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Die zehn häufigsten Mythen über die Alexander Technik

Die zehn häufigsten Mythen über die Alexander Technik

von Bruce Fertman

Ein befreundeter Alexander Lehrer fragte mich ob es eine Mitschrift zu meinem Youtube-Video, die zehn häufigsten Mythen über die Alexander Technik, gibt. Ich suchte und fand diese Mitschrift. Hier nun die ein wenig bearbeitete Version mit erklärenden Fotos.

Dieser Artikel kann gerne geteilt werden. Um in die Ideen dahinter tiefer einzutauchen und für ein tieferes Verständnis, empfehle ich mein Buch: „Mit Händen lehren, von Herzen lernen: Eintauchen in die Arbeit von F.M. Alexander“, erschienen im „Die Werkstatt“ Verlag.

DIE ZEHN HÄUFIGSTEN MYTHEN ÜBER DIE ALEXANDER TECHNIK

Hallo, ich heiße Bruce Fertman. Ich bin der Gründer der Alexander Alliance International.

Hier stelle ich die zehn häufigsten Mythen über die Alexander Technik, die viele Menschen für wahr halten, vor. Nach 50 Jahren des intensiven Studiums und nachdem ich 300 Lehrer ausgebildet habe, bin ich zu der Erkenntnis gekommen, dass diese verbreiteten Ideen nicht richtig sind.

Eins.

Bei der Alexander Technik geht es um Körperhaltung. Dass ist ein Mythos.

Wirklichkeit: Bei der Alexander Technik geht es um die Ent-Körperhaltisierung. Das Problem ist, dass wir ständig Körperpositionen einnehmen, meist völlig unbewusst. In der Alexander Technik geht es darum eine Person zu sein, die keine Körperpositionen einnimmt. Eine, die sich nicht „zusammen hält“, nicht fixiert. Die nicht nur physisch flexibel und beweglich ist, sondern als ganze Person.

 

Photo: B. Fertman – Trevi Fountain

 

Zwei.

Bei der Alexander Technik geht es um „gerade Haltung“. Dass ist ein Mythos.

Wirklichkeit: Die Alexander Technik hat nichts damit zu tun, gerade zu stehen. Weder im Körper gibt es gerade Linien, noch im Universum. Bei der  Alexander Technik geht es nicht darum, etwas richtig zu machen oder korrekt auszuführen.  Es geht darum, was wir tun, gut auszuführen – effizient, effektiv, flüssig, angenehm und mit Genuß.

 

Photo by: Anchan of B. Fertman

 

Drei.

Die Alexander Technik lehrt wie wir unseren Kopf zum Nacken halten sollen. Dass ist ein Mythos.

Wirklichkeit: Bei der Alexander Technik geht es darum, wie wir aufhören können unseren Kopf im Verhältnis zum Nacken richtig zu halten. Es geht darum, nicht in das innewohnende Gleichgewicht unseres Mechanismus einzugreifen, welches den Kopf für uns hält.

 

Photo: B. Fertman – Sherry Stephenson

 

Vier.

Bei der Alexander Technik geht es um den Körper. Dass ist ein Mythos.

Wirklichkeit: Bei der Alexander Technik geht es um uns, wie wir sind: in uns,  mit anderen und im Verhältnis zur Welt um uns. Es geht um die Qualität unserer Aktionen und Interaktionen. Es geht um die Qualität unserer Erfahrungen. Es dreht sich darum wie wir sind, während wir tun, was wir tun.

 

archer close up

Photo: B. Fertman

 

Fünf.

Bei der Alexander Technik geht es darum symmetrischer zu sein, weil Symmetrie bedeutet im Gleichgewicht zu sein. Dass ist ein Mythos.

Wirklichkeit: In der Natur ist nichts wirklich symmetrisch, auch Menschen nicht. Symmetrie ist ein Konzept, so wie ein Punkt oder eine Linie ein Konzept sind. Buddha mag symmetrisch scheinen, wenn er so friedlich auf einer Lotusblume sitzt. Schauen wir genauer, sehen wir einen Fuß über dem anderen. Eine Hand über der anderen. Schau genau in das Gesicht einer beliebigen Person und Du wirst darin keine perfekte Symmetrie finden. Was wir anstreben ist Harmonie, nicht Symmetrie. Und Harmonie hat nichts mit der Form deines Körpers zu tun, in keinem Moment.

 

Photo: B. Fertman

 

Sechs.

Bei der Alexander Technik geht es um Balance. Dass ist ein Mythos.

Wirklichkeit: Gleichgewicht ist für Menschen nicht möglich. Wir sind grundsätzlich nicht im Gleichgewicht. Dadurch kommen wir in Bewegung. Wir schwanken ständig zwischen der Balance und dem Verlieren der Balance. Dies ist eine gute Sache. Wenn der Wind weht, entstehen Wellen auf der Teichoberfläche. Der Wind hört auf und die Wellen werden sanfter, nähern sich dem Stillstand werden aber nicht völlig ruhig. Stille ist ein Konzept. Ein schönes Konzept, doch in der Stille liegt Bewegung, egal wie subtil diese ist.

 

Lucia Walker: Alexander teacher, Johannesburg, South Africa

 

Sieben.

