Skip to content

Posts from the ‘pedagogy’ Category

Patterns

My eyes can dimly see the pattern of my life and the puzzle that is me.

Patterns by Simon and Garfunkel

We often use the word ‘habit’ in our work. We are usually referring to unconscious habits that don’t serve us well. Our goal is to make the unconscious conscious, the invisible visible. We want to be free to choose what we want to do and how we want to do it. We also want to be free not to do something. We want the control to begin to do something when we want, or not, and we want to be able to stop doing something when we want to stop. Completely.

As Alexander teachers we can easily fall into the habit of looking primarily for postural and movement habits within ourselves and our students. That is fine but if our work is to be about more than posture and movement, if it is to be about how we relate to ourselves, others, and the world, if it is to be about the quality of our lives, then we need to open our parameters to include other types of habits.

Rather than using the word habit, I prefer using the word pattern. People tend to associate habits with being bad, shifting them into the world of right and wrong, a world offering too much judgement and too little information. The word pattern holds less negative charge.

Patterns are good because they are precise and they repeat themselves, making them recognizable to an observant outsider. And they are full of good energy. Patterns, whether helpful or unhelpful, use energy, and as William Blake says, Energy is Eternal Delight. Our energy, when well directed, imbues us with vitality.

When I teach I look for patterns other than postural and movement patterns. Any unconscious pattern, once identified and made conscious, provides us with good material for applying Alexandrian principles and processes. We can use any pattern to exercise our ability to stop, to become conscious, to develop and exercise our kinesthetic and proprioceptive senses, allowing us to see a pattern expressing itself through our entire body from head to toe and out through our fingertips. We can give ourselves the time to understand this pattern physically and emotionally. Then, once we know where we are and what we are doing and how we are doing it, we can choose to see what would happen without it.  Who would we be without the pattern? What would happen if we chose to unplug the pattern, if we left it out, if we left ourselves alone? Where would the energy fueling that pattern want to go, how would it redirect itself?

A person comes to me and I notice they say ‘you know’ a lot, or ‘like’ or ‘ah’ or that every sentence they utter has the inflection of a question. A verbal, vocal, communication pattern.

A person comes to me and as he begins to speak about his frustrations at work, I notice how he drops his hands and slaps them on his thighs in exasperation. A gestural pattern.

A person comes to me and every time they have a new and powerfully positive kinesthetic experience their minds jump into the future saying how they will never be able to do this themselves, or into the past saying how they have been doing everything wrong for so many years. A learning pattern. A thinking pattern.

I ask a person to quickly walk around the room and then to come back and tell me what they’ve taken in. One person says mostly what they saw, another mentions several things they heard, another what they smelled or touched. Sensory patterns.

I notice how a particular person always appears cheerful, optimistic and energetic. Another person’s clothes are always exceedingly neat and always worn too tightly. Another person always looks forlorn, often complaining about others. Another takes up a lot of space, spreads out and is prone to challenging, disagreeing and arguing with me. Another who is always trying to help me, complimenting me excessively. Another who continually cracks jokes. All patterns. Persona patterns.

It’s important for us as Alexander teachers to be able to distinguish between principles, processes, and procedures. Once we have a clear understanding of Alexandrian principles and processes, i.e., sensory consciousness, inhibitory choice, direction and redirection of energy, primary movement/pattern/control, critical moments, what I like to refer to as moments of opportunity, the relationship between means and ends, etc, we can choose, at times, to experiment working outside of Alexander’s classical procedures, i.e., chair, monkey, lunge, whispered ah, etc. and simply improvise with Alexandrian principles and processes within a larger arena, within the ultimate procedure, how we proceed in living our lives.

After eight years of study in Chanoyu, the Way of Japanese Tea, I informed my teacher, Mariko LaFleur, I would be traveling and teaching intensively for a month and would have little or no time to practice. She said to me, “Bruce, that’s fine. Essentially Chado is not about the form. It’s only about how we exist in this world as a guest and as a host. It’s about gratefully receiving what we are given. It’s about how we welcome, receive and serve others. Remember Bruce, the tea room is everywhere. Practice Tea everywhere you go, wherever you are, and with everyone you meet. Enjoy your trip.”

Working within formal structures is assuring, confirmative. It’s familiar. Within them we know the rules, we’re comfortable. We know what to do. We know where we are. We’re home. 

And then there is the wide world, the unfamiliar, unpredictable world where there are no clear cut rules, where we are at times uncomfortable and know not what to do or what to expect. It’s our first time around. We’re continually in a place we have never been and will never be again. 

We meet people along the way.  We want to welcome and receive them, in their entirety, as our guests. We don’t want to reduce our guests to their posture. We don’t want only to watch how they move. We want to see who they are, how they live, so we can discern how we can best serve.

The more we see and understand our students in their entirety, the more our students see and understand themselves in their entirety. And since, ultimately, we are all mirrors for one another, reflections of one another, we come to see and understand ourselves, the puzzle that is us.

The Alexander Alliance Post Graduate Training – Switzerland 2018/2019 – With Bruce Fertman and Robyn Avalon

Photo: B. Fertman

Alexander Alliance Post Graduate Training Program

In Europe, Asia, and America, classically trained Alexander teachers are asking me to teach them how I work. They seem especially intrigued with how I use my hands, while also expressing their appreciation for my simple way of articulating complex Alexandrian principles without the need for jargon. They seem to like how I see people in their entirety, seeing through the body into a world of being and becoming.

As an apprentice, and later assistant to Marjorie L. Barstow, with whom I trained for 16 years, and as a person with 55 years of experience as a movement educator and artist, I have learned how to teach Alexander’s work effectively in groups, how to teach others how to work effectively in groups, how to apply Alexander’s work to the physical demands of everyday life as well as to the emotionally trying situations all of us encounter along the way. Having also studied intensively with four other first generation teachers; Elisabeth Walker, Erika Whittaker, Catherine Wielopolska, and Richard M. Gummere, Jr., I have gained a deep respect for Alexander’s classical procedures as well.

Many of my post-graduate students became curious about my training program, the Alexander Alliance Germany, and began visiting. They found a rigorous, demanding, disciplined training that at the same time was warm, friendly, lighthearted, and fun.

While at the Alliance Germany many of my post-graduate students encountered the teaching of Robyn Avalon. Like virtually everyone, myself included, they fell in love with her work, its depth, its clarity, its effectiveness, and perhaps above all, its joyfulness.

Robyn and I have been working together for 30 years. We are two teachers who have figured out how to be successful and effective AT teachers in the world at large. We will share our practical, hard earned wisdom with you so that you can do the same.

Our Post Graduate Training Program Switzerland will be composed of four 7 fullday retreats, two taught by Robyn Avalon and two taught by me. These four retreats will take place over a two-year period, totaling 200 hours of study. Retreats will be held in April and October. This Post Graduate Training Program is open to all certified teachers of the Alexander Technique.

