so challenging to admit that our objections about other people are happening much closer to home in us?

The way most people resolve this issue is to remind themselves that nobody is perfect and apply self- forgiveness and acceptance. While admirable qualities, these strategies are also self-justifications for pulling the wool over our own eyes. There are other ways.

What if there were some real tips and tools that could help us to change specific issues that we don’t want to face about ourselves?

Meet Lynne. She’s got an issue involving self- perception that clearly did not come from any personal failings, (unless you count getting into an accident is a character defect.) She broke her leg skiing and hobbled around for more than a year while she recovered. While she was healing, she needed to protect her injured leg.

Now, according to her doctor, she is all healed. But her problem now is that limping has become part of her usual walk. She has learned to expect pain that never comes, without realizing she’s doing it.

Everywhere Lynne sees people who are twisted and limping and criticizes how old they look. Her friends reassure her, but they are lying to make her feel self-confident because they wonder if the limp that Lynne retains is a character failing on her part.

Meanwhile, Lynne is so impatient to be done with the recovery process. It’s already taken so much time out of her life that she wants to ignore the fact that her accident ever happened. She hates feeling like “damaged goods.”

How can Lynn possibly change what she doesn’t wish to see herself doing?

There are good reasons for denial. Denial is a self-preservation skill. Humans are wired to ignore what is unpleasant and to quickly forget their painful tribulations. We have (what is known from brain science) our RAS. (that’s our Reticulated Activating System. – It’s sort of the dark side of what has been sold as “The Secret” too.)  This allows us to notice whatever we have assigned to our “important” list and to ignore what is not on it.

It is frustrating to notice what could be personal failings when you’re convinced that there’s nothing to be done about them, or ignore solutions are too much trouble. Besides, a show of confidence will get you past tight places most of the time.

There are many other understandable situations that could benefit from asking these question of how to get past a problem that is being denied. What person would want to notice how they’re stressed, prejudiced, narrow-minded, trapped in being a ritualized creature of habit, impatient, angry or out of control? Why…a person who imagines it’s possible to change these things, that’s who!

Are you one of those people?

First, we are going to need some deliberate design skills to get past the side effects of denial. Of course denial exists “for our own good,” so the ability to deny is going to insist and complain if you don’t stick with the denial program. We need to shore up our courage and perhaps get some encouragement from others, because resistance will take us back the status quo.

Some people would rather it be bad and over than have things maybe work out for the better! Waiting in no-man’s land while things sort themselves out is just too unpredictable, unknown and ambiguous. It’s possible to get better at extending patience for what feels odd – because what’s new will always feel strange. 

First Tip: The evidence of this habit you have been intentionally ignoring will be hidden in the slightest mannerism or perception, especially if you habit that you don’t know you’re doing is a physical one. Lynne doesn’t realize she is still limping because she doesn’t intend to limp. Because you’re on the inside of yourself, it is tricky to notice how things are going. Handy to deal with this problem will be using a mirror, recording device or your other senses for feedback to verify you’re not fooling yourself. Or buddy up with someone who is observant but not judgmental – perhaps they have a similar problem they would like your help with.

Lynne was almost out of patience, so evidence of success had better come quickly. But how would Lynne know success if it happened? Luckily someone she respected gave her a recommendation how they were helped. She kept going until she found something that did work. In Lynne’s case, learning Alexander Technique in a classroom situation solved her problem of unintentionally limping, because she got the support of classmates and the teacher. They provided other perceptual means rather than “seeing” to help her notice what is going on as it’s happening. Learning A.T. gave her further improvements too, such as avoiding height loss, gaining grace and awareness without self-consciousness.

If you don’t have a limp like Lynne does, it might work to show yourself this important secret about perception right now by starting with your finger two feet away from your focus of vision and bringing it closer until your finger touches your face. Where did it touch?

Most people will unintentionally bring their finger to one eye because that’s their “dominant” eye. Did you know this eye was dominant? Experimenting is how you learn stuff that’s useful to help the situation. So, the first ingredient is to be willing to experiment.

Practicing is how you train the solution to over- ride the old limitation, once you know what to practice. You need to be careful what you practice, or it will become an unintended habit. This way you avoid the danger of training a new habit that will become unintentionally chained onto the old, so both will be happening at the same time which can pull you in opposite directions!

However, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

What about if you begin to perceive what you are doing as you are doing it? The most elegant solution is to simply stop doing the old same thing and question the need to design and implement another habit to substitute for the unwanted one. It will feel a bit strange at first, but remember “strange” is the mark of what is genuinely new.

Stay tuned for more tips and experiments about more ways how to change a habit that you don’t want to face in the next installment tomorrow!

Niche of: Activism

This post will be hopefully one of many suggestions for those Alexander Technique teachers who want to find their niche. These are ideas for someone trained in Alexander Technique to consider making an ongoing topic for their life’s work. If you are an Alexander Technique teacher who is searching to specialize with a unique group of people to help them learn how to be better and make your living doing it, feel free to run with these ideas!

This week, here’s a video of a woman speaking on a social justice topic, about ethics and true responsibility for working as an authority. In content, it’s one of the best piece of inspirational activism speeches that I’ve ever come across. However, the speaker’s presentation and speaking skills could use help.

There are many reasons that someone needs to specialize in teaching Alexander Technique to this group of people who are speakers.

  • Appeals for ethics should not be merely an Internet fad on a video.
  • Persuasiveness ability hits the heart of the source of every social service livelihood, sense of duty, community participation and personal ethic.
  • Learning speaking ability should be more commonly offered, as it listed as the number one fear of the highest percentage.
  • Imagine the person who comes to the end of their rope from the disappointments of being an activist saying, “Well, at least I learned Alexander Technique from all of that.”

Isn’t there an Alexander Technique teacher in each country who could address the challenges of supporting activists? Out there must be at least one Alexander Technique teacher who could devote their life to specializing in helping regular citizens with a burning desire for social justice to become better at doing it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chairwork

The desire to do something that matters in an enjoyable way seems to be at the core of learning Alexander Technique.  – Jean Louis-Rodrigues in 1982

Today I wanted to write a bit about why “Chairwork” became a classic way of teaching Alexander Technique.  Classically, Alexander Technique was taught to me by having me sit in a chair and stand again over it, over and over and over…for years. The priorities of chair work are to rise from the chair and sit in it again while being effortlessly in balance within any part of the motion.

Now that I am the teacher, I don’t choose to teach using that form as a teaching activity. For me, this was because there are good reasons I discovered later to not repeat anything over and over.  Plus, having the student choose the action was more fun. It matched F.M. Alexander’s motive to make a hobby, art or passion of his possible and to continue learning what he wanted to be doing indefinitely, despite his serious problem issues that came from his own breathing issues and misunderstanding his teachers.

Alexander Technique is an indirect, abstract discipline. It is meant to be applied to whatever you’d like to improve by making anything you’re doing easier to do. For instance, people who are far from being able to look anywhere near “normal” posture can be doing A.T.

One of the misunderstandings that students have with chair work is to mistake the content for the activity, to think Alexander Technique was “sit up straight school.” There is no “ideal posture.” Anyone can do Alexander Technique well, even if they are physically bone-twisted from multiple other injuries or chronic diseases. A.T. teaches how to make happen an intentional response to change oneself. This is usually for the goal of moving effortlessly, but for an actor that priority would be “to be in character.  To do this, we need to use some sort of physical example so it can be shown factually we did as we intended…even if that outward action is lying on the floor to take a break, to solve a maths problem, dig a hole or to gimp across the street while the light is still green.

The classic A.T. teacher’s selection of the action of sitting a chair and standing as the medium for teaching is pretty much arbitrary. It was probably selected from having limited space for teaching originally.  It was preserved as a form for teaching probably because of the tremendous respect of students for their first generation Alexander teachers.

But in fact, any movement will do for an A.T. teaching example. It’s best to choose an action that deals with changing balance. (This is mostly why rising from sitting and sitting in a chair qualifies.) Any action that requires balance to change orientation will exhibit all of the personal strategies involved in movement decision-making on a fundamental and often hidden level of physical coordination. In the tiniest microcosm of movements are the metaphors for the preferences of habit. My favorite staple for teaching using a mundane activity is walking. 

Plus, it’s a useful thing to study sitting in chairs. It’s been scientifically proven that sitting for long periods is hazardous to health. If we can sit actively with poise, grace and stamina, we can do demanding and additional activities with a high degree of repetition without the potential for cumulative injury.

Because of the dangers of the lack of the ability to suspend a goal, having the teacher pick the activity they’re most familiar with is a good thing too. For many reasons, it doesn’t matter what motion that gets chosen as a medium for learning A.T. This is because the action is merely an example, an experiment.

It helps if what you choose as a goal is an activity you don’t care about. This is because then your desire to “attain the goal” won’t be so strong and you’ll be able to practice it without intense desire getting in the way.

But it’s also really useful and fun to pick a very challenging situation for using Alexander Technique. Otherwise, you’ll not know if you will be able to suspend a passionately held goal. You might not know whether or not your intent for excellence may be playing out as you imagine is possible.

Impulse Control

There’s a famous scientific “marshmallow” temptation experiment that was offered to four year olds. Those kids who couldn’t put off getting the marshmallow now in exchange for more marshmallows later didn’t become as successful later in life as the kids who could wait. It’s the issue that makes some schools tell parents their kids need to be on Ritalin.  It’s supposed to be a life skill that all adults have. It’s what adults need to be able to be healthy, to quiet emotions, to prevent a myriad of calamities in life from taking over and to practice getting good at what they love to do.  It’s what all religions attempt to sell to its followers so they can do what’s right.

