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Thursday, September 28, 2006

What Attracted Me to Alexander Technique

I'm thinking back at what attracted me to Alexander Technique...a really loooong time ago, in 1976. Strangely enough, it wasn't to improve my terrible twisted posture, which was a very, very depressing sight.

I wasn't thinking about my posture when I got to know this guy as boyfriend material at 23 who was studying AT. I got to know him because I thought easy posture meant he could experience changes of consciousness. It's true he moved much lighter and easier than me. I can still remember how he would reach up to smooth away the crink in my forehead that I didn't realize I was doing to myself. For not having that line in my forehead at fifty, I feel gratitude toward him often.

What convinced me to do AT and made it fun was the attraction of being able to change my own consciousness. AT didn't use the coersion of will to affect change, but something else mysteriously indirect that made my analytic ego attachments go away and my sense of wholeness return. The all-points-awareness experiences were very exciting. Sometimes I'd have a creative flash of insight. My perceptual sensitivity woke up, along with the awareness of my body. My motives to keep learning were now driven by having a way to address a split I saw between my intention and how I mostly floundered to bring about change. Later, I realized my whole body was a lot happier too. I wasn't getting worse and more limited as I got older, but easier, freer. My body unwound, as did my worries.

As I applied the Alexander Technique to learning to sing and continued to ask questions, it gave me a significant insight about why I kept half my throat was closed. I knew that when I was a baby, I had a birth defect; my ear gristle grew unattached and got cropped off by rubber banding, (in the 1950's doctors thought this was preferable to holding down a squirming child and cutting it off.) This choice of treatment trained me as a baby to tense up the side of my neck - which I kept doing once trained. It affected how I learned to walk as a toddler because I unknowingly kept it tense. Everything was fine as a child, but all hell broke loose when my hips became one piece in my late teens at 17. No doctor could tell me why; I had to seek out a third opinion before I could even find a doctor in that era who would admit nobody knew why!

All this came clear when I talked to someone else who had the same banding-to-crop done to their ear when they were a baby and told me they had found it it was the cause of many back, neck and hip problems for people that showed up in their late teens. My tourqued posture actually stopped bloodflow to my femur at my knee and caused the bone to crumble - and surgery didn't help. I still had the limp at 23 until I began to study Alexander Technique. If I hadn't stumbled onto Alexander Technique, I have no doubt that by now I would have had to have my knees replaced before my forties!

I've assummed that what motivated me to continue learning AT, probably wouldn't motivate others, because my experience was so unique...but maybe that's an erroneous assumption.

Sometimes a person doesn't know what they have to gain from a course of action until they do it and find out for themselves what they could get from it. Especially when the course of action involves loss. When you are giving up something, you know what you are giving up, but what you may have to gain is only a promise that involves a conviction of faith. Often, you can't have both, because you can't go in two directions at once. I have experienced that leaping into the unknown is a complete willingness to go for broke.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Musical Emotions

I'm thinking about using the linguistics of music to reveal the assumptions of how you can put meaning into words. So much of what can be said become fused with the words you use to say it with. Music lets pure emotions be freed from whatever words that were used to describe feelings. The emotional experiences that music brings out can reveal how someone can use the sequences of what is presented for a certain emotional effect. Emotional experiences are filled with meaning only hinted at by words.

Steve Miller Band, Houston Astrodome floorIn a sense, it's a little like learning the skills for making a movie/a story affect people emotionally. In words, how can you present a sequence of what you choose to talk about, and how you talk about it to have certain emotional effects that you'd like the meaning to carry?

It's not something many people would imagine, but there are some people who already have made the connection that music is really another language, with its own syntax, etc. It helps to know how to play any musical instrument. Just like it helps to know two languages well so you can compare them to reveal their differences.

My instrument designer friend Bill Wesley says that everyone agrees on the qualities of music, so that's why he agrees that music is a language. People differ widely on whether they want to experience any particular quality or not that music can provide. There are many people who are very arrogant of which music is "real music." He says they are really only opinionated about whether they want to feel a certain way or not.

Once you start looking for these qualities of music, then you can begin to notice what they have in common with the way people use language.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Past Dialogue Conflicts

Someone has asked what creates the sense of a Dialogue group working together, as opposed to rude chaos? How can conflict lead to something?

