Saturday, November 27, 2010

Be in the Space

As I began doing Qi Gong this morning, I thought of yesterday's phrase for the day - "Be Free". I checked in with my body by giving the Alexander Technique directions as they allow me freedom in movement. As I did the Crane Stretching exercise I became aware of the space that I was moving in. This shift in awareness, waking me up a bit more allowed my movements to be free at the same time. We worked with the Bear movement next. My "bear paws" forming circles in front of my body, I again saw how much space I occupy. Still maintaining a sense of my hands we began the Swimming Dragon sequence. The space around me supporting my movements as my hands guided my body.

We then moved into a movement I learned from Luciano Pietrafesa. My body lengthening as I hung to the ground, I had  a sense of the space of my chest cavity as I continued this movement up and away. As my arms lengthened one at a time to the side of me and traveled across the space above my head, I once again found the space was supporting me as long as I extended my awareness to include it. By now I knew the phrase of this day is "Be in the Space." After a couple more movements, we traced this phrase with our hands to complete our practice.

After sitting meditation, as I opened my eyes I became aware of the space of our living room, the room holding me as I breathed. Again I had a sense of the space within my chest cavity. Slowly this space that supports all of life was breathing in, and then breathing out. This space of life which not only invites in the air that nourishes my tissues but also houses my heart. Can I be in the space of my breathing while I move through the space of my day? Walking meditation is an ongoing  simple and profound practice I use to explore this. Can I be in the space of my desk as my fingers flirt with the keyboard? Releasing my spine into the universe above me and the earth below me, I watch the gentle expansion and release of the space of my chest.

I move within the spray beneath my shower. Expanding and cleansing my body as I delight in the warm flowing water. I again sense my spine lengthening toward the sky and into the earth. My shoulders feel as wide as the horizon, as I recognize that the entire cosmos is within me. From this internal space I can do anything my dreams desire. Finding the space and being in the space remains the crux of life.

Later in the day while walking down the stairs at the local library, I become aware of the space above me and then around me. Smiling I sense my beloved walking next to me, with me. We enter the crisp autumn air with the leaves rustling in the wind. What a delightful sound on our wonderful planet.
Eager to go home and to be with my guitar.

Usually I practice in the basement, but with the sun shining so brightly and my wife at the gym, I moved to the living room. To begin this session I again traced the phrase "Be in the Space," with my hands. Sensing the Qi as I settled onto my stool, I decided to begin by playing Gathered Hearts.  I directed my spine to lengthen in both directions and to allow my pelvis to be free. My arms lengthening from wide shoulders as I brought them to my guitar. I began to play, taking in the space and listening to the different sonic quality of this room. I always enjoy playing this piece and generally feel myself let go of concerns and soften.

I moved onto working with Beneath Dark Images. Setting the metronome to 70 bpm I worked with the second section that is in double time relative to the first section. I focused on two specific changes that currently derail the piece. Paying attention to the metronome and the space around me, I found my mind quieting, directing my hands to relax and to play with ease. I gave myself permission to begin again and again as my hands learned to operate in time at this tempo. Relaxing into the incessant demand of the metronome, I focused on the movement of my left hand's fingers through the space around the fingerboard. "Process" I remind myself is what practice is about. Slow as progress may be, there is no way but through. Being in the space where the process is sufficient and results secondary is nourishing for me.

My practice was cut short, as I heard the leaf collecting truck approach our street. Aghast that I had nothing for them to collect, I sprinted outside and raked furiously for 35 minutes. Driven by urgency, I had no sense of myself being outdoors on a beautiful fall day, just a drive to maximize leaf volume. Chuckling about this when I was putting away the rake, I joined my wife for a late lunch.

The hour after eating is never a good time for me to practice, so I wrote this blog for a while. Again as with the leaf collection, I found myself "end gaining*" rather than being concerned with process. Impatience impeded the flow of my words. Certainly this is part of who I am, and with the help of my various practices my tendency to "end gain" and/or react is evolving. But end gaining is still very much a part of me. I noticed that the sun was setting, so I decided to walk.

Arriving at Sligo Creek I began my walk by softly singing Beneath Dark Images in time with my steps. When I do this I am never certain how to deal with a ritard in relationship to my step. Then I just enjoyed my walk, noticing how the space had changed since my last walk here. Most of the leaves have fallen and now the branches of the trees sketch their maze across the twilight. Marveling at the space between and among the branches, highlighted by the different densities of clouds and clear space I walked slowly and sliently. Looking up at the tree tops, I think of my spine lengthening once again, allowing the base of my spine to mimic the roots of the trees. I begin to walk backwards and observe how different this motion is compared to my walking forward. I sense a freedom in this difference, but perhaps it is only due to the novelty of this movement for me. Then I pause on a bridge and take in the long winding path carved by Sligo Creek.

On my return walk, I again sing through Beneath Dark Images and find my steps slowing when I arrive at the ritard. I realize I never know how to deal with this musical event with the metronome either. As the tempo slows in a ritard, what is the subtle relationship to the original pulse? I choose to maintain the pace of my steps and apply the ritard. I find this difficult and realize there is a learning opportunity for me in this area.

I lay down to nap and look at a collection of Robert Motherwell's ink drawings on paper. I have been attracted to these simple works for years. Tonight I notice his playing in two dimensional space as if for the first time. These drawings are small but powerful.

Upon awakening from my nap, I move to my guitar. I play through Beneath Dark Images, Broken Wing, and Becoming for my wife. I work with taking in the space as I begin and being in it as I play. My recent work in the Alexander Technique has been about being in the space and allowing the space to support me. I always find this easier to do with my wife as the audience than when I am in David's studio. This has everything to do with our relationship and with her ability to be present. Smiling now as I once again touch upon how fortunate I am in this life.

My wife just reminded me of her favorite moment of my "being in the space" today, when we hugged gently after lunch. How right she is!

* For those unfamiliar with the language of the Alexander Technique I offer this definition in Alexander's own words. 

            'End gaining is a universal habit' (F M Alexander ~ The Use of the Self).  End gaining is the tendency we have to keep our mind and actions focused on an end result whilst losing sight of, and frequently at the expense of, the means-whereby the result is achieved.  

Thanks to Hillary King for this definition.

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