Saturday, December 29, 2012

With

Time Rolls On.... 


       Where           How            Why     

            With                  in   ?

                  With                      Love ?

                            With


       Resound within until the space is tuned.

                  Resound with love until the world is awake.

                                      With in with out with all that is.



              In           Time           If        

             Where is Sacred.

                  How is Honored.

                       Why Resounds 


        Do we listen?
  
        Do we answer?


        With 



     

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Energy Rising

Hovering on the Horizon

Rough day at work today.  Thursday is my busiest day of the week and the moment I arrived the challenges began, changed, & persisted.  C'est la vie. Fortunately I have tools, a path to bring me back.  So I returned as did the challenges.  And so it went.

Arriving home I hit the floor for an Alexander Technique lie down.  Aptly called Active Rest, tonight required a constant but gentle guidance of my attention to come back to my body and release the unnecessary tension.  My mind drifting away, then a moment of noticing to direct my thoughts back to the body, back to the present moment. Slowly the tension melted into the floor.

Rising I went to my guitar and began a gentle inquisitive improvisation.  Intrigued by the melodies that arrived I continued to explore the possibilities, moving beyond my usual responses.  After 25 minutes I took a small break.

When I returned to the opening melody I decided to turn on the tape recorder.  A little over 2 minutes later I turned it off.  Almost immediately I dove into another uncharted improvisation which was spirited but led nowhere.  And then another, enjoying the musical challenge, that again led nowhere.

Pausing, I used an AT negative direction in a sense of " I am not an improvisor." I began exploring again.  One beautiful arpeggio followed another.  And then another.  Such a precious moment as I allowed this musical idea to come out.  Listening; releasing; and being open to what might arise, a sudden energetic shift occurred in the music and myself.


I spent the next hour exploring, prodding, and being delighted with the act of playing my guitar.  Without concern.  Without pressure.  Just with.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Remembering My Mother

Rose

My Mothers Birthday is today.  Always a day of gratitude tinged with sadness at her passing so very long ago.  For years I've had a ritual of lighting a candle, sitting quietly with my wife, and then playing Matka Boska.  When this piece arrived a few years back, I had no doubt that it was for my Mother, thus the title was foretold.

My Mother was born of Polish immigrants and even though she was born in the US her first language was Polish.  As a child when she was upset with one of us she would intone Matka Boska - Blessed Mother, looking to her faith to guide her in whatever challenge she was facing.

I offered more than my share of challenges, and like the Blessed Mother that she was, she always accepted me, nurtured me, and loved me.  And she bought me my first guitar.  So tonight tired but grateful, I lit my candle.  My playing was full of imperfections - just like me.  I could sense her smile and feel her love, and I just continued to play the piece which was perfect in its' imperfections.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Note Has Many Keys


A note has many keys.
One to the door of mystery.
One to the door of wonder.

Is there a door wherein lies silence?

Does the relationship between one note and others serve harmony in our thinking?

Does the relationship between one note and another allow disharmony to be understood?
To be freed?

A note has many keys.
Yet we possess so many more doors.
Where is the door which shelters silence?
Is it entwined in shadows?

Vibrate the shadows and release the song of one;
allowing Silence to roar through the past
and quiet the future.

A note has many keys and need be played in Now. 


Photo by Moyan Brenn

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Guitarist Haiku

Six strings vibrating.
Emotions rising, changing,
Be present, set free.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Possibilities


Teasel

 To play from silence, perhaps even with silence.

To be free in body, heart and mind while playing; better yet while doing dishes.

To receive a glimpse of what is needed and to have the discipline to carry this out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

One Small Victory

Palmyra, Syria I was going to slip in a short guitar session before dinner today, but decided first to read through a section of Missy Vineyards book dealing with the prefrontal cortex and inhibition.  As I read, I would pause and follow along with her thinking experiments.  Sitting in a chair with no guitar, I began to apply her thinking first to "not playing the guitar" but then decided to apply inhibitory thinking to my right arm & hand.  After 10 minutes or so, of gently playing with these thoughts of "forward & up to the prefrontal cortex" and not holding onto my arm, then my elbow, and then my hand, I returned to the whole arm again.  During this time I had a sense of my head on top of my spine and at times sense a lightness in my torso similar to what I believe she was describing.  My relationship to the room also appeared to change, a different sense of the space around me.

