June 22, 2016

Little Moments, a Walking Meditation

Hello my friends,

I took a walk instead of going to the gym today. It was early evening, warm and light.

Walking out of doors caught my senses unawares. I spend a lot time at the computer these days, thinking and reading, writing and working.

The scent of the trees and flowers brought me back into my body. Instead of walking while thinking about how to solve problems, I suddenly noticed roses, roses everywhere next to picket fences of older houses in the neighborhood.

I noticed loquats. Have you ever eaten loquats? There is tiny, delicious fruit inside the skin and smooth, big seeds within.

I was so aware of my ears and nose, hearing birds trilling and chirping, catching sweet scents drifting on the air.

I stopped in the vain hope of finding scent in a hedge of white roses. My luck was better with big, red roses, round like baseballs and intensely fragrant.

One huge rosebush was pruned into a huge conical shape, a giant solid mass covered in yellow-orange roses. We nodded hello, or at least I liked thinking that the breeze was part of some larger design.

One step at a time and feeling more alive, I kept on.

Trees! I kept seeing more and more fruit trees right on my block. Fig trees growing over the fences, loquats, laden with fruit. Prickly pear; sweet if you know how to gather them. A bounteous world was outside my front door yet I took it for granted and hadn’t even seen it.

I found the same attention helped me in dance class tonight.

It was a walk from rose bush to rose bush, from fruit tree to fruit tree. So many things I hadn’t noticed that pop into awareness.

I went slowly, enjoying the moment. Noticing my head weight on my foot, space in the hip joint, pressing the foot down. And then there is the Whole and in that blessed moment I cannot sense the parts… Noticing the fruits of attention is happiness on my feet.

Peace,

Dana
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June 14, 2016

While I Dance, I Have No Problems

While I dance, I have no problems.

I feel like myself.

When I’m not happy, the thing that helps the most is to get up and dance.

I don’t know why it’s hard to do – actually when I’m down, what’s hard is starting – but that habit has saved me many a time from the machinations of my own mind.

In fact, I created a little game to play that helped and I’ll share it here with you.

I used to play an imaginary joke on the world when I danced.

On days when I felt overwhelmed, I’d get dressed up, go to the dance studio as usual on a Saturday night, pay the entry fee, put on my shoes, and dance the night away.

What I didn’t tell anyone is that I played a secret game. I’d imagine taking a great, big white box tied up with a pretty red ribbon and bow in the middle. I’d breathe all my troubles and worries into the box – worrying about getting the next contract, tracking down the customer on that old account who flew the coop, feeling pressed for time to bake for my son’s big soccer tournament the next day – I put the whole list of things to do into that box in my imagination.

I’d leave that box outside the dance studio door in hope someone would steal it away.

Then I’d dance, and while I danced someone else was holding my woes.

At midnight, I’d go outside and it never failed; there was that box, waiting for me to pick it up. 984786_gift_1.jpg


Dancing worked its magic, though and the box was somehow always lighter, easier to carry, somehow I felt bigger and the troubles felt smaller.

Dancing still works for me that way, even though I’m training in ballroom dance rather than social dancing. It takes my entire attention to dance with the whole of me and still pay attention to the parts. It’s a happy world of endless exploration. I’ll never be good enough yet somehow…just being there… I am.

Dance is a journey I take with my whole self and so is the Alexander Technique. AT helps me feel at home in my body and more alive. And THAT is a gift I love to share.

Here’s to aliveness! Yours and mine.

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Dana

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June 9, 2016

Morning Coffee; Applied Alexander®

Hello friends,

Thanks so much for stopping by. Join me...

On my patio in the morning with my coffee

Birds singing

Light on a single strand of spider web

A little breeze

A bird’s nest in the crevice under the patio, above.

What do I want? This is a good question that I have been asking myself for the past couple of years.

I just moved out of my home of 27-28 years.

A year from now I’ll be a lot smarter.

