Moving In, Moving Out

It's official: beginning today the new home of Way Opens Center is 22 South State St., Newtown, PA 18940.  Or, at least after tomorrow it will be official, when I pick up my keys and begin the transition process. My new "landlord", Dean Dickson, will be moving out the furniture and sundry items from the space with help of some of his able-bodied clients. Dean is a psychotherapist who works with individuals, families and groups (interested? call him at 215-860-3450), and seems to be a very nice person, based on my limited experience of him.

So I have been preparing to move my necessary equipment -- table, stools, bolsters, mirror, books -- out of where it has been stored around my house and into the new office. Doing this has made me aware of how I've neglected this equipment over the past couple of years, and so naturally this has become an Alexander teaching moment for myself.  The table needs to be cleaned and the wooden legs oiled and tightened. The mirror needs polishing, and just where the heck did I put the mounting bars and screws?  The bolster is covered in cat hair and may need to be replaced if I can't get it clean enough.  And, oh dear, just look at the state my little skeleton model has gotten into!  He will not last much longer, I fear. Time for a newer, better model.

Neglecting our equipment happens when we are busy putting our energies into other places. From an AT perspective, this usually means applying energy in an unbalanced or misdirected way.  But it can also mean just plain old ignoring ourselves or some part of ourselves, until we literally forget about it. When I first began Alexander lessons, I had almost no sense of my body at all. My awareness was so dim that when my teacher encouraged me to think about opening up and moving from my hips, I honestly had no idea what he was talking about. I thought my hips were the same as my hip bones, never suspecting that hips are big, generous joints that move! This is just one of the many ways I was disconnected from my physical self. It took me a while to reacquaint myself with my body and maintain a sense of my whole self as I moved through my life.  Truthfully, this is a journey I am still on and hope to continue for a long, long time. 

Meanwhile, I am uncovering all the accumulated junk stored on top of my table, wiping clean the dust and grime from books, bookshelves, etc. As I do this, I am reminded of how one of my students described her Alexander process:  like an archeological dig. This is such a gem, and I use it often in attempting to describe what the Alexander Technique is.  (I'm working on my "elevator speech" and will devote another post to that soon.)  We have been conditioned to think of learning as a process of accumulation, but AT work is all about letting go of what is unnecessary, eliminating the interference we habitually infuse into even the simplest of activities, and unlearning our faulty thinking, so that we can become authentically dynamic in how we move and live and have our being (as an old Episcopal prayer goes).

I described this in an article I wrote in 2005 for Energy Times magazine. The link here is to an archived version on their website, which has been inaccurately reproduced -- the title they originally gave it is "Bold, Balanced Bodywork" -- and edited a bit (by someone other than my friend Stephen Hanks who originally commissioned it). Still, it gives a pretty good introduction to some of the principles of the Alexander Technique.

If fortune favors the well prepared, then it is important to be prepared in a way that is clear and unencumbered. Digging out from under the past three years of neglect of my equipment -- both animate and inanimate -- reveals to me some buried treasures I had forgotten about, some decay that cannot be reclaimed, and some new wonderments that arise because I have continued to grow as a human even though I haven't been teaching very much.

In this moment I feel enthused about opening my heart and my doors to new students and new neighbors in Newtown (aptly named!). I know how I feel because I can sense it in my body. For me, that would not be possible without having learned the Alexander Technique, the tool I discovered for digging out from under, so that I would not be buried alive.