2020 Where do we go now?

Westonbirt Path

I sat down at the beginning of this year, intending to write an article for this website.  All I could see was that 2020 was going to mean huge change, literally changing everything we have ever known and for everyone on the planet. I had absolutely no idea how this was going to play out. So I waited. 

Then the pandemic came and the world stopped.  It was astonishing. A pandemic had been expected for some time. What astonished me was that everything stopped. In the Alexander Technique we talk about ‘inhibition’ – stopping.  You have a thought and it will lead you to the same way of moving / responding that you have always had.  Unless you stop, and redirect. 

The world, as we knew it, stopped.  

Suddenly, we noticed that our skies were quieter.  I had never realised how many planes flew over my house!  Waters everywhere became clearer as pollution levels dropped.  The air itself was easier to breathe as cars stayed at home. 

I saw people reconnect to themselves, to their families, to what mattered in life.  Fear lay like a huge blanket over many places but despite that people sang on their balconies, went for walks in nature, reconnected with a part of themselves they had forgotten about. And the entire planet seemed to do a reset. 

When people say they just want to get back to normal, I wonder what that means as there is no ‘normal’ to go back to. There is no going back, only forwards. To what?  To whatever we choose to create now.  We stopped, now we redirect. What ‘directions’ are we choosing to adopt now?  

In January, I sat and looked forward and saw nothing more than a huge wave of change. Now I sit and look forward again. Like everyone else, I want it to end.  I want to see the other side of all this. But that’s not what I see. It’s not over. And our biggest challenges lie ahead of us, in the next few months.  Can we truly embrace the changes, the inevitable changes that we cannot avoid, and in doing so, use change to recreate ourselves, our lives, our whole way of being? 

It is an option. Yes, it demands discipline, vigilance. But it is an option: physical change, emotional change, spiritual connection. 

Thoughts are electrical: neural pathways, synapses, all are electrical impulses.

Feelings are magnetic.  How often have you been with someone and ‘felt’ their joy/ sadness/anger?  You have perhaps known their  ‘I’m OK’  didn’t ring true. 

When you have thoughts and add feelings / emotions to those thoughts, you pull them into your electromagnetic field.  You literally become the way you think and feel.  Sometimes the thoughts aren’t even yours – it’s something someone else has told you and you have accepted it as yours.  This can be someone else’s anger, fear, doubt, guilt, judgement, ‘shoulds’ and ‘ have tos’, imposed from outside, not resonating with your own heart-felt desires at all. 

The next few months offer us a choice.  We can focus, moment by moment, on a present time basis, on loving, peaceful outcomes for ourselves and our global community or we can lose ourselves in the waves of out of control fear and anger, blame and judgement, none of which serves us in any way at all. 

Where we place our focus is how we will feel. 

So please join me. 6 months minimum of holding peace, light and love for ourselves and, by extension, for our world. It will make a huge difference to us as individuals. It will permeate out from us to the rest of the planet. 

Then our own reset can complete and we can choose what we want  to create in our new world.

Could be very interesting!

Susan

Dealing with Change

Dealing with Change

Many people use the Alexander Technique as a tool to help them deal with change.  In current times, change is inevitable, whether this involves our personal lives or much wider global issues, such as climate change.  The problem with all change is that we have to step away from the familiar and embrace a new, as yet unfamiliar, way of living. We have a lot of thought, emotion and belief invested in our ‘old’ versions of who we are and it can be hard to acknowledge and let go of them.  If our ‘new’ doesn’t feel familiar, it can even cause panic.

I worked with a lady some years ago who was in a lot of discomfort physically and wanted to improve her ‘bad posture’.  At the end of half an hour or so, she stood tall and straight and felt ‘different’. I thought she looked great. Then she looked in the mirror. I don’t know what she saw, but she burst into tears, exclaimed ‘I could never let my friends see me looking like this’, and left.  I never saw her again.

Dealing with my own personal current change recently, I found myself posing the question:

‘Do you care more about who you were than about who you are?’  

It was only when I recognised  how much I had invested in my old ‘stories’ that I was able to to move on from the impasse where I found myself.

