Monday, November 22

A skill for life

In less than two week I will attend my graduation celebration, one week before I'm officially graduated, and definitely while I'm still walking on crutches. The 'smart' goal I set myself, however, seems more and more unachievable. The lack of reason and compassion in man-made laws in this underpopulated corner of the planet means that I might be escorted on crutches to the plane outside the country, but maybe I'll have some magical-mystical recovery until then.

I don't regret to the slightest my decision to become a teacher for Alexander Technique. I learned many things about myself and the human form in general, and how to stay more conscious in a variety of constellations. However, I'm yet skilled enough to handle the uncertainty I'm facing in my immediate future with poise, ease and grace.

Migration belongs to human life since mankind left Africa about 60.000 years ago. Only isolation, either geographically, physically or politically, interferes with the continuation, inspiration and enrichment that comes with human traffic. Looking for a better environment to improve one's life seems like a natural instinct, and, ironically, the country I want to live is founded by migrants. I can't find solace in the fact that almost all 'nations' now thoroughly prevent man's wanderlust. Most goods sold on the global market can commute much more easily than the humans that provide them. GM seeds were allowed to have a lasting impact on the entire Australian biosphere, while a boatful of asylum seekers causes a media panic, 'national security' is in danger.

Of course, I don't claim that migrants have been a welcomed lot throughout history. Yet nowadays the ill effects of incest on our genetic make-up is well established. Diversity contributes to survival, isolation leads mostly to degeneration. Although the fair-skinned mutants within the human race claim superiority,
their survival requires an unsustainable amount of resources. If a joy-ride on a boat goes wrong, depending on the arbitrary place of birth you will either be rescued by heroes, or captured by the military 'defending national borders'.

So taking the advice to redefine my goal makes only little sense to me. Alexander's dream to bring his principles into general education remains far away as long as his profession isn't even particularly recognised by the authorities of his country of birth. When it comes to at least corporate acceptance, the UK seems much further, although I doubt that AT teachers can be trained by self-study via the internet. Australia is a sufficiently small society to create and sustain some drive to improve society, although it will certainly take at least a handful committed people to bring a better use and direction into our society.

Communication and travel allows us to experience this planet as a whole, creating a truly global consciousness. Laws and customs of society evolved much slower than technology progressed, a conundrum imposed on every 'civilisation' throughout history. The selection process for laws ignores evolutionary ideas completely,  and therefor reflects neither what's needed nor what's desired for more overall happiness.

From an evolutionary perspective, the diversity of laws throughout different societies provides plenty of survival strategies. The fascist idea of "One law for all" translates more or less into evolutionary suicide. Most legal system base on fear, instead of being motivated by organising respectful interactions between responsible beings. Knowledge of and adherence to the dominating rule set replaces responsibility in submissive societies, which honor ideas like war heroism and revenge.

As an anarchist, I don't like lawlessness. If this sounds contradictory to you, you might be just ill-informed about the concept of no government. If laws make sense, enforcement is hardly needed, self-regulation provides conformity. And allows for easy adaption to changed circumstances. Organised crime organisations and secret societies operate on a limited yet accepted rule set and survived much longer than most official state-like entity (with maybe the exception of the City of London) or 'nations'.

The attempt to create uniform legal circumstances for corporate operations creates environmental and civil rights nightmares. The lack of transparency hides the corrupt connections between governments and corporations, and in case this anti-social activities become known, the structure of the systems that empowered and instill these behaviours remains unchanged. Intransparent bureaucracy breeds irresponsibility, ignorance and violence. The illusion of democracy in the Western World prevents evolution as mankind as a whole, and just maintains global injustice in unknown dimensions.

While a lot of people have at least sympathy for my desire to live in this country, they seem surprised about how difficult it can be to migrate to their country.  I feel owned by the passport assigned to me by my place of birth, a slave to the nation, chained by taxes and laws restricting personal freedom. I have trouble maintaining my self-esteem when I get reminded that I'm not deemed worthy living in this country. While I have acquired enough local knowledge to devise strategies how to start my teaching here or in another big Australian city, I face the dire perspective to start all over again.

