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A Simple Way to Uplift Your Mood with Alexander Technique

So often, we are down and don't even know it.  But what to do when we're down and know it?

The heart of the difficulty lies in the will, since the part that is down doesn't even want to be up; after all, its very identity is wrapped up in being the 'down-ness' that it is.  Why would the down want to be other than what it is?

So when you notice the 'down-ness', just let it be what it is.  Let the 'down-ness' be down.
After all, it is (you are) free to be down!

You are also free to think.
You can think: "I am free to be down," because, "I am free."
And you can feel it, live it, embody the 'down-ness', and bring it to life.

The wonderful thing is:  as soon as you notice that part of you is aiming down, the not-down part of you (which is the greater, higher, conscious part of you doing the noticing) is already raising it up, just by raising your awareness of it.  Simply bringing it up to your attention begins the transformation; as soon as you add this 'up'-ness to it, the 'down-ness' will be less down.

***KEY:  Can you become curious about whether the down can be transformed into up?***

You can influence your mood/state by literally lifting up your thoughts about the physical body.  Here is one easy way:

  • The visual system lies on a horizontal plane inside of the head:  light enters the eyes and travels through nerves to the visual cortex, a part of the brain in the back of the head.  Usually we have this horizontal plane mapped (we imagine it to be) lower in the head than it really is.  Can you imagine that this horizontal visual plane is being lifted higher in your head, up to where it belongs?
  • What we see at eye level and below is only HALF of the picture.  Can you become aware of all the space above eye level, too?


Using our awareness of the visual system to bring us 'up' out of 'down-ness' can be very effective.
We just need to open up our minds and try it!

By paying attention to your visual system with these simple cues, you CAN...
...have a higher vision for your life!
...set your sights higher!
...see the big picture!
...begin to uplift your vision and your whole self to a higher purpose!

You may not feel like you're down at the moment, but you can still benefit from increased 'up-ness' by trying out these directions.  Let me know what happens, if you do!


*photo of depressed woman by tokyoboy, Image courtesy of [image creator name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
*photo of happy girl, Image courtesy of [image creator name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 

Preparing for My Concert Tomorrow, with Alexander Technique

I have a concert tomorrow.

Habitual reactions to this idea have been surfacing over the last week, and more strongly today.
I mentioned this to a friend this morning, who, after encouraging me, promptly asked me, "Well, what is it that you really want from this performance?"

That question stopped me in my tracks (deep and perilous ruts of habitual thinking, actually).

What an excellent question!  What is it that I actually want?

It's funny how our own deeply-ingrained habits of a lifetime can hide our own truth from us so well!

I know very well what I want in life, but my habitual ego-reactions relating to my performance were causing me to lose sight of the fact that what I want in life is to be sought and found in every single moment - in fact, ONLY in the Present Moment, the NOW - and that includes whatever activity I am engaged in, including my performance tomorrow!

In my life, I want:
Peace
Joy
Love
Goodness
Wonderment
Mystery
Beauty
Inspiration

So, of course this is also what I want during my performance!

We performers know all about practicing and preparation.  If the above are my goals for my performance, as a subset of life, so to speak, then the best way to practice and prepare for my performance is to live these things NOW.

And when I stop to find the Now, I find that there is nothing else other than those things I listed.  In paying attention, I find everything is Here.  I have it All.

Smiling, I am conquering fear, because fear is an illusion - it ceases to exist when I slip into the infinitude of the Now.

This is inhibition.
This is direction.

The Presence of the Now is primarily in control, not my ego.
How absolutely wonderful.

I look forward to the Now of tomorrow, during my performance.  I wonder......!
 

My Experience Dealing with a Deficient Memory

Alexander Technique is about being exposed to a stimulus
becoming aware of our reaction or non-reaction, 
stopping whatever we are doing which is unnecessary and unhelpful, 
and directing ourselves into the next moment with conscious choice.


These days, I am noticing a familiar pattern in myself, and I'm going to write about ways I deal with it.  The topic is my memory - or lack thereof!

I don't have a "terrible" memory; I also don't have a "great" memory.  Of course, I have a memory - there is a lot I remember!  I always did well in school, remembering what was necessary for the tests; and I was able to remember long pieces of music without any problem.  My IQ is not low. But there is so much that I don't remember, too, and I constantly find myself in situations where I am expected to remember things but cannot.  This is a recurrent stimulus to me, which I must inhibit my reaction to, and direct myself well in response.

Here are a couple of examples of stimuli which have tempted me to react recently:

- I am an accomplished violinist, and I will be performing a violin/harpsichord recital in two weeks.  When I was asked a few days ago what is on the program, I could not recall more than two of the pieces on the spot.  Slowly, over the next few minutes, I remembered what I'd been practicing every day for some time, but it took much much longer than normal.  In fact, "normal" would be to be able to rattle off immediately all the details about the program.  Not remembering the pieces I will be performing is definitely not "normal"!

