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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Jugglers and Alexander Technique

Since I'm a juggler, and I've taught juggling, and been to many juggling conventions teaching Alexander Technique to jugglers who were much better jugglers than I will ever be, I wanted to say a few things about what I observed in people who can juggle and who try to be better jugglers.

Juggling and musicianship are obvious proofs that someone may be successful at an unbelievable high level of skill in spite of their personal self-imposed limitations. I believe that following a means of practicing that results in continuing improvement is an example of "good use," merely because it is effective.

First off, most people who do not juggle have no idea how much jugglers practice to perform successfully, just as people do not realize how much it is necessary for musicians to practice.

Practicing itself will teach quite a bit of what constitutes "constructive control". The way that a person practices will determine if they continue to get better or if they "plateau" or practice toward diminishing returns. Most jugglers quickly lose their progress if they stop practicing some of what they used to be able to do. Whereas those with natural "good use" seem to keep the memory of having learned whatever they used to be able to do much easier and longer.

Most jugglers leave out 'conscious' (The Alexander Technique definition of creative constructive conscious control) from their practice, and merely instill their routines into their 'body learning'; mostly because jugglers assume that they can learn faster by rote - or that learning by rote is the only way to excellence. Jugglers who overcome their bad use do it through sheer willpower of more and more practice, in spite of which ever "bad" posture they must overcome.

Check out this video of a juggler who we think has succeeded in spite of his limitations:
Chris Bliss
now compare him to this other juggler, Greg Kennedy: Greg, juggling easier
and here...

Essentially, most jugglers do not know exactly how they can juggle - which is proven in the classic ways they teach beginners to juggle. This common method excludes those people who are not talented with some degree of natural good use and the luck of having had accurate example and instruction from their parents on how to easily toss a ball.

I've explained some of these mystery factors of juggling for those who were not so lucky from my experiences teaching over three thousand people to juggle. You can see an example of the unusual way I have taught people in these pages:short version
For those who really want to learn to juggle, the thorough version: thorough version

If you read the instructions in the first link, you'll see how Chris Bliss has retained some of the assumptions it addresses and succeeded in spite of them. However, Chris Bliss may be "hamming it up" by imitating the common problems of beginners, such as staring & keeping ones eyes on the ball - we don't really know. We do know that the most dangerous theatrical high wire act in the business is the one where the clown up high repeatedly 'fakes' falling off the wire and saves himself at the last moment again and again.

Many jugglers rarely learn anything new, because they will just repeat what they know well to make it better and keep it up to snuff. As an accomplished juggler learns to do something, they then immediately learn to break the habit they previously trained. That's what makes them a better juggler, that they continue to learn. Usually there is no instruction in "how" to actually do these things - only dropping and dropping until they find some way to do it without dropping.

A few strategies do exist among jugglers; one is to attempt things that you believe are not possible for you, then to return to what you do know - the effect is, it makes what you do know completely reliable and easy. Of course, there are many of these learning tricks among certain jugglers that come forward in juggling conventions, but there is no codified pedagogy. I would speculate that those who have what is known by Alexander Technique as having "good use" have no idea how or why they are successful. Because of this, they are lousy teachers to people who have the problems that Alexander Technique can help with.

A juggler who has had some success but has not yet completely learned a new trick calls it, "being able to flash." This means they can sort of do the new trick but they cannot sustain it reliably. I could put my AT trained hands on someone in this situation and suddenly, they would sustain the new pattern... Some were even able to retain this sudden insight. Particularly it was interesting when I was assigned to "launch" people who were learning to ride a unicycle who already knew how to juggle and were trying to do the two actions together.

These jugglers did not know what to make of how that would happen when I would help them -other people who launched them did not have the same effect. Somehow, the people I knew assigned it's operation to making sexual attraction jokes because touch seemed to be required. ;o)

Goes to show you what people will imagine when they don't know why something works the way it does.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Why Reveal Your Own Motives?

My life has been the answer to this virtual question that keeps coming up for me. I hope that there must be a way to suspend judgment and act without avoiding an emotional commitment to having a point of view. This is sort of a mouthful that might not make sense to someone reading, so I'm going to explain it further. Essentially I keep asking, why do anything or say anything? How do my actions mean what I want them to mean?

At first, I decided that perhaps I needed to assume a point of view in order to suspend it. I thought about this quite a bit, and decided that assumming a reason to do things is not commiting to a conclusion; it most often comes from my motives for wanting to help-contribute, create-discover, belong-bond or play. Also it comes from my natural ability to observe and see connections and patterns and use my brain. My motives to do things were most often one or a composite of many of these. The reason it was a point of being misunderstood was often that the percentages of the mixture of them were often tricky to assign in a hierarchy to make people respond accordingly.