What I've watched more often is the other extreme; that most people will not go into the rude and crude in a group situation until they feel somewhat comfortable with the other participants. The challenge is more often getting a group of people to reveal their core assumptions and how they came to be that way without feeling that they will be attacked. Of course, the first person to dare do this in a group who has only been talking 'theory' will be a sort of 'sacrificial lamb.'

Mostly what happens at first is people get comfortable to reveal their habits of talking. Talking habits are very automatic, because it's only the very unusual who are not merely paying attention to content rather than style, tone of voice, etc. These habits can include really irritating strategic or otherwise socially challenging actions. The person's motives and meanings that others in the group may often misinterpret in the light of these stylistic behaviors. Most people try to ignore these irritating mannerisms and to address the content of what the person is saying, but sometimes it gets mixed up and people do not know what they are reacting to or how they are coming to their unflattering conclusions of the person who is so irritating. It is separating out this misinterpreting of assumptions that is so interesting and dialogical - and also the way that people work out their assumptions about misunderstandings.

Mostly what makes a sense of connection happen for a group that I have been a part of is a commitment to return and to continue the relationship. For some people, this has to, at the start, be legislated into getting a commitment, such as being in a classroom, etc. because most people, or certain people, will shy away from all possible conflict. For others, the chance they may meet their next sweetie in Dialogue is enough to get them coming back.

In the psychology crowd, there can be sometimes a "tough love" ideal of the Ultimate Value of Honesty where people will want to spill their guts at any opportunity and get the group to be their therapy. We've also had many people who act as if their religion is Humblism; they seemed to be determined to obliterate any trace of Evil ego. Or with an academic crowd, some might get into the debate style poking and pointing out what is wrong or doesn't fit.

Generally, when a group sees these formats, multiple people comment on them by telling their motives to undo the hard effects of identifying with them. The elegant communicators will demonstrate examples that can go beyond either of them. What emerges are often very interesting ideals of how power can be appropriately used - something quite rare in our culture. People learn to not defend themselves when apparently attacked, but instead check and see what was really intended. If an attack was intended, then the answer in a group is, basically, 'We don't do that here, because we have identified it as a common trap that deadends.'

Before something like this happens, tempers or quick reactions could motivate a group to get into the thick of a fight with each other and sometimes polarize the room. In that sort of situation, it's always very, very interesting to watch how what creative ways come up with to deal with the offender(s.) Or if it's a group problem, what the group in general does in response.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Improvising Subjects in a Dialogue Group

Lots of beginning dialoguers have trouble with improvising a subject. It's something having to do with surrending how they are going to spend their time with no plan, no objective, no job, equal authority, and mostly people have never improvised a conversation in a group situation. The problem with using metaphors to inspire is that many people say they understand the example, but then it turns out they are not able to demonstrate the skills necessary to actually do what it is they say they understand.

If you like metaphors, how about this one: Imagine a group of people are teaching themselves conversationally how to speak a language. To do this, they would usually practice scripts to establish context about what are the appropriate situations to infer and interpret meaning from. So they establish so they know, not just what is being said, but the context of where and when words are happening.

In Dialogue, the group can create from scratch their own context of how meaning is assigned. To do this, they explore the meaning that comes up, so it happens gradually that meaning is assigned gradually as the similar light of recognition comes on in every participant. Those who come late to the group can't quite tell what is going on, but it just looks like something different is happening. Most of us would like the Dialogue activities to be transparent enough that someone would be able to participate if they can be observant enough to see what is happening, ie: for the Dialogue to be in English and not have to know special secrets to decipher it.

The group does this by being aware of "frames" of meaning, where the content changes in terms of what is beneath, above, aside or associated with the subject(s). So as everyone says something about what they think the subject is, the thread of meaning weaving through becomes obvious to some, is hidden from others, and goes off on tangents that never come back around for some. In the end, you'll have an experience of holding so many different points of view at once that it will spin your brain, because they all arrived at a different time.

Opening Conclusions About Fate

The assumptions of cause and effect have some crucial factors that would change "luck" and create "coincidence." What most people regard as "bad luck" in a brand of fate can be a functional superstition - which is sort of a pre-conclusion with a mystery means or function that self-selects to reinforce it's proof.

I've noticed that superstition is a sort of associative self-training process, where the person can't imagine how they caused the effect. So they just remember that when they did THIS, something else happened that they wanted, etc. Just try to walk by a trash can and not look in when yesterday you found money in it serendipidously.

