Weekly Group Plans, Well-being and the Alexander Technique

Moving mindfully

This week we are going to take some time to consider what the founder of our work called the ‘primary control’ and which others refer to as the ‘primary pattern’ – that is, that the body is an integrated whole, not a collection of disconnected parts, and that it needs to move and work as a whole. What I do with my neck affects my feet – what I do with my feet affects my head. It sounds obvious but humans manage to forget this because we are SO absorbed by….where we are going, the facebook page in front of us, butting into the conversation, pulling up one more weed….etc, etc. And then we wonder how we hurt ourselves 🙂

Those in my groups who are new to the work this term will revise what we have learned so far about standing easily, about sitting easily and we will coach one another (a teaching technique I use a LOT) to remind us what we might remember to make life as easy as possible.

And we will look in our anatomy study at the amazing, incredible structure that is the spine. Lizard

Those who have done this work for a while will ALSO revise what we can usefully think about in order to sit/stand easily and then take that knowledge into movement, into transitioning between sitting and standing and standing and lying down and lying down and standing up, while remembering to remember ourselves as well as what we are doing.

AND for the first time I am teaching a shared lesson on Monday afternoon in WhaleyBridge at Riverside Wellbeing. The lesson is full but email me if you would like to be kept posted about future chances to come along.

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Prayer, Silence and stillness, Spirituality

Cynthia Bourgeault and Centering Prayer

Yesterday I attended a workshop at St Dunstan’s Church Liverpool on Centering Prayer, given by an Episcopal Priest, Cynthia Bourgeault. The workshop was called ‘Centering Prayer – from Performance to Gift’. And, for me, the whole day felt like being given a very important gift.

I have been attempting to practice this form of contemplative prayer since reading Cynthia’s book, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, some years ago. Yesterday’s workshop was an inspiring encouragement to keep going, with some very practical pointers to help us to do precisely that. Cynthia said she has been practising centering prayer for 40 years and that it has transformed who and how she is in the world. She spoke simply and clearly but with great power and depth. A small, loving, vital, intelligent and erudite woman she is a good advert for the results of a life-long commitment to this ancient Christian wisdom tradition.

She spoke first about the tradition of meditation, of which centering prayer is a part. She called meditation ‘a universal human sacred activity’ and a ‘universal activity of the human spirit’ which can be found in every religion and every philosophical path in some form or other. Though meditation is widely known and practised in the East, many Christians are unaware that there is an ancient tradition of Christian meditation too and the teachings of centering prayer are part of a rediscovery of the riches of this tradition.

All forms of meditation aim to still what is sometimes called the ‘monkey mind’ – the endless inner chatter that humans engage in. Many forms of meditation seek to do this by training the mind to focus on a single point – the breath is perhaps the most common of these, and mindfulness meditation is a secularised form of this. Another form is the repetition of a mantra or repeated word or phrase. In the Christian tradition, the work of John Main and the World Community for Christian Meditation encourages this single point form of meditation.

Cynthia Bourgeault describes centering prayer as rather different. Though it is a form of meditation, it is called prayer, she said, rather than meditation in order to honour the intention of the practice, which is to enter a presence that is characterised by love. And rather than focusing on a single point or word, it is based on the principle of learning to let go of each thought, to release, to consent to just being in the presence of the divine in each moment. It is about intention not attention. God, she said, is IN the silence, in the noise of the inner chatter, in the consent to let it go. Centering prayer is a way into a different way of being, a different way of perceiving reality. Each thought that arises is an opportunity to practice that letting go, that release, that consent to be in the presence of God.

The aim of centering prayer is not a deep state of bliss, or profound quiet. The subjective experience of your prayer time doesn’t really matter. The noisiest and least settled prayer times may actually teach you the most. The aim is simply to practice letting go of thoughts when they arise, gently, with kindness. It is not hard to do, she said, but it is hard to value and it is of immense value. The value of each tiny act of letting go is that it mirrors the self-emptying of God that Christians see in Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection. It is nothing more or less than the way that we learn, thought by thought, day by day, prayer time by prayer time, to ‘put on the mind of Christ’ – which is the calling of every Christian, the key to walking the ‘Jesus path’ as best we can.

And unlike secular meditation methods, like mindfulness as it is widely taught in the West at present, centering prayer is not something you do for yourself. It is not about YOU at all. It is not done in order to ‘de-stress’ – it is not ‘me time’ or about reducing your anxiety levels. It is something you offer on behalf of a suffering world. It is not about acquisition but about generosity of heart. It is about creating a space for love to be a little more present in the world, a little more often, about opening up points of eternity in the every day. It is a gift YOU give to the world.

If you want to make a start, these are the four guidelines of centering prayer. It really is VERY simple.

  1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within. (At our workshop, Cynthia said this would ideally be quite a neutral word or short phrase, like ‘Wait’ or ‘Quiet’ or ‘Let be’ or ‘be still’. It doesn’t need to be a ‘holy’ word as such)
  2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
  3. When you notice yourself thinking, return ever so gently to the sacred word. (You don’t repeat it the whole time, just when you notice a thought)
  4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

Four Guidelines

Weekly Group Plans

Standing firm

This week we move from sitting, to standing. And we will think of how we can stand with more ease and more enjoyment. One regular student of mine, after studying the Alexander work for some years said to me, ‘I know it sounds odd but I used to not enjoy standing and now I do’. Being able to stand in a balanced and easy way is a skill and a gift that is often overlooked and under appreciated – and it is good for us.

