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Deep

Photo: B. Fertman

 

There are two kinds of people.
Foxes and Hedgehogs.

Foxes dig lots of shallow holes, spreading out all over the place.
Their coats are silky, shiny, and colorful. They’re debonair.
They’re sly. They’re quick. They’re here, there, and everywhere.

Hedgehogs are a bit pudgy.
They’re not real handsome or pretty. They’re drab.
They’re either still, like a rock, or busy digging away, usually the latter.
They start digging one hole, and once they start you can’t get them sidetracked.

They just keep digging one big hole. The hole gets wider and deeper.
And deeper. And deeper.
It seems like they are working their way down to the center of the earth.

It’s safe in that deep hole.
Some un-welcomed guests enter and start poking around.
The further in they go, the quieter it gets. Unnerved, they turnaround and leave.

The hedgehog keeps digging. Other creatures talk down about them,
Saying how they are just running away from the world.

Very few creatures understand hedgehogs.
They’re not digging away from anything, they’re digging toward something.
The closer they get, the better they feel.

They never reach the end, which they find rather mysterious.
Perhaps there is no end. Perhaps there is only the way.
No matter.

There are a few foxes, usually older foxes, who realize
That they’ve been running around getting nowhere.
Just how some foxes turn into hedgehogs, no one knows.
Legends abound.

It hurts. It’s harrowing. It’s humbling.

It is, however, widely known that the few foxes that do turn into hedgehogs,
Become some of the finest hedgehogs hedgehogs have ever had the privilege to meet.

A Letter to My Children

Kids,

You both know how politically oriented I am as a person.

That is because I have watched our country go down the tubes, slowly but surely, from the time Ronald Reagan became president.

Why that is, I don’t want to go into here.

What I want to say is that there is a reason why you guys graduated college in debt.

There is a reason why the job market for your generation was and is not what it was for mine.

These are not accidents.

There is a reason why the climate crisis is so dire right now.

There is a reason why 204,000 people have died from Covid-19, and 2 million people are mourning the loss of immediate family members, children, parents, siblings, and grandparents to Covid.

These are not accidents.

Democracies fall.

It has happened all through history, all over the world, and there is a good chance that it is about to happen in America.

Noah, Pennsylvania is particularly critical.

If America falls, the rest of your lives and that of your children’s lives, if you choose to have kids, will be degraded, and placed in jeopardy.

I encourage you to do all you can to make sure that Biden and Harris win this election and that we take back the Senate.

If you want me to, I would be happy to direct $50 for each of you and direct it either to the Senate Race, perhaps to a particular race you feel is especially important, and/or to the race for the White House. Let me know right away.

We will need young people helping with polling, with helping people to vote. I did this for Obama, and it made a difference. I would be doing this, but I can’t this time around. Do it for me.

Get your friends to vote who want 45 out. Do what you must to make sure they vote. Just like I am doing with you.

Here are some links to alert you as to what we are up against.

https://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/how-legislatures-in-swing-states-could-impact-outcome-92444229833?fbclid=IwAR2YtiYA8OmIS8fFK1MvrYprw3UcxixTyIw9Jq1d-n9BeUQ_3eI2fOdHiuU

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/11/what-if-trump-refuses-concede/616424/?fbclid=IwAR0WAr9RGALdwQwE8xsOfWUoXPDCBJIbwEUQ54sJTDxp7pjEodYn9AxsaR0

https://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/this-is-a-democratic-emergency-says-professor-92444741592?fbclid=IwAR2WjmG0OIEwOZk6E8ABJJrCmk7YF046LZX68PsDIuDY_vX65FEMjHJcHE8

Should America fall, I have the option of living in Japan. You may not have the opportunity to migrate to another country. Many people are forced to flee their countries due to racial and religious persecution or economic hardship. Jews have experienced this. Asians have experienced this. You guys are not immune from irrational hatred and political oppression.

And most importantly, think of all the people in this country who are so much less fortunate than you, who are dying from Covid, who are losing their jobs, their homes, their health, who are more discriminated against than both of you.

Vote for them. Do all you can for them.

Love you both,

Dad

One Week Remains Before, A Grace of Sense, Begins.

One week remains before our online course, A Grace of Sense, begins. If you have been meaning to join but have forgotten to register, now is the time. Or, if you are just seeing this now, it is possible to get in just under the wire. Here is a letter, just sent to those who have registered. It will give you some idea of how my classes will be structured. For the courses content, click on the link about the course. 

