Conscious Eating during Interesting Times

What and how we eat and drink can support us and give us core strength and stability. Are you eating processed foods? Even “health foods” that are processed can rob us of real nutrition. As an experiment for one week, eat only whole fruits, whole grains, beans and whole vegetables. If you are still a meat eater make sure you take in no more than 1 or 2 oz per day. Fill up on the beans, grains, and vegetables using the fruit as a treat (no more than 3 pieces a day).  Pay attention to chewing, slow down, put your fork down between bites and breathe. Just for one week do this and see if you feel more confident in other areas of your life, if you are sleeping better, less bothered by other drivers and “the news”. This is only a commitment for a week…it could be fun and interesting and who knows it could change your life.

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Interesting Times

I once read that  when the Chinese say we are living in “interesting times”, “interesting times”can also mean “dangerous times” and means pay attention to what is going on within you and externally. The word interesting is the give away that times are perilous, we live on the razors edge.It is “interesting” has no judgement implied either good nor bad; just interesting.My ears always perk up when I hear this word. Interesting means I won’t be bored that’s for sure. The message of the word “interesting”is rich and consuming; be dispassionate, be the calm in the storm, be a witness, practice loving kindness the very best you can and be light-hearted in the midst of a insane world, ala the Italian film, A Beautiful Life.

My Alexander Technique practice, my yogic practice, my practice of a WFPB no oil way of eating are all supportive and sustaining in maintaining centeredness and balance.  Balancing the physical, mental, emotional,and spiritual aspects of life is necessary in interesting times. These are the times of earthquakes, floods, fires, wars, sudden explosions and least we forget we are in a time when people are very divided around what we value and how we want to live together. It is also a time when the portals are open and tremendous energy is available, true evolution is possible and I believe major lessons to be learned. This plane of existence, this earth, this universe is school. Kindergarten for some, high school for others and University and post-grad work for many and we can skip grades at this time. We can Wake Up and help others to open their eyes.

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.

Breathing

What happens to one’s breath when one practices the Alexander Technique? When the head moves ever so slightly forward and up off the top of the spine and the whole body follows lengthening and widening, the breath is able to come into the back all the way to the lower ribs and below. This reduces excess tension and allows a sense of calm and energy. Becoming more aware of the relationship of whole head to whole body and the activity of breathing is a great way to begins any activity from singing to dancing to brushing your teeth to stirring a pot. It will truly make your meditation practice more easeful and allow a deepening of your experience of being the witness.

Vigilance

This morning as I was filling the tea kettle I noticed that I was hunching my shoulders which was rather shocking to me. I am reminded of a Sanskrit word, avadhana, which means vigilance. This takes vigilance to a whole new level, the level of sacred practice. I must say that after 37 years of practicing the observation, thinking and direction of the Alexander Technique, I am more aware than ever that for me this is a sacred practice. I honor, respect and revere the teachings and my teachers of the Alexander Technique.
To approach my practice with this understanding creates a deeper experience of the Use of the Self. I become present in the consciousness within that is untainted,clear and light as well as grounded that is the core of my being.
For me it always comes back to mindfulness and awareness and how often throughout the day I can return to presence. It is easy for the mind to drift and for thoughts to run rampant. Since my thoughts create my world the more often they are the awareness, inhibition, and direction of the Alexander Technique the more the more often I have peace and clarity.

It is what you do before you do what you are doing.

Alexander Technique is also about being aware of  what you do before you do what ever it is you are doing.  For instance, you are sitting at your computer and you are putting your fingers on the key board.  What did you do before you moved your hands?  Did you tighten your neck slightly ?  Did you free your neck?  Are you using your body as a whole or thinking of it as parts? What is happening with your breathing?  Another way of saying this is: what are your habits that precede your activities?  Taking just a moment, you can watch your whole head in relationship with your whole body.  You can allow some ease to move throughout your whole being.  Now watch yourself place your hands on the keyboard.  A whole different experience that incorporates awareness, mindfulness and ease.

Can you help me out?

There is a great story about a man who falls into a hole.  A doctor walks past him and he shouts up, “hey doc, can you help me out?” the doctor tosses down a prescription.  Then a priest walks past and he shouts up,”hey pastor, can you help me out?” the priest calls out a blessing.  Then his friend Joe walks past and he yells, “hey Joe, I am down here, can you help me out?”  Joe immediately jumps down into the hole.  The man in the hole says, “that was crazy Joe, now we are both stuck down here.”  Joe says, “yea, but I’ve been down here before and I can show you the way out.”

This is story is so relevant today.  So many of us have been through so much and we get the messiness of life.  We need not be afraid of the messiness.  We can be willing and open to show our vulnerability, show our feelings, ask for help.  My experience is if you ask someone will always come along who has been down that road before and will lend a hand.  It is when we have shame and embarrassment about the mess that we can not grow and get free.  It is only in making mistakes that we learn to find out ‘what works’ for us.

Alexander Technique at the Farmer’s Market

One of the best ways to learn about yourself is to watch others.  This morning at the Farmer’s Market, I saw a little boy who was exemplary of “good use”.  He was under two years of age and his little head moved up with each step he took.  His arms eased away from his shoulders and his legs eased out of his pelvis. His breathing was deep and effortless.  Every step was a delight for him and for me as I watched him. 

Soon I was watching everyone.  The woman with a cane, distorting herself to accommodate the cane.  The man who was drinking coffee and pulling his head down to the coffee cup rather than bringing the cup up to him.  A woman who was cutting vegetables so we could have a taste of the very fresh delicious right off the farm produce.  Her hand was white with the tension with which she was holding the knife.

There are so many reasons we go from the freedom of the little boy to the distortions we pick up as we age.  The reasons are not so important.  What is important is that we know how to take ourselves out of mis-use  by thinking  and being watchful we can choose better habits.