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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Better Than Christmas

Although this post starts as tragic story, it doesn't end that way. It's about how to shift consciousness.

My interest in consciousness began as a means to deal with grief from a parent death as a teen. Coming out of a lonely two years when I had assumed that denial was my only option, (grief counseling did not yet exist) I happened to make friends with a girl who lived just a few doors away in my neighborhood. She and I were merely circumstantial loners craving friendly companionship.
Summer vacation of 1967 started, and we were free to do anything we wanted - such as camp in her back yard where we could talk and giggle all night. At dawn, my best friend had gone into the house to dry her dew-covered socks she'd left outside the tent, and I dozed briefly. When she returned, I awoke...but I awoke in a very different and more complete way than I'd ever felt before.
Even though I had never done mind-altering drugs, I was in a state that was aptly described by the songs of the late 1960s – a psychedelic, mind-altered state. Yes, it was a bit like being in love, even though there was no lover in the picture.
The state seemed to be contagious as I described what I was seeing to my best friend. We walked around looking at everything. The intensity of all colors and sounds were magnified in the overcast morning light and silence. It was a “state of grace.” One thing that was affected is that I could run for as long as I wanted merely for the joy of moving without getting tired or winded. But there were many other strange effects that we noticed, (probably because we were paying attention.)
This state really got my attention, even though it only lasted for an hour or so the first time. It ended up happening again and again in a sustained way over fifty times over a period of the next three years. I made many observations about its nature as a state of mind, what evoked it into happening and what made it end. At one point, I stayed in this expanded consciousness state for four solid days. (No, I'd never done psychedelics, I'd only heard Beatle songs about it.) The two of us seemed to “catch” this “flow-state” from each other when one of us would shift into it.

I'm telling you this story for a reason. Strangely enough, we devised a curious way to circumstantially evoke this “inspirational state” that I'd like to share with you. 

We would choose an exciting event that usually involved travel, such as a concert or a road trip or visiting an out-of-town friend. While doing the practical planning for being able to attend, (since we were broke teens, it usually involved the work of returning recycling to get the seed money) we would entertain each other by discussing at length "what might happen.” The more specific we could be about this blow-by-blow fantasy of ours, the better the later effect. We imagined who would say what to whom in exhausting detail as if we were novelists writing dialog. Everything was productive at this stage to exercise our imagination with free rein. It was better than anticipating Christmas day as a kid!

Then eventually the day of the event would arrive. But we did not merely try to fulfill our expectations. We suspended them! Meaning, we completely surrendered all the investment we put into spelling out what might happen. We had learned that what was going to happen would never be the same as what we had imagined. In a sense, we knew our experience was going to be better because it would be real.
The important point is the suspending and surrendering left us able to pay attention to what was really happening. The advantage of paying attention meant to us at that time that our recall of the specifics of replay would give us endless value. Talking about what had happened was just as much of a fun thing to re-experience as the experience itself.

But the strange by-product of suspension was its effect on our consciousness. By giving us a huge motivation to pay attention, we got a bonus. Our attention and the ability we had to influence it became magnified. In a sense, we practiced using our attention by being able to suspend it deliberately. The curious thing was that it worked in spite of the fact that we did it as an exciting pleasure. The curious part was our actions really had all of the characteristics of a religious discipline such as a Koan. In a way, we had created a Koan that had the ability to catapult us into another state of being.

You might want to try it to see if this means to raise your consciousness works this way for you, even though it requires having a companion. For me, writing or talking to myself about the intricate details of specific fantasies anticipating what "might happen" just doesn't work the same way.

Get back to me about this - I'm curious if this process will work for others!

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Prevent Cops Lying

Put an end to illegal police searches on your person... with this simple idea.
I'm really upset by the injustices perpetrated by the police subculture. Nothing like being a "haole" in Hawaii where white people are in the minority to give a different perspective about how racism works.
Particularly I'm upset about how police are considered by courts to be "professional observers" and their outright lies are believed over the word of a truthful citizen who are becoming victims of police bullying. Of course you can keep a camera handy, petition, spread news on FB, etc. etc. and other totally generic ways to protest, here's what I decided I could do about it to protect myself and those close to me:
This solution came from my observation that all the police have to do is to LIE about you having consented to a voluntary search. I got a statement notarized and sent it to myself and haven't opened the letter...keep it in a safe place as the "cheap copyright" thing used to be done with a postmark.
This notarized letter said: "I __(your name)__ do not, under any circumstances, give my consent to have my person or my vehicle searched when asked by the police for permission to be searched. When I'm a passenger in a vehicle, I strongly urge the driver to also retain their right to refuse to give their permission for a police search." You can have a lawyer friend look over this statement and edit it for your own purposes.
Making this simple statement in just this way has already worked for me on two occasions. All I did when the police asked if they could search my vehicle is inform them I had made this statement, it had been notarized and I'd sent it as a notice to the Dept. Motor Vehicles in my state. 

The police backed off; the vehicle I was in was "free to go."

Thursday, December 04, 2014


I think our culture of trying to "blame" someone is the culprit of why perfectionism is so rampant. Our culture has also become a culture of specialists, "the niche," the authorities. Generalists are out of style right now...(but I can look for evidence that's changing.) What do you think?