For those of us who would like to improve themselves, do better and can’t, what exactly is happening? Why is it so hard to control your own impulses?

When you first start trying to use a new way of doing things, your old habits work better, precisely because they are formed and ready to go. A newly acquired skill or supposed “better” way is not ready yet. The new way is going to be unreliable for awhile until you practice it.

It’s sort of like learning to drive a car. If you want to get to the corner store and back when you’re learning to drive a car, it is probably faster to walk. Once you’re more familiar with getting into the car, getting it started and pulling out to the street, etc. it will be faster to use the car. So, practicing your new skill needs to be done in situations where it does not matter if the old habit was more effective or not. (Of course, for additional considerations of saving expense and sitting in traffic, it may still be preferable to walk short distances even when you are familiar with driving.)

Let’s say that you want to work on being less impulsive. You have decided there are priorities that are more important but less urgent, but it seems you most often revert back to the unwanted short-term fulfillment.

The problem seems to be that holding the impulse back when an important impulse event is happening is too challenging. This is what makes it impossible to practice. Any theoretical desire or use of will doesn’t have the comparative intensity to notice and deal with the strength of an insistent, coercive impulse. You’ll just give yourself convincing justifications why you need to do what you have always done, play a blaming game or offer yourself some other lame excuse that you’ll later regret.

Resistance to change is there for a reason – it’s a survival thing. The engagement of strong habitual impulses are justified by survival priority needs. There are usually additional multiple unknown factors that are swamping you that need to be uncovered before they can be changed.

So it is necessary to create a practice environment where it does not matter if you fail or succeed. Lower the stakes of the bet and its consequences, make it safe to fail. You’d want to practice on less important impulses like “I want to scratch a mosquito bite” or “I think I’ll look at that.” Then all the usual learning skills can apply when you fail, because it gives you a way to notice exactly what happens. You can form some interesting questions such as,

  • “How did I feel attempting to resist that impulse; what justifications came up?” “How long did I go before I gave in?”
  • “Why didn’t I recognize in time that here was a chance to resist this impulse?”
  • “What other strategy might work better next time?”
  • “Is my current assumption of what I perceived and why it was happening really true?”

Ultimately you are trying to program a new ability into yourself that can intercept what you don’t really want to do before that short-sighted urge or desire hits you.

Just “doing nothing” works, and using the old adage of “take a breath and count to ten.” If you know Alexander Technique, pausing before you begin to experiment with the way you move as you begin gives a way for something different to happen at the prevention level of physical reaction. You can think a bit before you jump; inserting a creative pause to consider alternate ideas about better ways to go ahead is also a useful strategy. You’d do this by asking if there are more ways to fulfill your goal than what you were going to do to get there. You can always question the reason for having the desire at all.

Probably it would be constructive to make a specific list of less-to-more important impulsive situations to use for practice; varying the list would make things interesting. Then you can’t use the excuse that, “it’s not important that I resist now.” It’s not the specific content of the low-importance impulses that matter when you are in training. What matters is the more abstract ability to consider how to answer uncontrollable urges, in spite of them being inconsequential or not. Having a list (perhaps revised monthly or weekly) would help you become aware when opportunities to practice on your list may occur. You would expand the list into more challenging situations as you progress in being able to resist your resistance.

Eventually it’s hopeful that you probably will not need the list as the skill becomes more reliable at some critical point. (Usually some time after seventy practice sessions.) Some situations will need continuing brilliant tactical and strategic ideas that change as the once-useful ones become ineffective. You will have learned to recognize and choose an “important-but-not-urgent” priority over an “urgent but not important” stimulus. You’ll also be able to uncover your own “core” desires of admirable values and other sterling character traits that had been so immediately distracted by a habitual reactions so as to be invisibly cloaked.

Strangely enough, if you’ve followed these suggestions, what you have just done is very much like you’d do if you were practicing Alexander’s technique.

 

…And all that was pretty interesting, wasn’t it? Going to do anything else about it?

 

 

Directing – Clearing Sensory Feedback

This post is the last part in a series called NAMED. Seeking a way for my students to remember the steps of how to use Alexander Technique, I came up with a simple word they could remember to help jog the steps. Each letter of the word is a category for each of the steps. 

N…NOTICE On April 4th, 2012, starting with points about self-observation 

A…ASK Explored the “A” part of the mnemonic – on April 6th, 2013 

M…MOVE Read more about experimental moves on April 11th, 2013 

E…EVALUATE Exploring how to regard purposes, standards and timing and make conclusions – in three parts on April 14th, 15th, and 16th 

D…DIRECT – Today, the final post of the series – avoid training your mistakes, interrupting routines and today’s post is how to clear sensory feedback noise.

Directing – Clearing Sensory Feedback

OK, so let’s say we have connected up the steps of the process to the effortless doing of an action successfully – preventing old nuisance habitual responses. (Please read the previous post if this doesn’t make sense to you yet.) This is preparation for Directing. The steps of the action can now be “actively” thought or said – but without the movement action attached.

Why connect the strategy of “directing” to non-action is in another brain fact. There’s a big signal-to-noise issue between feedback and active movement. To minimize this, it works to slow down the activity (or refuse what is unwanted entirely) and then recite or think a narration as steps for the new, improved process.

If you have been following previous posts – you learned the importance of connecting up these directions using a new way to prepare for action. These new ability to “Direct” are words or thoughts that will substitute for habitual movement preparation before you know you’ve decided to move. What you want to replace are the old preparations that go on in the brain and body responses before the choice to move happens. Directing is intended as a precursor behind the urge to move.

The reason for non-action is to prevent the habitual response from jumping in to answer the urge to “do it.” Replacing habitual preparation for movement with Direction is similar to visualization – only Directing uses a kinesthetic and/or verbal strategy.

Because Directions are done by thinking the steps of what you’re intending to do very deliberately – without doing them – that’s why it’s important to have already connected words to the steps of how you intend to proceed as we learned in our last post. We compose these words in the passive impersonal present tense to avoid any urge for over-doing these suggestions. Here’s an example of what we might say using an example from Alexander Technique :

“The neck frees and the head aims forward and up,

while the torso lengthens and widens.

Then the knees go forward and away… “

 

Then the new steps can begin that would carry out original goals with new starting point. It will also be possible to do something else instead as a fresh last-moment decision – turning on a dime.

Now – what happens? Probably something below the level of what you can perceive. That’s why Directions are repeated, surrendering the urge for feeling around to verify results. What we’re after is allowing the body to return to it’s resting length so a full range of action is available when we do respond in action. We’d like to be free of conflicted or outdated responses and free to improvise.

After using all the steps of Alexander Technique, when you do act, there is a significant “feeling” that happens. It’s a signature sensation that Alexander Technique teachers offer. With some practice and smart strategic thinking, you’ll be able to do it yourself. It’s this delicious sense of “flow.” Or as it used to be known among Alexander Technique crowd, “Do-Less-Ness.” It’s almost a religious experience, but without the cultural values attached.

What’s after this? You might make a discovery about the nature of you suspended goal. If you want more discoveries, well, do the steps again. Remember how you were NAMED!

  1. Notice
  2. Ask
  3. Move
  4. Evaluate
  5. Direct

 

This is the conclusion of a mini-course. We’ve been using NAMED to help Alexander Technique students remember the entire class content of using the Alexander Technique. Hope you enjoyed it!

 

 Happy Experimenting!

Evaluate Conclusions

This post is part of a series called NAMED.  Seeking a way for my students to remember the steps of how to use Alexander Technique, I came up with a simple word they could remember to help jog the steps. The letters of the word stand for each of the steps

N…notice – Started on April 4th, 2012, with points for self-observation

A…ask – Explored the “A” part of the mnemonic – on April 6th, 2013

 M…move  –  Read more about experimental moves on April 11th, 2013

E…evaluate – This post explores how to get results from interpreting our experimenting – in three parts: For What Purposes? Standards and Timing  and this post on evaluating conclusions

D…direct – also a three part explanation: Avoid Mistakes, Interrupting Routines and Clearing Sensory Feedback

Evaluate the Conclusions

Once results are obtained after conclusions are made, it’s tempting to file them away so they can be recalled using familiar retrieval memory skills. We will attempt to “evoke” the results with such techniques as repeating “magic words” or sorting. It makes sense to the brain that content and information that we “know” works in this manner, with producing the “right answer.” After all, schooling groomed this memory retrieval process during our education.

Performance ability is a different animal. Because many unique situational factors and chains of skills that got built must be taken into account as we perform, the process followed will determine our success. It’s not a matter of memory, but a matter of training.
Follow an old process, and you’ll get familiar results. For new results, we must follow the newer processes – and this  takes courage to do what’s unfamiliar and time for training and practice of a new way when the new process is an unfamiliar one. To build a bridge between our old knowledge and our new experience so we can remember it, we need to note similarities – without discounting the uniqueness of the new experience.

It also takes a strange ability for abstraction and paradox.  The “how” seems too abstract to repeat, because the discovery was so…funny. But what makes us laugh at not being able to “get it” when it seems so obvious now –  that is the pathway to new and exciting territory.

Translate

If you practice Alexander Technique but haven’t considered writing about it – I wonder if you would consider how, in many ways, translating is the essence of Alexander Technique.  In Alexander Technique, we attempt to sell the value of preventing wasted effort and directing physical energy where it was intended to go. Where to go with what you have learned reflects your own values.