That’s what I tell myself and defer judgment till then.

Right now, I notice my shoulders relaxing, dropping down.

The back of my neck is softening.

I notice nothing – more – I notice nothingness.

Birds sing.

My little Rafi-dog is sleeping.
Rafi_Rhino.jpg

Stopping.

Finally stepping back; pausing after years of non-stop activity.

A moment to just sit and a place that allows it.

I notice that I do not miss my old house.

I do not need to wait a year to be smarter.

Happiness happens now.

Peace.

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*Applied Alexander® is my exploration of applying the principles of the Alexander Technique to life. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, in the comments section!

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May 13, 2016

Applied Alexander®: Dance!

Hello my friends,

What it is about the Alexander Technique that matters? Underneath it all, why do I do it? Why should anyone?

I was practicing dance with a partner and his take on it is that Alexander Technique helps with body mechanics and alignment.

I said, “Of course, everything works better; you’re better aligned and can move with less effort.”

Alignment matters! However, that’s still not why I do it.

It’s not only your position being in alignment, it’s quality of movement. It’s smoothness and ease vs. pushing and force. Power to move by a controlled release…ahhh….what a feeling…. slide018th.jpg

And that’s it.

It’s the way it feels….really, really good. The inner sense of my body is open and electric and it flows. It feels like all the channels are open from my head down my body through to my toes.

You know how you sense your body if you close your eyes and think inwardly, like an inner vision of your own structure?

This work changes my inner vision and also how it feels.

It’s much lighter and freer than muscling through movement from the outside in! Release outwardly along the lines of your body and then stretch; you will have longer reach. Sense your own head weight more clearly and fine-tune that precisely over your toes; you will have better balance.

My exploration is to use this in movement and to share that with other dancers. Applying Alexander’s discovery to movement for ballroom dance.

If Dance is a feeling, what feeling is that dance for you?

I want to feel my body electric and alive. Seamless and open inside; I don’t want to feel anything really, but flow….

How would you like it to be? Please me know in the comments, below!

Namaste,
Dana

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May 5, 2016

Skydiving and the Alexander Technique

Hello my friends, thanks so much for stopping by :).

Tonight I’ve been questioning the nearest person around; myself.

I wonder; why is it so hard to talk about what I do?

Maybe that’s not the right question; I talk about it all the time. Drilling down…

Why is it so hard to transfer the sense of what it is? What IS the Alexander Technique, and why does it matter?

This is the frustration of the Alexander Teacher; no one knows what it is and it can feel like the best thing on earth...a glass of cool water on the hottest day…a wonderful sense of aliveness…

Yes, you say, and skydiving also gives an amazing sense of aliveness and I love it, it is like that?

Well…maybe it is, in the sense of jumping into the unknown, but here you have the bonus of a safety line; your Alexander teacher. Except Alexander Technique can be strangely familiar when you feel it, like something different but very, very right.

I know this because I have gone skydiving and I also dove into the Alexander Technique. For me at least, it was not at all familiar. It did wake up my awareness! Cessna.jpg


What if we take a smaller step today, and say the Alexander Technique is like water?

I can speak of the results, but that’s like trying to explain water by saying, it’s useful for washing dishes and your hands will feel wet. Sure, it works that way but that isn’t what it IS. Soap also cleans dishes and feels wet…now we have to say it isn’t like soap…

Water has the lovely quality of wetness and also the power to wear away rocks and create the Grand Canyon. Does that say what it IS?

The Alexander Technique likewise has the quality of peace and renewal as well as the power to eat away at a lifetime of unconscious tension so you can feel at home in your own body. It chips away at the knowledge within ourselves that we are “right” because it feels right when we are standing or moving “this way,” the “normal” way.

It brings us to new possibilities in movement; something unknown, but wonderful and good. Or... maybe it was once known in a lifetime long ago when we were children and life flowed like water.

