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The last Gap series ended with this paragraph:

The key is to direct yourself in such a way as to interrupt your habitual response to an activity.  It can be fun to play with this and see how long you can elegantly slide your attention and awareness in between things, mostly unnoticed to other people yet so effective in your experience and the outcome of your actions.


Pause, wait, standby, suspend, interrupt, interfere with the habitual action. All of these are other ways to think about what to do when you notice a potential gap.

Your attitude, or how you approach entering the gap is important to how you proceed through the gap and what you gain from it.  You might feel like you are approaching the unknown or going through a new door. When you keep an attitude of curiosity and inquisitiveness it will help to not dismiss or discount what you might discover and experience.  This is also an attitude of play and exploration.

Find graceful words and ideas that work for you and allow for an entry that allows for a soft slide or landing into the pause rather than slamming on the brakes. This means keep the motor running rather than creating a hard stop that binds up the flow. No hitting the wall. The goal is to find more ease of movement and if the pause creates stiffness or rigidity, that in and of itself may become a habit that will eventually need to be addressed and undone.  

In other words as you enter the pause and the gap, keep the movement going; keep the breath moving, keep your joints easy, sense the ground underneath you. Sense your full three-dimensionality and the space around you. Keep an open focus.

Noticing Moments:  

Walking and stopping

An easy gap to notice is when we stop our center of gravity moving through space, for instance, at the corner for a “don’t walk” signal. Do you brace and “stop” more than you need to?  

Reaching a door:

Other good moments to observe are when you reach a door before you open it or the moment you join the end of a line at grocery store and then when you reach the checkout counter.

Become aware of these moments of ending your forward motion and:

  • Keep your knees easy

  • Keep breathing

  • Stand on both feet evenly

  • Maintain your full stature

  • Stay aware of your surroundings

Additional Awareness:

A helpful activity to monitor throughout this phase of the gap is your flow of air. Breathing is a good overall indicator of your ongoing movement and having a sense of direction. This can be done on the street or in your home.  When you breathe well you will experience your body moving in response to the airflow.  Be sure to avoid creating false resistance so you can “feel” your air moving.

Remember you are always in motion.

So even though you are not moving your body weight in any direction - i.e. stepping, sitting, or leaping about, you are still in motion. This is a critical concept. Your motor is still running.

Also notice during the beginning of the gap if you:

• Shorten in stature or shrink down
• Stiffen your neck
• Lock your jaw
• Hold your tongue

GUILTY! If you notice any of these actions in yourself, then practice finding your pause without doing them.  

This means you have to notice before you even get to the gap!

Onward, into the gap!

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Mind The Gap, Part IV: Timing, how to get in front of the gap

As you play with creating more and more gaps between your previously known moments of awareness, notice the moment you realize you need to redirect yourself to make the most difference in your activity.
Here are some common timing pitfalls:

Too early:

  • Direct yourself before the activity and your habit sneaks back into being before you do your activity.

Lose trust:

  • Direct yourself just before the activity and have a sense that nothing is going to happen -- so you revert to the habit.

Lose Focus:

  • Direct yourself just before the activity and in doing so you lose the thread  and mental focus of what you were going to do (for example, you forget the words to the song)

Jumping ahead:

  • Start to direct yourself and somehow you have jumped ahead into the activity before you know it.

Too late:

  • Direct yourself after the activity just begins and realize you were too late.

  • Direct yourself after the activity is over and realize you forgot to think and direct at all - oops.

It may feel, at first, like you have to go into slow motion to observe yourself between previous moments of awareness. It may feel like time expands and in some ways it has. The goal is not necessarily to take more clock time between your actions but to give more time to awareness.  It may also seems like there is more space between actions.
 
Take, for example, the action of saying hello to a friend who has walked into the room.
 
What happens between the moment you realize your friend has come in and the moment you say hello? Where does your focus go?  
 
One helpful way to find the gap is to recognize and register the moment you decide to do something and take action. Many of us jump into an action without even being aware that we made the decision to do something.  

Follow this gap sequence when someone you know enters the room and you say hello to them.  The moment:

  • You see or hear your friend.

  • You decide to greet your friend.

  • You look up to observe them - or decide to say hello without visual contact.

  • You start to take a breath before you speak.

