Sunday, 22 December 2013

A Small Ponder on Habit.

Habit. What a word. One that seems to fill most of us with a sudden sense of ‘Bad’ - I should give up x, I should take up y, z is just part of who I am, but I wish it wasn’t and hope you can’t see it....

Yet there wonderful habits, too. Gratitude is a habit. Cleaning your teeth is a useful habit. Patting the dog as you put the kettle on for the first morning cuppa is a heart-warming habit. Add your own - find 3 before you continue reading!

Habit came to me this evening in a new way: a habitual thought response leading to familiar fear had flashed up before I could even think consciously. But I then saw that nothing about this habitual thought was either good or bad; it was simply a response that doesn’t suit the current moment. It was one from long ago. But somehow back then I made a tag to it and the thought connection keeps on happening.

I’ve attempted to suppress it over the years. I’ve ‘ignored it’. (Ha!) I’ve tried to understand it. I talked to it. I tried over-riding it with the opposite, often in the form of affirmations, but I think brains are all wired differently and that way works well for some, but not others, and it doesn’t work well for me. I’ve told myself this thought habit isn’t true, but the listener aint heard the teller....(which intrigues me as they are one and the same!)  So, I Have A 'Bad' Habit. A heap of ‘shoulds’ fly around in my head. And a lump of certain desperation to finally, once and for all, deeply and meaningfully Get Rid of It. And guess what? With all that resistance, Habit was persisting magnificently!

But tonight those words lit something up; A habit is simply a response that doesn’t suit the current moment. My thought didn’t fit what was actually happening, or not happening, tonight. And I could hold my habit, as it were, in the palm of my hand - unconditionally; able to observe it and not condemn it, and not run away from it. And if I opened up fully to present awareness of what was/wasn’t happening around me, the habit simply dissolved; it wasn’t relevant to now. The habitual thought was relevant to the memory of something past, but Not Now. And memory faded the more I was in the now - Present to What Is - and not re-telling the story and putting myself in the past.

So, in many situations, ‘beating habits’ can become a thing of the past - not all, of course, but a reduction is a brilliant start! Instead of ‘beating’ habits, hold them, look at them, be very present with them, see them, enquire about them, to them.... “Why are you here, now? You are not relevant to now. You’ve leapt in on a memory, which isn’t now. Your message doesn’t serve me right now, please go away.” And instead I begin to respond to what IS going on around me - the habit grumbling away as it sloths off, unwanted, into the wings. This is true of thought patterns, unhelpful attitudes, tightenings in the body as we move, association habits with furniture and 'life props', interactions with other people.... No more turning a blind eye to Habit; see it, let it happen so you can watch it closely, get to know it, really, really sense how irrelevant it is to the Now. (Unless it is relevant, but then it's not a habit; it's an appropriate, or at least current, response.) 

It may be still there, but I can repeat my question to it if it reappears. And the really good thing? Each time I am in stimulus-response, if I respond to the now and not to the memory, I reduce the fear a little more, and habits just LOVE fear! My reducing fear begins to starve the habit. Once it's starved, job done.

Let’s just hope no one invents a RSPH - Royal Society for Protection of Habits.... We might laugh at that, but boy, I see I have been paying into that one for Far Too Long! 

Friday, 20 December 2013

Grace at Winter Solstice

Tree House stone circle, by the light of the full moon...

Winter Solstice - a dark time, a quiet time, a still time, a contemplative time, a time of gratitude, a time of dreams, a time of transformation...

Yet, here in the Northern Hemisphere, madness reigns, buzzy music, scurrying people, jostling queues, minds way ahead of heads, heads way ahead of bodies, bodies way ahead of the date; the dark silent stillness forgotten in the noisy brightness of Christmas...

Yet even when moving, if I stop within for just a tiny moment, I can sense the seam of sanity running through all this. I sense the Something that watches over all this mayhem with a loving and amused smile. I am so glad of the Grace of this Something; I am glad Something remembers and is holding my dark, contemplative stillness as I rush around with lists. It reminds me that this place within never leaves me, that is as much me as the rushing me, whether I sense it or not. That unconditional place of stillness that still remains still as I move from shop to shop, cross things off the list, share season’s greetings with friends and fellow beings. As I remember things to not forget....

That Something is a Place that knows, exists, remembers and reminds - soft, dark, velvety calm. All knowing and all thankful - pure Grace. Waiting. Watching. Listening. Waiting and watching and listening for me - my thread of connection to the Winter Solstice; the time that forms a link from the light to the light, through the longest, darkest night. This Solstice heralds a birth. Our re-birth. A new start. A gift beyond measure, for which I am deeply grateful, no matter the over-lying busy-ness. Wherever I am, I can greet that still point in me - it always has been and always will be there - and let my grateful inner stillness kiss the Solstice. And that kiss will witness and declare the light, my light, your light, our light, at this time of Light. And the light will grow....

Blessed Be.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Which flower are you?

You how often we say 'motivational things' about tough, bold, brave plants that come up through concrete or, like this thrift on the cliff face, grow in really tough places? Had me thinking today though - lovely as the sayings are, it's a bit tough on many of us to always do all this 'go for it' stuff; we're all beautiful 'flowers', but if you're not a thrift, you're not a thrift! A rose is absolutely stunning but wouldn't fare well on this cliff face! As is an orchid, but it wouldn't last a second here either. Would we suggest they 'weren't trying hard enough' if we saw them struggling up here? No, we'd take each to where they could be the best rose or orchid they could be. Let's do that for ourselves and each other? What flower to you think you are? And where do you best flourish? Do those match? Which bloom will you let yourself be as the very best flower you are?

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Keep going!

I saw a picture a bit like this on Facebook this morning (only it was pointing up a mountain) and found it touched me surprisingly deeply as I realised I am really quite tired. And I had several other quick realisations flash through my mind along with the, 'Oh heck, yes, I am tired from the feeling of keeping on keeping on keeping on...' I also had, ‘How far to the top now?’ And, 'Maybe I am not headed in the right direction? And, ‘Why is this feeling so hard?’ And then, 'Oh, of course....!' The thing is, I have been headed up a mountain for some time - many years in fact - yet finally reached the top of it three years ago, gratefully and delightedly. And I could suddenly see clearly that I now am doing the next necessary thing; coming down this mountainside in order to go up the next one. Even if all your peaks are high in the clouds, you have to come down from one in order to ascend to the next, let alone if you are now coming down to be ‘home’ for a bit, and to make plans for your next expedition.

