Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 21

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 21

The Posture Police Blotter was on hiatus for awhile and I've revived it with a daily blog that is running from June 20 through September 22. This daily edition has a different focus to it and the gem in all of this is that what I'm going to be writing and what I've written about posture and the Alexander Technique are all related. Follow along and learn how!

The balance between non-action and reaction
Have you ever set aside time for a project?  A lot of time?  And then realized nearing the end of that block of time that it probably wasn't going to get done?  Then what?  

I am in such a dilemma at the moment.  Four weeks with time set aside specifically for getting my apartment in shape so that our living space isn't consumed by unpacked, unsorted, items from having moved over a year ago. 

We've been living with a certain amount of disorganization (hence the title of this blog) for awhile now.  So, when do we figure things out and get ourselves organized in a way that there isn't constant anxiety in regards to what most people would call mundane, usual things?  

How to proceed is not entirely clear to me.  My partner uses the word "trappings" to refer to "stuff" and our kids do the same.  We really have become trapped by our trappings.  Why not just toss them?  We'd probably end up tossing out important documents, beloved stuffed animals, and clothing that still fits our kids.  But would it be worth it to just get rid of it and deal with the consequences of lost documents later?  We live in an apartment, so we don't have a basement or an attic.  Our living room is a sort of holding pen for unaddressed items and our second bedroom a holding pen for clean, sorted through stuff that's waiting to be brought back into the living room.  That's two basically unusable rooms in a four-room apartment.

Part of me says to just take it slow and we'll eventually get there, even if it's frustrating and painful.  Another part of me says that we should take more drastic action, that could be quite inconvenient for us and disorienting and upsetting for our kids, because it's nuts to drag this out any longer.  This is a classic example of not wanting to rush ahead ("end-gain" in Alexander Technique terms), but also not wanting to just stand idly by and draw out a problematic situation.  How do I act, but not react?    

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 20

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 20

The Posture Police Blotter was on hiatus for awhile and I've revived it with a daily blog that is running from June 20 through September 22. This daily edition has a different focus to it and the gem in all of this is that what I'm going to be writing and what I've written about posture and the Alexander Technique are all related. Follow along and learn how!

Kids, Screens, Posture, and Thinking

I mentioned a few posts back that I would be writing about "screen-time" in relation to my kids and here it is.  No, they aren't child stars!  What I'm referring to their time watching screens.  I say "screens" instead of TV because we don't have TV.  Actually that's not entirely true.  We do have a small TV/VCR combo that I bought in 1998.  It's not plugged in.  I'm not even sure exactly where it is.  In any case, I can proudly say that my kids don't watch TV.  Not really though . . . there's a huge variety of programming that they pick and choose from online and watch streaming on Netflix, Hulu, and clips we find on YouTube.  They become more and more proficient at using the computer every day and I think that they both know how to use my new Android smart phone about as well as I do.  There's actually something very appealing to them about watching videos on that tiny screen. 

In terms of the content what they watch, my partners and my criteria are not necessarily based on whether or not something was designed for kids.  There are plenty of non-"kid" programs that interest them.  Most recently, Start Trek:  The Next Generation.  Last year they got into Great Performances on PBS and were watching King Lear every day. 

They've discovered some "kid" or "family" programs as well and our guage as parents as to whether or not we encourage limiting a particular type of program relates to how we feel when it's on and what the kids do, not just when it's on, but when it's turned off.  Certain children's programming (like "Barney and Friends", for example) seems to have a sort of addictive quality and feels like being bombarded by noise and color.  The kids beg to play another one and if it's turned off, the protesting screams are so loud that we wonder if the walls are going to come down.   When these types of shows are on, it feels like the whole room is being consumed by them.  After they've been playing for awhile, I tend to feel a bit sick to my stomach and certainly don't have an appetite to watch them with my kids for long.  Stand up comedian Louis C.K. talked about kids watching TV in on of his routines and basically said that if when you turn it off, they freak out, maybe it's not such a healthy thing.  That makes a lot of sense to me. 

Other programs have more of a calm quality about them.  They don't jump so much from one thing to another, are quieter, and tend to treat children as younger versions of adults, rather than some other species of animal.  I am happy to view these types of shows with my kids and they have a less addictive quality.  My children are more likely to take in an episode and then move on to another activity.  Examples are Peanuts cartoons, Blues Clues, and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. 