  • The air turns, suspends and turns around before you speak.

  • The air moves before you phonate.

  • The sound starts on the “h”.

  • “Hello”  comes out of your mouth.

Here are some other gaps to explore:
 

Move your eyes around the room you are in shifting your focus from one fixed point to another and notice your visual habits.

  • Choose points that are both close and far away.  

  • Choose points that are to your right and left, up and down from each other.   

Notice that once you decide to look at an object (pick up a book, open a door, pick up your water bottle),  there may be an urge to jump to that object.  How does your body prepare for the leap?  Notice what part of your body leads the way to the new object?
 
If there is preparation of any sort?  Any contraction in your body?  Do your eyes change, does your breathing alter, or does your overall flow change at all?
 
Go back through the actions above and notice the moment you decide to do them. Then notice what happens next.  Once you do that you have created a gap. What do you perceive?  More space and more time will be there.
 
The key is to direct yourself in such a way as to interrupt your habitual response to an activity.  It can be fun to play with this and see how long you can elegantly slide your attention and awareness in between things, mostly unnoticed to other people yet so effective in your experience and the outcome of your actions.

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Mind the Gap, Part III:

How to Discover a Gap

Identifying gaps between thoughts or actions will help expand your awareness.  Let’s start with investigating gaps that are right in front of you and easy to find.  We can talk about gaps in both time and spatial realms.

Consciously recognizing these gaps that may or may not be familiar to us will give insight into our habits and actions that have so far been unconscious and automatic.  We often leap from moment to moment, thought to thought, action to action, here to there, on automatic pilot without registering that we can actually get between these activities and experience them more fully.

Find a spatial gap by noticing the distance between these two points:

  • Your body and an object that is relatively close to you like the door to the room you are in.

  • Your hand and shoulder.

  • Your eyes and the computer screen.

Find a time gap and notice the time it takes to:

  • Move your hand from your mouse or trackpad to the keyboard.  

  • To step from one foot to the next.

  • To find your phone when an alarm goes off.

Find a thought gap and notice the “space” or “time” between your thoughts.

  • Become aware of the moment you decide to get out of a chair and the moment your body starts to move.

  • The recognition that you are hungry and the thought of what you might like to eat.

  • The moment you register what someone says to you and the start of your response.

By beginning with these larger relatively easily identifiable gaps, you can practice regulating your attention and learn to expand your field of awareness in increments that are manageable and comfortable for you.

A next step in expanding your awareness is to pick out a moment about halfway between one point of awareness and the next familiar point of awareness.  You don’t have to be totally precise with the timing as the intention is to discover that there IS time between the moments you have previously been aware of.

Let’s look at this in walking.

Noticing these moments.

  1. Right foot touches the ground

  2. Left foot touches the ground

 

Then:

Right foot touches the ground - notice

Halfway to the Left foot touching the ground - notice

Left foot touches the ground - notice
 

Then divide that time and space in half again and notice those moments

 


Any action or thought can be divided like this so you can expand your attention and awareness. And you can find gaps and insert your awareness with all of your senses.

You can also notice gaps in time at a micro level like:

  • The time it takes between touching your keyboard and the time the image appears on your screen.

  • The time between someone asking you a question and the time you take to answer.

  • The time between having the thought to get up from your chair to get something and when you actually land on the floor.

You can sense the time and space at the same time:

  • Notice the time it takes you to look from your hand to the screen AND the distance between them.

  • Notice the space between your two friends talking AND the time between the sound of their voices.

In order to notice and experience these moments you have had to keep yourself from jumping ahead into the next known moment.  You have had to INHIBIT (in the F. M. Alexander Technique sense of inhibition) your normal responses in perception to allow for something else to enter your awareness.

It also may feel like you have to slow down your activities to notice these gaps.  That can be useful but it isn’t necessary.  We aren’t actively trying to go in slow motion although it may be interesting to try for a short while.  We are encouraging the building of awareness and perception of what we are doing from moment to moment.

At first it is useful to simply notice and acknowledge that there have been things occurring that have so far been out of your field of attention.  These moments have been occurring all the time but have simply been out of your conscious awareness until now.

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Balance Arts Center by Ann Rodiger - 10M ago

Minding the gap can apply to our sense of space, the distance between things. There is a continuum of space through your internal body that extends past your body boundaries into the immediate space around you and even further beyond into your environment.