I also constantly questioned the potential value of what I was about to say - or refrain from saying, in many cases. I wished I would speak up more often, and berated myself when I did. But I didn't do it from an uncertainty about myself, I did it from an uncertainty about how others might react to what I might say - because I felt so often misunderstood.

What stopped me from talking or acting came from my doubt whether I would be believed in the spirit of what I was offering. I would think, "why talk, I'll just create endless misunderstandings." It probably happened because my beginning skills at presenting my ideas/emotions were lacking, except perhaps in my sense of beauty via making art.

If I dared to say what my motives were, I had even my own doubts about being believed - like pearls before swine, people would use it to manipulate me if they knew about me. People so often reacted as if how or what I said was designed to deceive or worse, because this is what they would think of to do with such private information about a person. This distressed me. Whereas if I painted a beautiful picture, everyone could agree it was positively beautiful and I even won awards and money because of my art.

Many people around me berated me for thinking about ideas, for being able to sense what others missed, for having a quixotic sense of emotional justice. People said I "think too much." It took me a long time to realize that most people aren't affected the way I am by experiences. I'm a great deal more sensitive than many people, it seems. Or more sensitive and more willing to express myself in hopes of finding more playmates. Hoping, "God makes 'em, and they find each other" - Neil Schiemann.

As a kid I also had this incredibly sceptical look on my face because my bullshit detector kept going off around grownups, which probably contributed to being treated as if I was lying by them. As I got older, the culture changed, and my point of view became more in style. Somehow I learned enough to be a much better communicator for the tipping point to occur. Now I do not have the trouble I used to have being misunderstood. If people try to hurt me intentionally, I am no longer vulnerable because of a reluctance to set fair boundaries. I used to believe that love should be unconditional. Now I do not mind putting forward exactly the justice I think should be fair.

I still have some mismatch going on in this area of self-presentation, so that the things that I value the most and have found to be the most useful in my life are the very things that I have the most trouble 'marketing.' Communication of content is in a sense, marketing it. I feel that so much marketing is a hyperbole deception of lies justified by greed. I feel as if I'm telling the truth, then at the same time I sort of switch places with the point of view of the other person. There I am imagining that they are wondering how much of what I'm saying is a lie and is designed to get them to give me money. All this brings my own needs into question; and I do not need much so I am most often willing to sacrifice for others. Deep down I act as if I think what is most valuable is free, which is totally an impractical conviction to hold in my culture. I'm afraid that people value their education and services that I can provide in proportion to what it costs them.

So I've been experimenting with declaring my motives. I seem to find some understanding from certain people who have become my friends and admirers, although it continues to be a difficult thing to dare to continue doing. I want to thank some of you for being some of those people I know who will think deeply and express it honestly to me.

Shape Shifting As A Talent

Put me in a group of people larger than five or six, and I would flash in and out of a number of different people's points of view so rapidly that it could make my head spin. I couldn't say a word. Gradually I realized that this "talent" for shape-shifting was a means to establish rapport - an essential part of my ability for sympathetic empathy. It was such a strong talent that I would tend to use it in ways that were inappropriate. Eventually I was able to stop it and start it at will, with practice. I didn't have to lose myself within this capacity and become wordless, which was a concern of mine at first.

Most importantly, this talent of mine didn't need to have anything to do with self-judgment. In fact, it worked best when I suspended any self-reference at all. I still sometimes scare people with how well this talent of mine can work to second-guess their needs. Especially if I just did what they wished I would do without being told. I've been known to show up like a psychic Angel to help them in their time of need, just as they assummed that they shouldn't or couldn't call on anyone.

If I was using that talent to be imagining a judgment of myself that was coming from someone else, it was purely a self-absorbed thing to do; I realized that I could just ask them if I wanted to know what they thought of me. I didn't have to second-guess what they thought of how I was doing as I went along, trying to read their mind and their body language. This is why I would become wordless in a crowd.

So there was a time when I asked everyone how I was doing, how I appeared to them, what they thought of me, etc. I did this to put to rest this fear I had that I appeared to others to be lying because I could surrender my own self-interest and empathize with so many other people's priorities. Asking these questions of others about what they thought of me made me realize that most people are very much more self-absorbed than I imagined. Not having a sense of my own point of view was, in a way, not a brand of never gaining my own sense of self, but a skill that resulted in actions that made me and others happy. It was such a pleasurable act of being able to imagine successfully that I could be inside of everyone else's point of view as if I were them. This "Shape-shifting" was a "talent," not a disadvantage in many situations such as teaching. But now I more often will ask if it's OK if I use this ability on behalf of someone. The ability to second guess what someone wants you to do has been called "Co-dependant." It was interesting determining for myself what is "co-dependant" behavior and what is kindness.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Seeing Order in Chaos