In a social arena, the mystery means can be a cluelessness about what a person could possibly be doing that encourages others to treat them in a certain way. It's a disconnect between personal intent and how social events tend to continue once they are put into motion.

A social example of holding an unconsciously pained expression on your face will encourage manipluators to zero in on you. This may give you a belief that you have a fateful tendency to pick the wrong people to befriend who fatefully later turn out to be nasty.

Or, perhaps your desire to be attracted to people who "like to play the edge" or "enjoy fun" leads you astray without you realizing it, making it easier for you to impulsively go along with a bad idea because you have agreement. (One of the proven social factors is that a group can make a much worse drastic mistake than less people alone.) This disconnect can also occur compared to the way the world works - Nature doesn't care about you personally, and can kill you just the same if you're in the wrong place trying to play with it.

My other observation is about coincidence and recognizing opportunity. If someone has a schedule, they are less likely to notice unusual events that could be opportunties...because they can't deviate from their plans to check out these coincidental opportunities anyway.

That's why so many people are young, they have life-shaping adventures. Once a person opens up, it leaves room for unexpected things to happen. Possibilities for coincidental connections exist out in the world all the time, and most people walk blithely by them and never notice. Older people can't recognize as many spontaneously changing patterns because they've trained themselves to adapt and usually don't know how to undo things. So it usually takes time and significant personal insight to undo limitations and find the ways you're contributing to them that you're unaware of. For me, believability in the characters in a story or movie comes from watching this process.

I've found that by sharpening my attention and asking good virtual questions, I can open up a specific, desired opportunity for myself much quicker than most people. This makes me seem wildly resourceful, but it is what anyone can emulate by example. It's amazing to ask yourself whenever you have a moment to talk to a stranger, "How can I find what we might have to offer each other in the time we have now?"

If you don't recognize "a diamond in the rough" for what it could be, then it can never begin to be it's potential. You have to notice a "turn of fate" is happening long enough to grab it out of the mud and clean it off and use it. If you don't make yourself available, opportunities will pass you by.

The thing about evoking pattern recognition advantages is to do some strategic thinking beforehand. This thinking is often determined by motivation, so it's good to know your criteria. Obviously, desire needs to be coupled with awareness so you can have an opportunity. If you are asking the related and pertinent questions for yourself and tell others about what you're looking for, you're more likely to be able to recognize "fateful signs" when they pop out in front of you. If you don't, they won't happen. So - by putting yourself into a "flux" situation, (such as hitchiking, traveling, & the other environments where the wild card opportunities are,) you make it more likely that the opportunity you want can happen.

My point is that what conclusion someone comes to about their fate or coincidence is determined partly by motives, (the why) and also by when they are motivated to make a conclusion.

Don't forget the factor of the different ways that someone can culturally interpret meaning and come to a conclusion for themselves. For instance, when a person is in a bad way, they are more likely to feel cursed rather than after enough sleep, food, etc. It's often better to decide that the process isn't done yet and this is not the time to come to a conclusion - or to make a sort of working conclusion.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I Was An Artist First

I've been working on my holiday window website lately. I never remember how much work it is to update a website until I'm doing it. It's a good thing that I don't mind details, mostly. But it's nerve-wracking work, to get all of these details right or the site just doesn't register. Hope that I'm done soon.

This is a photo of me was taken while I was painting windows last winter. In order to complete the job that day, I had to tape up a tarp to keep the rain away from the window, and propped it up on my two ladders. It was quite a challenge, but I guess that's part of my ability to improvise and get the job done.

I used to really identify with the idea that I'm an artist. I don't so much anymore - I'm just someone who makes pictures for various purposes, and some people enjoy what I've made. Perhaps this has happened because I've given up a notion about being a "real" artist someday. I'm not so impressed with the gallery routine as a medium of getting my art out to people who want to experience it. Partly this has happened because I do not have anything to prove anymore about whether I can make art or not. I guess this means that I'm secure in my creative abilities. I don't feel as if I've "cheapened" myself by having subjects such as Christmas decorations or working as a sign painter.

