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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?