If you live in Minnesota, you know that the Minnesota State Fair is a BIG DEAL for a lot of people. It’s the second largest state fair after Texas.
And in 2018, in its 10-day run in late August and early September, it hosted over 2 million people. That’s a lot of people. And it’s a warm time of year.
That translates to crowds, waiting in lines and being uncomfortably hot.
All things that typically annoy me and I try to avoid.
But last summer I went and enjoyed the State Fair (crowds, lines, heat and all) more than I had any previous time.
Wanna know my secret?
Well, it all boils down to expectations.
I don’t go to the Fair every year. Every other year, maybe.
Usually I go with my mom, because she loves to go. Often, she goes multiple times each year.
And I usually go first thing in the morning and don’t stay long—in order to beat the crowds, the long lines and the heat.
But last year we went around noon (meaning more people, longer lines and higher temps than early in the morning)
And I enjoyed the State Fair more than I had any previous time.
And I credit it all to my expectations.
More specifically setting realistic expectations about the situation before I went.
There’d be a lot of people.
I’d be waiting in lines (for the bus to take me there, to buy entrance tickets, to go on the skyride—I always go on the skyride—and buy a pronto pup).
It to be uncomfortably warm.
Because I’d taken some time before I left to consider the three things above and expect them—and more importantly remind myself that they were all things that I didn’t have any control over—I was able not to get as annoyed at them as I usually am. And I was able not to be as grumpy and irritated at them as I usually am—all of which takes energy and steals away from any enjoyment I might have.
I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. So much so that I experimented with this come holiday time.
Normally, I won’t get within 5 miles of a shopping mall the few weeks before Christmas. But this past year I did. I even went to the Mall of America, a well-known tourist attraction in the Twin Cities with lots and lots and lots of crazed holiday shoppers (and tourists).
Before going, I tried the same thing. I set some realistic expectations—in order to remind myself what I didn’t have control over:
there’d be lots of people at the store
the lines would be long
the parking ramp would be very full
Because I’d reminded myself that I didn’t have control over the above things I found I didn’t let them annoy me (quite as much as I normally do).
And I enjoyed holiday shopping more than I have in a long time.
Then came December 27 and I had to fly out to Los Angeles. On an early morning flight.
Ever take a 7 a.m. flight? The first time I did I got to the airport at 5 a.m. only to be shocked at how busy it was!
At any rate because I’d done this before I was able to set some realistic expectations before going—in order to remind myself what I didn’t have control over:
The airport was going to be busy.
Lines were going to be long.
I was going to have to wait in those long lines.
My flight might be delayed (the temp was right around 32 degrees that morning and it was raining—translation: icy mess!)
I was going to be sitting in a cramped seat for 3 + hours.
Well the above 5 things did come to pass.
But I was pleased that again, just as with the State Fair and with my holiday shopping, because I’d set my expectations before going—so I was clear what I didn’t have control over—I found it really helped me not to waste energy being (as) annoyed and (as) irritated (as I often get).
And some good surprises happened. The incredibly long line moved much faster than I thought it would. My flight was delayed but it just meant I didn’t need to wait as long for my ride at LAX. And I ended up sitting next to a petite older Indian lady who didn’t hog any part of my seat.
I’m really looking forward to continuing my experiment with this expectation setting thing.
Of course, there are situations that annoy and frustrate me that I can simply choose to avoid.
But part of life is having to do things that you don’t always want to do. Things that annoy and frustrate you. Having a way to deal with those and make them a little less annoying is very exciting.
If your curious, try it for yourself. See what happens. Then leave me a comment below or send me an e-mail. I love to hear from you.
Heck, it might just make some of those annoying things you have to do just a little bit easier.
My husband and I visited the Black Hills in South Dakota this past summer. I love the outdoors and it was absolutely spectacular.
One day during our trip, we visited Mt. Rushmore National Monument. Even though we’d arrived early it was quickly heating up and already quite hot by 10 o’clock. My husband Bruce and I decided to sit on the veranda with a view of the faces and have something to drink.
