This is the deal.

This morning while perusing the NYT online, I became acutely aware of my use. “Use” is the relationship of one’s whole head to one’s whole body. How  do we coordinate the two in movement and stillness? what is the play between whole head/whole body?  I ask some the simple questions: what am I doing with myself ? how am I interfering with my self? I become acutely aware of “habit”. Here is the deal: HABIT!

How do I work with habit? Well, first of all, awareness. I become aware of sensations: stiffness, range of movement, the weight on my feet, any pain. I continually return to the awareness of the relationship of my whole head to my whole body. I direct “let the neck be free…allow the whole head to delicately move very slightly forward (tiny tilt of chin forward), and up; whole head very very delicately moving away from the top of the neck.The operative words here are delicately, slightly,tiny. The instant I do that I am present in the moment. My breathing is full and free; stiffness melts into increased range of motion and pain dissolves.

Great I say! Then enters the realization that I must continue this process over and over and over. Returning to the awareness, directing with clarity of observation and accepting the freedom of presence. Interrupt the habit that interferes and replace with the habit of awareness, direction,acceptance.That’s the deal…for today.

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Whole head whole body!

My teacher, Marjorie Barstow, often said this phrase; “pay attention to your whole head in relationship to your whole body.”  She often emphasized this when someone was complaining about a specific ache or a pain  they were having.  I always found this phrase to be very helpful and simple.  For one thing it got me to be mindful of the connection of my whole head to my whole body  and that I had the choice to  ease up out of the pain.  So many of us came to the Alexander Technique because of pain or injury.  The other thing about this phrase was the word “relationship”. To me the very essence of relationship is the possibility for freedom, understanding, growth, movement.   My experience is that the body is always in movement and relationship.  Even in rest or sleep as long as we are breathing and our hearts are beating we are moving;  the various systems of the body supporting our aliveness.  

I also know that Marj was very mindful of the details and often used her skillful hands  to show us the tiny details of how we were coordinating and using ourselves.  It seems though,  it is human nature to get bogged down in the details so her verbal instruction was to keep it simple.  “What are you doing with yourself?”  “The most important thing is what you yourself are doing.”  “Watch yourself and watch others. What do you see ? What do you notice?”. 

 The whole head in relationship to the whole body also means the possibility of constructive change.   Another way of seeing this is in our ‘relationships’ with other people or even ourselves.   In order for relationships to be healthy there must always be constructive change and the acceptance of impermanence.  In our relationships with our partners we are continually  changing as we grow and become more conscious of their needs and our needs in regards to one another. Think about your relationship with your parents and how we go from dependence to interdependence and sometimes as the roles reverse and our parent age,  to dependence once again.   Eventually,  our parents pass on and we experience first hand the impermanence of the body.  Accepting our own physical, emotional and spiritual changes is freeing and enlightening.   

 In the whole head /whole body relationship,  movement means change.  It is possible to move constructively, to just allow a tiny forward rotation of the head at the atlanto-occipital joint and then allow the head to ease away from the spine and allowing the whole body to immediately tag along. This does not have to be a big change.   In fact,  if we use our thinking and awareness in conjunction with the teachers’ hands on guidance,  even small changes become helpful giving us a sense of integration,  of being “whole” and “one with ourselves”.   We notice we breathe deeper and more easily as oxygen becomes more available.   Our performance improves whether we are singing, dancing, typing on the computer  or just out for a walk. Thus,  living our life becomes more enjoyable and we delight in every moment.