Anyone can blow off perfectionism by declaring, "I don't care!" (I've certainly had to surrender and semblance of perfect for extended periods of time!!)  But how to deal with it when you DO care about quality and you know you have time to make things better?

I've discovered that own desire for quality is an emotion of pride - without fear. It's the fear of the result not being good enough in some way that's the problem.

What does it for me is thinking about what's important for me personally. But I've learned some ways to decide where to draw the line on how much work on perfection is too much in various ways.

  • I try not to use the deadlines of the project to "get myself moving" so I don't have to run faster or more efficiently from having procrastinated. I'm deadline-driven, but I'm getting better and parsing out how much time I've really got left.
  •  I pay attention to how I'm doing what I"m doing, as I'm doing it. (This helps quality to happen by itself, so I make less mistakes by omission.)
  • For me, using a thinking skill helps. For instance, spelling out the factors (by making a list of plus, minuses and "interesting") helps me prioritize what is more important and helps me stick to not wasting my time on what is merely urgent but not important.
  • Sometimes there's a key site of applied effort which I've learned to search for ahead of time - where if I concentrate my efforts there, it acts like a kingpin of influence that has a ripple effect on the whole.
  • If I can, I practice it before the "big show." But sometimes the first time is my best effort. Whether I chose the practice or the "wing it" approach depends on if it's a "hard-wired skill" or a "integrated concert" of many integrated skills and factors.
  •  Maybe I get a chance to decide how much time I really have to improve on quality and I might be able to use the strategy of spreading that time I have to improve quality over the whole project.
  • Finally, I put the desire for perfectionism on cue, and then give the cue when it's more appropriate. In certain situations where I have decided it's appropriate, I just give myself permission to do something with the highest quality and take however much time I feel that the objective needs. Purely because I enjoy being absorbed in making something happen exactly the way I imagine or know it could be. I invest the practice, the dedication, and embrace the effect of long-term, gradual gain. What's the harm in that if I'm not hanging someone else up?

Anyway, just some of how I deal with perfectionism. What activates a desire for perfection for you? How have you managed to make peace with a desire for quality when you know you're going to be falling short?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Love of Camping

 I used to love camping more than anything. My love of being in beautiful places has always been expressed in where I chose to live. Do you lead a lifestyle that expresses itself in where you live?
Currently, I'm living in a beautiful place in Hawaii near a stream, under a roof in a "coffee shack." It's been around two years that I've been carrying my drinking and cooking water from a purified source and using ice in coolers for refrigeration. I have a two burner propane stove top that needs to be lit. My water for washing drips off the roof (fortunately, it's not hot water as it is in some places in Hawaii where the plumbing travels over lava rocks and heats up.) On the Big Island, you can pick your temperature by choosing where you live in altitude, and I'm 1450 ft. up from sea level. This means it never gets too cold and rarely gets too hot. Although I don't have hot water at home, I have been able to get regular hot showers at the huge local public pool, which isn't far away. My place is so remote, I don't even have an address. My friend quips it's "third world middle class" because movies and Internet are possible with the generator running. I probably have the lowest carbon footprint of anyone you know personally.

Spiderweb on the front lanai
Previous to this lifestyle, I lived in an RV while it was parked in a beautiful spot, but without movies and only library Internet. So this particular lifestyle has been a slight improvement. But it's been more expensive, mostly because I'm a half hour drive from a food store. I need a car because it's too far for me to walk straight uphill that is a few miles from where the bus stop is located. But I do enjoy the quarter mile "hike" to my shack from where I park my car by the road. The road to is too rough for anything but a four wheel drive vehicle. Keeping the grass short that protects the road from turning to mud is hot work.

Accepting this lifestyle hasn't been so foreign or unacceptable to me, given my previous love of camping. If I add the time up I've been doing some form of "camping," it appears that I've been living in an extended camping situation for over a decade.

Perhaps because of my current situation, it probably shouldn't be surprising that I don't go camping when I go away on vacation anymore...which is what I used to do every time I traveled anywhere. I think that I'm finally getting tired of camping. So now when I go away, I stay with friends in their houses for a little bit of "civilization" for a vacation from camping. When I come home, again I'm happy to be there, away from the B-flat hum of electricity - for awhile longer. Who would not want to come home to something like this?

Evening Rainbow


Thursday, October 16, 2014

For Your Own Good

As a lifestyle choice, I find the strategy of slowing down to be a productive strategy. I've gotten so much benefit from taking a bit more time to do whatever I'm about to do that I fully endorse going slower. Mainly allows me to consider the way I'm about to do it.

Except at my current pace, it seems that I'm slowed to the point of irritating productive, functional people. I've been accused of being passive-aggressively slow, which is not what I intend. A former friend of mine declared I've slowed to the point of becoming a "Walking Stop Sign."

I do feel a bit self-righteous when I'm driving exactly six miles over the speed limit and in Hawaii I will still hold up a line of cars behind me who want to go fifteen miles over the speed limit. I can feel the anger of those who are tail-gating me. Then we pass a cop car and they all fall back, obviously thankful that me driving slower just prevented them from getting a ticket for wanting to speed fifteen miles over the speed limit as they usually would be doing.

