From Party to Practice

It’s January 2. The holidays are pretty much over. Whether you took two weeks of vacation, like several folks I know, or just had a few days here or there; whether you or your kids are on school break for a few more days, or whether you’re already back at it, this time of year often feels like resurfacing from the holidays.

Maybe you enjoyed yourself. Maybe you popped a cork on a sparkling beverage on New Year’s Eve, celebrating the end of the old year and the beginning of the new.

Maybe it was difficult, or overwhelming, and you need a break from your holiday break.

Depending on your experience, the end of the holiday season might mean that you appreciate the return to normalcy, to routine. Or it might be a grudging acceptance of getting up and going to work every morning.

In my university class, I ask my students to journal on the following question: “Where in your life do you experience freedom, creativity, strength, and connection?” Because it is a class for performing musicians, we then explore whether they experience these qualities in performance. If yes, I ask them to consider what about the situation offers them the opportunity to access those qualities, and if no, what about the situation is an obstacle to that experience?

So how about you: did you experience freedom, creativity, strength, or connection over the holidays? If yes, what about the situation(s) you found yourself in offered that opportunity? If no, what about the situation(s) were a barrier from it?

Consider whether you partied, or spent your time in quiet; traveled, or didn’t; whether you visited or were visited by friends or family, or not; whether you took time off work, and how you spent that time; what your mood was through the various days of this period as compared to your ‘regular’ life, or the mood of the situations you were in: were they more festive and fun, and did you appreciate that, or not? 

Notice what you notice in your body, thoughts, and emotions as you think about these times. Were you more at ease in your Whole Self when on holiday break? Less at ease? What were the factors that contributed to or prevented that ease?

[Whatever your answers, they’re good. They’re yours. There is no right answer, just curiosity and observation!]

One thing that I keep learning as I grow older, and as I employ the practical mindfulness of the Alexander Technique in my daily life, is that it’s all one life, one you. You are you while on vacation. You are you at work.

Whether you experienced this over the holidays, or at some other point in your life, looking for your “party” can be an instructive question: Where have you found freedom, celebration, and joy?

It’s January 2, and the parties might be over, but the freedom you may have experienced doesn’t have to be finished.

What if you could experience the qualities of freedom, celebration, and joy in daily life?

Can you take the “party” and make it part of your daily practice? 

Ask yourself: What aspects of your work and daily life support freedom and ease? Which create an obstacle against it? Are those things you can change?

One thing we can absolutely change is our preconceived ideas.

For example, on New Year’s Day, I was texting with a friend who took the last two weeks off of work. They were anticipating a return to their managerial role, with an accumulation of hundreds of emails from every day that they were away, and lots to catch up on. I said: “I hope your day back to work tomorrow isn’t too overwhelming.” Their (mostly joking) response: “I’m sure it will be.😊

What if we went into the new day – and the new year – with an expectation that we would experience freedom and ease more often? That the opportunity to access these qualities was available in nearly every situation?

You have the choice to look for freedom, creativity, strength, and connection anywhere, any time. When you’re laughing with friends, or sick at home. When you’re feeling stress at work or when you’re doing something you enjoy.

To support that choice, you need a regular practice. The practice might simply be to notice when you have a preconceived idea that things will be difficult, and to observe how your Whole Self – mind, body, spirit – responds.

Because our Whole Self is just that – whole, unified, inseparable – you’ll also want a practice that helps you address underlying patterns of tension and strain that might keep you from experiencing freedom in daily living. When you beneficially change how you sit, how you move, and how you respond to the stimuli of life, you create the opportunity to experience more freedom, more strength, and more creativity in every situation. The Alexander Technique offers exactly that opportunity for change, growth, and practice. It may look like you’re just learning how to sit and stand, but what you’re learning is how to choose freedom, every single moment.

When the party is over, you don’t have to stop celebrating your life.

You can make the best aspects of the party – your choices towards freedom, strength, creativity, and connection – your daily practice.

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