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Recognition Of The Obvious

 

The Alexander Alliance Europe

 

David Mills, a fellow apprentice of Marjorie Barstow once said to me, “Humility is the recognition of the obvious.” I didn’t get it. And then later, I got it.

Learning languages does not come easily to me. Honestly, that is an understatement. I’m hopeless. When a person learns I live in Japan for five months a year he or she inevitably declares, “So you speak Japanese?”, to which I reply, “No, I don’t, not at all.” They find this hard to believe. But it is true. I humbly accept my profoundly limited linguistic capacities when it comes to learning foreign languages. Often I add, “However, I am still working on my English and am happy to report I am making progress.”

I can also humbly say, because it has become obvious to me and everyone else who knows me and knows what I do, that I have a knack for promoting Alexander’s work. As a little kid I was able to teach other kids, through words and touch, how to ride a bike, or hit a ball, or climb a tree, or do a back handspring. It just came naturally to me. So I can humbly say, I am good at talking and writing about Alexander’s work, and also at photographing it.

Of course not everyone likes my writing or what I have to say about Alexander’s work, and not everyone likes my photography, but a lot of people do, and for one reason or another it has worked. For over forty years I have drawn people to Alexander’s work, inspiring them to study.

And so, humbly and happily, I share with anyone who may be interested my new website for The Alexander Alliance Europe. I enjoyed working on the project. Countless times I heard myself say out loud, ‘thank you’ to whomever programmed Wix.

If you are an Alexander teacher, meandering through this website may help you better to verbalize what you do. It may give you ideas about how you want, imagistically, to portray Alexander’s work.

There are some beautiful photographs of my mentors. It saddens me sometimes that most Alexander teachers have only seen photos of Marjorie Barstow after her osteoporosis set in. I loved how Marj looked and moved when she was young, that is, in her seventies! Here are a few photos of Marj when she was spry and powerful.

I wish more Alexander teachers had had the privilege to learn from Buzz Gummere, but at least here you can see the sparkle in his eyes. I cherish the photos I have of my learning from Elisabeth Walker. All of these first generation teachers aged so beautifully, with such grace, and lived for so long! I hope you, like me, find these photos inspiring.

The video page on this website makes it easy to find and watch videos that I’ve made, or have been made about me or the Alexander Alliance. I invite you to take twenty minutes and watch Quintessence, a documentary on Alexander’s work and on the Alexander Alliance. This documentary was made by Renea Roberts, award winning videographer and director of the film Gifting It: A Burning Embrace of Gift Economy, and of Rooted Lands – Tierras Arraigadas.

And of course, there is a lot of information about our school in Germany, as well as information about what we do in and around Europe, Asia, and America.

Feel free to give me feedback, positive or negative; either way it is all positive for me. And if you like, visit us in Germany, or join me sometime, somewhere.

Humbly yours,

Bruce

The Alexander Alliance Europe

Redirecting Unnecessary Tension Into Useful Energy – An Introduction to the Alexander Technique with Robyn Avalon and Bruce Fertman – July 28th, 2018 – Iowa City, Iowa.

archer close up

Photo: B. Fertman

What is the Alexander Technique?

Whether we are dancing, hammering a nail, working at a computer, singing an aria, or walking to the store we possess an inherent capacity to move naturally. Moving naturally promotes ease, flexibility, power and expressiveness.

Unwittingly, we often interfere with our anatomical design. Energy, poise, and ease give way to effort, tension and fatigue.

The Alexander Technique gives us a working knowledge of the principles governing human coordination. The Alexander Technique teaches us how to be, at once, relaxed and ready, soft and strong, light and substantial, firm and flexible. Through study, we become capable of redirecting excessive effort into useful energy.  Becoming more effortlessly upright, we also find ourselves coming down to the ground, to a place where we can function simply, comfortably and appreciatively.

For Whom is this Workshop?

This workshop is for two groups of people. One, for people wanting to be introduced to the Alexander Technique, and two, for people who directly use their hands in their work to help people: physical and occupational therapists, bodyworkers, movement teachers, nurses and hospice workers. F.M. Alexander evolved a way of using his hands that effortlessly and powerfully brought people into contact with their innate coordination and support. Upon first experiencing such a touch it seems magical but in fact, it is not. It is technical and learnable.