Then at one point, a muscle on the right side of the back of my neck let go.  Though I can not name this muscle, I know it since it has been sore at times of extended playing and/or typing.  Just a simple release of tension, certainly unnecessary tension as all I was doing was sitting, occasionally reading, and thinking inhibitory thoughts.  This muscle is part of the habit I named "The Lean" last week.  Could this muscle tensing be the cause of putting the system out of balance on my right side leading to the execution of "The Lean" as I move my arm into position to play?

Certainly a small victory in line with what Alexander said: "This is the principle of the whole work - not to do something but to think.  We redirect our activity by means of thought alone.  This principle is the hardest of all to grasp.  People just don't see it. Yet we know that it works.  It is demonstrable." (Thanks to Missy V. for this quote that Goodard Binkley attributes to Alexander in his book The Expanding Self.)  I have had this experience before with working with AT inhibition and direction, but it continues to surprise me when a muscular release arises by thought alone. 

When I did move to the guitar, as soon as I sat with my instrument and practiced inhibition again, I noticed my relationship to the room changed spatially once more.  I lack the descriptive power to elaborate on this, but this happens to me with the hands of an AT teacher and occasionally through arriving in the present moment.  I began to play Senseless Loss and was enjoying the act of making music, listening to the melodies,  being present with my activity.  Then the fantasy thought arrived - "Could I do this in Missy's upcoming workshop."  The connection I had with myself, the guitar, and music was short circuited as this thinking rattled on.  I stopped playing and began again.

On the second run through, I kept the thinking and chatter down, but then noticed the tension developing in my left hand as the piece neared the end.  "Should I stop playing now?"  "Or develop my stamina with this piece?"  Needless to say the ending fell apart.  Which is fine, the overall process was successful and will lead to deeper revelations and releases I am certain.  In the words of Todd Rundgren "Give us just one victory and we're on our way ..."



Monday, September 10, 2012

How to Stop the Wrong Thing?

Stop 'n' Lock Graffiti Wall, 2008.06.28  


Stop doing the wrong thing and the right thing will do itself.  F. M. Alexander




He's right of course.  This is how we are designed - there is a right way to use ourselves.  Somewhere along the line we interfere with ourselves; we mimic how others use themselves; and in my case I was unaware that I was doing so.  Unfortunately aware or not, habits develop.  Neuronal pathways that are repeated become the preferred way for how our brains handle future movements.  The habits deepen and grow stronger.

These days I continue to develop my awareness of what I am doing and what I am not doing. Finding opportunities to pause, inhibit, & direct with the guitar and away from the guitar.  Slowly new neuronal pathways are forming.  Slowly the dance of bringing body and mind to the same place before I begin to move allows a bit more freedom.  Slowly.  I am ever so grateful that there are directions for this.  F. M. Alexander spent years finding out how to let go of the "wrong thing" and then enunciated directions for how to allow the right thing to happen.  A shining example of not doing the "wrong thing" embodied by teachers of the Alexander Technique.  I am ever grateful that I fell into their hands. 

Very special thanks to Frank Sheldon, Sandra Bain Cushman, and David Jernigan for patiently, even lovingly directing the way.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Not Holding Onto Love

Know what you want to do, hold the thought firmly, and do every day what should be done, and every sunset will see you that much nearer to your goal. (#10 of 52)

A friend is suffering from a loss that is so difficult to understand and process. While words offer some relief, I sense that much more is needed.  I'm not certain I have what is needed. But I do what I can.  Tonight as I sat with my guitar practicing AT inhibition with "I am not holding onto my neck" I thought of him.  My intention was to play Gathered Hearts as an offering to his suffering.  After inhibiting the movement of my arms to the guitar, I brought them to her.  I was about to offer up the direction "I am not playing the guitar" when out of nowhere "I am not holding onto love" arrived.

I repeated this thought and then began to play.  Towards the middle of this piece a mistake arrived that could have disrupted the flow, but I thought "Love does not hold onto mistakes."  After I completed the piece I thought "If only I could live my life with this way?"  Then with thought of another person and another piece,  I began to play and let it go again.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Lean

Leaning Tower4

I began my morning practice by sitting down and audiating Senseless Loss.  This process informs me how well I know a piece.  Today audiation showed me that I now have a firm grasp of how I intend to play this piece.

