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Posts Tagged ‘The Alexander Technique’

In the Queendom of twinklysparkles, the women look like this:

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though some of the women look like this:

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The women are always naked unless of course they want to wear ribbons or bows or bikinis or braids. They wear whatever the fuck they want whenever the fuck they want.*

The sun is shining. There is a slight ocean breeze. The daytime temp hovers between 55 and 85 degrees depending on the season. Of course these temps don’t apply when the Queen orders snow.

In the autumn and in the spring, the Queen has her way with the air; like everything in the Queendom, it is subject to her whims.

After every transaction, the bank tellers let the residents of the Queendom know that they are awesome customers. The customers let the tellers know that they are equally awesome.

Cell phone use never occurs at meals; while walking; while conducting face-to-face financial transactions. There is no law governing this because there is no need for such a law. The residents of the Queendom get it and live it and breathe it deeply.

Men and women of the Queendom hold open doors for each other, regardless of need. The children and youth have impeccable manners.

There is no plastic surgery in the Queendom, but you knew that.

All glass in the Queendom is unbreakable unless an emergent situation requires it to be broken.

If there is broken glass, it is gathered and used to make The Pretty. Same for broken ceramics.

All rocks are tear-drop shaped or heart-shaped except when they are not.

There are no TEA partiers in the Queendom, for when they cross its threshold, all sense returns to them.

The word briolette is never used in the Queendom. Never ever.

A honeybee does not want to sting you, says her Majesty, for to do so is to lose its life.

Sometimes Bette Midler sings in the Queendom. Sometimes the Queen herself sings. Sometimes all of the residents sing. The singing is good and heartfelt. There is an abundance of lullabies for children, even the almost-grown-up ones.

Performers in the Queendom do not equate the appearance of emoting with genuine emoting. Layers of false emotion are laid bare, kicked out, and a fresh start is made, tabula rasa.

Sometimes, Anthony Hopkins narrates the Queen’s day, for his Welsh accent and the dulcet tones of his mellifluous voice please Her Royal Highness.

Dancing of all kinds is encouraged in the Queendom, but the Queen is partial to getting down and getting funky and prefers a heap of soul to little or no soul at all.

If you are gonna do it, do it right, says the Queen. This means, do it with gusto. This is not the same as the popular bumper sticker which states “speak even if your voice shakes” because the Queen knows the Alexander Technique. Also, sometimes you need to know the difference between what is worth speaking even if your voice shakes and what is not worth speaking even if your voice shakes.

Fucking A, says the Queen. Pink, says the Queen. Blue and raspberries and violets, says She.

The Queen needs help with motivation and that’s where her handmaidens come in. They encourage her to go to the Royal Yoga Class and to put her Royal Ass on the Royal Bike Seat for the Royal Bike Ride. They indeed help her to clean up the Royal Dog Poo as well as to scoop the Royal Cat Urine from the three Royal Litter Boxes which are lined up oh-so-neatly in the Royal Basement.

Each spring the cherry blossoms bloom and die. The cherries burst out and the cedar waxwings pay visit to the Royal Cherry Tree for one week during which the residents celebrate Fleeting Time.

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And of what does the Queen dream in her Royal Bed? Under clean cotton sheets and soft, down comforters, and with the Four Pillows of Royalty, she dreams of the ocean. She dreams of kale, curly and dark, almost black in its nutrients. She dreams of centipedes and millipedes and other crawly creatures in the cool soft earth. She dreams of iron and steel, minerals and bone. She dreams of death and she dreams of freedom from pain.

♥ ♥ ♥

*this is a link to something I found on Facebook which I believe had something to do with a call for women to submit photos of themselves in bikinis on HuffPo. The passage sounds a lot like Caitlin Moran could have written it and I wish the author would say more about her inspiration. In Caitlin Moran’s excellent book How To Be A Woman, she coins the term human-shaped, at least I think she is the first to have done so.

Thanks to my many blogger-chick pals who inspired me to write this post, though my contact with them has been scant of late. I drink from the fount of their fortitude more often than they know. I also hope I didn’t steal too much of my idea from Erin O’Brien at the Owner’s Manual, but she is also probably too humble to see that it is so. She is the original Queen of the Blogosphere to me.

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I’m not sure I have ever made a New Year’s resolution.

What I am NOT LIKELY to do in 2013:

Stop submitting my poetry for publication (though in 2012, this was my intention). I feel refreshed and excited right now and I look forward to sending out more poems. DANG it feels good to feel this way.