Our older child has an interest in intentionally limiting her intake of "videos" (as we call them).  The younger one exercises less self-control and is often criticized by her older sister who tells her that she's "addicted", to which she responds emphatically, "I am not addicted!" and then continues watching a video.

When "addictive" viewing is happening, it's like they are allowing themselves to be sucked into the screen, to live in the 2D world and forget their 3D selves.  My three-year-old who typically sits bolt upright, slowly eases into a slump when she sits and watches videos.  The common way that people misuse their bodies starting with pulling the head back with the neck (chin poking forward), which then results in slouching in the upper chest and shoulders, kicks in.

Television and videos can begin as a form of entertainment that children are drawn to, but it can become an escape and a way of coping with stress.  Plopping down in front of a video is a way of relaxing.  I don't thiking of it so much as relaxing, but rather escaping oneself and the environment and tuning out. 

I admit that when I was a child, I watched a ton of television and my family didn't even have cable TV!  It was a way of winding down after school and then I'd have a list of shows that I planned to watch most evenings.  Incentive to finish my homework was often to finish in time for something that I wanted to see on TV and sometimes I'd do my homework while watching TV.  Through part of Jr. High and most of High School, I wore a back brace, due to scoliosis in my lumbar spine.  My doctor precscribed wearing it 18 hours per day.  I chose the six off-hours to be during school.  Coming home was associated with the discomfort of putting on the brace and I'd often deal with it by lying down and watching TV for several hours.

Once I began college, my relationship with television changed dramatically.  I was busy adjusting to my new life away from home, my course work, making new friends, and living in New York City for the first time.  Watching television moved from high to low priority on my list of things to do and has continued to take that low priority.  Nonetheless, I am aware of how an abundance of television and films as a child shaped my thinking as an adult.  I quickly got over the desire to want to tune out watching TV, but I realized how my repeated exposer to fantasy worlds offered me a warped view in regards to persuing goals.  This is how I interpret it, at least.  I've spoken about the concept of "end-gaining" in previous posts (including the last one) and how we often get ahead of ourselves.  This concept applies both physically and mentally.  And, as I've menteioned, physical and mental experiences can't truely be separated.  My warped view of persuing goals went something like this . . .  I'd think of something I'd like to accomplish and then this idealized montage of images would play in my head - just like the formulaic montage then tends to happen about half-way through a film.  Film editing makes things look so grand and so easy.  Even if a struggle is depicted, it's seemingly resolved so quickly.  Real-time wasn't a part of my thinking.  I couldn't conceptulized getting from point A to point B in actual, real steps.  I would have this disembodied feeling and would visualize the thing happening as if it were edited.  Through life experience and my study of the Alexander Technique, I've been able to change my perspective.  I feel more grounded and like I can visualize real steps that I would take in real time in order to head in the direction of a goal.  Just like the way in which people sit and stand, the strategies that people use to visualize and plan can be bound up in limited habits.  Just like an exercersize at the gym may not be so beneficial if you are pressing down in yourself when doing it, visualizing in order to help reach a goal may or may not be effective if it is not grounded in an sense of real time.

Going back to the topic of my children, it's easy to let videos play to give me a break to get something else done and there are educational benefits to waching videos, especially when we talk about them as a family and watch them together.  We don't have "TV", yet "screentime" has still become a significant feature of my childrens' lives (perhaps too significant) and my partner and are working to change that.  There's so much 3D, unedited world to learn from!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 19

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 19

The Posture Police Blotter was on hiatus for awhile and I've revived it with a daily blog that is running from June 20 through September 22. This daily edition has a different focus to it and the gem in all of this is that what I'm going to be writing and what I've written about posture and the Alexander Technique are all related. Follow along and learn how!

I sailed forth, but left the ship behind, and then found myself adrift.

It's been a few days since my last post.  I've been immersed in home and family.  I've had some wonderful epiphanies and also feel that everything is turned upside-down, topsy-turvy.  In general I feel very uncomfortable and don't know what will happen next (not that I ever really do) or know how what will happen next will happen.  I flip flop between excitement and terror.  I often here that in order to solve a problem, there must first be a crisis.  A can of worms must open up and the worms must be dealt with in order to move forward or to even understand clearly what moving forward entails.