Thanks.

Bruce

*****************

My Fellow Grace of Sense Students from Near and Afar,

Soon, our gathering will begin. I, for one, am excited and welcome this opportunity to learn, and to share my continuing explorations on how to live a physically contemplative life.

When Covid-19 arrived, like so many, I traveled inward. I began writing a book whose working title is In Good Company – The End of Living Alone. But it could just as well be entitled, A Grace of Sense – Where Our Inner World and Outer World Meet.

Unsure as to whether or not I was losing my way, I followed my thoughts inland. About four months on, I decided to journey back, to share my ideas with a few like-minded souls. Would they strike a chord with anyone other than myself?

With trepidation, based upon these tender thoughts, I decided to offer an online course. Against the advice of some of my trusted advisors, I decided to write long theme descriptions. Only the people who were interested enough to sit, read, and think about my theme descriptions were likely to partake. I was hoping that about 20 people would register, not many, but at least they would be genuinely eager to study and learn. A hundred people registered.

How will I go about teaching a hundred people? Being the pedagogue I am, I found this question immensely stimulating and proceeded to spend the next couple of months figuring out how to make this situation work for all of us, how to create a clear structure, a cohesive group focus, and yet at the same time, create room for discussion, for the asking of questions and the answering of them, and for getting to know one another. All online!

Let me share with you now some of ideas.

Most classes will begin with movement. I will be teaching a simple, easy movement, but I will teach it in great depth over the course of ten weeks. We will spend a little time in pairs learning how to see and appreciate one another in silence, as we move sensitively within ourselves.

Each week there have a theme. Not only will I share my thoughts about the theme, but I will teach you ways of physically contemplating these themes on your own. We will break into small groups to share briefly our impressions, insights, and thoughts on the theme at hand. We will write down questions as they arise. Just like in my “actual” classes, I have found that important work happens within these small groups.

Finally, I will suggest ways of integrating what we learn each week into our daily round. I will also collect your questions at the end of every class.

The very next day, I will make a video or podcast and answer as many questions as I can. You will get an email alerting you as to when that is available for you and how to find it. Likewise, you will be notified as to when a recording of our class is available for you to watch, if you should wish to watch it again. In the event that you ever miss a class, these recordings will help you stay on board. Both the video recording and the podcast will only be accessible to you through the duration of our course. It will not be downloadable. However, the written material I send you each week will be available for you to print and to share. I will say more about this later.

Finally, I will begin a Facebook group only for the participants of A Grace of Sense 2020. This way we will all have a forum in which we can communicate, socialize and get to know one another. Having had the good fortune of being part of a vibrant and loving Alexander community for 40 years, I know how supportive it is to study alongside other kindred spirits. In addition to connecting to others through our Facebook group, I encourage you, if you wish, to write to me every week and share with me your thoughts, your questions, your confusions, your breakthroughs, your experience.

Before you know it, a week will have sailed by and it will be time for another class! And so it will go for 10 weeks.

See you soon. Be safe. Remain vigilant.

Yours,

Bruce

A Grace of Sense – Where Our Inner World and Outer World Meet

New Thought Vermont Presents an Online Workshop with Bruce Fertman

Sensing Space/Sensing Time

Physical Contemplations on the Experience of Space and Time

September 10,11,12

8-9:15pm Eastern via Zoom

 

Photo: Bruce Fertman

Sensing Space

We all possess a sense of space within, or a lack thereof. Sometimes, we feel trapped, or cramped, that we have no room to move or breathe or think. Sometimes, we feel free, that the future is open to us, that the horizon widens forever, that the sky is the limit, that life is deep and vast, like the ocean. Unwittingly, we impinge upon this omnidirectional sense of space. Some of us puff out, some of us squeeze in, hold back, thrust forward, press down, pull up. Sometimes, unmeaningly, we intrude upon the space of others. We want to live our lives with a peaceful, invigorating sense of space within us. We want to feel spatially unconfined, unfettered.

Space also exists between us and the animate and inanimate world, between us and our smartphones, our computers, our steering wheels, our soup bowls, between people toward whom we find ourselves drawn to, or repelled by.