Who do you care most about?

I hope you all enjoy this year of change and new beginnings

Susan

Survive or Thrive?

Crown at top of cactus

Ask yourself, do you operate ( body/mind/spirit) from a now, fully present consciousness?  Or do you operate from habit, from the past, from some old programming? Mankind, in general, usually responds to situations in an old way, from habit.  War and fighting is a habit. We do not look to diplomacy as our first and obvious solution to a problem. Threat and attack are much more common than calm discussion and a desire to reach an agreement and understanding.   Another habit is surrounding ourselves with people, events and stories which match the thinking we are currently most comfortable with, thus preventing ourselves from seeing other points of view as valid, or learning anything new.  

Making assumptions that we need to live in a society which operates on a money / government / power basis is a habit, one which keeps many of us trapped in jobs, relationships or situations which contribute to feelings of unhappiness.  

How we eat and drink – habits.  When did you last eat or drink something completely new to you?  

Notice your thinking.  Listen to the words you use when you are talking.  Do you belong to the ‘should’ , ‘shouldn’t’ , ‘have to’ brigade?   This, too, is a habit, usually one acquired as a child from the grown-ups around us.  It is a habit which severely limits freedom.

The Alexander Technique direction to free the neck to allow the head to release forward and up, helps us to free ourselves from the past, from fears, from habitual reactions.  The head being held ‘back and down’ – the very opposite of ‘forward and up’ holds us physically, mentally and emotionally in a mini fight or flight response, and freedom of all kinds is limited.  This is a survival response, a fear response, not a ‘free to pursue adventure in my life’ response. There are those who say we have lived many lifetimes in this way and that this is what makes it so difficult to embrace change.  

Alexander Technique inhibition and direction is about stopping, saying no to a habitual response and, in that space which ensues, allowing something new to happen.  We can do this on any level – physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.

We can create new synaptic pathways, new belief systems, new and different responses to situations we find ourselves in.  If you have a thought, and you don’t like how it makes you feel, let it go and then change the thought. Yes, it takes discipline, but the more we do it, the more it becomes our new norm.  

It used to be said that a large percentage of our DNA was ‘junk’ , unused.  Now it is said that this ‘junk’ is codes, language. So can we choose to talk to our DNA?  Why not have a conversation with the cellular structure of our body? It is time to take charge of ourselves on every level, to decide we are in control, in the driving seat now.

The old dramas and trauma are just ‘tapes’ that keep playing in our lives.  We can insist that our synapses stop playing them. In order for us to do this, we have to live in the ‘now’ moment.  Living in the past is living in survival mode, and living for a future which does not yet exist is downright confusing.  The future is forming as we make decisions in each ‘now’ moment.

Time, you may have noticed, is speeding up.  The planet we live on is demanding our attention.  Be present and you can become aware of the synchronicities which occur when you are present enough to notice them.  Allow yourself quiet time to receive, to just be. Listen to your intuition and act on that information which seems to come from deep inside. Allow your heart to guide you more and let joy be your compass.

You are in command now.  Your thoughts and feelings about yourself frame the kind of life you create for yourself and the thoughts and beliefs you have about the world frame the ‘world’ experiences you have.  Change is not only inevitable, it is to be welcomed. Choose carefully, wisely, both for you personally and for the bigger ‘world’ picture you carry within you. You are a lot more powerful than you realise. Demand beneficial change.

As an example, for so many years, plastic has polluted our oceans. Many, many people have now decided that this must stop. They are demanding change.  Manufacturers are responding, governments are responding, cafes using plastic straws are responding. The use of plastic is suddenly decreasing, simply because enough people have now demanded it.  Add your voice to the change you wish to see. I myself am now scanning everything I buy to see if palm oil is used, having become very aware of the impact on the orangutans. I am assured, by someone working with these creatures, that there is no such thing as sustainable palm oil. Maybe palm oil will follow the same path as plastic?

You have the power to contribute, every moment and in many ways, to creating more love and joy on this planet.  And make sure you give to yourself as once you have ‘filled up’ with love and joy and fun all surplus is automatically redirected to others. It’s all energy.