It doesn't seem like we are making as much progress in unpacking and putting our home together as we'd like to be, though we certainly have made some.  My biggest realization spending all of this time at home, when I'm usually working 5 or 6 days per week, often returning home late, is that I have a family.  (Duh!)  We have some critical issues that need to be resolved soon, but wow, I live with three incredible people whom I love.  I feel more together as a unit with them than I have in a long time and like I truly want to connect with them.  I've spent a lot of time focusing on other things and I feel that my motivation has in part been avoidance of truly feeling a part of that unit and the can of worms that would inevitably spill open as a step in getting to that point.  I am humbled.  I feel a spark of a new sense of purpose and motivation forming my still new and changing sense of family and myself. 

 I've done some things professionally over the past few years that I'm really proud of, but it all has a sour taste because I feel that it wasn't coming from a truthful grounded place of being honest with myself and dealing head-on in all aspects of my life.  I sailed forth, but left the ship behind, and then found myself adrift.  F.M. Alexander would have called this end-gaining, just like jutting your chin forward and pushing your chest out in order to "walk quickly" is end-gaining.  Your there before your there, and then you're not really there.  

Do you feel that you've end-gained in any part of your life and left behind an unopened can-of worms?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 18

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 18

The Posture Police Blotter was on hiatus for awhile and I've revived it with a daily blog that is running from June 20 through September 22. This daily edition has a different focus to it and the gem in all of this is that what I'm going to be writing and what I've written about posture and the Alexander Technique are all related. Follow along and learn how!

The past few days have been anxiety-filled for me due to a heaping pile of worries, one of which is my concern over whether or not we will get our apartment unpacked and less like a construction zone during some time I've set aside to stay home and do just that this month.  We've made some progress, but it seems like things are not moving quickly enough.

Fortunately though, the things I've been doing have been scrubbing, lifting, sorting, washing - a lot of work with my hands for long periods of time.  I've found that one of the most effective way to calm the anxiety butterflies is to do something with my hands.  It feels impossible at first.  I feel like I'd rather pace or sit and ruminate, but once I get going, I do feel much better. 

When I feel anxious, I get a butterflies-in-my-stomach sort of feeling, but as I work on a task my energy disperses and the butterflies stop or at least calm down.  I can breath more easily too.  I find butterflies difficult to just sit with.  There's such a temptation to try to shut it down, which just feels stiffled.  There's a very open feeling that goes along with "butterflies".  I wouldn't call it pleasant, in fact it's pretty uncomfortable, or even painful.  Washing dishes, for example, doesn't distract me from the discomfort or make me tighten up and turn it off.  Using my body in a coordinated way to lift and scrub the dishes allows the feeling to spread out away from the belly so that it's not so concetrated in one space. 

I used a similar tactic to work through contractions when I was in labor.  If I didn't recoil into the pain, I could embody each more fully and then let it go.  I did that by standing in what's called in Alexander Technique jargon, "the monkey" position, as I placed my hands on a wall.  Getting the hands involved is key.  If you stay open and don't stiffen, it gets you arms, your whole back and legs engaged.

Have you ever had a similar or different experience dealing with anxiety?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 17

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 17

The Posture Police Blotter was on hiatus for awhile and I've revived it with a daily blog that is running from June 20 through September 22. This daily edition has a different focus to it and the gem in all of this is that what I'm going to be writing and what I've written about posture and the Alexander Technique are all related. Follow along and learn how!

I notice that I can easily get stuck in a pattern on holding back how I'm feeling at sometimes and reacting strongly at other times.  I engage in this flip-flop pattern almost exclusively with my partner. I have done similarly in past relationships.  I'm sure that it's common that people tend to have the most trouble remaining level-headed in relationships with the highest emotional stakes.

When I moved out of my parents' home and began college in 1997, one thing that I learned about myself is that I could get angry.  Anger and feelings of rage began popping up now and again and I realized that I hadn't had much experience expressing anger growing up.  When I let it out, it seemed out of control.  The anger could relate to social situations or to being cat-called on the street.  I felt insecure and intimidated by life and overwhelmed by my feelings.