Bei der Alexander Technik wird eine korrekte Atmung gelehrt. Dass ist ein Mythos.

Wirklichkeit: Wir atmen nicht. Alexander sagte einmal: ”Schließlich finde ich, wenn ich nicht atme, atme ich.“ Ich würde es so formulieren: schließlich finde ich, wenn ich nicht atme, werde ich geatmet. Wir werden von Kräften tief in uns und um uns herum geatmet. Atmen wir, während wir schlafen? Atmen wir, während wir essen? Ja, wir können einen Atemzug nehmen.  Atem gibt es nicht um genommen zu werden. Er gehört nicht Dir. Atem ist ein Geschenk der Welt, er ist geschaffen um empfangen zu werden.  Atmen ist responsive. Er reagiert auf Aktivität. Er ist nicht etwas was wir tun, er ist keine Aktivität, wie den Berg hinauf zu laufen. Stehen wir zuerst da und atmen genug Luft ein um den Berg hinauf zu laufen? Oder laufen wir los, den Berg hinauf und atmen automatisch und vertrauensvoll reagierend auf unseren Wunsch hinauf zu kommen, ohne vorher darum Fragen zu müssen?

 

 

Acht.

Bei der Alexander Technik lernt man, wie man steht. Auf den eigenen Füßen. Dass ist ein Mythos.

Wirklichkeit: wir stehen nicht auf unseren Füßen. Wir stehen auf dem Untergrund.

 

 

Neun.

Bei der Alexander Technik geht es darum Entspannung zu lernen. Dass ist ein Mythos.

Wirklichkeit: Bei der Alexander Technik geht es um Bereitschaft. Es geht um die Vorbereitung auf nichts Bestimmtes – während wir, für was auch immer passiert, bereit sind. Bei der Alexander Technik geht es darum, wieder und wieder, mühelos zurück zu kehren, in einen Zustand der Wachheit, Ruhe und Bereitschaft.

 

Photo: Anchan – Alexander teacher: Britta Brandt-Jacobs

 

Zehn.

Bei der Alexander Technik geht es um die richtige Körper-Mechanik. Man lernt, den besten Weg um aus einem Stuhl aufzustehen oder sich hinzusetzen. Lernt wie man korrekt geht, wie man sich bückt ohne sich zu schaden usw. Dass ist ein Mythos.

Wirklichkeit: Menschen sind nicht mechanisch. Wir sind keine Maschinen. Wir sind organisch. Wir sind  Säugetiere. Die Alexander Technik lehrt, wie optimal konzipiert wir sind um als Homo Sapiens zu funktionieren. Zum Teil, hinterfragt die Alexander Technik, kulturelle, geschlechtliche und kosmetische Konzepte des Körpers, welche in die Funktionalität und Schönheit unseres natürlichen Designs eingreifen.

 

Bruce Fertman

The Alexander Alliance Europe

bf@brucefertman.com

 

Übersetzung von Claudia Kohl

 

 

EL TOP TEN DE MITOS SOBRE LA TÉCNICA ALEXANDER

Un compañero profesor de Alexander me preguntó si tenía una transcripción de mi pequeño video de youtube. El Top Ten de Mitos sobre la Técnica Alexander. Estaba en algún lugar en mi computadora. Lo encontré y lo modifiqué un poco. Agregué algunas fotos que respaldan algunas de las ideas.

Siéntete libre de compartirlo. Para entender estas ideas más profundamente, te recomiendo leer Teaching by Hand/Learning by Heart – Delving into the Work of F.M. Alexander (Enseñando con las Manos/Aprendiendo con el Corazón – Profundizando en el trabajo de F.M. Alexander), un libro que escribí, publicado por Jean Fischer en Mouritz Press.

EL TOP TEN DE MITOS SOBRE LA TÉCNICA ALEXANDER

Por Bruce Fertman, 11 de Febrero de 2020

Hola. Mi nombre es Bruce Fertman. Soy el director fundador de la Alianza Internacional de Alexander. Estos son diez mitos de la Técnica Alexander que mucha gente cree que son ciertos. Después de 50 años de estudio dedicado, y de entrenar a 300 profesores, me he dado cuenta que estas ideas no son verdad.

Uno

La Técnica Alexander se trata de la postura. Eso es un mito.

Realidad. La Técnica Alexander se trata de la no-postura. El problema es que continuamente estamos haciendo posturas, casi siempre inconcientemente. La Técnica Alexander se trata de convertirse en una persona sin postura, esto es, no sujeta, no fija, flexible, móvil, no sólo físicamente, sino como persona en general.

Photo: B. Fertman – Trevi Fountain

 

Dos

La Técnica Alexander se trata de estar derechos. Eso es un mito.

Realidad. La Técnica Alexander no tiene nada que ver con pararse derechos. No hay una sola línea recta en el cuerpo, o en el universo en todo caso. La Técnica Alexander no tiene nada que ver con hacer algo bien, o correctamente. Tiene que ver con hacer lo que hacemos bien, de manera eficiente, efectiva, fluida, cómoda y placentera.

Photo by: Anchan of B. Fertman

 

Tres

La Técnica Alexander se trata de cómo sostener nuestra cabeza sobre nuestro cuello. Eso es un mito.