Trust yourself. Long ago, you set up default responses. These are fear based, to ensure basic survival.  You don’t choose to run your computer on an outdated old programme – don’t run yourself on one either!

We live in magical times and your own magic is inside you. Let it out and share it!

Susan

2018 – A Year Like No Other?

Spiral Stiar CaseIt’s a new year and my feeling is that 2018 has the potential to be a year like no other we have yet experienced.  2017 was difficult in many ways for many people and presented huge challenges for some of us. Can we now allow all that to be in the past and simply move on?

More and more, we are becoming the conscious creators of our own reality, a reality which has its roots deep inside us.  I have talked to so many people who desperately want their lives to change but  who are unwilling to allow the inner change to happen first.  Their outer world : job, relationship, home etc has to change before they can focus on their dreams. So nothing ever changes.

Think of a spiral – we move through life in this spiral and we meet the same challenges over and over. Things repeat until we finally address them. Then they lose their power over us.

Worry is toxic. Anxiety is toxic. Guilt is toxic. Resolve in 2018 to stop poisoning yourself. Notice the patterns and, as far as possible in that moment,  let go of the thought or the feeling. Don’t suppress it, just acknowledge it and let it go. Stop feeding it your time and effort and stop resisting it. With practice, you will find these patterns and habits no longer have a hold over you. They become less intense, have less importance. Then you feel more peaceful.

Consciously or unconsciously, you control your inner world. Your outer world will always be a match for this because every choice you make in life comes from this inner world, your belief system, the programming you have absorbed from birth.

Let 2018 be your year to create a new way of being – and if you don’t like your first attempt at this, you can always change this too!

Nothing is fixed. And whatever is happening in your life, your attitude is what is important. How do you feel about a situation? Joyful? Good! Anything else? Change it. Change the thought and the feeling first.

Whatever else you focus on, make 2018 the year you stop worrying, about yourself or anyone else. The purpose of your life is to sort yourself out, not others. That means dropping judgement and criticism, of others and yourself. It means no longer being a martyr to other people’s demands. Let it all go. If something makes you feel good, give it all your focus, your energy. If it doesn’t make you feel good, recognise it is depleting you, draining you, even toxic to you. Stop the thoughts and feelings about it, focus elsewhere – the more you practise this, the easier it gets. Then you feel better.

Avoid negativity in the media and the like.

Give your love to yourself first. Being self-ish is a good idea! Make you the most important person in your universe. 2018 is a different year, one that is there to support you wherever you place your thoughts and feelings, your responses to life’s adventures and challenges. So allow 2018 to support you in your endeavours to be more at peace, more joyful, more loving. Let the rest go. This year is all about you. Leave the past behind and focus on the inside, the inner you. Be vigilant and maintain a sense of humour – it is ever your ally in stopping negativity in its tracks. Switch to fun thoughts as often as you can and play more.

Then watch and see how your outside world changes. 2018 is your best chance yet to create your dreams so be careful what you wish for! Focus on how you want to feel and let the finer details take care of themselves.

I wish you all a wonderful 2018 with all its promise of a new start for us all.

Susan

Focus on Joy for 2017

Focused sunset, Blurry horizon

Focus leads your eyes and your thoughts

I had an extraordinary experience recently.  I woke up one morning feeling quite miserable.  Misery is the only way I can describe it ( depression is very different).  I was puzzled.  There was nothing, so far as I could see, to be miserable about.  I found myself viewing incidents in my life, sort of scanning my entire life, seeking a moment of joy that I might be able to latch onto and carry into my present moment – looking for something to replace my misery.  Every moment of my life was viewed through the same filter. As far as I could see or feel anything, every single moment of my life was utterly devoid of any joy. There was nothing easy and there was certainly no fun!

I stayed with this feeling, allowing it to just be there without any analysis, although I remained very confused by it.

Later in the day, I walked over to the cabin where I work, and as I walked by the flow form in the garden, in the space of a heartbeat, everything changed.  From feeling so miserable, I suddenly felt ecstatically happy.  I replayed the same life events from earlier in the day – now I was really happy through all of them!  Misery had become joy.  Nothing else had changed.