Bruce and Robyn

We are excited to be co-teaching this Post Graduate Training Program, and we hope you are too.

Robyn is by far the most down to earth visionary I know. Fearlessly and lovingly she constantly pushes borders within herself and others. Her teaching is based on seemingly infinite knowledge and driven by sharp instincts. She creates exceptionally safe playgrounds in which limiting belief systems drop away like worn out clothes. With her everything becomes easy, exciting, meaningful, and definitely more fun. Magically, the impossible becomes possible.

Margarete Tueshaus – Alexander Teacher, ATVD, Tango Teacher, Equestrian

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, Bruces work is more than exciting; it is important, both to the world and to anyone involved in any way with Alexanders Technique.

Annie Turner Alexander Technique Teacher, STAT, England.

Here’s the material we’ll be covering.

The Physics and Metaphysics of Touch

 

To receive everything one must open ones hands, and give.  

Taisen Deshimaru

Hands close and open, grasp, cling, clench, and release. Hands express. They welcome, warn and inform, and in our case, hands educe. Educative hands lead out that which lies within. Together we will increase our tactual palette, become more tactually literate and learn how to access the whole person through myriad networks: skeletal, muscular, fascial, cellular, organ, and nervous systems.

We understand well the paramount importance of personal use while teaching, and the direct impact our use has on our quality of touch.  As important as good use is, additional knowledge into the hand’s inherent design can help us acquire hands that are, at once, soft and powerful, light and deep, stabilizing and mobilizing, quieting and energizing. As there are primary colors, so too there are primary touches: push, pull, slide, spin, and roll. In other words, physics.

We will also consider the metaphysics of touch. It’s a disservice to reduce a person to their body. We never really only touch a person’s body. We touch a person. Our goal is to touch a person’s being through their body. But to touch a person’s being through their body we first have to be able to see a person’s being through their body, which means knowing how to see beyond posture, beyond body mechanics, beyond use.

 

How To Teach An Engaging Introductory Workshop

We offer a template, a simple framework, evolved over 40 years of teaching AT, for clearly and effectively introducing Alexander’s work within a group setting. It’s easy to learn. It leaves you free to choose the content you wish to impart to others. Introducing the technique to a group of students can be intimidating for Alexander teachers. Knowing this simple structure makes it much easier.

Knowing lots of group explorations, movement etudes, and games are important tools when it comes to teaching AT in groups. We will share some of our favorites with you – games we have crafted and taught to literally thousands of beginners over decades of teaching. Learn how to create your own etudes and games, which impart important AT principles and skills.

We will be giving multiple introductory workshops inside of the seven-fullday training retreats. Each of these one-day workshops will introduce Alexander’s work from a different point of view. These days of introductory workshops are part of the Post Graduate Training Program. It’s the best way to learn how to introduce the work to people in groups. We encourage each graduate trainee to bring at least one person who really wants to take an introductory workshop in the Alexander Technique.

Systems Of Support

Alexander teachers excel in creating what I refer to as “tensegral support”. It’s the support system that creates the hallmark experience of kinesthetic lightness, the sense of suspension. But there are other essential systems of support, complimentary systems that most Alexander teachers do not excel at accessing, such as ground support, organ support, and spatial support. When these complimentary systems of support integrate with tensegral support the side effect of postural stiffness, so prevalent in our work, subsides.

Finally, and perhaps most important to self-support, is how we think; how we think about our bodies, ourselves, others, and the world at large. Distorted and/or untrue thoughts and beliefs are self-sabotaging. Knowing how to observe, question, and defuse internal stimuli – thoughts, emotions, and sensations – may be more important than how we respond to external stimuli. Knowing how to use our mind to come to our senses sets us free.

Walking as an Alexandrian Procedure

Its no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.  

Francis of Assisi

Walking, when understood, is the Alexandrian procedure that most naturally integrates rotational and spiraling motions into our upright structure, motions that are conspicuously absent in Alexander’s other procedures, as wonderful as those procedures are. Walking, when taught dynamically, helps dissipate postural holdings, often resulting in a profound sense of freedom and power.

When Erika Whittaker was asked what she felt like after working with Alexander, she said, “When the lesson was over, I could have said thank you, and walked out the door, or I could have said thank you, and walked through the wall.”

We’ll spend time learning about the mechanics of walking, as well as how to use our hands to help our students walk naturally, freely, and powerfully.

Working in Activity

Ironically, working in activity is not about activity. As Alexander teachers we are more than movement efficiency and effectiveness experts. Alexander work is not about how we do what we do. Alexander’s work is about how we are being when we do what we do. As T.S. Eliot expresses so profoundly, our work is about… the still point of the turning world…

We bring people in touch with the still point. Activities are the turning world. We cannot work on the still point without the turning world. Working in activity is the most straightforward way to work on the integration of being and doing.

 Life Work

 Have you noticed it’s relatively easy to make good use of Alexander’s work when we are doing well, but nearly impossible when confronted with something truly challenging or threatening? How can we practice sticking to principle under emotionally charged circumstances, when relating to family members, when encountering problems at work, while coping with physical injury and pain, when overwhelmed by stressful thoughts and emotions?

Life Work is a contemporary Alexander procedure, a way of proceeding to teach people how to employ Alexander’s work when under trying conditions and faced with harsh realities. Being able to work with people this way is enormously beneficial. It brings the Work to life and life into the Work.

Understanding Human Directionality

Photo: B. Fertman

Collectively, Robyn and I have been joyfully obsessing over human directionality for 81 years! That’s true. Robyn will approach human directionality via her Living in a Body™ material. My approach will be through the body mapping work developed by Bill and Barbara Conable, through the teaching of my Salmon Rising/Water Falling Patterns, and through an in depth look into the Albinus Copperplate Engravings.

Living in a Body™, a course in body mapping designed by Robyn nearly 25 years ago, has been translated into 5 languages and is now taught worldwide. Living in a Body™ teaches us how to see when a person’s map does not match their inherent design. It offers a multitude of etudes and games for helping them change the beliefs that interfere with their ability to live and work in accordance with their inherent design. In this training, Robyn will offer the essential highlights of the LIAB™ material.

Salmon Rising/Water Falling is an Alexander etude developed by me over many years, which helps make our invisible directional weave of support visible. Everyone seems to love learning these patterns. These oppositional yet complimentary kinesthetic pathways course their way through us and, when awakened, integrate us, allowing our bodies and beings to become light and substantial, soft and strong, firm and flexible, calm and clear, articulate and unified.

Constructive Conscious Surrender

In our work we know trying to make something happen and allowing something to happen are worlds apart. One is done alone, one in partnership. Allowing happens when we are in partnership with our nature, with what is natural within us, with our original design, with our innate coordination. Our job as AT teachers is to bring our students in touch with their inherent support, power, and ease. Gradually, our students begin to trust their innate coordination, and learn to live in partnership with it. Life becomes less of an effort and more of a dance.

When we lose touch with our partner, we lose support, and again we begin doing everything by ourselves. Trying and forcing return.