The only way is down now....
Why do I say down is harder? Well, I learned this painfully, and slightly embarrassingly, about 5 years ago. Having gone a day early to the Alexander Technique Congress in Lugano in Switzerland, I took the funicular railway to the top of a 1000m mountain overlooking Lake Lugano, intending to walk down. Not big by mountain standards, and being summer not covered in snow, it was going to be easy; after all, the hotel owner had said so, and ‘just don’t wear party shoes’! Hot sunny day, spirits high from admiring the view from the top, I set off down the winding shallow steps which I intended to count. At about 750 I gave up the counting and started the self-motivation. After about 2 hours I came to a clearing where I could see the turquoise lake below me - the ferryboats on it like tiny dots; I was still as high as in an aeroplane! Somewhat daunted I wondered about going back up and taking the funicular down, but I didn’t want to give in; this was downhill! So I carried on, and when I finally - another 2 hours later - came to the bottom, I had an surprisingly elated sense of achievement. Of course, when I told my ‘mountain experienced’ friends the tale, they explained how it is much, much harder on the legs to descend than ascend. I was ready to agree wholeheartedly as I hobbled around the Congress on day one; a ‘poised’ teacher of nearly 30 years who had to actually (quite true) go down the five steps to the ladies’ loo on her bottom because I could not do it on my feet! Four days later, after the general afternoon-off from Congress, I knew exactly who had spent the time doing the same ‘walk’ as me, as I helped them down the same steps on their bottoms!

So I am grateful for this morning's picture which reminded me that we need to see this sign on the way down, too - in fact on any path, including one following a time of dreams, effort, and achievement. On the path between goals and dreams, on the path back home. Yes, “The journey up may be hard, but the best view is from the top” is a wise saying, but believe me, the view of that lake at eye-level was just as good, if not better! Suddenly I knew, after seeing the picture this morning, that the reason the path currently feels hard is because I have been, in effect, walking down that 'achieved mountain' backwards!
I have been going back down but still facing the peak I have looked at for so long, despite having attained it, and also because I have been forgetting that ‘down’ has as much merit as ‘up'. Out of pure habit (oh dear!) I have forgotten to stop, wake up fully to the now, and change my view! Oh, how much easier it is to walk facing the way I am going, the way down whilst clarifying my plans for the next peak!! 

No matter which way you are pointing, let's bless up, and bless down, and let’s also bless all the bits in the middle; all of them with great big ‘Keep Going’ signs!

Friday, 5 July 2013

The House Whose Face Fell Off.

This is a piece I wrote in 1996, and have just found again after thinking it was lost. I remember so clearly the images that came to me which called me to pen and paper. 

The House Whose Face Fell Off. 

The house was beautiful - elegant and proud - raising its lovely frontage to the world, promising beauty and grace within, and joy for anyone who came inside. It coloured a warm cream, with great windows allowing great light to enter, strong curtains gracing the edges of the panes, showing opulence and taste. However, the door was always closed, which surprised those looking on; the whole place looked so welcoming, but the door never seemed to open; perhaps people came and went from the back?

One day, with a great noise, part of the frontage fell leaving a great jagged, diagonal wound running from the house’s top right to its bottom left. Behind it was a shocking contrast. The grey, black, dark horror of a war-zone. A war-zone long gone, but which was stirred occasionally by faint bangs and rumbles of a ghost of battle, or remnants of some stubborn soldiers who refused to leave - although the intent of their damage was more than obviously accomplished - as if they so enjoyed it, they couldn’t go. The walls of this house within were blackened by fire and blast, and the windows empty like eyes in great shock. The house seemed to cower in shame and fear at being opened to light again after so long - embarrassed and fearful at being revealed. The rubble and dirt began to clear away - sometimes in great chunks, and sometimes seeming to be only piece by tiny piece of dust particle. At times great progress appeared to be made, but at times it seemed the secret of what had happened, and what it hid, wanted to stay buried forever.

Suddenly, a wall of stone fell away and revealed a small child cowering in the far corner of a blackened room. She had been cowering for who knows how long. It was not just the cowering from suddenly being covered in light, it was the cowering of being afraid and shameful to be seen to exist. Whatever had happened to that child had destroyed her so, so many years ago.Yet despite her terror, her hurt, pain and guilt, which she felt showed so strongly in the battered remains of her facade, she had found the strength to build the beautiful looking frontal to her dwelling place. Such tragic mis-use of strength. She had assumed that people looking at her real, damaged house would have believed it to be her fault, and were embarrassed and angry at her for it looking thus; the area wanted good looking places. She had been too afraid to ask for help to re-build the old - to have the army that attacked her to be removed; somehow she believed herself to have deserved it. For years she had hidden behind the beautiful but empty grandness of the creamy building. She had successfully led the onlookers to believe in her strength and security, but now they understood why the door was always shut.

How long would it take the little girl to gather the courage and trust to come out of her corner? They knew she couldn’t trust them yet; somewhere out here were the original persecutors and she mustn’t put herself in that position again. But the walls were down and the light, the glorious sunlight, and the clean, clean air were with her at last, and she had all the time she needed to grow and stand strong again. To become a genuinely beautiful house with real welcoming windows, and an opening door to let people in, and out.
(20th June 1996)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

'Enoughly' as you garden....

Nice bit of balanced fork going on here....although it doesn't have to be over the
 shoulder - just your arm by your side is good, too....

Today I gardened - or rather, set to with the wheeled strimmer to clear more untamed land of docks and tussocky 'elephant grass'. (A wheeled strimmer is like a rotary mower but with cord that spins at the front rather than a rotating blade underneath. It has big wheels to make it easier to traverse rough ground - my land tests this notion strongly!!!)

I also used garden tools: fork, spade, rake etc, that I carried from shed to land and back again - and also the wheel-barrow.

It often dawns on me how much I am blessed to gain from my knowledge as a teacher of the Alexander Technique, and maybe this is obvious to you, but in case not, I share it with you now. When these tools are carried around the garden/land, I could 'Lift Them', 'Carry Them', or I can just take them with me as I go. (Capitals there intended to indicate Effort - lower case to indicate ease.) The former method includes lifting the shoulders, bending at the elbows, probably leaning backwards from the waist to attempt (unwisely) to counterbalance the weight of the tools, and finds these tools to be twice the weight they need be. Instead, 'the taking of them with me' means I find the centre of gravity of each tool - not necessarily half-way down the handle, but it'll be somewhere. Then I simply wrap my fingers loosely around the handle at that point, and walk. And it comes with me. No need to risk lifting the shoulders, tightening in the arms, or having my balance interrupted by an out-of-balance spade or rake.

No, this is 'Lifting and Pushing The Barrow'....note bent elbows...
The same goes for the wheelbarrow - I can Lift It Up And Push, or I can 'enoughly' have my hands around the handles, let my arms be long, and walk. And again the barrow will go before me just because it has to, not because I Push It. And this way more than goes for the heavy strimmer  as well, Encouraging it to do its stuff amongst the holes, boulders, and mole-hilled rough grass could be 'shove', 'push', 'heave'....well, it is a bit of that, in honesty; this is pretty rough stuff, but the effort is nothing like it could be, because I can free my body of that struggle, remain as tall as I can as I move myself through the grass, and the strimmer just goes before me doing its stuff. I just have to up my intention for my movement over the land to happen, and up it even more when I get to a tussock.
Yes, this is walking and it comes too....

So, new word of the day is "Enoughly' - sort of 'loosely', 'gently', and 'appropriately' all rolled in to one.

Enjoy your enoughly gardening through the use of balanced garden tools, and the having of more energy at the end of it! Time for a nice cup of tea!