Standing with my guitar and working with Alexander Technique inhibitory thinking I began to working with the beginning of this piece.  After a few minutes I sat down and continued to work with inhibition. I am not holding my neck followed with I am not playing the guitar.  Bringing my hands to the guitar and inhibiting again.  I then turned on the tape machine and inhibited again.  Just as I was to play the first note I notice myself moving slightly forward and to the right side of my body with a slight downward crunching of my upper torso into the pelvis.  Do I do this often?  Was I just quiet enough this morning to notice this subtle but definite movement that as I played a customary tension in my right leg arose. This movement which I dubbed "The Lean," would account for tightening and tension that I notice regularly on the right side during or after playing.

I have enough AT experience to know that this tension involves the neck, but have not detected how I use myself to generate this tension.  Seeing "The Lean" I noticed the neck and shoulder areas that have been stressed at times, and how also this downward direction of my upper torso into my pelvis might account for the tightness in my right leg that has plagued me for years when playing seated.


Letting go of the guitar I did a few minutes of Qi Gong .  Sitting down again with the  tape on I began to go through a series of inhibitions again.  I am not holding onto my neck, my arms, my body. At one point I arrived at just I am not holding.  I moved my arms to the guitar and worked with "I am not playing the guitar."  Simply holding this thought, I noticed sensations particularly in my right arm, which seemed to allow a slight lengthening & lettting go. I also noticed a slight tilt of the head towards my right shoulder.  Might this tilt of the head be the predecessor to "The Lean" it thought? Removing my arms from the guitar, I became aware of my right hand and then the left.

Deciding to wake them up with movement a bit I began to flex them and then rotate my hands about my wrists.  I could hear an occasional audible click arise from my right wrist. Allowing my hands to return to the guitar I again held "I am not playing the guitar. "

At one point I allowed my right hand to play the first note and then flowed into the piece.  Senseless Loss was being played beautifully when the thought arose, "oh but I could never inhibit that long in a performance."  Ah the state shifted, the monkey mind finding a branch to swing out of the moment on.  Working to continue playing while struggling to quiet the monkey mind I noticed I was tensing, so I let go of the playing.

This evening I returned to the guitar, aware of the tendency if not a habit to invoke "The Lean."  Inhibiting and directing were successful, but then I noticed how another habitual use of my right arm that I have had some success with changing had arrived once again.  And so it goes ...



Saturday, September 1, 2012

One Small Step



hawaiian moonlight no.3

When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon what did this sound like?

Since sound does not travel in a vacuum,
where did it go?

Is the sound of his footstep still on the moon?

If I knew that my sounds were to last a lifetime
and beyond,
Might I sound differently?

Awareness of knowing when one is speaking,
is truly another great step for mankind. 

Awareness of knowing where I am
is just about a miracle.

Is there any other moment in which to be alive?







Thursday, August 30, 2012

Night Sounds

Night sky and gum tree: Abstract The night songs of summer insects remind me of all that I do not know.  Which insect is making that sound?  Why that rhythm?  How are they making that sound?

Do the insects hear me playing my guitar?  Do they hear the other insects?  Do I hear me playing my guitar?  Or are they just interested in finding their mate? And yes I think I know that answer to that last one.

Is their a rustle of leaves within this part of the song?  The drone of a distant car?  What would summer sound like without the insects?  Why am I so intrigued by this summer symphony?

Does the full moon affect their tunes?  Do they quiet down when they find their mate? Or get louder?  Do they pause from a  thunderclap? What else don't I know?

Hello darkness my old friend ...



 


Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Place of Waiting


How do I wait?
With awareness.

Though
sometimes I am lost
bouncing about
within
body & mind?

Why do I wait?
To learn.

When do I wait?
Not often enough.

Ahh but when I do ...

Can I inhibit movement as an act of waiting?
Can I direct my thinking as a way of waiting?
Will I calm my heart?

Do I wait?
Or plunge?
Or both?

Maybe even plunge into waiting?

Why do I wait?
To find out where I am.
To listen to my thoughts.
Maybe even to listen to my speech.
To release the unnecessary and perform an act with ease.
To see.

When do I wait?
When I remember.

How do I remember?
Practice
By reflecting on the fruits of waiting.
Practice
With the help of others.
From the guidance of a tradition.
Practice
Practice
By finding myself in a jam and waking.

Quiet.
_ _ _

 Retreat.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Where do I wait?
Inside 
My
Thinking
Body
Heart.

Who waits?