I used to feel self-righteous about changing the level that my culture doesn't want to touch each other too - almost to the point of "forcing" or "training" people to allow me to touch them and to invite being touched.

There were many other actions I did that violated people's cultural expectations about autonomy, independence, personal space and respect that I inadvertently challenge by my very nature of not being affected as others are by social constraints.  I've had to learn so much about body language to be able to deal with feeling rejected, isolated and misunderstood. For instance, being near-sighted and not comfortable with glasses or contacts, I tended to stand too close to people when talking, encouraging them to back away from me or flee during a conversation.

When I finally gave in and accepted that it was OK that people in my culture did not want to be touched, I think others lost out on the value I could offer them about the importance of being touched.

Most people didn't seem to want what I had to offer them in that manner anyway. It was only in the expression of friendships that people would tell me later that they had misunderstood my overtures of wanting to be their friend; once they understood being affectionate was how I treated my friends they were happy to count themselves a member of my club.

But I had to be almost manipulative in a teacherly sort of way to "train" people to allow me to touch them. At first I'd touch people only when leaving them - on the upper arm. I'd do it when we were parting to communicate that their touching me back was completely voluntary and not required. It seemed to help if people with whom I'd like to invite closer to being friends with me would see how I treated my friends. I did this by touching those who were already my friends in their presence. Then they could say, "See, this is how she treats people she knows so I need to expect her to do that with me."

I got to experience being on the other end of how I irritated people by pushing their comfort zones recently. I have a friend who doesn't have much experience in social mores. As an unfortunate result, others do not want to be around her because she makes them feel uncomfortable with social blunders. But they can't quite put their finger on what she does that makes them want to exclude her if asked. One of the things she does is to stare at people. She does it because she likes them and is interested in what they're doing, but staring is also how she pays attention to what they're saying. Having her do that to you can really becomes irritating in a strange way. It begins to make you wonder if she's staring at you for her own agenda while she is making own judgments about your actions that she is sure to catchyou doing because she is watching so intently.

I make people uncomfortable because I'm so observant, even if I don't stare. Once people realize you have turned your attention to them, it's a bit unnerving to them how much you can successfully notice that they do not realize they are revealing to you.

There's a strange ripple effect in mentioning things that aren't often discussed too. In my past the mother of my stepson gave me this little talk about how the people closest to children are the ones who are most likely to be sexually molesting them. She got it from the news, so I could have merely cast the mention of the subject off as a media fad. But as time went by, I couldn't help but take what she had said personally. Her paranoia about what was not happening resulted in her six year old son no longer getting to enjoy being read to while sitting in my lap, or hanging out with the family and friends on the couch draped over each other in a puppy-pile. It was as if his mother was, in a roundabout way, trying to accuse me personally of molesting her son by cautioning him not to trust the grown-ups he knew about an issue which he had no clue what it meant at the time. Her actions really made me angry, because she cautioned her son in such a general way without giving him the real information about what was objectionable about it. But it also made me realize how an accusation like she made can so easily become the same as a foregone conclusion.

So I decided to let sleeping dogs lie and stop trying to get people to touch each other more often, along with not touching her son. It was a sad day to have to give up some of the true affectionate pleasures of taking care of her kid. It made me want to leave the situation and stop offering what I'd been doing for the family, but I imagined at the time that what she was saying was a reasonable request that had to be respected at some point anyway in her son's upbringing.

I think my decision at that time was a mistake, in retrospect. I should have negotiated that time in her son's life to do without parental affection to be when he was older, when he could have understood sexuality and how it could be twisted.

All these points seem related to me because how they are "for your own good."

At what point does an opinion or belief in a value (such as the value of being appropriately affectionate) become a coercion or a sales technique or proselytizing?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Made a list of things I'd done in my life. Whatever came to mind for five minutes. Then asked myself "what was the most exciting thing about it? Why did I stop when I did? Doing that gave me a clue what my rewards were. Would you like to see that list?

To connect people together and see them create or discover something that didn’t exist before
To be around when discovery is happening – improvisation, performance; how communication and thinking can be like dancing and singing together.
To “save” what would have been wasted and make it functional again with small encouragements that cumulatively add up over time.
How to gradually sneak out of habitual traps that were gradually gotten into – it’s like magic but makes so much sense.
Presence of mind – wisdom – persistence are all rewards.
The ability to sleep anywhere – ( not sure if this is a skill or a reward!)
To feel a conduit of connection while tapping the unknown – while making art, the line flowing from my eye to my hand without me being in the way; music emerging from me without interference, invention and the absorption of curiosity surprising me as it bubbles out; effortlessness of motion while on a bike or in water…
I have an “other worldly” fascination – worlds of expertise that I can dip into by knowing someone and experiencing what they know first-hand, invented worlds like authors do in scifi, science worlds like the biology in a puddle, snorkeling in an underwater world, or just hitchhiking and getting into a stranger’s world. This gives me endless patience to listen to whatever people want to tell me because it’s feeding my fascination with how they are – what their own story is by describing their world.
I can see so clearly how things could be easier for people when they make it so hard for themselves and so I’m motivated to tip the balance a bit in their favor. I know I must respectively wait for them to ask for my help, but I sit impatiently waiting for them to get a clue of what I could do for them. Pretty much, they have no clue.
Best reward: a state of flow…effortlessness. A natural state that feels as if I just ate some sort of magic mushroom. Timelessness absorption where there is no ticking measurements; just complete and utter involvement.
Would you like to try this as an activity? Or perhaps you already know some of your own rewards  - why you do what you have done.....?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Aware Expectations