If we are to allow life to freely unfold, we must learn how to willfully and joyfully surrender, to “give up going it alone”. We learn to ask for how we want to be. We learn how to send clear directives to naturally governing forces deep within us. Paradoxically, learning to surrender to these deep governing forces gives us the control we always wanted.

We cannot force freedom upon ourselves or anyone else. Ultimately, the work does itself.

DETAILS COMING SOON!!!

Our Post Graduate Training Program Switzerland will be composed of four 7-fullday retreats, two taught by Robyn Avalon and two taught by me. These four retreats will take place over a two-year period, totaling 200 hours of study. Retreats will be held in April and October. This Post Graduate Training Program is open to all certified teachers of the Alexander Technique.

Language: English (translation to German possible)

Cost: To be announced When: To be announced Where: To be announced

Organization and Registration: Magdalena Gassner (+41 (0)77 475 50 27 / alexander.technik@gmx.ch)

To learn more about Bruce Fertman, Robyn Avalon, the Alexander Technique and the Alexander Alliance:

http://www.peacefulbodyschool.com
http://www.www.alexanderalliance.de
http://www.contemporaryalexander.com

 

If you have any questions whatsoever and you’d like to talk to me personally, I’d be happy to talk to you. Write to me at bf@brucefertman.com and we can arrange a time to talk. Also feel free to write to Magdalena Proyer Gassner at alexander.technik@gmx.ch

Robyn and I look forward to working with you,

Bruce Fertman

 

About 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.

Incredibly broad knowledge, clear, to the point and exact, incredible energy, incredibly kind and loving,  profound and playful – that´s Robyn. 

Knowing Robyn has changed my life, given me more freedom and joy. Robyn has opened a whole new world of possibilities for me. She´s the Queen of Group teaching. If you want to learn to enjoy what you do, she is the one you want to meet. Robyn teaches ease, grace, high performance, curiosity and freedom. Her enthusiasm is contagious.

M. Klemm, MD, Alexander Technique Teacher

About Bruce Fertman

Photo: Soomin Park

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, and America.

Bruce’s heart centered approach as a teacher rests upon extensive study in psychology and theology, specifically, the work of Eric Berne, (Transactional Analysis), Carl Rogers, (Person Centered Therapy), Frederick Perls, (Gestalt Therapy), Albert Ellis, (Rational-Emotive Therapy), Carl Jung, (Analytical Psychology), and Byron Katie  (Inquiry). Having also studied with Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist scholars, Bruce’s work centers around body and being, movement and meaning, and the relationship between physical and spiritual grace.

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

In Bruces class you feel as if you are sitting by a deep, soft lake. His pace and patience, his quiet confidence allows people to unfold and open layer by layer. The superfluous falls away leaving only lifes inner vitality effortlessly expressing itself through you.

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, Thats who I am, that is who I could be.

M. TueshausAlexander Teacher, ATVD/ Tango Teacher/ Equestrian

 

 

 

When The Child Was A Child

Messengers 

In Wings Over Berlin, two angels, invisible to humans, softly, silently offer comfort, sometimes, but not always, lifting the spell of isolation and despair from suffering human souls.

They touch humans lightly, tenderly. Through their empathic presence an opening, where there had been none, would suddenly appear, a way to go forward now lay before them.

from Wings Over Berlin

from Wings Over Berlin

In Hebrew malach means both messenger and angel. In Greek too, aggelos means messenger and angel.

Messengers send messages. A message is a communication through writing, speech, or signals of some sort. A little like the angels in Wings Over Berlin, we Alexander teachers convey messages through touch. A message can be an underlying idea. It can also be an inspiring or sacred communication.

Now I am no angel. I am hopelessly human. I am not always at peace. I sometimes butt heads with people. I am not a spiritual being. I have no wings. I live on the ground. But I think we can and do serve as messengers for one another. Sometimes, unbeknownst to us, we do something, say something or write something that helps someone. Others sometimes unbeknownst to them, do, say, or write something that helps us, that may even change our lives. We may not be angels, but sometimes we perform our angelic function as messengers.    

from Wings Over Berlin

from Wings Over Berlin

In our Alexander community we refer to teaching through “procedures.” How do we “proceed” to impart the principles underlying Alexander’s work? Some of us use the procedures Alexander developed. Some of us also use procedures other teachers have developed, like Walter Carrington’s saddle work, or Raymond Dart’s developmental movements, or Marjorie Barstow’s working in activity. Others of us use procedures we ourselves have developed. To my surprise, I seem to have evolved a procedure, a way to proceed, that enables people to make use of the principles underlying Alexander’s work under trying conditions and when coping with harsh realities. I call it Working Situationally.

When The Child Was A Child

When the child was a child, it walked with its arms swinging. It wanted the stream to be a river, the river a torrent, and this puddle to be the sea. When the child was a child, it didn’t know it was a child. Everything was full of life, and all life was one. When the child was a child, it had no opinion about anything, no habits. It often sat cross-legged, took off running, had a cowlick in its hair, and didn’t make faces when photographed. – from Wings Over Berlin by Wim Wender and Peter Hendke

It’s not easy growing up. We have all known times when our arms stopped swinging, when the puddle was just a puddle. Times when we’ve felt exhausted, empty, our world shattered. Times when nothing was new under the sun, when we were unable to pick ourselves up from the ground, let alone take off running, when we put on yet another smiling face for yet another silly photo.

“When have you experienced yourself lost, without support, helpless and afraid,” I ask a group of fairly new Alexander teachers? “Can you see where you are, the situation you’re in; can you see what’s going on?”

Michiko, a small, middle aged woman in the back of the room says,“I’m going through a divorce. I have yet another session in court next week where I have to plea for the custody of my children. I am terrified of losing them.”

All eyes in the room lower at once.

“Thank you.” Let’s see if there is a way, through Alexander’s work to help ourselves when we really need it, when we’re feeling threatened, when our life’s hanging in the balance. How can we develop the wherewithal to be how we want to be in these situations, how not only to survive them, but to meet them?”

When The Master Is Home

“Michiko. Look around and see who can help you set up your scenario. Look and see who can help you, and how you can arrange the space.” Everyone springs into action. Seriously playful commotion fills the room. I sit back and watch as the space is transformed into a courtroom.

In the front of the room sits a judge. Michiko’s husband and his lawyer sit to the judge’s left, Michiko and her lawyer to the right. I’ve got a translator behind me, ready to whisper into my ear.

The judge begins. “We are here today to determine who is most deserving of the privilege of caring for your children. As you know I do not approve of divorce. I believe children should grow up with a mother and a father in the same house. But for whatever reasons, both of you seem incapable of doing this. Michiko, what do you have to say for yourself?”

“Judge, I am the parent who has spent the most time with my children. I am the one who cooks for them, who packs their lunches, who takes them and picks them up from school, who helps them with their homework. I am the one who does their laundry and who takes them shopping for sneakers and who gets out of bed at night when they have nightmares. I’m their mom.”

