What Are You Doing With Yourself?

My teacher Marj Barstow would ask this question, ” WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOURSELF?” and immediately I would go into a watchful awareness.   What am I doing with my head in relationship to my neck?  my whole body?  What is my breathing like?  Free and easy  or tense?  How are my arms ?  Are they moving freely?  my legs?  I find it helpful to put up sticky tabs with this one question, on the dashboard of my car, on the fridge on the bathroom mirror, at the kitchen sink.

When I am swimming it is often easy to go into this mindfulness.  I am horizontal and the water supports me so I can easily watch and let my neck be free.   I can locate the crown of my head and ease my whole head away from my whole body.  I watch my arms for any excess tension.   My kick originates from my core and my breathing is easy and full.

Cooking is another great opportunity to witness “what I am doing with myself”.   How am I standing at the stove?  What is the quality of my lunge when I bring things out of the oven?  When I reach for utensils or reach for a pot, what am I doing with myself?  It is also an opportune time to inhibit, pause, and consciously direct my head/neck/body relationship.  These daily activities can trigger back pain for so many of us if they are performed unconsciously.

We can also learn so much from watching others.   Recently I was at a demonstration at the Texas Capital and what an opportunity to observe people !  What do we do with ourselves when we feel passionately about something?  What do we do when the adrenaline is flowing and we are in a state of excitement?  What do others do?  There were many young children there and they, too, provided and excellent opportunity to watch.  So many of the kids were free and easy in their movements and setting excellent examples of  good use.

So let’s make today a day to be mindful  and conscious of what we are doing with ourselves!

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Cooking with the Alexander Technique


 Many years ago I was in class in San Francisco with Marjory Barlow, F.M. Alexander’s niece and a member of the first teacher’s training course.
She began to share with us an experience she had while at the stove making a Bechamel (white sauce).  One has to stir this sauce at least twenty minutes for it to thicken and to prevent lumps.  As Marjory stirred and gave herself directions she became acutely aware of a spot in her feet, in her heels to be exact.  This spot was an inch in from the edge of her heel in the middle of her heel.   As she used her awareness to scan  her whole head in relationship with her whole body, she began to notice that this “spot ” was connected to  her primary control and was key to her using herself with great ease.  Fascinated,  she looked up this place in the feet in one of her husband’s anatomy books and found out that it was a “nerve center” that indeed connected into her entire nervous system.  Hence, our “up” is connected to our “down”.  I always reflect upon her discovery while cooking and wanted to share her discovery with you.

Here is a great recipe for Creamed of Asparagus on Toast.  My mother, Shirley made this whenever she saw the need for “comfort food”. 

Bechamel sauce: This is really easy.

In a heavy sauce pan melt 3tbl of butter on a medium to medium low flame.

After this melts, add 3tbls of flour.   You may use rice flour, it will just be a slightly different texture.  Stir these ingredients  constantly with wire whisk.  Now slowly, very slowly add 1 cup of milk or  you may substitute  unsweetened soy milk.  Add salt and pepper to taste  and keep stirring for about 20 minutes.

Toast any bread that suits your fancy or you may even use a brown rice cake.

Drain a can of asparagus really, really well. This is key so you do not delute the sauce.  Mix with the white sauce with the asparagus and  place the creamed of asparagus on the toast.   Serve with a mixed greens salad  and you have a wonderful meal.