We notice order by giving attention to chaos, without leaving it — by staying with it, laying with it, as long as it takes, until a new order emerges. Regina Bensch-Coe

Yes, seems that creativity is involved, and also patience. As an example of this, I'm reminded of the my childhood fascination with listening to a repeating skip in an old recording of my mother's voice on a phonograph record as it had run out at the end. She had been saying a partial phrase that was repeated by the loop. As I listened, my ear transferred the emphasis to another syllable in the phrase, and suddenly, I could hear her saying a completely different meaning. The most amazing thing was, that as I transferred my attention to a different sound in the sequence, it changed again - and even a third time! Later I read something about this phenomena, (which I'm sure has a term but I do not remember what it had been named. Anybody here know what that's called?) Evidently, the younger a person is, the more variations of meaning they can hear in the tape loop of a human voice.
what do you notice here?
Once had some roommates who encouraged many of their musical cohorts to come over every day and play at our house. This led me one day to stop as I came out of the bathroom. There, and only there, I could hear the sound of one person practicing in the bedroom equally with the other two people who were playing in the front room. I stood there for quite a long time listening for the commonalities between the two entirely different things going on, fascinated by my knowledge that they couldn't hear each other and yet I could hear their "accidental" correlations. So, in my case the "how" was to notice that something interesting could be going on.

I'm also reminded how a movie scene will pick and choose what scenes are relevant to the storyline. There are many running "storylines" in my long term curiousity about what may happen far apart time time, but are related as I regard their inter-relatedness over very long periods of time. So, I would also say that in making order out of chaos, sometimes you must compensate for time of arrival for making these seemingly unrelated correlations of order from what appears to be chaotic happenstance.

There must be other factors too... any thoughts?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Why Teacherly?

I'm wondering why the culture thinks of me as teacherly; or why I have learned to somehow use the language in that way to give people the idea I'm trying to teach when I'm talking. I mean, I do have some Alexander Technique students sometimes - but that's more a process of coaching self-observation rather than a process of disseminating information as most teachers do.

It is in the assumptions where all the meat of meaning is for me. So going over what the assumptions are can make me sound as if I'm insulting someone's ability to see the obvious...but I'm sort of making a list to see if we can spot an assumption that we could change. Other people don't get my intent, so I've learned to spell it out before I do it. Then the others can play too. Othewise if people do not know what is going on, they tend to assign some negative motive to what I'm doing - which is how I regard the "teacherly-ness." It's not that it's negative, but it's a role to describe some sort of authority thing that is going on.

I know I have a tendency to say things to see how words sound after they come out of my mouth. I try out making a statement about something to see how the rest of me reacts. This is part of what makes me sometimes sound so full of it that my eyes are brown, because I'll make a statement as if I know what I'm talking about when I know absolutely nothing. I'll narrate myself while I'm in the act. Sometimes that's quite funny, in a self-deprecating way.

I seem to want to offer the benefit of my observations - but really, it's mostly that I want to tell what I have observed so far because I want to "trade notes" on certain topics with others. I have these many topics of ongoing investigation that are extremely open-ended; so when someone mentions something about them, my ears prick up. I guess trotting out what I know about something so far isn't the way to evoke the responses I want; but by doing that, I have so often catapulted the conversation onto deeper levels. So I keep doing it - at the risk of sounding as if I'm an authority - and I try to do damage control when I see what I don't want happening.

I hate being tagged as an authority when all I'm doing is putting whatever I have observed so far into words. On the other hand, I hate not being in a position where what I have to offer is not valued. I spend much of my time establishing rapport - and to be in rapport means you don't get respect in this culture, which is a shame. It seems you can only have respect or you can have intimate connection. "Familiarity Breeds Contempt" it seems, and that is a shame.

I really love and respect those people who I think of as unappreciated Pearls. I admire people who reject all presentation skills and go toward content. But in this day and age, if you want to be in the position of offering what you know, you almost have to work on how you're presenting it, otherwise it goes completely unnoticed. Which makes me wonder - is anyone reading this blog?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

On Identity

How can people get past the programming of culture that they are a separate individuality and why would they want to do that?

I find the once you have an identity, it's easier to give it up. That's the value of identity for me. I regard identity is a control issue. Courts define identity so they can take away these "granted advantages" (of a driver's license, for instance.) Nowadays a judge/court will suspend your license for punishments that are completely unrelated to your ability to drive a car safely, for instance. This way authorities have power over you to get you to give them money and behave correctly as defined by societal law. Of course, it still doesn't work in all cases, it just makes some people further out of control of their lives who have an inability to deal with bureaucracy.