I’d like to encourage those who practice Alexander Technique to write about what they have been doing – or illustrate, mind-map it; sculpt it, craft, sew it, gesture or animate it in a movie. Because what you’re doing and the way you go about it is bound to be interesting.

Alexander Technique expresses thoughtful, intangible intent by embodying it within a distilled, clarified, physical expression. This takes time and commitment, but is also demonstrated in each Alexander Technique lesson with a teacher and each time someone uses Alexander’s principles. In the case of how Alexander Technique has been taught in the past – the physical expression using our own direct movements has been the form. Writing is another form that will point toward the benefits and expresses a commitment to translating learning into other forms.

Anyone who loves what they are doing might elevate it to the state of making it an art. Just translate the medium of expression from movement into ______________ (fill in the blank.) That’s why performers have been attracted to Alexander Technique in the past. The reason for devotion to their art is that it expresses what cannot be said in words.

Of course, content attracts attention – however it’s presented. After having written on the subject of Alexander Technique for thirty years, I’m now exploring how words combined with illustrated pictures as examples could provide even faster communication than words alone. Stay tuned for the results – coming soon!

My virtual challenge is to continue to distill the content of what I’m communicating without shorting the content. I’d like to both simplify and articulate the expansion of the complexity and potential of Alexander Technique.

To orchestrate a learning experience as a teacher, you must find many ways to express in some tangible form “what is inexpressible,” because learners learn in so many different ways. Once expressed in words or an outline, then you can compile, shape or orchestrate the content into (hopefully) many ongoing skilled multi-sensory communication forms.

One of my favorite virtual questions right now is, “How to express and cultivate and inspire people toward the cutting edge of their discovering processes?  Because it seems to me that the willingness to learn is the most important first step.

What’s your favorite virtual question right now?

Inhibition is the Map!

Today I was listening to a conversation with Michael Frederick that was recorded as a podcast on Robert Rickover’s blog post about Marj Barstow. I got to the 29 minute point. Here is when the discussion turned to a question a student had asked Marj Barstow in one of the many workshops. “Why don’t you use inhibition when teaching?” Marj answered carefully, “Everything I teach is inhibition.”

What does “inhibition” mean? In a classic sense, inhibition is interrupting what you don’t want to continue to do, so you can do what you want. Alexander Technique students are literally taught to actually stop what they were about to do and pay attention to what they are doing with themselves before resuming action. Marj Barstow had a very different interpretation of the principle of inhibition. She saw it as indirect prevention. I’ve heard her say that inhibition means…

“Inhibition is prevention. Inhibition is any action that prevents you from doing what you don’t want. Inhibition continues within movement; you don’t want to get stiff. A person can change what they’re doing while in action, stopping is not required. Inhibition is positive. Going in the direction you want stops by elimination how you have been going wrong. You can’t commit to going in two directions at once…”

Well, you can try going in both directions at once. Pain is eventually the result, because it pulls everything that is you out of whack. Your poor body will try to accommodate your conflicting commands as best it can, which isn’t best.

Rickover offered an interesting metaphor for what we call inhibition in Alexander Technique to explain the attitude of Marj Barstow about how she expressed it in her work. His metaphor was something like this:

Let’s say that you’re driving and you realize you’ve gone the wrong way. To correct your course, you might make a U-turn, you might come to a complete stop while doing so, or not. By turning around you can retrace your steps to where you lost your way and continue on from there.

I’m going to continue that metaphor… What if you have a map? Alexander Technique the way Marj Barstow taught us was like having a map of principles about human reaction and response. With a map and the ability to observe where you are oriented, you can plot how to get back on course strategically – without having to retrace your steps. The direction you were conditioned to go in your childhood doesn’t matter. You can start from where you are and go the way you want to live your life from this point forward.

The idea of inhibition is interesting. You need inhibition just like you need the presence of mind to remember you did not want to turn down the same road to go home when you don’t want to go home yet. Of course it’s tricky to be aware in moments where you’re not aware. There are steps for suspending what you don’t want and instead doing what you do want.

The first step is self observation. You become aware of how your habits knock you off course. You learn to perceive the habitual pattern and recognize when it will likely kick in. Then you can design and follow a way to carry out a new logistical strategy to stop it. It turns out that brain science says whenever we go into action, we’ve already prepared quite a bit before we know we are choosing to do something. The only choice we have is to interrupt or redirect our preparations. We’ve got 1/64th of a second before we must do what we’ve prepared ourselves to do.

So interrupting habits is a skill that takes timing and awareness. Remember all those things you were sold on being socially unacceptable? You can use them to inhibit your unwanted habits. You want to cheat, lie, outsmart, fool, detour, side-step or preclude the trained, habitual urge you have installed to steer you wrong.

Designing a way that works to inhibit requires careful thinking. When the habit starts is a factor, because once it gets going it’s harder to interrupt. You might have to try different strategies if the first or second or third possibility doesn’t work. Happily, you don’t have to figure out what to do as a replacement once the unwanted routine releases it’s control. Other more constructive solutions will rise to the occasion once the habitual interference is gone.

It takes practice, and it’s sometimes tricky. You’re catching what you can’t normally perceive that’s operating under your radar. Habits are tricky enough to try to preserve the need for themselves, just like bureaucracies. You put your strategic plan into practice in the important moment of choice by practicing doing it in moments when it’s not so important and commonplace.

Of course it sometimes results in strange, even fearful new sensations. The uncertainty of a new direction can be disorienting. But that’s not so much of a problem. You can get the old habit back any time you wish. The habit remains in your “bag of tricks” as an option, but since you’ve worked to allow another more efficient route to get to your destination, the habit doesn’t go into action irresistibly every time you want to get somewhere.

To continue the metaphor, if you use the awareness of inhibition…you’ll have a “new way home” that is more direct, takes less time and costs less energy to get there. It’s like riding on an empty freeway after being in a traffic jam. Wheeeee!

Changing Breath

Lately because I’ve been helping a saxophone player change the way he uses his breathing,  I’ve been noticing how people breath when they talk. Often when someone has a problem during a specialized task, they do a less exaggerated version of the same habit when they are doing less challenging activities, such as talking or walking. This is why your Alexander Technique teachers makes such a big deal about little quirks.

Noticing other people can be used as a means of remembering that NOW! is the best time to practice what you do know how to do for yourself. As humans, we have this tendency to notice what is going on outside of ourselves, without realizing that this moment is an opportunity to make changes for ourselves.

Changing a breathing pattern is actually a very tricky habit to influence.  Ideally, speaking directly after taking a breath, at the top of a breath allows a singer to sing longer, increases resonance, and has many more advantages. In common with my students now, at first I could not even get myself to speak using a full breath intentionally! Motivated by intending to appear less intimidating, I used to limit my own voice by letting out most of my breath and then beginning to make a sound – every time. Having done what I’m advising, I know how tricky and challenging it is to change breathing patterns.

One comfort is that nobody notices a person who is practicing such a different way of speaking, even though it takes a big effort for you to change at first. They do notice increased resonance, the lack of a sense of urgency in your voice, and other interesting improvements. But they have no idea what you’re doing to bring the change about, (so it can remain your little secret.)

For me personally, a habit that was very challenging to learn to undo was closing down the back of my throat on one side, which shut off part of my voice. I had trained myself to shut this part of my voice pre-verbally due to having a rubber band put on my ear as a medical procedure as an infant. So, the reason that habit was tricky to learn to undo was that I used my voice all the time to shape words, so I was constantly reinforcing the wrong thing I did not want to do every time I made a sound.

This gives some insight into the fundamental level of change that is possible using Alexander Technique.

If you had a tool this powerful, what habits about yourself would you change?

What very challenging and persistent habit have you changed and how did you do it?

Attractiveness

Learning A.T.  made an interesting change in my sense of my own attractiveness. At the time this happened for me, I was attending daily teacher-training classes. I was learning to see postural expressions of qualities of thought and mannerisms of character in other people. I suddenly realized that others had been seeing and responding to my own postural attitudes too!

Even if they didn’t know what my body language meant in as much detail as I was learning, I had to admit that my own body language expressed who I was on the inside of me – not just my external appearance. As I realized that people were probably responding to what was expressed inside my internal character and sense of self, (as well as the fact that I was a tall, young woman at that time,) my whole picture of attracting attention from men I needed to consider in this new light. Even if these guys who wolf-whistled at me were not conscious how they could discern this information of attractiveness, that didn’t matter. I had to give them credit, whether they knew exactly what it was about me that was attracting their attention or not. I realized they were noticing how I was acting as I walked down the street – where my attention went, how I walked and moved. As I understood that, I began to be able to “turn it off” and on – so that when I did not want to attract attention, I could control being available. The broadcasting of attractiveness and charisma can be deliberate, not accidental.

I don’t think that most men really know what it’s like to get unwanted sexual attention from strangers. Perhaps if a guy is hetrosexual and finds himself getting sexual attention from homosexual men, it is a bit similar. Pretty much, every young woman must figure out how to deal with getting this attention from an early age, and it’s difficult. My strategy was to wear baggy clothes and hide as best I could, but it did not really work. Knowing more about what and how my body language projects the way I am inside made a big change for me concerning this challenge. Getting this sexual attention that I was forced to deal with because of being born in the culture was difficult for me. But with this new insight, it suddenly became an insight. I realized that attention from strangers was happening because of how I moved, how I paid attention, instead of it being an accident of birth and physical appearance. For me at the time, it was quite a turnaround.