Sunday, 26 May 2013


What were the times you felt discouraged? Who were the people who shrank you? How did they suggest that? What happened inside when this happened? What happened to your dreams?

What were the times you felt encouraged? Who were those people who helped your inner you expand and swell with possibility? How did they stimulate that? What happened inside when this happened? What happened to your dreams?

I know I've written 'what' were the times and not 'when', but I mean that; the 'what' making the times an encapsulated bubble of memory - ones we think we have forgotten, tucked away where it doesn't matter, or even bubbles that have long popped. But is that true? If you ever find yourself feeling small, discouraged, not-good-enough, I suggest they're still there.

We can pore over the old stories, we can run the tapes in our heads again and again, trying to heal memory with the very mind that holds them tight - toxic story-telling. Or we can shift them through a myriad of different ways. But the most important thing? To see that 80% of the first paragraph came from within. Yes, we may have heard and received stimuli that created that 'shrinking' inside, but it was we who agreed to reiterate those things to ourselves over and over after the initial hearing - even if we never heard it again from the outside! The good news? If we are the ones telling ourselves these unkind things, we can change the words to kind ones. It's up to us - our choice, and nothing to do with the unchangeable outside words; they're only 20% (if that) anyway. Can you actually remember the last time someone said, straight out to your face, that you aren't any good at being 'you'? Or that you are wrong through and though? (If you can it's time for some big changes - no one ever has the right to tell you you aren't good enough, or can't do something.) And yet can you be honest with yourself and remember how recently it was that you said those things to yourself from the inside? If you are saying anything to yourself other than "I like you, thank you for doing your best - different every day, but still your best - thank you for your caring heart and willingness to wake each day and live, to hope, to serve, to inspire, and dream. I love you, even in your wonderfully messy human-ness, which still includes all those things I've just said...", how can you expect anyone else to say it to you? Or rather, to hear it when they do? Our ears are full of what we want and expect to hear - yet there is no judgement here, just a box of Q Tips and a heap of loving friendship as we go about cleaning those ears out so you may hear the opposite messages!

The method? To focus on, pore over, study, clarify, embody, allow the second paragraph to seep into your very cells.... To remember the times you felt encouraged - and not in those times you 'succeeded' (which is far too much like stressed-out-and-tried-to-be-More-than-More-could-ever-be!) but when you Just Were; maybe even having landed on your bottom with mud on your face. 

Can you think of what encouraged you? That smile of empathy, of unconditional love, of trust. A few words of encouragement; what were they? Think! Remember! Write them down and read them often and decide to believe them! The only thing that makes anything 'true' is our decision to make it so.

Who were the people who said or did the thing that encouraged you? Did they encourage you to 'do' the thing you wanted? Or did they just Encourage You To Be You? I hope it's the latter you are remembering?

What was it they did? Or said? Their tone of voice? The look in their eyes and/or on their face? The feel of any touch? The energy in them, around them, that you felt? Was it perhaps that in that moment you actually had the gift of knowing you could 'fail' and yet be as loved as you were before? Permission to let go for a moment and breathe? To be supported as you 'took stock and re-grouped yourself'? So much so that you then felt you could move forwards again?

Take a moment to remember what that encouragement felt like. Where in your body did you feel it? How? Sense it again. Deeply. The opposite of shrinking - the growing, expanding, opening - knowing you were a 'possibilitarian' again. What could you do then? Remember the feeling, not just the event.

For me? The first moment of true encouragement I remember - I am about 6, at a children's party feeling sick (as I always did at parties). But instead of my mother being called to collect me, the granny (?) took me by the hand and walked me around the garden. I can still feel that hand and see the plants at my feet, and whether she said or I sensed it, I can still remember the 'You're ok. You're fine as you are. You can be whatever you like - sick, sad, happy, ok, here, or back in the party; I will stay with you and accept you just as you are right now; I have no need to make you feel something else for my sake. I know you can handle this; I believe in you." Parties changed for me after this.

My tip? To go find those people, or people like that, once again. To begin to watch carefully who you are surrounding yourself with, and to allow those 'shrinking people' to go shrink someone else. To not just decide to live in the energy of encouragement, but to allow those who remind you how to speak encouragement to yourself to reveal the stark comparison between your inner shrinker, your judge, and their outer genuine encouragement. This enables you to at last catch that judge, inwardly smile about having seen it, and then let the judge go on a l-o-n-g holiday! Gradually, as you allow outer encouragement in, and inner encouragement to exist, more outer encouragement will come to you, and the inner encouragement will grow stronger....and on and on in that circular growth... And you will indirectly find people loving the encouragement they feel around you as it seeps out of every pore in your body. 

Truth. You are an amazing, beautiful, and powerful being. Thank you for all you are. Thank you for your dreams. Thank you for your trust and belief in being alive, and for being '________' (Insert your name here) This is the only thing asked of you; to just be the glorious '________' that you are. Go on, encourage yourself to be that; it is your birth-right.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Please may I share something very important to me...?

I have a real desire for people to feel more comfortable, and the strength of feeling I have tonight had me think that I would further share how I felt before I came to the Alexander Technique back in 1980. This is my story shared with love in order to assist others. It dawned on me today that, having been in this work for over 30 years now, no one I know now has any idea how much it helped me. One of the main reasons anyone takes a look at anything in life is because they see a friend enjoy, gain from, change, feel better - they see the comparisons and how well something worked, and yet there is no comparison in me as this is how I have been for so long. Many think this is just how I have always been, and maybe that is why they are in pain and I am not, and that's just not right.

I imagine that if I - and I sincerely hope I won't - were to show up tomorrow as I was in early 1980, people might get a real shock! The comparison would reveal a great deal.  I had woken up one morning after a dance class and found my body had 'gone wrong', seemingly overnight. My head was on one side - my right ear considerably nearer my right shoulder than the left side - and my face screwed up to the right, looking every inch the pain I felt in my head. My jaw was moved over to the left and my teeth didn't meet - I had malocclusion of the jaw. I had no idea that my body and I were connected; I thought my body had done this all on its own and the only way out was through medical intervention. Added to the 'acute' symptoms was my chronic posture - my hips were slung forwards - my pelvis being carried before me as if I was still pregnant. This over-arched my lower back and when I lay down on the floor with my knees bent up, I could put my whole hand, thumb upwards and little finger down, right under my lower back with inches to spare. (A happy back touches the floor when we lie in this 'semi-supine' position.) My feet were flat, my knees sore and braced back, my shoulders had screamed with a constant burning pain for a couple of years, and my neck was always nothing short of agony up the right-hand-side. The pain shot into my head and yet the 8 paracetamol a day  didn't do much, and the endless visits to an osteopath only gave a few days' relief each time. But almost worst than all this was the sense of 'spaciness'... It was as if I was living in a bag of bits that didn't connect in any way. I couldn't think straight. I felt hugely vulnerable - after all, the basic instinct of 'flight or fight' was severely compromised; I could barely walk so it felt as if I was going to suffer badly at the hands of a bear or lion when I needed to react quickly.... My head was full of fog, and yet my anxiety levels were sky-high. I would frequently feel nauseous and 'get the shakes' as, I imagine, my body just released the excess tension off the top before I 'exploded'. And yet I felt depressed as my body was so depressed and shortened - I had no energy and great pain so that felt pretty depressing. I couldn't sleep well with the pain, and was 'tired all the time'. I have - somewhere as yet to be unearthed - my passport of that time, and I know you can see my face (all lop-sided), but no neck at all; it having drooped down on my chest like baby-food sliding down a plastic bib. This rendered my spine completely unable to rotate as I turned my head - or couldn't turn my head any more. And the compression in the vertebrae from this 'position', from this now familiar habitual way of holding my head, was creating merry-hell in there. The rest of my body was doing its best to compensate, but by using parts of it that are designed for other purposes, so the result didn't help at all, in fact, made things worse day by day. My head weighing around 12-14lbs (like everyone's) had become about 4 times heavier on my spine due to where I was 'carrying it', way off the top where it had no support from the torso beneath - no wonder my shoulders screamed with pain. Basically, despite the sense of acute tension, I had 'fallen apart'. This 'dis-integration' was leading to the scary sense of vulnerability and fogginess; the body just knew it was in a bad way and was almost closing down to protect both itself and me. (I know we are one, body and mind, but in this instance, that is what it felt like.)