Various groups of people were milling around. Out of the blue I heard a very young and loud voice say, “Come on! We haven’t got all day!”
I looked in the direction of the voice. To my amusement I saw that it belonged to a boy who couldn’t have been more than three years old. The boy was with a group of people I could only assume were his family.
Bruce, who often has something smart to say, replied, “Sure you do. You do have all day.”
My first thought was my goodness he’s learning to rush and hurry at a very young age.
(and yes it wasn’t lost on me that we were at Mt. RUSHmore)
Most kids his age are blissfully ignorant of time. They exist and play and enjoy the present moment. Often to the frustration of their parents who are constantly telling them to “hurry up”, “get going” and that “we haven’t got all day.”
There was no doubt in my mind where this three-year-old had learned to rush from. And he obviously had absorbed the lesson very well.
Time itself isn’t stressful.
But how you choose to relate to time can be stressful.
Each one of us has 24 hours each day. There is some truth in what Bruce said. You do have all day. You do have time.
But you’re often telling yourself the exact opposite—that you don’t have time, you’re running out of time, you don’t have all day.
All stressful thoughts.
And how does your body typically respond to stress?
By tightening and tensing.
And excessive muscular tension is a contributing factor to poor posture and musculoskeletal pain.
You can blame the stress in your life on many things but a lot of it’s simply created by how you think. And in particular how you think about time.
Always lacking enough time is typically more of a mindset than reality.
But since you create the stress of rushing by how you think—you can change it.
If you want to improve your posture, pay some attention to what you’re thinking.
Periodically check in to see how you’re thinking about what you’re doing. Are you focused on the task at hand? Or are you thinking you need to get this current task done so you can get on to the next one? That you don’t have all day?
If you find you’re thinking the later, consciously refocus your thoughts on the task at hand and tell yourself “I have time”.
This is a simple suggestion but not necessarily easy to implement—especially if you’ve a lifelong habit of rushing. And most of us do, because we’ve unfortunately been taught to do so from a young age.
Peggy’s a student of mine. She recently wrote about her experiences over the past two years with the Alexander Technique.
She graciously agreed to let me share them with you here on the blog.
Peggy originally came for lessons when she was caring for her elderly mother. Her mom ended up living well into her 90’s.
If you are or have been a caregiver, you know it can be a very stressful job. And it’s very easy to stop caring for yourself.
One of Peggy’s main reasons for starting Alexander lessons was to learn to “take care of Peggy”.
Peggy’s also a flutist. She was hoping lessons in the Technique might help her with some issues around her flute playing.
Without further ado, here’s Peggy in her own words:
I came to study with Lauren Hill via the recommendation of a musician friend who is also an Alexander Technique instructor, but who moved to Texas. There have been many areas that I have requested help with over the past two and a half years of lessons with Lauren (began in July of 2016).
When I started, I was the primary caregiver for my elderly mother which involved a lot of stress and physical work.
I am a professional flutist and have had ongoing muscle tension in my neck, jaw and shoulders for years.
Plus, as I have gotten older my right knee pain has flared up due to an injury many years ago.
Lauren is so exceptional! Her tone of voice, attitude, clarity of instruction and explanation, calm gentle manner, smile and caring make such a difference.
She is very professional, but with a personal individualized approach. Lauren is willing to go at a pace that I can handle. She offers practicality to specific needs while covering the general core principles involved. She makes it simple and effective, keeping each lesson interesting.
I have learned so much and come a long way!
Hard to put into words, but I will try.
Initially just coming to recognize and feel what proper and natural balance is for the body. Guidance in how to manage the relationship between the head, neck and torso – compressed or free – helps so much with overall coordination and movement. The whole approach of primary coordination that the head leads, and the body follows, with being able to lengthen out through my entire spine and widen through the shoulders just gives greater ease and openness.
Then the aspect of better breathing throughout the entire torso and being able to recognize what I am touching as support, awakening that inner kinesthetic sense.