Not Merely Sit-Up-Straight School

One way to start teaching about the Alexandrian ideals of “use” is to give people an appreciation of it. I got a suggestion to have people watch each other move and see if they can describe each other’s posture. Compare “good” to “bad” use. Maybe people can learn to spot and admire “good” use, for instance in favorite sports players and young children.

However, there is the problem with this approach. Most people who are unschooled in Alexander Technique will miss the obvious indicators that we Alexandrians have learned to spot at first. How would someone actually learn these indicators of beautiful, effortless motion?

How do you give people who have never thought about this before any idea of WHY the features an Alexander teachers point out are notable ones? At first, they don’t see anything that stands out for them when they look. They can’t understand at all why you’re making a big deal out of it. Certainly most people know that kids move like kids; when they grow up and their bones grow into place, then they look like adults. In the middle they look like truculent teens. So what?

If you show them the differences between Alexandrian ideals of “good” and “bad” use, they will probably see the difference eventually. So what? Will being able to spot those differences be useful to them in improving their own coordination?  Probably these students will assume they now have a new standard to strive for in their old same ways of over-doing. I would say that the Alexander teacher has failed to give their students much of anything useful, other than a reason why they should come back for more lessons.

The challenge as an Alexander teacher is to figure out how to give your pupils a clue how to sense improved use while being on the inside of themselves, without being able to attribute the change to the teacher’s “magic” hands.

The problem as I see it comes from, traditionally, that Alexander Technique has been taught using British standards of culturally implied opposites. Alexander teachers have been trying to teach paradoxes by pointing at what is not there. It would help if A.T. teachers thought more often about how prevailing cultural assumptions are a factor in their teaching skills.

Of course, there are philosophical reasons for using this approach. As a person learns how to prevent the routines that constitute their misuse, the “good” use that is present underneath all those habits and compensations will emerge as if by itself. This mark of “do-less-ness” should be a prominent experience of any Alexander Technique lesson.

Adding to the teacher’s bag of tricks about how to communicate what you, as an A.T. teacher, have to offer is a tremendous advantage. If all you can do as a teacher is to merely point to what is not there, and your students can’t see it in the first place – well – you could use more avenues for communication.

Most people in a state of misuse will just repeat themselves, over and over, when what they are doing does not work. Many Americans have a bad reputation because when they travel abroad and find out the person does not speak English who they want to communicate to, Americans merely talk louder as if the person must be deaf. In the Alexander Technique field, we have a word for this which is “End-gaining.” All mistaken reactions are a form of end-gaining.

However, I think inadvertently, end-gaining is what many A.T. teachers are guilty of doing by not doing enough creative thinking for the benefit of their students about how they can be learning faster and easier. When you’re the teacher, why only mimic the way you have been taught when you teach?

Well, one good reason would be preservation of the purity of what is Alexander’s work. There is certainly enough about Alexander’s Technique that deserves to be preserved. As he stated, F.M. Alexander meant for his line of work to be constantly improved.

Learning time is certainly a feature that could use improvement. The way A.T. has been traditionally taught, pupils are just supposed to get it from a teacher pointing at what they want a pupil to do and indicating…see that? The answer for the pupil might be, “No, I don’t see that. See what?” Then the teacher works with them again. Pointing at their improved use the teacher again asks, “Get this?” The student says “Get what?”

Part of the reason Alexander teachers have so much trouble teaching is that what they have to offer is …NOTHING!!! They are teaching a learning process that results in a lack of effort. The public doesn’t get that this “Nothing” is what is valuable. People want to “DO SOMETHING” to get whatever the benefits are they have been told is possible to get by learning Alexander Technique.

It would be an advantage to work with this assumption rather than against it. Perhaps if a teacher could spell out the steps that contain what TO DO in the positive that actually works for people to learn to sense these things for themselves – then they would learn faster?

How to design these experiments?  That’s where your creative thinking ability comes into play. You need to make it safe to conduct the experiment, so when unpredictable things happen it won’t have a destructive effect. You need to encourage people to laugh, because people are more willing to take on challenges and feel daring & courageous when they are amused and curious. Both teacher and student need to establish a priority of criteria to evaluate their success. Then they can know if their experiments worked or not.

If these experiments do work to improve your student’s use, (certainly a student being able to sense subtle differences in their own use would be a benefit,) the teacher would continue using that approach. If pupils misunderstand the teacher, that strategy would be dropped. More brainstorming for discovering other means to communicate what the teacher has to offer would be in order.

There is no use for blaming pupils for not understanding the teacher. This is the frustration from their teachers that many traditionally trained AT teachers had to endure forty years ago.

So – now we have it defined: the obstacle is that the public will go after their new appreciation of “good” use in the same old ways. How can we as teachers really update these old ways of approaching new means? As teachers we do not want “Good” use to be just a different carrot that learners will lead themselves astray with. How do we teachers change that?

Granted that the Alexander community finds that people nowadays are often motivated to start learning Alexander lessons to address back problems. But does the A.T. community want Alexander Technique to be popularly misunderstood merely as “Sit Up Straight School”?

Can you think of three different and new ways to address this obstacle in communicating Alexander’s discoveries and principles? Can you think of one right now? Anyone can problem solve this challenge. You don’t have to be an Alexander Technique teacher.

One way that I’ve used to help people understand what their pattern of use is seems to work particularly well in a group of actors, but will work with any group. Humor and goofiness is a useful feature of it.

“Type-casting” Have a person who is “it” to walk their “normal” walk in front of the class. Then have the group watch to absorb those qualities. Then ask for multiple volunteers to exaggerate the mannerisms of that walk of the person who is “it” – taken to extremes. It’s quite fun to do and helps people learn what they are doing with their own mannerisms of movement while walking. Interesting because the original mannerisms of the person who is attempting to exaggerate also comes through. Having multiple people do this brings this contrast to light as a feature. People will notice the “on purpose” exaggeration…and there will also be the innate sets of Alexandrian Use underneath what is being purposefully acted out. The more people who volunteer as the exaggerators, the most interesting this gets to watch. This also works great with teens or kids as an A.T. teaching activity – and it’s pretty fun as an ice-breaker that helps explore the subject of self-observation.

Understanding Unfamiliarity By Filling In the Blanks

On the Alexander Google list server group, it turns out that I’ve gotten a reputation for being able to explain things that others find difficult. So I thought that I would explain how I can read something that has lots of confusing or unfamiliar words in it and still get something out of what is being said.

My ability to read came at a late age – seven. My parents prevented me from learning to read early because they guessed that my ability to imagine would not have the time to form and express itself if I learned to read too early. This probably was true – at least in my case. The effect as an adult was that I am still able to use words to explain concepts that are not completely connected to language until I consciously make the connection. Images and feelings I have are able to be expressed in other ways besides words.

So, predictably enough, as soon as I learned to read at seven, I was overly eager to try it out on anything and everything that could be read. I could not get enough of reading. At seven I took it upon myself to be regular fan of Ann Landers, an advice columnist who was published on the same page as the comics. I was also reading the many Tarzan novels, by Edgar Rice Boroughs that were in my brother’s room.

There were many words in these books that I did not understand and had never heard anyone use in speech. So I thought quite a bit about what they probably meant as I skipped over them. I looked at how these mystery words functioned in the sentence and attempted to judge their relative importance. If they were qualifying words, well, that was more important than an adverb or a descriptive word of what was happening in a sequence when I could understand some of the other words. I came to realize and invent interesting ways to find out what a word meant besides just asking someone else or looking it up in the dictionary.

For instance, if the word seemed to be a descriptive word, I tried these words out in normal conversation and looked at how grown up people reacted.

Because of this, when I encounter reading that I’d like to do (such as a paper on the Polyvagal theory,) I fall back on using my old tricks. In practice, one of my actual strategies would be that I would mentally leave a “blank” in the spaces where I’d run into a word(s) that had an unknown meaning. Then once I read the sentence, I’d guess what similar or vague words that I actually knew would suffice to belong in the blank spots. Sometimes I would diagram the sentence to distill it down to its most simplistic forms so I could understand what function the words might have to the meaning.

This strategy works really well when you’re doing something like reading F.M. Alexander’s books. I’ll let Catherine Kettrick, who has a degree in linguistics and is also an Alexander Technique teacher from an Alexander school called the Performance School in Seattle, WA, give an example from her website “study guide” section at http://www.performanceshool.org

To read Alexander’s long sentences with understanding, you have to be willing to go a bit slowly, figure out the subject and verb, see the different clauses and figure out their subjects and verbs, and hold them all in relation to one another til you get to the end of the sentence. To do this, it is helpful to answer the question posed by each clause as you go along. For example, here is the first sentence from the second chapter of The Use of the Self, “Use and Functioning in Relation to Reaction:” “The reader who reviews the experiences that I have tried to set down in the previous chapter will notice that at a certain point in my investigation I came to realize that my reaction to a particular stimulus was constantly the opposite of that which I desired, and that in my search for the cause of this, I discovered that my sensory appreciation (feeling) of the use of my mechanism was so untrustworthy that it led me to react by means of a use of myself which felt right, but was, in fact, too often wrong for my purpose” (p. 39).

Taking this sentence apart we find “The reader (subject) will notice” (verb). What reader you ask? “The reader who reviews the experiences…” What experiences? “…that I have tried to set down in the previous chapter…” So: “The reader who reviews the experiences that I have tried to set down in the previous chapter will notice…” What? “…that at a certain point in my investigation I came to realize…” Realize what? “…that my reaction to a particular stimulus was constantly the opposite of that which I desired…” Here is the end of the first major thought grouping in this paragraph. The “and” is used to mark the division between the two major thoughts in the paragraph. “…and that in my search for the cause of this, I discovered… ” Discovered what? (Here comes the second major thought) “…that my sensory appreciation (feeling) of the use of my mechanisms was so untrustworthy that it led me…” Led me where? “… to react by means of a use of myself which felt right, but…” (Pay attention– “But” signals a contrast–) “…but was, in fact, too often wrong for my purpose.”