I was just a kid, excited about going on a trip. Because the logistics of going on a trip were beyond me and depended on many factors about which I knew nothing, the anticipated fun event didn't happen. Or course, I was crestfallen. 

Fortunately, I had very wise parents who took my childish disappointment very seriously. They apologized for giving me the idea that this exciting thing was going to happen. But they also made me realize that I had built up the expectation on my own, with very little encouragement from them. They hadn't committed the family was going to go on this trip, they had stated they were going to explore making a decision about it after they researched the details. The trip was going to happen eventually, but not when and how I had expected it.

They attributed me building up my expectations to how much I like to make up stories; making me see that I had created my own disappointment because I had a talent and a passion for storytelling. They helped me to realize that I couldn't blame them for being the cause of my distasteful disappointment. If fact, I came to understand that because I liked to make up stories and explanations for many things, that I couldn't blame anyone else for that talent in me. The nature of talent is that it is irresistible. Paradoxically enough - talent can be
 almost an obsessive curse.

But still, here I was, causing my own emotions, feeling bad and how was I going to deal with it? Surely this expectation that I'd built so carefully into a blissful state of excitement wasn't a negative thing?

Even if an adult promised me who had the ability to make these things happen, was it really in my best interests to expect it and possibly make myself feel bad if it didn't happen? I realized that, so many events and factors were out of my own knowledge and influence, things could go wrong for grownups too that were unexpected. It was possible for disappointment to happen to me at any time because of what I had packed with meaning by doing this expecting. How was I going to use my irresistible ability to tell stories to make me feel good instead of bad?

Fast forward to me being thirteen years old. I had met a girl who lived a few doors down from me during the summer and we had become best friends. Although we both felt no sexual attraction, both of us sorely needed companionship because we had been isolated loners, (undoubtedly myself more than her.)

We both loved concerts. Aside from spending every minute with each other, we worked toward attending concerts in a very practical way. Being a bit older than complete children, we were better at making arrangements ourselves to make it actually happen. We planned a strategy for getting the money to pay for the tickets, arranged a ride to the event by convincing other people to accompany us, got parental permissions, a place to stay afterward, etc.

Gleefully, we gave ourselves the license to plan out everything everyone was going to say and the situations where they were going to say it as if we were assembling a movie storyboard - scene by scene. But what we did with our ability to tell stories to build anticipation 
became more than a fascination or entertainment for us. Inadvertently, we used our skill at building expectations as a sort of spiritual koan, (even though we didn't know the meanings of those words at the time.) 

Here was the magic ingredient to making the building of expectation to be a positive thing rather than becoming inevitably disappointing when reality did not match our fantasies. The magic ingredient was to completely surrender whatever our expectations were as the event began to unfold in reality. Our expectations then worked to allow us to focus and pay attention to every detail that we were, in fact, experiencing. We were lucky in that, sometimes our real-time experience was better than what we had imagined. Of course, we were also partly motivated to allow a shift in our attention by knowing we were going to be discussing every detail later.
...Something else made it work like a charm. Somehow packing our excitement into such a focused expectation put energy behind our experience in ways we could not have known. Our awareness levels expanded far beyond our dreams to make the experience more than memorable. We shifted in our ability to be present and aware. It was better than any drug.
 It was our ability to tell stories, to expect in intricate detail and then completely toss away our own expectations (and polishing all of these as a talent) that had gotten us so far. 

Later we realized that any event could take on the characteristics of what later would be defined by behavior researchers as "flow" or "peak experience."  What we had done (and would do many times following) was similar to a koan. A koan is an unanswerable question given by a guru to a spiritual seeker to focus attention and intent. We had focused our skills (storytelling) with a big investment of our energy, (building expectation through exercising a talent) and then released the energy by giving up or surrendering our investment, (allowing a shift in attention.) What we got was a shift in our ability to pay attention (called "flow" or "peak experience") that worked far beyond any of our expectations.

So, now you have another example that you could use to solve problems of what to do with your own expectations  - by using it as a spiritual practice!  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Arranger Game

Do you have a creative project on the back burner, waiting for the right time to be born?

I do. Lots of them. But this is the one of mine that has been waiting the longest. I'm a little concerned for this baby, because it's been waiting so long to be born.

There's a reason it hasn't come out of the oven yet. I've taken it for a drive here and there, but it always seemed to have more potential. It's the most original and the most tricky to decide which form to put it into.

It's a music arranging game. Originally it was designed to make it easy for large groups of musicians of differing skill levels to play together. But it could have many other uses, now that I've seen its potential.