Yamato, Michiko’s husband blurts out, “And I am the breadwinner in this family. I’m the one that pays for the food you cook, who bought the nice car you drive to that top notch private school that I also pay for, not to mention the designer sneakers. I’m the guy that pays for the roof over your very head.” By the end, Yamato’s face is beet red.

It’s working. The scene’s been set up well enough that Michiko’s beginning to cringe from the sound of Yamato’s voice. But I don’t intervene. I want to see where this is going.

“Judge, Michiko says, right now I have 32 private piano students who I see every week. I earn enough money to take care of my own children. My children have already told you they want to live with me, that they don’t want to move to Tokyo, leave their school, and live with their father.”

“And I, the judge says, don’t appreciate your telling me again. I am well aware of what your children want, but they are children and have no idea as to what is, in the long run, best for them. The decision is up to me, not up to them, and not up to you.”

“They have also told you they are terrified of their father,” Michiko adds cowering.

“You liar! You total and complete liar, Yamato yells standing up and throwing his pen across the room, almost hitting Michiko in the face.

Terror. There it is, Michiko’s eyes frozen in fear. As she sits there, glued to her chair, her body looks weak and hopeless.

I quietly enter,  kneel down beside her, place my right hand softly over her shoulders and my left hand over her clenched hands that sit on her lap. “Michiko, let’s just freeze the frame here. Stay exactly as you are in your body and from the bottom up describe to me what you are sensing.” 

Michiko says, “I’m pulling my feet almost off the ground. My knees are touching and I feel like I’m jamming my thighs back into my hip sockets. My stomach is tight. I’m not breathing. The middle of my back is pressing against the back of the chair. My hands hurt. My shoulder blades are hunched up toward my ears, and my head is pressed down between them.” “Michiko, can you see the exact shape your whole body is taking, as if you were looking at a puppet?” “Yes, I can see it,” Michiko says. “Let me ask you, do you want to be like this?” “No, I don’t.” “You are now about a third of the way home.”

“Okay Michiko. If you are the one holding yourself in this position, then you are the one who can let go of holding yourself in this position. Let’s begin by letting your feet come back to the ground. What happens as you do that?” “My legs come down and my knees begin to separate a little.” I place the hand that was over her hands onto her left knee and then over to her right knee suggesting that her knees could release slightly away from her hip joints. I watch more air enter her lungs but say nothing about it. I quietly stand up behind Michiko, place my hands along the sides of her ribs and ask her to let the entire surface of her back spread out against the back of the chair. I feel more air coming into her lungs. I reach around and gently place my index finger onto the top of her sternum and from there gently guide her head back on top of her spine. Her eyelids flutter for a few seconds, followed by two slow blinks. Her eyes appear to settle back into their eye sockets. She’s calm.

“Okay Michiko. Now you are two-thirds of the way home. This next part I can’t help you with. Only you can do it. I want you to find out what would happen it you decided not to fight, not to flee, not to freeze, and not to fidget. Can you make the decision not to fight…not to flee…not to freeze…and not to fidget?” I wait and watch Michiko as she becomes deeply and quietly strong. “Can you sense what happens when you make that decision?”  “Yes I can.” “Good. Now be that decision.” 

I ask Yamato to continue.

Yamato looks at the judge and says. “Judge, my wife is lying to you. She’s a compulsive liar. That is what she does best. My kids don’t hate me.” Yamato turns toward Michiko, glares at her and says, “You wait. You just wait.”

Michiko’s body remains strong and open, her face calm. She’s breathing.“Quietly Michiko stands up, looks at the judge, and says, “Your honor, I’d like to submit for your judgement the evidence just set before you. Thank you for considering it.”

The judge turns, looks at Yamato, then at Michiko, and says nothing.  He appears to be reconsidering, reevaluating the situation.

“Michiko, I say. That is what it feels like when the master is home.”

Teaching Moments

In the Alexander Alliance, when we want to direct our student’s attention to pedagogy, to why we did what we did, or to why what we did worked or didn’t work, we make a T shape with our two hands, as if we were a referee at a football game. This means we are going to stop and step out of what we are doing and move into commentary.

“Okay class, what was Michiko’s goal?” “Not to lose custody of her kids.” “That’s right. That’s what she told us.”

“You can’t practice “the means whereby” unless you’ve got an end. Our work is about ends and means, about how we are being as we move toward our end, whatever that end may be. The idea is not to compromise the means for the end, not to sacrifice our integrity, no matter what happens. That’s the practice. That’s why I don’t like thinking about Alexander’s work as a technique. I think of it as a practice, because it’s hard, and I fail a lot. And sometimes I don’t. It takes practice.”

So let’s see if we can find the means whereby inside of what just happened. Where does it begin?” 

“You stopped everything.” “That’s true, and what is also true is that in real life you can’t stop a situation like that. You can’t say, “Okay judge. This is getting too intense. Let’s just take a pause here so I can calm down.” Here is an idea I want you to understand. Alexandrian inhibition does not necessarily happen just because you stop an action. It only happens when you succeed in stopping your habitual holding pattern within the action. So when I froze the frame, I only stopped the action. Stopping the action, freezing the frame, pausing, is a teaching device allowing me to slow everything down. So, what happened after I froze the frame?”

“You asked her what she was sensing.” “Right. Michiko shifts from being kinesthetically unconscious, to being kinesthetically conscious, which means she can now begin to sense how she is doing what she is doing. Once Michiko knows what she’s doing to herself, she has the chance of undoing it. As Marj Barstow used to tell us, “You have to know where you are before you can make a change.” So because she knew where she was, and because Michiko has had a good bit of training, she could pretty much come out of this pattern with only a little guidance from me.”

“I was sending her messages, I was fulfilling my angelic duty. Alexander called messages, directions. I think of messages as messages in a bottle that drift to the edge of the shore. You pick up the bottle, reach in and read the message. My first message to Michiko was, you are not alone, and then, Michiko, become aware of yourself, and then, come to your senses, and then, you’re one-third of the way home, and then, do you want to be this way, and so on. Messages were being communicated not only through my words, but though how I was in my own body and being, through the quality of my voice, and of course through touch, through her knees, and ribs, and sternum.  I was sending her messages and she made good use of them.

“And next?” “Well, all along you could actually begin to see Michiko’s primary movement emerging. As soon as her legs began to let go I could see her neck begin to free and her head poise returning, and I could see her whole body opening up and the air filling her lungs. But the most impressive change was her face, how the fear fell away.”

So far we have,

One, the goal, the end.

(the employment of freezing the frame, a pedagogical device and not necessarily part of the means whereby.)

Two, kinesthetic consciousness.

Three/Four/Five, Alexandrian Inhibition/Direction/Primary Movement.

