That’s a phrase from Resmaa Menakem,* author of My Grandmother’s Hands. Merely speaking these lovely words——–‘a settled body‘——- finds me resting back into the chair, no longer leaning forward as if preparing for a dive into the computer screen.
As participants in a pandemic and citizens of a country rife with systemic racism, Americans are experiencing ‘collective trauma,‘ a phrase used by the Dance Department Chair during a recent online meeting in describing the faculty, staff, and students. I concur.
Now what? For starters, settling the body. And so we shall, bi-weekly in Alexander Technique class. With settled bodies, vitality is more readily available, and action can be taken with conviction, whether it be to make oneself a cold brew, to engage in activism, or to get that course assignment started.
For Settling: Notice the places of contact between you and any surfaces. Right now, that’s my right heel on smooth wood floor, backs of thighs and sit bones on the chair cushion, the left hand palm resting on the keyboard, all fingerpads in contact with the keys. Eyeglasses can be felt on the bridge of my nose.
I’m settled. That was easy.
It isn’t always. And when it isn’t, be kind and patient with yourself. There’s no end-goal to achieve; even a slight shift in perception and kinesthetic experience is enough to calm, and yes, settle.
*Menachem is a social worker/trauma specialist in Minneapolis, MN. His work is based on the premise that racism affects not only the mind, but is embedded in our bodies. The Alexander Technique being a somatic endeavor, AT teachers are meeting in study groups to explore his ideas for healing and change.
(Thanks to Stephan Schweihofer for the use of his watercolor, courtesy of Pixabay)
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—-
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.