Tuesday, October 26


When it comes to a typical 'wrong-doing', end-gaining is the catch-all phrase in the Alexandrian world. 'The ends justify the means' is a commonly used adage and unfortunately often the attitude towards political and societal affairs. Luckily, at least while putting hands on other people, I learned a lot about my end gaining habits. I learned so much that I'm convinced that I can find more end-gaining habits of mine until the day I die.

When Marjorie Fern visited our school, she brought one of my favorite toys with her. It's balls made of hundred of rubbery strings, in bright colours, easy to catch and interesting to feel. I played many games illustrating some of Alexander's ideas, and I like the playful atmosphere created by simple games. When David told me about the workshop with 35 high school kids I immediately thought of using these funny balls.

I went on an internet search after coming home, and the some iterations in my search (from soft and fluffy via stringy to Koosh) I found some Australian online shops offering Koosh balls. Amazingly, these balls were sold as stress reliever, as toys and in a shop for camping gear. The adventure supply shop had the best offer, and so I thought: I want them, I order them. 75mm sounded a bit small to me, but still acceptable, so I typed an order round about $100 in and diligently supplied my credit card details.

I gained my end, the rush of the online shopping experience still exhilarating me a bit. I checked postage and shopping condition, whether encryption was used, but not the actual catalogue of the shop. I compromised already enough, I ignored a better prize offshore, or waiting for sold-out supplies to be restocked. Then I decided to browse the site where I ordered again, finding my way through the idiosyncracies in a mixed bag of online shop.

The choice of products of this camping/hiking/adventure supply outlet surprised me a lot. Only in juggling stores I might have come across the category of 'throwables', and I was stunned by the amount of items listed. Besides Koosh balls, they offer a lot fun things to throw and catch. I caught the item I ordered at the end of the first list, and checked the second page.

OMG, OMFG! Sets of 6! Okay, calm down, let's see what else they offer. 90mm Koosh balls. Oops. Sets of 6. A set of 20 in its own bag. Hmpf. Like in a lot of good shops, if the quantity goes up the prize goes down. A quick calculation makes it obvious to me that I would have ordered totally different if I had checked the range of merchandise first. Bloody end-gainer!

I worked in the computer industry, and know about the finality of electronic transactions. It'll take hours to write an email explaining that something went wrong, to sort out this situation with an better outcome for me by the means of the internet. I think Amazon let's you change orders before they ship them, yet smaller shops even let you order (and pay for) out-of-stock items. A 1-300 number prominently shows on top of the screen, so I inhibit my self-pity about my end-gaining and call their number.

So I explained my stuff-up to Damien, and asked him whether I could change my order. I guess that he pulled up my order on his computer while we were talking. He seemed relieved when I indicated that I happily still order for the same amount, and promised to take care of this within 15 minutes after our call. We chatted for about 10 minutes, and I realised that my end-gained order transformed into another encounter of random friendliness by strangers.

It didn't even take 15 minutes for the email with the changed order, and instead of two dozens Koosh balls I'll now get 30, and some bags to put them in as well. I still have no idea whether the delivery will arrive in time before the workshop, though I'm quite confident. Anyway, I enjoyed the great service this little call brought with it, and gained some interesting and fun insights.

Work in front of computer screens contributed a great deal to my patterns of mis-use, and I still need to remind myself often of my directions not to study my old habits. I researched for at least two hours on the web for this funny thing, interrupted by a unicycle ride to check local stores for something to pick up straight away. Like a hungry hunter I went for the first prey in sight. I fell for my end-gaining habit, but it didn't hurt. I noticed what I did, and so liberated myself from falling for my 'end-gaining has failed' habits as well.

Instead, I reevaluated the situation to improve the outcome. End-gaining often leads to undesirable results, but life goes on anyway. The sooner you detect an end-gaining stuff up, the more chance you've got do less and achieve more. In retrospect, the little unnoticed bits of forgetting my means made me try harder instead of acting smarter. Choosing a different reaction unveiled bits of my personal patterns, and probably made me one percent less end-gaining than before.

Thursday, October 21


My last term at school has started, and David invited Bob Britton to teach for some days in Fitzroy. Like so often, the process of learning brings some strange topsy-turvy encounters with it.

Quite some fellow teacher trainees extended their stay in Beechworth after the AUSTAT conference, so that the school seemed quite empty. On monday, Bob helped us exploring our feet anew, using group exercises (wrong word here, don't know any better right now), images and the skeleton. Without giving any 'fixed' idea about the right place to balance, he led us through exploring different configurations, many obviously less mechanical advantageous than our design allows.