It’s about consciousness, which is ultimate and endless. It's not something you can buy in a box at Costco, super-sized. It’s not red like ketchup and not blue like the gorgeous orchids just inside the door at Costco, today.

It really is more like water; it’s what is IN the river that feels so cool in its wetness and invites us to swim.

It's awareness both within the body – the swimmer –
And without – of the water that is around us.

How do you describe water?

Maybe the best feeling there is.

In life.

In movement.

With JOY.


Namaste,

Dana

P.S. Thank you for visiting; thank you even more for your thoughts!

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April 25, 2016

Celebrate the moment!

Hello my friends,

Thanks so much for stopping by! Diving right in today. Here's something nice from a lesson that I'd like to share.

Working with a student today, her leg released at the hip. It moved freely and she smiled; it was a shift into freedom.

She was ready to ask about using her leg in movement.

I suggested that she just enjoy a breath and noticing this nice feeling of ease for a moment. I said, celebrate the nice feeling of release right now. Just for this one breath in time.

Celebrating the small moment now, then moving on.

We worked this way all through the session, finding small things to notice and pausing just for a breath of time.

Especially when thing are tough, your mind can be caught up in anxious thoughts. If you’ve got an injury, it’s natural to think about it and feel where it hurts, and to check in and notice it again.

I think we’re wired up in an animal sense, for our bodies to be alert to danger and to react to protect us.

It’s so important to take these moments right when they happen. Not tomorrow, not next week, but just a mini-celebration.

Like now! 853035_harvest_freedom_2.jpg

How many times when you dance, do you achieve some improvement, and then immediately push to add the next level?

We do that, and that’s okay, but it’s also good to take tiny moments to celebrate the day. Celebrate staying up on toes and being stable. Enjoy the progress and also keep working.

It’s like an endless treadmill of never getting there. It’s like climbing to one pinnacle and not stopping to look at the view. Sure, you go on, but life has many small moments and not so many big ones.

It’s like decisions. One of my professors in college, who was my advisor, taught this to me. He said that in life, there are many small decisions and very few large ones. He said that when I have a large decision to make, often I’ll find that it’s more like a discovery of something I decided, long ago. It’s just coming to a peak moment, now.

If you celebrate enough small moments, life goes better. It automatically creates a positive habit of noticing good things and letting out a breath. I believe that it’s healthier for the body, too. Breathing while enjoying something is a happy habit to have!

We are all wired up to be protective of ourselves and to react quickly to danger. That’s all good, but in a world that stimulates us constantly with traffic lights and email beeping, with constant thoughts about work on the current project and planning for the next one, it is ever more important to cultivate habits of happiness.

Did you tie your shoe? If you’re five years old, that’s a celebration.

Even if you’re not, it’s a marvel to look at fingers flying with such precision. Enjoy the movement. Enjoy the small things of life. There are more of them, and if you enjoy many small moments throughout your day, you will have a happier life.

Creating habits of happiness is a worthwhile endeavor.

Big decisions happen but they may also be made up of many small actions, getting there.

Celebrate them.

Celebrate every little moment of your life.

Namaste,

1002547_daisy.jpg Dana


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April 12, 2016

The Way Back to Dancing

Hello my friends,

Thanks for stopping by again. Here's news!

Saturday, I took my oldest practice shoes and went to the dance studio.

It’s been four months of recovery and oddly enough, it was hard to get myself back on the dance floor. I didn’t know what I’d discover. The doctor released me on a Monday and it was Saturday before I got on the floor.

I found my ancient practice shoes, the rejects that are so worn out and loose, they live in the back of the closet for emergency use only.

Old faithful shoes, I fished them from the back of the closet. They were happy on my feet, like old friends that are still glad to see you even if years have passed.

Shoes in the dance bag, notebook, water, a soft towel and a tennis ball, I took off for the studio.

I was afraid that one wrong move would hurt my foot again. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I noticed the fear.

Fear is good! It keeps us safe from danger.