I was surprised.  It was true, then, that it didn’t matter what happened in my outside world because all that joy ( or misery) was inside me all the time, just waiting to be experienced.

Something changed – it shifted.

This happens a lot in AT work.  There is something you don’t like…but if you allow it to simply be there, without judgement or emotional reaction, then suddenly there is a change to something else, something different.  If you don’t like that either, then repeat the process.  Play with it.

Paying attention, giving time and energy to something you don’t like, only encourages it to persist.  If you don’t like it, don’t feed it – no focus, thought time, emotional reaction.  Deprived of nourishment, it will lose its power over you, and often, it will completely disappear.

In 2016, we have seen many deaths reported in the media.  Many of us have also been personally touched by the deaths of friends, family, people who have touched our lives for however brief a moment.  What I have seen in those close to me has been their incredible moment by moment pure joy in the actual living of life.  I have learned a lot from their courage, tenacity and sheer love of life.  Those who are leaving life show us what it is to live.

We don’t live in a perfect world and it never will be perfect – it’s just not designed that way.  But we can change our focus on life to make our own personal world much easier, safer and more fun.  As Leonard Cohen wrote:

There is a Crack in Everything

That’s how the Light gets in.

So, as we all begin 2017, a year which beckons us to embrace a new view of our life, focus on what you like and let your light flicker through any cracks there may be.  Your focus on fun and joy, or at best away from what you do not like, will encourage even more light to come through. May 2017 give you new beginnings!

Susan

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6 Week Courses 2017

The ‘continuation’ courses are full but there are still a couple of places ( possibly 3) on the Thursday (10.30-12) Introduction to the Alexander Technique course, which starts on February 2nd. Please let me know if you are interested. The cost is £90 for the full six weeks, if paid in advance, or £17 per session ( attend as many as you like and pay on the day – just let me know which sessions you are coming to).

Thanks

Susan

The Breathing Man

Image of someone looking into the lightAlexander bemoaned the fact that students on his course would not spend more time focusing on what he termed the ‘whispered ah’, which he considered one of, or the most beneficial thing he had to teach. I remember an Alexander Technique teacher telling me that she had suffered for many years from asthma and how amazing it felt when her body, for the first time, breathed itself!

Experiment with this:

Think of something pleasurable and let that smile reach your eyes. Tongue and jaw released, breathe out. You could blow the air out, make a vocalised sound as you allow the air out, or go for the classic whispered ‘ah’ sound ( an AT lesson could be useful here!)

Close your mouth and allow your body to bring the air in for you – your ribs and diaphragm get a chance to work as designed.  Then exhale again in the same way.  Two or three of these will begin the release. Then go back to your normal breathing and notice any differences.  Your body can gradually learn to breathe in the way it is designed.

Many disciplines focus on breathing, yoga being probably the best known.

Meditation on the breath encourages a calm serenity.

From a spiritual perspective, we are currently in a time of expanding light frequencies.  Shallow breathing causes our energy field to contract. This triggers a stress response as the body goes into fear that it cannot get enough oxygen. Allowing our breathing to be free, deep instead of  shallow, also allows our energy to expand and receive more light into our system.

So whichever way you look at it, allowing our breathing to free up is helpful and makes us feel better!

One day, every one of us will take a last breath…and then a whole new adventure starts!

Positive Thinking

Horizon - Wales - Beach - Stones

POSITIVE THINKING

People sometimes say to me…

‘So this is really all about positive thinking, then?’

‘Not really,’ tends to be my reply.

I mean, what exactly is ‘positive thinking’?  It’s certainly a popular concept – replace all those negative ideas with positive ones. I question, however, whether that is what actually happens.   In my experience, we all have very strong patterns.  These may be on a physical level – how we move, habitual muscle tension, what Alexander referred to as ‘debauched kinaesthesia’.

The patterns may also be on an emotional or mental level, and are often fear-based responses.  When we make a decision to ‘think positively’, are we simply pushing our fear-based responses even deeper inside us, in order to suppress them, and then imposing another equally restrictive pattern over the top?