- A colleague recently shared all sorts of interesting information with me, a slew of facts on topics that I am actually interested in, and which I enjoyed hearing about immensely, but I knew that I would not be able to retain most (or any?) of what was said. If I had been tested on the material ten minutes later, I would surely have failed the test.  My goal while listening to people has often become simply to remember ONE fact from the conversation, and even that one often slips away.

How do I react to the idea that there may be something "wrong" with my brain?  
I smile to myself.  Truly.  Because I know it's not true.
Then, I inhibit the thoughts that tempt me to think things such as:

"I have such a terrible memory!  This is so embarrassing!  They must think I'm incredibly stupid.  I should be able to remember this.  I want to remember this.  But I can't!  How can I call myself a real musician if I know almost nothing about what I'm doing?  I'm a real fake, a real imposter.  I have no business calling myself an early music specialist, because I hardly know anything about it.  I'm a failure.  People must think there is something wrong with me, or that I don't care.  What is wrong with me?  I can't remember anything!  I've heard this a million times, and I still don't remember it!"  etc., etc.

But I know that my brain is just fine - it just works differently from most people's, and it always has.  This is not new.  I've never placed much importance on whether I can remember facts or details.  Something in me recognizes that these things are ephemeral and secondary.  Memory is nice, but living in the present is so much more important for me - and there are SO many wonderful things to pay attention to in this present moment!

I suspect that my purpose in speaking with and relating to others may actually be somewhat different from most people's.  It's not about accumulating or displaying information, or about learning facts and details about them or their lives; it's about connecting, sharing, and loving Being with another, in the same space and time.  Words are somehow superfluous, even though they can be very useful.

My purpose for performing is perhaps different from most people's, as well.  It's no longer primarily about conveying the composer's intent or replicating something that happened hundreds of years ago, true to history, keeping the past alive.  These are noble purposes - they're just not mine anymore.  To me, performing is above all about connecting, sharing, and loving Being with others, in the same space and time.  The forms change, but the purpose remains the same, and this is what I focus on, more than anything else.

When I speak with someone, I find myself paying much more attention to their face, their expression, their tone of voice, their body language, their emotions, their soul, their intentions, the meaning of the meeting...and of course, my own body-awareness and feelings/emotions and thoughts, etc., too...  What's going on under the surface in people is just TOO interesting for me to pay more attention to the surface!  My interest in people trumps my interest in the words and information that they are conveying.  I LOVE people!  I truly love and want to connect with everyone I am speaking with.  People talking to me might think that I am uninterested or that I don't care, because I keep forgetting their name or the last time I saw them or what instrument they play or whether they have children or where they're from, etc., but this just isn't true; I care so much more about their BEING, and about the moment of connecting, than about the details, what they are saying or thinking or doing....  I am just fascinated in the moment.  And then I move on to the next moment, and forget about the details....

I am playing a recital in a couple weeks, but I am so much more interested in the experience of the moment -- whether practicing or performing, the experience of making sound and connecting with myself and the audience -- than in the facts surrounding what I am playing.  If I cared about the details more, I would research the composers, I would remember their names, I would remember their dates and details about their lives, I would remember the difference between a Gavotte and a Bourree (another stimulus to potential embarrassment last week, when I exposed my flagrant forgetfulness), I would know about the politics and culture of the time, I would understand which ornaments and embellishments to use where and what is appropriate to a given piece and country and what is not, I would study and research the treatises of the time, I would learn more and more and more....and on and on and on........

But we focus on, develop, and remember what is most important to us.  And our brains grow and change according to how we use them.  I think I was born with less interest in details, so I never cared much about growing my brain in that direction; therefore, the skills of memory, which I could have worked on and improved over many years, have not improved.  But I don't really care, because I know that my capacity for awareness and love has increased greatly.  Being, and present experience, are most important to me, so I remember That, and direct myself into That.  The rest is secondary to me, and largely unnecessary.  I manage just fine in my life with a very deficient memory, thankfully.  I certainly appreciate whatever I can remember, but I let go of the rest.

I'm grateful that there are people who can see through my apparent lack of interest or intelligence, beyond my forgetfulness.  Even though I forget most things, even if the facts and details of the mind pass through me sometimes as if I were made of air, these people know that I care very deeply about their essential Being, and true intelligence is hidden in the heart.  This, to me, is my purpose in life, so I will continue to live this way, inhibiting my ego's reactions to my forgetfulness, and I will continue to direct myself further into Love and Being.

...And there's an added bonus:  I get lots of opportunities to practice honesty and humility, as I inhibit and admit again and again that "I don't remember" and "I don't know"!
 

5 Minutes to Conscious Control of Your Thinking, with Alexander Technique

Does it sometimes seem like your thinking goes around and around in circles and gets in the way of everything, keeping you from getting anything done? 



It’s really helpful in life to be able to think about WHAT you WANT to think about, WHEN you want to think about it. That can be very challenging sometimes, especially when you're feeling overwhelmed by many different things and are under stress.  So it's important to realize that this is a skill which requires PRACTICE! 