When I went for lessons in the Alexander Technique, my teacher used gentle but wise hands to invite my body to still, to cease the inner panic. She gently guided my body into balance, re-stimulating the postural reflexes so the body could begin to 'come together again', so begin to support itself as it is designed to do. As I let go, it could 'take up', and as I let go some more, it took on its mantle of happy work even more. Its natural lightness restored, I felt a new person! Alongside all this was the verbal tuition from my teacher - lots of eye-opening guidance as to the twisted way I was doing everything and what I could allow instead...and the experiencing of freedom as she moved me around, maintaining the flow with her hands. It was the small 'unhelpful' movements I was doing in each moment - just one of these was taking my mouth to the fork instead of the fork to my mouth - go on, watch people eat! Little things over and over that wreck your neck which in turn upsets the whole body. It was obvious when it was pointed out, and so easy with her hands guiding me, but feeling so different, it felt a bit 'wrong' and I wouldn't have done it on my own. But a strangely 'right wrong'; one that worked! I had no pain! And gradually my old way of moving gave way (literally) to the new one. No, I couldn't have done this from a book, I had to have the teacher to give me the actual experience, and I am so glad I did. Within 6 lessons, I knew everything was going to be ok, and my life changed immeasurably.

Now days I am seen as someone who 'holds themselves well' - and I smile even as I say thank you (if it's not the place to explain), because of course that is exactly what I am not doing any more! Many people say I have 'such a straight back' and it is dawning on me that they think I am 'just a good girl', and have no idea that all I learned, and all I received at the gentle-but-wise hands of my Alexander teachers, is what has me simply sitting, easy and comfortable, balanced with all the parts of my body 'stacked' as they are designed to be in any body, especially the head at the top. I am not trying at all, I am not 'holding', I am not 'doing good posture, I am not 'sitting up properly' - I am simply Here, or There. depending on where I'm being seen from. It's the same when I stand - feeling sad when I stand amongst people who say, "Oooh, I can't stand for long", and yet they just don't 'get' that things can be different for them, as they were for me back in 1980 when I began my lessons.

So I thought I would share with you how although this is me you see, it isn't the me that you would have seen 30 years ago. 30 years ago you would have been saying the same things to me as you say to many of your friends and loved ones.... "Oh, poor you, isn't there anything they can do for you?" "What does the doctor say?" "You need to see an x, y, or z, and be healed, or learn how to save your back - we're meant to be on all fours, you know..." (Which is rubbish I might add!) And then, when I went for my lessons and began to look so much better, then positively happy, then slimmer, I began to get the "Have you had a holiday or something?" questions. Lots of those! (I hadn't, but I looked as if I had.) Then I was playing sport again, dancing again, not taking pain-killers and tranquillisers any more... And people said, "Wow! What is this thing called the Alexander Technique!?" And I trained as a teacher of same, and have taught for 30 years now. And I feel sad that people haven't had the chance to see the difference it has made to me in order to see it as something to consider for themselves and others. Maybe looking at me simply suggests that 'I do posture'. Maybe not hearing me talk of pain or restriction suggests I'm 'just lucky' and never had any problems. (Actually I sometimes do; I am human and get 'tweaks' - we all do - but with the knowledge this work gives me, it's not the problem it might be otherwise.) Maybe people think I am working incredibly hard at 'looking right' and they have no intention of working that hard, 'nice as it looks and much as they know they should'. Maybe they think it's all about holding positions - and surely that would hurt and be exhausting? 'I've tried copying and I can't hold it'.... 

Oh, if I could share with you how much I understand those thoughts, I really do; I do remember 30 years ago very well. But more than anything I wish I could share with you how those things above are not what's happening at all, so that you might really want to experience it for your self - just a moment of what it feels like to be light, balanced, easy, the 'it just feels so right' of balance and integration during a lesson. And to help you see that it's called 'a lesson' because we Alexander teachers don't want to 'heal you in some mysterious fashion, having you dependent on us' - we'd be 'therapists' if we wanted that. No, we teach because we want you to understand the process, the 'technique', and how to live it in your life so that you might know how to have it assist you in every moment of every day - if you so choose. I love to have long-standing students, but at best I am teaching myself out of a job as I teach you into conscious, appropriate use of your body, your whole self. Having experienced the benefits, believe me, you begin to want to play with it, use it, be curious about it. Like toothpaste, once you start living with clean teeth, you want to keep using it! The real question is, do you really want to live without your pain, or stiffness, or anxiety, or fatigue? If you do, please take a look at the possibilities this work offers you; it is For You. Not for me; I already have it, and I teach because I want to share it with as many people as I can. I want to see more people happy in their body and fewer in such a place of restriction and unhappiness. Plus, if there was another teacher working near me, I would have a lesson myself as often as possible; it feels so wonderful and, like anything, a brush-up always does us the power of good. I am still learning too - we all go on learning from cradle to grave, if we're wise. 

Thank you for 'listening'. As I said at the beginning, this is my story shared with love in order to assist others. Please go share this blog with anyone you know who is in pain? If you love them it's worth a go for them, isn't it? They can always say no, but you might be giving them the best tip they will have ever had in their 'pain world'. This work is still too widely unknown and misunderstood, despite all the scientific and medical endorsements, and I want to be part of changing that. I cannot tell you how glad I am that my aunt told me about the Alexander Technique back in 1980; I would have had the operation to fuse my spine, and through my habitual way of holding myself getting worse and worse, be in goodness only knows what state by now - one of those millions who think that pain is all there is, the only option to 'getting older' or being human, and living a life of pain-killers, but it simply doesn't have to be true. Take a look; you've nothing to lose and everything to gain.  

