Mutual Regard

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Walking along the north perimeter lane, I stop at the sight of a warbler pair, nestled side-by-side on a low-lying tree branch. We regard each other in the quiet, a light breeze between us.

The warblers are well-versed in physical distancing, and we could learn a thing or two from them. Appearing comfortable and at ease, they are also vigilant to my presence, and when I do finally step forward, they twitter lightly, lifting off their perch.

They received me. I had been seen; regarded. This moment brought to mind a long-ago Alexander Technique lesson Mike had with Barbara. He was deeply moved by her presence, and the way in which she received him with respect and calm attention, just as the warblers did with me along the fencerow last week.

Thank you, wee warblers. Thank you, Barbara.

 

 

 

Time

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Time does a number on the body, that’s for sure. Just yesterday, stretching before a workout, the sun shining through the window and onto my forearms, I ask myself, ‘Whose arm is that?’ The skin folded in finely wrinkled lines which I associate with the elder women of my extended family, now long gone. But these were my arms, not Great-Great-Aunt Margaret’s. A sobering realization.

And so I take consolation in Emilie Da’oud’s thoughts on the word, ‘supple:

If an adult body becomes truly supple, there’s a quality to its movement that the child’s doesn’t have, a texture of experience, a fourth dimension of time. When we watch a seventy-year-old hand move, we feel, ‘Yes, that hand has lived.’ All the bodies it has touched, all the heads it has cradled are present in its movement. It is resonant with experience; the fingers curve with a sense of having been there.’

For those of us who are ‘of a certain age,’ may we happily reside in our aging bodies, which are ‘resonant with experience,’ wrinkles and all.

 

 

Supple

Can you coax your mind from its wandering

and keep to the original oneness?

Can you let your body become

supple as a newborn child’s?

Can you deal with the most vital matters

by letting events take their course?

Three questions found in Stephen Mitchell’s 1988 Tao Te Ching, which I tossed into the travel tote for a day trip to the hill. His translation notes included a quote from somatics educator, Emilie Conrad-Da’oud:

There is no self-consciousness in the newborn child. Later on, the mind wanders into self-images, starts to think Should I do this? Is this movement right? and loses the immediacy of the moment. As self-consciousness develops, the muscles become less supple, less like the world. But the young child is pure fluidity. Suppleness is really fluidity. It transcends strength and weakness. When your body is supple, it feels like there’s no barrier in you, you can flow in any direction, your movement is a complete expression of yourself.’

Limber, lithe, pliant, yielding. Wishing for all of us thoughtful questions to ask, with suppleness of mind and body to seek the answers. Be safe. Be well. Wear your masks—-

 

Zoom

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It’s easier being in each other’s presence, or in each other’s absence, than in the constant presence of each other’s absence.’

Gianpiero Petriglieri’s* tweet precisely encapsulates my experience teaching on-line Alexander Technique. Prior to the pandemic, the students and I met in a spacious dance studio, cultivating presence with small group engagement, conversation, and movement explorations.

Then, boom. Zoom-Time. Hands-on guidance was replaced with the tap, tap, tapping of fingerpads on the keyboard, and the clicking computer mouse. Students relied solely on their thinking and individual experimentation to improve Use of the Self. I can happily report, they quickly qualified as advanced practitioners of the Technique, ‘advanced’ being defined as able to apply the principles of Inhibition and Direction.

Online learning. Ideal? No. Our delicate and carefully crafted web of connections required proximity, and that we did not have in a Zoom Room. We were at a distance too great. The two-dimensional world of Zoom meant being ‘in the constant absence of each other’s presence,‘ a fatiguing endeavor. Possible? Yes, thanks to a splendid group, and to the initial in-person classes.

To my students, a big ‘thank you’ for your generosity of spirit, willingness to show up on-line and explore what was possible, your faithfulness in maintaining the weekly written assignments, and your sacrifices for the Greater Good, as you Sheltered-in-Place, upending so much—research projects, finances, jobs, and more. I am wishing you well.

*author, speaker, professor at INSEAD (Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires)

 

More Than

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However alluring the thought of warmth, there is no substitute for standing in the rain to waken every sense—senses that are muted within four walls, where my attention would be on me instead of all that is more than me.’*

May I give my attention, this day, rain or shine, to ‘all that is more than me.’

*Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Milkweed Editions, 2013, p. 295.

 

Grace

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‘…the grace of her gathered self…’, a phrase from Jeannette Haien’s novel, The All of It, jumped off the page. I had pulled the book from my office shelves for a re-read, having no public library supply, its doors now closed.