In actual time, it’s virtually impossible to separate these. My words, my voice, and my touch helped Michiko let go, that is, neurologically inhibit. Within that letting go, though she likely did not think the words, ‘neck free, head forward and up, back to lengthen and widen, immediately direction was happening, because I was embodying and passing on, to the best of my ability, those directions through touch to Michiko, and because Michiko has had so much training, those directions were wordlessly operating within her primary movement. 

“And then?” You asked her to make a decision not to fight or flee or freeze or fidget. “Right. This is me preparing Michiko for the critical moment, for that moment when she’s going to want to go back to her old way of reacting to Yamato and to the judge. Michiko’s decision is going to have to be incredibly strong. Walt Whitman says it perfectly in Song Of The Open Road when he writes, Gently, but with undeniable will divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.  You can’t say it better than that. Erika Whittaker, when I asked her what Alexandrian inhibition was  answered me in one word. She said, “Inhibition is decision. It’s sticking to your decision against your habit of life.”

“So I’m watching to make sure Michiko is accessing tremendous inhibitory power within herself, and then I tell her, I send her a message, and that message is?”  To be that decision.  “Yes, because Alexandrian Inhibition is not something we can do. It’s only a way we can be.” 

Six, passing through the critical moment.

And then what happened?

Michiko responded to Yamato and to the judge the way she wanted. “And what do we call that in the Alexander world?” Choice? “That’s a good answer.” Freedom. “Another good answer. I have something else in mind.”

“We could call it Primary Control. For me Alexander’s Primary Control is the Great Protector. Imagine babies and toddlers. They are not well coordinated, but more often than not, they don’t get hurt. They scream, but they don’t hurt their voices. They fall, but rarely bang their heads. There is a force at work within them continually integrating them, keeping them whole as they gradually figure out how to coordinate themselves.”

“But as adults we lose touch with this integrative, protective force within us. When Michiko adhered to the means whereby she was protected. She didn’t disintegrate. She could function. She could say what she wanted to say the way she wanted to say it, without hurting herself, without fighting, without withdrawing, and with less fear. She could think on her feet. She could take care of herself, and to the best of her ability, her children.”

“Will she get custody of her children? Will she achieve her end? We don’t know. But we do know she was her best self in that courtroom. We watched her find her integrity, her dignity. We can’t entirely control how our lives unfold, nor the lives of our children. But with training, we can learn to attend to our integrity. And we can let our children see that. 

When the child was a child, it walked with its arms swinging. It wanted the stream to be a river, the river a torrent, and this puddle to be the sea. When the child was a child, it didn’t know it was a child. Everything was full of life, and all life was one. When the child was a child, it had no opinion about anything, no habits. It often sat cross-legged, took off running, had a cowlick in its hair, and didn’t make faces when photographed.

          

from Wings Over Berlin

from Wings Over Berlin

 

Genesis Revisited

Photo: B. Fertman

Photo: B. Fertman

 There was once a little girl and she was terribly bored. There was nothing to do, and not only was there nothing to do, there was absolutely nothing at all.

On The First Day

Since there was absolutely nothing the little girl decided, quite confidently, that the first thing she needed was space. “Nothing is nothing, she thought, but space is definitely something. It’s open and it can be filled.” She was surprised how easy it was to create space. Just like that.

The little girl liked space. It made her feel free. For quite a long while that was enough for her. Until she felt the need for something else, something a little more substantial, though she didn’t want to lose the sense of space she loved so much.

On The Second Day

She created moisture. She was proud of herself for coming up with such a good solution. Her creation still felt infinitely spacious and yet now, it also felt full. She closed her eyes sensing the coolness of the moisture upon her skin, and as she did she saw darkness, a darkness as vast and as beautiful as the space she had created. The little girl rested within this moist coolness and safe darkness for a long time. She enjoyed being creative.

On The Third Day

Feeling mischievous, she awoke with a sparkle in her eyes. She wanted an adventure. She decided, in one fell swoop, to create every thing in the world that ever would be. She hadn’t realized that she had inadvertently created time, and she had no idea of just how many things that would be, but then again she had made a tremendous amount of space. To make sure she had indeed created all the stuff of the world, she made light to shine upon everything she created. It was turning out to be an exceptionally busy but good day.

Suddenly there was utter chaos, and it was exhilarating. She hadn’t as yet names for anything, and she hadn’t the foggiest idea of what all these things were for, but she loved watching them floating in her space. Some things were moving slowly and some things were whizzing by dangerously fast, so fast that sometimes things would collide into one another, creating loud sounds. She had never heard sounds before.

All this commotion was intoxicating. It was awesome. But after a while the little girl began to get dizzy. Nothing ever stayed in the same place! Something would appear that she loved and then, in a flash, it would be gone. Never to be seen again. Or worse, something would smash into what she loved and it would shatter into a thousand pieces.

On The Fourth Day

Her dizzy spells continued. She didn’t want to get rid of everything. She didn’t even know for sure whether she could de-create something. Then she came up with what she thought was a great idea. She decided to create gravity and ground, and the moment she did, everything, literally, fell into place.

She couldn’t believe how good this felt. It was as magnificent as her first experience of space. Everything was sitting comfortably. Everything was at rest. Everything was settled and seemed entirely happy exactly where it was, and exactly being what it was. There was some logic to where everything was but the little girl did not yet know what it meant for something to be logical.

After a while she realized that even with all the stuff that was now in her world there still seemed to be an equally infinite amount of space. This seemed mysterious to her. And there was still plenty of moisture. In fact, by creating gravity and the ground, some of the moisture had become more substantial and concentrated and had fallen, making oceans and rivers and waterfalls, which for some unknown reason made her feel quiet inside and happy.

Everything looked beautiful to her. All at once she realized that, since she started creating, she hadn’t been bored for a second! It was as if she had discovered the secret to happiness. Creativity. She was content for a very, very long time, for eons.

On The Fifth Day

The little girl was so utterly content, that is until she realized she had not had a really creative idea in a long time. And then she did. Out of the blue, (why the sky was blue she did not know), another idea popped into her head. She wondered where on earth these ideas came from. She thought, “What if I could create creatures who had entirely different ways of perceiving and experiencing this beautiful world I have made?” So she created creatures that could see her world from above, and creatures that could see under the water, and creatures that lived within the ground itself, and creatures that lived in the trees. She created creatures that lived where it was hot and creatures that lived where it was cold, creatures that could see, and smell, and taste, and hear and touch the world she had created, all simultaneously experiencing the same world differently. “Why, she thought, that would be like creating millions of worlds inside of the one world I created! That struck her as quite clever and efficient.

The little girl spent a long, long time just watching all these creatures and comparing one to the other. Again there was some kind of logic to the whole thing but still she did not know what that meant. Soon this was to change.

After a long while her curiosity got the better of her. What was making her world go round? What made the creatures in the air able to be up there? Why did some creatures eat other creatures? Most amazing to her was how these creatures seemed to come and go. New creatures would appear while older ones would disappear. Creatures tended to be small at first and then got bigger, and the trees too. What was that? The questions seemed endless.