There are taster courses coming up, one day workshops, five day intensives, and the regular individual lessons.... - diary page.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Which flower are you really?

You know how we often say 'motivational' things about tough, bold, brave plants that come up through concrete or, like this thrift on the cliff face, grow in really tough places? Had me thinking today though, lovely as they are, it's a bit tough on many of us to do all this 'go for it' stuff; we're all beautiful 'flowers', but if you're not a thrift, you're not a thrift! A rose is absolutely stunning but wouldn't fare well on this cliff face! As is an orchid, but wouldn't last a second here. Would we suggest it 'wasn't trying hard enough' if we saw it struggling up there? No, we'd take it to where it could be the best rose or orchid it could be. Let's do that with ourselves and for each other? What flower do you think you are? And which flower are you really? And where do you best flourish? Do those match? Which flower will you let yourself be as the very best flower you are?

Saturday, 18 May 2013

When self-damning comes for tea...

So, what happens when every tip is forgotten, every truth we know is questioned, every principle resisted, and our sense of self denied...? The opposite of everything they offer seems to turn up - and the day goes pear-shaped and we feel horrible?  

The mind, 'The Awesome Power of the Mind' as George Zaluki's training series called it back in the 90's. I know what he meant, that we need to use it constructively, but I have also never forgotten his words at those times when the mind 'goes off on one'....running out of control like a bolting horse dragging me - as it does us all at times - through low-slung branches of pessimism, across gorges full of snapping 'what ifs', and rivers of turbulent dramas. Yes, the mind is disappointingly powerful then, and the day goes rapidly downhill.

So, how to get it back under control, or as I prefer, back as our friend again? Well, wrestling anything only serves to create a lot of noise and bluster. There might be a winner but also a loser, and at best there'll be bloodied noses and scraped knees for sure. "What we resist persists", so what else can we do? Surrender. 

Surrender? Surely not? Give in? Wont we drown and everything go wrong? 'We get what we think' and all that manifesting stuff..... But no, we're thinking it anyway, resistance or not. It's there isn't it, all the gloom and doom? Resistance can't exist against nothing. That's why we're looking for something positive to 'snap into'; if we want to 'snap out of it' I guess we are snapping into somewhere else. No, for me this is a time for observation - deep observation of what is going on. Especially if it is a familiar cast of feelings on the  stage - a time to learn much and heal another layer.

So, what are the tips, truths, and principles? And where is the denied self? 
Tip #1 - "I'm having a human moment" seems too simple, but strangely effective; the first place to get is off one's own back - it's hard to move with all that weight on our selves! Having got off, let's look at The Four Agreements....

1. "Be impeccable with the word - especially to one's self": Hmm, well, do you hear all those whispers in the wings as you give your bold and positive soliloquy on stage? "I am powerful, I am strong and beautiful, I see everything going well, I am one with everything, all will be well, this is meant....." You know your script, I know mine....only now I don't bother with that and begin to hear to those unimpeccable wing-hissers as soon as I can.... "There you are, told you you were no good". "If only you had/hadn't done...." "Anyone could see that wasn't going to work." "You've always got it wrong." You'll never get this right; everything you do always goes wrong." Nah, nah, nah-de-nah... On and on and on - all the things we have ever heard said to us in our lives, and while we're at it, let's add in the best we've heard said to others too. Oh, and if we feel really bad, let's add in a few tasty exagerations and self-damning expletives as well. But, through my agreeing to listen to them I have the light shining on them, I can see them, and already they are shrinking in the light. And in the seeing of them, often something will 'come up' from the past - some long-buried memory that has me 'feel' it at a deep level beyond the mind's drama, and I 'see' it as if for the first time. In that seeing, something bursts - like bubble-wrap - because I can now not only see, but feel that it isn't so, very likely never was, and certainly isn't now. And then I can begin to be truly impeccable with my word to myself - "Hey girl, hang in there; you're worth it, you know your truth, you know you're worth being able to live without these thoughts and ghostly beliefs. That was their story, not yours. Something's just come up to be sorted out. Now, what can we do about this Now situation - what's next?"

2. "Don't take anything personally": unless I choose to do so! Which, if I am being unimpeccable with my word to my self, and beating myself 'senseless' (perfect word - think about it!), I will be doing. But who wouldn't feel like taking it personally if someone said, "I don't believe you can"? There is however, in truth, never any need to believe this because the words will be coming from the other's take on life, from their own story and not yours, but if you are the speaker to yourself, yes, it's close up and very personal!! So, it's back to #1 again.

3. "Don't make assumptions": Ah yes, well, there it is - I can now see many of those assumptions which were hidden in the mayhem. "It's impossible, I can't do it" - a big, generic assumption - often taken personally in the years before. But put impeccably it looks like this, "It is possible, but right now I feel it isn't, and I can't see how it could be." That leads me straight out of the loneliness with it and into, "Who can I ask for support and/or advice?" Sometimes there will be someone obvious, and always there the voice of my Higher Power, or my soul, and to who's wisdom I am now open.

4. "Always do your best - bearing in mind that your best will vary day to day, moment to moment": And in this moment of 'things not good', your best might not feel very best at all. And that's ok, that's where the surrender lies. Surrender to purpose, surrender to the moment, gently bringing your presence to all the feelings it contains; the feelings are here to tell you something. However, sometimes before we can do this, there is a part of us that actually wants to enjoy the drama. Call it ego, call it habit, call it just the part of us that sees the light in life through sometimes acknowledging the dark - and we can't do dark cheerfully or it isn't real dark! So sometimes we could even call it soul wisdom - we have to really Get In There to make a new discovery. But then it's back to to self-kindness and the moving through and out. There's another thing to consider though - why has it become such a sin to occasionally say when asked how we are, "Well, you know, today is just crappy - nothing I can put my finger on, but I just feel bleugh." Then everyone tries to pull us out of it as if we're wrong (again) in being other than happy. How lovely it is to find (or be) someone who just looks at us from their heart, says nothing, and maybe offers a non-healing-hug; one that just Let's Us Be, just as we are in that moment, the best we can be right now - that's unconditional love and it changes everything. But first we need to consider that as a possibility for our selves.

So, a tip, four principles - or new agreements - the truth re-vealed, uncovered again from where it always was, the truth being that we are wonderful beings of light having a human experience. Gorgeously messy and delightfully willing. When we forget this and imagine ourselves to be only gorgeous when winning, when in dinner suit and ball-gown, when smiling and dancing, it all gets very hard. It's as if we are knitting with ships' ropes - extremely cumbersome! So, let's remember our beauty is always there - sometimes in a very soggy and cross way, sometimes in moments of complete confusion, sometimes in blank grey nothingness, but like the clouds, these days will blow away. And let's consider some small gratitude for the 'crappy days'? These are the days of change, growth and progress, the days where we create our true glory.

Monday, 13 May 2013

On commitment....

Commitment...., there’s a word and a half! And one that’s been on my mind each day as I see the little note on the worktop, or in my diary - moving around, never being thrown away, never getting lost - that says, “Write a piece on commitment for Patricia”. As in, the piece is for Patricia, not commitment for Patricia. Or is it? Of course it is; my commitment to and for Patricia in doing what I said I would do when she asked me to write on this for her newsletter. It is me doing the thing I said I would do, long (!) after the mood/time I said it in had left me. 