With the Alexander Technique, we allow ourselves to be fully present in the moment and say no to the old pattern.  This allows a space for something new to happen, to take the place of the old pattern.  It works with a physical response and it works with a mental or an emotional response.  Just say NO to the old habit, and in that brief space that arises, allow your focus to be on opening to new potentials, new possibilities. You don’t need to know what they are, just that they are not your old, habitual responses.  It requires courage and a sense of adventure to allow a new pattern to emerge, without our attempting to impose something we have specifically thought about and chosen in advance.  

Fear and drama bind us to our old patterns, thereby ensuring that we repeat them.  Opening to new potentials, whatever they prove to be, frees us from the past. Try it sometime and enjoy the new adventure!

Susan

There are a couple of spaces still on the Friday 6 week continuation course ( 10.30 am-12), beginning September 30th, 2016.  These sessions will suit anyone who has worked with me before and would like a ‘refresher’ and you are welcome to  attend any number of them at a cost of £17 per week. Please email me if you are interested.

Apologies to those of you who are still waiting to hear about the next Beginners course – for various reasons, they will not now start before 2017.

Thanks

Susan

What is Pain

Diagram of BrainRonald D Siegel ( Harvard health publication) has written an article entitled Mind over Back Pain.  In it, he points out that accumulating research suggests that most chronic back pain isn’t actually  the result of injury or illness and that, in fact, back pain is very often caused by our thoughts, feelings and resulting behaviours.  There is no close connection between the condition of the spine and whether or not people experience pain.  Indeed, it appears that it is fear and stress that maintains most chronic back pain.  Abuse, painful loss, job dissatisfaction are all big risk factors in back pain.

People often turn to the Alexander Technique, with its focus on the head/neck/back relationship, for help with back pain, so I was interested to read what he had written.

My own experience is that there is a strong link between any form of stress and chronic pain, and equally, lack of stress and lack of pain.  

Some years ago, a lady came to see me on the recommendation of her daughter.  She had a pain in her shoulder. This was very annoying to her as she had never experienced pain before.  It was clear to me that she was ‘misusing’ moving her arm in such a way as to cause the pain she described. I explained this to her and helped her learn to move differently. Her pain disappeared and she went home, problem solved.

Now my confusion was this: She was doing everything to cause herself pain, and not just in her shoulder, yet despite the fact that she had been moving like this for years, it was only now, at 93 years old, that she experienced severe discomfort. Why?

As I talked to her, it became clear that she was a remarkable lady. Never once in her life had she been stressed. She didn’t believe in it.  She had had her share of painful incidents ( war, death of loved ones…the list was extensive) but had always maintained that these things were just part of life and there was no point in allowing them to affect you.  Her first encounter with pain ( even after childbirth!) was enough to persuade her to see me but she had no intention of seeing a doctor.  She was a living example of the degree to which fear and stress contribute to our experience of pain.

These days, as I work with people, I sometimes ‘see’ or ‘feel’ a link as muscles release their tension pattern and the body moves into length and more ease. What I see or feel intrigues me and I usually mention it to the student. It has always been accurate. ‘You are holding anxiety here’, I said once  ‘and it is linked to another person close to you, younger, female and she is very anxious right now. It is linked to fear of failure’.  In this case, the student was worrying about her daughter taking exams. She really wished she could take the exams for her daughter!

Sometimes, I may be aware of a specific trauma.  Whatever it is, the memory seems to be held in the body tissue and is released along with the physical release.  Change happens the moment we acknowledge something on some level.

As Alexander said:

‘You translate everything, whether physical or mental or spiritual, into muscular tension.’

So the next time you get that twinge of pain, give yourself the time and space to explore it.  Go inside yourself, focus on that part of you, deep inside.  From your heart, be the detached observer of your own self, empathetic so that you can be compassionate, but not sympathetic so that you get pulled into it.  Take note of anything you find, accept it as part of your past ( this life or maybe some other life) and then let it go.  Even if it is only the vaguest of strange feelings, send it somewhere – into the sun, into the ground, to a fire, to a candle flame. In your heart/mind, send out a request for help as you do this and know that the help you are asking for is right there.