_____________

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It

It's Snowing!  (AGAIN)




Slowly something is entering my playing.  Occasionally I hear it.  In May on the Guitar Circle course for a performance during a meal it really came alive, and last night in my AT class David heard it.  What to do?  Keep practicing.  What a joy. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Inviting Change

view from bridge of sighs













Today I made the time to change my strings.  It was past time, but this week was so draining, I would not undertake this on a work night. Now I am enjoying the bright sound of new strings on a beautiful guitar.  A treat for certain.

Looking at UnDone which is somewhat melancholic and written so far in g minor.  There is a solid beginning but a change is needed, perhaps one of tempo, or feel, or key.  What does the piece need is generally my guiding question.  How to invite this change to manifest?  I seek to remain open to the music, to life.  Then with the limits of my technique and theory I explore the potential.  Being open can be challenging as habits of thinking, playing, and living cloud my options.

Tonight I had the thought to investigate a key change and was drawn to c# minor.  I found a way to modulate that works to my ear, and began exploring arpeggios in c# minor.  Playing around with chords built on fourths, I may have found the next direction.

As I reminded myself yesterday, I just need to stay out of the way and follow where the piece wants to go.

                    Sounds,    form,                    Invite the Silence.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fortunate Indeed

Tough Luck (1 of 2)

Guitar practice this week has been rough. By the end of the working day, my energies have been zapped. But as one post titled this week aptly stated I show up. Friday night also found me wiped out and we had our beloved granddaughter with us. My wife and her went to pickup a movie and I got in 20 good minutes of playing. My tone was sweet and I was ready. A melody began to emerge.

My granddaughter entered my practice room to tell me the movie was ready. I said I wanted to play, but she really wanted to watch the movie with me. I knew I was in the space were something creative could occur and that there is no guarantee that if I return later I'll access that space. "It would be more fun with me" she said. How could I resist. So I let go of the guitar and had a great time with the family. After 11pm I picked up my guitar again. The melody was still whispering so I recorded what I had.

This afternoon I played with this more. Music was whispering and slowly the sounds are taking form.  I reminded myself of Brian Eno's Oblique Strategy -  Not building a wall, but making a brick. I played what I have which is really a solid beginning for my wife. I said I did not know where to take it next and she made a suggestion. Diving in another spark moved the piece forward a bit. And the title arrived, the same as last night's poem title UnDone. Grateful that the creative spirit waited for me to get back. Indeed I am fortunate or at the very least diligent.

Friday, August 17, 2012

UnDone

yours is the music for no instrument
yours the preposterous colour unbeheld
                                  e.e. cummings 

 
 
Lift the veil that shadows you. Open to what is yours ... 
Release death's hold on spirit; rise, glide, beebold. 
The world is listening for your you;
 
                       eager to know and be renewed.
 
 
Sounds, form           unfolding            silence.

laughter,    laughter,           revealing     unborn.

                    

 
 
What, does it matter?  Yes. Always.

                      and         beeeeeecause.

 
 
 
Lift the veil that blinds you. Open to what is yours ...

Sounds,   scale,          invite The silence 

     listen,  what Is there?


 
 
Embrace the veil that guides you. Open to what is theirs.
                Request deaths bold distaste. 
     Search,  thirst,   always - yes.

Be       cause

      We        


 Open   open           Open?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Showing Up

P1000980


This morning I was reading Robert's Diary and one of my favorite aphorisms arrived - With commitment all the rules change.  A good thought to guide my day.  When I came home the motivation to pick up my guitar was lacking.  But because of the commitment I have made to myself, I did open the case and went back to my beginnings.  Playing the first piece that ever came to me generally gets the energy moving.  But tonight other than playing the piece, I was still stuck.

I sensed that I needed some juice, perhaps a brush with the creative process.  I needed an idea.  Holding my guitar with six strings in tune, the clever thought when all else fails do nothing arrived.  So I did for a while, but then I let this go.  Picking up my notebook that contains various ideas and pieces in progress, I looked for an old idea to rework.  Finding a score with a working title of Taking the Veil, I played with this.

Not enough of a spark was in this idea, so I looked again for a new one.  Nothing arrived.  But I had shown up, honored my commitment.  I trust that this will serve me in the longer process of being a musician.  Currently listening to an older work in progress as I type this, I believe I have my bridge to tomorrows work.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I Am Not A Student of the Alexander Technique.

