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All In A Days Work


Photo: B. Fertman

Photo: B. Fertman

There’s the man that, when he talks, nervously looks up and to the right, blinking rapidly. Why, I’ve no idea. I don’t bother to try and find out. I ask him to tell me what’s difficult about his job. He begins to speak. I tap his arm the instant he begins to look up, which he is doing about every 3 seconds. He can’t believe he looks up so much. Soon he’s sensing it every time. As soon as you notice your eyes up and to the right, stop everything, don’t move, don’t speak. Just ask yourself, “What would happen if I simply ceased looking up? He begins speaking. His eyes snap up and to the right. He stops. I can almost hear him asking the question. Immediately, on their own, his eyelids lower, his eyes begin to water, settling back in his eye sockets, while his entire body relaxes and he begins to breathe like a man just resuscitated. I continue asking him questions, and for the next two minutes, he looks at me and speaks without once looking up. Not once.

There’s the woman whose eyes are too big, too open. She was told, since she was a little girl that her eyes were beautiful. I ask her if she can remember a time before anyone told her that her eyes were big and beautiful. She thinks for a long time, a long time, and then says, no, I can’t. It is as if she was only born the moment people began to tell her how she looked.

There’s a mom stooped over her child in an effort to help balance and protect her son as he walks unaware that, when she stands fully upright, her hand rests beside her son’s head, and that her son’s arm is fully capable of lengthening freely and easily well above his head. That all her little son needs, and really wants, is to lightly hold her index finger. She takes my suggestion, stands up, offers her index finger, her son looks at it, takes it, and smiles.

There’s the man who’s uncomfortable stretching. He appears to be simultaneously stretching and keeping himself from stretching. I have him sense the difference between moving without producing a stretch and with producing a stretch. I ask him to go into a stretch, slowly, letting it begin as a movement, and to continue that movement for as long as he can without producing a stretch. I have him do this several times. I suggest he begin to make movements in other directions, to make other curving or spiraling movements through his whole body without creating a stretch. I silently walk behind him, placing my hands almost imperceptibly on his arms, just above his elbows, following his movements, all the while educing an effortless release through his whole body. His movements become beautiful, free instead of constricted. His range has noticeably increased. How do you feel, I ask? I feel loose and awake, he says. That’s what we’re after when we stretch isn’t it? Yes, he says, slightly bewildered.

There’s the singer singing, gasping for air at the end of each phrase, her chest dropping out from under her, her shoulders curling forward, her chin lifting up, the back of her skull pushing into the back of her neck. You can hear her sucking in the air. She begins to sense what she’s doing, begins to hear how she gasps. It’s a beginning.

There’s the business executive that says “eh” (our um), in between every sentence, who when he leaves “eh” out becomes crystal clear to understand, is filled with real confidence, thinks more clearly, and who immediately wakes up everyone in the room.

There’s the man who likes to hike who has trouble putting on his backpack. He simply has not noticed that he could loosen one of his straps and then initiate a slight swing that allows the pack to almost slide onto his back by itself.

A 30 something woman is possessed by childish cute-isms that she cannot stop. She’s thirty something, but moves as if she is a nervous 12 year-old. Knowing that I often use my hands when I teach, she’s warns me she’s acutely ticklish. I nod. I ask her to walk over to me. Immediately what I refer to as a “cute-ism” begins, quick cute expressions like tilting her head and smiling with one hand covering her mouth, turning her right foot in, innocently blinking her eyes. She walks over. I ask her to walk back to where she was. After first producing a few unconscious cute-isms, she does. Without being the least bit cute or nice, but not mean, I tell her precisely what she is doing. The truth. I tell her to decide, emphatically, to leave them out, entirely, and just walk over. The smile comes off her face. She stands there for about 10 seconds, and then walks over. For five minutes, I have her leaving out her cute-isms and walking to different parts of the room. Throughout the entire weekend she looked and conducted herself like a mature woman. By the end of the workshop she seemed to forget she was ticklish. She accepted my touch, just like everyone else. I said nothing about it. Nor did I say anything about the disappearance of her cute-isms. There was no need. She had done her work.

There’s the tai chi teacher whose tai chi form is already exquisite, and who gets even better when I suggest she not look down, that she first look in the direction where she is going, and then go there.

There’s the nurse who feels she has to bring her head and eyes close to her patient to show she cares when, in fact, it’s makes her patient uncomfortable. The nurse discovers that when she simply stands where she is, and looks at her patient while allowing her eyes to be above her upright spine, and speaks to her patient from there, instills real trust and safety, exactly what she wants to do.

There’s the toddler falling asleep on his mother’s lap. The child is leaning back upon the mother’s chest, his head fallen back, mouth open. The mother has her hands around the child’s belly. The mother’s shoulders are curled forward. There’s some tension in her hands. Her knees are pressing one against the other, firmly closed, her feet turned in, her heals held up off the ground.

Not to wake the child, I quietly pull a chair up directly behind the mother. I sit down, in tandem, with her. Softly placing my hands, one on either side of her neck, her neck tension releases, her head floats up atop her spine, and in rapid succession, her shoulders widen, her hands relax, appear larger, her thighs unbrace and rest on the chair, knees part, heals drop to the floor as her feet turn out ever so slightly.

At the same time, the baby’s mouth closes, and he too regains his head poise. I look around the room. Several people are crying. I’m not sure why. I lean around the mother so I can see how she’s doing. A ray of late afternoon light has entered through a window and is falling onto the mother’s face. She looks like a Madonna and Child.

My work is done for the day. I will go out, like so many working people do in Tokyo, with some friends, eat dinner, have a cold beer. I won’t be watching how people move or speak. I won’t be thinking about how they could do this or that more easily. I’ll be sitting back, fading into the woodwork, happy not to be the center of attention. There’s nothing for me to do now but love people, exactly the way they are.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Beautifully written, thanks

    March 27, 2014
  2. constanceclarenewman #


    March 26, 2014
  3. Mark Josefsberg #

    Thanks for all the wonderful teaching, Bruce. Not only for the people in your workshop, but all of us reading this.

    March 26, 2014
  4. David Gorman #

    Nice one, Bruce…

    March 26, 2014
    • hi david! no nice to know that you check out what i write now and again. we have not seen one another for so many years. i think the last time was in london at your school. take care friend.

      March 26, 2014

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