Another idea popped into her head, but she was not sure whether it was a good idea or not so she did not act upon it right away, which she thought was very mature. She loved the world so much as it was, even if she didn’t understand it. “My world seems to understand itself, she thought. It knows exactly what to do. Maybe I should stop here. This feels complete. Everything works. It’s beautiful. It’s interesting. Who cares if I don’t understand it?” But the questions kept coming. They were beginning to make her uncomfortable, sometimes even unhappy.

On The Sixth Day

The little girl decided to take one of the creatures she had created and make them capable of thinking about her creation. Personally, she did not want to think too much about it. That wasn’t her thing. She didn’t feel very smart, just very creative. Besides, there were just too many questions. The little girl became very serious and thought, “If I were to make every individual creature of this particular kind able to think maybe, eventually, this creature would be able to answer my questions.”

And so even though the little girl felt a funny feeling in her stomach, she went ahead and did it anyway. She thought, “Well, how am I going to find out if this is a good idea or not if I don’t try?” There seemed to be something logical about that too.

She mustered up her courage and made it so this one kind of creature could think and then right away she realized these creatures would need to be able to communicate their thoughts to one another if they were to be able to figure things out together, and so she created a bunch of languages because she thought a bunch of languages would be more interesting than just creating one.

On The Seventh Day

Without noticing it, (she had been so, so busy), the little girl was growing older. She had seen a lot, and done a lot. She began feeling tired, something she’d never felt before. “Perhaps it would be good for me to rest for a while and spend a little time not creating,” she thought. The little girl spent a long while simply gazing at her creation. “It’s good,” she thought, “very good.” She loved her world. Sleep was coming over her as if she were being covered with a soft, warm blanket. She thought, “I think the world will be okay for a little while if I don’t watch it.” Again there was that funny feeling in her stomach, but before she knew it she had fallen fast asleep.

This brings us exactly to where we are now. Our little girl remains asleep. As she sleeps our thinking creatures have been busy trying to figure everything out. They’ve found a lot of answers to a lot of her questions. On this front, they are doing very well, even though there remain far more questions to be answered than the ones they have answered because each answer they come up with seems to create new questions. These creatures may be busy for a long time, maybe forever.

I say maybe forever because it seems that thinking as much as these thinking creatures do brings with it strange side effects, something the little girl could not have predicted. One of the side effects is that these creatures seem not to care very much about the other creatures or, for that matter, about anything the little girl created. The thinking creatures seem so busy thinking and trying to figure everything out that they don’t notice how beautiful everything is, how everything works together, how well it all takes care of itself.

As our little girl sleeps, the world continues on its own course without her. I know that sooner or later she will wake up, and when she does I wonder what she will find and what she will think about it. I am sure once she sees the lay of the land another idea will pop into her head.

After all, she is a very creative little girl.

Commentary

You might wonder how this story of Genesis popped into my head. Without my knowing it, it had been writing itself for a long time.

After many years I began to discern a sequence within my method for helping people create more of the kind of world they wished to live in. The story of our little girl, and the creation of her world, unfolds precisely in this sequence. It’s a story that contains within it my pedagogy, the genesis of one way of working with people.

First there is nothing.

There is nothing like the concept of nothingness to put life into perspective. The prospect of individual non-existence can have a sobering affect. And it can have a freeing affect too. Eliphalet Oram Lyte wrote a little ditty that expresses my attitude as a teacher, the mood I do my best to create within my workshops and classes.

Row, row, row your boat

gently down the stream,

merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,

life is but a dream

 We’re all here rowing our own boats. We are all going down the same stream to the same place. It’s not our stream. We don’t know where the stream will carry us. Our boats don’t belong to us either, but we are responsible for taking care of them. We want to learn how to row our boats gently, that means to me, without excessive force. We want to develop the sensitivity to discern the undercurrents, and the perceptivity to read the river. And when we can, why not bring a bit of merriment to our little adventure…merriment, that is, buoyancy, liveliness, zest, lightheartedness, warmth, friendship, festivity, hilarity, and pleasure?

Life is but a dream. Could be. Who knows for sure? Can we know for certain that we are not being dreamt? Could it be we are but figments of one creative imagination, seemingly alive within a very realistic dream?

But whatever the case may be, best not to take ourselves too seriously. When something seems unimportant, that’s the time to take it seriously. When something seems vitally important, that’s the time to crack a joke, to smile, to have some fun.

Why? Because it just works better that way. When people are not trying too hard to get it right they have more fun, and when they have more fun, they learn more.

One the first day she thought, Nothing is nothing, but space is definitely something. Its open and it can be filled.

 That’s where I begin, with a person’s sense of space. For me, the sense of space is a sense, just like our other senses. There is essentially no space within our bodies, but with training we can come to sense a tremendous amount of space within us. We can be in a packed subway car, everyone pressed against one another, and feel a tremendous sense of space and relaxation. There is learning to see and sense the space all around us in such a way that it actually supports us like an invisible spider web, allowing us to sit comfortably in the center of our world. There is the lively space between, between us and our computers, between us and our food, between us and our thoughts, between us and those we love and those we don’t. This is where I begin.

One the second day she closed her eyes sensing the coolness of the moisture upon her skin and as she did she saw darkness, a darkness as vast and as beautiful as the space she had created. 

When I begin to use my hands to help awaken a person’s kinesthesia and propriception my hands have a way of getting under the skin, of finding fluidity within them, a kind of underground stream streaming throughout them. I am water touching water. This sense of moisture is new to most people and they find their eyes closing. They want to sense this moisture within a vast inner space.

On the third day some things were moving slowly and some things were whizzing by dangerously fast, so fast that sometimes things would collide into one another, creating loud sounds. She had never heard sounds before.

 The world sometimes feels like this when we’ve got lots to do. We’ve got to get to work, but first we have to make lunches for the kids, and drop them off at school, then pick up our coworker whose car broke down. I ask students to bring me the “stuff” their lives are made of, their responsibilities, their projects, their problems, their pain, and their pleasures. It’s easy to become overwhelmed. It’s as if the world we’re whirling around us. It’s as if someone were stirring things up. How can we allow the stirring to stop, how can we let the mud settle to the bottom until the water is clear?

On the fourth day she decided to create gravity and ground, and the moment she did, everything, literally, fell into place.

 Humans need mobility and stability. Objects are great at showing us how to be stable. They know how to sit, how to receive support from the ground, so they can rest, so they can just be where they are and what they are. They know how not to fidget, how to be still. Humans need to learn this too. As far as gravity is concerned there is only space and stuff in this world, and humans classify as stuff. Gravity treats us the same way it treats every thing and every one. Gravity is fair. It’s our responsibility to learn how to work with gravity. We live on common ground, shared ground. The same ground supports us all. We’ve got to learn how to come down to the ground. We must come to realize we were all created equal. From where doth our support come? It comes from the ground. But sometimes we must go down to get it.

On the fifth day the little girl thought, What if I could create creatures who had entirely different ways of perceiving and experiencing this beautiful world I have made?