Shall I say that again? “Commitment is doing the thing you said you would do, long after the mood you said it in has left you.” 

I heard it over 20 years ago from a great man in America, George Zaluki. His work is all about each of us living the life of the champions we are - no matter in what arena, even if it’s working in the store. And George’s other powerful statement that has never left me is this, “The only thing mankind has is their word. And how cheaply they use it.”

Those words silenced an audience of 5,000 people into pin-drop silence. And why would they not? Everything we see, use, play with, work with, go to, desire and dream about is made up of words.... Words are our paint in life. So we need to wake up and make sure we paint pictures worth painting with them. Yes, how cheaply we use them, especially when we say we’ll do something but we don’t. This is how we often paint with the word commitment: “I’ll do it until....” “I know I said I would but....” “I’ll do it as long as...” Yet commitment, like love, doesn’t function under conditions, because commitment is love - love for the other and love for yourself, both automatically including respect.

If we want our world to run smoothly, maybe it would be good to look at this word ‘commitment’. We spend so much of our lives bemoaning how things haven’t turned out as we hoped, people haven’t kept their word - often even saying or thinking, “Probably wont happen; usually doesn’t...”.  If you look at it, when we are even just a little upset about something, it’s to do with something in life that isn’t turning out the way it ‘should’.... And what is this ‘should’? It’s often to do with something promised by someone else.... “I’ll be there on Tuesday.” And then, “Oh, you know I said I could help on Tuesday....? Well, sorry, something’s come up and I can’t.” (I am going to hazard a guess that, with scrutiny, this sounds familiar from both sides.) So another gram of trust dies - not because of disappointment, but because we innately know their, or our own, word has not been kept. 

As we move through life, from fairy story to religion as children, through science and literature in school, from TV, media, and conversations later in life, what we’re promised is all too rarely what happens. And the most painful is from those who are meant to care about us. As a child we might rant and rail, cry and stamp our feet until we ‘learn to grow up’ (aka, suppress the lot) when we meet with that heart crushing disappointment that we know is an excuse, but what do we do with it as adults? I suggest we become slightly cynical, closed down, heavy with resignation, pessimistic, and lose our trust in what people say - even if some of us head for spirituality and the healing world to handle or heal the wounds from these times.

So, what are these disappointments? Are they truly about the things that con’t happen because they are out of our control? I say not. “Huh?” you might be saying. Commitment could be put another way - Commitment is the automatic result of people keeping their word. It’s in fact a circular event; I say I will (my word), and I do. Or I do, so I have kept my word. If people keep their word, no matter their mood change, disappointment becomes far less of an issue.

Of course there are things in life that occur to change plans - the weather being a major one! Illness. Family needs. And even a change of mood! But, big but, if we use these as excuses when they are not true, we are not being relieved of our commitment; we are lying. And because we know we do it, we think that it is likely the other is doing it to us. So we lose trust in them because we have no trust in ourselves. If something has truly ‘come up’ for us, we can tell the other honestly by using the power of our word to convey this fact to them. Then, with the growth of commitment and honesty, trust grows and a great deal of unnecessary disappointment shrinks, especially the ‘heart-crushing disappointment’ that has far more to do with being lied to, of not seeming important enough, than the missing out on something looked forward to. Our hearts are wise and sensitive, and we just know when we are being spun a yarn, because we know when we are doing it, and we re-cognise it.... 

So, as my aunt, Esme Crampton, wrote in her book ‘Good Words Well Spoken’ many years ago, “To thine own self be true’ because (a) you haven’t time for anything else, and (b) your own integrity is the longest running thread of your communicating life.”

If you are true to yourself, if you are impeccable with your word, if you hold everyone in your heart as your co-aspect of divinity, commitment will simply be there in your life in spades. We don’t ‘do’ commitment, we don’t need to learn commitment, we don’t have to put it on like a heavy coat, we are commitment; our very essence is commitment, unless we choose to forget that.

So, even if you are healed from past disappointments and it doesn’t hurt any more, change the old habits to be the change we need to see; do what you say. Remember ‘Ah, but I didn’t promise’ is the biggest let down to, and of, your self that you will ever allow. Use the mirror as your conscience and watch the world change with your growth in commitment.... And even if it takes far too long to write the piece you promised, write it!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Brambles...inner and outer.

Fully brambled up! 4 feet high and 3 feet deep.

Today I cut brambles. And I was struck during the 45 prickly minutes as to how like life, learning, growth, change, the activity was.

It was on with the thick gloves and out with the secateurs; time to face the tangled task and begin. But where? At the beginning seemed best; the stem ends nearest me, even if nowhere near the root. I could have dived in right down there - in fact it might have seemed the 'right way to get right to the root' - but it would have been a real case of 'Ouch'!' As I went for my persistent 'clipping away at what was right there' method, I was pondering the many ways of 'attacking' something tangled and painful, whether it's brambles, the dilemmas in our life, or things in our past that come up for healing. Some folk might get out the Big Guys; the petrol strimmer from the shed and go at brambles like a bull at a gate, or maybe the scythe - a slightly smaller bull - or maybe with weed-killer? Or maybe even get someone else to do the job?... Possible with hedgerow brambles, not so effective with our own inner brambles. What might you do? And does your choice in the garden tie in with your choice of dealing with the 'inner brambles' of your life? 

So many of these choices could be called 'throwing the baby out with the bath water' - losing much of what is good along with the brambles. Ever the lover of analogy and metaphor, I found myself being aware of my method, and the many others that could be used, and how like the approach to the 'deeper stuff of life" they were. 

My awareness around today's brambles was:
- Step up to the task and look at it.
- Sense the overwhelm at the size of the clump of brambles.
- Start by trimming the bits nearest to me, even if only a short way down from the tip.
- Discover that much of the clump was long dead and incredibly easy to pull away.
- Experience the snipping of a long stem, pulling on it and getting snagged because it was caught up elsewhere.
- Having found that these long stems were often tangled further in, simply leaving them until I found them again later after clearing what was in front of them.
- Cut and snip, snip and cut, and then step back to see the long 'branches' over my head for the next go, but enjoy the clarity of what had been cleared, and smile at the power of persistence.
- Sometimes there was a really, really long stem, and to pull it out I had to stand up and step right back and away several feet from the clump in order to allow the tip of the stem to come free.
- Having seen the clump from afar again, I could see how it was going and where it was best to step back in.
- As the brambles cleared, there were all the hidden beauties of the old wall underneath ferns, foxgloves, primroses, and the old granite stones themselves. Those things that would have been lost with the strimmer, the scythe, the weedkiller - all those things that  'would have made the job easier and quicker'....but babies out with their bathwater.