It is not everyday that two internationally renowned Alexander teachers give a workshop in Iowa City. Please consider joining us and taking advantage of this opportunity.

Anita Mischuk – Alexander Technique Teacher, Iowa City.

About Bruce Fertman

Photo by: Anchan of B. Fertman

Bruce trained with five, first generation Alexander teachers: Catherine Merrick Wielopolska, Marjorie L. Barstow, Richard M. Gummere Jr., Elisabeth Walker, and Erika Whittaker. He brings a lifetime of training as a movement artist and educator to his work as an Alexander teacher having trained in Gymnastics, Modern Dance, Ballet, Contact Improvisation, Tai Chi Chu’an, Aikido, Japanese Tea Ceremony, Argentine Tango, and Kyudo.

He has worked with members of the Berlin Philharmonic, Radio France, The National Symphony in Washington DC, the Honolulu Symphony, for the Curtis Institute of Music, and most recently for Jeong Ga Ak Hoe, a traditional Korean Music Ensemble in Seoul, Korea. Bruce taught for the Five College Dance Program in Amherst, Massachusetts for 13 years, and for the Tango community in Buenos Aires. For 6 years, he taught movement for actors at Temple and Rutgers University.

For ten years Bruce taught annually for the College of Physiotherapy in Gottingen, Germany.

In 1982, Bruce co-founded the Alexander Alliance with Martha Hansen Fertman, an intergenerational, multicultural community/school, the first Alexander teacher training program inspired primarily by the work of Marjorie Barstow. Currently, director of education and senior teacher for the Alexander Alliance  Germany, Bruce also teaches annually for Alexander Alliance training programs in Japan, Korea, England, Switzerland, Austria, and America.

Bruce has been using his hands to help people for 55 years.

About Robyn Avalon

Lyra Butler-Denman and Robyn Avalon

Robyn has been studying Alexander’s work for over 40 years, being first introduced to it as a young performing artist. She has worked with members of renowned opera companies, symphony orchestras, music ensembles, music conservatories, dance companies, and circuses including the American Ballet Theater, NYC Ballet, Joffery Ballet, Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham, Maria Benitez, Meredith Monk, Orpheus, the Juilliard School, the Meadowmount School of Music, Cirque de Soleil, and Ringling Bros/Barnum & Bailey. Robyn has also taught for the US Olympic Dressage Team, the Ladies Professional Golf Association, and the Texas “Aggies” Football Team. She offers continuing education workshops at National Conventions for Osteopathic Physicians, Dentistry, Fiber Arts, National Opera Association, NATS, Suzuki, and Centered Riding.

Robyn is a professional director, choreographer, and dancer. She was a founding member of two rhythm tap companies, and has done international and national tours, Off-Broadway, film and television. Her work has been seen in venues as diverse as NYC’s Blue Note Jazz Club, Carnegie Hall, and The White House.

In addition to her love for the performing arts, Robyn enjoys the healing arts, and is a certified practitioner of Cranial Sacral, Visceral Unwinding, Deep Imagery®, and Matrix Energetics®.

Robyn is the founding director of the Contemporary Alexander School, and co-director of the Alexander Alliance International and is on the core faculty of all Alexander Alliance Schools.

Workshop Details:

When: July 28th, 2018 from 10am until 6pm.

Where: East-Westschool of Integrative Healing Arts, 2711 Muscatine Ave., Iowa City, IA

Cost: $150, early registration by June 1st. After June 1st, $200. Full-time students – $150.

How to Register: People can register with me, Anita Mischuk: anita@atmw.us, phone: 319-535-0510.

 

 

 

A Blink of the Eye/ A Tremor of the Soul

 

Buzz Gummere

Buzz died 12 years ago, at the age of 95. About a month before he died my daughter, Eva, and I drove up to Barrytown, New York to visit he and his wife, Peg, (who just died this year at the age of 100).

At breakfast Buzz says to me, “Well, I made it down the steps once again.” Buzz told me he’d rather fall and break his neck than not sleep next to Peg in their own bed. Besides, he liked going up and down the steps.

Before him on the breakfast table lay a row of multicolored pills and capsules. “My doctor says if I don’t take all of these pills in the morning that I’ll be dead by nightfall. So I take them.”