There is space around, above us, below us, before us, behind us, beside us. Often, unbeknownst to us, we live with blinders on, zooming in on what is in front of us, living our lives running along tracks, down invisible corridors, through high hedged mazes, unable to see and sense the immensity of space around us. Space exists. A lot of it.

Sensing Time

Time feels very real to us. A second is a second, a minute a minute, an hour an hour, a day a day, a year a year, a decade a decade, and yet our subjective sense of time varies. An hour can fly by in a second, an hour can feel like an eternity, for better or worse. An entire life can fly by in a blink of the eye. Ask almost any person nearing the end of their life.

The ancient Greeks had two words for time. Chronos, (as in chronological), would be clock time. Clock time is sequential, moving horizontally through time, from A to B to C. From past, through present, into the future. Chronos is quantitative, measurable time.

Kairos, on the other hand, is closer to biological time. It moves not horizontally but vertically. It goes nowhere. It is the eternal moment, a fraction of an infinity. Think of someone striking a bell, one single note, rising at once up to the stars and down to the ocean’s floor, spreading out omnidirectionally. Kairos is non-sequential, singular. It is time standing still, not flying by.

Kairos is about knowing, moment by moment, what it is time for. Now.

“A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

How profoundly physical these actions are of which Solomon speaks – being born, dying, planting, reaping, killing, healing, breaking down, building up, weeping, laughing, mourning, dancing, embracing, not embracing, (like during a pandemic), speaking, not speaking, loving, hating, fighting, forgiving. The biology of time.

By reading my words, already we have begun physically contemplating our experience of space and time. If you would like to delve more deeply into these themes, consider joining me for what will feel like a three-day retreat.

Yours,

Bruce Fertman

Details:

Cost: $75 for all three classes. Fee nonrefundable. Class size very limited.

Register

Pay

If you prefer to write a check, please make it out to New Thought Vermont (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization) and mail it to New Thought Vermont, PO Box 185, Weston, VT 05161 EIN: 201301789

Questions: call (802) 824-3810.

About Bruce Fertman

Photo: Soomin Park

“In Bruce’s class you feel as if you are sitting by a deep, soft lake. He is the embodiment of his work. His pace and patience, his quiet confidence, allows people to unfold and open layer by layer. The superfluous falls away, leaving only life’s inner vitality effortlessly expressing itself through you. And then you know, ‘That’s who I am, that is who I could be.’”

Margarete Tueshaus – Alexander Teacher, Equestrian, Germany

Gone is the straight-lined striving, the stopping and oughting. Instead curiosity, inquisitiveness, and permission to experiment, to play, to open boxes and to climb out of them into a world of possibility – a world both soft and strong. And all this through a quiet power, a clarity of speech, and a wealth of wisdom. For me, Bruce’s work is more than exciting; it is important, both to the world and to anyone involved in any way with Alexander’s Technique.

Annie Turner – Alexander Technique Teacher, England

Having done so for 30 years, Bruce continues to teach annually in Europe, Asia, and the United States helping people to understand and experience the interconnectedness between physical and spiritual grace.

In 1982, Bruce co-founded the Alexander Alliance International, an intergenerational, multicultural community/school, now with programs in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, England, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and America.

Author of  Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart, Delving into the Work of F.M. Alexander, Bruce currently lives and works in Osaka, Japan and Coyote, New Mexico.

To Receive the Early, Early Bird Rate, Register By August 15th!

Just to remind you that our Early, Early Bird rate ends on August 15th. If you know you would like to take this course, now is the time to register.

If you do not know about this course offering, take the time to read this material slowly and let it sink in, then you will know if this course if for you. If my words speak to you, if they move you, consider studying with me. If you have any questions, write to me. I am not going anywhere!

 

A Grace of Sense – Europe

 

Photo: B. Fertman

 

A Grace of Sense – Asian Pacific

 

Photo: B. Fertman

 

A Grace of Sense – Americas

 

Navajo Woman – Photo: B. Fertman

About Bruce Fertman

“In Bruce’s class you feel as if you are sitting by a deep, soft lake. He is the embodiment of his work. His pace and patience, his quiet confidence, allows people to unfold and open layer by layer. The superfluous falls away, leaving only life’s inner vitality effortlessly expressing itself through you. And then you know, ‘That’s who I am, that is who I could be.’”