 A big part of my work is re-introducing the sensory world to people. We have spent time becoming oriented, fluid, and stable. Now it’s time to enliven and refine our sensory life. It’s not about sensory indulgence. The senses can take us way beyond pleasure. The senses allow us to gratefully receive the subtle magnificence of the world in which we live. Paradoxically, through the senses we get a glimpse of something beyond the senses, we get a glimpse of the essence of life itself, of life speaking directly through its own language without interpretation. Through the senses we experience communion.

On the sixth day the little girl decided to take one of the creatures she had invented and make them capable of thinking about her creation.

 Once my students have had glimpses into another way moving, sensing, and being in their world, their curiosity awakens. The questions start coming. “How come we lose our mobility and stability?” “Are there cultures who don’t lose it as much?” How about other animals?” “Is there some structural flaw in our upright structure?” “What makes us able to be upright?” “Why is it so difficult to continue to sense ourselves kinesthetically?” Mostly I say, “I don’t really know for sure.” We begin to think about thinking? Are there different ways to think? Cognition. Meditation. Contemplation. Awareness. Consciousness. Intelligence. Sensory Intelligence. We begin to find language for our new experiences. Together we enter a world of wondering.

On the seventh day the little girl thought,Perhaps it would be good for me to rest for a while and spend a little time not creating, she thought. The little girl spent a long while simply gazing at her creation. Its good, very good, she thought. She loved her world.

 You can’t do anything forever. Obsessing doesn’t help. It’s not healthy. Sometimes you just have to forget about the whole thing. Take a break. Don’t think about yourself or your work. “You’re fine exactly the way you are,” I tell my students. I tell them, “Never change. I love you just the way you are!” Everyone smiles. I encourage people. I know people do the best they can. I don’t evaluate people. Through this work goodness in people rises to the surface by itself. I don’t know why. Goodness, and love too. Love for the world, love for others, love for themselves. And love for that little girl.

Mirando el Bahía de Tokyo

Tokyo-Bay-Japan

Me despidieron. Un hombre, padre de una de las jóvenes gimnastas en el Mann Recreation Center en Philadelphia, donde yo trabajaba como entrenador para un equipo de gimnasia femenino, se estaba quejando de cómo los chicos en Philadelphia no son tan inteligentes como lo eran los de hace 20 años. Yo tenía 22 años en ese entonces. “¿Cómo sabe eso?” le pregunté.

“Mira, he enseñado química en la escuela secundaria durante 20 años. Uso el mismo libro. Trabajo el mismo material… Los exámenes son exactamente iguales a los que usaba hace 20 años”, dijo él. “Interesante. Dígame, ¿se tuvo en cuenta a usted en esa ecuación? Quiero decir, ¿es posible que el hecho de no haber cambiado absolutamente nada signifique que no ha aprendido nada nuevo, sobre química o sobre la enseñanza? ¿Podría significar que está aburrido, no está inspirado, no inspira, y como ya llegó a la conclusión irrebatible de que los chicos no son tan inteligentes como lo eran antes, los trata así?; ¿y los chicos sienten eso y no lo escuchan, no lo respetan, y no hacen nada para usted; porque usted no los respeta y no hace nada para ellos?”.

“¿Qué sabes vos?” dijo él indignado. “Sólo sos un chico.” Sí, yo era un chico arrogante, agrandado, con mucho por aprender. Pero era un buen entrenador. Sin embargo, este hombre estaba en el comité de dirección del centro y donaba mucho dinero al equipo. Entonces me despidieron. Encontré un trabajo una semana después enseñando para Senior Wheels East Late Start, un proyecto que iba a los barrios más pobres de Philadelphia entregando comida a discapacitados y almuerzos a varios centros comunitarios para los pobres y desamparados, y que también ofrecía actividades en grupos y clases; mi clase era Seguridad en Movimiento. Yo era graduado de salud, educación física, recreación y danza en Temple University pero nunca había enseñado a gente mayor. Así que escuchaba sus necesidades, experimentaba, veía qué funcionaba y qué no. Los disfrutaba, aprendía de ellos y probaba. Pero esa es una historia para otro momento.

Cuarenta y dos años después entro a mi clase en Tokyo, todavía enseñando movimiento humano. He estado creando nuevo material y quiero presentar mi trabajo orientado a un nuevo tema. Estoy emocionado por tener esta oportunidad.

Ojaio gozaimasu (buen día), digo haciendo reverencias a todos. Todos, en voz alta y al unísono, me devuelven el saludo. Hay mucha energía en la sala.

“¿Por qué es tan importante la amabilidad? Quiero decir, ¿por qué diría Su Santidad el Dalai Lama que su religión es la amabilidad (kindness)? ¿Por qué, con todas las palabras que hay en el mundo, elegiría la palabra amabilidad? ¿Qué significa esa palabra?”

Las personas se están preguntando por qué estoy hablando sobre la amabilidad. Están aquí para una introducción a la Técnica Alexander. Pero yo tengo la costumbre de tomar el camino largo para llegar a donde voy. “En inglés, la palabra “kind” tiene dos significados, que parecen no estar relacionados. Un significado es “tipo”. Por ejemplo, hay dos tipos principales de destornilladores que usamos en América, uno plano y otro de cruz. ¿Tienen destornilladores planos y de cruz en Japón?” Inclinan las cabezas diciendo que sí, preguntándose por qué es esto importante.

Dibujo los destornilladores en la pizarra. Me encanta garabatear en las pizarras.

“¿Alguna vez les pasó que necesitaban un destornillador pequeño tipo cruz, pero sólo podían encontrar un destornillador grande plano e intentaron utilizarlo igual? Se arriesgan a que pasen tres cosas no tan buenas: uno, quizás dañen el tornillo; dos, quizás dañen el destornillador; ¿y tres?” Todos están pensando. Espero. Al final, una persona dice: “quizás te lastimas a vos mismo.” 

“Bien, okey. Imaginen lo siguiente. Se acercan a un perro que se ve amigable.” Ahora, algunos de los estudiantes están sospechando que posiblemente sufro una leve demencia. “Se paran en frente del perro y bajan la mano para acariciarle la parte de arriba de la cabeza. El perro agacha la cabeza a donde no alcancen con la mano. El no entiende el gesto como amistoso. Por un lado, están mucho, mucho más arriba, básicamente son un gigante por encima del perro. Por otro lado, están parados justo en frente del perro, bloqueando su ruta de escape. Y tercero, sus manos grandes, que ni siquiera son patas, van directo sobre su cabeza.”

“Los caninos son una especie de mamíferos distintos al ser humano. Tienen distintas maneras de saludarse. Si fueses un perro, la manera amistosa de acercarte a otro perro no es ir de frente, sino empezar a rodearlo desde el costado, bajando la cabeza y olfateando delicadamente la cola del otro perro, mientras le ofreces tu cola para que la olfatee. Eso es amistoso y se siente seguro para el perro. Ahora, si intentaras saludar a otro ser humano de esa manera, con ese gesto canino amistoso, probablemente lo malinterpreten, quizás hasta se perciba un poco maleducado.” Esto evoca las primeras risas robustas del grupo. Eso es importante.