The whispered Ah and counting during exhale and not sucking in air during inhale has helped me.
The folding monkey is great be it from standing or sitting, allowing me to recognize how the body counterbalances itself.
It is amazing that I can simply mentally through my thoughts “give myself direction” and things change in my body without actually “doing” something.
Or that I can tell myself that “I can do less of” something or that “I don’t care” and inhibit those old tension patterns that work against me.
Misuse or overuse of our bodies can create malfunction.
At first the guidance that an Alexander instructor gives through hands on touch was challenging for me to be comfortable with, but Lauren was incredibly patient with me. Now I am so aware of how effective that is. I view it as an “invitation” to follow, a guiding touch to help re-educate my nervous system.
What we feel as normal or habitual is many times incorrect and until we are guided to recognize and adopt a different way, we often cannot find it on our own.
So, hands on touch meets that need.
The lying down on the table work at lessons gives the opportunity to learn how to release tension in a different relationship to gravity. For me at times it is like a mini-retreat where it is easy to let all the tension just move right out of me. Constructive Rest done at home by lying on the floor is a great assist as well.
I’ve learned special cue words to use such as “let, allow, observe, notice, lazy, soften, release, do less” and others.
Regular lessons really make it work. I do all right on my own, but then I come to [a] lesson and Lauren fine tunes it and moves me further along.
It is an ongoing process of discovery that is actually quite fun!
For some of my lessons Lauren has specifically guided my flute playing. She studied with Alexander Murray who was an incredible flute professor at Michigan State University as well as an Alexander Technique instructor. Lauren passed on to me some of the things she learned from him related to flute.
We adjusted my sitting and standing position for playing flute so that I now have a more graceful, natural lifting of my arms when I play. Lauren gave me a pointer of how to put my flute to my lips that Alexander Murray used.
How I use and feel my torso and shoulders to breathe for playing my flute has changed as well. I feel more lifted in height, with shoulders staying relaxed and down, with my head and neck more free as I play.
It is all a matter of applying the same Alexander Technique principles, but to a specific body need. By Lauren observing me and giving personal guidance has made all the difference.
Results: Getting up and down off the floor effectively, going up and down stairs without pain, walking without being stiff, sitting and standing with ease, pausing throughout the day to regroup, just feeling more natural and at ease overall in everyday activities, being able “to choose” not to be tense. Learning how to avoid “end gaining” or pushing myself too hard, too far.
I now have effective ways to practice the Alexander approach while driving my car that truly reduces tension.
I received from Lauren practical suggestions about computer and iPhone use or using a pillow when reading a book. Lauren even gave pointers for mowing the yard and shoveling snow.
She supplements the lessons at times with articles or short videos. Plus, her blog and e-newsletter articles are wonderful!
I would give Lauren Hill a five-star rating and recommend her highly.
I’m in the middle of teaching a group class with a focus on balance.
In the first class I do a little exercise with them.
You can do it, too. Right now.
Stand up with your feet hip width apart. Close your eyes. (You can open them at any time if you’re uncomfortable).
Keep your eyes closed and notice that you’re not completely 100% still. Notice that there’s a gentle sway in you.
Open your eyes.
Do you seem to sway less when your eyes are open?
That sway you feel is completely normal. You’re experiencing your balance.
Balance is not a fixed position.
It’s something that’s constantly adjusting a bit. You’re constantly finding balance, losing it just a bit and then adjusting and finding it again.
In other words, you’re constantly balancING. That ING part is important.
Think of balance as a verb, not a noun.
If you noticed less sway when you opened your eyes, it’s because you rely on information you get through your eyes to help you balance.
When you take that information away—by closing your eyes—your balance system is challenged a bit. And balancing becomes a bit more difficult.
If you’ve ever been in a dimly lit or dark house and go down the stairs, what do you instinctively do? Probably reach out for the handrail.