Fast-forward seven years to when I began to train as an Alexander Technique teacher.  As long-held tension began to let go, feelings of anger popped up again for awhile and eventually subsided and I started feeling much more grounded.  I didn't feel so upset abou cat calls and actually started getting fewer of them.  I think that groundedness demonstrates confidence and that reads as a person who wouldn't react to being picked on.  I also noticed that I stopped reacting with panic and fear if someone else was getting worked up about something.  I previously tended take strong reactions directed at me very personally.  I learned to take a step back and receive the person without letting myself get whipped up in their frenzy.  Lately people have described me as a good listener, level-headed, and able to manage conflict. 

At home it's a different story and I'm prone to panic, say something sarcastic, or withdraw from an emotionally charged situation.  My partner has also commented that it seems to him like I'm swatting away my unpleasant feelings like shooing a fly.  I agree with this observation.    It's like I'm frantically grasping for things that will stop the "bad" feelings.  It's somewhat comic in the sense that I may as well have a bag of random objects - let's say a bowling pin, a cotton ball, and a bag of flour - that I'm desparately pulling out to ask for help to no avail.  I see my five year-old daughter often in a similar struggle of trying to swat away what's going on instead of dealing with it constructively.  I find it very challenging to witness, yet I understand.

What are feelings?  People ofen talk about feelings as separate from their physical experiences.   Emotions aren't disebodied concepts.  They are our physical experience.  What you feel is what you feel in your body.   Some feelings feel wonderful.  Others feel uncomfortable or painful.  They actually hurt.  The highest concentration of nerve endings in the body is in the solar plexus (in the belly just below the sternum) and where the feeling of having "butterflies in your stomach" comes from.  It's a key area to pay attention to when you experience strong emotion.  How does it feel?  Does it stay open to the feelings or does the area tighten up and close them out? 

Posture is commonly thought of as the physical way one holds oneself - that it's a mechanical process having to do with holding yourself up and not slouching.  How we hold ourselves is a relection of how we react to stimuli around us.  How we hold ourselves up reflects and affects how we feel.  Poor posture may lead to back pain.  Truely improving the poor posture isn't a mechanical endeavor, it's psychophysical and involves changing habits and changing those habits can mean changing reactions to stressful situations and truely feeling and embodying emotions. 

As I work on changing my reactions and feeling my emotions at home, I feel anxious about how vulnerable it feels and the emotions I feel aren't always pleasant, but I'm breathing more deeply, am able to release my neck and shoulders more, and feel more content spending time with my family in a more authentic way.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 16

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 16

The Posture Police Blotter was on hiatus for awhile and I've revived it with a daily blog that is running from June 20 through September 22. This daily edition has a different focus to it and the gem in all of this is that what I'm going to be writing and what I've written about posture and the Alexander Technique are all related. Follow along and learn how!

Organization Outside and In

"Day" 16 is really entry 16.  I missed a few days as I continue to work on transforming my apartment into a more liveable space for myself and my family.  I've blocked off chunks of time for several weeks to stay home and work on this vast project

In my most recent post, I spoke about sorting through boxes that I hadn't touched in several years and uncovering parts of my past, which was a dizzying experience.  I always find going through old stuff to bring about a sense of nostalgia, anxiety, and depression, punctuated by moments of gratitude for the opportunity to remember place, events, projects, and objects.  I've found that since I was a child that nostalgic thoughts are gut-wrenching.  I also have a difficult time throwing things away.  It feels a bit like I'm tossing out a piece of myself.  On one hand, I'll tell myself that I don't need to keep something that I haven't even looked at or thought about in five years that will take up precious space in my apartment.  On the other hand, I'll worry that I'll forget all about said thing if I don't keep it so that I can come across it again at some point in the future.  This internal debate with myself tends to slow me down.  I nonetheless managed to condense/dispose of the contents of six boxes so that it all fit into one cabinet, with only one "miscellaneous" folder.  What if everything doesn't fit into a category?  If you create a miscellaneous folder, drawer, etc, then how will you remember what's in there?  

On the topic of drawers, they are not my organizational system of choice.  I much prefer shelves so that I can stack everything within my view.  Put something in a drawer and it's out of sight and out of mind.  For a period of time, I did administrative work for someone who kept all of his files in stacks atop several desks and tables in his office.  Most of the drawers were empty.  The stacks were meticulously neat and very high and it didn't strike me as an odd choice at all.  I suppose I take after my father who leaves everything out and in piles (very cluttered versions of piles).  I recall my mother organizing some papers for me when I was a child.  She sorted a pile of papers into several large manila envelopes and stacked them one on top of the other in a drawer.  I found her system counter to my tendancies and was frustrated each time I looked for something in that drawer.  