“Incluso ahora, con las personas que conozco bien aquí en Japón, si les digo hola y les doy un abrazo amistoso americano, se ponen incomodos. Fingen que les gusta, pero puedo sentir como sus cuerpos se ponen rígidos como piedra. No les gusta. Entonces, casi siempre, solo hago una reverencia.”

“Eso me trae al otro significado de la palabra ‘kind’: ‘amable’. Ser amable también significa ser considerado y respetuoso de algo o de alguien.”

“Entonces, cuando comprendes y tomas en cuenta el tipo de cosa o criatura con la que te estás relacionando, podés tratarlos con la amabilidad y el respeto con la que quieren ser tratados.”

“Si yo quiero tratar a mi tornillo y destornillador respetuosamente, necesito comprender sus diseños y usarlos acorde a éstos. Eso es considerado. Eso es respetuoso. Eso es amable.”

“Si yo quiero ser considerado y respetuoso con un perro, tengo que saber algo sobre los perros. Entonces voy a elegir moverme despacio, agacharme al nivel de sus ojos, bajar la mirada, posicionarme al costado del perro. Voy a esperar a que el perro se mueva un poco hacia mí, y luego llevar mi mano despacito, con la palma hacia abajo para que se parezca más a una pata, hasta debajo de su mentón. Eso es considerado. Eso es respetuoso. Eso es amable.”

“Cuando estoy en Japón, con una cultura particularmente diferente a la de América, si quiero ser considerado y respetuoso, lo mejor es saludar a las personas de una manera que les haga sentirse cómodos. Eso sería amable.”

“Ahora que tenemos los dos significados de la palabra ‘kind’ (tipo y amable) y cómo están relacionados, surge la pregunta: ¿cómo me trato a mí mismo con amabilidad?”

“El trabajo de Alexander se basa en esta pregunta: ¿cómo hago para tratarme a mí mismo con amabilidad? Mi mentora, Marjorie Barstow, una vez nos dijo, ‘un día te despiertas y dices, estoy cansado de maltratarme. Ahí es cuando empiezas a progresar.’ Cuando era un joven actor, Alexander necesitaba comprender como maltrataba su voz. El usaba la palabra ‘uso’ en lugar de ‘trato’, y ‘mal uso’ en lugar de ‘maltrato’. Me gusta la palabra ‘trato’ porque tiene una connotación ética. No se trata solamente de función. Más tarde la investigación de Alexander no trató solamente sobre su voz, sino que trató sobre él mismo como persona. En otras palabras, su trabajo comenzó a ser sobre cómo los seres humanos se maltratan a sí mismos. Y sobre ¿qué tenemos que comprender y dominar para poder tratarnos a nosotros mismos con consideración y respeto?

Después de 20 minutos, por fin he llegado a donde quería ir. He explicado de qué se trata el trabajo de Alexander. Lo he hecho de una manera que es simple y fácil de entender. Lo he hecho de una manera que hizo a los estudiantes pensar en sí mismos, no tanto sobre sus cuerpos, todavía, sólo sobre ellos mismos como personas. Los oigo preguntarse, “¿me maltrato a mí mismo? ¿estoy preparado para dejar de maltratarme?” Los tengo donde los quiero.

“Para aprender cómo tratarnos con respeto, hay cinco aspectos de la vida que valen la pena considerar. Tiempo. Espacio. Contacto. Movimiento. E interacción social. Los escribo en la pizarra. Elijo estos porque siempre estamos viviendo en relación a ellos. De esto se tratará el taller.”

“Vivimos en el tiempo. Tenemos que lidiar con el tiempo del reloj, con llegar a tiempo, con hacer las cosas a tiempo. Hay tiempo psicológico. ¿Sentimos que nos estamos quedando sin tiempo? ¿Sentimos que estamos perdiendo tiempo? ¿Es el momento adecuado de decirle a otra persona cómo me siento?”

“Siempre estamos relacionándonos con el espacio, el espacio alrededor nuestro, el espacio entre nosotros y las cosas. Como en nuestros aparatos electrónicos, hay espacio psicológico dentro nuestro. ¿Nos sentimos atrapados? ¿Acorralados? ¿Contra la pared? ¿Tenemos espacio para pensar, o para respirar?”

“Siempre estamos en contacto. Nos sentamos en una silla frente al escritorio, en el asiento del auto, o en el asiento del tren. Caminamos por la calle, nuestros pies tocan el suelo con cada pisada. Ponemos comida dentro de nuestras bocas. Tocamos nuestras pantallas y teclados. Tocamos objetos todo el día, y nos acostamos sobre nuestras camas o futones todas las noches.”

“Nos movemos constantemente desde el momento que nos conciben hasta el momento en que morimos.”

“Y estemos a solas o no, nunca estamos solos. Como dijo James Hillman, somos nuestras comunidades internalizadas. Memorias de nuestros padres, pensamientos críticos sobre nuestros jefes, preocupaciones por nuestros hijos.”

“Para mí como profesor de Alexander este es el tema que interesa. Si podemos aprender a crear tiempo y espacio para nosotros mismos, si podemos aprender a hacer contacto respetuoso con todo lo que tocamos y nos toca, si podemos aprender a movernos acorde a nuestro diseño, quizás esta tranquilidad, equilibrio y sensibilidad seguirán vivos en nuestras interacciones sociales.”

“Entonces cuando Su Santidad el Dalai Lama dice: mi religión es la amabilidad; yo sospecho que él sabe que esto no es nada fácil. Sospecho que él sabe que ser verdaderamente amable requiere conocimiento, comprensión y practica comprometida, y que esta práctica nunca termina.”

El silencio y la quietud en la sala son palpables.

“Bueno. Vamos a divertirnos. ¡Realmente vamos a divertirnos mucho este fin de semana!”

El fin de semana va sorprendentemente bien. Surge mucho material nuevo. Digo cosas de maneras que nunca dije antes. Escucho ideas que nunca escuché. Uso mis manos de maneras en que nunca las he usado. Enseño movimientos que nunca antes enseñé. Puedo conocer gente que no conocía antes. Aprendí mucho este fin de semana y parece que los alumnos también. Hay cierta liviandad en la sala. Estoy feliz.

Junto mis cosas anticipando la cena, una cerveza y estar con amigos. Está hermoso afuera. El sol se pone sobre la bahía de Tokio. Un pensamiento se cruza en mi cabeza: “Vaya, los alumnos parecen ser más inteligentes cada año. Son más abiertos. Aprenden más rápido. Disfrutan más. A decir verdad, parecen más amistosos, más amables y más respetuosos que nunca.”

La amabilidad es mi religión. Soy devoto de por vida.

Translated by Mari Hodges