Two things stood out for me on the first day. Going with awareness through 'odd' movements provides plenty of information, and opens up more choices. Especially when the movements very distinctly involve 'too much' and 'too little'. Only balance allows movement in any direction, and balance happens very dynamically. I also noticed the precision and animation in Bob's demonstrations. His eyes moved a lot, without seeming hectic at all, and he embodied the ways to move he was talking about.

I'm not too sure how often I heard and talk about the 'triangle under the foot'. I still crave to talk to Jack and Alysha about some details I gave them incorrect information about. I'm not too sure whether they incorporated this faulty bit of information into their movements, or whether Bob's workshops managed to help them to a more reliable body map. I like triangles, triangulation provide minimal stability for my delicately balanced tensegrity sculptures, but until yesterday my idea about the triangle under the foot didn't make use of the complex structure of our foot.

If we use the heel and the two sesamoid bones under the big toe (distal end of the medial metatarsal to be precise) we balance 'naturally'. The wide base of the heel 'receives' the body weight first, and the transverse arch, build by the bones posterior to the metatarsals, directs the weight towards the big toe. Flat feet often come together with slightly x-shaped legs, that's too much on the inside, too little on the outside. My legs rather tend to an o-shape, too much weight goes to the little toe, too little to the big one.

Although the way my feet touch the ground changed noticeably, I still find myself often 'stuck' to the ground - not too surprising, as I attempt to spread the weight in my foot quite equally towards the big and little toe. Another example that directions allow us to do the 'wrong thing' more efficiently. Incorporating some consolidated information gives me more confidence to experiment more with what happens at the same time in legs and hips.

Todays topic fitted in nicely, having another take on the separation and connection of legs and torso. Bob kept the group engaged and moving, using an iPad to show us some amazing anatomical drawings. The infectious upness carried on into student clinic.

Monday, September 6

Sanity and dis-ease, Part 2

Simple acts can become insurmountable obstacles when the down habit visits me. Even writing about it surprises me, as I got distracted from the perspective I planned to take for part of sanity and disease. While I have yet to consider whether describing my down habit manages to attenuate it or rather reinforces it, I'll take a step back for a bigger picture.

The distinction between 'mental' and 'physical' health doesn't help overall sanity much. The link between lifestyle and 'physical' ailments has been thoroughly researched, and physical therapies often accompany the treatment of 'mental' diseases. 'Mental' health still carries a stigma with it, Australia seems to train much less 'mental' health professionals than needed to deal with depression, suicide, mass trauma after bushfires, PTSD in returning soldiers and victims of abuse. During immigration you have to report on 'mental illnesses' of yourself and your family, and in one case the DOI wanted to withdraw the visit of doctors because his son has Down syndrome.

Modern psychology does not use any model of sanity, instead diagnoses according to a list of subjectively perceived symptoms. After re-discovering Alexander's set of skills, guided by many helping hands, I trust my instinct to dismiss any approach based on the faithful assumption of Descarte's error.

Commonly used language to name mental diseases sounds rather foul: retarded, stupid, crazy, imbecile.... as if it was more intelligent to override postural mechanisms so persistently to suffer from 'physical' pain. In either case, habits have shaped the entire structure, and the dis-ease of the organism restricts its functionality. If our minds had control over the self, it would simply take a decision to change behaviour.

The embodied memory of unprocessed emotional events remains, with our minds as reactive force to patterns of kinesthetic and chemical stimuli. Once these patterns are released, some narrative explaining the history of this restriction might emerge. Our memory, however, offers less precision than most people assume, and therefore doesn't suit well as tool to change behaviour.

It seems like my journey into the present needs some future involvement of releasing embodied patterns of the past.

Thursday, September 2

Sanity and dis-ease

Jane, who works in a community centre with 'mentally' ill people, gave a series of presentations about the state of art in dealing with this spectrum of dis-ease. At the beginning of the presentation I asked her about modalities that approach 'mental illness' from a holistic perspective, yet my question remains unanswered.

With a lifetime prevalence of 20% depression describes a collection of symptoms that affects or will affect at least four people in the room Jane held her presentation. I remember from my psychology lectures that a success rate of 30% suffices to claim it's worth applying a given therapeutic concept, and I still feel highly confused that electro-convulsive therapy is practiced in the 21st century.

