What’s It?*

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What’s it going to be? A report on last week’s Alexander Technique workshop? (It was wonderful to be with colleagues from around the world. Thank you, Bob Lada, Debi Adams, and Tommy Thompson, organizers/presenters of, In the Company of Support.) Dismay at fellow citizens ignoring the pandemic? Missing summer vacation(s)? Preparing OSU course?

Questions. They are featured in the semester’s first presentation. What do I say about the question mark? ‘We will cultivate a spirit of inquiry, in the fine tradition of Frederick Mathias Alexander.‘ I add that it’s not so much about finding the ‘right’ answer or the ‘perfect’ posture, and more about exploration and discovery.

Well. I sure have lots of questions going into fall semester. Will the students be challenged by online delivery of the course material? Can we build the community which I consider to be essential for the learning of the Alexander Technique? Will OSU remain free from virus infections and subsequent shut-downs, or will we be confined to online-instruction-only within a couple weeks? (That’s the prediction of several colleagues—)

To all who are anticipating the return to school—-teachers, students, parents, and support staff, I send my best wishes for your safety and for the negotiating of this uncharted territory.

*And with a nod to Mrs. Whatsit, that remarkable creature found in Madeleine L’Engle’s, A Wrinkle in Time. If only we could all fly away on Mrs. Whatsit’s back, as did Charles Wallace, Meg and Calvin.

 

The Space Between

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Dear OSU Students: We have yet to meet. I am preparing a place for us—-a place to be, to learn, to explore the Alexander Technique. And yes, we will do so online, in Flatland. Looking forward to meeting you there soon, Diana McC.

This week, it’s online meetings with Alexander Technique colleagues, as we negotiate the parameters of online teaching/learning.  Asked to gaze softly on the little squares holding colleagues’ faces, my eyes fill with tears. Relieved to be with them figuring this out, compassion for the world in a pandemic, affection. I learned the Technique in community, and a recurring theme of yesterday’s workshop was how to create fellow-feeling, safety and support online, so that our new students, too, can learn in connection to others.

Much of Alexander Technique teacher training is about giving students the space they need, learning not ‘to fix,‘ but ‘to be with‘ and assist in the student’s discovery of  body/mind integration. We spend countless hours learning how to teach with our hands, which for me, was mostly about learning how to be with my students by not imposing my will, my agenda, my Teacher-Self onto them.

How about re-writing My-Story-of-the-Pandemic, suggested by Tommy Thompson in the opening workshop session?  Instead of giving my attention and energy to the confinements of online AT teaching, I might consider the space between us as a gift, an opportunity allowing for self-discovery and change, both for the students and myself.

Yes, the space between—-here is where we begin—-

 

 

Making Do

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To follow-up last week’s post, here’s a quote from Diane Ackerman’s gardening memoir, Cultivating Delight:

As with all creativity, Paula’s art (landscape design), requires spontaneity bound by restrictions.’

Ackerman’s design requests included preserving large swaths of the standard suburban mowed lawn, preferred by her husband. Paula had to ‘make do’ as she sketched and schemed, not able to utilize the full panoply of her talents, but work within the boundaries of a client’s preferences.

My mother did it too, this ‘making do.’ She made a life of it. Her ability to create a lovely, if tiny, home for her family, was often about lack. On my father’s teaching salary, the end of the month usually found us dining on beans and cornbread, no steak to be found.

And my Alexander Technique community ‘made do’ on Sunday afternoon, meeting in a Zoom Room for a Seven Oaks Reunion. Seven Oaks Retreat Center, in Madison County Virginia, is the location for an annual outstanding Alexander Technique Workshop, cancelled this year in response to the pandemic.  Within the parameters, and yes, confinements of a Zoom Room setting, director Jan Baty, and the workshop faculty created a lovely microcosm of a Seven Oaks week.

Making do. We can do this. We are doing this. For the fortunate who have not been ravaged by COVID-19, or suffered as loved ones take ill, we can make do. Hardship? Constraint? Limitation? Yes. Make do. The creative life awaits.

 

 

The Slo-o-o-o-w Start to a New Year

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January 14, 2017. It’s dark out there.  Sleet, a whisper of snow, and a freezing rain advisory for the evening hours.  Dinner guests arrive soon.  Hoping they travel here without mishap. (Postscript:  They did!  And we enjoyed corn-and-cheddar-cheese-potato soup, warm-from-the-oven bread, firelight, a late Christmas gift-exchange AND the annual play date with our combined collection of wind-up toys.)

How do I often begin a new year, arbitrary though January 1 may be?  What else, but with those culturally sanctioned, confounded resolutions.  Here are a few of my former commitments:  weight-loss diet, strength training at the gym, less time on social media, more time walking, earlier rising.

2017?  Zero resolutions. On purpose and loving it.

Instead, I’m listening to the Body/Mind, the Self,* which has been telling me for years that my January is a hibernation month. Yes, there is a teaching studio to run, there are meals to prepare and friends to see but NO add-ons to the basics.

I encourage you to do the same.  Body rhythms align with the seasons, and the best season for new, for fast, for resolutions, is spring or fall in my book.  January is the perfect time of year to cook a pot of beans, bake cornbread, read a good book, write a few lines, and recover from December festivities. Self-improvement can wait.  Speed can wait. I’m choosing slow.

(With thanks to fellow wordpress blogger,  Greer Oharah, who inspired the writing of this slow start post.)

*the Self: “Alexander refrained from using words which imply a separation of body and mind…Instead, he spoke simply of ‘the self’ and its use and functioning.” Pedro De Alcantara, Indirect Procedures: A Musician’s Guide to the Alexander Technique.

 

 

 

Gratitude

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Happy New Year and Thank You to all readers of Poise and Presence: Life With the Alexander Technique.  The blog launched in March 2016 and has seen readership from 41 countries! December brought the most visitors, with 221 of you stopping by—

Here you all are:  (in order of number of blog visitors from each country)

United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Sweden, Taiwan, Greece, Ireland, Italy, France, South Africa, India, Hungary, Finland, Estonia, Puerto Rico, Spain, Austria, Norway, New Zealand, Israel, China, French Polynesia, Switzerland, Serbia, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Denmark, Brazil, Poland, Kenya, Lithuania, Philippines, Slovenia, Thailand, Malta, Turkey, and Romania.

In the new year, Poise and Presence will continue with weekly postings on the interface between daily life and the Alexander Technique.  You are invited to become a follower, which means each week’s posting will be sent to your email address.  I also welcome comments and responses—-