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Posts tagged ‘Marjorie Barstow’

The Working World – Knowing How we are Being as we Do What we are Doing – 29.04.2018, 10am – 5:30pm – Zurich

AS we do what we are doing. That little work as is the challenge. We usually notice how we were being after we did what we did.

“I was so afraid of being late to work this morning that I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off, got to work and was already exhausted.”

“God, I was really killing myself when I was at my computer trying to finish that project on time. My neck is aching and so are my wrists.”

“You know, I was impatient, snobby, and not as helpful as I could have been in that meeting. I feel terrible about it.”

Of course, we also have good days when we are not late, when we don’t kill ourselves working, when we enjoy our work and the people around us. But what can we do for ourselves when we feel out of balance, off our game, out of sync?

Not only possessing psychological and communication skills, but somatic skills as well can help a great deal. This workshop is dedicated to acquiring the somatic skills needed to better handle ourselves in trying situations in the workplace.

Applying the principles found within the Alexander Technique and applying them in our work life, whatever that life is, be it office work, manual work, house work, or looking for work, bring yourself and your stories about your working world to me and get ready to have a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening time.

Whether you are new to Alexander’s work or currently studying, whether you are training or even if you are a teacher of the technique, I hope you will consider joining me for a day of playing seriously, and seriously play-ing, with the principles underlying Alexander’s remarkable work.

DETAILS

Date: 29.04.2018, 10am – 5:30pm

Location: Technopark Zürich (close to train stop Hardbrücke)

Course fee: CHF 160.- (Students CHF 125.-)

Workshop language: English (translation to German possible)

Individual lessons: (CHF 100.–/45 min.) can be arranged on Monday, 30.04.2018 and Tuesday, 01.05.2018.

Additionally Bruce will give an Alexander Technique workshop entitled «Eradicating Blocks – A Workshop For Performing Artists» on Saturday, 28.04. 2018.

Organizers and assistant teachers: Magdalena and Johannes Gassner

For more information and to register call: +41 77 475 50 27 or write to m.gassner@alexanderalliance.de

To learn more about Bruce Fertman, the Alexander Technique or the Alexander Alliance:

http://brucefertman.com

http://www.alexanderalliance.org/

About Bruce Fertman

In Bruce’s 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 life’s 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, “That’s who I am, that is who I could be.”

M. Tueshaus, Alexander Teacher / Tango Teacher/ Equestrian

With 55 years experience as a movement artist and educator, Bruce brings a lifetime of training to his work as an Alexander teacher. For the past 30 years Bruce has traveled annually throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States coaching performing artists and helping people from all walks of life.

Bruce has worked with members of the Berlin Philharmonic, Radio France, The National Symphony in Washington DC, the Honolulu Symphony and for the Curtis Institute of Music. He 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.

In 1982, Bruce co-founded the Alexander Alliance International, an intergenerational, multicultural community/school, the first Alexander teacher training program inspired by the work of Marjorie Barstow.

For ten years Bruce trained as a gymnast with Olympic coaches, and with Dan Millman, receiving a full scholarship to Penn State University. A professional modern dancer for 12 years, he holds a Master’s degree in Modern Dance and Movement Re-education at Temple University. For 16 years Bruce apprenticed with and assisted Marjorie L. Barstow, the first person formally certified by F.M. Alexander to teach his work.

Bruce studied in New York City at the Shr Jung Institute and in Philadelphia with Cheng man Ching’s six senior American students for 8 years, and also for 8 years with Shuji Maruyama who, as a boy, lived and trained with Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido. Bruce was awarded a scholarship to study at the Uresenke School of Tea in Kyoto, Japan, with Iemoto Soshitsu Sen, the 15th generation grand tea master. He studied Argentine Tango in Buenos Aires, Berlin, and Rome. Bruce trained in Kyudo, Zen Archery, in Osaka, Japan where he lives four months a year. Four months a year he is on the road teaching in Europe and Asia, and four months a year Bruce lives in Northern, New Mexico and writes.

He is the author of  Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart.

 

BERLIN – Eradicating Blocks – A Workshop for Performing Artists – Bruce Fertman May 8, 2018

You are not here to acquire skills but to eradicate blocks. – Jerzy Grotowski  

It is your music, dance, or theatre teacher’s job to help you acquire the skills you need to be a fine artist. My job is to help you become aware of how you interfere with yourself as you work toward acquiring those skills, and to show you how you can release that interference. In other words, my job is to teach you how not to work against yourself and against what you are working to achieve.

