Under Duress


Recovery from Monday’s eye surgery has been slow, thanks to a cold virus exacerbating irritated and swollen eyes, and an allergic reaction to antibiotic ointment. The itch so itchy it’s painful? Here’s what I did to get through the week. Alexander Technique students, you know the Procedures

First, observe habitual response. This week’s responses were a minute-by-minute attempt to get away from unpleasant sensations. Eye drops, dabbing and rubbing of eyes, and a good dose of catastrophic thinking—‘This will never end! I’ll be in misery the rest of my days.’

Having observed responses, Pause. Or Inhibit, if you prefer Mr. Alexander’s terminology. How does one pause when hurting? Watch the discomfort with a dispassionate mind. ‘Oh, yes, there’s a streak of pain along the outer rim of left eye.‘ Noted. Mere observation is often enough to restore a bit of ease and comfort, and so it was for me and my eyes.

Continue with Directions. Having acknowledged that all my attention was with one detail of my physical experience, i.e.–unhappy eyes, I chose a prompt, often ‘Whole body, whole world.‘ With inclusive awareness, I noticed the space around my body, the room in which I was writhing, and the garden beyond, where the stargazer lilies were blooming in profusion.

On several occasions, with this practice, I was able to rest deeply and even to fall asleep. And other times my eyes just itched more, and it was on to the eye drops. Keep in mind, Alexander Technique procedures are not about fixing what’s wrong, but doing what we can to integrate mind with body, in service of greater ease and optimal function.

No need to wait for agony. Perhaps there’s a slight crick in your neck from reading this post. Practice the Procedures!



blue-2759824_640Alexander Technique colleague, David Nesmith,  includes the topic of rest in his Denison University AT class. On behalf of my blog readers, I requested his insights into the practice of sleeping well, and he graciously obliged:

I see going to bed as an activity, just as getting up out of a chair, typing on the computer, and chopping vegetables are all activities. We can use ourselves poorly or well in any of them.’ He went on to list the components of rest preparation: kinesthetic awakeness, monitoring primary control, directing varied movements, cooperating with the lengthening and gathering of the spine, and facilitating free exhalations. In combination, these practices, in his words, ‘yield deep rest.‘ He concludes with, ‘It is this deep rest that allows sleep to arrive much more easily.’ His Constructive Rest Sleep Constellations is available on iTunes, and can be found by title or by searching SmartPoise.  Also, check out David’s website.

In the meantime, finding yourself in the day-to-night transition, wiggle your toes. Note where your body is in contact with the bed surface. Give yourself a few prompts:  ‘head resting lightly on pillow,’ ‘long spine,’ ‘arms wide,‘ ‘free breath.’ Revel in your altered relationship to gravity. Following a day of uprightness, being horizontal is restful in and of itself. When sleep eludes me, I remind myself of this fact.

Deep rest to you—