Last night I was listening to NPR as I unpacked and washed dishes.  There was a segment on a new movement in New York City to create very small studio apartments.  I recalled when I lived in Paris about 10 years ago and for about a year of my time there, I lived in a very small apartment.  The bed, folded out, took up all of one room.  The armoir was in the tiny kitchen and the shower had to be put together each time it was used.  The bathroom floor had grates and a drain.  Two glass shower walls unfolded from the bathroom wall to make the side of the shower and a curtain pulled in front of the bathroom door.  The ceiling in the apartment was so low that I would bump it when lifting my arms to put on a sweater and one of my very tall friends had to stand between the wooden beams so that his head wouldn't touch it.  Despite the size of the space (and perhaps due to it), I managed to organize things very well mainly due to the abundance of floor-to-ceiling built-in shelves.  My resistance to putting things away and my desire to stack things where I can see them was well accommodated by this set-up.

Here's where we get to the Alexander Technique in this story.  When I'm teaching, I help a student to have a new, more efficient kinesthetic experience in their body.  The student is an active participant in this process, but they often require more information in order to understand how to get this new experience to happen on their own and it involves engaging their thinking with their body.  This is something that they are already doing, but relatively unconsciously.  It's my job to help them find the tools that are right for them to elicit the changes.  I give everyone the same basic instructions, but as I begin to understand more about how the student thinks and how they tend to map their body in their mind, I have clues as to how to tailor the instructions to fit them.  If someone organizes a room in your home for you, you might have a difficult time making sense of how they organized it.  I help people to get organized within themselves and to empower them to do maintain it on their own.  It involves a certain amount of understanding of how they think, so that they can metaphorically avoid an experience similar to mine of digging through envelopes in a drawer that someone else organized for me.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 15

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 15

The Posture Police Blotter was on hiatus for awhile and I've revived it with a daily blog that is running from June 20 through September 22. This daily edition has a different focus to it and the gem in all of this is that what I'm going to be writing and what I've written about posture and the Alexander Technique are all related. Follow along and learn how!

Taking inventory and moving forward

I've just read an article in The New York Times called "The Busy Trap"

I've just come off of a few months of what I might call being "crazy busy" and am now headed into a month during which I've set aside significant time to be with my family and help out at home.  I'm still busy trying to unpack boxes and organize things can often be complicated with two small children wanting to get involved, the younger one not really understanding why having some degree of organization is likley crucial to her future happiness.  In any case, this is a different kind of busy and is nonetheless a sort of slowing down and taking inventory of stuff and of myself in relation to that stuff and the people who I share my home with.

Stopping and taking inventory, though a necessary step for moving forward, also feels scary and disorienting.  Opening boxes that I packed up five years ago and put in a closet in our previous apartment (and am finally sorting through after having had them sitting in the living room of our new apartment for over a year) opens up reminders of who I was and what I was doing at that time and in the five years or so prior.  I tend to hang onto stuff and it's always even more sentimental than I expect when I rediscover saved items - from a ticket stub from one of the last films that I saw before becoming a parent (I haven't been out to the movies in almost 6 years) to my abandoned hobby of black and white photography.

Discovering the past, I am reminded of things that I loved doing that I'd like to take up again, of seemingly insignificant saved paperwork and bills, of time passed, and choices made.  In terms of how the four of us are relating, these next few weeks are an opportunity to climb out of the rut that we've been in, which, if successful will offer us an chance to address bigger issues.  As our we organize our home, it feels as if a warm blanket of comfortable disfunctionality is peeling off and I feel the urge to crawl back inside.  The change begs questions to be answers and decisions to be made once the urgent issue is no longer, "Well, we have to finish unpacking and start actually eating in our kitching".  Sleeping on sandwiches might not sound so great, but dig deeper, and it can be quite cozy and serve as a dam, holding back a deluge of issues to be addressed.