Realidad. La Técnica Alexander se trata de dejar de sostener nuestra cabeza sobre nuestro cuello. Se trata de no interferir con los mecanismos de equilibrio inherentes que hacen eso por nosotros.

Photo: B. Fertman – Sherry Stephenson

 

Cuatro

 La Técnica Alexander se trata del cuerpo. Eso es un mito.

Realidad. La Técnica Alexander se trata de nosotros, como estamos con nosotros mismos, con los demás, y en relación con el mundo que nos rodea. Se trata de la calidad de nuestras acciones y reacciones. De la calidad de nuestras experiencias. De cómo estamos siendo mientras hacemos lo que estamos haciendo.

Photo: B. Fertman

 

Cinco

La Técnica Alexander se trata de llegar a ser más simétricos porque la simetría es equilibrio. Eso es un mito.

Realidad. Nada en la naturaleza es perfectamente simétrico, incluidos los seres humanos. La simetría es un concepto, como un punto o una línea es un concepto. Buda puede verse simétrico mientras está sentado pacíficamente en la flor de loto pero míralo de cerca y verás un pie sobre el otro y una mano sobre la otra. Miremos de cerca el rostro de cualquier persona y no encontraremos simetría perfecta. Buscamos la armonía, no la simetría, y la armonía no está relacionada con la forma de nuestro cuerpo en un momento dado.

Photo: B. Fertman

 

Seis

 La Técnica Alexander se trata del equilibrio. Eso es un mito.

Realidad. El equilibrio para los humanos es imposible. Somos inherentemente desequilibrados, y esto es lo que promueve el movimiento. Oscilamos hacia y lejos del equilibrio. Esto es bueno. Cuando el viento sopla, se generan olas sobre la superficie de un estanque. El viento para y las olas se vuelven más pequeñas, se acercan pero nunca alcanzan la quietud. La quietud es un concepto, uno hermoso, pero dentro de la quietud yace el movimiento, por más sutil que sea.

Lucia Walker: Alexander teacher, Johannesburg

 

Siete

La Técnica Alexander se trata de aprender a respirar correctamente. Eso es un mito.

Realidad. No respiramos. Alexander dijo una vez, “Al final descubrí que cuando no respiro, respiro”. Yo lo diría así. Al final descubrí que cuando no respiro, estoy respirando. Somos respirados por fuerzas profundas dentro de nosotros y a nuestro alrededor. ¿Respiramos cuando dormimos? ¿Respiramos cuando comemos? Si, podemos tomar un respiro. Pero el aliento no es para tomar. No nos pertenece. El aliento es un regalo del mundo. Está destinado a ser recibido. La respiración es receptiva. Responde a la actividad. No es algo que hacemos; no es una actividad como ir corriendo por una colina. Cuando corremos cuesta arriba, ¿nos detenemos primero y respiramos y tomamos suficiente aire y luego corremos? ¿O corremos cuesta arriba y la respiración responde automática y fielmente a nuestros deseos, sin siquiera tener que preguntar?

 

Ocho

La Técnica Alexander se trata de aprender a pararnos, cómo pararnos sobre nuestros propios pies. Eso es un mito.

Realidad. No nos paramos sobre nuestros propios pies. Nos paramos sobre la tierra.

 

Nueve

La Técnica Alexander se trata de aprender a relajarse. Eso es un mito.

Realidad. La Técnica Alexander trata sobre la preparación. Sobre prepararse para nada en particular, mientras estamos listos para cualquier cosa que pueda suceder. La Técnica Alexander se tata de volver sin esfuerzo, una y otra vez, a una condición de alerta y calma.

Photo: Anchan – Alexander teacher: Britta Brandt-Jacobs

 

Diez

La Técnica Alexander se trata de la mecánica corporal apropiada; aprender la mejor manera de parase y sentarse en una silla, cómo caminar correctamente, como agacharse sin hacerse daño, etc. Eso es un mito.

Realidad. Los seres humanos no son mecánicos. No somos máquinas. Somos orgánicos. Somos mamíferos. La Técnica Alexander se trata de aprender cómo estamos mejor diseñados para funcionar como Homo Sapiens. La Técnica Alexander es, en parte, cuestionar los conceptos culturales, de género y cosméticos del cuerpo que interfieren con el funcionamiento y la belleza de nuestro diseño natural.

Bruce Fertman

The Alexander Alliance Europe

bf@brucefertman.com

 

Traducción: Verónica Cabral, Profesora de Técnica Alexander certificada en Escuela Latinoamericana de Técnica Alexander

 

 

 

The Top Ten Myths about the Alexander Technique

A fellow Alexander teacher asked if I had a transcript of my little youtube video, Top Ten Myths about the Alexander Technique. It was somewhere in my computer. I found it and tweaked it just a bit. I added a few photos that support some of the ideas.

Feel free to share it. To understand these ideas more deeply, I would encourage you to read, Teaching by Hand/Learning by Heart – Delving into the Work of F.M. Alexander, a book I wrote, published by Jean Fischer at Mouritz Press.

THE TOP TEN MYTHS ABOUT THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE

Hi. My name is Bruce Fertman. I’m the founding director of the Alexander Alliance International.  Here are ten myths about the Alexander Technique that many people believe are true.  After 50 years of dedicated study, and after training 300 teachers, I have come to realize that these ideas are not true.

One.