Often the problem is not that we doing to little, but that we are doing too much, working too hard, over trying, muscling our way through.

“Fluid as melting ice. Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself? Less and less will you need to force things.”

 -Lao Tzu/Stephen Mitchell

In this workshop we will learn how to become less stiff and more fluid. We will learn how not to push, not to force. Through Alexander’s work we will begin learning how to be at once, relaxed and ready, soft and strong, light and substantial, stable and flexible, peaceful and lively when we are practicing and when we are performing.

This workshop is open to amateur and professional artists alike. Bring what you need in order to do your work, your instruments, your dancing shoes, your monologues. Also, those who do not consider themselves artists but whose jobs entail an element of performance, such as public speaking, lecturing, leading meetings are also welcome to attend.

 

Details:

When:

May 8, 10-13h/14-17h
(May 7 – private lessons)

Where:

LaLuz
Carreé Seestraße 
Oudenarder Str. 16
Im Backstage Studio

Parklatze im Hof

Cost:

150€ for workshop
100€ for 45min. private lesson

To Register:
arilachispa@gmail.com
www.laluz.de

About Bruce Fertman

In Bruce’s 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 life’s 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, “That’s who I am, that is who I could be.”

M. Tueshaus, Alexander Teacher / Tango Teacher/ Equestrian

With 55 years experience as a movement artist and educator, Bruce brings a lifetime of training to his work as an Alexander teacher. For the past 30 years Bruce has traveled annually throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States coaching performing artists and helping people from all walks of life.

Bruce has worked with members of the Berlin Philharmonic, Radio France, The National Symphony in Washington DC, the Honolulu Symphony and for the Curtis Institute of Music. He 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.

In 1982, Bruce co-founded the Alexander Alliance International, an intergenerational, multicultural community/school, the first Alexander teacher training program inspired by the work of Marjorie Barstow.

For ten years Bruce trained as a gymnast with Olympic coaches, and with Dan Millman, receiving a full scholarship to Penn State University. A professional modern dancer for 12 years, he holds a Master’s degree in Modern Dance and Movement Re-education at Temple University. For 16 years Bruce apprenticed with and assisted Marjorie L. Barstow, the first person formally certified by F.M. Alexander to teach his work.

Bruce studied in New York City at the Shr Jung Institute and in Philadelphia with Cheng man Ching’s six senior American students for 8 years, and also for 8 years with Shuji Maruyama who, as a boy, lived and trained with Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido. Bruce was awarded a scholarship to study at the Uresenke School of Tea in Kyoto, Japan, with Iemoto Soshitsu Sen, the 15th generation grand tea master. He studied Argentine Tango in Buenos Aires, Berlin, and Rome. Bruce trained in Kyudo, Zen Archery, in Osaka, Japan where he lives four months a year. Four months a year he is on the road teaching in Europe and Asia, and four months a year Bruce lives in Northern, New Mexico and writes.

He is the author of  Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart.

The Voice Of The World (A revision of Singing In the Rain)

I remember a class I took with Marjory Barlow in 1988. She was explaining how at first you give these words, these phrases to your student knowing they will have little or no idea of what you are talking about. But then, gradually, through the subtle and clear use of your hands you give your student an experience of what those words and phrases actually mean. The student mentally and physically couples them together and voilà, when she or he thinks the words, without having to really do anything, the words themselves trigger an effortless response, a response that comes to feel almost reflex-like, a response that is at once supportive, organizing and liberating. It just happens, like typing in a domain name of where you want to go, clicking on search and, presto, there it is, and there you are.

It’s ingenious really, and effective. As one continues to study with teachers, and on one’s own, which is essential, this kinesthetic coupling of the words with this effortlessly revitalizing reflex-like response becomes ever more wedded, ever more precise and powerful, which is why having hands on work through one’s whole life is a good idea, which is why being part of an Alexander community is such a good idea, which is what I have chosen to do, which has been a blessing beyond words.

Alexander referred to these words, these phrases, as directions. He writes, direction is…”the process involved in projecting messages from the brain to the mechanisms and in conducting the energy necessary to the use of those mechanism.”  By mechanisms I assume Alexander is referring to this ever so delicate but dynamic reorganization of the head in relation to the neck, and of the head and neck’s relationship to the entire torso, and of the head, neck, and torso’s relationship, as a flexibly working unit, to the arms and legs.