We carry so much, and often don’t even know it.  It weighs us down.  As we become lighter, we have more space for joy, for love of ourselves, for fun.

2016 can be the year we press that reset button for ourselves.  And always remember, all the answers are inside us, not outside.

Go for it!

Susan

If any of you are interested in attending a workshop to explore this facet of healing further, please email me to register your interest.

Six week group courses ( beginners and continuation) resume in the autumn. Please email me if you would like more information.

One to one sessions are on – going, as are workshops this summer. Email me for further details.

Thank you

 

Thoughts from Saranac

With the Alexander Technique, we work to identify habits and patterns which are at the root of our tensions.  In order to change a pattern, it must first be acknowledged.  Then, when you are faced with whatever triggers your usual response,instead of continuing on auto-pilot, thereby getting your usual result, you stop. There is always a tiny amount of time between the initial trigger and the response for you to say no.  Then you can choose whether or not to continue. You can choose to allow a different outcome.  It doesn’t matter what that is – the important thing is that you have allowed something different to happen.  For only then can new options present themselves.

Now this does mean that we have to risk something unknown to us, but that something may well hold a key to our release from current tensions, as long as we let go of old, often unconscious, control patterns. The familiar may feel comfortable simply because we are used to it – we may be completely unaware that what feels comfortable may actually be damaging, or at best, unhelpful.

This is true of everything – physical movement, our ways of thinking, our belief systems, emotional responses.  Taking responsibility for our lives, which inevitably challenges our old sense of self, is highly demanding.  We find ourselves redefining our perception of self-worth, realising it is not found in what we do on a day to day level or how we live, but in how we view ourselves.  

So many people in the world today are responding from deep wounds and fears. Some have lost hope.  We can easily see where this has led us as a human race.  Yet, again and again, we see people who respond to all this with courage and compassion, with flexibility, with the belief that we shape our own future – that, after all, if we want our lives to change, we must ourselves become the change we are seeking. We get to decide which side we are on – do we say no to our old patterns of response and allow new ways to present themselves or do we stay chained to our old habits?

Let’s be clear on this.  There is no past, no future, only an eternal present.  And it is only from this eternal present that we can acknowledge on both a personal and a human race level, scars which we carry from what we have experienced – leave these unresolved and we will continue to carry them.  
Our every waking moment allows us to choose a new response. So the next time you are about to lose all conscious control as you fly into anger / fear / guilt or whatever else a trigger prompts you to do or feel, just stop.  It’s that simple.  Let the old way go, and see what happens.  I’m not saying it will be easy, but it could be a lot of fun!

Remember September?

Lots has been happening this month and I am sure you will have felt this too.  I know many people are feeling quite exhausted by all the changes that keep happening. The thing is, change is inevitable and the only thing we can be absolutely sure of is that there will be more and more of it.

So how do we view the changes in our lives?  This is important as our perception of what is happening depends on our many filters.

A filter, according to the dictionary,  is something which ‘blocks certain frequencies but allows others to pass’.  And we have lots of them!

We are often unaware of our personal filters, which influence our beliefs, perceived knowledge, even our take on spirituality.  Recently, for example, I had a discussion with two friends of mine, aged 6 and 9. The six year old was adamant that God was a man. She even wondered if he held parties and whether it was then possible to get invited to one. I put forward my view that God was both male and female and found everywhere.  Her sister was on my side, but then she remembered being told at school that all angels were male and she knew this was untrue as she had, herself, seen a ‘girl’ angel. This had, of course, affected her filter, her belief.

Some of these filters, then, are knowledge and ideas of the world which we acquire as we grow up. They vary according to whether we are are male or female and according to the society we find ourselves in.  From what we consider makes sense for us to eat to whether girls should be educated, and anything in between, our filters will cause us to believe in a certain way.  We will respond accordingly – for example, someone trained in Darwinian physics will inevitably have difficulty accepting quantum physics.  We accept whatever matches our current belief system.

Being open to change allows us to clear some of our filters.  Life becomes more fun, an exciting exploration of new ideas about everything!

Enjoy the ride.