The Alexander Technique is about posture. That’s a myth.

Reality. The Alexander Technique is about un-posturing. The problem is that we are continually posturing, most often unconsciously. The Alexander Technique is about becoming an un-postured person, that is, unheld, unfixed, flexible, movable, not only physically, but as a person in general.

 

Photo: B. Fertman

 

Two. 

The Alexander Technique is about uprightness. That’s a myth.

Reality. The Alexander Technique has nothing to do with standing up straight.  There is not one straight line in the body, or in the universe for that matter. The Alexander Technique has nothing to do with doing anything right, or correctly. It is about doing what we do well, efficiently, effectively, fluidly, comfortably, and pleasurably.

 

Photo by: Anchan of B. Fertman

 

Three. 

The Alexander Technique is about how we hold our head on our neck. That’s a myth.

Reality. The Alexander Technique is about how we stop holding our head on our neck. It’s about not interfering with inherent balancing mechanisms that do that for us.

 

Photo: B. Fertman – Sherry Stephenson

 

Four.

The Alexander Technique is about the body. That’s a myth.

Reality. The Alexander Technique is about us, about how we are within ourselves, with others, and in relation to the world around us. It’s about the quality of our actions and interactions. It’s about the quality of our experience. It’s about how we are being as we do what we are doing.

 

Photo: B. Fertman

 

Five.

The Alexander Technique is about becoming more symmetrical because symmetry is balanced. That’s a myth.

Reality. Nothing in nature is perfectly symmetrical, including humans. Symmetry is a concept, like a point, or a line is a concept. Buddha might look symmetrical when he’s sitting peacefully on a lotus flower but take a closer look and we see one foot on top of the other, and one hand on top of the other. Look closely at any persons’ face and we won’t find perfect symmetry. We’re after harmony, not symmetry, and harmony is not related to the shape of our body at any given moment.

 

Photo: B. Fertman

 

Six. 

The Alexander Technique is about balance. That’s a myth.

Reality. Balance for humans is impossible. We are inherently unbalanced, and this is what promotes movement. We waver toward and away from equilibrium. This is a good thing. When the wind blows, waves are generated upon the surface of a pond. The wind stops and those waves become smaller, approaching but never attaining stillness. Stillness is a concept, a beautiful one, but within stillness lies motion, however subtle.

 

Lucia Walker: Alexander teacher, Johannesburg, South Africa

 

Seven.

The Alexander Technique is about learning how to breathe correctly.  That’s a myth.

Reality. We don’t breathe. Alexander once said, “At last, I find that when I don’t breathe, I breathe.” I would say it like this. At last, I find that when I don’t breathe, I am breathed. We are breathed by forces deep within us and all around us. Do we breathe when you are sleeping?  Do we breathe when we are eating? Yes, we can take a breath. But breath is not for the taking. It does not belong to us. Breath is a gift from the world. It’s meant to be received. Breathing is responsive. It responds to activity. It is not something we do; it is not an activity, like running up a hill. When we run up a hill, do we first stand there and breathe and get enough air, and then run up the hill? Or do we run up the hill and breathing automatically and faithfully responds to our wishes, without our even having to ask?

 

 

Eight.

The Alexander Technique is about learning how to stand, how to stand on our own two feet. That’s a myth.

Reality. We do not stand on our own two feet. We stand on the ground.

 

 

Nine.

The Alexander Technique is about learning how to relax. That’s a myth.

Reality. The Alexander Technique is about readiness. The Alexander Technique is about preparing for nothing in particular, while being ready for anything that may happen. The Alexander Technique is about effortlessly returning, again and again, to a condition of alert, calm readiness.

 

Photo: Anchan – Alexander teacher: Britta Brandt-Jacobs

 

Ten.

The Alexander Technique is about proper body mechanics; learning the best way to get up and down from a chair, how to walk correctly, how to bend down without hurting yourself, etc. That’s a myth.

Reality. Human beings are not mechanical.  We are not machines. We’re organic.  We’re mammals. The Alexander Technique is about learning how we are best designed to function as Homo Sapiens.  The Alexander Technique is, in part, about questioning cultural, gender, and cosmetic concepts of the body that interfere with the functioning and beauty of our natural design.

 

 

Bruce Fertman

The Alexander Alliance Europe

Teaching by Hand/Learning by Heart

 

 

 

 

 

The Evolution of an Ever Changing Curriculum

Photo: B. Fertman

 

Part One

What Alexander’s Notion of Personal Use Mean for us

 at the Alexander Alliance International

 

Currently, our curriculum is two-fold, personal and professional.

First. Without having spent years integrating Alexander’s work into one’s personal life, it is not possible to become a teacher of his work. Personal transformation is the basis upon which a life as an Alexander teacher is founded. Therefore, I will go into some detail as to what this transformational process entails.

Personal Development

Throughout the entire training, we train somatically, that is, we work on attuning ourselves physically, and we explore the relationship this physical attuning has upon our lives personally, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. Our physical attuning process is founded upon the insights and principles discerned by Alexander as to how we learn to function in accordance to our “original blueprint”, our inherent cognitive-neuro-muscular/fascial-skeletal design. 