Margarete Tueshaus – Alexander Teacher, Equestrian, Germany

Gone is the straight-lined striving, the stopping and oughting. Instead curiosity, inquisitiveness, and permission to experiment, to play, to open boxes and to climb out of them into a world of possibility – a world both soft and strong. And all this through a quiet power, a clarity of speech, and a wealth of wisdom. For me, Bruce’s work is more than exciting; it is important, both to the world and to anyone involved in any way with Alexander’s Technique.

Annie Turner – Alexander Technique Teacher, England

Having done so for 30 years, Bruce continues to teach annually in Europe, Asia, and the United States helping people to understand and experience the interconnectedness between physical and spiritual grace.

In 1982, Bruce co-founded the Alexander Alliance International, an intergenerational, multicultural community/school, now with programs in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, England, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and America.

Author of  Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart, Delving into the Work of F.M. Alexander, Bruce currently lives and works in Osaka, Japan and Coyote, New Mexico.

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Photo: B. Fertman

 

A Grace of Sense – Where Our Inner World and Outer World Meet – Part I – A 10 Week Online Course with Bruce Fertman – October 3rd – December 6th, 2020

Already people have registered to partake in, A Grace of Sense – Where Our Inner World and Outer World Meet, from Scotland, England, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Iran, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and United States. That is why I decided to teach two classes, as to accommodate all of our different time zones. Usually, I have to trek around to world to get to people from so many different countries, but this way I can do so leaving a much lighter carbon footprint.

Yes, I cannot be with you in person. I cannot work with my hands as a way of helping you to access this material. But, at the same time, as I acclimate to this new medium I find, there is a surprising amount that I can successfully communicate visually and verbally.

Eventbrite makes it very easy for you to read about and register for this course. If you give yourself the time to read this material slowly and let it sink in, then you will know if this course if for you. If my words speak to you, if they move you, consider studying with me. If you have any questions, write to me. I am not going anywhere!

There is a handsome saving if you register by August 15th.

A Grace of Sense – Europe

 

Photo: B. Fertman

 

A Grace of Sense – Asian Pacific

 

Photo: B. Fertman

 

A Grace of Sense – Americas

 

Navajo Woman – Photo: B. Fertman

About Bruce Fertman

“In Bruce’s class you feel as if you are sitting by a deep, soft lake. He is the embodiment of his work. His pace and patience, his quiet confidence, allows people to unfold and open layer by layer. The superfluous falls away, leaving only life’s inner vitality effortlessly expressing itself through you. And then you know, ‘That’s who I am, that is who I could be.’”

Margarete Tueshaus – Alexander Teacher, Equestrian, Germany

Gone is the straight-lined striving, the stopping and oughting. Instead curiosity, inquisitiveness, and permission to experiment, to play, to open boxes and to climb out of them into a world of possibility – a world both soft and strong. And all this through a quiet power, a clarity of speech, and a wealth of wisdom. For me, Bruce’s work is more than exciting; it is important, both to the world and to anyone involved in any way with Alexander’s Technique.

Annie Turner – Alexander Technique Teacher, England

Having done so for 30 years, Bruce continues to teach annually in Europe, Asia, and the United States helping people to understand and experience the interconnectedness between physical and spiritual grace.

In 1982, Bruce co-founded the Alexander Alliance International, an intergenerational, multicultural community/school, now with programs in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, England, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and America.

Author of  Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart, Delving into the Work of F.M. Alexander, Bruce currently lives and works in Osaka, Japan and Coyote, New Mexico.

 

 

Turning the World Inside Out

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“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” John Muir

One day, I too came to this same realization. Because of where I live in New Mexico, the world around me is hard not to notice. In fact, it is hard not to want to be in it. The world around is so huge, so vast, so alluring.

On this day, climbing for about an hour up the mountain behind my house, I end up sitting on the edge of a tall red rock cliff overlooking my small village of about fifty small dwellings. From my perspective these shelters looked a bit like anthills or groundhog mounds, low to the ground, made of mud, as are many of these earth brown adobe homes. When an old adobe home is vacated, they look like an abandoned bird’s nest, a temporary shelter returning back to the earth, at its own time, in its own way. Biodegradable.

coyote house from 96 copy

Our Adobe House in Red Rock Country

Looking at these shelters from high above, I thought to myself, “These shelters are outside in exactly the same way the ground or the cliffs or the sky are outside, in exactly the same way I am outside right now. Maybe there is only outside, and everything is in it. Even when I am inside my tiny earthen house down there, am I not still outside? Am I not always outside?” As odd as it may sound, after that revelation, my life has not felt the same.