I'm feeling quite uneasy at the moment, yet open and released.  My neck, ribs, shoulders and belly all feel quite expanded and relaxed with no attention paid to them at all, yet in my disorientation, I feel at a loss as to how I'm going to spend the whole day with my children, feed them, break up fights, and negotiate the unpacking of boxes.  Change can be very uncomfortable, but not allowing for change can be stifling. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 14

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 14

The Posture Police Blotter was on hiatus for awhile and I've revived it with a daily blog that is running from June 20 through September 22. This daily edition has a different focus to it and the gem in all of this is that what I'm going to be writing and what I've written about posture and the Alexander Technique are all related. Follow along and learn how!
What My Kids See Me Doing

Last night I sat down to write a quick post before going to bed, but given my fatigue at 1:30am, I stared at the screen for about 10 minutes and drew a blank.  I decided to sleep and to pick up the blank page on my subway ride in the morning, which is what I'm doing.  I blog daily this summer, so long as it doesn't interfere with what inspired me to write Sleeping on Sandwiches in the first place - my family.

I've found that it's easy to turn professional/creative endeavors into an escape, and it can easily sneak up on me.  The kids are watching a video and I think - Oh well, I'd rather they do something else, but while they are watching this I'll catch up on some email or blog.  This blog is one part of a summer resolution to face problems at home and to be present with my partner kids.  When I feel the urge to retreat into my computer while the kids are into a video, I stop myself and choose something else - I clean something, read a book, or what I've especially been enjoying recently - I make something.

I have a box full of rectangles of felt in a variety of colors that I've collected over the years - leftover from various theatre projects that I've been involved in. I have a sewing kit that belonged to my grandmother full of thread, buttons, and sewing implements.  Using my knowledge of how to sew a basic stitch, I've made felt puppets, sock puppets, and a handbag over the past several weeks.  Even if my kids just watch me work, it's a very different experience than watching Mama type emails.  My five-year-old even said a few weeks ago as I was finishing up a Goldilocks puppet, "Mama, you're an expert sew-er."   Neither of my kids has ever complimented me on being an expert typist or mouse-clicker.

I also feel great when I take on these craft projects and it reminds me how exhausting and disorienting it can be to stare at a screen.  In both cases, I'm using my hands and eyes, be the experiences are vastly different.  When I'm making stuff, I sit up straighter, breathe easier, and feel much more comfortable and aware of my body.

I love to write, but I'm not such a fan of using a computer for an extended period of time.  I appreciate what the internet has to offer, but simultaneously feel sucked in and disembodied in an abstract world.  I'm working on harmonizing the pleasure of writing, interest in using the internet, and simultaneous desire to spend most of my day away from a screen and for my kids to see me doing mostly non-screen things.

Do you experience similar conflicts in regards to using technology? 
More on screens and kids in the next post.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 13

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 13

The Posture Police Blotter was on hiatus for awhile and I've revived it with a daily blog that is running from June 20 through September 22. This daily edition has a different focus to it and the gem in all of this is that what I'm going to be writing and what I've written about posture and the Alexander Technique are all related. Follow along and learn how!

Lines in the Sand 

If we can't really separate "physical" from "mental", then rigid ideas = rigid bodies.  Whether a person is rigid or sunken in their body, this is a reflection of how they think and react.  As I brought up in an earlier post, it's an attitude (physical, mental, and emotional).  When we arefixed and held in ourselves, we think that things just are the way they are.  A rigid person may be inclined to fight tooth and nail to keep things "as they should be" in him/herself and in everyone and everything that surrounds her/him.  Someone who is sunken may have a similarly rigid attitude, with a more passive stance, thinking "Oh well, that's just how things are.  I can't do anything about it." 

What I've found often shakes up fixed ideas/attitudes is the innocence/wisdom of a child.  Yesterday morning, I had such an experience with one of my own children.  The four of us (myself, my partner, and my kids) enjoy listening to Jack Johnson's music and watching his music videos on Youtube.  One in particular that we enjoy is video for the song "You and Your Heart", which features Jack Johnson surfing.  None of us has ever surfed, yet we've developed a family preoccupation with it recently.  I've become fascinated with the incredibly natural coordination, that surfers tend to exhibit.  They rise to the challenge of maintaining a half-squat (called "monkey" in Alexander terms), with seemingly remarkable comfort - a feat that is often difficult for most adults in the Western world.  I purchased a book on surfing to learn more about the sport, hoping to one day take lessons.  My daughters have been surfing on our apartment floor using squares of paper towels as their surfboards.  