If you are an Alexander teacher or a long term student of Alexander’s work all of this is old hat. Sorry, but I am going somewhere and need to begin at the beginning.

Now these words are a shorthand, an abbreviation for a complex psychophysical happening within us, and yet they they still strike me as a bit long and cumbersome. Let the neck be free so that the head can go forward and up so that the back can lengthen and widen, all together, one after the other. And then there are secondary directions that speak to the limbs as well, to the heels, knees and hips and to the elbows, wrists, and fingers, and to the tongue, (which I see as limb-like; think of a frog.)

It takes a bit of time to stream through these directions, especially at first. When we get proficient, perhaps just a few seconds. Marj Barstow, one of my mentors, once said to a student who was belaboring the process, “I wish I could say all these words to you at the same time, instead of one after the other.” Marj understood that this sequence of instructions had to be played more like a fluid arpeggio on a guitar rather than a separate collection of notes.

The very same day I had a class with Marjory Barlow I also had a class with Wilford Barlow. I loved watching and listening to them both. Wilford deferred to his wife saying, “Now this is just my idea. If you want to know how it really works, ask Marjory.” But I loved Wilford’s ideas, and his hands too. He said something like, (it was long ago), “After a time the words are not always necessary. The change we want can come about without them.” I wasn’t sure but my guess was that after we had for many years used our conscious mind, and with it language to reeducate our kinesthesia we could come to trust it more and more and simply let it work for us. Perhaps our kinesthesia is like a child who for many years needs guidance, but then gradually grows up into a capable and responsible adult who no longer needs looking after all the time.

Years have flown by since then, 30 years to be exact. I’ve had some time to think about this on my own, and so now I will share with you my thoughts on the matter.

Let’s imagine you are on the road, traveling in some foreign country. A cold snap blows in unexpectedly. You decide to buy a scarf and a pair of gloves. You find something you like, a bit expensive and so decide to charge it on your credit card. You open your wallet and notice your Discover card is missing. You pick up your phone and know their phone number because their phone number happens to spell DISCOVER. So instead of having to remember 8 numbers in sequence, you only have to remember one word.

What if I could find one word that could contain for me the full sequence of directions. I decided on the word ‘One’. ‘One’ would now mean for me Let the neck be free so that the head can go forward and up so that the back can lengthen and widen, all together, one after the other. The word ‘One’ would now be the verbal trigger for my entire Primary Pattern. After all, the word ‘One’ is in essence just a sound, a sound English speaking people decide means the number between 0 and 2. It is just a sound. The meaning is not inherent to the sound. English speaking people collectively agree on what that sound means. A person for whom English is a second language at some point had to learn what that sound meant. At first, in their mind, they may have said to themselves what it meant in their own language, but over time they no longer had to do that. At some point the word One, the sound One immediately meant to them the number between 0 and 2.

So, I thought, why could I not change the meaning of the sound ‘One’ and have it mean what I wanted it to mean? If for me the sound ‘One’ was coupled with Let the neck be free so that the head can go forward and up so that the back can lengthen and widen, all together, one after the other, and if that phrase was kinesthetically coupled with this effortlessly revitalizing reflex-like response, then all three of them were now coupled, like links of a fence.

I played with using the word ‘One’ as my condensed Alexander direction. I liked how fast it was. I liked that it was less wordy. Yes it lacked a bit of the specificity that Alexander’s words had for me. But with practice I got pretty good at it.

Then the thought occurred to me that I didn’t have to use a word at all. That I could just use a sound, given that, in essence, a word is just a sound. I came up with the sound, Paaaah. This worked much better than the word ‘One’. It had something to do with the fact that it had no meaning to begin with and so I had not to de-couple any meaning from the sound. The sound was soft and expansive and seemed never ending. I also had associations with the sound, one being Alexander’s whispered Ah, and the other being the sound Kyudoists, (Zen Archers) use to refer to the moment when the arrow is released from the bow. Paaaah. I didn’t lose much specificity when using the sound Paaaah. It was indeed a better container for Alexander’s directions, at least for me.

I will, however, never throw out Alexander’s directions. They are for me like some song from another era that I still love singing. Those words still move me.

More years went by. I was in Tokyo standing at one of these interminably long red lights. I was end-gaining. I wanted to go but the red light was telling me to stay put. “That’s its collective meaning virtually all over the world, even though it’s a color, not a word, and not a sound. It’s also an object. Gee, I thought, we can pretty much make anything mean anything. It is totally up to us!”