Then again, if you don’t really understand a subject that you want to know more about, you can probably search the web and find someone else who will explain it to you in a way that you can understand. If you still don’t understand it, you can probably find a tutorial about it on YouTube.

What to Do If You Get That Twang of Pain

It’s a pretty common thing as people get older to feel aches and pains. What isn’t very common is to know what it means when unexpected things seem to be going wrong with your muscles.

When an injury is about to happen, your body will send you a very handy,  immediate warning that you are about to hurt yourself. This warning is a pull a strain or the start of a cramp, or a sudden feeling of awkwardness or grinding in your body. If you notice this message and you can respond to it by immediately stopping whatever you were doing, you will avoid hurting yourself worse.

Many people believe that these twanging messages mean that the pain has already happened and the injury is already a done deal, so they ignore it. If one of these things happens to you, it will pay off big to act immediately.

For instance, if you are carrying something, and you feel a twang of pain, do not continue carrying that thing! Put it down right then without taking another step. Of course, if you are carrying it with someone else you would tell them that you need to pay attention to the twang that just happened. If it’s a situation where you’re about to fall from losing your balance or it is your ankle that is starting to twist, just fold that knee and sit down on the ground – a skinned knee or bruises heal much faster than a sprain.

It turns out that the bulk of muscle damage of our bodies occurs just after this twang of warning. This twanging really means that something is about to go wrong – it hasn’t yet, for the most part. If you stop right then and lay or sit down to allow yourself to be free of the weight or whatever was going on when the twang occured, whatever injury that was about to happen will be significantly minimized. Taking a moment to rest immediately will pay off. You may find that there is a little bit of injury present once you take the time to check out what has happened to you. If you return to the activity, that injury may get worse. So it’s wise to take a break and do something else for awhile.

Bigger and very real injuries happen by NOT listening and acting immediately to stop whatever you were doing if a painful twang of warning signals to you that something is going wrong about how you’re using your body.

So now that you know that this twang of pain is a warning that can be helpful – the only trick is to learn to make a joke of it so your friends don’t think you’re being wimpy! Taking care of your body to help it last as long as possible is wisdom in action.

Why Did I Do That?

Do people make deliberate choices for negative reasons?

I used to imagine they do. I used to think I did. But as I have come to be able to watch myself in action making decisions and as I have come to watch my students deal with decisions they have made and habits they have put in place, I have changed my mind and no longer assume this is the case. People make choices for positive reasons.

I have come to believe that everyone I’ve ever known chooses an action (or lack of it) because of its positive aspects, not the negative ones.

Now what about those stupid choices?

Some bad ideas are selected because people couldn’t have known what the effect of their actions are over time, or how serious the effects of their actions would be once added up cumulatively. This is a problem addressed by learning one of the secrets of Alexander Technique – once learned, habits commonly disappear from self-perception.

Perhaps the choice doesn’t take crucial things into account that should have been obvious to someone with more experience. Thus the old adage; “Hindsight is 20/20.” These choices show a lack of foresight and information. Sometimes, the ordering of priorities satisfied by the choice are hidden from the person who is choosing, so a little soul-searching would help future choices. Alexander Technique helps remind people to remember to determine their priorities and criteria by becoming more aware of their own multiple priorities and assumptions of their own criteria for success. Determining and knowing one’s goals is crucial to practicing A.T. because of the need to temporarily suspend these goals so experimenting can bring in new information. If these goals are hidden from the person, they will emerge during experimentation.

It is even more common that a person feels as if they “must” make the choice for various justified points or to answer an imperative need. They may be aware that some of the effects of that choice may become negative at some time in the future. They may figure they know what the cost of the choice is, and believe they accept the cost in trade for the benefit. However, as they get closer to the cost, the benefit suddenly pales. So thinking ahead about mitigating time of arrival issues would be wise in these situations.

Related to this circumstance, Alexander Technique offers the ability to pause before choosing a habit or manner of thinking. In this moment of reflection, another choice is possible. This ability to pause and reflect how you are going to do something (called Inhibition in A.T.) allows you to also decide not to do what you realize that you do not want to do.

Sometimes people are aware of the negative aspects of a choice, but must choose between lesser evils. Perhaps they decide the costs are “worth it,” (possibly because sometimes the costs are deferred until “later,” or may not happen at all.) After learning Alexander Technique, a person realizes how often what they do repetitively has a powerful cumulative effect. They also realize that in many cases, they do have other choices. With this information, perhaps they might be encouraged to look elsewhere for more choices before making a choice that cuts off other options.

How much do people really have a choice? In many cases, most adults are a product of their conditioning – their own habits, their environment and their cultural and parental training. As such, it is seldom that people really do have a choice. Alexander Technique gives first-hand experience of how much trouble it is to change and how significant prevention can be, so this encourages compassion for others and patience with oneself.

How often do people examine or realize their options? Choices people automatically make may have negative consequences over time or immediate risks at the time of choosing, but many feel it is the only thing they can do.

Alexander Technique recommends thinking ahead a bit about the effects of choices. It has some wisdom to offer concerning the cumulative effects of what you are going to allow yourself to repeat.

One of the secrets of A.T. is that a circumstance of pure repetition encourages the training a new habit. This habit may be handy and useful – or it may become a nuisance if it goes on too long or becomes too extreme. Of course, a person gets better at whatever they allow themselves to practice – so it pays off in many ways to notice what you are allowing yourself to repeat.

Personal Challenges

“how do people respond when confronted with challenges that are personally presented?”

When you think about it, no matter how much experience you have, there is always the next moment when you might discover something new, right?

The characteristics of discovery is partly what AT is about. How to recognize a discovery when it does emerge.

Mostly people are defensive when challenged. This happens for many reasons; because most people assume a challenge means a contest determining a winner and loser. If they can courageously rise to the occasion and possibly realize that defensiveness either isn’t necessary or is actively not particularly fun or creative, things get interesting. Let’s say the nature of the challenge is you ask people to change their manner of speaking, ( for instance.) Most cannot do that for very long. They will see it as a personal affront to be challenged in this manner because they can’t do it or sustain it. Most adults are not used to being made into a beginner. They had to accept when young, and thus they react as if threatened – many attempts to demote people into beginners is regarded as a sort of “hazing.”

Once people become willing to challenge themselves, I noticed that people seem to have a “favored” way of directing their attention – and also a “favored” way of evaluating results. It is always fascinating to describe these and compare them to other possible styles and preferences.

Usually people do not know that there are other styles and ways of evaluating, so this process is quite eye-opening for them (and fascinating to me.) For example of various favored computations used in making decisions or evaluating results:

  • Some people “add up” results, searching for similarity or grouping what they determine belongs together by their own somewhat idiosyncratic associations.
  • Some people will “match” looking for a exact “fit,” of course, casting aside things that they assume do not fit. Some people “contrast to reveal differences” which is a more appropriate strategy for tapping the unknown.
  • Some “subtract” to “distill the essence” which implies there is already a criteria and a priority in place.

You could generally think of these points as being tied to the various means of critical thinking. Critical in the sense of being able to make critical or operative distinctions, rather than critical in the sense of passing judgment or assuming a position or opinion that then must be justified or gain agreement.

This process is related to AT because objective description of the sensibility of the instrument and how you are using it will, obviously, direct the possible results. As teachers, we are asking students to abstract the specific examples we give them in order to apply them to other situations and circumstances.

OK – what do you think about this?

Improvisationally Applied Alexander Technique

As teachers of Alexander Technique, it is very deceptive for us to take for granted the assumptions implicit in the teaching environments in which we originally learned. It is sometimes after we graduate and begin to teach beginners that these assumptions come to light. Obviously, it pays big to examine assumptions, making what we have to offer clearer and easier to understand for us and all our students.

Alexander Technique is most commonly misunderstood because of it is meant to be improvisationally applied. There are no forms or prescriptive exercises that constitute what A.T. is.

For example, Tai Chi or Yoga have certain specific motions that someone can point to that can be considered to constitute the discipline that are practiced and perfected over time. Alexander Technique does not (with one exception, the Whispered Ahh.)

After some examples, a beginning pupil of A.T. can very easily misunderstand that what they are being shown is a prescriptive form of perfect posture or complex body of “correct” movements that are supposed to be remembered, copied or learned. This problematic misunderstanding is reinforced by an A.T. custom; the one activity in particular taught in teacher training schools that many teachers fall back on when they are left to choose an activity as an example. This action is most often rising and sitting in a chair. This choice of activity was possibly so routinely made because the space available in which lessons were historically taught was often limited in the UK where A.T. originated.

I must agree that exclusively using “chair work” certainly would understandably give a learner that first mistaken impression that A.T. is “sit up straight school.” This is why I feel that if chair work is selected, it’s very important to also work with another activity of specific interest to the student, preferably chosen by the student. If the activity is chosen by the teacher, then the logic and criteria used for choosing a specific action should be explained to the student(s).

In theory, A.T. is meant to be used as a way of initiating motion and applying experimentation while doing any form of movement the user believes may benefit from bringing some attention and freedom to it. While it doesn’t matter which motion is selected, I believe two categories of actions should always be selected from; the first, a most global, routine and common action. The second selection should be another action that is meaningful and valuable to the particular student who is learning it.