Because I had been doing art for so long in the service of what others desired and needed me to do for them, I wondered if I had lost my own artistic direction. Did I ever have an artistic direction that was my own? While I was looking for this, I began drawing with no set ideas or plan, just to see what came out. It was very interesting what emerged. After thinking about why make are for myself, I decided that making my own art is similiar to channeling emotion. I think the other part of why I became not so interested in my own art is that I really used to be into artistically exploring the phenomena of shifting perception; in my work that came out in image manipulation. Pretty much the computer has satisfied me now in how I can shape and influence images.

As I continued to question myself, I began to understand why it was I never became a "real" artist who sold their work in a gallery. Turns out, I did not like to make art while alone, as artists are supposed to do in their own studios. I liked the environment of other people in a classroom situation to make art along-side me. So, I decided to take my drawing activities to a situation where people were talking, and see what came out.

I was very pleased with the results. Perhaps I'll enlarge one of them sometime and see how they look in color, etc. I still am more motivated to make the sort of art that is very public, such as murals, parade art or art on vehicles.

When I was living with a musician, he pointed out that I made more money at being an artist than he had ever made at being a musician. He thought it was because music is fleeting and performance oriented, (aside from the recording process.) Once someone makes a piece of art, this was a thing that could exist separate from the artist. People in this culture somehow have assigned more value to art than to music. There is this idea that musicians work purely for the joy of it; a musican is "playing" music. I'm not sure what the societal ideas are about the artist these days, but much are is bound up with advertising and selling. It seems an artist is more serious by nature. But I don't feel very serious drawing cartoons on a window! I just feel incredibly lucky to be doing so and be getting paid for the sum of my experience, skill and education.

Back to messing about with how my mbira can make such cool sounds!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

It's Thorny Studying Freedom By Yourself

People write to me and ask how they could learn Alexander Technique on their own. You can always learn some on your own, but it is much faster to use an Alexander teacher, or any teacher, for that matter. By working with the Alexander principles, you can improve your own ability to observe yourself. The going will be slow - so be patient and persistent with yourself because habits can be fast, tricky and insidious.

In addition to some of the other resources mentioned on the alextech list, I've got some resources on my website that might be useful to the two of you. In particular, see "ideas" about what some of the principles are and how they work may be of use.

Alexander Technique Simplified

Without a teacher, you may not be able to figure out what to do about what you notice about yourself - your situation if you haven't had any example of where to go to create a new possibility. Knowing that, you can experiment.

Generally, when working by yourself without a teacher, you want to avoid crafting more habits, (even if you think they are "better" ones.) Instead, just subtract what you can perceive you may be doing that could be unnecessary. These changes might involve moving, but try to detour adjusting yourself to where you think is a "good" place for your body to be. Instead let yourself move, allow or discover where you might want to go to move away from what you know you don't want. If you have a sucess, go back to the steps that got you there - rather than trying to recreate or re-live the success.

The other problem without a teacher is deciding on how you're going to measure success. Sometimes you can be doing better, but because of an inability to sense differences that might create an improvement, you get stuck. Principles of AT suggest a new possibility: Measure the results of your experimenting by asking yourself, "is what I just did easier?" The reason this question is best is because what is new and easier can feel a little strange when you have gotten used to overdoing. Since you want to reduce what is unnecessary, less and less overdoing is what you want, so you want to get ready for feeling odd and ask yourself if this sort of odd is easier.

For what to use for experimentation, use the tiniest preparations of movement, as what you do when you begin to lift your instrument to play or as you being to think about moving. Create a definite starting point. Learn to describe what is happening rather than to decide whether you "like" the results or not.

Let the activity, or a mirror, or a recording, or another perceptual cross reference tell you what you are really doing. Such as on the flute, the quality of the start of the sound or how the pads' sound as they go up and down, or the new angle, etc. Or in walking, the sound of your feet, notice where your eyes are in relation to your stomach, etc.

When I began to study Alexander Technique, I was working a very repetitive manufacturing job that I could only do for five hours a day before exhaustion made me stop. Taking a five minute break every hour by merely laying down semi-supine, (whether I needed it or not,) immediately improved my ability to work to seven or eight hours. So taking a regular five-minute break is something you can do right away that may help you. In fact, just moving directly from semi-supine into holding your flute or doing whatever activity you want to improve may give you some valuable information about how you don't have to curl yourself up. (For those who don't know, semi-supine means laying on your back with your knees up. Or you can lie with your feet supported on a chair while your back is a flat surface.)

