Re-readinga treasured memoir discovered at Blue Hill Books years ago, I came across this quote:
‘By using restraint in most things I intended to be joyfully unrestrained in a few. For this was always my favorite way of doing things.’ That’s Katherine Butler Hathaway, in TheLittle Locksmith, describing the budgeting of expenses for her 1920 home renovation in Castine, Maine.
Restraint. Highly esteemed by the Alexander Technique community, to ‘restrain‘ is to ‘hold back from action.’ This is the very definition of the Alexandrian principle of Inhibition. We pause, we stop, we refrain. Working with what we have—-whether it be pandemic restrictions, or a limited budget, we pause to consider the possibilities and then act.
Hathaway’s other projectsincluded painting and writing: ‘I could never work with great spirit in any material unless I knew that the amount of it was limited–I had to be hedged in by a boundary of either space or material, in order to awaken the feeling of creative excitement.’
We are most certainly ‘hedged in‘ due to circumstances not of our own making. But I do choose boundaries, and they bear creative fruit; the 250-word-count of the weekly blog posts, for instance. Observing word count limitations contributes to clarity and cleaner prose. Another example–with fewer trips to the grocery, meals are created from what is at hand. The results are often delicious.
Within the boundaries of your present-day life, I am wishing you well, and hoping for you ‘creative excitement‘ in the midst of limitation and restraint–
Poise and Presence is three years old. With the exception of a hiatus in 2018, weekly posts have been the norm. Readers appreciate knowing there will be a little something from Poise and Presence on a regular basis, and the routine of getting a post ready each week provides me with an on-going opportunity to practice Constructive Use.Three Alexander Technique principles are required: Awareness,Inhibition,Direction.
First, I cultivate an awareness of my physical self, a kinesthetic sense of what it is like at any given moment to be living in a body. Secondly, having noted I am more than a mind, I practice Inhibition, which requires me to pause, observe a habit of use, and see what might emerge if I just quit doing what I habitually do to write a post, (i.e.—pull legs back and under the chair, applying undue pressure to my toe joints, contract my arms in toward my torso, thereby reducing my width and diminishing breathing capacity.)
Having activated my kinesthetic sense, pausing/stopping to note a habit of use, I can then give my Self what Mr. Alexander termed Directions. His: ‘I allow my head to moveforward and up, that my spine may lengthen and my torso widen.’ Mine: ‘long spine,’ or ‘length and width.’
This is Constructive Use of the Self, a way of thinking in activity which benefits our well-being. And when you find yourself with a few unscheduled minutes, I recommend Constructive Rest. It’s the practice of resting thoughtfully, altering our relationship to gravity by lying down in semi-supine, lengthening and widening.
Constructive Use AND Constructive Rest are essential components of an Alexander Technique practice. Take your pick!
2017 will soon be a wrap,and with it this blog. First posting was March 2016, and that’s a good long run. In 2017 alone, Poise and Presence had readers from 50 countries, almost 2,000 visits, and 42 followers.
The plan is to pull the blog contents off wordpress, followed by editing and reformulating postings. Who knows; I may publish a chapbook. Other 2018 writing projects include condensing 5 decades of journals onto a flash drive and also writing an account of my maternal ancestors’ 1834 migration from Virginia to southern Ohio’s Lawrence County. It’s a fascinating story for the nieces and nephews!
It’s been a pleasurewriting to you each week, and exploring the intersection of the Alexander Technique and daily life. May you continue to pursue your interest in the Technique and make its principles and practices an integral part of your days—-