I decided it would probably be a good idea to continue letting the red stop signal mean stop. But I decided that instead of it meaning stop on a superficial level, I decided that it meant stop on a deep level, that it meant to stop everything within myself, to completely stop any unnecessary holding within myself, to completely stop waiting, to enter into a condition of profound Alexandrian inhibition.

There I was at this infinitely long red light in a state of radical non-end-gaining, wide awake, vividly aware of everything around me. When the light turned green and everyone began walking across the street, I didn’t want to go. I was so happy exactly where I was, but then I thought, “better to follow the simple directions”, and so I crossed the street as I had never crossed a street before, as if I were singing in the rain, without the rain.

And then the revelation came. What if instead of using an internal trigger, i.e., Alexander’s words, words that were being produced from inside my mind, what if I projected my mind onto the world around me? What if I had the world speak to me from the outside in, instead of me speaking to me from the inside out? Instead of my mind being inside my body, what if my body was inside of a big, benevolent mind? It was entirely up to me to decide what any word, sound, object or creature meant to me, so what would happen if suddenly everything, absolutely everything  was saying to me, directly, wordlessly, Let the neck be free so that the head can go forward and up so that the back can lengthen and widen, all together, one after the other?

Ah, so that was what Gary Snyder meant when he wrote, “The world is our consciousness, and it surrounds us.” I got it!

Could it be this simple? Could anyone do it? Not really. First it would be necessary to have learned how to couple Alexander’s Primary Movement to some trigger, and perhaps Alexander’s words were the perfect first trigger because they are so specific and clear.

Again, I returned to my new insight.

What if I decided that everything, utterly everything in the world said to me, “Bruce, free yourself in relation to me. Free yourself in relation to me. Let your neck be free so that your head can go forward and up so that your back can lengthen and widen, all together, one after the other.” 

The Voice of the World. The silent, wordless voice of the world saying to me, “Bruce, free yourself in relation to me. Free yourself in relation to me.” 

Suddenly no words were needed at all. It was as if every object, my coffee cup, my keyboard, my computer screen, the flowers by the chair, the sound of the heater were all saying to me, directly, immediately, wordlessly, just through their sheer existence, “Bruce, free yourself in relation to me. Free yourself in relation to me. Everything was somehow kinesthetically coupled to my Primary Movement.

What if every person, especially people I struggled with meant “Bruce, free yourself in relation to me. Free yourself in relation to me.

No longer was there me trying to speak to me from somewhere inside of my body. The entire world and everything and everyone in it was now freeing me, directing me, opening me, awakening me. The Voice of the World was speaking to me and I was listening. Not only was I listening, I was following its direction, taking its good and loving advice.

Why not free myself in relation to everything and everyone?

That must of been it, the meaning of the Flower Sermon given by the Buddha. Sakyamuni gives a wordless sermon to his sangha. He holds up a white flower. No one understands it’s meaning except Mahakasyapa, who smiles.

That simple flower, and the meaning we bestow upon it speaks to us, in silence, inviting us back to who we are.

 

Bruce Fertman

Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart

 

 

 

 

Available Now – Bruce’s Book!

Another book on the Alexander Technique? Not really. Yes, secondarily it is a book about Alexander’s work as interpreted and expressed through me. In Part One I do lead people into Alexander’s work via different doors. We enter Alexander’s world through sport, ecology, anatomy, sensory life, social biology, theology, psychology, metaphysics, mysticism, and art.

But primarily Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart is a book about people, about liking people, listening to people, seeing people, nurturing people, talking to people and touching people. It’s about teaching without teaching. It’s about how create conducive conditions for learning from the inside out.

Elie Wiesel writes, ‘We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.’

Here I share with you universes and within them secrets, treasures, anguish, and triumphs.

In this book you will find a few of the most popular posts on this blog which, due to publishing rights and regulations, are no longer available on this blog.

For some of you this book will serve as an introduction to Alexander’s work. May it lead you to teachers who will accompany you along your way.

For those of you who have found your teachers, this book may motivate you to take the work ever more to heart, to delve into the depth and breadth of the work.

And for those of you who are Alexander trainees and fellow teachers, may this book embolden you to take the work beyond the body into the realm of being, and beyond movement into the world of meaning.

 

May this book remind you of all that is worth loving inside the work of F. M. Alexander.