Change my blog to (the dreaded, overly-romantic-notion-of-oneself) white words on a black background. In order to spare other bloggers’ feelings, I don’t publicize this, but it is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. I really like to be able to read blogs I want to read, but funky fonts and funky colors preclude me from a. reading without getting massive after-image-y headaches and b. taking the blogger seriously.

Then again, what about that Neil Young lyric? Maybe that would be even harder to read! (Does anybody know what I’m talking about? This could be a real born-in-the-’60s test).

Give up swearing.

Give up putting funky colors in my hair.

Let me now try my hand at some real resolutions:

Give up the habit of slouching at my computer. In other words, stop forgetting myself as a psycho-physical whole when I am in front of a screen and bring my good thinking to bear on myself.

Use the same good thinking when I interact with or talk about my mother (ie, stop being so effing codependent!)

I think I have to go back to the beginning of my blog and remove all photos which do not belong to me. I do not want to get sued. I sort of look forward to asking permission for some of the images if I can find the sources, but I also dread this kind of tedious work. I did look over J, F, M of 2011 and I didn’t use ONE PHOTO at all! Then came April….

I miss my own photos, actually, as I have always loved to take photos. I stopped taking as many when I got so caught up in using google images. It’s so DAMN easy and so damn fun and some of the photos are so damn apropos. Oh fuck me.

I would like to give you a photo that belongs to me. I am not sure I have one.

Let me look.

Here. Here is some random crap.

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Okay, it’s not crap. It’s really fun Lego sculptures from an exhibit we saw a few years ago at the Springfield Quadrangle. I cannot call it art, but I can call it fun. Sometimes art is not fun and especially artists are touchy grouches and their work sucks.

This could be a new regular feature on my blog. Random photos from my files. I don’t like it.

I do have more color in my face this week (HALLELUJAH!!!) so maybe I’ll take some quickie photos on my computer soon. Or record a song. I have a new phone, too. My first one with a keyboard and real photo capabilities. I am moving up in the world.

I have posted that James Brown song in the past, but it’s so dang good, I gotta have it.

Think about the outta sight things BABY!

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Not to dissuade you from my earlier Thanksgiving post, but I was just reminded of this fabulous video due to a Facebook thread….

It seems to me that I used to post sometimes twice in a day. I’d be so eager to share things. Especially back when I did regular Music Mondays and Thankful Thursdays. The obligatory would inspire the spontaneous.

Have I posted this before? I sure hope so. If you have never watched this, here’s your chance.

Alan Cumming exudes sexy like a turkey in the oven at Thanksgiving (fill-in-the-blank).

From an Alexander Technique perspective, he has got it going on. The beautiful poise of his head, neck, back relationship, his amazing presence throughout the entire song. I could watch this all day.

Yes, his voice is shot, but who cares? He is a thing of beauty to behold. Sexy motherfucker.

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This is me, singing, again. The video is grainier than usual, not sure why.

There are a couple of other examples of the same song on youtube. Check them out.

Fleeting Days

Time, what an empty vapor ’tis!
Our days, how swift they are!
Swift as an Indian arrow flies,
Or like a shooting star.

Our life is ever on the wing,
And death is ever nigh;
The moment when our lives begin
We all begin to die.

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Happy Mother’s Day to all women, even those of you who aren’t mothers. It is the way it is. For all of us.

How did my Mother’s Day begin?

At 3 am, I was waked to the sound of retching, cat retching. The cat had puked on the down quilt under which I slumbered. The dear.

This was a perfect reminder of what mothers do most of the other 364 days (and nights) of our lives.

So I did what mothers have always done, cleaned up puke. Did laundry. Felt my hungry, grumbling stomach. Yes, this is the reason motherhood makes you fat. When you wake in the middle of the night to the delightful sounds and smells of poop or puke or pee or crying (all of these belonging to someone else), you find after your arduous tasks that you are hungry. So you eat breakfast. In four hours, when you wake again, you will be hungry for your real breakfast and you will eat again. You will be tired. You will drink coffee, you will crave energy in the form of sugar and fat because you are sleep-deprived; you will eat some more. Love the fat. As Susun Weed says pack your bags for the long journey.

Yesterday, I had the honor of going on a nice bike ride with 2 of my gal pals. What did I learn anew? That every ride is a good ride. Yes, it goes hand-in-hand with there are no perfect conditions (though yesterday’s weather and lack of traffic means it came pretty close).