In the fall, at harvest time, when the orange moon hangs low and large in the sky, some Jews will make a temporary hut called a Sukkah. There are rules as to its construction. For example, a Sukkah must provide more shade than sun but must be made in such a way that at night one can see at least three stars through the roof. For a week or so, observant Jews will eat their meals in their Sukkah. Some will set places at the table for beloved ancestors whom they will invite to join them, invoking their presence through story. The frail structure of the Sukkah reminds us that our bodies too are fragile, impermanent structures but even so, best not to wall ourselves off, to shut ourselves out from the natural world, a world overflowing in abundance and beauty.

“I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.” Mary Oliver

Making this one linguistic shift radically affects the use of my senses and the tone of my body. Now, when I am covered by a shelter of any sort, even this large apartment building where I now sit in Osaka, I still feel like I am outside. I no longer lose the sense that it is morning, afternoon, or night, that it is sunny or cloudy, rainy or windy, cold, hot, dry or humid. Though sheltered, am I not still outside?

Now, when I go back outside, I am going back into the world. When I take shelter, I am coming out, coming out from the cold, coming out of the rain, out of the elements, out from what is elemental, out of my element.

At some point along the way, I realized that it is not possible for me to be in my own world. I can only be in the world because there is only the world and I am in it. Then I realized that the same is true of my body. I do not and cannot live in my body. My body lives in the world with the rest of the animal kingdom. Do we not think of a bear hibernating in its cave or den as living in nature, of baby birds in their nests as being in nature?

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Are we not in nature? Just as we spent 9 months living in our mothers, so too we spend the however many number of years allotted to us living, gestating, inside the great mother of us all. Is there any other world but the world of nature?

No wonder we feel alone. No wonder we feel lonely, cut off, shut out, abandoned. Motherless children. But we have not been abandoned. We left. Somewhere along the way we became confused. We began to believe that being in the world was being outside and being in our homes or offices was being inside.

Can you remember when you were very little, how much you wanted to get out of the house and into the world? How, as it was getting dark, you did not want to go home for dinner. You wanted to stay under the open sky, in the fresh air, lying on the soft green grass, rolling down a hill, climbing up a tree, playing in the biggest playground in the world? For most kids, that’s natural. Now, when I am at Ghost Ranch, hiking up Chimney Rock or Kitchen Mesa, I often get the feeling I am walking inside of the biggest church/mosque/temple imaginable. It is as big as I can see in every direction. The ceiling seems infinite, the floor fantastically large. Everything I can see exists inside the cathedral of the world.

21083030_938964652911485_69443437429317687_oAtop Chimney Rock at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

The first step for me was to realize that everything is outside, that the house I live in, is outside. That everything is outside. The second step was for me to realize that when I am outside, I am actually inside, inside Earth’s Cathedral, inside the Mother of us all. Once this became my new normal, John Muir made perfect sense.

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” 

I invite you to experiment with this linguistic shift. If you succeed in reversing this spatial metaphor, something wonderfully strange will begin to happen. When you are home under your own roof, or sitting at your office desk, your sensory field will broaden. Though sheltered, you will hear the larger world speaking to your body. Your peripheral vision will take in more light, your breathing will improve, your sense of smell will become more astute, your skin will record the weather, your muscle tone will engage, your bones will begin to balance, you will become less sleepy, more sensorially alert, your mammal body will reassert itself. You will find yourself wanting to spend more time in the world, unsheltered, in the elements, in your element.

“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.” — Mary Oliver, Wild Geese

Fieldnotes – Gleanings from the Life and Work of Tommy Thompson – A Review of Tommy’s New Book – Touching Presence

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Parallel play. That’s when toddler’s play adjacent to one another without trying to influence one another’s behavior. Two kids, playing alone, in the same space with a peripheral interest in what the other is doing.