That afternoon John Gummere, Peg and Buzz’s son, drives us to the Hudson River, and Peg, 88, takes Eva and I out on her vintage wooden trimmed sailboat. Peg sits by the tiller, the wind blowing against her uplifted face, through her long, silver hair.

Buzz chose, rather than go sailing with us, to sit and rest under an old oak tree by the river. As we recede from the shore, I watch Buzz grow smaller and smaller. I knew this would be the last time I’d see him.

Five years earlier, when Buzz was a mere 90, he and Peg drove down in their Subaru to JFK airport, caught a plane going to Albuquerque whereupon they rented a Jeep and drove north for three hours to Ghost Ranch, where we were holding our Alexander Alliance Retreat.

On the Ides of March, 2000 the snow came down all morning but by mid-afternoon, under the New Mexican sun, all the snow had melted. We decided to put on some jackets, except for Buzz, and hold class outside.

Buzz wanted to work on his speaking, on giving a talk. Even though Buzz trained with F.M. and A.R. Alexander, and was a certified teacher, public speaking still got him off balance. He wanted me to help him. He wanted to give a little talk on his thoughts about Alexandrian inhibition and just what that was.

Ironically, Buzz had taught me a lot about Alexandrian inhibition via the help he gave me with my writing, writing being something Buzz did very well. He noted I seemed very at ease when I spoke, and he wondered what was getting in his way.

Fortunately, a student taped the lesson, more like the conversation Buzz and I had that day. And Anchan, our school photographer, took a photo of us working together.

Here, I share that day with you, that conversation, and Buzz.

Bruce:  I remember, years ago, writing an article in honor of Marj Barstow’s  90th birthday. I gave it to you to read.  Directly, you proceeded to remove about half the words.

Buzz:  I remember that.

Bruce:  You edited it severely. You pruned it way down. I remember rereading it thinking, “That’s not right! That’s not right!  That’s not how I write!” I was mad and insulted. I felt misunderstood. I remember defending the right to split every infinitive, because splitting infinitives sounded more expressive, sounded right.  To hell with the rules of grammar! I defended my run on sentences too. How else could I capture all the subtleties taking place simultaneously? There was no other way but to try to say everything all at once, within the span of one endless breath.

Buzz:  You were used to it, used to it like a bad habit.

Bruce:  “That’s not right, listen to how that sounds,” I said to you over the phone, then hung up. I handed your “improved” edition to Martha to read and she said, “Now that’s a lot better! First of all, it’s grammatically correct and secondly, it’s just more to the point. It says what you want to say, and it says it simply, directly, and clearly.”

Painfully, the more I read it, the better it sounded. “Maybe it is better,” I thought.  “Maybe it’s better. You know, I think it is better. In fact, I know it’s better.”

Buzz, I’d like to see if, right now, I could return the favor.  I’m going to be your editor, not for the way you write, which is exemplary, but for the way you communicate when you are before a group of people.

Buzz:  Very good.

Bruce:  We’re going to leave words out, sometimes whole paragraphs. It’s likely to feel wrong. You’ll probably get mad at me, the way I got mad at you.

Buzz:  Alright.

Bruce:  Erika Whitaker says, inhibition is decision.

Buzz:  That’s true.

Bruce:   Inhibition is decision.  Even though the talk you are about to give is not memorized word for word, I’d like you to decide that you are only going to let words come out of your mouth that have a direct connection to the main idea you wish to communicate.

Buzz:  The main idea.  First I have to decide what that is.

Bruce:  Right.

Buzz:  The title of this talk is A Blink Of The Eye/A Tremor Of The Soul.

Bruce:  That’s a beautiful and evocative title. Let me draw you a simple map around that title.  Let’s say we have a circle like this, and in the center of that circle is the essence of that title. The only reason you’re going to say what you say is to get people to understand the essence of that title. You are going to keep everyone in that inner circle with you.

Now, let’s put another circle around our most inner circle.  When you wonder off into that circle you know you are further away from the essence of your title.

For example, you might ask people if they know the meaning of a certain word you are using.  Or you might go into some unnecessary detail about something that’s truly interesting but does not sit in the most inner circle.

Because you know a lot and perceive so many important connections to your theme, sometimes you spin off into a commentary. That commentary can gracefully lead to a commentary on that commentary. Before you are aware of it you’re off track, out of the most inner circle.