I'm thinking of working on this project now, to take it further. How shall I decide which direction should I go with it?

It's one of those inventions that are so original that it's tricky to form into a product.

It has some interesting features. You know how jazz or rap or "Island style" evolved as a form of music? It could be used to invent a genre of music because one outline could be infinitely varied.

You know how tricky it is for musicians to discuss how to arrange parts? It could be tailored to be used as a shorthand for bands to talk about music arrangement. 

You know how groups of people who play music get together to make some music? When they finally find a "groove," they have a hard time going anywhere else so their music ends up being a formless one-groove jam.This way of outlining could allow groups of people to play together and it would sound great!

 It will take a bit of effort on your part to check this out. You probably wouldn't be interested if you weren't already a musician or theater person. But I'm hoping you might see possibilities enough to make a suggestion about which way I might take this little project. Maybe you'd like to get involved?

Oh, no worries - take your time...

I'm thinking for starters, perhaps making it into a kit of terms that could go into a presentation, accessible for use at an open mike situation. Then I could introduce the idea to local musicians.

Where is my troupe?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Wolf Teacher

I have known a couple of wolves, 
and they were pretty socialized animals, 
but they also did have their own agenda, 
which might or might not include you 
as a human in their plans. 

The most striking difference between 
dogs and wolves was the wolves’ lack of 
being affected by what you thought of them. 
Dogs always care and want to know you are pleased with them 
– and adult wolves could pretty much care less what your needs
were. It's part of why wolves have self-respect. 

I have experienced exceptions to that lack of care. One of the 
wolves I knew I accepted the responsibility to take care of as 
a house sitter for six weeks while her people traveled. Of 

course I had been friends with the wolf, having met her 
previously. But I did not really appreciate how the wolf had 
accepted me into the pack as a “family” member when I began to 
take care of her. Ten days into taking care of the wolf, I got 
some very bad news that a former boyfriend of mine had 
committed suicide. I was on the phone for days helping my ex’s 
relatives find places to stay when they arrived from out of 
town because of a ten year relationship that had continued 
with his family, despite us breaking up the five years 
previous to his death. Of course, there were many cleanup 
details of sorting out the loose ends of an end of life 

The strange thing was, with the wolf and I having spent only 
ten days together, for three days following the news, that 
wolf did not leave my side when I was with her. I was both 
touched and shocked to have become adopted as a pack member by 
her so absolutely as was evidenced by this wolf’s actions. The 
wolf was a source of solace by matching my state of mind and 
then transitioning me out of it better than any ever-enthusiastic 
doe-eyed dog could have been. I’d never experienced anything 
like it then or since.

Strangely enough, this experience with the wolf made me understand 
how many advantages there were to tempering my blinding enthusiasm 
with a little friendly reserve. I began to show certain others with 
my actions their relative importance to me, and they responded. 
People in my community took me so much more intentionally (even 
when I wasn’t serious) as I made these changes in being aware of 
how I affected them. It was quite a rite of passage for me.

But maybe there was perhaps another thing going on entirely... 
Have you had experiences with a wolf?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tricky to Communicate

 It is so curious how common it is, when you are attracted to study something, what usually attracts you is so seldom the real thing. You can only find out how misguided and naive you were later, once you dedicate yourself to learning about your interest.

After reading a few books on better explaining and communication, I decided to apply its message to introducing Alexander Technique. 

 Most of the models that were suggested by the book use a "solve a problem" model. Although I recognize that the motivation to change and improve is often driven by a negative problem, it has always seemed to me to be a tawdry appeal. We are hit by so much advertising in our culture. Alexander Technique ends up sounding like snake oil if you list the many ways that it can be applied.

The advantages are a bit like learning to read, because the skill can be applied to so many interests. In our culture, reading is essential, but how would you convince a grownup who lived in a illiterate culture that they should invest the time to learn to read?

Of course, I ended up using Alexander Technique to solve many of my own problems. My "natural" voice mannerisms used to modulate up and down, which meant to prospective sign buyers that I was possibly unreliable so they didn't want to give me half the money up front to make them a sign. I was able to change my voice mannerisms with A.T. and it had other advantages for me in that it changed how others regarded me in their first impressions. To give you an idea of its many other applications, I've used it to walk without a congenital limp, to learn to juggle, to play nine-ball at a pool table, to prevent wrinkles on my face and to stop being petrified about public speaking.

But after thinking about all of these, I decided to select as the motive for my little storyboard the same reason that originally attracted me to become interested in it.

Flow - it's a term coined by this guy, (who's last name I can't spell)

Here's my story board...

 In my case, my desire to evoke FLOW that was what attracted me to Alexander Technique turned out to be the "real thing." It did not disappoint. My original motive came from a desire to find a way to evoke an elusive state of mind that made me very, very happy. Abraham Maslow seemed to have called it "peak experience."

If you're the sort of person who can imagine something from a sketch or an idea, what do you think of this story board plan? (You can click on the image to make it bigger if you have trouble seeing it at its original size.) 