IMG_1694

A difficult beginning to my guitar work tonight.  Too much chatter as I was playing through a piece just to reconnect with it.  I moved on to review Stepping Stones which I have not played in weeks.  I was having problems cleanly executing some of the opening passages when I returned to working with inhibitory or negative directions.  Employing "I am not holding onto myself", I then returned to "I am not a guitarist" as I have found much freedom with this combination.

Then out of nowhere, the thought I am not a student of the Alexander Technique arrived.  I held this for a bit and explored playing the opening passages some more.  As I continued to hold this something was definitely shifting in my body.  Perhaps years of "trying" to get it right was being let go.  I was just sitting on a chair with guitar in hand.  No position was being assumed,  and my body was just responding to the directions in a different way that yet felt right.

I took a break to do an AT lie down.  While on the floor I continued with "I am not a student ..."  From there I moved to "I do not know how to use my arms."  As I lay there on the floor with this thought the release of unnecessary tension in my right arm was noticeable.  I am not sure what happens within the mind body system when these "negative directions" arrive but I do know that something happens.  Something within the system is shifting.

I returned to the guitar working with these two directions.  Just as I began to play, a bit of chatter erupted in my mind.  I replaced this with the thought of "I am not a performer."  The mind quieted and the playing was beautiful. I think there is fertile area for me to explore these further in the coming evenings.

Stay Tuned.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Inhibitory Experiments

...Experiments...

 I'm still moving through Missy Vineyard's excellent book on the AT and today I began playing with her "Acts of Inhibition."  Mind you that I have worked with "inhibition" frequently and have blogged about this in the past.  Perhaps because of my study of science in my youth, when the word "experiment" is mentioned this grabs my attention.  Scientists publish their results for the community to examine and attempt to replicate. So when Missy mentioned that "first you will practice two intermediate inhibitory acitvities. These are experiments ..." she had my attention.

Laying down in the semi-supine position, I quieted my thoughts.  Allowing my attention to focus on the what she terms "the attic," I worked to maintain my focus on my thinking rather than getting caught in the sensation of the movement.  Slowly bringing up my right arm just a bit as I held the thought "I am not moving my arm."  Pausing to focus again, move a bit, redirect the thought, I kept this process going over the course of minutes.  Occasionally noticing tension, I would pause and redirect.  I did these experiments three times and then once with my left arm.

Then I played with this process of bringing my right arm as if I was to play the guitar.  Reminding myself I am "not playing the guitar" as I also kept the direction alive of "not moving."  Noticing different areas of my back, neck, shoulders, and upper arm let go a bit as I did this.  Fairly early in the act of bring my right arm to the guitar experiment, I noticed that my right hand had a clenching quality to it.  What was this about I wondered as I let my hand and fingers release and lengthen.   Chuckling as I had to remind myself that this is not about getting it right.  Rather I am setting the conditions to "let the right thing do itself" as F. M. Alexander so wisely described.

As I took my guitar out of the case, I reminded myself of the primary AT directions and followed this with various inhibitory directions as I settled into my chair.  This next experiment would be to move my right arm to the guitar and perhaps even play a bit.  After spending a minute to quiet my thinking, I began with the direction of "I am not moving my right arm."  After holding this thought a bit, I did begin to move my arm, and the next thought that arose was one I have played with in the past "I am not a guitarist."  I had meant to keep on with the "I am not moving ..." but the "not a guitarist" arose and so I followed this.

In my conversation with Robert Rickover of the Body Learning Podcast series, he observed how this negative or inhibitory direction of "I am not a guitarist" was a "meta-level higher" than the simple I am not doing directions."  Today I saw that this type of direction offered another, perhaps deeper freedom of movement for me since part of my issues arise from moving like a guitarist rather than a human being.  Though I absolutely will not fault the instructions given to me by various guitarists, it has been my internalizing and execution  of these instructions that has led to the aches and pains over the years.  In fact at times I have ignored sound advice rather than take the step backwards to be able to move forward.

I played with this experiment of "not being a guitarist" to bring my right arm to the guitar three times.  Again I noticed unnecessary tension in my right hand on the first two times.  On the third experiment my arm did something different in the area of my elbow.  I lack the technical terms to adequately describe this, and while I am not certain that it was "right" this was how my arm moved after nearly 25 minutes of intensive thinking aimed at inhibiting or disrupting my habitual use.  On this third time, I chose to play an actual piece, Senseless Loss.  About a minute into this piece, the mind began to wander.  Thoughts of how to describe this in the blog and pats on my back began to overtake me.  Old habits of monkey mind now beginning to gain speed.  So I stopped playing.  Took a few breaths and decided it was time for a break.