I was finally able to prevent my mid-traps from becoming excessively painful; they were only tight. I also had more of what I needed all around, cheer, stamina, upright torso, free neck, widening chest, freeing away to the knees, knees forward, tight in on my climbs, lots of good breath. But I was slightly dehydrated and still lacking protein because I got a headache and my legs shook once. Must eat eggs more often. Eggs=mothers. See how this all fits together?

I also had my first exposure to obtaining a biker’s tan. I have mixed feelings about it. Still, I am sure we all got a buttload of Vitamin D under the perfectly clear skies.

I realized yesterday that I am becoming much less of a biking bitch; I am slowly evolving into a BIKING CITIZEN. It’s hard to give up these well-earned parts of myself (it’s been about a month). I’m not convinced that I won’t need my bitchy in the near future, so I’m not swearing off of it yet.

Next tasks include harder faster longer and more hills. But I’m not attached. I’m easy, zen, cool, a unified whole, a non-end-gaining, non-doing-when-possible, bike chick; open to possibilities.

Here is what I posted last year for the Music Monday after Mother’s Day. It is the best lyric for women that I know.

Now I am going to paint my slutty toenails with a slutty color for Mother’s Day because I can. Fuck the debates and the cover of Time magazine. Own it, whatever it is, ladies. It’s our day, all 365 of them, year in and year out.

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And am I born to die? To lay this body down!

Easter is not a holiday I feel much of an attachment to. However, I was reminded this week of a specific time in my life, a new friend I once had, her life and death.

8 years ago, I began singing Sacred Harp every Tuesday night at the Helen Hills Hills Chapel on the Smith College campus in Northampton, Massachusetts.

I got to know Mirjana Lausovic at the Tuesday night sing a few years later after she moved back to the area from Minnesota with her husband and 2 young children.

Minja, as she was known, was one of the strongest women I have ever met—happy, practical, full of joy and life, big in presence and physicality; loved her kids, huge heart. Everything about her was open and present—she was buxom, full-lipped, had big eyes and a big smile, and of course, a powerful voice. Formidable was the word that came to mind the first time I saw her. She was easily approachable and had a humility I draw from to this day.

Minja had beautiful silver hair and it was cut short. I, too, kept my hair short and we joked together about haircuts, how it didn’t really matter who cut it or how: no muss, no fuss. I never knew why her hair was short and gray; she was, after all, a couple of years younger then me.

When I began to sing in the Sacred Harp group, in 2004, I had a difficult time socially. If it hadn’t been for my fierce love of the sound, my determination to add a creative endeavor for myself after years at home raising my daughters; if it hadn’t been for my training as a teacher of the Alexander Technique, I would have bagged out. I found the group strange and clique-y; I didn’t understand the social dynamics. I heard a lot of talk of “welcoming the newcomer,” but my presence seemed less than welcome. I was baffled and spent many a Tuesday night filled with the joy and satisfaction of learning a new, powerful way of singing, but with an undercurrent of my own sadness and anger at feeling on the periphery of a group [supposedly] dedicated to a communal tradition of song.

Minja was a remedy for all of that, a breath of holy spirit.

She died less than 2 years after I met her. It was a shock to me because I didn’t know her history—she had had breast cancer and pulled through several years earlier and this was apparently a recurrence. They left town one day in July of 2007 and she died 2 weeks later, on my birthday, something I recognize as a great gift.

I remember the evening before Tim and Minja and the kids were leaving town. I had prepared a little card and a bundle of ribboned lavender from my garden. When I handed the card to her, my instinct was to walk away so she could open it at her leisure, no pressure to say she liked it in case she didn’t, nor to respond to the words therein. But she said, emphatically, “Can I open it now? I want to open it NOW.” It was so much her, living for the moment, taking a bite out of whatever life presented.

♦ ♦ ♦

Today, I watched as my daughter’s Agricultural Arts teacher introduced 5 new colonies of bees to the existing hives on the school’s campus. Nicki told us that the worker bees, all of whom are female, do not lay their own eggs, in deference to the queen’s laying.

I saw the first tulips open in my side garden bed.

I am preparing a dish for dinner with eggs from my neighbor’s chickens, a salad with greens from a local farm.

Sometimes I receive emails from a fellow parent at my daughter’s school and they close with the statement “Walk in the light, wherever you may be.” Some days I begin to know what this means.

Today is Passover; tomorrow is Easter. I know I have been delivered, here and now, to the center of a swirl of abundance that I call home, the earth.