Of course, from seeing a sketches of images on a story board, it can be hard to imagine what the sketches are indicating. The quality of the pictures that might be used to illustrate would influence the final result. For instance, here's a picture of a Balinese dance teacher with his arms guiding a younger dance student, his hands entwined and supporting.

But this next one shows the "embodied cognition" in the teacher's stance who has her hands on the torso to show the way she knows the younger girl in front of her could move.The teacher is emulating or modeling in the way she moves at the same time she is communicating it. That's part of what makes the Alexander Technique so unique. I racked my brain to find another example of this somewhere in the world, and this was the only thing I could come up with. But how many people have been to Bali and would have known about this method of communication?

Can you think of another example where the teacher uses this direct "showing" method of teaching?

What do you think of this style of presenting Alexander Technique?

(Also, I'd love to see the results of a story-board to illustrate or plan out what you'd like to communicate that you might have made.)

Saturday, November 09, 2013


When I was sixteen, I made an agreement with my mother to smile more often. Because of our bone structure, we have a mouth that turns down because our lower jaw is a bit small in relation to our skulls. This makes it look as if we're frowning or are being seriously judgmental when our face is at rest.

Not long before she died at fifty-four, my mom was starting to become upset about becoming older. She pointed out that her face was now sagging, making her down-turned resting face frown more noticeable. Her face looked so much more beautiful when she smiled anyway, so I suggested she learn to smile more often and she agreed that doing that would be a good idea. But she needed my help. To cue her to remember to smile, I began a habit of smiling at her - giving her an outright huge, toothy grin or just turning up the corners of my mouth so they didn't turn down. It turned out that smiling more often actually made me feel happier too, so I kept doing it. I realize now that it's an agreement I made with my mother long ago that still persists and connects me to being her daughter. Here is a picture of me at fifty-four with that slight smile next to my brother.

Smiling more often as a matter of course has had an unexpected effect on others...

Many years ago when I first came to Hawaii, I was invited to this birthday party for someone I didn't know, because I was connected to a band member of the party gal. Most of the people at the party were younger than me. They seemed to be talking about who they knew, how cool they were (or how afraid they were not so cool) and what clothes the others were wearing. They weren't particularly interested in having conversations that were about ideas, languages, relationships or values, which were my favorite subjects. So I spent my time playing with the kids and the household dogs, randomly smiling to recognize people passing by as I wandered around the party. They put up an open mike for musicians to share their original music, so for the birthday girl I sang the Bolinas version of an original "Happy Birthday" written by Ananda Gino Brady.

At the end of the night while driving home, my friend who had invited me said he didn't understand how I could be so completely misunderstood by strangers. When I asked him what he meant, he said someone had asked him if I was a special needs person. Evidently those twenty-somethings believed that if you were smiling too often, there had to be something seriously wrong with your sanity.

But wait! I have yet another story about this...

In San Francisco, people who are special needs adults go out together in a group. Along with them comes one or two workers who are paid to chaperone and generally make sure the group doesn't get into trouble.

I was standing at the corner waiting for a bus in S.F. when this sort of group joined me to also board the bus. People of all walks of life take the bus in San Francisco, because of the parking difficulties. I was heading for a music lesson, so I wasn't carrying a pack or purse.

All of us got on the bus together, and I took the only available seat next to one of the special needs people. We began to talk. I guess I encouraged rambunctious replies because their "handler" asked for quiet and to stay in their seats. I apologized and stated that it was my fault to have encouraged the intensity of response. After some time had passed, a metal water container made it out of the pack of one of the members of the special needs group and rolled two seats away back into the depths of the lurching bus. Since I knew all of them were barred against fetching it, I asked the person in the seat in back of me to please hand it forward so it could be returned to the owner. There was no response, so I got up and retrieved the item before it caused a problem.

In a short time, the correct stop came and the special needs group disembarked. I slid over to a window seat that was now unoccupied and glanced back to the woman behind me who had ignored my request previously to help retrieve the water bottle.

She had a red face to match her red hair. She gushed, "I'm so sorry that I assumed you were one of them."

"Yes," I agreed, attempting some humor. "It's embarrassing when you realize you've treated special people in special ways. I like to be especially smiley. Sometimes it makes people think I'm special."

"Well, the good kind of special then," she grinned. She nervously laughed with me.

We talked a bit more about how smiling affects people. I told her the story of my smiling agreement with my mom. She declared that maybe she would smile more often too.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013


Decades ago in my early forties, I was driving on my way home to Bolinas after dropping the guy I worked for off at a doctor appointment and where he was staying overnight. I hadn't eaten all day and had just picked up something to nibble on the way home. Stopped at a long, level traffic light line of cars at Tam Junction, I had taken my foot off the brake to kick off my slippers and open the container in the seat next to me. WHAM! The drunk pulling out of the liquor store parking lot had assumed that since my brake lights weren't on, my car was going 30 mph. He pushed my car into the car in front of me, causing me a whiplash injury.

I'd never been in this situation before. What happens is the insurance company wants to have their chiropractor look at the damage and access it. So I thought I'd stop doing Alexander Technique for three weeks before the assessment. My logic was if there was anything that was going to go wrong, I wanted to get paid for it. Big mistake!