I want to see is if you can stay right in your most inner circle.  You’re going to have to trust me for about fifteen minutes, and then you can mistrust me for the rest of your life!

I’m going to lightly tap you, like this, when it seems to me you are moving outside the core circle. Trust me to make the call, to do the editing. What do you say? I’m asking you to make a decision, a conscious commitment to yourself, to your material and to your students who clearly love you and value your wisdom.

Buzz:  Good, very good.

Bruce:  I want you to decide again to remain within your core circle, real close to what is essential about A Blink of the Eye, A Tremor of the Soul. Can you make that decision?

 Buzz:  Sure.

Bruce: Have you made your decision?

Buzz:  (After a long pause.)  Yes.

Bruce:  All right.  So be it.  Let’s begin.

Buzz:  I will try.

Bruce:  Hmmm….“Do not try. Do or do not, as Yoda once said.”  Stick to your decision.  You can always stop and make it again. You can make it as many times as you want. But don’t try to keep your decision. Make your decision. Be that decision.  Live out that decisionOr don’t.

Buzz:  (Buzz begins his formal talk).

“You can study anatomy and physiology till you are black in the face. You still have this to face – sticking to a decision against your habit of life.” (quote by F.M. Alexander).

Bruce:  Take all the time you need.  Instead of going into commentary, just be inside the silence.  Take all the time you need to connect to what is essential then, say what you want to say.

Buzz:  Alexander craved recognition by scientists. The most eminent one to support his ideas was the genial Sir Charles Sherrington. His bold research in physiology started with an intensive study of the knee jerk. You all know what a knee jerk is?

Bruce:  Stop there.

Buzz:  I’m not supposed to ask them am I?

Bruce:  I think it is safe to assume they know.

Buzz:  O.K.

Bruce: Now decide again.  Give yourself a moment.  Make your decision.

Buzz:  I’ve decided again.

Bruce:  Let’s do it this way Buzz. (Bruce addressing the students listening), “Fellow students – if you have a question, feel free to ask Buzz, on the spot. O.K?  That’s your job.”  (The students nod a collective yes).

Buzz:  Very good.

Bruce:  Decide again.

Buzz:  I’ve got it.

His bold research, at the expense of a small army of laboratory monkeys, carried him along to several major epic discoveries in human physiology, and to a Nobel Prize.  Among his discovers was what, in us vertebrates, he referred to as “inhibition.”

Bruce:  Now pause there. I just want to say to you, that it’s possible you might be feeling like this is going to be real boring to them, or you may feel you are not entertaining them enough. May I suggest you not worry because I, for one, am finding the content of your talk relevant. So there’s nothing extra that you need to do. Decide again, and stick, cling, adhere, lean into your decision.  You’ve made your decision, now trust your material.

Buzz: (Buzz continues his talk).

Now everybody raise one hand. That action took place because, leave your hand up for a moment, because your excitatory nerves went into action.  Leave your hand up there. Now you cannot lower that hand without the inhibitory nerves resuming their democratic role in the politics of your coordination. Those inhibitory nerves give you the permission, and the ability, to lower your hand.

I’m leaving out a great deal.

Bruce:  That’s okay.  We are engaged in an experiment. Just sense yourself leaving it out. Sense as you leave out what may not be essential how you are filling the space with repose. Look, the students are moving towards you. You have them. Whatever falls away, let it fall away. Just wait until what’s essential rises to the surface.

Buzz:   In any good legislature, the “excitors” are the ins, and the “inhibitors” are the outs. But everybody knows in a good legislature the outs are “the loyal opposition.” For the Alexander brothers it was civil war.  I heard them both say, “The excitors have got the better of the inhibitors!”

Student:  Could you say that again please?

Buzz:  I’m trying to be British.  “The excitors have got the better of the inhibitors!”

Bruce:  When you said, I’m trying to be British, you could have left that out.  I think that’s your false modesty at play. You are quite good at sounding and looking British. Isn’t that true?

Buzz:  Right.  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  I’ve learned something!

Sir Charles Sherrington knew a lot about excitation and inhibition, as a physiologist.  In his younger days, Sherrington did his work in a hospital. When he got bored with his laboratory work, he would climb up to the top of the highest tower of this Victorian hospital building and do parachute jumps.