So we will look a little at the anatomy of standing, at the weight of the head and where and how it balances on the end of the spine. We will observe each other standing and see what we notice. We will observe and explore the act of standing in ourselves, too.

We may consider how we move between sitting and standing – and explore different ways of doing that with grace and ease. And we will develop a gentle standing warm up routine that we can do on waking or at any time of the day to gently wake up the body and get ready for the day or the activity ahead.

And we will discuss when, how and how much we stand on a daily basis and how we might apply Alexander work to all of that.

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Photo by Julian Jagtenberg on Pexels.com
Reflections on Previous Groups

Are you sitting comfortably? Reflecting on week 1 of this term’s groups

This week saw the start of new Alexander groups in Manchester and Macclesfield. Some students are completely new to the work, others have attended previous group courses or had some 1:1 lessons. I asked them all what they hoped to gain from our shared study of Alexander and why they had come.

Some folk mentioned improving their posture – how they stand and walk and sit. And we will work on those important topics. Others spoke of reducing pain and stiffness – and many people find that Alexander work achieves those things. Several spoke about movement – they had come because they wanted to move more easily, more gently, more enjoyably.

One spoke movingly of how her work in previous groups had increased her confidence, reduced her anxiety and pain (and medication!) and how this profound work had transformed her life. Sometimes it does that – we come for a bad back, we discover a lifetime’s study that can change how we are in the world. It can go very deep!

And we made a start by looking together at sitting and sitting bones, at sitting more comfortably. We discovered the joy of knowing that sit bones are also called ‘ischial tuberosities’ and resolved to use that knowledge frequently in the week ahead and to drop the phrase into conversations wherever possible.

My regular students and I learned Bruce Fertman’s ‘dolphin’ movement together. There was laughter, learning and, I think, a bit more freedom in movement by the end, for all of us. I was certainly smiling more, less tired, more optimistic. I LOVE working in groups 🙂 My students are a reason to be cheerful. Ischium_02_anterior_view

Weekly Group Plans

Mindful movement

Next week our new Alexander groups start, in Manchester and Macclesfield, with a mixture of students, some completely new to Alexander work and wondering what it is, some people who have taken groups before. We are all students of this profound technique, all learning together.

A few weeks ago I spent 8 days in Dorset studying Alexander with one of MY teachers, Bruce Fertman. And because we are all, all of us, still learning I learned things about myself I didn’t know which I will share with my groups when we start back next week.

And I learned things about teaching the work to others that we will try out in my groups. The theme of much of Bruce Fertman’s teaching and writing is that the Alexander technique is about movement not posture. So I am going to take the theme of mindful movement for our first 5 groups. We will study the basic human forms of sitting, standing, lying, walking and transitioning – with a focus on how we move into and out of and during those forms. And we will help each other to find more ease, more fluidity, more comfort, more grace, more awareness, more enjoyment and even more beauty in those forms.

We will also think together about using the Alexander work when we are under stress – because we are late, because we are anxious, because we are irritated, because we are bored – which is another kind of stress!

And we will specifically apply the work to situations my students suggest for this term – whether that is singing, shopping, doing the gardening or even, as this photo of me on my own course shows, doing aikido!!

I am looking forward very much to seeing old friends again and making new ones. I love this work and I love sharing it. Thanks to all those who are planning to join me in this study in the coming weeks.

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Reflections on Previous Groups

Reflections on the Alexander Technique

Today was the final session of the first 10 week Alexander Technique course that I have run in Macclesfield.

And I asked what my students had learned and what they thought of the course. They said……

‘It’s a safe space’

‘I have loved coming’

‘I’ve started a journey and I have a long way to go’

‘It’s much wider than I thought’

‘It’s about enjoying life’

‘It’s been about space – space within and space without’

‘I’ve learned to stop and think before I move’

‘It’s been an oasis in my week’

People think the AT is about posture….and it is….and it’s about so much more, too

 

And Lucy seems to have enjoyed it too….IMG_20190403_123442

What's On

Walking on Sunshine – a workshop for walkers

Exploring how we walk using the Alexander Technique. For those who would like to walk long, or short, distances with greater ease and enjoyment   

Walking on sunshine

Saturday 8 June 2019

St Peter’s Church

Windmill Street

Macclesfield

SK11 7HS

1pm – 5pm

Wear comfortable clothes, bring something to lie on

Places limited, booking essential

07974 944585       jennyfoxeades@gmail.com

£40    (Means tested benefits, £20)

Weekly Group Plans

I lift my eyes to the quiet hills

In our group sessions this term we have been following the theme of Going Deeper – we have looked in more depth at hands and feet and arms – and now we will focus in more depth on the very part of us that focuses best – on the eyes. It was a surprise to me, in my training as an Alexander technique teacher, that I could look gently, without unnecessary effort, without, as it were, going out and grabbing the world, visually. I could let it come to me, I could soften my gaze, I could widen it and take more pleasure in what the world has to show me.

So, this week, in Whaley Bridge, in Fallowfield and in Macclesfield we will think about how we use our eyes. We will consider panoramic vision – our use of our peripheral vision – and explore how it changes our experience of movement and of stillness. We may play games that explore walking and our use of our eyes. We will consider, in particular, the importance of the eyes when we bend down or sit down and how they co-ordinate our movements.

In their book, Movement, Awareness and Creativity, Bartal and Ne’eman write, ‘The human being’s most versatile contact with space is through the visual system, which is the most far-reaching and instantaneous form of perception. So co-ordination between the body and the rest of the world is mainly achieved through sight. Therefore it is essential to co-ordinate body and eye movements.’ (1975:12)

eyes