That’s because you’re not getting much information through your eyes, so you reach out to touch something to help know where you are—and help you balance.
Try the exercise again.
Stand up with your feet hip width apart. Close your eyes. (You can open them at any time if you’re uncomfortable).
Keep your eyes closed and notice that you’re not completely 100% still. Notice that there’s a gentle sway in you.
Open your eyes.
Invite that little sway to always be there in you as you stand. As opposed to locking into a position to stand. If you lock your legs or your hips to stand, you’re just creating excess compression and tension.
Not great for your body or your balance.
You don’t have to create the sway or do the sway.
Just allow it to be there. Get comfortable with it.
And realize that you’re always balancING. Even when you’re standing on two feet!
You’re getting older. So am I. (I’m actually turning 50 later this year. I can hardly believe it!)
As you get older, things change. You change.
And yet, you often keep things around you the same.
This can be a problem.
As a kid, I loved the story of Alice in Wonderland.
In the story Alice finds a cake that says, “eat me”. Like any normal kid, she of course eats the cake. A little bite at first. And nothing happens. Then she decides to eat the whole piece.
All of a sudden, she grows really big and the room stays the same size. Her head hits the ceiling with a bang!
(That would give anyone a headache.)
Well as you’ve been changing—if your immediate physical world around you hasn’t (just like in the story of Alice)—you may be giving yourself a headache without even realizing it.
(And I’m sure you don’t want that.)
One of the things that has been changing with me—starting when I was around 40—is my eyes.
At first, it was just annoying that I couldn’t read the tiny print on the back of the medicine bottle. Then it was hard to read the menus in those dimly lit restaurants. But thank goodness for the flashlight app on the smartphone!
Then I noticed I had to hold my book just a little bit further away to be comfortable to read—no matter what the lighting.
Now I have to have glasses on to be able to read my book at all.
And I also need them for reading other things—like the computer screen.
If you’re starting to need glasses for the computer, you’re changing.
If you’re wearing bifocals or trifocals while working at your computer, you’ll definitely need to adjust your environment.
As you sit in front of your computer screen ask yourself which part of your glasses you look out of.
The normal ergonomic advice is to have the top of your computer monitor at the level of your eyes—so that you have to look down a bit to see the middle part of the screen.
But if you’re wearing bifocals or trifocals and looking through the lower part of your glasses to see the screen, it’ll probably need to be lowered from the above advice.
If you don’t lower the screen, what happens is that without thinking, in order to see the top half of the screen, you’ll tend to rotate your head back and down, raising your chin so that you can look through the bottom part of the lens.
This puts tremendous compression on the back of your neck (and the rest of your spine).
And can often be the direct cause of neck pain and headaches.
So, adjust your monitor instead of compressing the back of your neck.
Or alternatively invest in some computer glasses.
Computer glasses are single lens glasses with a focal length designed for computer work. This will eliminate the need to look through the bottom portion of the lens.
Of all the things I’ve spent money on in the last few years, this was one of my best investments.
Worth every penny!
P.S. Check out this video for ergonomic tips on computer monitor placement with bifocals or trifocals.
Ergonomic tips on screen placement with bifocals or trifocals - YouTube
A student came in last summer and related an experience she’d had over the weekend.
This woman’s very active and walks a lot. She’s a relatively new student and is gradually learning to be able to use her Alexander skills in different situations outside of her lessons.
Any new skill is easy to practice in isolation. It’s more challenging to incorporate it into your already existing activities.
She told me she’d done a long walk over the weekend and didn’t think about any of the things that she’d been learning in her lessons during the walk.
Only when she finished did she realize just how tense she was, and that her jaw was tight.
And? I encouraged her.
And…it was a hot day (the temp had been hovering around 92 degrees F).
And she’d been focused solely on getting the walk over and done with.
That right there was her learning.
Her tension problem?
To end-gain means you focus on getting something done (the end) and are not paying any attention to how you are getting it done (the means).
Machiavelli supposedly said, “the end justify the means” (whether he actually said it or not I don’t know).