Fear is bad! It holds us prisoner in the past, projecting trauma from the past onto the canvas of this moment, right here, right now.

I put on my shoes and make a command decision to monitor my feet but not to live in fear. What is fear of pain? That is a ghost; it is worrying about something that doesn’t exist and may not come into being. What is so, in the now?

I rise up on my toes and lower down.

No pain.

Slowly, lining myself up before the mirror. My warm up exercises were out of mind until I was standing on the floor. “My body will remember if I start to dance,” whispers in my ear. “Try this,” comes to me from my feet, feeling the floor. Maybe the memory is in the shoes. After so many hours and years of practice, maybe the shoes and my feet will talk to me. They do...

I like to play with the weight of my head on top of my feet. It’s a little game I made up and it’s fun. Standing tall, I release my ankles and move my body as a whole on top of my feet. It’s like stirring myself on top of my feet, sensing my head weight on different parts of my feet as finely as possible.

My feet feel frozen and odd but they don’t hurt.

I begin some basics, but my balance is off. My head isn’t fully over my foot and my body sways, fighting for stability. There is pressure on my foot. I stop and check in; does it hurt?

It does not.

I practice for some time, but I’m impatient, going so slowly.

Music is playing; Viennese Waltz, and something snaps. I dance one wall without thinking and it feels good to move. I’m not precise, my frame is off, but the music fills me with joy. There is no pain.

One more wall of dancing and it’s time to stop. 20 minutes is normally barely a warm-up; today it is the whole game.

As Charles Selzberg, my old fencing master used to say, “Retreat! Retreat! He who runs away lives to fight another day.”

I take my shoes and go home.

This time, they are resting outside the closet, waiting to dance.

Thank you to my shoes for letting me dance. They will bring me back.

Soon.
Shoes.jpg

Peace,

Dana

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April 3, 2016

A Special Place of Freedom

Hello my friends,

Thanks for stopping by. I’m dancing in my chair again, waiting to be on my feet and thinking about freedom. My feet may not be ready for the floor but my spirit is free and my mind is practicing non-stop. Mental dance practice may work; I will let you know!

What we see and think goes into the body. I’m watching the best dancing I can find; all types. Argentine Tango and Swing, Ballroom and Ballet. I feel it in me, I feel my body wanting to stretch and move. Keeping the dancer inside alive...

Everyone has a little bit of dancer in them, but they may not believe it.

It’s our thoughts that limit us, “I can’t dance,” “They’ll laugh at me,” I’ve got two left feet,” “I’m shy.”

That was me; shy. I was too shy to dance with boys at a birthday party when I was eight years old. I didn’t know how to dance and was shy of boys, so three of my girlfriends took me into a private dance space; the bathroom. They taught me some version of the latest dance. We danced in the tiniest space, three or four girls in a phone booth sized bathroom, bobbing up and down. I relaxed and laughed and was happy now that I knew how to dance. I danced with my girlfriends at the party, but I was still reluctant to dance with boys. I held onto the chair with all my might when a boy asked me; shy.

I was just afraid of looking bad, and not knowing how or what to do.

I learned…

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March 28, 2016

Freedom of the Head in Ballroom Dance

Hello friends,

Thanks for stopping by again and checking in.

I’ve been waiting for my foot to heal and impatient to be back on the dance floor. In the meantime, I feel my body jumping inside, eager to dance, needing and wanting to dance.

I am waiting to dance but inside I am very alive, very Dancing Dana and I can almost feel the blood zooming around, dancing inside of me.

To keep it all going, I visit the dance studio just to watch the dancers and be in the environment.

I was watching some friends. The lady was turning her head not quite in time with her partner, almost mechanically. I don’t think she felt it. It’s the movement we can’t feel that does us in, isn’t it...

Her head should move as a reaction, turning freely and easily as her body rotates and the spine moves. Yes, we already know that, but the question is, the how-to. How do you get your head to turn if you’re not supposed to turn it? What makes it “go?”