Tommy and I did not meet until we were quite a bit older, but this is what we did. Every once in a while we would begin to interact. Martha and I invited Tommy down to Philadelphia to teach for us. Tommy invited me up to Boston to teach for him. Together we helped with the conception and founding of ATI. Every few years we’ed bump into one another at International Congresses and talk. Life happened. Twenty years sailed by without much contact at all. Finding out Tommy would be in my neighborhood in Osaka, I make an arrangement for us to meet over dinner at a little French restaurant Tommy liked. There we were, two considerably older men, weather worn but the better for it, and under it all still sparkling, those little kids somewhere alive within us.

Shortly after that meeting, my book comes out, Tommy reads it and is kind enough to write a review. He says to me, “Now I don’t have to write my book. You said what I care most about.” But Tommy did write a book, with the expert help of Rachel Prabhakar and David Gorman, and I am glad he did, because while there indeed exists considerable overlap in what Tommy and I find important in the Work and in how we are as teachers, we are also different.

It is with great pleasure, and with enormous respect, that I offer this review of Touching Presence by Tommy Thompson.

Fieldnotes

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Gleanings from the Life and Work of Tommy Thompson

 

Reading Tommy’s book, Touching Presence, I hear Tommy speaking primarily to trainees and teachers and to advanced students of Alexander’s work. Given that, I will address this same audience.

This book is not so much about the Alexander Technique as it is about how Tommy uses the Alexander Technique as his vehicle through which he guides his students into living more compassionately conscious and self-embodied lives. Use is too narrow an arena for Tommy. He is interested in personal transformation.

In our profession, thankfully, we have many gifted teachers doing research into different aspects of Alexander’s work. Some of us are reductionists. Some of us are more physiologically oriented and want to zero in on the precise physiological mechanisms involved in bringing about improved use. This is exciting. At the same time, some of us, like Tommy, are what I would call expansionists. Tommy wants to expand Alexander’s work beyond the workings of the body into the workings of the heart and soul. That is where Tommy’s work lives. This too is exciting. For Tommy, Alexander’s work is a spiritual path, a way of life. I think this is true for many of us. Tommy is as much a healer and secular rabbi/sheik/priest as he is a teacher.

I am fine with this because when reading, Touching Presence, I feel in the presence of a person who is entirely himself, who teaches through who he is. He’s not imitating anyone. He teaches through his own personal ethical framework, expressing his own truth. He teaches through his own language. He teaches out of his own experience, sometimes painful experience. He’s real. He’s authentic.

Tommy often, like a Hasidic rabbi or Sufi sheik, teaches through story. He’s a good storyteller. He shares deeply moving stories with us of his birth, of growing up in the segregated south, of the love for and death of his wife, Julie. These are not just stories. The key concepts which Tommy holds dear about the Alexander Technique are clearly elucidated within these stories.

What are some of these key concepts? Here, I will not go into detail; for that I suggest reading Touching Presence and if possible, studying with Tommy.

1.) Perhaps the deepest and most far reaching of all of Tommy’s key concepts is that of “withholding definition”. This is his way of talking about Alexandrian Inhibition, of a radical sort, one that allows a persons’ fixed sense of identity to become unfixed, fluid, changeable. Tommy’s work revolves around the issue of identity, how we define ourselves and by doing so, how we limit ourselves from experiencing who we are and what we might become. In the words of James Baldwin, “Identity would seem to be the garment with which one covers the nakedness of the self: in which case, it is best that the garment be loose, a little like the robes of the desert, through which one’s nakedness can always be felt, and, sometimes, discerned.”  Tommy’s work seems to be about loosening the garment.

2.) Seeing a students’ beauty. Appreciating a student for how and who they are and letting your lessons unfold from there. Tommy’s work is profoundly non-corrective.

3.) Restoring a supportive sense of being as we do what we are doing. Remaining a human being rather than turning into a human doing. Our culture judgmentally demands: “Don’t just stand there, do something!” Tommy’s advice might be: “Don’t just do something, stand there.” First get a sense of where you are, what you are in relation with, how you are being, what you are experiencing and then let your doing arise out of this fullness of being.

4.) What most influences our students and allows them to change depends not so much on what we do but on who we are when we are with them. Ram Dass says, “The only thing you have to offer another human being, ever, is your own state of being.” Maybe Ram Dass heard that from Tommy! Sounds like Tommy.