In contrast to Machiavelli, the Alexander Technique teaches you to place more importance on the means—the how—not the end result.
Sometimes people misinterpret this to mean that the Alexander Technique teaches you not to have goals.
Nothing can be further from the truth.
Set goals. Set big goals for yourself.
But keep in mind how you’re going about getting there.
Especially if it involves pain and strain.
If the means involve pain and strain, then the end result may not justify the means as far as your body is concerned.
As you start to be more aware of your tendency to end-gain you’ll find that certain situations trigger this tendency in you more than others.
For me, outdoor work such as gardening and snow shoveling can trigger an end-gaining attitude if I’m not careful.
I love to work outside. I like being physical and getting dirty.
When I go outside do I have a goal? Of course I do.
I’m out there to shovel the front walk or weed a garden bed or plant my five new yellow coneflowers I bought at the nursery yesterday.
I know from experience that I can pay attention to how I’m getting a job done for about 30-45 minutes. Then, if I don’t take a short break, I can easily slip into Git-R-Done Mode (remember Larry the Cable Guy?)—also known in the Alexander Technique as end-gaining.
And this involves strain. And then as a result, pain.
Just for fun, here’s Larry the Cable Guy who popularized the phrase Git-R-Done
Only In America with Larry the Cable Guy - Git-R-Done | History - YouTube
I learned this in a big way a couple of summers ago and you can read all about that here.
Taking a short break (literally stopping) allows me to:
reset my attitude
stay present and mindful of how I’m getting my tasks done and
stop focusing solely on Gittin-R-Done
Can you discover for yourself where you feel most compelled to end-gain?
I’ll give you a tip: it’s probably the places you are the most stressed or rushed during the day. When you feel like you just gotta Git-R-Done.
Those are the moments to literally stop, say no to Larry the Cable Guy’s advice to just Git-R-Done and start paying attention and be curious about how you are physically doing what you are doing.
Ask yourself: am I unnecessarily tightening and tensing myself in an effort to get done whatever it is I think I’ve got to get done?
Like the pigeon on the steps above, keep the top of the staircase in your sights.
Recently I came across one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard in a long time.
And I’m going to share with you.
Learn to Rest in Your Wait Time.
One of the tools I use to come back to the present moment from time to time is Two Questions. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ve probably come across the Two Questions. But just as a little refresher here’s the lowdown.
The Two Questions are a way you can quickly bring yourself into the present moment by turning your attention to your body and your breathing.
(No meditation cushion required)
The First Question is “What am I touching?”
Right now, without changing or judging anything, notice what your hands are touching. Now notice what you’re touching with the bottoms of your feet, the backs of your thighs, your buttocks, your back, your head, your arms. You touch with all parts of you. Noticing what you’re touching is a very quick way to be aware of your body and your relationship to your environment.
The Second Question is “Where is my breathing?”
Right now, notice where you feel your torso moving as you breathe. Realize that just paying attention to your breathing will affect it—but no worries. Do you sense movement in your chest? Your belly? Your sides? Your back?
Bringing attention to your body and your breathing will instantly bring you into the present moment—because your body and your breathing exist in the present moment.
Your mind is the time traveler. It takes you on trips to the future to plan things and lets you ponder your past actions. But you can also use your mind to bring you into the present moment by choosing where to put your attention.
The Two Questions are an easy way to do that.
Take the question “What am I touching?” again. Make it even simpler. Just focus on things you’re touching external to you.
The floor, the seat and back of the chair, maybe the desk if your arms are resting on it. These things are your support.
I’ve found that taking a moment to be aware of what’s supporting me, allows me to actually let those things support me.
The awareness is enough for my body to soften a bit, release some excess holding without collapsing and take full advantage of what’s there to support it.
This is all well and good you say but when am I going to have the time to pay attention to this?
That’s where waiting comes in.
Do you hate to wait? I do. Sometimes.