Perhaps you both may also learn a bit from an encyclopedia article I wrote on Alexander Technique? on Wikipedia...
Take it easy!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Dialogue Group Changing Style

The San Rafael group is in the act of changing their style.

We've been a David Bohm group without control of who talks, how long they talk and whatever they want to talk about. Subjects have previously been improvised, and have changed at the whim of the talker.

It has come to the attention of the group that when there is no facility for providing for people to talk who aren't competitive or who are willing to "butt in" to have their say, those more retiring people and the valuable things they have to contribute are circumstantially excluded.

The owners of the Open Secret Bookstore in San Rafael have been the hosts of the time and place for about a decade now, and they have provided this wonderful space for free and advertised it on their newsletter of events. At this time, nobody who works at the bookstore attends Dialogue. So, this group does not have an expressed leader or a particular facilitator who is responsible for its existence, but a person does sends out an email reminder of the meeting once the group began to meet monthly.

Voting with your feet has always been an option in this group, because anyone may join or leave at any time. When new members have joined in the past, they have talked quite a bit at first. Evidently it's an usual experience in our culture to be listened to by a group. Newbies usually get much quieter after they have had the time to say what they want. It's always been a completely open group, and has dwindled to ten dedicated members or so from a group of thirty many years ago.

A number of speculations for why new people who attend do not come back has been put forth. Perhaps people who do not have a clue what the implied customs or rules hang back for some social reason. Or perhaps those people who attend who do not return are not competitive, have a different timing of what feels comfortable jumping in and talking, or are unfamiliar with public speaking skills or are intimidated in some way.

This newest experiment was supposedly designed for how to get the people who talk most of the time to allow the other people who don't speak up to do so. Exactly how to bring about this objective is what is in question right now for this group.

Our concensus rules so far are no hitting and no pissing on the floor. ;D

Many people in the group feel they have done the "no agenda, no leader" thing, and now they want to experiment with having a topic from the beginning that they stick to and explore. Wanting to have a topic doesn't seem to be in question and has been working pretty well.

There is no alternative Dialogue group in the area that we know about. We meet once a month. Our attempts to have people meet every two weeks at another location was successful for a short time, but then petered out from lack of interest.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Solutions for Talkers Taking Over

People have agreed in my San Rafael Dialogue group that they're trying to get people who have trouble talking to speak up. The people who talk often, they're trying to get them to talk for less time. We've tried some experiments in the last three Dialogues to address this.

It's a little paradoxical to do this by limiting how people are allowed to talk by declaring it isn't appropriate to talk about the past, tell stories or reiterate personal experience, but that's what the guys settled on. Considering the length of how the conclusive talkers are still able to continue to talk using this format of leaving out these talking styles, these ideas for a remedy are not working so well. It leaves people out who won't dare to transgress the rules. It's an insulting interruption that can be trotted out at any time to stop someone from talking.

Strict rules have been anthema to David Bohm style Dialogue. I actually prefer the story instead of the conclusion, (I'm also not the only dialoguer present who prefers this.) I'd rather hear the raw material of someone's story and have the experience as they tell it. Hearing a series of conclusions, with no idea how someone arrived at them, leaves little room for understanding any new or old processes of the person talking. The stories of other people have all the new information for me.

Why keep same experiment in repeated Dialogues when it's not working? Why don't we create another experiment? If the problem is certain people talking too long, why not people volunteer to talk less and declare it at the beginning of Dialogue - or some other such experiment?

I've got a suggestion; why don't we make it a policy for some period of time, say every fifteen minutes, that the people who have already spoken will agree to stop talking and allow those who have not spoken to say something, even if it's just a minute of silence. I'm sure the group can tolerate silence for three minutes if it's done every half hour or a minute of silence every fifteen minutes. But it's more likely that the people who haven't been talking will speak up.

In practice, we may need a way to stop people from continuing to talk, but we would want to allow them to finish what they're saying. Perhaps we could put our bell in the middle so anyone can ring it at a fifteen minute interval? When the bell rings, perhaps the person who is talking, when they finish, they can invite the other people who haven't said anything yet to comment, and declare a few minutes of silence from those who have already spoken. If it's done regularly, then it isn't targeting any particular person, but only providing something for the whole group.