Regardless of our personal life situation, we share a common context in which our lives unfold. Alexander’s work attempts to shift for the better, our psychophysical relationship to the contextual framework in which our lives unfold. This shift in how we relate psychophysically to life’s contextual framework, indirectly but significantly, influences the content of our life, the way in which our lives unfold, and how we experience this unfolding. Our training is devoted to this contextual shift.

Our Common Context

Pedagogically, I divide our life context into nine facets: Structural Support, Ground Force, Spatial Freedom, Organ Capacity, Temporal Existence, Respiratory Restoration, Sensory Receptivity, Motoric Refinement, and Social Harmony/Inner Peace.

One. Structural Support

We share a common structure. We are all Homo Sapiens. At any given moment, we are using our structure in a particular way. At the Alexander Alliance, we learn how to respect and treat our structure according to its inherent design. This frees us into our natural support, allowing us to be at once, light and substantial, soft and strong, relaxed and ready, stable and flexible, peaceful and lively, receptive and generous, awake to ourselves, to others, and to the world around us.

Through Alexander’s work our personal relationship to our physical structure, to being consciously and appreciatively embodied changes, for the better.

Two. Ground Force

All of us are subject to gravity. Gravity derives from “gravis” or “gravitas”, and means heavy, weight, serious. For our purposes, gravity might best be thought of as “the law of mutual attraction” which states that bodies are drawn to each other through gravitational attraction. The strength of their attraction is greater if they are close together, and lesser if they are more distant. This force of attraction exists between any two bodies. Or, we might refer to Newton’s third law of motion, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When we sit in a chair, our bodies exert a downward force into the chair, while the chair exerts an equally upward force through our bodies.

These forces are not grave, not serious. They are positive, interactive forces, I dare say, joyful. These forces allow objects, both animate and inanimate, to rest. The more we can rest, the more support we can receive. The more support we receive, the more grace and lightness we experience.

Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to gravity changes, for the better.

Three. Spatial Freedom

We all live in space.

There is space within. We all possess a sense of space, or a lack thereof. Sometimes, we feel trapped, or cramped, that we have no room to move or breathe. Sometimes, we feel open and 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. Some of us seem to spread out, some squeeze in, some hold back, some thrust forward, some press down, some pull up. How to be spatially unbiased, spatially balanced, spatially omni-directional?

There is space between, between us and our smartphones, our computers, our steering wheels, our soup bowls. There is space between us and those around us, when on a crowded train, when waiting in line at the grocery store, when sitting at the kitchen table.

There is space all around us, above us, below us, before us, behind us, beside us. Unbeknownst to us, we live with blinders on, zooming in on what is in front of us, narrowing our worldview.

Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to space within, between, and around, changes, for the better.

Four. Organ Capacity

We are all organ-isms, creatures. Even though we have a sense of internal space, in reality, the space within our structural framework is fully occupied; the cranial cavity, thoracic cavity, abdominal cavity, and pelvic cavity. Again, unbeknownst to us, we impinge upon our organs, exert pressure against them, prevent them from moving. We ignore them. Sensing our organs, our organ life, reminds us that we are alive, human beings being, rather than only human doings doing.

Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to our organ life changes, for the better.

Five. Temporal Existence

We all live in time. 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. We can find ourselves waiting, a temporal event, for an urgent phone call, for a needed document to download, for the train that is late to arrive. Then again, there is long-term waiting, for the kids to leave home, for the perfect person to come into our lives, or for when we will be earning much more money, or for when we finally retire and get to travel. Or we find ourselves rushing about, worried about being late, meeting deadlines, getting everything done that we have to do. Time pressure. Clock time.

Then, there is biological time. Pacing. Tempo. Right timing. Eating, walking, speaking. Time to think. Time to feel. Time to breathe. Time to let the beauty of the world sink in, into our bones, into our hearts. Biologically, we by nature, mature, age, die. Our lives are temporally finite. We only have so much time, so many breaths. “Number your days”, King David suggests to us in Psalm 90. Don’t waste them. Don’t miss them. Experience them. Enjoy them. Be grateful for them. Live them. Make the most of them. as he did so well. What does it mean to age gracefully? How can we best adapt to our aging bodies? What do we want to pass on, to give away?

Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to time changes, for the better.

Six. Respiratory Restoration

Unknowingly, we often interfere with breathing, without understanding how or why, or even when, we do it. It helps to become aware of the particular ways in which we interfere with breathing. This, it turns out, is not so easy. As soon as we begin to set about studying our breath, this very act of studying it begins to change it. Immediately, we want to breathe right, or well, or fully. Instantly, we superimpose our attempt to breath better, whatever our idea of that is, on top of our habitual way of breathing.

Seeing that breathing defies being studied directly, our only recourse, if we want a way into the mystery of breath, is to study it indirectly. This means looking at the conditions that surround breathing. Breathing responds to pressure of any and all kinds. External pressure, for example, altitude, pollution, over stimulation, under stimulation, danger, as well as safety, comfort, love, a cat resting in your lap.

Breathing responds to internal pressures as well, like exertion, hunger, fatigue, strain, disease, self-imposed standards, time restraints. Breathing responds to the entire gamut of thoughts, sensations, emotions – be they painful or pleasurable.