So, yesterday, my five-year-old was talking about surfing and I said having no idea how or when this would actually come about, "Would you like to learn to surf?  I'd like to learn to surf."  She answered affirmatively and I mused about how we'd find a surfing instructor or where we'd go to learn to surf.  She responded in her most matter-of-fact voice, "We could ask Jack Johnson.  He's a surfer.  He could teach us."

And why not?  I responded that he could and thanked her for the suggestion.  It seemed highly unlikely to me, but not impossible and I really wanted to keep an open mind.  I marveled at how plausible the idea seems to her and it seems so impossible to me because of my ideas about celebrities being out of reach.  My daughter knows nothing of celebrity, in part because we haven't spoken of it as such.  Another reason is simply the internet.  Anyone can be in a video that is available for countless people to see.  We enjoy music on the streets and subway and then watch them on Youtube at home.  Both of my kids are appear in a video produced by The Busking Project because they happened to appear at an outdoor concert one day.  We just bring it up Vimeo and there they are.  Anyone who they see on the computer, whether it's themselves, someone who has posted a home video, The Royal Shakespeare Company, The Wiggles, or Jack Johnson are all equal in celebrity status.  Celebrity doesn't even enter into their vocabulary.

I could have told her that it's difficult to get the attention of a well-known person because a lot of people are trying to get that person's attention, and therefore we shouldn't ask Jack Johnson to teach us to surf, but I don't want to shut down her openness and thoughtful suggestion with an assumption that's really based on nothing but an idea about "celebrities".  Well-known people are people just like anyone else and I really have no idea what Jack Johnson would say if we managed to get in touch with him and asked him if he'd teach us to surf.  From what I've read about him, he sounds like a pretty laid-back, thoughtful guy who had not intention to "make it big."  I'm not prepared to say it's impossible and it fact, I'm reveling in the idea that it might be possible and thank my daughter for helping me keep my mind open to such thoughts.

I'll finish up this post with a quote from "You and Your Heart" by Jack Johnson that addresses exactly what I've been writing about - fixed ideas - when he sings about lines drawn in the sand.  I love the lyrics in this song and this is the part that I enjoy the most.  It addresses a serious topic in a fun and playful way. 

According to, drawing a line in the sand is "to create or declare an artificial boundary and imply that crossing it will cause trouble."  In my opinion "drawing lines in the sand" (aka sticking to fixed ideas) is a worldwide problem of epidemic proportions.  

On to the quote . . .

You draw so many lines in the sand
Lost the finger nails on your hands
How you're gonna scratch any backs?
Better hope the tide will take our lines away

Take all our lines
And hope that the tide will take our lines and
Hope that the the tide will take our lines away
Take all our lines away 

-Jack Johnson - "You and Your Heart"

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Days 10, 11, 12

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Days 10, 11, 12

The Posture Police Blotter was on hiatus for awhile and I've revived it with a daily blog that is running from June 20 through September 22. This daily edition has a different focus to it and the gem in all of this is that what I'm going to be writing and what I've written about posture and the Alexander Technique are all related. Follow along and learn how!

Weekend Excursion - Chaos is Presence

 For the past three days, I've taken a break from the blog as my family and I have been  getting up off of our sandwiches (so to speak), both successfully and not so successfully.  I'm catching up with an extended entry on the topic of our eventful. weekend.

We used to be out and about with our kid and then kids more often than we stayed in, yet it's always been a challenging task to prepare ourselves and both children an finally cross the threshold and step out the door.  When our oldest was a newborn, it seemed near impossible to get out.  Now, with two small children, the idea of preparing an infant to go outside seems like a piece of cake.  Maybe I'm forgetting the frequent diaper changes, feedings, and various ways that babies can mess themselves that would require a full change of clothing.  Our challenge now is mostly with our three-year old who is so focused on what is in front of her that she doesn't quite grasp the "planning ahead" of getting ready to go somewhere.  Things were similar with the five-year-old at that age, but what adds to the current chaos is the understandable frustration of the older sibling who clearly grasps the concept of planning and preparing, wants to do it, and tends to go bananas when her sister is slowing us down by pulling our attention every which way. 