So, let's try anything else. Let's try multiple possibilities. I'm sure we can come up with many, many experiments to address this challenge.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Enlightening Different Values

Just came back from my Dialogue group. While I've been gone, the group decided to do an "experiment" to censure what they defined as "long, personal stories." This isn't a large group, and the time constraint is an hour 45 min. Tonight attending were three women and six guys. They read some blurb at the beginning of the Dialogue stating what they wanted everyone to agree to. This experiment started three dialogues ago, with an undefined ending point.

The blurb says, among other things: "...We ask that people refrain from prolonged monologues, stories or reciting personal memoirs. Anyone can feel free to remind another of this, when necessary. ..."

I was willing to do this as an experiment, making my examples shorter, less personal, etc. in the spirit of the word "prolonged." I think it is the ultimate interruption to allow anyone to call someone else down while they are saying anything in order to stop them, rather after they have spoken. It's even more unfair that these new rules continue to stand in spite that "personal," "prolonged" etc. are being defined according to the whim of the multiple enforcers.

How can anyone dare to define for another what is "personal" and what is not? As far as I'm concerned, everything someone says is personal because everyone has a point of view, no matter how they dress it up and make it appear otherwise.

Evidently, these guys who made this rule want me to edit ANY story or example. They just want everyone to say their conclusions, without any examples. Anyone who asks for clarification or examples is "egging on" the transgressor.

I refuse to agree to edit all examples and stories from Dialogue. Sometimes I need the example of a story to know what I'm saying, and I can't find my point without articulating the illustration of it. I tell stories to work out what I want to say. Also, I also need other people's examples in a story form to know what they are saying. It's someone's raw experience that interests me, not their conclusions. If I have their account, I can have the experience vicariously myself and come to my own conclusions. Not being able to ask how someone got to their conclusion without "egging their transgressions on" is a tremendous loss for me.

The other part of the experiment, (which wasn't outlined in the statement they read at the beginning,) is that if we stray off the topic, someone reminds us to come back to it. Any explanation of how the tangent relates to the topic that I offered was rejected as mere justification. I don't know about this; if the conversation can't go anywhere but the topic, where can it go that is new?

We had been talking tonight about what happens when one social group gets invaded by another social group who has a different standard of how to show respect, etc. How do you enlighten each group with differing values without alienating them?

I told about in a past dialogue years before, two new people had shown up and got into an argument while the rest of us watched. Suddenly, with no plan uttered, the entire group began to talk to the person immediately next to them. This effectively brought the two newcomers back into allowing the rest of us to talk together when someone called the chaos to order. Someone asked me if this had been prearranged and I said, no, it happened spontaneously.

Then I was accused of the no-no of telling a story from the past by someone who prefers to interrupt me quite often. Before I could get to my point, which was why are we talking about social changes we can't easily influence, when we could talk about what is happening here with this experiment.

So, how long is too long of a story? Does the word "prolonged" only apply to monologues and not to the word 'stories' that follows it? Why should I accept the censurer's standard that stories are not allowed or my story is too long? And since this was a story that was not personal or prolonged, then why is it not allowed? When does the personal become the universal? Why should I accept someone else's complaint that my story is too personal for them?

By making a little blurb, these people have said they want me to exclude myself if I don't agree with these rules. They want me to recognize their right to enforce these rules. I don't and I won't. Perhaps I should write up my own little blurb on a piece of paper that I read immediately after their little blurb? I think the absolute quality of any rule enforced during Dialogue is unfair. In fact, I care quite a bit that this rule exists in such an absolute form. A rule like this is not David Bohm style Dialogue, no matter what it's justification was to have been put in place. I'm going to continue to come to Dialogue to say that.

I was very miffed. At one point, I told the group to fuck their new rules, and stomped out and left for awhile.

Later I came back. I got to say that since we're in control of what happens here, let's talk about that instead of some vast social commentary about human nature. How do we settle a dispute when two different groups of people want to spend dialogue time in a different way? This group starts with saying they'd like less long and personal story-telling, and it escalates in a big hurry to no stories of any type, at any time. Their reaction seemed a little like the end of a marriage, where the most tiny display of a certain sickening character flaw is cause for divorce.

We talked about this some. The verdict is still out, there didn't seem to be any concensus. One of the members screamed, "No should anything!"

Next time this blurb they have made is read - I'm going to ask, "What if I don't agree with who declares the standards of what is prolonged? So what is the socially acceptable way for me to disagree with that person's standards? To include everyone, these standards of what constitutes "prolonged" to be set wider than no stories allowed, with an expressed time limit of, say, stories under a minute or two are OK but stories over five minutes aren't, for instance. The clock stops being counted when someone else talks. If someone else asks for clarification of meaning, then the time is then applied to the time of the questioner and not the person who is clarifying.