Space can be perceived and felt. For instance you can sense the gap, or the space, inside and across your body from shoulder to shoulder. You can also sense the spatial gap between the top of your head and the bottom of your feet. As you experience space in this way, you sense that you take up space and have volume—length, width and depth.   

Although your skin creates a container for your body it can be useful to think of the skin as permeable—perhaps, a soft boundary between yourself and the environment. When you allow yourself to “be in your own skin” in this more fluid way, you may notice that there is not as much separation between you and your environment as you may have initially thought.

Allow yourself to experiment with sensing the space inside your skin. Then sense what it is like to focus on the space just outside your skin.   Now let your focus expand to take in both of these spaces at once. 

How far outside your body boundaries can you experience yourself while also sensing your inner space?

By focusing on the space and gaps between things you will discover and experience a three-dimensional, multi-sensory field. This increased awareness will allow you to perceive space differently – you may experience a gap – or an expanded perspective. 

This new perspective on the world and perception of space creates an expanded/an increased field of awareness. As you are able to inhabit this field, you will notice that it presents new opportunities for relating to your environment.  You will notice there seems to be more time to take in and respond to stimulus from the environment.  You will find you have more time to absorb incoming information and more time to choose your outgoing response.

Even as you immerse yourself in this larger field of awareness, you will notice that you will still be able to focus in detail on your task at hand. For example, you can see an object locally AND experience the larger field at the same time.  You will discover how an open and expanded field of awareness allows for more choices and creates a sense of possibility. 

An expanded field of awareness also allows for an attitude of ease and openness in your whole mind-body. Watch how your experience of the space-time continuum changes!

Here are three exercises to explore the space in, through, and around your body.

I. Start by discovering the gap, a sense of space, within your body boundaries:

·       Notice the distance between your ears.

·       Sense your width from shoulder to shoulder.

·       Notice your length between the top of your head and your sit bones.

·       Sense the distance between your sternum and your spine.

·       Explore the 3-dimensionality of your rib cage.

·       Experience the distance between your hips and feet.

·       Sense the entirety of your length between your head and your feet.

II. Now notice the gap between your body and your environment:

·       Sense the distance from top of your head to the ceiling of the room you are in or to

        the sky above you.

·       Notice the space between your hands and the nearest objects in your environment.

·       Notice the distance from your eyes to the screen or paper you are now reading.

·       Sense the space between your feet and the floor (might not be much of a gap).

·      Notice the distance between your back and the closest object behind you.

III. Now sense the space as it passes through your body and into the environment:

·       Sense the distance from the ground through your body out the top of your head to

        the ceiling above you.

·       Notice the space from the wall in front of you through your body to the wall behind

        you.

·       Sense the distance from the wall to your right through your body to the wall to your

        left.

·       Sense the distance from your screen or page through your eyes to the back of your

        head.

As you practice sensing the space in, around and through you body, you will become aware of new sensations and perceptions. They may be unfamiliar. Make sure you allow yourself to entertain these new experiences with interest and curiosity.  Sometimes we think new sensations are wrong or incorrect.  Let yourself explore each new sensation as it arises without judgment.

Start expanding your sense of the space-time continuum slowly.  Practice a little bit at a time.  If you start to feel “spaced out” and by all the new sensations, slow down even more.  Open up slowly and in small increments so you get used to the larger view. You are learning to “space in!”

 Mind the Gap,Part III coming soon!

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Balance Arts Center by Ann Rodiger - 10M ago

Minding the gap between a thought and the resultant action is one of the skills we learn through the Alexander Technique.  When we practice inhibition in the AT sense, we adjust our mental process by inserting our awareness between our thoughts and actions.  This expands our self-awareness as well as our awareness of our environment. In the beginning, we may need to slow down in time in order to register these changes.

As our awareness grows, our mental and sensory perceptions affect both time and space. Taking ourselves out of automatic pilot mode and into the open field of possibility requires increasing our awareness to perceive moments that have so far been unknown.  Learning to expand our field of awareness can be a satisfying activity and can lead to greater mental and physical ease.  Opening our awareness loosens the grip on how we perceive reality and gives us more choice as to how we respond to different situations.