‘…..the grace of her gathered self…  became a mantra, as I observed Ohio’s Stay-at-Home Orders, launched online teaching, adapted to empty grocery store shelves, read daily alarming headlines, checked in with friends and family, and practiced vigilance with household cleaning routines.

‘...the grace of her gathered self…’ Gathered? Nope. Scattered has been more like it. And yet, as we know in Alexander Technique Land, mind and body co-exist. One affects the other, always. And so, the mere recollection of this phrase, over the course of several days, allowed me to entertain the possibility of possessing a ‘gathered self.’

‘…the grace of her gathered self…’  Moments of grace did arrive. A daily Constructive Rest practice helps. Spring’s arrival helps. And when my Self is gathered, collected, when my scattered thoughts quiet, ‘grace‘ is the gift.

I am wishing for you, for all of us, ‘the grace of our gathered selves‘ as we negotiate the days and weeks and months ahead—-

Fraught

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fraught  (frôt),  adj.   1. involving; full of; accompanied by (usually fol. by with); an undertaking fraught with danger.  2. Archaic. filled or laden (with): ships fraught with precious wares.   n. 3. Scot. a load, cargo, freight (of a ship). (The Random House Dictionary of the English Language)

An OSU Alexander Technique student wrote in his weekly essay, ‘Although I awake gritting my teeth some mornings, I try to find rest and inhibit my fraught.’  Both an adjective and a noun,  ‘fraught‘ conveys much of its meaning simply by sound—-the fricative ‘f,’ the sigh of the ‘ô’ and the percussive ‘t.’ It’s a tone poem, a miniature musical composition, all in one-syllable.

And evocative of life at present. The ships of our lives are indeed fraught, loaded down with the cargo of disruption, anxieties, loss, illness. However we can lighten the load, even just a bit, will give us a ship that travels more readily and lightly through uncharted waters.

Thank you, Max, for the gift of this word at just the right moment. And a big thanks to every student whose life has been turned upside down with the closing of schools and universities. Your individual sacrifices for the greater good have not gone unnoticed. I, for one, am grateful. As Dr. Amy Acton said in Ohio’s daily COVID-19 news conference, our efforts to stay at home and observe physical distancing are making a difference.

 

Called Away

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Pecans. Koinonia Farm’s primary crop.

Here we are, all together as we sing our song, joyfully. Here we are, all together as we hope we’ll always be.’

The summer we were married (1981!), Mike and I lived on South Georgia’s Koinonia Farm, working as interns. Each and every community lunch began with the singing of ‘Here We Are.’ It has been an ear worm these past many days. Confined to home and hearth, I practice being present to Mike, to my students now online, listening for spring bird song, appreciating the breeze on my face.

But the lure of my devices! The world wide web calls my name, and I answer. Stay informed? Yes. Repeatedly watch the video of the New York hospital hallways? No. And this is where the Alexander Technique practice of Inhibition comes in. Pause. Stop. And when ‘called away’* by yet another news feed, another heart-rending headline, make a choice.

Here we are. All together.

(*today’s posting inspired by a phrase from Lynn Levin’s poem, ‘Song of My Cell Phone,’ ‘Called away. I am always called away…’)

 

Rowing

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Looking for an inspiring read? Here’s my pick: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  Meticulously researched, but reading like a suspense novel, Daniel James Brown weaves a gripping tale of the working-class boys from Washington State who made history at the 1936 Olympics.

Here’s a timely excerpt: George Yeoman Pocock, builder of boats, giving advice to one of ‘the boys’:

‘He told Joe that there were times when Joe seemed to think he was the only fellow in the boat, as if it was up to him to row the boat across the finish line all by himself. When a man rowed like that, he said, he was bound to attack the water rather than to work with it, and worse, he was bound not to let his crew help him row.’

Fellow boatmates, we can row these choppy waters. Together.

*Local Prologue Bookshop owner, Dan Brewster, welcomes online orders. Two books and a jigsaw puzzle arrived a few days ago, along with a cheering note from his staff. If Brown’s book is not in stock, I’m sure Dan can get it ordered for you.

Checking In

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OSU online classes begin next Monday. Over the weekend, I greatly appreciated colleagues Mio Morales and Jennifer Roig-Francoli, who hosted webinars for those of us who are new to online instruction. With 96 in attendance, an international gathering of Alexander Technique teachers, it was a heart-warming time to provide each other support, mostly by simply being present to one another.

How is your life changing? Write and let me know.

Be safe. Be well——I’ll close with a few words sent to my students last week: ‘I am holding you in my AT-teacher-hands, with gentle guidance at the meeting of head and spine. Give yourself a moment for returning to ease and freedom.’

(a Lake Cowan lotus, photographed from my kayak)