One major item I am taking away from this work today is  if I do not move as a guitarist, but allow this amazing system of muscles, tendons, bones, and brain to move according to design and principle I just might become a better guitarist.  Can I inhibit this guitarist enough to allow this ease and freedom to grow?  Can I inhibit this guitarist enough to let the right thing do itself?  Yes of course, but will I allow do this work is the tougher question.  Will you?

Missy Vineyards excellent book is available here:  How You Stand, How You Move, How You Live: Learning the Alexander Technique to Explore Your Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Self-Mastery

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Recombination

0039
I was very tired at the end of the work day.  So drained that I let go of going seeing the latest Batman movie.  After resting I decided to move towards guitar practice.  But first a much needed AT lie down.  For months I had the habit if beginning my session with a lie down, but somewhere along the line this habit has been broken.

As I hit the floor I knew that I had made the right decision. Relishing the ease of how this simple semi-supine posture can release tension regardless of whether I am directing my thinking or not.  Of course when I actively engage and direct my thinking I suppose the process may go deeper, but tonight during this first lie down, the thoughts of the day rolled about and settled a bit.  Perhaps this was the best I was capable of in that moment. Certainly, when I rose my body and mind were more unified.

A spirited improvisation ensued, followed by work on Senseless Loss.  This piece has taken on a new direction lately, and I am ready for feedback related to a particular transition.  I wanted to make two rough recordings with the transition played in two different manners I have been experimenting with. Then I can listen to them while not engaged with the playing and also solicit feedback from some trusted ears.

Before turning on the recorder I decided to do another AT lie down.  This time I began directing in an AT sense when the notion of Edward de Bono's septien arrived.  I have not played with this in some time and decided to create one and see where this led.  After holding these seven words for a while, I rose and turned on the recorder.  Noticing our meditation bell I paused the recorder and invited the bell three times.  Why had I not thought of this before.  We use bells both in our Sangha practice and as part our our sitting at home.  After nearly 20 years of practice in this way the affect of the bell on my thinking and my body is very powerful.

The playing that followed was not flawless but close enough and the spirit was captured for the tape.  Before the next effort of taping I composed a septien that could be related to performance. The second taping with the altered transition took three takes to produce a recording that should work for the purpose of discernment. I used this new septien in between each take. If nothing else I touched on some old practices and combined them in a new way that could bear fruit in the future.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

When You Least Expect It

Expectation 

I arrived home from work today tired, but in a relatively relaxed mood.  I was certainly ready to play my guitar.  I began working with Missy Vineyard's Inhibitory Directions for which I have gained an even greater appreciation for by working with her book How You Stand, How You Move, How You Live: Learning the Alexander Technique to Explore Your Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Self-Mastery.

I was working with not holding on and not playing the guitar.  Working for brief periods of time so as to maintain my focus, I was ready after one of my short breaks to return to the guitar.  Instead I chose to do a lie down. I was amazed at the tension I was holding in my back, particularly the middle portion of my back.  Once again illustrating how difficult accurately being aware of my use is.  When I returned to the guitar, it was if a was a new man.  Working with the AT directions again as I played I took a break to begin writing this. Wondering if it was indeed time for another lie down before I returned to the guitar again, I decided to go ahead and play.

After playing for just a few minutes, the thought about doing another lie down returned again.  Trusting my thinking, I chose to embrace the idea and hit the floor.  Again, I was surprised at the level of tension present.  I know I need to pay better attention to how I use myself when I type, and now the proof was in my back.  Refreshed I returned to the guitar.  Deciding to improvise, a fun idea arrived.  Playing with this for a while I then completed my practice.

A bit amazed that both times before I hit the floor to do the AT lie down, I felt fine.  Yet both times the presence of unnecessary tension was revealed.  Obviously I have more practice ahead of me, as I learn to use myself with the Alexander Technique.

And so it goes...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

What If

What if I treated every situation of my day as if I were sitting down with my guitar?

 I handle the guitar with gentleness and care.

I take the time to tune the guitar so that the "conversation" I evoke from her is as harmonious and pure as possible.