Bruce: Buzz, when you’re leaving things out, just close your lips very lightly, just very lightly. Give yourself time. People are taking in that image. That’s a great image. Personally, I’m seeing Buster Keaton.  You got a little chuckle there. Did you hear that?

Buzz:  Yeah.

Bruce:   They are definitely listening and responding to you.

Buzz:  Recently an American physiologist named Benjamin Libet has stepped up beside Sir Charles Sherrington as a powerful supporter of Alexander’s ideas. He’s associated with a medical school on the west coast. Libet is studying inhibition while working with patient human volunteers rather than suffering laboratory monkeys.

Bruce:  Pause here for a second Buzz, and just come forward like that, away from the back of the chair. Now when you return to the back of the chair, just talk to your lower back for a second. Ask your lower back to un-posture. Just let it gently un-posture. Even more. Great. And then just talk to your shoulders a little bit.

Now, that’s good. There’s going to be a real temptation to want to comment on the strong change in kinesthetic feeling. But forget it because it’s not in your essential circle. See what I mean?

Buzz:  I was about to talk about how I felt. I was out of my circle.

Bruce:  In a flash you can go right back into your core circle. Go right back.

Buzz:  Libet went even beyond Sir Charles by clocking the time we are offered by our system for inhibition. He did it in milliseconds. A millisecond is one thousandth of a second.

Bruce:  Take a pause there and let them think about that. And while they’re thinking about it, let this shoulder drop. (Buzz’s right shoulder drops as his back widens dramatically). No comment Buzz, no comment.

Buzz:  Dr. Libet found that a human response to a stimulus, any stimulus – a doorbell rings, lightening flashes, you think of how much you’re going to have to pay the IRS, (laughter from the crowd), any such stimulus of the millions of kinds we have, takes 500 milliseconds. Everybody say one, one thousandth.

Students:  “One, one thousandths!”

Buzz:  That was one second. Cut that in half. That leaves 500 milliseconds. The first 350 milliseconds of that 500 are unconscious. The last 50 are unconscious too. They are the action you begin to put into motion. You hear the phone. You go to answer the phone. How much time is left between the unconscious beginning and the unconscious ending of a response? Anybody?

Student: One hundred milliseconds.

Buzz:  Take a ten and go to the head of the class. No, that was outside of the circle. I made a mistake. I could have left that out.

Bruce:  Maybe. Maybe not. You sensed that you might have gone outside the circle, and you knew it before you were finished speaking!

Let’s analyze what just happened based upon what you just taught us. The student answers correctly. During the next 350 milliseconds your response is unconscious. We slide into that slender, infinite space of 100 milliseconds. During that micro instant you weren’t quite awake. The power of your decision had weakened just enough to allow the excitors to sneak ahead of the inhibitors. Before you knew it you were into the last 50 milliseconds. Your tongue began to form the word “Take”, “Take a ten and go to the head of the class.” That 100 millisecond window had come and gone.

But you know, Peg used to tell me, I always had another chance.  Peg told me that a lot. She knew how hard I was on myself. And Buzz, I know how hard you are on yourself. So, I say to you Buzz, there is going to be a next time. There’s going to be countless opportunities for you to play with being awake inside of that 100 millisecond window.

Let’s continue.  Make your decisionBe your decision.

Buzz:  Blink your eye; one normal quick blink.  That’s a half second, 500 milliseconds.. You should be getting an idea now of “inhibition time” – one fifth of a blink of the eye. Inhibition time. It’s just a hundred milliseconds. 

Bruce: Rest in that thought. They are really thinking. Look at them. They are more than thinking – they are meditating on the magnitude of that truth. They’re inhibiting right now. They have stopped thinking about inhibition as they have thought of it before. They are in that space of wondering, of not knowing.

Buzz:  What a small window of opportunity. The freedom to decide, the freedom to choose offers itself to us in one-fifth the time it takes for us to blink. Do we remain open to something new and surprising in our response, or do we stay with something old, familiar, predictable?

Bruce: Pause there. Look at these faces. They are hanging on that question. Now, come forward a bit, like that. Have no doubt that what you’re doing, even though it may feel strange and wrong, kind of empty, overly spacious, or too quiet, not funny enough, is working.

Your old habits may be trying to convince you that they know the right way, the time proven way. They want to re-convince you that there is no good reason to do anything any other way but the old way. They’re trying to talk you out of the experience you just had.  But I can feel them losing ground.