In this entry we will focus on the thought process involved in minding the gap. Experiment with these instructions. First, notice that you can register an individual thought. Then, notice that you can also observe the time/space between that thought and the next one that follows. This perception can occur as part of mental conversations you are having with yourself and conversations you have with others. It also occurs with thoughts that lead into actual actions. 

Warning: all thoughts you have, whether or not they necessitate a movement through space, will have a physical effect you can perceive.

It takes practice and vigilance to develop expanded awareness. From here, it's possible to cultivate a process F. M. Alexander calls “inhibition”. Awareness is necessary to effect change of any sort. We have to observe our response to stimuli, whether internal or external.  Stimuli can come from any or all of our senses.

Noticing the gap between one thought and the next is the first step in a process that allows for a continuous flow of responses to stimulus. It is a process that helps us move past our current habits (what F. M. Alexander calls our current ”constant in living”) to learn and embody an easier, thoughtful and more fluid ability to respond to the world.

This more optimal use of ourselves leads to physical, mental and emotional freedom from our ingrained habits of stimulus/response that basically run our lives.

It is not necessary to go into slow motion to discover the space between our thoughts and our thoughts and actions. However, it can be helpful to slow down at times to give ourselves the opportunity to find out what is occurring.  The Alexander Technique is sometimes confused with moving in slow motion.  That is not at all the intention of the training.  It does take conscious time and focus to learn how to insert our awareness into our activities. However, new thoughts and expanded awareness can happen very quickly.

Here is an activity to experiment with. Take a look at the sequence below. Find the gap between your thoughts in this non-emotionally charged process of asking yourself if you would like a glass of water or a cup of coffee.  What happens between your thoughts, where do you go?

Example:

1. Thought/Stimulus:  Seeing a glass or water or cup of coffee in front of you

Gap

Response:  Registering you could have some if you would like

2. Thought/Stimulus:  Would I like something to drink?

Gap

Response: (Your response)

3. Say your answer was “yes”:

Thought/Stimulus:  Impulse to reach for the glass or cup

Gap

Response:  Begin the movement to pick up the cup

 4. Thought/Stimulus: Making contact with the glass or cup with your hand

Gap

Response: (Your response)

If you couldn’t observe  a gap between your thoughts, slow down until you discover where you go mentally when you think and how the decision was made. Take your time. How did you arrive at your response?

This process applies to every decision we make. We can become more conscious of the moments between our thoughts, and between our thoughts and actions. In order to discover what happens in the gap we have to keep ourselves from jumping to our first immediate choice.  Only then will we be able to notice what is occurring. Once we can tune into these moments, we will be able use them to make new decisions and choices.

More to come!

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Balance Arts Center by Ann Rodiger - 10M ago

Where is Up?

Up is a word we use often in the Alexander Technique: Go up, think up, up off your leg, up and out, up and over and just plain up, up, up!

In talking to people about where up is, it has become clear that we sometimes perceive things very differently. It might seem obvious to say up is toward the sky or up is out the top of your head. These are the same thoughts when you are sitting or standing, but what about when you are lying on your back or tilted forward to do a task?

Do an experiment: lie down on your back and look at the ceiling or the sky. Then take your arms up. Where do they go? Do they go:

1) toward the sky away from the center of the earth, or

2) above your head parallel to gravity toward the wall or space?

There is no right answer.

It is, however, interesting to see what each of us uses as a reference point to define parameters like up or down. Once you understand this, it will help you to be clearer when giving and receiving directions. It is fascinating to realize we don’t all perceive things the same way.

If you are on your back and take your hands up toward the sky, you are using what might be called the Standard Cross of Axis, where up is always toward the sky and down is always toward gravity.

 If you are on your back and you take your arm parallel to gravity in a line that is a continuation of the direction of your spine then you are using the Body Cross of Axis as your reference.

These directions are all taken from the shoulder joint. See what this looks like if you are doing a handstand.

In terms of the Standard Cross of Axis, your arms are down. Whereas, if you use the Body Cross of Axis, your arms would be up.

As you get in and out of the chair though out the day, think of your head leading your body “up” from the end of your spine. As you tilt and come forward, the top of your head probably won’t always be facing and oriented toward the sky.

Play around with this and see what you discover.