♦ ♦ ♦

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If you are new here, if you searched for twinklysparkles on google to get here, for instance, you may surprised to discover that I have a tendency to chew on the negative, to get the blues, to sit with my own dry crusty thoughts*

*from the poem What Have I Learned? by Gary Snyder, from the book Axe Handles

I’ve been a bit funky lately and not in a good James Brown sort of way. This condition has put a damper on my creative juices (or is it the other way around, chicken-and-egg like?). This is entirely the reason that I invented Thankful Thursday (yes, I invented it; I was the first, I swear).

I love many things today

I love yoga, the 2 studios I frequent, the teachers whose classes I attend. I love the yoga class I was in on Tuesday night wherein my teacher taught to the body of spring, to our spring bodies, to the shift in the air and light. I love how deep yoga goes, how it inspires me, the coiled snake, the mud, the ooze, the tones of my being, the heat, the invertebrate that resonates in my soft tissue, below the bones. I love the 7 chakras and that each has a sound, a color, and a desire or higher manifestation. I love the double helix and the spirals of my muscles which wrap around my bones.

I love that to be a student of yoga is to be in a state of unknowing, same as to be a student of the Alexander Technique. That in the West, thinking one needs to be positive alone to attain enlightenment is a misunderstanding of complexity. I am not enlightened; I am only on a path and that path has no destination.

I love acupuncture and the lessons my practitioner shares with me. That the Chinese system of looking at the body is more complete and encompassing than a Western approach, that it is both subtle and complex, that I will never understand it, that I know only the tiniest bit about it, but what I know I understand and want more of. I love that the Chinese understanding of the body includes how we relate to the world seasonally, that there is an explanation for how our bodies chime with the brightness of spring and that sometimes this can manifest in restlessness and anger. I love that there are foods and activities that nurture our bodies and that these change seasonally. I love that every part of the self is interdependent. I love the 5 elements though I have little understanding of them.

I love that my Alexander teacher, Missy Vineyard, sent me a link about this.

I love that I wrote my original Thankful Thursday post almost a year ago today. I had no idea when I went to search for it just now. I love symmetry and anniversaries and time as much as I hate them; therefore, I love asymmetry and random occurrences and timelessness.

I love so much that sometimes I am taken down by it. I cry with the spring, I wait for the rain, I walk the earth alone; I let my thoughts whisper and hope they take flight in the moonless, cloudless night. I bear witness to the air, the red planet twinkling, the new prey being eaten in the dark, all that goes past us and beyond our time here.

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Norah Jones sort of makes me wish I was gay. I also wouldn’t mind to have three men with good, slow rhythm backing up my chick lead vocals.

I know I should shut up, but her hands on the piano are so ridiculously beautiful. One rarely sees a wrist and fingers with that kind of poise on the keys. Lovely. You can hear the amount of control she has in her playing.

Non-doing is an important principle in the Alexander Technique, what FM Alexander called Inhibition. Learn it and reap; oh, yeah.

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You probably don’t remember that February is birthday month around here. When you have 4 core family members and half of them have birthdays in February, right after Valentine’s Day, no less, it’s a big deal. Makes for scrambling and excitement and extra cake.

As far as other things I’m grateful for, I’ve been feeling mostly better for almost 2 weeks. After a 7-week hiatus I got to go to Shape Note singing on Tuesday night, took Vi with me, sang for about an hour. It was fabulous. I had enough breath and I was using my best Alexander thinking due to having been around one of my colleagues on Saturday night (nothing to get good psycho-physical unification functioning like being around another Alexander teacher!).

In the 7-and-a-half years that I’ve been singing Sacred Harp on Tuesday nights in Northampton, Mass, I have never missed as many weeks in a row as I did over this extended period of ill health.

I also returned to yoga this week. This was the longest period in which I’ve missed yoga classes in over 3 years. Seven weeks. I was much stronger than I imagined, not so much was lost. I’ve still got muscles–even my abs (who knew?) and I’m regaining my breath very nicely.

Today is Hubby’s birthday and also marks the 25th anniversary of our first date. I don’t have a photo to share (I should get out the scanner) and I’m tired of google images, but I think some color is needed to break up the monotony of all these words.

I have now passed the point in my life after which I will now have known Paul for longer than I haven’t. I love to mark time in this way.

Time lengthening, time speeding up.

On Tuesday, I got to lead one of my favorite songs from The Sacred Harp:

#230 Converting Grace

As pants the hart for cooling streams, When heated in the chase;

So longs my soul, O God, for Thee, and Thy refreshing grace.

Oh, for converting grace, and oh, for sanctifying pow’r; Lord, we ask in Jesus’ name, A sweet, refreshing show’r.