80% of the brambles are actually dead and brittle.
There was something wonderful about the job; it reminded me of all the years I have been involved with facing things, teaching things, healing things, changing things, becoming more aware of the truth behind them, and inhibiting the desire to deal with them any old way as long as it was quickly and 'easily'. In my rush to do that, I would not see that beginning at the edges was just fine. That stepping back to see how things were going, or appreciating those moments when clarity-lending distance was offered (the long stems that need space to come free) as a gift. Understanding that even when I couldn't sort it out immediately, coming back to it later was fine. That sometimes the healing or answer isn't where we think it is, and we have to nurture patience and trust. (And that to deny the 'isn-ness' of a caught up stem can be a painful experience!) Enjoying the unexpected simple healing of what seemed a dreadful memory or difficult conundrum because, when faced as it revealed itself, it was found to now be dead stems that just crumbled into pieces. Revelling in the joy of steady, persistent, conscious, committed, trust-full 'snipping' which bears such rewards..... 

And what's the real reason I was clearing brambles? Was it to 'get rid of the brambles'? Or to reveal what is underneath? To focus on the obstacles? Or the dreams? The revealing of dreams is a far more effective way of working. It even, in this instance, allows acknowledgment of the beauty and benefit, the gifts and loveliness of the bramble bush - white flowers and delicious fruits. (Just not right there, please!) And the focus lends a gratitude to those 'inner brambles' that we have all experienced; there are always flowers and fruits to those, too.

A little more to go, but the beauty revealed.

So, the 45 minutes of clearing today turned into a 'bramble meditation', and a wonderful experience of happy 'means whereby' (step by appropriate step) over leaden and fractious 'end-gaining'(any old way will do.)

Now, will I remember the steady, directed, one step at a time, patient, enjoyable, trusting, happy method of 'cutting back the inner brambles' next time I come upon them?
I don't know. I hope so. How will you do? What method would you use? 

Friday, 19 April 2013

Past meets present.....

OK, I'm going to be straight up - this is a time of self-beating, not self-kindness. And yet it isn't; it's a time of feeling respect-fully in the moment, very open, extremely sensitive, new, exposed...the old shell off and the new one not yet set, and I am being (slightly) kind to myself, considering.... I have a coffee in front of me in my old 'Now Panic and Freak Out' mug, dug out from the back of the cupboard to remind me that I am doing well in not doing too much of the freaking out bit. And that agreeing to stay in this place of utter wake up is being very, very kind to myself.

What's happened I have no idea - much is changing for all of us at the moment, and I am in the business of change so am always up for it in some way, but this one feels huge. Whether it's a big mid-life-crisis, or even deeper shift in consciousness, I feel as if great scales have fallen off my hitherto thought to be aware eyes in the last four days. Years of facing old 'stuff' and healing it, and yet now it is as if I am right back in the old events of my life, yet with today's wisdom of years. And boy can I see, with nowhere to hide, where I wasn't so hot, was right off line, and was always spouting off in an attempt to look good, seem knowledgeable, faking-it-and-defintely-not-making-it. I don't know an eightieth of what I think I do. I've 'seen' it before, but as if I was outside looking in, but now I am right in it; hearing every word, seeing every action, sensing every emotion with acute clarity. 'Useless' - a belief I inked in by my very agreement to it - has arrived on my doorstep in person rather than in memory. And we are facing each other warily, sniffing the air to see what will come of this re-encounter....

 I wrote this earlier today, "We’re working on these things not so much for what you can see, but for what you can’t see; when the body is balanced, when there is an ‘is-ness’ about us, all sorts of good things start happening. In this instance, it’s not the body that’s balanced, but the person, the self, the whole. This work might look all about ‘looks’, but it’s far more to do with something much deeper - that layer which, when open and clear,  acts like a magnet for all things good. That layer is still happening when it’s all cluttered up and messy too - and that’s the life most of us know and wonder why pain, both physical and emotional, happens over and over. Well, if we go on doing what we’ve always done, we’re going to go on getting what we’ve always got. The thing is, anything else feels so unfamiliar that it feels outright wrong. And who’s going to risk doing something that feels wrong in order for good things to happen? Hence the role of an Alexander teacher - in the safe environment of a lesson you have the chance to experience what it feels like to not do the old, familiar things and to experience other possibilities. If we can’t even stand up from a chair, or walk across the room in a way that feels different without tensing up and leaping into massive judgements about it, how on earth are we going to handle the somewhat larger things in life, like relationship problems, job arguments, big decisions? Consequently we go on doing the same old things and just getting a PhD in disappointment. The principle of how is the same - 

1. Be aware of what I’ve always done and how I’ve done it. 2. Say no to that old way - not resisting, just being present and open to new ideas as I consider what it is I am aiming for. 3. Allow those new ways to manifest, again without judgement, and see what happens.  And most importantly, to understand that I always maintain my choice to go back to the old way if I want; this is always my decision, just under guidance, not brainwashing or trickery, or being told what to do. However, it is so important to have support of a teacher in that place of, “But this feels wrong; I want to do it the old way, but I know that doesn’t work/gives me pain, so, what do I do?!?” At that point the hands and voice of the teacher are there to reassure and keep you on track until you discover that all is well and your confidence grows."

Well, I have that PhD in (self-)disappointment staring me in the face right now. And yet, if I go on doing what I’ve always done, I'm going to go on getting what I’ve always got.' So, what have I always done? I can tell you right now, uncomfortable as it is for me to say so; it is pretending I am someone other than I am. And that I know a great deal of Important Stuff, which I don't. And now I leave a space, on purpose.... allow time for my no reaction, no old running off into "but if I...", or "If I imitate so-and-so...', or 'that book assures me that really I am beautiful inside...' Space to sit right with it and not run away inside or outside....

'Pretending I am someone other than I am'....I've been working on this one for years - I even run courses called "Living Your Truth". But this layer is a biggy.  What's different about this one? It seems much, much deeper than the previous ones. Because the one I am inside, the one who has been hiding - who feels she wont ever be successful, wont ever reach her dreams - is now standing in the room, looking at me, reminding me of all I failed at. Yet is this really true? It's also as if that young girl is looking at me as if to say, "Yes, you acted. You pretended. You were too scared to do anything else. In fact you were told that was the right way to live and good people acted really well. But that was then. I thought you would have dropped that agreement by now. Why are you still acting you instead of being you?"

Because it's a deeply ingrained habit - I've done it for years. As Tommy Thompson often says in workshops, "What is it you do in order to be who you think you need to be?" I thought I had that one cracked, but now, oh boy, how long have you got?!.... I remember a great release many years ago when I read Jeremy Chance's words, "I gave up all the effort I was putting into being Jeremy". But this feel even deeper. Now, like the writing above, I need to experience (yet again) what it feels like to not do the old, familiar things and to experience other possibilities... Fortunately I have had this work with me for many years now; I recognise times of change with (tentative!) gratitude. I am more used to sitting in that place where unfamiliar feels so wrong, but heck, right now I admit it would be lovely to have a teacher in here with me!