Breath is not an action; it’s a response. When we decide to run up a hill, we don’t stand there and breathe until we have enough air to make it up the hill. We start running. The air of the world, and our bodies reflexes, without our having to ask, help us to accomplish what we have decided to do. Just like that. Such support. Such kindness. Such faithfulness. And how often do we stop, and say thank you?

Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to breathing changes, for the better.

Seven. Sensory Receptivity

We all are endowed with senses, though some of us do not have all of them. We see, hear, smell, taste and touch. We also have less known, less educated senses that tell us about ourselves, our kinesthetic and proprioceptive senses.

There’s a very simple way of speaking about what happens to our senses. As our motoric activity increases, often our sensory receptivity decreases. The result is that our actions are not as informed as they could be, which often makes our actions less accurate, more effortful, and less effective. To add to this, a diminishment of sensory receptivity prevents us from experiencing how we are doing, what we are doing, as we are doing it, reducing our ability to delight in and appreciate life as we are living it. We don’t want to live an unlived life.

It is as if, within us, there is a doer and a receiver. There is the you who washes your hair, and the you who senses and enjoys your hair being washed, or the you who does not sense it being washed. There is the you who is feeding you a spoonful of soup, perhaps potato leak soup, or miso soup, or lentil soup, or split pea soup, or French onion soup. And then, there is the you who is aware of receiving this soup, tasting it, savoring it, feeling thankful for it, or the you who is unaware of receiving the soup and who is not tasting it. Reawakening the receiver within us, the one who is not putting out, not on output, but the one receiving, on input, keeps us from becoming depleted, allows us to be replenished.

Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to our sensory world changes, for the better.

Eight. Motoric Refinement

We all move. The question is how well, how enjoyably, how appreciatively? The more sensitive, accurate, and reliable our senses become, particularly our intra-senses, our kinesthetic and proprioceptive senses, the more refined our actions become, the more precise, the more efficient, the more effective, the more effortless, the more fluid, and the more beautiful. Everyday movement, everyday actions become interesting and pleasurable; walking up and down steps, riding a bike, folding laundry, cleaning the house, cooking a meal.

Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to moving through our life changes, for the better.

Nine. Social Harmony/Inner Peace

We are all social animals. Existence is co-existence. Even if we choose to live our lives as a hermit far away in a cave, in isolation, it is a social choice we make, a relationship we have with society. Most conflict that we experience happens in relation to other people. Being in social conflict is a physiological event. Fear and anger are physiological events. Everything is a physiological event. Likewise, being in social harmony is a physiological event. Love, kindness, empathy, joy are also physiological events. How we are physiologically, when in the presence of others, can dramatically influence, for better or worse, how we feel about others, and how they feel about us. Peace is a physiological event.

In a very real way, we also have a social relationship with ourselves. Are we our own best friend, and/or our own worst enemy? Do we respect and care well for ourselves, or do we disrespect ourselves and abuse ourselves? Inner peace is also a physiological event.

Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to others and to ourselves changes, for the better.

 

Just A Hunch

on innocence

photo: Bruce Fertman

Just A Hunch

Through the pressure generated between the growing head and the growing heart, the face is sculpted. Three ridges. One will become the brow, one the nose, one the chin.

Then suddenly the unfurling begins. The head floats away from the heart. Organs begin to form in newly available space. Space precedes substance. First there is nothing, then there is something.

The baby enters the world, C-shaped, one simple curve. Over the first few months, through olympian effort, the baby acquires the needed strength to lift its head and look around, gradually forming a flexible and stable cervical curve. The lumbar curve develops as the baby begins creeping and crawling, and fully establishes itself through the herculean task of learning to walk.

The head becomes the center of orientation, the pelvis the center of locomotion.

We grow, we evolve from zygote, to embryo, to fetus, to infant, to baby, to toddler, to child, to teenager, to young adult, to adult, to maturing adult, (young-old), and if lucky to very old adult, (old-old). 

Somewhere between young-old and old-old another spinal transformation begins, as natural perhaps as all the other spinal transformations. In Onsens, Japanese hot springs, I have spent hours studying the shapes of boys and men of all ages, the children with arching lower backs and rounded bellies, with soft, supple necks, their heads balancing loosely atop naturally upright spines. The young men, unbeknownst to them, but evident to me, already foreshadow how they will sit, stand, and walk as old men. And the now old men, some more, some less beginning to wilt, droop, sag.

Its as if the thoracic curve wants to re-incorporate the cervical curve into itself,  making the head, and with it the mind, the eyes, and ears orient inward, away from the outer world, toward the world of in-sight and hindsight.

Its as if the sacral curve wants to re-incorporate the lumbar curve into itself, tilting the pelvis under, making locomotion more difficult, venturing out more trying, increasing the impulse to sit, perhaps to read, perhaps to write, perhaps to listen to the stories of others, or to give counsel.

I have begun to feel the pull of my primary curves wanting to reclaim my secondary curves. Is it natural, inevitable? I dont know. Ive chosen, however, not to give in to this subtle, seductive undertow. I want my head above water. I want to continue orienting outward to the world. I want to walk onto dry land, feel the earth beneath my feet. Perhaps one of the reasons four out of five of my Alexander mentors taught into their mid to late nineties was because they knew how to feed and nourish their secondary curves. Perhaps those curves allowed their eyes to see and to care about others. Perhaps those curves provided more space for their organs, allowing for greater oxygen intake, better blood flow, good digestive motility. Perhaps those curves helped lengthen their legs under them, kept those feet firmly on the ground.