For Thee, my God, the living God, My thirsty soul doth pine;

Oh, when shall I behold Thy face, Thy majesty divine?

Why restless, why cast down, my soul?  Hope still; and thou shalt sing

Praise of Him who is thy God, Thy heath’s eternal spring.

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As a teacher of the Alexander Technique, I think about coordination a lot. What does good coordination look like? What does someone who is organizing him or herself well look like?

In Alexander Technique school (and in lessons before and after my training), I spent a lot of time unlearning some of my habits of thought and movement based on a system of sound principles discovered by FM Alexander. In spite of this, I spend a lot of time in my old habits and patterns of thought and movement, not all of which are particularly healthy. I slouch at my computer; sometimes I gasp for air when I am in front of a group of people either singing, speaking, or acting; I may take a step on a mountain hike without considering the relative position of my hip, knee, and ankle joints as I bear or shift weight. UNLESS I stop and take time to slow down, think, and coordinate myself in order to choose what I really want, these old habits rule me much of the time.

What I love, and many of my fellow teachers love, is looking at footage or photographs of good coordination. However, we are also often cautioned not to present what “good use” looks like. Many (or most) of the people in these photos have good overall coordination, but they may not know a lick about the Alexander Technique. What could AT do for someone with a natural ability to coordinate oneself with a minimum of tension, a lack of overusing what isn’t necessary? For one, in the case of an athlete or performer, once a person is injured, they often don’t know how to get back to the state they had formerly “perfected.” AT’s principles, the 2 major ones being Inhibition and Direction, can put one back on track after injury. AT can shed light on the means whereby one does what one does.

I realize I’m throwing some unfamiliar terms at you. If nothing else, this post should bring more questions to your mind than it answers and when it comes to the AT, that’s okay. It is about questing, about what FM Alexander termed going from the known to the unknown. It’s a beautiful thing.

Today, I will share with you some great examples of what we in the AT world  call “good use.” Use is a term which Alexander Technique teachers and students use to describe how a person does what they do with themselves. Sounds goofy, I know, but if you spend a bit of time reading about the Technique or even taking lessons, this term will begin to have meaning.

Okay, readers, let’s have at it!

Watch the way the old man (Uncle John Scruggs) and woman move out of the cabin and come to sit in the chairs. Neither of them slouch while sitting. The chairs are not places to “park” and collapse their bodies. The man has an overall upright and balanced coordination in his head, neck, and torso. If you go about watching musicians, you will rarely see this level of unified attention to the whole self and apparent lack of tension throughout a performer’s whole being.

It becomes tricky to post photos and videos which illustrate what we call “good use” because it can lead to a misunderstanding of the Technique, what it is about, how to get where you want to get in being a more unified whole. We can look at examples, study them, but ultimately, we cannot simply “copy” good use or coordination. In fact, the Technique is about peeling back the layers of our own unconscious habits of thought and movement so that we can replace them with new thinking that will hopefully lead to better coordination, regardless of how it looks to an outside observer.

Still….

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Look at the poise in Ashley Lodree’s head, neck, and back and her obvious focus and lack of overall tension, even in the face of getting ready to race.

Baryshnikov, a paragon of good use (although if you catch him when he is not dancing, he is often slouching and in what one might describe as a “collapsed” state):

he can be equally stunning in a still photo

young

or older

Poise and balance

in a life before sitting in chairs becomes habitual

examples of “good use” abound in times before photography

open and free even in a complex coordination

Steven Shaw, Alexander Technique teacher:

“multi-tasking”

I also began to look for images of African women walking. The more I looked, the less I wanted to stop. It is ridiculous how many examples of beautiful balance and poise one finds. You can do this yourself–search google images for Mozambique women walking, Ghanian women walking, South African women walking, etc etc. As Michael Gelb, author of Body Learning, says (I paraphrase here), the kind of presence you find in people in many traditional cultures lies dormant in most Westerners.

What do you notice?

In the above photo, the woman in the foreground is about so much more than her size. One wonders if an American woman (or man) of any size could comport herself with this kind of presence.

And this, in which the child exhibits perfect balance throughout the head, neck, and torso, even while turning her head and taking a step. Notice the full contact of her right foot with the ground and the flexion in her left knee. Ah, if only we could hold onto our birthright–our natural poise!

(You may have to copy and paste this link…for a while, the actual photo appeared directly on this post, but I think once someone clicks through, it reverts back to the URL with no image)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ebsylvester/2408941449/in/set-72157602574849955/

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