I think we just need more people in Dialogue so a few can't determine rules because there will be enough people who always disagree. I love the chaos, but I guess many people find it irritating and want to do something to "fix" it. I'm sure we can come up with other strategies that work better to invite the participation of others and invite pauses from the people who talk easily, other than the restriction of a certain style of communicating.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Qualities of Attention

Part of what you are practicing with learning Alexander Technique is a new way of using your attention and thinking. If you remember back, it was a little overwhelming when you first learned to blow a now-favorite musical instrument or when you learned to drive a car. As you practice, new ways become much easier to sustain, no matter how strange it felt when you began.

write down your wishes and leave them hereMost people favor a certain way of using their attention and exaggerate it because it is the only attention style they know. There are many variations on applying attention. Perhaps now your attention works somewhat like a searchlight or field glasses - whatever you direct your attention to takes up all the capacity you have. If that were the case, a great deal of effort would be required to redirect this kind of all-absorbing attention. The same would be true of having a butterfly-like attention span of only a few moments. Your ability to appropriate the quality of your attention is stuck - no matter what the pattern it's stuck in.

The brand of attention that the use of AT cultivates could be described as a widening of the field of what is going on at one time; a multi-tasking ability. You also learn to shift your attention lightly, easily and precisely. These are qualities that most people find unusual.

Secretly, there are also more effective and strategic moments for when to apply the process of AT rather than just generally whenever you can remember to do it. Some people find that a little thought to making what you're doing easier is best applied before intending to act. Try experimenting as you start moving and during pauses as you continue doing the action. The preventive strategy behind this works because once a habit starts and assumes full control, it is more difficult to stop it. So the way you start what you are doing determines how you are able to continue doing it.

Monday, September 04, 2006

State of Grace

I guess it's human nature to have a drive to change your consciousness. After I experienced a consciousness shift without drugs, I wanted to be inside of this state all the time. As a teen, it was pretty quickly that I noticed the paradoxes involved in trying to get to any particular state of awareness.

What seems to jog a change in consciousness to happen for me is a sudden change in perception - the change can be very slight. I believe that this is why AT jogs me into this state so easily, but not every time or in every instance. It's just that I suddenly notice I am there again, always new, but strangely familiar - as in an absence of habit, like AT can sometimes reveal and make unfamiliarity stick for a longer and longer moments. If I would go do something with my habits, the state of grace would go away.

For me, it's as if the state itself is always waiting for me to notice it, and I am merely too distracted for it to come to me, like it's a lover who has always loved me and I've forgotten he's there because the love is as natural as breathing.

Something about rain or the sound of water still makes me susceptible to my awareness suddenly opening up to perceive what has always been there. A refrigerator suddenly stopping its motor can do it. Suddenly noticing the steam curling up from a cup of tea. Last night at midnight I was socializing with friends by a fire, and my consciousness shifted once more - my ear suddenly opened up! I did not even notice that my hearing had been closed down. It was the same thing that happens when your ears pop from a change in altitude. But it was so much more than that. Becoming so aware suddenly after my ears popped put almost an auditory shine on each sound.

One time I had my eyes dilated, and what happened for me afterward was absolutely psychedelic for quite some time! It's sometimes quite laughingly funny and also weirdly funny how and when these little times occur. To sustain them it takes being able to completely suspend for longer and longer times. To just be happy to think less; tie the thought to the act it is for and leave the rest alone quite purposefully.

I imagine that is how zazen works, to quiet your thinking, direct your thoughts to pause for moments and then stop for a longer moments. I think that making music also has this effect, as it seemed to happen for me as I began to internalize rhythm; then I
began to internalize silence for longer and longer rhythm patterns. It seemed to me that rhythm patterns can have such a long repetition durations that nobody can hear them twice...

Other times a surprise can trigger this opening up - such as the surprise of beauty, gratitude, an exquisiteness of awe or discovery, or just plain old curiosity. Absorption is another quality that can help the state to happen. I've suddenly experienced epiphany while playing pool. I suddenly could not miss any shot I tried, because I had already seen where the balls would go as if I was some sort of fortune teller or master programmer of a billiard video game!