If our primary curves pull us back to the past and our secondary curves beckon us forward into the future, then having a balance between them might bring us into the present.

Yes, perhaps it was their secondary curves that kept them so vibrant, so engaged, so present, so here, here with us, for so long. 

Its just a hunch. But Im going to follow it.

Leaving Myself In Your Hands

Guan-Yin-Close up

Bill Coco

“Show me how to do that?” And I would. I would stop my own workout and teach someone how to do what I had somehow figured out how to do, like a front somersault, or a reverse kip up on the rings, or circles on the side horse. No wonder I missed making the Olympic Team. I was busy coaching. Looking back, it’s clear; I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I was supposed to be learning how to use my hands to guide someone into balance, to indicate exactly from where to initiate a movement, in what direction, and with what quality of impulse; to punch it, or snap it, or swing it, or draw it out, or press it up, or let it go. I was supposed to be developing my ability to use language to facilitate coordination.

Unbeknownst to me, I was supposed to become an Alexander teacher, but when I was twelve, and first began using my hands to teach other kids how to move well, I had no idea what that was. As gymnasts we used our hands to help each other as a matter of course, and sometimes as a matter of life and death.

My first coach, Bill Coco, gave me my first experience of educative/nurturing touch. “Okay Bruce. You’re going to do your first back layout with a full twist. I want you to show me your round off. Remember no more than 3 preparatory steps, one back handspring, block with your feet so you transfer your horizontal power vertically, hands reaching toward the ceiling. Don’t look over your left shoulder until I say, “Look,” then wrap your arms quickly and closely across your chest, and leave the rest up to me. Got it?” “Got it.” My faith in Bill was total.

One step, round off, lightning fast back handspring, block, reach…”Look,” I hear Bill say! I look over my left shoulder, wrap my arms across my chest, and there’s Bill’s big hands, soft, light, around my hips. I’m suspended, my body laid out in an arch, weightless, floating two feet above Bill’s head. I’m ecstatic. Bill’s hands spin me to the left, and the next thing I know my feet have landed squarely on the ground. “There you go Bruce. Your first lay out with a full twist. You did 95% of it on your own. By the end of the week it will be yours.”

I guess that makes Bill Coco my first Alexander teacher. He taught be how to lead with my head and let my body follow. He used his hands exactly where, and only when needed, and only with the amount of force necessary. Bill looked like a boxer, more often than not with a fat, unlit, cigar in his mouth, disheveled, sported a sizable beer belly, seemed like a tough guy, and deep down was the softest, gentlest, hugest teddy bear alive. He died when he was forty. I was fifteen. But he passed on to me exactly what I needed, and no doubt he did for a lot of Philadelphia kids like myself.

Bill Coco

Bill Coco

And so it went. Teacher after teacher, teaching me exactly what I needed to learn to get exactly to where I am now; a person who knows how to use his hands to bring people into balance, a person who knows the language of movement, and pretty much a soft, gentle teddy bear of a person, minus the cigar.

But were my teachers only teachers? What else were they to me? How did they really pass onto me what I needed to learn? There are teachers, coaches, counselors, instructors, educators, professors, rabbis, priests, role models, idols, heroes, and mentors. We’ve got different names for people from whom we learn, people who pass on knowledge and skill to us, who bring out knowledge and skill from us. But what is the name for those teachers who pass themselves onto us?

It’s important for me to know what, and who I am to my students if I am to best serve them, if I am to pass on to them the best in me, if I am to leave myself in their hands. Sometimes I am teacher, father, friend, coach, holy man, enemy, sometimes mentor, advocate, adversary, role model. I am exactly, at any given moment, who my student perceives me to be, and needs me to be. I know I am, in essence, none of the roles I assume. I am the person who assumes them.

Marjorie Barstow

Marj Barstow was many things to me, which is why she made such an impression. Most importantly, she was a mirror into my future. She was the manifestation of my potentiality. I could see in her what was lying latent within me. And so I watched, and I listened as if my life depended on it, which it did.

She was not a holy person, not a guru, not a mother, Boy, did she not mother us. She was not a technique teacher, not a coach. She was an artist who showed us her art, over and over again, a kinesthetic sculptor. Humans were her medium. And sometimes horses. (Marj had trained world champion quarter horses.) Sometimes I think she really didn’t care all that much about us as people. She was not a person-centered teacher, as I am. She was a technique-centered teacher. She used us to work on her technique, on her art. That was okay with us. We benefited from her artistic obsession.

Marj inspired me. Her work was astoundingly beautiful, mesmerizing, like watching a master potter spin a clump of clay into a graceful bowl.

Marjorie Barstow working with me.  1977

Marjorie Barstow working with me.
1977

More than anything in the world, I wanted to be able to do what she did. I watched her work day after day, year after year, but I didn’t just watch her with my eyes alone. I watched her kinesthetically. I watched her with my whole body and being. I developed a kind of synesthesia. I was taking her in, at once, through all of my senses. It was like I was swallowing her whole. I “grokked” her.