Look around.  Look at the facts. You’ve got an engaged group of people here who are taking you very seriously. Now, we’re going to let go of that lower back. Gently and decidedly un-posture. Undo. Undo yourself. I want to keep those front ribs soft and moving, soft and moving. Now kindly let go of your hip joints a little bit too, so you roll back nice and easy.

Now you’re not going to comment on this at all, you’re just going to use it.

Buzz:   Sir Charles Sherrington was the first physiologist to recognize and state that to not do something is just as much of an act as to do something. That bothered a lot of the bustling Edwardians around the turn of the century. But Sherrington proved this experimentally. He published a classic book, “The Integrated Function Of The Nervous System” – 650 pages, weighs about 4 pounds. 

 I couldn’t resist saying that.

Bruce:  I think that was inside your circle, maybe at the edge, but still inside.

Buzz:  The central point of Sherrington’s great book is that he glorifies inhibition! For Sherrington  inhibition is the source of the command over the entire organism –  the muscles and the bones are the servants of the brain and its inhibitory machinery.

Bruce: That’s a powerful thought. Give it some time. Let it have its weight.

Buzz:  Now when you enter some Alexander studios what do you see?  You see a skeleton. Occasionally you will see in the studio of an Alexander teacher a wall chart of the human musculature. You think you’re in a butcher shop.

What you rarely see is a wall chart of the central nervous system – the servant of the brain. The beautiful filigree of the human nervous system as it spreads and fans out. It’s got its little dendrites and axons fluttering everywhere, like bees coming out in the spring.

The present tendency in promoting the Alexander work, 19 out of 20 leaflets that I’ve seen about workshops in the Alexander Technique, convey the work as body work. 

Bruce:  Now let them deal with that constructive challenge. This could be one of the most important ideas these teachers may hear about what it means to be a teacher of Alexander’s work. It was for me. Now can you feel my hand touching your back?

Buzz:  Yes.

Bruce:  You’re almost going with me back here, but not quite.  You’re pushing against my hand a little bit.  Can you give yourself a little time to sense my hand back here and when my hand goes this way, can you go with me?  It’s going to feel like I’m taking you into a classic slump. I know this feels strange and wrong.

But what’s happening as you go with me is you are ceasing to pull your upper body back. That’s terrific. This may feel rather un-presentational, like you are just some regular guy sitting, relaxing, saying something you know to these people who are sitting around you, too ordinary, but this kind of ordinary is quietly extraordinary.

(Buzz is listening to the birds that suddenly seem to be singing all around us. Everything is still wet from the snow and sparkling from the sun.)

Buzz:   You hear that?  Coming from the top of the ziggurat? It’s a voice! It’s got a British accent! There it is! It’s saying, “Inhibition time.”

Buzz takes a bow. Everyone is smiling, a few of us crying a little.

Yeah, I miss Buzz. I miss his intelligence, his energy, his thoughtfulness, his endless openness to learn. What can I do? I have a few photos. I have some writings, some memories. I’ll do my best to learn from his example.

I’ll share him with others when I can, as I have with you.

 

Richard M. Gummere, Jr.

 

 

 

Not Yours. Not Mine.

Not in a place, not in a space,
Not a person, not a thing,
Not a ping or a pong,
Not the soundless sounding of a gong.
Not a word, surely not absurd.

Don’t look.
You’ll not come across it in a book.

Don’t seek,
And you will find,
It is not yours, not mine.

It has no foes, woes, or toes.
There – off it goes!

It hates to sit.
Does not come in a kit.
Some think it illegit.
About to quit?

It’s a zone…where you are not alone.
It’s a ball…floating through us all.
It’s a climate…of refinement.
It’s a breeze…full of ease.

It’s changeable as the weather.
Totally untethered, soft as a feather,
Like a field of heather.

Nowhere does it dwell.
It’s like a well, but without the well.
Well, well, well…impossible to tell.

It is…it is…it is.

Towards A Free Future

 

Photo: B. Fertman

 “Structure is the record of past function. Function is the source of future structures.” Ludwig von Bertalanffy.