A day after the appointment came and went, (when I really expected to get some help, but didn't,) I feel asleep after some circus-sex (I'll leave you to imagine what that means, OK?) with a towel underneath half my hip. I woke up with a hip sprain and sciatica. Ouch!

If you know anything about Alexander Technique, we believe that the head and neck relationship is key for every coordinated move in the body. Having a problem there and not using Alexander Technique to stop it, meant something likely to go wrong.

This sort of sprain wasn't the sort of thing you can use rest to recover from, because resting stiffens it. So every morning you must move to get some relief from pain. It takes about six to eight weeks minimum to recover. I wasn't. The way I was twisted when I learned to walk funny as a baby happened to feed into the likelihood of how the sprain had happened.
Because I knew Alexander Technique, I could mitigate staying in pain and move out of what was hurting me. But it didn't work to prevent the pain from returning, and I had no idea why. Later I learned that many women who are in their early forties gain mass in the bones of their hip area, so that may have been a factor.
Eventually, I did find out why healing wasn't happening. One thing I did discover is that going to a sauna and cold plunge helped. I was socializing in a public sauna, and a guy there said I didn't sound like most people who had chronic pain, so he thought maybe he could help me. He was a hypnotist counselor. I told him my story, (which included breaking up from a ten year + relationship, partly because of being injured - good riddance!) He said that he thought I was hanging onto something; for most people that was a recent breakup. I didn't think that was the case for me. He gave me some breathing exercises that I practiced on the long, windy drive home over the Fairfax-Bolinas back way home form the sauna.

Having spent about three hours at the sauna, I pulled over to shut my eyes for a bit on the way home, because it's not good to drive when you're about to fall asleep. I draped myself over my pile of laundry in the passenger seat next to me and had a nice snooze. When I woke up, all of my pain was gone!

I got out of the car and walked around a bit to think about what had happened. I felt around in my hip and back area with my hands to see what was going on that I hadn't been able to feel on the inside. There was some strange pulling on the inside of my pelvic bone that I hadn't noticed before, because of surrounding background tension. It turned out that many moons previously, I had unknowingly developed uterine fibroids, which caused my belly to pooch out on one side. Being vain, I'd trained myself to hold in the side of my abdomen to even out my appearance that nobody else probably noticed. That's when I put into place the habit of tensing my hip that was preventing me from recovering from this hip sprain. Of course, once I figured that out, I used Alexander Technique to quit that. In a little more than a month, (after being in chronic pain for a year and a half) I had an almost full recovery.

I learned a few things from the experience. From my past, already I knew what it was like to be limited and hurt and imagine that it was going to last my entire life with no solution. But this time many people had a well-meant solution that I could try. Now I understand how discouraging it will be to try and fail when it comes to chronic pain. Rather than blaming yourself, you tend to get stubborn; most of the time this leads to discouragement against trying anything new. This is why my rescuer said my attitude didn't resemble most people in chronic pain.
So - what was it that I was "holding onto" that I had been thinking about before I fell asleep? The last time I had a mysterious problem with my coordination, I stumbled on Alexander Technique...and it was a really amazing ride. Since I had gone through all that pain, I wanted another benefit on the other end of it like my roller-coaster ride with learning A.T. dammit!

Later I realized that I did get a benefit that I could pass onto others from my experience. It was in the form of a sort of "reset button" that interrupted my hip tension pattern that intermittently caused sciatic pain. It was based on the ideas of an osteopath named Jones who originated a technique called "Strain and Counter-strain." But that's another story...

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Real Natural

Do you have a claim to fame?

It's one of my standard fallback questions that I developed from my days of hitchhiking in the quest of becoming an entertaining conversationalist. If the person can say yes to this question, it never fails to yield an interesting tale about who they are and what has been important to them.

A former teacher of mine is someone who claims he's the inspiration for the character made famous by R. Crumb in the hippie comics era. In fact, he even changed his name legally to become Mr. Natural. This confounds those who have him fill out forms because his first name is Mr.  That's right - not Mister, but Mr. with a period.

But Mr. Natural as a real person has further claims to fame beyond his name and how he became famous for having assumed it. For instance, under his previous name, he personally fought and he won a case as that shaped landlord/tenant rights in San Francisco.

Natural has written a book about his own way of teaching music. It's a sort of reverse engineered jazz theory for beginners based on "do-re-mi..."  He and his business partner Angel have published a pretty easy-to-understand disambiguation of a college level music theory course called "Music Theory Decoded - Strictly by the Numbers". He's uploaded many group courses on music from classes he recorded and put on youtube for many instruments. He even invented a short-cut for composers to sketch their musical ideas before the song makes it into notation that's an improvement on what's known as "Nashville Notation."

 So - do you have a claim to fame?
If you don't yet, what would it be when your ship comes in?