When I was in college and read Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, I knew that was how I needed to learn. “Grok” means water. To grok means to drink, to drink life. Not to chew it. Not to break it down to understand it. At the moment of grokking the water and the drinker become one substance. As the water becomes part of the drinker, the drinker becomes part of the water. What was once two separate realities become one reality, one experience, one event, one history, one purpose.

Marj didn’t break things down. Marj didn’t teach us how to use our hands. After we would watch her for a few hours Marj would say something like, “Okay. Let’s divide into smaller groups. Bill, Barbara, Don, Bruce, Martha, and Mio, go and teach for a while. (Or it could have been, Cathy, David, Diana, Catherine, and Pete.) The teaching just happened. We could do it. It was as if we were riding Marj’s wave. We were grokking her.

About a year before Marj died I had a dream. Marj was dying. She was in her bedroom, in her house in Lincoln Nebraska, a room I had never seen. “Bruce come sit next to me.” I did. Then slowly Marj pulled the corner of her bedcover down and asked me to lie down next to her. I was shocked, but I did as she asked and gently slid by her side and covered both of us. Then Marj said, “It’s okay Bruce. Now I am going to breathe you for a while, and she placed her mouth on my mouth and began to breathe into me. I could feel her warm breath entering and filling my lungs. I could feel my breath entering into her lungs. In total darkness, we breathed together for hours.  And then I woke up. I got out of bed, picked up the phone, and called Marj. “Marj, are you okay? I had a dream about you and got nervous.” “Bruce, don’t worry about me. I am fine.” “Okay Marj. Sorry if I bothered you.” “No, you didn’t bother me. Thanks for calling.” “No, thank you Marj.”

I’m still thanking her.

Rebbe Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

What was he to me, a rabbi, a teacher, a spiritual father? Marj gave me my craft, my art, my vocation. Rebbe Zalman taught me how to teach, how to sit quietly with people, as if they were in my living room. He showed me that it was fine to be silent, that it was okay to take the time I needed to think, and to wait until I had something worth saying. He taught me how to tell a story. He taught me to be unafraid to look into people’s eyes. He taught me how to think metaphorically. He taught me how to listen to my still, inner voice, and follow it. He taught me how to listen to the inner voices of others. He taught me how to bless people, and how to be blessed by them. He taught me that I could never know one religion unless I knew two, and actively encouraged my interest in Zen Buddhism, in the Christian Mystics, and the Sufi Poets, and in the teachings of Lao Tzu.

Rebbe Zalman

Rebbe Zalman

One day Rebbe Zalman entered a classroom at Temple University where I was taking a graduate course on Martin Buber and the Early Hasidic Masters. Rebbe Zalman enters the room, walks across the room to the other side, stands in front of a large window and looks out at the day. After a minute or two he turns around, walks to his desk, sits on the top of his desk, crosses his legs, closes his eyes, tilts his face up toward the ceiling like a blind man, and begins gently rocking from side to side, bending like grass in the wind. He begins singing a niggun, a soft melody that repeats itself and has no ending. At some point we begin singing with him, singing and singing without end, until we feel as if we are altogether in one boat, floating upon an endless melody, down a endless stream. Rebbe Zalman’s voice fades out, and ours with his, until we’re sitting in a palpable silence. Eyes closed, his rocking slowly getting smaller and smaller. And there in the stillness, in the silence, we’d hear, “That reminds me of a story.”

And Rebbe Zalman would begin to tell us a story, and within the story there would be another story, and within that story another story, until we were transported, like children, into another world. And when we’d least expect it, at a particular point, the story would end. No commentary. No discussion. Class was over. We’d leave knowing those stories were about us, about our very lives. Rebbe Zalman didn’t have to give us any homework. He knew those stories would be working within us until next week. Marj Barstow and Rebbe Zalman were transformative educators, par excellence. They knew how to educe, how to lead us in, and then how to lead us out, out of ourselves, into places unknown to us.

A Modern Day Bodhisattva

Many years later I met a woman, another modern day bodhisattva, another person who inspires, who teaches through example, who knows how to bring out the best in people. I spent hours, years, watching her work, watching her lead one person after another out of their confusion; I spent years grokking her, absorbing her through my pores, into who I am now.

11th century Guanyin statue, from northern China

11th century Guanyin statue, from northern China

Again, I see there are no accidents. We meet exactly the teachers we need, exactly at the time we need them, so that we may become exactly the people we were meant to become.

Aaah, but that is another story.

A Wordless Whisper

Photo: B. Fertman

Photo: B. Fertman

 

Not many folks like the wind out here. Yes, there are times, in the late afternoon, when the breeze, like waves, comes rolling in from the west, trees swaying, branches bending, and you can hear the ocean in the wind, the way when, as a child, you held a conch to your ear and heard the ocean winds whistling, wondering how that could be.

Then, without notice, the wind builds, picking up dust and dirt, traveling like some brown caped ghost, it envelops you, takes you, knocks your hat off, throws sand into your eyes, pushes you from behind, hard, not letting up, for hours.

Why I don’t mind the wind, no matter how relentless, I don’t know. It’s the world breathing, beckoning. It’s like God’s hand, stroking, nudging, pushing me forward. It’s God’s wordless whisper, “Bruce, wake up, wake up, wake up.”

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.  – John 3:8

That’s okay with me. Hearing the wind is enough. Feeling the wind against my face is enough. My job’s not to know, but to be known.