Other times I see waiting as free time in which to sneak a moment of awareness of what I am touching and let it support me.
(BTW, my body loves it when I do this)
You wait in an annoyingly long line to buy a cup of much needed coffee.
Guess what? You can take that time to be aware of your feet touching the floor supporting you: your legs, your pelvis, your back, neck and head.
(and perhaps you don’t need to brace your legs or squeeze your butt to stand. You can soften a bit, release some excess holding and take full advantage of the ground supporting you).
In stressful rush hour traffic on a snowy winter day you end up at a stand still waiting for the cars ahead of you to move for what seems like for-ev-er (probably only a minute or so).
Guess what? You can take that time to be aware of the seat supporting your back and legs and the steering wheel supporting your hands and arms. And then there’s the floor supporting your feet.
(and perhaps you can let your lower back go, stop tensing your legs and release that unnecessary grip on the steering wheel. You can soften a bit, release some excess holding and take full advantage of the seat, the steering wheel and the floor).
Oh, and then there’s the dreaded hold. You’ve got to make that mammogram appointment, so you’ve really no choice but to wait for the scheduler to get to you while that annoyingly bad background music plays over and over and over. At least you’ve got speaker phone now, so you don’t have to hold the phone up to your ear as you wait.
Guess what? By now you know the drill. What can you do in that wait time?
(Be aware of your support. Let it support you. Just a bit more. Allow yourself to soften, release some excess tension and take full advantage of whatever is supporting you).
So, if you’re wanting to feel better in your body and have less tension in your day, re-engineer your wait time into rest time.
Keep the phone in your pocket. You can check Facebook later.
Notice what you’re touching. Realize that it’s supporting you.
I live in Minnesota. The winter air is cold and dry (think major static cling!)
I’ve a tendency towards itchy, dry, sensitive skin. In the winter, if I’m not careful, it quickly gets out of control.
It’s not just that my chapped hands will remind you of an alligator—the skin can crack and bleed.
I’ve tried all kinds of lotions and creams. And if you don’t know the difference between a lotion and a cream—well, in the winter here you want hand cream, not lotion. The thick stuff that you just take a little dab of and spend a minute or two gently massaging into your skin.
But using hand cream often during the day is not enough for me.
My hands still look reptilian.
What really makes a difference is rubber gloves.
The often yellow-colored ones you buy at the grocery store for washing dishes.
Thought they were just for your grandmother or mother? Guess again.
If I don those rubber gloves EVERY TIME I do the dishes in the winter, my hands stay in the realm of dry but not reptilian.
But only if I’m using them EVERY TIME.
Occasionally doesn’t cut it. I might as well not use them at all.
This is a small thing but done consistently it creates the change that I want in my skin.
A lot of the things I teach my students are simple things. Some so simple they seem almost insignificant.
But I ask them to do them consistently.
And that’s the hard part.
Because doing those things consistently is about changing habits—changing your routine.
Putting on the rubber gloves—it’s a small thing.
Doing it consistently is the hard part. Because it changes my routine around doing the dishes.
Being physically uncomfortable and being too afraid to “rock the boat” don’t go well together.
Think back to a time when you were in the company of others and you were somehow physically uncomfortable.
Maybe you were…
sitting through a too long concert and your lower back was hurting.
in a classroom and the windows were open and you were shivering so much your nails were blue.
sitting at a friend’s dinner party and the chair was so incredibly uncomfortable you could hardly focus on your food.
Maybe you were in the middle of a long day of travel, at yet another airport, your next plane was delayed and your whole body ached.
sitting on a plane for hours on end in a middle seat and everything felt stiff.
These five examples are all experiences that I vividly recall from my own life.
In each of the above cases I knew exactly what I needed to do to take care of myself, so I would feel better—but I was afraid if I did it I’d bother the people around me.
I was afraid to “rock the boat”.
In each case I was making a lot of assumptions.