Need Some Sources for Quoting – Have ’em?

For an article I would like to write on Alexander Technique, I need some footnotes and quotes from reputable scientific or book sources, as well as quotes from books that have been written on Alexander Technique.
My library has been packed away in storage in Calif. since I assummed my books would only be ruined if I brought them to the tropical wet climate where I am now. Unfortunately I assumed this information would be available on the internet if I needed it…but now that I need it and am looking for it, it’s not available.

In particular, I remember some time past in the STAT newsletter there was a report of a scientific finding about porters in India, who carry weight on their backs for a living (in “monkey” because the ability to carry more weight means more pay.) These porters were x-rayed (I believe this report was made by a chiropractor) to determine the condition of their spines at 40 as a group; the extraordinary finding was that 3/4 of them had no spinal degrading that starts in pretty much all westerners after age 18. I wanted to be able to verify in this article I’m writing that our bodies may be used in challenging ways without wearing out, to the extent we are motivated to use our potentially most efficient physical coordination following structural advantages. Of course, it’s an advantage to carry more weight if you use your body efficiently.

I’m also interested in a finding about how adults studying Alexander Technique may gain up to an inch of height. I know that we’ve discussed that happened to many people here anecdotally, but has anyone heard of this hypothesis being part of a “real” study?

…and I’m also looking for the exact source mentioned in Gelb’s books about John V. Basmajian’s work at Emory University where Basmajian connected electrodes in people’s forearms to an occilliscope and an audio amp. The finding was that most people were able to train themselves to play complex rhythms &, once connected to tone, even play specific tunes, without the audio channel present once learned – merely by thinking about these tunes. I thought this was a verification that Directing works the way A.T. teachers intend it via it’s recommended use in Alexander Technique.

Also, is there any statement in some book of how long it took Alexander to form his Technique and that F.M. did, in fact, discover or invent the use of direction, Primary Control, inhibition, debauched sensory appreciation & his ideas about the force of habit?
I’m assumming that the best sources would be tracking down the first mentions of these things that were verified by other fields of science that post-date Alexander’s writings about it. I know about Coghill verifying primary control in invertebrates; but does anyone have other sources at hand?

You may also assume that I’m probably indefinitely looking for such sources to add to my own collection of such, even though a long time may have passed since my asking here.

If you have these sources handy in your own collection, I’d be most happy to list your work on this as a source in the article. I know that http://www.alexandertechnique.com has been a great resource, with links and articles that I have saved. Thanks, Robert Rickover!

Habits and How to Know What You Desire In Spite of Habit

Alexander Technique addresses the ways people come to notice the need for problem solving. It also has something to say about the ways people deliberately choose and design exactly how they might move to respond – as opposed to the actual content of these thoughts. Sometimes content is important, but only to the extent that some of our choices narrow and prevent other choices. Using a habit and holding certain assumptions may prevent us from perceiving other possibilities that may be more practical and useful to us.

The first thing on the list of Patrick MacDonald’s synopsis of his understanding of the Alexander Technique is learning about the force of habit, how it works to set up habits and how strong habits are in the face of new possibilities. Also implied in recognizing habit is recognizing when a discovery or insight arrives that is not consistent with established habitual ways. The ability to recognize when something new has happened allows us to note and use these new discoveries to our advantage. Part of the difficulty in doing this is that habits prevent new experiences from happening, and the use of habits dulls our innate sensititivy to sense that something new has happened. Use it or lose it!
It seems from this comment of MacDonald’s that humans are set up to see disadvantages first. The nature of a disadvantage is it shows us an objection that “sticks out” or emerges in a gestalt that “rises to the top” of our attention in similar ways that figure/ground relationships emerge in a visual field. In many cases, we only notice that something is wrong because we feel pain or stiffness.

In our Western culture, we tend to pick out the “important” activity or thing that is going on in a visual field rather than notice all the elements in the picture at once. We tend to favor the use of a searchlight instead of a wide beam field of attention. Our culture sells to us the value of immediately determining the goal and ignoring what does not fit the goal. Who gets to determine the goal is not so often questioned, so the question of “by who’s standards are we selecting for?” is more often already determined for us.

So the ability to match for similarities is more prevalent in our culture than the ability to compare and “scan” to reveal important factors that may be determining subtle differences. Desires would tend to disappear as a person accepts outside influences to be the most important ones. As you practice a habit, by selection the opposing activity will die off.  The ability to “scan” and compare is more useful when revealing subtle differences, internal desires, thoughts and ideas that do not fit the priorities of others. If you do not use this ability, it will die down because there is less and less of a need for using it.

This motive comes from how our culture values goal setting. Goal-setting drives an imperative need to install the skill of goal-setting so it can become innate and disappear into our ability to command it as soon as possible. Many people are satisfied after they have successfully installed their first answer to what they have determined the goal is. They do not go on to seek for the next step in learning until something else jumps forward to demand their attention. “Good enough for Rock and Roll” is their philosophy.

Part of the beauty of habits is that we are able to add additional next important steps onto it in a behavior chain. We are able to refine a habit to pick and choose which parts of it we want to retain and which parts do not serve us as we learn to tell crucial difference in quality. The disadvantage is that our standards can escalate as we learn. We cultivate perfectionism and get caught in the bind of not being able to live up to our own standards that go just beyond our own reach.

I have observed that this problem comes from putting our objections before our ability to make a move in a new direction. We use our observations, sense only our habits and become discouraged that nothing new can happen before we have gone anywhere or anything else. Our habits trap us and we do not know how to get free.

It is in our human nature to sense objections and desires that do not fit, and also in our nature to ignore what does not fit or match. Sometimes what “sticks out” needs to be addressed and could benefit from some adjustment, and sometimes it is to our benefit to note them and put them aside, and sometimes merely expressing them is satisfactory. The ability to put an objection aside and the power to choose to do something to accommodate an additional desire – or not – is one of the signs of maturity.

As anyone in a certain situation understands and can become aware of what sorts of characteristics exist to their advantage, it is possible to work within these advantages and have quite a bit of power and influence that will answer their desires. So it pays to know what your desires are as well as how to be patient enough to choose a suitable means to get what you want.

We are rarely taught how many possible ways there are to come to a decision concerning what to do about our personal concerns and desires. This ability to think for ourselves is not to the advantage of those who see the need to control us. Adults want kids to go along with the program of what adults want kids to do. The adult justification for this is kids need to obey because they need to be protected from the consequences about what to do. A kid’s objections, criticisms or urge to rebel against the status quo needs to be controlled for their own benefit and protection. Adults cite the need for this because kids often can’t see ahead to the eventual result of their bad choices, although many kids still retain the ability to sense what they want to do. It’s also within the nature of kids to have a built-in bullshit detector that determines how much adults are trying to protect them so they can go beyond those limits that are imposed by adults. However, by doing this, kids force adults to compensate for their lack of foresight so this is a virtual question that kids and adults are engaged in constantly as the kids mature. Often adults run into a blind spot in the gradual eduation of kids when kids reach the teen years; so this is why a strategy that worked for awhile no longer works indefinitely as circumstances change.

Can Alexander Technique help deal with addiction issues?

There is only an indirect connection between Alexander’s ideas and those that specialize in dealing with addiction. Certainly it would be worth exploring, but I don’t personally know any Alexander teachers would seek out working with alcoholics as a group by choice yet. Let me know if you do.

Thinking about the connection between addition and Alexander Technique, what comes to mind is there was a bumper sticker on Marj Barstow’s car that said “Easy Does It.” I think that saying that came from AA, but when I asked about it, she said she came by it purely because of what it said and it didn’t imply that she had a connection to AA. …But you must remember, people who are connected to Alcoholics Anonymous are sworn to uphold privacy for other members, thus the name.

There is a reason that people who studied with Marj Barstow had a reply when asked about how they used Alexander Technique in their own lives – whereas those who were trained in the UK only could think of doing another lesson with their teachers. Marj Barstow made her students think about how people used language – when they were talking and thinking to themselves. She also made you remember how responsible you need to be when you gave orders or directions to other people. She was the first teacher to regard speaking and putting your experience into words as the beginning expression of the first part of mindful action on your own. Marj believed that thought is the first part of movement. Previous to Marj, talking was pretty much ignored as a vehicle of teaching A.T… and even A.T. teachers would merely point at Alexander’s books if you asked any questions about ideas. Marj would answer your intellectual questions if you didn’t pull your head and body down while you asked them. If you did pull down, she’d consider the manner closed and it was time to change the subject until you were ready and willing for the next challenge of doing better at taking on these challenges at another time.

Responsibility Assumption


An idea of “ultimate responsibility” in Alexander Technique fascinates me. It strikes me that this idea of how Alexander regards responsibility makes his work unique. Wondering about this assumption is interesting, because most assumptions are the act of intentionally setting up a given characteristic. Assumptions work like axioms; they branch off and lead down a very specific pathways of action, pre-empting all others.

It seems Alexander jumped to an assumption involving a person’s ability to direct their own actions. This assumption states the person is ultimately responsible for what he does, no matter how it feels internally after routines have been adopted and feel as natural as breathing. In Alexander’s world, there is no subconscious, only divided consciousness or undivided wholeness. Sometimes I wonder if this is one of F.M. Alexander’s mistakes.