Categorising depression as disease of the mind neglects some very tangible aspects of this phenomenon. The list of symptoms describes mainly subjectively perceived internal states and leaves the structural hallmarks out. An experienced and empathic therapeut most likely uses this snapshot information (of overall posture and movement) for his diagnosis, which fosters the healing process probably more than the methods in the arsenal of modern psychology.

So I followed Alexander's footsteps by ignoring conventional 'wisdom' and explored the 'down' habit in my life. Revisiting episodes from my personal history made me aware that I carry the blues in me already for a long time. And a part of myself certainly accepted this pattern and arranged life situations to 'cure' this condition, maybe even different parts simultaneously with differing choices.

Once I realised that I attempted a variety of strategies as remedy, I could start comparing the efficiency and side effects of my until lately unconscious self cure approaches. Meaningful activity attenuates the sensitivity of the emotional triggers that start the depression train. My desire for interactive activity, however, clashes with the automatic response to certain arousal states.

I lack self-esteem almost entirely when the blues plays, and when I started observing this habit as habit, understanding the pattern in it, I beat myself up even more. My rational faculty can tell me as often as it wants that I neither desire or deserve these highly unproductive downtimes, a cognitive re-appraisal of my situation does hardly release any pattern of habitual tension.

The description Begley and Schwartz gave about one of their OCD patients resonated with me a lot. The down habit of mine acts rather like a vortex than like a simple loop, a highly complex neuro-physiological algorithm with multiple entry points. My sensory amnesia makes progress towards more uptime challenging. Mindfulness only slowly weakens the patterns of the down habit, a part of my whole self demands more attention than available for a healthy balance.

Physical activity like increasing my unicycling and juggling skills, or building sculptures helps at the moment to accept the embodied pattern that interferes with my movement. But how do I transform this debilitating vortex of disconnection?

Wednesday, August 25

Hitting the wall

Everything we do changes the environment, with or without consciousness. Everything we think changes ourself, with or without consciousness. Change happens anyway, anytime, albeit our perception of life might ignore this simple truth. Every breath we take slightly shift the balance between oxygen and CO2 in our immediate proximity, simultaneously the same chemical balance within our organism changes.

Once we start observing life from the perspective of permanent change, we can develop a better sense for the quality and direction of change. And we can develop an understanding that 'stable' patterns in our life often indicate obstacles rather than solace.

The direction of change subscribed to by the application of Alexander's principle's has a definite, yet fuzzy direction: Forward and up. If our habit pointed into a different direction, experiencing forward and up literally shifts our perspective. We apply Alexander's principle when we organise activity of our organism in accordance with the evolutionary mechanisms we inherited.

We can find forward and up approximately here and now. When we stay present with what happens within us and around us while we interact with our environment, we move forward and up. Although we are born with the ability to go forward and up, we need to learn to widen our attention to unify intention and action, internal and external sensations.

Whether we like it or not, the relation between head and trunk reflects our embodied attitude in life. A tense neck interferes with incorporating the procedural intelligence embedded in our structure, which means our decision making process uses less information than the total amount the system provides.

When I began learning the Alexander Technique, my attitude in and towards life looked worst than I thought, or would have confessed to. My structure reflected the tension I produced by swinging between defensive and aggressive patterns. Like a slave to my habits and living memory of untransformed trauma of my past I stumbled through my life, skilled in many ways yet without any clear direction.

The observer influences the experiment, states Heisenberg, and once we start to observe our self, we inevitably change our perceptions and consequently our interactions. During my twens, when I innocently moved forward and up, conscious yet with limited knowledge, I experimented systematically with ideas to 'blow my mind'. I learned to use my self as laboratory, and enjoyed most results of serendipitous interactions with other people.

I understood somehow the pattern character of human behaviour and thinking, yet only in a disconnected, disembodied way. Scrutinising, analysing, dis- and reassembling, discarding, creating my own thinking patterns became for some months or even years a hobby of mine.

As I understand it now, this strategy helped me dealing with the unresolved trauma I carried with me. It didn't resolve it, nor did it prevent the inevitable side effects of an embodied flight, fight or freeze response. It made me a 'functional' member of society, financially relatively independent yet somehow unhappy.