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October 28, 2015

Releasing Stress, Finding Joy

Hello my friends,

One of my students came for his lesson this morning.

I asked how he’s feeling. His reply was the same as always:

He’s stressed.

He said a new project began and he’s stressed.

He hasn’t danced AT ALL in awhile.

He’s been coming for a good couple of years, not too often, but very regularly.
I wonder, sometimes, why he continues to come.

Clearly, it is his choice. He gets aches and pains as we all do, but it doesn’t seem to be the deeper reason.

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October 28, 2015

Coordination of the head and neck in Dance; Secrets to Balance

Hello my friends,

Today as I was teaching, my student was speaking. I noticed her neck tighten and grab as she spoke.

Stay with me; this applies to dance, as well…

She couldn't feel it, but it was visible in the mirror as well as evident on a tactile level, as I gently laid a hand on her head and neck.

We worked with the idea to leave her neck quiet as she speaks.

That was the take-away from the lesson – to leave her neck and shoulder quiet and do an activity, in her case, talking.

It’s not achieved by stiffening the muscles.

It’s done by not adding something - in her case, not adding tightening, while she talks.

It’s important because she gives talks, often 1 to 1½ hours in length. Tightening up her throat impacts her ability to speak well with a clear voice and not get hoarse.

It also shows up in dance; the head being balanced is critical to being balanced on your feet and tightening the neck often puts the head out of balance.

Let me share some secrets of coordination with you...secrets of balance on your feet.

Continue reading "Coordination of the head and neck in Dance; Secrets to Balance" »

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October 6, 2015

ABC of Changing Movement Patterns in Dance

Hello my friends,

I learned something about changing my bad dance habits. Hope this helps you!

In a recent post, I showed a video of a backwards bicycle and talked about how you need to think differently to use it.

How can you use this thinking process to move differently than your habit, in dance?
What does it take to UN-learn a pattern of movement?

In theory, it's simple:

A - you have to realize what you are doing, and decide that it is not producing the result you wish.

B - you really need to stop doing whatever that is. It's not easy, because we tend to move on auto-pilot.

C - put in what you DO want in terms of movement.

Children can do this more easily than adults. They haven't had as many years to learn wrong movement habits

It's also because children are willing to play! They'll try things that feel different and they don't always take everything so seriously.

Changing movement patterns takes thinking into your body, and in addition, it takes truing up your body awareness so what you ask your body to do, is what it does.

You have to convince your MIND that your BODY is wrong, because our inner sense and habit is usually what rules.

In my case..."Dana, don't twitch the free leg." Shh...telling my secrets…

I have to THINK it very strongly as well as get used to a different sensation, because it happens before I know it, underneath my sense register; I stick out the free leg to reach for a step and interfere with my dance partner. Not good!

So I have to think and think and think, till I’m retrained.

Have you ever felt pain in your foot? I have a sensitive area at the ball of my foot. At some level, I anticipate pain in my toes and unconsciously avoid putting pressure in that area. Then I move incorrectly and I feel pain which reinforces the anticipation of pain, the next time…

Oddly enough, when I'm perfectly aligned, I can be up on my toe and in a huge shape and not even feel pressure on my foot. My partner puts me on my toe in readiness and there is a pause…the delicious moment before movement…

It may not feel "normal" but it does feel good.

I want to help dancers find this place and feel something wonderful in their body that feels…like no words can say…amazing…

...to give them a sense of peace as well as control that lets you direct both line and movement... to feel a sense of space in the body ...the ability to release on command, but not to collapse... You can control the letting go, too, you know...

..it’s an amazing sense of expansion; I don’t even have words…

The Zen of dance, a non-doing-ness yet all is in flight.

Namaste,

Dana

*Alexander Technique is about connecting thought and muscular activity. It increases your body awareness and gives you the power to change how you do, what you do, as you do it.

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