When the guitar does not sound as I wish, I take responsibility for the sound and investigate how I am using myself to produce this sound. I do not blame the guitar.

I listen to my guitar.

The tone of my playing reflects the level of my presence in the moment.  Generally, I either am or I am not present.  Can I develop the sense to hear the tone of my interactions with others as easily as I can with the guitar?

When the guitar needs attention, new strings perhaps, I give her the attention that is needed.  Even when I do not "feel" like doing so.

During a session with the guitar, I pause and reconnect with myself.  When I notice that the guitar has gone out of tune, I pause and tune her.  I do not blame her for going out of tune, guitars just go out of tune.

When my emotions begin to overwhelm me during the act of playing, I find the time and the way to release them.  Experience has shown me that if I do not then my playing generally worsens and more negative emotions arise.  Simpler to address the emotions as they arise, then to untangle the complications from remaining in their presence for too long.

When I am befuddled with how to play the guitar, I seek out assistance from those with greater experience and knowledge.

I accept the limits of the guitar.  Though Beethovan did refer to the guitar as a "miniature orchestra" she will never sound like one.

When my encounter with the guitar is over, I wipe off her strings and her body to remove any particles of my being that may affect her as she rests.

I place her lovingly in her case.  Making sure she is safe and secure for our next adventure.

Then I pause and reconnect with life before moving on ...

So again I ask myself the question - What if I treated every situation of my day as if I were sitting down with my guitar? 

Photo by Wonderlane

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Universe of Possibilities

2 of Force: Ideology

As I went to open my case tonight I paused.  This is not unusual for me, I frequently do this to check in with myself.  Be it through following my breath, using the Alexander Technique directions, or reciting a gatha that came to me years back.  I want to wake up and be present for the transition and the ensuing act of music.  Tonight as I paused this haiku arrived:

Opening the case, 
All possibilities are.
Now play the guitar.

Taking a few minutes to work with AT inhibition and direction, I then began to play Senseless Loss.  Playing at a slower then the tempo I have been working with this piece at, I heard perhaps a more meaningful expression in the bass register.  Pausing I decided to tape a slow take to listen to later.  Since my Tuesday evening AT class with David Jernigan, I have let go of using the pic to play this tremolo piece and have begun to play it fingerstyle.  This was David's suggestions as a possibility of the means-whereby to let go of end-gaining I was noticing in relation to this piece.

When I played this fingerstyle when I returned home that night I immediately found out I was able to play the piece at an increased tempo and with more accuracy.  Yet there was en energy missing. It took me a while to realize that I may have been mistaking the intensity of effort with a musical quality being expressed.  When in actuality the intensity that was now lacking appeared to have more to do with me tensing myself. 

So tonight when I heard/felt increased expression in the slower take I wondered why?  Was it purely musical or a result of less effort to play.  I increased the tempo and something was missing.  Alternating between slow and faster passages of a section of the piece, I arrived at perhaps a middle ground.  As I played faster both the attack of my thumb and my fingers were louder.  What if I lessened the attack of the thumb for a softer timbre while playing at the faster tempo?  There was something musical about this combination so I will continue to pursue this tomorrow. 

There truly is a universe of possibilities before any of us, in any of our pursuits.  We just need to begin and allow them to manifest.  Is your case open?


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Days Like This


Qi Gong in the park with Master Li after a month off - Yessssssss.

An hour of practice using AT negative directions while practicing Senseless Loss.
Could hear & feel Senseless Loss coming Alive.

Letting go of determination.
 At least a bit.

Lunch in back yard with my Favorite Person in the whole world.
Discussions of the future, free of fear or worry.
This is miraculous.

Wrote first of seven Haiku today.
Where did these come from?
Beyond

Read T.S. Elliot.
Best friend in freshman year of college told me I needed to.
Still looking to come to grips with his words.

Rest
Then dinner.
Second Haiku whispers as I dress.

Two Haiku adorn program
of recital of our friend, Melinda Hamerly.
Poulenc's La Carpe was sublime.
de Falla's Nana so sweet,
While Polo enlivened.
Happy to support friend and music.
Beauty nourishes all.

Home to just play guitar.
No direction.
Less judgement.
A wish conceived.

Three
Haiku
Arrive


 To bed.

Unless another Haiku arrives.