I hope you will read this book and then, please, write to me and tell me what it was like to read it, what if anything you learned or understood, how in any way, if in any way it shed light on your understanding of Alexander’s work, on being an Alexander teacher, or most importantly on what it means to be a human being living a life.

A very limited number of hardback editions are available.

For the next two weeks you can buy Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart at a discounted price at:

www.mouritz.co.uk

or you can get it from

amazon.co.uk

Thanks,

Bruce Fertman

 

 

EUROPE – The Alexander Alliance Europe Begins

Once, Paulus Berensohn, a famous American potter, former member of the Martha Graham Dance Company, and a student at the Alexander Alliance in the early ’80s, and I were driving into Center City Philadelphia to teach a Pottery and the Alexander Technique workshop together at Bread Street Studio. He had stopped teaching and dancing and was mostly caring for his mentor, M.C. Richards, author of Centering In Pottery, Poetry, and the Person, a bible at that time for many potters and dancers. To make a living he was painting houses.

“Paulus, but what about your career? I mean, you are an incredible potter and teacher. Why are you painting houses?” Paulus said, “I don’t have a career. I don’t work and I don’t take vacations. I am just a person living my life.”

Those few sentences, and the place from where Paulus said them, changed my life forever, which is to say Paulus changed my life forever. From that day forward I didn’t have a career, never worked, and never took a vacation. I became a person just living my life. I still am.

This new website, is thus not about my work or about my career. It’s about why and how I live my life. It’s a verbal and visual record reaching back into the 70’s when I first met Marjorie Barstow, first fell in love with Alexander’s work, first began making my way into the world as an Alexander teacher. This website that I love reaches forward into the future as well as I now set out to ensure the Alexander Alliance lives on beyond me, that it remains a place where other people who fall in love with Alexander’s work can go to immerse themselves in his work, a community where they can find others who feel as they do about Alexander’s work.

Hopefully, I will still be around for a while, but one never knows. It’s a bit like wanting to give your inheritance away to your family while you are still alive so you can watch them taking pleasure in it.

Our new website means a lot to me because:

One, it has photos of my mentors who I often miss and to whom I feel gratitude toward everyday. I can look at them whenever I need to.

Two, the website has photos of students I have worked with over the last 40 years, of teachers I’ve taught with side by side for 35 years. For me it’s a family album, and for current Alliance students it shows them their extended, worldwide family.

Three, the website takes a lifetime of attempts at explaining, in words, what Alexander’s work is and succeeds more than ever in conveying what Alexander’s work is about, without jargon, in clear and contemporary language. My hope is that my writing may be of some help to our Alexander community at large as it struggles to find words for something well beyond words.

Four, I believe, photographically, I have made some headway in creating a new and contemporary look for Alexander’s work, a look that is more natural, more dynamic, more beautiful, less mechanical, less postural, less stiff, less static, less artificial. More attractive.

Five, the website promotes and honors people I am immensely proud of; my faculty and my graduates.

Six, the website makes it really easy to find and watch videos and read essays that may help to generate interest in Alexander’s work.

And finally, seven, it is one big invitation to visit our community/school. We welcome everyone with open arms.

Years later, Paulus Berensohn and I found ourselves in Hawaii, on the big island, at midnight, under a full moon, walking in Volcano National Park on top of swirling, silvery black cooled lava patterns toward a red river of fluid fire with our friends Eva Lee and Chiu Leong; Eva a beautiful, loving modern dancer and Chiu, an exquisite person and potter. We arrive at the molten river, sit down at the edge of a cliff where we witness a waterfall of fire pouring into the sea. White fiery clouds rise up like Chinese dragons.

Fire is how I remember Paulus. His fire within, his passion, his energy for life itself. It wasn’t about being successful or famous for Paulus. It was about turning life into art, one’s own life into something beautiful and useful, and loving.

That’s want I want for my students. Sure, I love when my students are able to make a living teaching Alexander’s work. But what is more important to me, much more important, is their making a life for themselves, a life in which they are awake to the world, to others, and to the fire within. That’s what this new website is all about.

EMS1

Paulus Berensohn

 

 

Recognition Of The Obvious

 

The Alexander Alliance Europe

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humbly yours,

Bruce

The Alexander Alliance Europe

Towards A Free Future

 

Photo: B. Fertman

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

Joyful Neutrality

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

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

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

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

The eternal recurrence of the same.

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

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

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

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

The Diamond

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

The eternal recurrence of the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we listening?

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

Are we listening?

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

Are we listening?