Joyful Neutrality

It’s Wednesday afternoon. Every Wednesday at 3pm I pick up my son, Noah, at his school and, as we drive to soccer practice, I try to strike up a conversation with him, which is not easy. I then go to the co-op and pick up some food for dinner. After that I go to the barn and watch Eva, my daughter, ride. Eva spends most afternoons cleaning out stalls and caring for horses in exchange for riding lessons. Eva and I then drive to pick up Noah from practice, Eva talking non-stop, my not getting a word in edgewise. Noah and Eva both jump into the back seat and, depending on God knows what, either act as if they love each other or hate each other. We get home. I walk straight into the kitchen and start preparing dinner. That’s how it is, every Wednesday afternoon.

It’s 2:55pm. Prying myself away from my computer, I jump into my aging Suburu and, almost at Noah’s school, I remember that this morning, as I was packing lunch for the kids, my wife and I decided that today she would take Noah to soccer practice, get some food for dinner, go watch Eva ride, and then pick up Noah, because today I needed to pick up my Dad at 3pm, take him into center city to see his orthopedic surgeon in preparation for his second hip replacement.

There I was driving 180% in the wrong direction, driving to pick up my son when I needed to be driving to pick up my dad! Not only was my car on automatic, I was on automatic, doing what I always do on Wednesday afternoons. Actually, I was unaware of driving at all. I had, for all practical purposes, become an automaton.

That’s how it is for so many of us, so much of the time, when making the bed, when taking a shower, brushing our teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, driving to work. We do the same things in exactly the same ways, over and over again, not only inside of our everyday activities, but within our relationships as well. The same buttons get pushed, the same reactions triggered.

The eternal recurrence of the same.

Instead of going “Back To The Future”, we’re going “Forward To The Past”. Is it possible to go forward into a free future, a future not utterly determined by the past? How do we become conscious of our unconsciousness, of when we are living on automatic, which, in essence, amounts to life unlived?

Returning to our car metaphor, it’s as if our car were stuck in second gear. We cannot slow down and we can’t speed up. We’re not adapting well to varying conditions. Too few options. To make matters worse, unbeknownst to us, we’ve got our emergency break half way on. We’re trying to go forward but it feels like something is holding us back. How can we release the emergency break when we don’t know it is on? How can we learn to slide out of second and slip into neutral? Into joyful neutrality.

That’s what I call it because after spending years unknowingly driving around with our emergency break half engaged while stuck in second gear, and then, suddenly experiencing what it feels like when our emergency break is released and we slide into neutral is joyful. We feel loose, free. We’re moving effortlessly.  (Alexander realized that, physiologically, the emergency brake is located primarily in the neck.)

Now to get anywhere, we are going to have to shift back into gear, but now we’ve got four or five gears available to us and we know how to slide back and forth into neutral whenever we want. And we know how to check and see if our emergency break is on, and if it is, we know how to release it.

The Diamond

F.M. Alexander used a different metaphor. Imagine a turntable and on it a record. Around and around the record goes, and on it, in one groove, a diamond needle sits always and forever in the same groove.

The eternal recurrence of the same.

Alexander discovered how to, ever so gently, suspend the diamond needle above the record. This moment of suspension, of disengagement, is a profound relief. Silence. Stillness. Space. Perspective.

And within this moment there is choice, free will. It’s what I call the moment of opportunity. Alexander referred to it as the critical moment. It’s the moment when we are free to decide. Where do we want to place the diamond needle, back into the groove from where it came or into a different groove, one where we have been, or one where we have yet to be? Or do we want to replace it back at all? In that moment of suspension we are free to choose.

When the diamond needle returns there’s a new lightness to it all. We’re in contact, yet afloat. We’re no longer digging in.

What if we were to follow this metaphor and see where it leads us?

The stereo and the turntable is our body, our life force going round and round. The record is our genetic make up, where we were born, when, and to whom, factors beyond our control.

We are the masters making our master recording. Each of us gets one chance to compose and record one simple melody.

The diamond needle is the conductor between free will and determinism, between what was given and what we will choose to give.

Are we listening?

Can we hear when the diamond needle gets stuck? Or skips? Can we hear when it’s time to wipe the dust from the record, or from the diamond needle? Is the volume too loud, or too soft? Is there balance between treble and bass?

Are we listening?

At some point the diamond needle reaches the end of the record. On its own, it lifts itself off the record, returning from whence it came. The arm silently settles and rests in the armrest. The turntable stops turning. All is quiet, and still.

Are we listening?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Not?