I've often said that is something you should get training in high school - how to deal with bureaucracy. That would be an interesting class to design.

If I am just there in the undifferentiated state of not having an identity, my actions and experience of the world is all so undefined and amorphous that I cannot know what actions are influencing what results. Things just happen and there is no ability to tell the cause and effect, so there is no way to quiet myself.

So identity to me is defining your own sense of what affects are your responsibility and what effects belong to others. That's why I believe that everyone should live alone for a little while - so they can see exactly what their own affects are on their environment. I think the idea is once a person has been "programmed" by their culture to have an identity, people can sort of quiet their actions and gain the ability to put action aside and find out what they do that has a result and what does not. Really, I have no idea if that's true or not. People seem so chaotic and uncontrolled; or so controlled by the uncontrollable emotions and by others. By comparison, I have usually had the ability to decide to not react. But this seems to be an ability many people never learn.

There are many ways of gaining an identity - people can use one of the ways of directing attention and manifesting a formerly merged and unidentified expression of themselves by using an action, a medium, an expression, or any action taken to the level of artistic expression. People can follow the culture's definition of individuality. One of my faves is going on walk-about. Guess I had to figure out my own ideas about a rite of passage into adulthood that meant something to me.

I'm thinking that not having so much of an identity is much more common than you imagine and that our culture holds it up to be something valuable that it is not - it's just what it is, some people's identity is undifferentiated.

The feeling of being in a couple or having sex is a human experience that has a sort of loss of personalhood and an experience of merging. You would think that through the common experience of a meshing of mother and child or family in general, people could experience a merging and a lack of personal identity in that situation which would be somewhat common in human experience. In many other cultures other than the one we're in, people are not so driven to discover and preserve their individuality. Their cause and effect on others and the world is just what it is, and they aren't concerned about it.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Assumption = Reflex & Intention Responding to Meaning

David Bohm: Every assumption is implicitly a reflex and a set of intentions. A person cannot form intentions except on the basis of what the situation means to him, and if he misses the mark on what it means, he will form the wrong intentions.

To restate in my own words, Bohm says that, for there to be an intention and the reflex that carries out an intention, there first has to be an intepretation that is based on assigning meaning.

I'll have to watch situations where that's happening in me. The first example that comes to my mind is from an infant with colic; they form the intention to cry as a response to having incomplete digestive systems, and they cry. Do they cry in hopes of getting attention from the parent? I think they're too young for that. They cry because they hurt and that's how they're little brains are wired to express pain? There's really no way of telling because they can't talk. But this is what I've seen by how they act. If you take away the pain, they stop crying, just as a horse will put it's foot back down if it stops hurting. But a dog who had trained itself to hold it's foot up will keep doing it. I don't think a child as young as that has the ability to be so trained to "call" the parent, even though the parent may assume so. That whole train of manipulation happens later as the child gets a little older.

I imagine this statement of Bohm's comes from assigning a sequence to "all" actions. He's a physicist and he wants to make a "law" of meaning, I guess. Lately, I'm quite suspicious of this idea of "all" that I also seem to want to have. It seems that "gets the wrong interpretation by missing the mark" is the operant part of the quote.

I'm not sure that there is always an interpretation process that goes on. I know that there is not always in place a trained reponse that answers an interpretation of meaning. People often do not know what to do about what meanings and conclusions they come to. The imperative nature of some of these conclusions often leads them to "do something" instead of waiting for more information. Interpretations imply familiarity, and sometimes there is no familiarity and it is obvious the unusual is wrongly interpreted. Grownups can feel uncomfortable around unfamiliarity, but kids learn from it; that's why kids will learn a language faster than their parents can.

Maybe there is "always" a meaning that is coupled with a response that doesn't have to be 'true.' If the person is observant and continues to learn, this meaning can becomes updated or more sophisticated as things turn out to be happening differently from what meaning was first assummed.

I'm not sure about this - because some of us can hang out in a ongoing state of blank curiosity (at least when a child.) People can just pay attention and experience. We can always come to conclusions about what it all meant and what is the most appropriate response to deal with it quite a bit later, when there is no imperative of fear or immediate action. I can have an ongoing intention to suspend, and just "wait and see" for instance. Would what I just described be what Bohm termed a "deep" intention? No, I think this non-judgmental curiosity is an "original" state.

Thought or intention coming before action doesn't really have to happen like that in many people who do not write - as it can happen in most people who write. People can just "do things" without thinking or having an intention - they see what happens. Then they adjust their actions toward what they want to occur, or want to avoid. Some people act in order to "stir up" something so they can have some differences to sense and then have some observations to make an intention with.

Then I come along and write about them... ;o)