I say "chaos" because that's how it feels, but it's not really accurate.  Whether or not something feels chaotic is relative to what we expect and how we react.  Another way to describe my three-year-old daughter is "present".  She's so present that she doesn't care about something that's going on later that day in another state that she would probably enjoy more than the thing she's doing at that moment.  She's often happy as a clam, contented with whatever is in front of her and she wants to show and involve everyone else as well (aka "interrupting").  The chaos and interrupting that my partner and I are tripping over as we try to move in any direction is simply a child who is living in the moment.  It's a wonderful thing.  I am constantly working on living more in the moment and it's what I teach my Alexander Technique students.  If you're off somewhere else, you're not present in your body.  A way of describing what F.M. Alexander called "misuse" of the body is lack of presence, whether it's being hung up on something from the past or trying to get to/stressing out about the future before you are there.  In terms of movement, people are often looking to rush ahead to the end of the movement, which distorts the steps taken to get there and leads to muscle strain.  Most people flip-flop between being sort of checked out (mind-wandering or watching TV) and jolted into action (stressed out).  The balance in-between is presence.

Going back to my daughter . . . my partner and I are in a constant struggle with ourselves as parents.  We are endeavoring to find a balance.  We'd like our children to maintain their natural ability to stay present, yet have a clear awareness of time, future goals, and planning.  We are also looking to strike this balance in ourselves and feel that we are "growing up" with our kids along the way.

Last week, we had two goals ahead of us.  The biggest one was traveling to New Jersey for the weekend to attend my cousin's wedding.  The second one was equally significant, yet less involved and was for my partner and five-year-old to attend "As You Like It" at Shakespeare in the Park in Central Park.  I was charged with obtaining the tickets to the performance.  Tickets are free in that they don't cost any money, but are expensive in terms of time.  Lines sometimes form the night prior to each performance.  I had heard earlier in the month that this show wasn't as popular as other past performances and I was confident that arriving in line at 10am, which would involve waiting three hours, would be plenty of time.  I was wrong.  Upon arriving at the theatre, I spotted people camped out near the entrance.  One family was sleeping on a full-size inflatable mattress.  I meandered my way toward the back of the line, which was about a five-minute walk, and took a seat on the ground to "wait", or as my kids say "dance-a-dance".  I was at the end of a very long line of people dancing dances for tickets.  After dancing the dance for three hours and slowly moving up as tickets were handed out at 1pm, I was informed that no more tickets remained.  I dreaded informing my partner and daughter that I had danced-a-dance to no avail.  If only I had known how long the line would be, I would have arrived at 6am! Upon relaying the ticket story to one of my students and noting how painful I find it to dissapoint my children, he mused that adults become just as disappointed as kids.  We just don't freak out (as much)  (or quite so visibly).  I was tempted to sink into disappointment about the tickets as was my partner, but we knew that there would be more disappointment if we didn't arrive at my cousin's wedding as planned.  

We pushed through the potential inertia of disappointment and made it to the wedding on Saturday, not without some stress and last-minute scheduling adjustments.  I ran out to buy a shirt and tie for my partner an hour before we left.  We decided to take a later train, which we were certain we'd make, but missed by two minutes and ended up taking an even later one.  We'd planned to change in our hotel room once we arrived, but we didn't have time, so my partner changed in the New Jersey transit bathroom aboard the train.  I changed in the car from the train station to the ceremony.  Luckily the kids were already wearing their party clothes.

I managed to keep my cool most of the time and avoided knee-jeck reactions, though I did encounter a few moments of frustration.  Those moments were eclipse by the enjoyment of the weekend and of following through on something that we'd promised to our kids, especially our five-year-old who is becoming more and more interested in planning and creating future opportunities.  As we entered the reception hall after the ceremony, I drew my five-year-old's attention to the dance floor as we walked over it (and later danced on).  I was thrilled that the "wooden-square" that I had expected would be there was there and that we and the other attendees literally danced-a-dance on it, as I'd described to her.  She had been looking forward to this event for two months and was counting the days.  How can we guide her, her sister, and ourselves to living in the moment as much as possible, yet also preparing and planning efficiently so that getting ourselves to some of the opportunities that we really look forward to doesn't end up being so stressful.  We're still very much learning!

How do you reconcile staying present and planning ahead without literally getting ahead of yourself?