It has become clear that we are not all thinking of up as the same thing for many reasons. That is part of what makes teaching the Alexander Technique so interesting. As we understand what we think and how we think, we begin to clarify our thinking. As we change the way we think, our relationship to ourselves and to the environment also changes.

Where is up?

We perceive and embody our understanding of “up” in different ways. Being mindful of this difference can make it much easier to communications with others.

Closing the Gap

We are closing the gap between our different ways of defining things and also closing the gap between what we think is happening and what is actually happening around us.


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Ann Rodiger talks about Acting and The Alexander Technique - Vimeo

Click on video above to watch Ann Rodiger give an introduction to the Acting and Alexander Technique website, Freedom to Act Conference and classes.
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Balance Arts Center by Ann Rodiger - 10M ago
5 things to learn from the Oral Seal

In the chapter on breathing in Walter Carrington's book "Thinking Aloud" he writes about the oral seal and indicates there is a lot to learn from the oral seal.  
   
The oral seal is when you close off the oral cavity from the nasopharnyx. To make the seal touch the tip of your tongue against the back of your lower teeth. There should be no pressure against the teeth and jaw. Then let the back of your tongue come up to gently touch your soft palate (behind your back molars). Keep the tongue wide and soft as it contacts the soft palate. Allow the larynx to hang from that contact point. You will then be breathing in and out of your nose.  It may feel at first as if you are “doing” something to keep the oral seal in place. This is most likely because you have been pulling your tongue down habitually. Play with this and see what happens. I think the natural and optimal tongue place is when the tongue is quite high and wide in the back.
 
The oral seal:

  •  Identifies and sensitizes the inner landscape of the head, neck, tongue and jaw. This is an area many of us haven’t considered that we can actually sense and direct.
  • Takes pressure off the top of the spine so you can find a higher and more accurate sense of the atlanto-occipital joint where the head and spine meet. Check to see that you are not pushing your tongue down to make the oral seal.  The back of the tongue goes up and back from the tip of the tongue reinforcing the up and back of the whole body.
  • Identifies the length of your air column/tube.  With the oral seal the column comes up to the back of your nose along your spine.
  • Helps you notice if you are sucking or pulling the air in and out when you inhale and exhale.  Leave your tongue alone as much as possible.
  • Contributes to the “up the front” direction of your body.  As you release up into the oral seal there is a sense of coming up the front of the body which balances the lengthening and widening of the back. 
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Balance Arts Center by Ann Rodiger - 10M ago

We had an excellent Freedom to Move conference last month. Enjoy this Dart Procedure demonstration by Alex Murray.  

Dart Procedure Demonstration - YouTube
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Balance Arts Center by Ann Rodiger - 10M ago

I started using the word throughness in my teaching several years ago. I didn’t know if it was a real word or not, but it was the best word I could come up with to describe what I experience and what I observe happens when we are free and directed. There is a sense of openness and of the flow that goes through the body without resistance from gravity to the sky, from the sky to the pull of gravity, from body part to body part, and so on.

I finally looked throughness up in Google and found that it is actually a real word used in horseback riding. It is where the rider senses the ground through the horse. Wikipedia defines it as follows:

“In equestrianism, throughness is an absence of resistance in the horse to the rider's commands.”

Click on this Wikipedia link to see how the lines of flow and energy go from the rider into the ground and back up again through the horse.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Throughness

It is interesting that Alexander was such a horse person and was probably on a horse the day after he was born. He must have been aware of sensing through the horse, and I’m projecting a little bit, but I think he must have naturally sensed the same throughness in people when he started to put his hands on them during his teaching.

Finding the state of least resistance, the appropriate amount of force and pressure, easiness and an uninterrupted flow of energy, are elements we look for in our movement and activities. This applies to our thinking, internal movements and actions as they relate to our environment. Remember the lack of resistance doesn’t mean to collapse or become limp like a noodle. We need to have the appropriate amount of tone to accomplish our activities. The issue is that most of us use too much force and pressure pursing a direction that isn’t helpful. Thus, we miss the feeling of throughness which allows for amazing freedom of movement, flow, and direction.

The concept of “release into the direction” could also be “release into the throughness.”

As you move through your day, discover your throughness by thinking of your body as a whole and allowing for less resistance. This is undoing and non-doing. The directions will support you. 

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