Still, I have my higher power, my soul-self, with me as I sit, walk, garden, teach, carry on the day 'doing nothing about this feeling'; simply acknowledging the strangeness and risking all for the shift within by posting words like these... Do-or-dare, go for it, drop the mask and share what's really going on inside instead of what I hope people will like and approve of. Maybe stupid, maybe wise - but a chance for me to 'not react' to the outcome nonetheless.

And now to not write an effacing, doubtful, apologetic final sentence - just leave it.... There.... End.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

"I used to, but I can't any more." This is not always so.....

Subtitle headline: Teacher Goes On Learning!

A photo I took of Paul Collins on his run from Helston to Minehead in 1981
(Helston in Cornwall and Minehead in Devon - 162 miles in 4 days. He then ran the 220 miles to London.)

I used to run everywhere..... What was the point in walking if I could run? Why walk when the joy of running felt so much fun - lighter, free, sometimes even like flying.... And I ran as I got older, not a sort of 'everyday-ready-for-a-marathon' type run, but I could run for a bus, step on the gas a bit when out with the dog, chase the children, win at school sports days... Then it got tough for some reason - no pain, just tough. But I still danced happily and energetically (using a step meter one night revealed I had danced seven miles!), and one evening last year, in the gloaming, I actually decided to dance (Cornish fashion, which is kind of sideways, which is why I did it at dusk) down to my post box at the end of the track - some 80 yards. (Metres for the young, and meters for the friends over the ocean!) And I could do it just fine, no problem. But run it? No, I couldn't do it - well, I could have done in 20 yard increments, but I feared for a heart attack, a faint from lack of breath, and had leaden legs that disappointed me greatly and I would despondently stop. My 'dance-run' had sown a seed of hope in that I clearly wasn't for the knacker's yard yet, but I was going to look mighty funny dancing for a bus when I was a pensioner!

Time went on and I would ponder this fact, and try a few yards from time to time, but with the same result - bad news for an Alexander teacher. Yet still the dancing was fine - so I knew all was not lost. Then a student came recently and said he had begun 'Barefoot Running'. I was intrigued; as a teacher of this work I am curious about what students are doing, and what things are out there attracting people's attention. He explained a little, and after the lesson I looked up the website of John Woodward  I knew of his name because I had supported Paul Collins on many of his ultra-marathons during my Alexander teacher-training on his course in the early 1980's. John had worked extensively with Paul later in Paul's life. And there it was, written on John's page; "Cultivate a silent footfall - "What you cannot hear from your feet will not hurt you" was one of Paul's favourite sayings." 

Well, I'm going to dare to say that I haven't ever been known for heavy-footedness - 'so light on my feet' was the usual comment - but I did my main running with Paul 30 (ish!) years ago when I was a mere 23 - youthful bounce still being right there, no matter how I was feeling. And Paul went on to refine and deepen his teaching of running long after I had qualified and lived many hours away from him. So, I had clearly let unhelpful thought processes and habits creep in. Yes, the teacher always goes on learning, and happily so, but what were these habits? I got on the case....

I watched the little video on John's site, read the words, and set off around the big, wooden floored living area in my home - barefooted, and with my awareness raring to go. And it was quite remarkable what happened; ease, lightness, bounce, and no breathlessness. The feeling of years ago was back!

I looked up the 'toed-feet-shoes' that are suggested for early barefoot running before actual bare feet, and in the meantime I bought some cheap beach shoes - the ones that are stretch elastic tops (pink in my case, just because...!) with soft 'rubber' soles on the bottom, usually sold for walking over the rocks on the beach. They give no restriction to the foot, but offer some protection to the sole. And off I went down my track - to the post box and back with the ease of a 10 year old! And with such enjoyment of the sensation of....well, of nothing. No breathlessness, no fatigue, no jarring, just the joy of running again. 

And for a few days that is what I did, including running inside when it was just too wet outside. And today? Well, almost Gump-like, I ran down the track, past my post box, down the bridleway, on past the houses, past the telegraph pole that I used to 'aim for and then die', past the farm, and on... all the way to the gate at the reservoir and beyond - some half a mile, 10 times further than I had run for years. And I wasn't even breathless. 

I tried a few steps the 'old way', and it was hopeless - horrible. The 'heel-to-toe- roll (like the bottom of a wheel) that so helps in walking seriously doesn't work for running - for me anyway, despite the Alexander 'up' being present. No, the way that works is the way of lightness, of 'silent footfall' from the front of the foot meeting the ground with the heel only just brushing it in the name of feedback. Of being present in each moment with each of my feet, with my miraculous ankles and willing legs, with my whole body, my head, my eyes, with the grateful sensation of my sole and the earth meeting lightly - a brief connection - and my body, always over my feet - not behind or in front - having spring to it, resilience, support, 'ping' - no thudding, no pushing, no pulling myself along - even though I could have sworn I wasn't before! At one point I smiled; I suddenly felt like I used to, and how I used to see Paul run, even after all these years - light, short, economical steps that allowed him to run races of 24 hours and even six days. I am sure he was pleased to see the discoveries being made! And I still found 'leading with the thumbs' as helpful as it ever was when Paul showed us its power in the grounds of Alexandra Palace in London in 1980. Thanks, Paul!

When I got home I tried the 'new' way in shoes for a few steps, just to see, and the difference was, to me, incredible; my feet just didn't know what to do without the freedom to do what they know best. Restricted by shoes, or trainers, they seemed to give up, I landed on my heels, and all sorts of other parts had to start struggling to move me along. I have long said that the plantar reflex in our soles is too important to block with thick soles, and our feet and ankles are well able to support us and we do not need to have boots that 'protect our ankles', or shoes that 'help us run', but I had still allowed 'poor use' to slip in round the back in my own running!

So, what's the message here? To me it's that being a teacher of the Alexander Technique isn't about 'knowing it all', or having 'got there' (where ever 'there' is!) It's about understanding the process. The Alexander Technique itself isn't about 'doing things right'. It isn't about me having qualified in 'rightness' all those years ago so that this was a grave error on my part, making me no good at 'teaching others where right' is. No, the technique assists me to become conscious of what it is I am doing in any moment I choose. And that is what I teach - consciousness in every day life. The technique has shown me over and over the power of empirical learning, of curiosity and experiment based around the knowledge of how the body best works.  Why did I 'forget' around running for so long? Well, I too am human; sometimes whilst looking at one spinning plate, another one falls off the pole behind me! But what learning in the 'mistakes'! What discoveries I continue to make about how I respond to the stimuli of life  - I believe it is these discoveries that help me to be a more effective teacher. You might have read one of my first blogs when I recounted how my aunt said that a good teacher is only ever one step ahead of their students, and is often one step behind - as I was in gaining so much from my 'barefoot running student'.

So I am yet again grateful to the extraordinary Alexander Technique which offers me the tool to stop, wake up, assess, check, look, find, discover, let go, play, experiment, learn, and change into ever more ease and freedom. This has nothing to do with 'being right' - which is incredibly fixing - but with agreeing to be 'wrong', and thus to let go, free up, and move into a place of being able to still do the things we used to do, and still can, no matter our age! The work offers the antidote to 'I can't' in its 'Let's see if that's really true'.