What if for 5 minutes every day, you actually CHOOSE what you’re going to think about? 





Here's one way to practice:

  • Set aside just 5 minutes, and make this "conscious-choice-in-thinking" time, or whatever you want to call it! Set a timer. This is a practice session. Very important:  DO NOT let yourself go longer than five minutes. When the five minutes are over, you can then CHOOSE AGAIN to do 5 more minutes, or to stop and go do something else, or to think about something else for another 5 minutes.  Or, you might choose a different length of time for your next session. 
  • Lie down on your back on the floor with your knees bent up to the ceiling, feet on the floor, head on a book or two (see link for more information on Constructive Rest Position, or Semi-Supine)





  • Then, take a moment to inhibit and think your Alexander Technique directions, if you know how to do this (if not, just rest without doing anything for a few moments; or, consider finding an Alexander Teacher to show you how to practice constructive rest - you will NOT regret this, as an expert's help with this is wonderfully insightful!).  
  • Now, CHOOSE what you want to think about as your activity for the next five minutes while you're lying down.  Are you going to think about work? food? relationships? travel? depressing thoughts? positive thoughts?  Anything is fair game for the next five minutes, but choose just ONE topic. 


You are training your brain to be selective in its thinking, to concentrate, to focus, to be under your conscious control...and that’s something we all need in life.  This is a SKILL that you absolutely must have to be successful at anything. You have to be able to focus your mind to get what you want! And you will never even know what you really want if you don’t have the skill of focusing your mind! 


A hidden bonus to this exercise is to gain the skill of STOPPING yourself from thinking about a certain topic.  This skill is at least as important as being able to stick to one topic.  You must be able to choose to stop thinking when it's time to move onto something else.  That's why setting the timer for 5 minutes and training yourself to stop is an integral part of this exercise!


Make a commitment to doing this every day for just 5 minutes. Try it every day for a week, or longer, and see what happens.  It really will work, if you make the commitment and PRACTICE. Even if you can’t do it for more than 30 seconds at first, PRACTICE this every day and it WILL get easier over time. 



*spiraling Image courtesy of Rawich / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
* semi-supine photo courtesy of Imogen Ragone, http://www.imogenragone.net/stress-reliever-the-alexander-technique-practice-of-lying-down/
 

Positive Resistance to Stress, with Alexander Technique

I have been experiencing a great deal of stress lately, due to certain circumstances in my life, and that leads to a sense of internal pressure to deal with all of it somehow.  I find it interesting to take a moment and observe this phenomenon in myself and how it plays out.

The Old Habitual Way: 

stressful situations lead to:

  • sense of pressure from outside, "a burden/weight on my shoulders", etc.
  • habitual reactions made up of a combination of fight/flight/freeze responses in mind and body
  • which leads to heightened anxiety and other unpleasant feelings and emotions,such as annoyance, irritation, anger, frustration, sadness, sense of hopelessness/helplessness, etc.
  • negative thinking
  • strong desire to do something to get rid of these unpleasant feelings
  • addictive behavior often follows, such as sugar-consumption to make myself feel better in the short term but makes me feel worse soon after
  • more unpleasant feelings: back pain, brain fog, repetitive thinking, etc...
  • vicious, destructive cycle


The New, Conscious Way: 

When I remember to STOP for a moment, so that I can think and apply my AT skills, I am more empowered to change how I react to stressful situations, which I often cannot change directly (for instance, sometimes the stressful situation has to do with another person's actions, or even the weather), and I have a chance to break the cycle and transform it into something positive.

stressful situations lead to:

  • some, but less, of the old reactivity (or if I'm really mindful, I can skip this unpleasant part altogether!)
  • recognizing that outside pressures come with an inward direction (it feels like things are pushing in towards me, trying to compress me and make me shrink)
  • instead of fighting that inward force, I can notice and allow it, accept and go along with it
  • this brings me inward to my heart - the seat of ego, as well as the seat of Consciousness; I realize that I can choose Consciousness, and be grateful that I have been brought back to my heart, getting in touch with my true Self again
  • once I'm centered again, I see that I have a choice:  I can continue focusing on this inward direction, and/or I can re-balance myself by remembering that the inward can also shine outward
  • choosing to shine out from my center, I can aim my whole self into expansion, aiming up-down, left-right, forward-back, etc. - but without losing awareness of my heart-center; ideally, I will continue to remember that inwardness and outwardness are equally necessary, and I will allow for both directions to support me as I continue on into my daily activity
  • this gives me a great deal of confidence as I face outward pressures with a positive resistance
  • aiming in-out brings me back to the awareness of my inner strength and helps me apply it constructively in relation to the challenges that await my response on the outside


This works SO well; I wish I could remember it every time I'm faced with stress in my life!

p.s. It can be hard to know how to aim yourself (body and mind) in space; this is what an Alexander Technique teacher is trained to help you  do.  Taking some lessons to learn these great skills is REALLY worth it!



 
 
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