We do not really know all of the sophisticated responses that are put into motion in a single order we have given ourselves. Because humans are adaptable, we forget the routines we have installed or been conditioned to repeat as the “standing orders” from our past experience. Are we meant to know the ways they are carried out? Alexander thought we should know, that we need to bring our choices into awareness, but I am not so sure.

To undo the order, it seems more efficient to trace it back to its origin and change it there, rather than to piecemeal the change directly by messing with the whole system. In some ways, it’s tempting to mess with the system as you become capable of doing so. But all these adjustments are merely compensations, …until you find the originating order and the subsequent directives. You would usually only want to bother because these directives have not worked so well to solve the problem, or the circumstances have changed. Once you find these directives, then you may update them and choose different ways of responding, …and the habit is completely and totally transformed; no looking back. This is where an ideal of “insight” or even “enlightenment” comes from – which I believe is deserved.

I wonder why Alexander did not put together that we are always falling and always uprighting our bodies; I guess he did, but he didn’t spell this one out very specifically either. I imagine by the time someone was able to gain this secret for themselves, their coordination was so completely re-sensitized that it was a moot point.

For this reason, I think this assumption of “ultimate responsibility” is very much worth exploring.

How are we responsible for the ways we respond to a desire? How does knowing and responding to a desire work in particular, in me?

How Far Is Too Far?

Morning yoga routine. Had a realization that I may have been
holding my body in a tense position for many years. Tried to
concentrate on relaxing as I went about the day. Noticed when I
did that, I could feel stretches much more keenly. As I said, I
have a lot of work to do in this department.

Obviously you have realized that learning how to undo what you ave probably been doing to yourself for a long time is a process that will take some time to undo, as you’ve figured out. I can offer some hints about how to proceed faster and safeguard common mistakes.

This hint is based on the fact that proprioception of the body is a relative sense. Meaning, you will feel a change in relationship to whatever and wherever you have been, rather than any factual truth of where are you and what is happening. So in the light of that, when you feel yourself out of balance and you make a change to “improve” things, you must be careful to evaluate on the basis of the question: “Is it easier now?”

The other tip that you may find even more useful is how to interpret the feelings of “stretches” you describe. I do not know what exactly is happening for you here from your comment, so you’ll have to be the judge of this yourself! Tricky for me to tell how to interpret what you say you are feeling without being there with you – which is a key element in working out what might be constructive to do about it!

I do know that as my students begin to unwind their habitual twistednesses, they may begin to feel areas where they didn’t know they were holding and tensing. Is this what you’re experiencing? What often happens when someone successfully lessens the tension and holding for some part of themselves in piecemeal, is they will feel some other part of themselves that is not easily moving along because that part of the body will complain further down. Is this the “stretch” you are talking about?

If so, the remedy would be to include that part of your body just below where you notice “stretching” because you are leaving parts of yourself behind in the thought and intention of the moves you are doing. The ‘stretch’ is there because you are not moving that part of you along with the rest of you. You’ll know you succeeded because you’ll feel easier, or you’ll feel a complaint somewhere else in your body! Which again, is an indicator you’re not moving part of yourself along with your original intention, etc. It make take quite a few repetitions of this clarified intention for it to have an effect, because you may also not be able to acertain if you did what you intended or not. So repeating the intention is the way to go – and feeling easier and sometimes a little strange or unfamiliar is the indicator that you are succeeding.

Or, are you commenting how during the act of yoga that you could feel the yoga movement stretches much more? It is true that by paying attention to your quality of movement throughout the day, you will enhance your ability to pay attention when you also focus on your movements in a special time set aside to do so.

However, again the same principle works well: If you feel a stretching somewhere in your body during a yoga move, this is an indicator that you are leaving behind some part of your body in the context of the yoga movement you are attempting. If you do the yoga movement in as the form was intended, (the interpretation of the form will obviously depend on the skill and observation of the yoga teacher with whom you are studying,) it will feel as if you are “doing nothing” special. Masters of a skill make it look easy, right?

In fact, if you do feel “stretching,” sometimes you are feeling muscle fibers breaking! I can’t say this because I don’t know how far you are taking yourself during yoga and if it is ‘too far,’ (and some yoga teachers will encourage students to go too far which I know to be counter-productive,) but generally, you should not go as far as you can push yourself, but only as far as you can move without pushing. It works best to figure how far that is, and back off and clarify what you want to do; and then experiment to see how easily you can do the yoga motion in question. You’ll notice that you can move farther and enhance flexibility over time more constructively that way than pushing and pulling against yourself and resisting – and damaging muscle fibers and then having to recover from the damage you caused yourself.

Let me know how this turns out for you!

Learning Alexander Technique Without A Teacher Can Be Thorny


People write to me and ask how they could learn Alexander Technique on their own. You can always learn some on your own, but it is much faster to use an Alexander teacher, or any teacher, for that matter. By working with the Alexander principles, you can improve your own ability to observe yourself. The going will be slow – so be patient and persistent with yourself because habits can be fast, tricky and insidious.

In addition to some of the other resources mentioned on the alextech list, I’ve got some resources on my website that might be useful to the two of you. In particular, see “ideas” about what some of the principles are and how they work may be of use.

Alexander Technique Simplified

Without a teacher, you may not be able to figure out what to do about what you notice about yourself – your situation if you haven’t had any example of where to go to create a new possibility. Knowing that, you can experiment.

Generally, when working by yourself without a teacher, you want to avoid crafting more habits, (even if you think they are “better” ones.) Instead, just subtract what you can perceive you may be doing that could be unnecessary. These changes might involve moving, but try to detour adjusting yourself to where you think is a “good” place for your body to be. Instead let yourself move, allow or discover where you might want to go to move away from what you know you don’t want. If you have a sucess, go back to the steps that got you there – rather than trying to recreate or re-live the success.

The other problem without a teacher is deciding on how you’re going to measure success. Sometimes you can be doing better, but because of an inability to sense differences that might create an improvement, you get stuck. Principles of AT suggest a new possibility: Measure the results of your experimenting by asking yourself, “is what I just did easier?” The reason this question is best is because what is new and easier can feel a little strange when you have gotten used to overdoing. Since you want to reduce what is unnecessary, less and less overdoing is what you want, so you want to get ready for feeling odd and ask yourself if this sort of odd is easier.

For what to use for experimentation, use the tiniest preparations of movement, as what you do when you begin to lift your instrument to play or as you being to think about moving. Create a definite starting point. Learn to describe what is happening rather than to decide whether you “like” the results or not.

Let the activity, or a mirror, or a recording, or another perceptual cross reference tell you what you are really doing. Such as on the flute, the quality of the start of the sound or how the pads’ sound as they go up and down, or the new angle, etc. Or in walking, the sound of your feet, notice where your eyes are in relation to your stomach, etc.

When I began to study Alexander Technique, I was working a very repetitive manufacturing job that I could only do for five hours a day before exhaustion made me stop. Taking a five minute break every hour by merely laying down semi-supine, (whether I needed it or not,) immediately improved my ability to work to seven or eight hours. So taking a regular five-minute break is something you can do right away that may help you. In fact, just moving directly from semi-supine into holding your flute or doing whatever activity you want to improve may give you some valuable information about how you don’t have to curl yourself up. (For those who don’t know, semi-supine means laying on your back with your knees up. Or you can lie with your feet supported on a chair while your back is a flat surface.)

Perhaps you may also learn a bit from an encyclopedia article I wrote on Alexander Technique? on Wikipedia…

Opening Up Conclusions About Luck & Timing

The assumptions of cause and effect have some crucial factors that would change “luck” and create “coincidence.” What most people regard as “bad luck” in a brand of fate can be a functional superstition – which is sort of a pre-conclusion with a mystery means or function that self-selects to reinforce it’s proof.

I’ve noticed that superstition is a sort of associative self-training process, where the person can’t imagine how they caused the effect. So they just remember that when they did THIS, something else happened that they wanted, etc. Just try to walk by a trash can and not look in when yesterday you found money in it serendipidously.

In a social arena, the mystery means can be a cluelessness about what a person could possibly be doing that encourages others to treat them in a certain way. It’s a disconnect between personal intent and how social events tend to continue once they are put into motion.

A social example of holding an unconsciously pained expression on your face will encourage manipluators to zero in on you. This may give you a belief that you have a fateful tendency to pick the wrong people to befriend who fatefully later turn out to be nasty.

Or, perhaps your desire to be attracted to people who “like to play the edge” or “enjoy fun” leads you astray without you realizing it, making it easier for you to impulsively go along with a bad idea because you have agreement. (One of the proven social factors is that a group can make a much worse drastic mistake than less people alone.) This disconnect can also occur compared to the way the world works – Nature doesn’t care about you personally, and can kill you just the same if you’re in the wrong place trying to play with it.

My other observation is about coincidence and recognizing opportunity. If someone has a schedule, they are less likely to notice unusual events that could be opportunties…because they can’t deviate from their plans to check out these coincidental opportunities anyway.

That’s why so many people are young, they have life-shaping adventures. Once a person opens up, it leaves room for unexpected things to happen. Possibilities for coincidental connections exist out in the world all the time, and most people walk blithely by them and never notice. Older people can’t recognize as many spontaneously changing patterns because they’ve trained themselves to adapt and usually don’t know how to undo things. So it usually takes time and significant personal insight to undo limitations and find the ways you’re contributing to them that you’re unaware of. For me, believability in the characters in a story or movie comes from watching this process.

I’ve found that by sharpening my attention and asking good virtual questions, I can open up a specific, desired opportunity for myself much quicker than most people. This makes me seem wildly resourceful, but it is what anyone can emulate by example. It’s amazing to ask yourself whenever you have a moment to talk to a stranger, “How can I find what we might have to offer each other in the time we have now?”