Touching Presence does not read like a novel, or a textbook, certainly not a manual. Reading Tommy requires some work and some time. I found myself reading just a paragraph or two and then having to stop, become still, quiet, and just think, reflect, meditate before reading on. Touching Presence reads more like a Buddhist Sutra, or like the Cloud of Unknowing, where something important is said over and over again. Humility…is nothing else but a true knowledge and experience of yourself as you are. (Cloud of Unknowing). Or, The word is not the thing. (The Diamond Sutra). Or, Form is emptiness, and emptiness, form. (The Heart Sutra). Ideas not for thinking once and then forgetting, but rather ideas you sit on, like a mother hen, until one day, CRACK, your mind opens, your heart opens, and new possibilities, ones you never could have imagined, present themselves.

If you are training to become an Alexander teacher, or if you are an Alexander teacher and if you are interested not only in The Use of the Body, but are really interested in The Use of the Whole Self, if you wish to go beyond teaching about the body and about movement, if you are interested in physio-spiritual life, in your physio-spiritual life, then this book may help you along your way.

 

Flying in Formation

Photo by: Miles Orchinik

To My Dear Trainees, Faculty, Grads, and Post Grads,

My childhood friend, Miles Orchinik, now a professor of neurophysiology once told me that, for animals, it appears fear has a real and positive function, whereas anxiety, something apparently unique to humans, does not.

Fear energizes us for action. Michael Gelb once gave a talk at one of our annual summer retreats in the Alexander Technique and said it something like this. “Fear gets all the butterflies flying around in your stomach every which way. It is up to us to know how to get them to fly in formation.”

The sight of a predator, for example, triggers a fear response in the amygdala, which activates areas involved in preparation for motor functions involved in fight or flight. It also triggers the release of stress hormones and the sympathetic nervous system. This leads to bodily changes that prepare us to react to danger more efficiently and successfully. The brain becomes hyperalert, pupils dilate, the bronchi dilate, breathing accelerates. Heart rate and blood pressure rise. Blood flow and glucose to the skeletal muscles increase. Organs not vital in survival such as the gastrointestinal system slow down.

Fear is short-lived, geared toward a clear and present danger, usually a specific danger. Anxiety is another matter. Anxiety is chronic, geared toward an often more diffuse future event. Anxiety promotes excessive caution and makes coping less constructive or successful.

Having worked somatically with so many people, my experience tells me that fear charges the muscles, creating a great deal of potential energy in the thighs, (kicking, running), in the biceps and hand, (punching, etc.) and in the jaw, (biting). Once released and redirected, a person is in a condition or readiness, free to fight or flee or in the case of humans, to choose neither, to just be where we are, not fighting, not running, not freezing, not feigning, not fidgeting, but rather relying on reason, compassion, and cooperation to resolve conflict.

A person suffering from anxiety tends to squeeze their energy toward their midline and up almost appearing tied up with a rope. It in no way prepares the body to fight or flee or be. Yet this pattern can be released as well and redirected more constructively. But first, the mind must stop freaking itself out about the future. The mind must be brought back into present time and into the world as it is now. Often, the immediate reality is less scary than dire possible realities our minds can create for us.

Thoughts that create anxiety for me go something like this…If I get covid-19, I will die. If I die in Japan, I may never see my children again. If the economy crashes, I will lose my entire savings. If covid-19 continues and other pandemics arise, my life as an Alexander teacher who uses his hands will end. If covid-19 and other pandemics arise, travel will be too risky, and my school will close. These thoughts make me anxious and do not help me. I spend very little time entertaining these thoughts because, thankfully, I know how to diffuse them.

This is when the work of Byron Katie becomes very handy. I studied with Katie for quite a number of years. I feel such gratitude toward her and her brilliant work. Her work is an ingenious synthesis of cognitive and meditative processes. You have to think, and you have to drop down deeply into your innermost being for the answers that are there and that will help you live your life, no matter what is going on.

If you do not know about her work, I suggest buying her book, Loving What Is, or going online and learning about what Katie calls, Inquiry.

Here is an example of my using Inquiry.

As an example, let’s take one of my anxiety producing thoughts. After I do this, I encourage you to write down a few of your anxiety producing thoughts and just ask these questions and go through the process. Make sure you write everything down. As Katie says, “All pain belongs on paper.” See what happens.

Here we go. My thoughts are in italics.

If covid 19 and other pandemics arise, travel will be too risky, and my school will close.

Question 1: Is it true? Be still and ask yourself if the thought you wrote down is true.