To be honest, I didn’t know if in fact I’d bother others if I did what I needed to do. I was assuming the worst. (That’s my pessimistic self, rearing its ugly head)
At the concert I knew I needed to stand up and move around. But I assumed if I asked to be let out of my row everyone would be annoyed.
In the classroom with the windows open, I needed to close the windows (I’d already moved as far away from the windows as possible). But I assumed my friend would be uncomfortable if I asked to close the window because he was always hot.
At the dinner party I needed to get a pillow off the couch and put it behind my back. But I assumed my host would think I was weird or even say no if I asked.
On the plane I needed to get out, stand up and move around. But the woman on the aisle was sleeping and I assumed she’d be pissed if I woke her.
In the airport I wanted to lie down on my back in a quiet corner on the floor. But I assumed people would stare at me.
In each of the above cases my habitual reaction to the situation was to assume that if I said or asked for or did what I needed to do, others would be annoyed.
So, I wouldn’t say or ask for or do what I needed to do.
I’d stay put and grin and bear it.
Not good for me or my body.
My habitual reaction to the above types of situations is still the same today as it’s always been.
What’s different is I recognize the reaction and I actively choose not to react in this way.
Instead, I practice speaking up, asking for what I need or doing what I need to do.
Most of time people aren’t annoyed and are very understanding.
I can’t remember the last time someone stared at me (they’re usually way too preoccupied with their phones to even notice what I’m doing).
And if someone does get annoyed I have to remember that I’m responsible for my actions and reactions and they’re responsible for theirs. It’s their choice to be annoyed by me or not.
Next time you’re physically uncomfortable and in the company of others and you’re afraid to say or ask for or do what you need to do to take care of yourself—stop, reconsider, and decide to take care of yourself and “rock the boat”.
Are there places where you need to take care of yourself better by “rocking the boat”?
I’d love to hear from you. Share your story in the comment section below.
One of the skills that students of the Alexander Technique learn is how to Direct themselves or give themselves Directions.
There are a set of traditional Directions that come down to us from F.M. Alexander, the founder of the Technique. They can be a bit baffling at first, especially without the aid of a teacher.
Therefore, I find when initially introducing the idea of Directing yourself it’s much better to start in a simple way with the bigger picture.
Think of it as learning to see the Forest first. Then the Trees.
And heck, you might just find that the Forest is just enough for you at this time.
Direction is a skill of thinking.
But what do I mean by thinking exactly? And how are you supposed to think?
It’s thinking in conjunction with your anatomy —imagining how you want yourself to be organized.
You want to be organized generally in a way that’s gently:
expansive, not contractive
lengthening, not shortening
widening, not narrowing
I’ve a bunch of compression springs in my studio. I often use them with students to help get this idea across.
A compression spring’s at its natural resting length when it’s not compressed.
Compress it and it gets shorter. Let go and it springs back to its natural resting length.
If you’ve one lying around go get it. Or next time you’re at the hardware store buy yourself one. They’re inexpensive.
The physical experience of using the spring can be quite powerful. And you’ll get the idea better than just reading about it.
Take your spring and compress (squeeze) it between finger and thumb. Hold the compression for a little bit to get a sense of the work you’re doing.
Now stop compressing (stop squeezing) the spring and let it pop back to its resting length.
Do this a couple of times to get the sense of:
not squeezing/not compressing/lengthening
Think of the bottoms of your feet on the ground and the top of your head as the two ends of an internal spring.
You can choose to compress yourself— just like you compressed the spring—or not compress yourself at any time.
When you Direct yourself to gently be more expansive and to lengthen you are basically imagining not compressing yourself.
The focus is on doing less of something (compressing and squeezing). Not on doing more of something that you think you should do—such as trying to stand up straight and pull yourself up to be as tall as possible.
A very well-known Alexander Teacher, Walter Carrington, is often quoted as saying that, “we are squeezing ourselves to death!”
Whether or not he said those exact words, it’s quite true that most of us are squeezing ourselves an awful lot.
And a good way to start changing things for the better is to invite yourself not to as often as you can.