Thursday, September 26, 2013


 I used to feel self-righteous about the level that my culture doesn't want to touch each other - almost to the point of "forcing" or "training" people to allow me to touch them and to invite being touched. I wrote a bit about that on my other more public blog

There were many other actions I did that violated people's cultural expectations about autonomy, independence, personal space and respect that I needed to become aware of and problem solve.  Lots of times, who I was trying to change showed me their sharp teeth and I had to learn not to take it personally. I've had to learn so much about body language to be able to deal with feeling rejected, isolated and misunderstood. For instance, being near-sighted and not comfortable with glasses or contacts, I tended to stand too close to people when talking, encouraging them to back away from me or flee during a conversation.

When I finally gave in and accepted that it was OK that people in my culture did not want to be touched, I think others lost out on the value I could offer them about the importance of being touched. But they didn't seem to want it.

It happened at the point where the mother of my stepson gave me this little talk about how the people closest to children are the ones who are most likely to be sexually molesting them. She got it from the news, so I could have merely cast it off as a fad. But I couldn't help but take what she had said personally. Because it resulted in her son no longer wanting to enjoy being read to while sitting in my lap, or hang out with the family and friends on the couch draped over each other. It was as if his mother was, in a roundabout way, trying to accuse me personally of molesting her six year old son by cautioning him not to trust people about an issue which he had no clue what it meant at the time. It really made me angry. But it also made me realize how an accusation like that is pretty much the same as a conviction. So I decided to let sleeping dogs lie and stop trying to get people to touch each other more often. I think my decision at that time was a mistake, in retrospect.

But I'm still on the fence whether it's a good thing to be "training" people to accept being touched - or to just accept them the way they are. In the last year, I have been adopted by a stray cat who doesn't like being picked up. But over time, he's learned to accept me doing that for him to hoist him up to where he gets fed, without scratching me. I reason that some day, I'm going to have to pick him up when he's upset and I don't want him to freak out and attack me. But it's really just that I like his fuzzy ass in my arms and I like enjoying his trust. It's a bit like that with my friends too.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Why Prove It?

What is the relationship between opinion, the interpretation of experience, conviction and Truth?

Somehow for others, empirical reasoning and personal observation seems to be at odds with subjective observation and "personal research." For me, personal research is the Truth - but of course, it's an operational truth that can always be updated.

So - what is "proof" of reasonable, operational truth?

Why - it's the sum total of your ability to integrate the conclusions and insights you've gathered and how you are making use of them. Sometimes it's the collection of assumptions you've decided to believe that other people have told you, you've read, and some of what you've decided to believe purely because it sounds like a good idea to you.

Perhaps this is why many people continue to imagine that the Alexander Technique stuff that I enjoy teaching is some form of hypnosis-type or alternative medicine. We in the field of Alexander Technique think of it as primarily an education in reason, self-observation and self-control that happens (as a by-product of enough practice,) to have a cumulative, preventative and therapeutic benefit over time.

F.M. Alexander "assembled" and furthered his work with empiricism and reason. Yet utilizes such "crazy" things as Direction and advocates Directing for being an effective and reasonable tool for change.

Then brain research comes out and declares that before we know we've made a decision, our body has already prepared itself...and we only have 1/64th of a second to veto what we've already prepared to do. We don't have the "will to do" that F. M. described as his mistaken assumption. We have "free won't" just as F.M. tried to describe the use of what he calls "inhibition." (That's another word for impulse control without inner conflict.) After this brain fact, suddenly Alexander-style Directing isn't so "crazy."

Well - most of us think in our language. (Actually, that's another way I differ from most people. I don't...think in words all the time. Sometimes, I think in images. When I think in words, they are randomly shifting phrases of words, poetically intermixed and remixed, depending on shifting priorities.)

Describing reality "seems to be" one of the irresistible assumptions inherent within the structure of English...and the nature of reality will differ depending on perception/attitude/conditioning.

Well - let's take the saying "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth."(For those in ESL, it's an expression implying a justification that revenge is justice.) But now it's been proven that a judgment of what is equal isn't going to be fair.
A scientist proved how perception misjudges intensity: the work of Daniel Wolpert. He says people hitting each other are going to escalate the payback until there is war. How the brain interprets relative force depends on if you're doing it to someone else or getting it done to you.

Apparently, relative force is just one perceptual misconception that got measured - there are many more that haven't been measured...yet. Here's another one:

I think the culprit is that English doesn't have a convenient way to indicate subjective experience. English has... "seems to be," "from my point of view" or "IMHO," but these are examples of qualifiers that attempt to serve this function of describing subjectivity.

When using those qualifiers, there's danger that a person's motive will too easily be misunderstood. Writers will be admonished by editors to come out and dare to make the declaration. Uncertainty is regarded by editors and readers as "timid." But, these qualifiers won't adequately convey the writer's motive of an open mind. What if the subjective attitude is not meant to be considered a rhetorical point delivered with uncertainty, self-effacement or with tongue-in-cheek? "From my point of view" is not necessarily another way of saying "I haven't taken a poll or conducted my research properly."
For me, using a subjective qualifier is a proud way of conservatively stating my own open uncertainty toward the possibility of discovery.
...and this attitude of mine certainly backfires sometimes!

Readers have reacted to my using language in this way as if I'm obligated to talk this way legally. Because otherwise I'm "making claims" that could be proved false and might be sued for making promises I can't keep.