I didn't care too much about the pattern of unhappiness that evolved over the years. I consider it as part of the up and downs in life, and stopped wondering about the weeks of my life I felt unable to do more than absolutely necessary, waiting to wake up again in anticipation instead of dread. Which so far, always happened.

At some point, I started observing this pattern more closely, and noticed its detrimental influence of my use. At its heart, the habits connected to my depressed states fulfil the desire to escape from the present moment, using my life energy to keep a trauma vortex active.

Knowing more about the nature of the depressive phases of my life doesn't make them go away yet. It became easier to step back to become observer, and to stop judging myself. I felt a bit shocked when I went through the self diagnosis for depression and anxiety some month ago for the second time, and noticed how my answer had changed. I don't take a self diagnosis too serious, mainly because these tests ignore mostly the wholeness of our existence and experience.

We have identified the enemy, and it is us. I gave up the fight, and accepted the current co-existence of self-destructive and self-healing patterns. Now I need to find a way to get the embodied pattern that harm me transformed. A small step for a quantum, a leap for the ego.

Tuesday, August 3

Little things with big impact

Every environment you visit on a regular basis becomes co-creator of habits. Even before I started learning Alexander Technique, I had developed a kind of sense for the new (and some of the typical) ways of interaction in serendipitous situations.

Going to school certainly fosters new habits, and usually you will encounter a schedule or timetables as frame to attach various new behaviour patterns to. Luckily, David's school for Alexander Studies prevents 'over-habitualisation' by inviting one or two 'master teachers' per term, interrupting the routine and offering fresh perspectives.

Cathy Madden visits our school at the moment, for the third time while I study there. I still remember some of her observation from prior visits. She reminded me to use my clavicles when I move my arm, she encouraged me to investigate my speech patterns by switching between German and English, and besides that provided a great example of applying AT when she worked with our group.

I felt quite elated and 'ready for action' after both days of Cathy's weekend workshop, although I didn't seem to have advanced much. However, just by attending the workshop I surrounded myself by a nurturing, positive environment with the opportunity to learn more about a different approach to teach the technique.

Cathy knows well the typical Alexander lingo, yet she doesn't bring up such terms unless requested to. Her language keeps simple, and with questions gentler than a lot of AT teachers hand she elicits useful information from the student.

She picked up on my habit of stating a lot of things in directly and indirectly negative ways, by noticing a shortening when airing bits of negativity. I had a great learning moment when I observed this pattern in another student, and Cathy's elegant way to reframe the students desire in positive terms. Even without Cathy's explicit reminder my understanding of this pattern grew, and confirmed the usefulness of simply observing a good teacher in action.

I missed the opportunity to ask her to help me teaching until today, and still needed to convince myself that I wanted to get up and do it. I had a positive intent how to approach the situation, but noticed that I lost my coordination pretty fast. More precisely, when I wanted to speak more activity than needed happened. Cathy stopped me and put her hands on, while I had my next go in talking to my student.

I could not figure out what I did in this critical moment, and Cathy went on to explain bits about the mechanics of voice production. She noticed that I pulled my tongue back to produce sounds, so she simply asked me first to hum, and then to speak trusting that I don't need to do this.

I guess I must have looked quite surprised when I played around with a new pathway to make some noise. All of a sudden, the tiny movement my tongue made stood out sufficiently to allow me to let go of it, to reorganise myself so that I have a new plan I can follow when I want to speak.

I wonder what else I do with my tongue, yet it seems blindingly obvious that additional tension in my tongue affects my neck, and therefore my entire coordination. Playing around with speaking still feels odd. Allowing my tongue to do less seems to reactivate saliva production, and sometimes I get the impression that my speech gets a bit slurry.

The tiny bit of information about me pulling my tongue back to 'prepare' for sound production took an entire mountain off my chest. At some point of my journey of learning the technique I came across the fact that I did something extra to speak. Not knowing what but noticing that 'I did it again' became a relatively steady source of frustration, and contributed to the diffuse perception of my social awkwardness.

Besides observance, guidance with our hands, verbal explanations we teach AT by applying its principles, using subconscious mechanisms to model freedom in activity. My concern about dis-coordinating myself while speaking slowly dissolves, and I look forward using my voice in a new way.