The important part is that I can only watch for this state of grace, and pay attention some more, and more, and not be upset that it hasn't come to me if it isn't happening. Because being upset hides it, being analytical hides it, most other states that I can be in, they all hide its quality too. It seems to be the absence of all qualities.

I've learned that sooner or later this state of grace will come to be again, like someone's name I've forgotten, a familiar smell triggering a charming memory, or a certain sense of deja vu.

I'm not sure why this is the way it is for me, but there you go.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

How Can I Accept There Will Always Be War?

I have often wondered if a very personal division of the self cannot help but reflect an internal war. There was a time when I wondered if everyone practiced Alexander Technique, which is a discipline that helps heal the splits in those who practice it, would there would have been no war in some situations? Because AT teaches a person to insert a pause of self-control over their knee-jerk reactive assumptions - couldn't that have an effect on the world for peace? But if everyone did any one of a number of things differently, there would not have been a war.

Now that I have checked out my hypothesis, I have had enough proof to surmise that Alexander Technique doesn't have any automatic prescriptive ideals that indoctrinate the learner. As far as I can tell, the only value judgment that Alexander teachers are providing is the benefit of effortless. Through the study of that, you'll find out how much you waste your energy, and learn to redirect it where you want to spend it. However, where and why you do want to channel your energy is entirely up to you.

An example from historic culture is the Samurai; they were very precise at studying and channeling the efficient use of their energy toward defense and war.

My opinion also comes from getting to know personally almost everyone I could who I noticed had Alexandrian natural good use through the course of my adult life. Some were ethical, sane people, capable of amazing compassion, ...and some were not. Some were really mentally twisted far over on the other end of the scale. Seems that a person can still have excellent Alexandrian "use," and also still have some conflict inside themselves that they haven't yet figured out which could mean...anything.

People can also still misinterpret external situations to require defending themselves, no matter how well their usual "sane" intepretation of other stimulus works. It's especially rampant when you make someone responsible for other people, because someone can so easily second-guess the risk of what it might cost other people if they didn't act - or what other people would require them to do in service.

This seems to be a common "what if" that many people have about their favorite enthusiam, thinking it's so good for everything and everyone. People have to find out for themselves, but how else will they know if they don't hear your enthusiasm? All you can do is hold the thing up, show them how it works and see if they can recognize that it could be good for them.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

More on How To Pick Their Brains

I would like to know more about asking questions to find out information from people you don't know about a how-to skill that I need to know about. How do I interview these nice strangers I call up who have a little time to tell me what I need to know?

I've worked at developing the idea of using the phone book to call up person after person who was doing the thing I wanted to learn more about. I asked each person who seemed to have time to talk with me a couple of questions at at a time, then called the next person and asked them the next few questions. By the time I'd talked to six people, I knew how to do the thing that I wanted to learn. I also had someone to call up for advice when I ran into a snag.

First, try to establish some sort of framework for yourself by being able to ask your question using the proper terminology. All questions are stupid, unless the question is one the asker already knows the answer to. All questions will be rhetorical to the person who already knows the answers. Questions are combative when they have a certain emotional result in mind, for instance, something asked in order to irritate the person and get them to "dance." (This could be an innocent combative irritation, like a five year old who keeps saying "Why?" in case something else interesting will occur.) In some people's eyes, some "combative" questions challenge the authority of the answerer. An example of this is in a debate forum where the questions are deliberately designed to logically trap the answerer to contradict themselves, therefore supposedly proving themselves wrong.

I think one of the more effective strategies to asking effective questions is to admit one of your own assumptions and how it did not match what you expected to happen. This may come from observing and questioning the topic until it tells you about one of its assumptions beforehand. Changing or challenging one of those assumptions often happens for beginners by mistake; making mistakes will reveal even more specifics to ask questions about.

Most people are trained by their education to spot "what is wrong," or "conflicting results" and to ignore what is "normal" or to try to preserve normalcy at all costs. Your job if you can watch someone doing something you want to learn is to observe what is special about how they make the job or activity effortless and problem-free. Sometimes you can ask just that question and get some very useful replies from a good teacher - but sometimes it's up to you to put this together for yourself.

It's very difficult to influence crucial differences when you can't perceive that they exist. It's a tricky job to uncover what we are in the act of taking for granted - but that's a gold mine for learning!