Of course, I can’t predict the future, but it is good to do your best to arrive at a yes or no answer, even if you have to use your intuition. My intuition says No. I let this answer sink into my body.

Question 2: Can you absolutely know it’s true? This is another opportunity to open your mind and to go deeper into the unknown, to find the answers that live beneath what we think we know.

This for me is definitely a No. I let this sink in. Ah, I can’t know this for sure.

Question 3: How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought? With this question, you begin to notice internal cause and effect. You can see that when you believe the thought, there is a disturbance that can range from mild discomfort to fear or panic. What do you feel? How do you treat the person or the situation you’ve written about, how do you treat yourself, when you believe that thought? Make a list and be specific.

Okay. What happens when I believe this thought is true? I am going to write down the thought again, just so I can really take it in.

If covid 19 and other pandemics arise, travel will be too risky, and my school will close.

 How do I react, what happens, when I believe this thought?

 I feel sad, my chest sinks. It’s hard to inhale. I feel defeated, over the hill, hopeless. Other thoughts arise. All that work I did, for nothing. My work will disappear. I will die in Japan. Life is over.

Question 4: Who would you be without the thought? Imagine yourself in the presence of that person or in that situation without believing the thought. How would your life be different if you didn’t have the ability to even think the stressful thought? How would you feel?

For my Alexander trainees, this is Alexandrian Inhibition with a very creative twist. The stimulus is the stressful thought, in this case an internal stimulus. I react to it as described above. Now, instead of my unplugging the reaction, I am choosing to see what happens if I unplug or drop the stimulus. If the stimulus is no longer there, what is there to react to? 

 If covid 19 and other pandemics arise, travel will be too risky, and my school will close.

 And if I didn’t believe this thought, if I could not think it, if I could let it drop, let it fall?

 My whole body relaxes, widens, my breathing becomes full and smooth. I feel support from my chair. I feel peaceful. Right here, right now, I am okay. I am comfortable. I am fine.

Ah! So what is creating my suffering? Is it reality or is it my thought about reality? If I am no longer suffering when the thought falls away, then it would stand to reason that it is the thought that is creating my suffering, my believing that this thought is true.

Turn the thought around: The “turnaround” gives you an opportunity to consider the opposite of what you believe. We resurface from the meditative process back into a cognitive process. Once you have found one or more turnarounds to your original statement, you are invited to find at least three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is true in your life.

Here is an example of a turn around. You pick a statement and turn around only one part of it. For example.

My school will close.

My school will not close. Why might this be true?

  1. I am part of a fantastic team of teachers, all dedicated to the school and to the trainees.
  2. My trainees and grads love the school.
  3. We are all learning how to learn and teach our work online and this will help us strengthen our community and help us as Alexander teachers.

Another turnaround.

My school will open.

  1. Yes, this online way of learning is opening for us.
  2. Alliance students and teachers from Japan, England, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand are all getting to meet one another, opening up to one another.
  3. I am writing another book for my students and faculty right now and this will open up new ways for them to think and work as teachers.
  4. My book might be read by people outside of the school and they might become open to visiting or training with us.

 Another turnaround.

 I will close.

 Yes, that is the more important thought to attend to. How do I remain open?

  1. I open my heart to everyone in the world who is struggling and dying.
  2. I open my heart to my family.
  3. I open my heart to all the hospital workers.
  4. I open my heart to my students and teaching team.

Now rather than being anxious, I feel empowered. I feel brave. I feel motivated. My butterflies are flying in formation.

I hope this helps you.

Love to you all,


Bruce

 

 

 

 

A Learning Opportunity – Free – April 27-May 1, 2020 – The Somatic Summit

To my friends, students, and trainees, as well as to my faculty and co-directors,

Here is an opportunity to listen and learn from very experienced people in the field of Somatic Education. I was honored to be invited to participate. Read all the bios and listen to the folks you are interested in. Out of this delicious menu, I am personally drawn to – Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Mia Segal, Martha Eddy, and Judith Aston. It is entirely free. You just have to register. If you want to purchase all the videos and podcasts and transcripts and get all kinds of extra goodies, you can Upgrade for under $100. Take a look.

Free Online Event
Somatic Movement Summit
April 27 – May 1, 2020

Register Here!

Please Share This With Your Friends, Students, and Colleagues.

Thanks.

Bruce