 

Gate House at Gaunts House, Dorset, England

Why not? Why not allow Alexander Alliance Post Graduate teachers in England to study for free inside of our Alexander Alliance Post Graduate Program in Switzerland? Why not? And why not allow Alexander Alliance Post Graduate teachers in Switzerland to study for free inside of our program in England?

After all, all of them are Alexander teachers sincerely interested in expanding and honing their teaching skills. It’s fun to travel. It’s enriching to meet, work, and make friends with Alexander teachers from other countries.

The Alexander Alliance International is founded upon a vision of an intergenerational, multicultural community/school centered around the work of F.M. Alexander, a vision I had 45 years ago. That vision has become a reality.

Home of the Alexander Alliance Germany

Some Alexander Alliance Post Graduates have also begun participating in retreat trainings at the Alexander Alliance Germany. They get to do that at half the cost because having the post graduates contributes to the training of our trainees. So everyone wins. That’s what we want.

So, if you are considering joining either our Post Graduate Program in England or Switzerland, know that all of this is also available to you.

Email me at bf@brucefertman is you have any questions.

If you are interested in our England program email Ruth Davis at  ruth.a.davis@me.com.

If you are interested in our Swiss program email Magdalena Gassner at alexander.technik@gmx.ch

 

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Downtown, Zurich.

Hopefully I will see you in October in Dorset, or in November in Zurich.

Yours,

Bruce Fertman, for the Alexander Alliance International

 

A Workshop For Alexander Teachers and Trainees – From Here To Really Here – November 11, 2017 – Zurich, Switzerland

Inhibition and Direction go together like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, like Abbott and Costello, like Batman and Robin, like Tonto and the Lone Ranger.

Like Yin and Yang. Actually a lot like yin and yang. First there is nothing and then there is something. First there was evening and then morning. Inhibition and Direction.

On November 11th we will spend a whole day together playing with a number of directional systems, all variations on a theme, that theme being Alexander’s classical directions.

According to F.M., as we all know, direction is…the process involved in projecting messages from the brain to the mechanisms and in conducting the energy necessary to the use of those mechanism.

My imagistic mind sees a bottle floating up on the shore and in the bottle hides a message. Imagine the message as a map, directions, or instructions giving us a hint as to how to get from here to really here. The message may be communicated via words, but may be communicated non-verbally as well, geometrically or graphically. The message, in whatever form, excites us, energizes us and off we go in some direction toward our destination, from here to really here.

Join me for a day of improvising with helical, spherical, anatomical, verbal, imagistic, and spatial expressions of Alexander’s classical directions.

Bruce Fertman

About Bruce Fertman

Bruce Fertman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He is the embodiment of his work. His touch is like a butterfly settling down on the very turning point of your soul. And then you know, “That’s who I am, that is who I could be.”

M. Tueshaus, Alexander Teacher / Tango Teacher/ Equestrian

Bruce has been using his hands, helping people to move well, for fifty-five years. He trained with five first generation Alexander teachers: Catherine Merrick Wielopolska, Marjorie L. Barstow, Richard M. Gummere Jr., Elisabeth Walker, and Erika Whittaker. Bruce brings a lifetime of training as a movement artist and educator to his work as an Alexander teacher, having trained in Gymnastics, Modern Dance, Ballet, Contact Improvisation, Tai Chi Chu’an, Aikido, Chanoyu, Argentine Tango, and Kyudo. In 1982, Bruce co-founded the Alexander Alliance International, an intergenerational, multicultural community/school. Currently director of the Alexander Alliance Germany, Bruce also teaches annually for Alexander Alliance training programs in Japan, Korea, and America. He conducts post graduate training programs in Dorset and Zurich. Currently, Bruce is near completion of Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart – Delving Into The Work Of F.M. Alexander, which will soon be published by Mouritz press.

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, an exquisite touch, 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.

A. Turner – Alexander Technique Teacher
Cornwall, England

One of the foremost representatives of Marjorie Barstow’s lineage, Bruce’s work is unique and innovative. Bruce is especially gifted when it comes to teaching in groups. He’s a philosopher, poet and writer who gives voice to what is wonderful about the Alexander Technique.

Michael Frederick – Founding Director of the International Congresses for the Alexander Technique

For information and to register contact

Magdalena Gassner

at

alexander.technik@gmx.ch