At the time of writing, we are almost two months into the active fight against the coronavirus in Indiana. We have been asked to change so many features of our daily lives – social distancing at home while working or schooling, taking extra precautions to limit our exposure when shopping for groceries, cancellations of concerts, parties, weddings, lessons, conferences, dates or playdates – you name it. We are collectively struggling with isolation and anxiety. It seems redundant and obvious to say that the entire world is dealing with immense change and tragedy right now. No matter who you are, your daily life has been impacted by the spread of the coronavirus, and the efforts to control the spread of COVID-19.
How do you find yourself dealing with change? With the discomfort of this time? With the shift in daily rhythms, or the grief around loss of work, performances, opportunities, or just being able to be with friends and loved ones? What do you notice in your body as you consider this?
I won’t pretend that this change – sheltering at home, teaching all of my wonderful in-person work online, not seeing loved ones in person – hasn’t been hard for me. I have been at times exhausted, deeply afraid, angry, resistant, lonely and numb; sometimes multiples of these at once! I am grateful to be able to continue most of my work online in some fashion (more about that in a minute!) But the learning curve – my goodness, it has been steep! I had to learn SO MUCH in such a short period of time. Add to that the constantly changing information about the spread of the virus, and what we should be doing about it. I felt up to my ears in learning, like the classic Far Side cartoon, I was ready to be excused: my brain was full.
What I needed was time. But the world seemed to be telling me that I didn’t have time.
In retrospect, this was both true and false. There was the necessary urgency of learning how to schedule and teach my Alexander Technique and private voice lessons online, to plan for choral “rehearsals” using videoconferencing software, to determine how to adjust my syllabus for my university Alexander Technique class for the “new normal.” There was a need to change, now, for the sake of public and personal health.
At the same time, I also needed to take time for myself – my Whole Self – before I was truly able to be present and offer my attention to another person, especially over a challenging connection like video conferencing. I had to make an opportunity to be quiet enough in myself so that I could be able to observe, rather than to react.
As I’ve been thinking about what my work can offer in this particular moment, I was reminded of a quote from the textbook I use in my university AT course for musicians, Indirect Procedures by Pedro de Alcantara. He writes:
“Working on yourself means to face a situation and react constructively to it. It means to deal with discomfort if the discomfort is inevitable, as it often is when you pass from the known to the unknown. It also means to discover, explore, and conquer new ideas and techniques, and to connect to your innermost energies, moment by moment.”
This is why I practice and teach Alexander Technique. It is the best work I know to adapt to and respond to ever-changing life — even the really, really big changes. Yes, I have had some moments over this past six weeks where I really didn’t want to adapt, but I have done my best to use the powerful embodied mindfulness offered by Alexander work to try to respond constructively even to my resistance.
While I was trained primarily to teach the Alexander Technique in person, hands-on, I have been delighted to find that there are effective and powerful ways to teach and learn this work online. Drawing on my 10+ years of Alexander teaching experience, hands-off work done with groups, and learning from other Alexander teachers who work online, I’ve been offering online Alexander Technique lessons to both continuing and new students. There are major benefits, including:
- You learn very directly how your thinking and kinesthetic awareness changes everything!
- You as the student become responsible – in the very best way – for your own ease. You can’t rely on the teacher’s hands to take you there.
- Your results are yours alone, not dependent on the hands of the teacher. You know exactly what you did or didn’t do to get from point A to point B!
- You start to learn concretely how your habits of movement and thought contribute to your Use.
- Great opportunities for application to real-life situations: playing an instrument, singing, working at a desk.
- No commute! Take lessons from the comfort of your own home.
Do I plan to return to in-person teaching when it becomes safe? You bet. However, given the current state of the pandemic in Indiana, I don’t anticipate close person-to-person contact being considered safe in the near future, even with the government timelines for re-opening. I will continue to evaluate the situation as it progresses and by being on my mailing list, you will be among the first to know when I begin in-person lessons again.
In the meantime, we still have work to do. Because our responses are Whole Self responses – that is, body and mind – we must include the body and mind in our self-work. The Alexander Technique is truly the best work I know to remind yourself that body and mind are unified, and you can change your whole life – bringing ease and calm to every situation – by changing how you use your Whole Self.