If you don’t recognize “a diamond in the rough” for what it could be, then it can never begin to be it’s potential. You have to notice a “turn of fate” is happening long enough to grab it out of the mud and clean it off and use it. If you don’t make yourself available, opportunities will pass you by.

The thing about evoking pattern recognition advantages is to do some strategic thinking beforehand. This thinking is often determined by motivation, so it’s good to know your criteria. Obviously, desire needs to be coupled with awareness so you can have an opportunity. If you are asking the related and pertinent questions for yourself and tell others about what you’re looking for, you’re more likely to be able to recognize “fateful signs” when they pop out in front of you. If you don’t, they won’t happen. So – by putting yourself into a “flux” situation, (such as hitchiking, traveling, & the other environments where the wild card opportunities are,) you make it more likely that the opportunity you want can happen.

My point is that what conclusion someone comes to about their fate or coincidence is determined partly by motives, (the why) and also by when they are motivated to make a conclusion.

Don’t forget the factor of the different ways that someone can culturally interpret meaning and come to a conclusion for themselves. For instance, when a person is in a bad way, they are more likely to feel cursed rather than after enough sleep, food, etc. It’s often better to decide that the process isn’t done yet and this is not the time to come to a conclusion – or to make a sort of working conclusion.

Why Alexander Technique Is Hard To Describe

In choosing your approach for describing A.T., it is worth keeping in mind that many smart people were educationally trained in debate tactics, tactics which often appeal to contradictions of logic toward expose’. Confronted with an entirely new idea or invention, there are many contradicting ways that people will categorically ignore or suspect the value of something entirely new. So it pays to consider how you can avoid or detour these common defenses. It would also be handy to figure ways to do that without stooping to using debate tactics
yourself.I have found that if you take for granted that people are capable of understanding you, they will tend to rise to the occasion. One way is to cut to the chase and clearly define in a “bottom line” way what makes AT unique. Doing this may avoid categorical matching, usually motivated from trying to familiarize new information so it can be retrieved later.

I find that most definitions of A.T. merely talk about what it can do for certain people. Popular articles explore why a particular group of people would want to do it, or these articles might use a biographical format. Suggesting possible uses will not identify what makes A.T. unique, and character portraits can be brushed off as warm and fuzzy biographical style arketing. The myriad of A.T. benefits can be pretty unbelievable. Of course, the most common way is to tell Alexander’s story or your own, using a testimonial format.

Then difficulty in describing A.T. can also come from a confusion about what exactly is being taught, because of the lack of form and generalized application possible. If you say, “Alexander Technique is a format for learning, experimenting and undoing useless habits of movement.” If people are thinking they will be asking, “Who determines what is useless and what should be preserved?”

Let’s try this definition: “A.T. hows an easier way of forming and carrying any intention into action, applied to any field you wantto refine, learn more about or a capacity you want to recover that you have lost.” This sort of description is tricky for people to wrap their mind around because it is so abstract.

Because intangible intentions can only be witnessed in outward action, in AT we use the form of movement to observe what and how means are expressed. Since the content of AT is an intangible learning process that can be
applied to any action, it confuses people. People mistake outer form for inner content. They think AT is an actor’s technique, a golf thing, a singer’s method, for musicians who get hurt or recovery from injury, etc.

The fact that AT is taught tacitly makes it a challenge to describe. AT teachers take pupils beyond words and assumptions over the edge of their dulled senses into a new perceptual capacity. For a trained eye, the evidence of intent can be witnessed in the slightest postural movement. The insensitive student can’t tell what the AT teacher got them to do that made them feel so much freer. Thus, they may regard the AT teacher to be a magician or to have hoodwinked them. (Tricking their habit is probably what happened.)

The way A.T. used to be taught worked against it being easy to talk about. Historically, A.T. was taught by building a new situational challenge in an artificially arbitrary context, which was sitting and standing from a chair. By crafting a skill from scratch using a goal that had little meaning to the student, the chair situation was designed to encourage the suspension of goals and striving for results. During chair work, the teacher would offer a unique script of the meanings of what makes up constructive experimentation, with unique perceptual interpretations of the significance of the cumulative effects of tiny physical patterns of movement. Or put more simply, Alexandrian chair work is best at showing the bad news of what all those little habits will add up to if allowed to continue. Also it shows the good news of how freedom, subtlety and effortlessness works so much easier. Then the student practices choosing between the new and the old and the idea is the student learns to sustain a tolerance for the new ways and prefer them over their old ways. In practice, guided modeling works very slowly to give the person being modeled any idea what is exactly happening. They are sort of being trained as if an animal, without knowing why they are doing the new behavior, underneath their conscious control of themselves.

The Activity model uses the goal of the action itself and its value to the student, evoking the pressures of performance in a group situation. The drive to discover and coordinate more sophisticated improvements related to a hobby or activity is a powerful motivator for thinking of using AT at any particular moment. This form trains students to see subtle and elusive differences that the teacher uses to coach evaluating the results of their experimenting. It’s also great at teaching principles in action, because you get to learn how to see so many different people learn in the group situation.

There can be as many variations of forms of learning as there are qualified teachers, because AT teachers are trained to problem solve unique applications by applying Alexander’s principles. What these principles are usually need to be physically experienced to fully understand their significance. However, if you talk about some of these principles by explaining some of the unique definitions of special words use in A.T., newcomers will sometimes recognize that they have never heard anyone talk about these topics before.

What Feels Wrong Is Probably Pointing at Freedom

>> If every one did AT, there would have been no world war – true or false?>True, But if everyone did any one of a number of things there would be no war.

I don’t agree. I used to think this about Alexander Technique when Iwas in my twenties, but now I have had enough proof to believe otherwise. Alexander Technique does not have any automatic prescription of ideals that indoctrinate the learner. However, this does not count that the student may choose to adopt the ideals of the teacher along with the Technique, since how they are learning is often quite taught one-on-one.

As far as I can tell, the only value judgments that A.T. is selling are reason, efficiency and effortless. Through study of A.T., you’ll find out how much you waste your energy, and learn to redirect it where you want to spend it. Where, why and in the end, exactly how you do want to channel your energy is entirely up to you.

An example from history is the Samurai culture. They were very precise at studying and channeling the efficient use of their energy toward murder and defending their honor as defined by their culture. My opinion on this also comes from getting to know personally almost every person I could who I noticed had “natural” good use through the course of my adult life. Some were ethical, sane people, capable of amazing compassion and wisdom …and some were wordlessly thoughtless in their beautifully poised actions. Seems that a person can still have excellent use, and also still have some conflict inside themselves that they haven’t yet figured out, which could mean…anything. This conflict or incompleteness can be expressed internally or externally in how they interact with others, depending on the person and their problem.

No matter how appropriate a person’s usual excellent coordination of themselves is, they can also still misinterpret external situations to an inappropriate response, for instance, the need for a response of defense. It’s especially rampant when you make someone responsible for other people. They become violently defensive because they second-guess the risk of what it might cost other people if they didn’t, or something like that.

Anyway – this is probably a tangent that’s getting too far off topic. But this misconception that A.T. is so good for so many applications, it must be good for everyone – this is an enthusiasm that many people get about some pastime that impresses them and they find useful. Proselytizing isn’t particularly a productive means to follow, other than to merely share your enthusiasm and give your own testimonial story. Allowing people to choose their own criteria, values and priorities is usually preferable to badgering someone with your idea of what is right, because as we know from our experience with A.T., the means is the content. It’s possible to be, for instance, a fascist about fun, humor or any other positive thing. The way I see it, allowing people to go wrong is such an interesting part of learning. It is also one of the ways I learn from others. How seldom something happens that is really new is so precious; it is understandable that what is new feels so unfamiliar that it’s easy to mistake it for being wrong, when it is really just a signal of a new freedom. If a circumstance of learning or someone different from me didn’t make me experience “wrongness,” how else would I uncover my assumptions that I have been taking for granted?

End-gaining

Today I’m thinking about the “evoke experience” strategy that many people use. This is where someone notes a state of mind by using a phrase or a word the experience evokes. Then they seem to attempt to create a sort of internal filing system or anchor for the experience. When they would like to re-experience what they had experienced before, they say those “magic words” and the state comes back – sort of like a hypnotic suggestion that is designed to trigger this part of their brain to engage and give them the experience, or like a filing system. You might have to say the “incantation” or phrase in a certain sequence, coupled with a motion, etc.

In Alexander Technique, they have a word for this activity – “end-gaining.” Meaning, going for new results with this “evoke” or other habitual strategy, rather than following the newer steps that will actually get you there. It’s something to be avoided, mostly because it doesn’t work so well when applied to new experiences and an unfamilar process.
at the end of Terrace, Bolinas
I’m not making a value judgment on how this works or it’s effectiveness with my next observation. I’ve just noticed that as people use this process and get some results, then they use it in places where it could be wildly useless and somehow they “believe it’s working.” It has the effect of a superstition. They say it can be quite a powerful example of “positive thinking” for them. I think the reason this works so well is there’s actually a part of the brain that begins to do something as soon as you think of it – and this is why visualization works and why you can “practice” doing something by merely thinking about it.

I’ve also watched people do this by telling me what something is “not.” Their idea that if they don’t really say what it is they want, whatever it isn’t will be allowed to happen on its own. Without their specifying exactly what it’s not, they hold it up as a sort of superstition that if they specify it, it will be limited and thus not a surprising enough sort of experience for them.