Daybreak Guitar


Notes swirl at daybreak,
Natures energy rising.
Silently Hearts Whirl.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I Am Not Determined

Neptunbrunnen

Today is the third day of a five day commitment I made on the fly Thursday morning to further investigate Alexander Technique Negative Directions.  Since I have been playing with using AT in this manner, a new ease has entered my body for longer and longer periods of time.  Additional catalysts have been provided by the Bill Conable workshop two weeks ago and weekly classes with David Jernigan.  Throughout the course of my day I am increasingly finding myself pausing briefly to use inhibit what I am doing and release unnecessary tension with the simple use of "I am not (fill in the blank.)" These so called Inhibitory or Negative Directions were first postulated in Missy Vineyards excellent book How You Stand, How You Move, How You Live: Learning the Alexander Technique to Explore Your Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Self-Mastery

For my five day commitment I decided that I would spend 20 minutes per day beginning with the direction "I am not playing the guitar," and then respond to where this took me.  With my guitar in the stand before me, I sit quietly for a few moments and begin silently giving the direction to myself of "I am not tensing my neck."  From there I move on to the direction of I am not playing the guitar.   I notice slight releases of my muscles in various parts of my body as I do nothing but hold this thought. As the mind quiets more I than take my guitar.  While holding the guitar but still not playing any notes, I again begin to hold the direction "I am not playing the guitar."  After a couple of minutes while keeping part of my attention on forward and up, I begin to play.  Sometimes just a few notes, others a few bars.  Then back to the direction of I am not playing ...

I pause the playing when my mind begins to chatter, or I notice I am tightening in my back, neck, or often my right leg.  Somehow negative directions are clearing out habitual thinking patterns that precede my movement.  And just like in the hands of an AT teacher they reset my system, allowing me an opportunity to move in the manner in which I was created.

Tonight I began in the manner already described and then took this session beyond twenty minutes and off in a variety of directions.  Part of why I took the work beyond the 20 minutes is that I am working with a piece of music I am learning, not something that I already play.  In particular I was working with a difficult section of this piece.  I did take frequent breaks during my practice to keep my attention fresh and my body in a state that I did not aggravate my injury.

When I returned at one point the reliable "monkey mind" was back and disruptive.  Pausing I came up with "I am not thinking while playing."  Slowly my focus returned and I moved onto "I am not playing effortlessly." Mind you I was not forcing my playing, but as I probe the use of negative directions, I have found that my brain does understand more than I realize and by introducing this thought, I somehow move closer to effortless playing.  I have uses this direction for the past week and am noticing positive results.

Having isolated the section where the piece needed work to progress as a whole, I settled in.  In a moment of exasperation I arrived at "I am not playing this part well."  As if scripted, I then played the part beautifully.  Of course one pass does not make for a reliable technique, but I knew I was on the way.  I took another break and then returned to this section.

As this part come under control I then lengthened the amount of music on either side of the problem part.  I was beginning to tire and  just could not play well.  I noticed I was beginning to tighten my jaw a bit and saw that determined part of Patrick that will delve into end gaining.  What to do I thought?  "I am not determined" arrived and I let go of practicing.  A short walk along the rain swollen Sligo Creek provided a lovely sonic back drop to work with "I am not walking."

And so it goes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Restoration

Charleville Castle Chapel Restoration ProjectMy system was out of balance, what to do?  Alexander Technique lie down of course. This simple effective practice allows the unnecessary tensions to leave me.  From this restored perspective I can begin again.  So much suffering at work these days.  Without a path that transforms suffering, I would be totally lost.  So I breath, direct my thinking, and get out my guitar.

My right elbow was irritated during my sleep last night, so I proceeded slow and gentle with my practice.  Sitting with the guitar and using the negative direction of I am not playing the guitar, I allowed my body to take in these thoughts.  A few bars and then I let go of playing.  More direction, a few bars and let go.  This continued to 15 minutes and then a break.

I was ready to let go altogether but then a twitter friend was seeking motivation to practice.  Offering support, I went back to practice.  Working with allowing my arm to have its' length, I continued to experiment with the aforementioned negative directions and enjoyed 2 - 25 minute sessions.  The magic of vibrating strings have revived my spirits.  Tomorrow is another day, if I wake. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One Lie Exposed

53c Detective Story Magazine (UK) Dec-1953 Includes My Body Lies Over the Ocean by E. Hoffmann Price
I'm a liar.  No harsh judgement with this statement, just part of my condition.  Grateful that it is not a major aspect of my being, and not at the level it once was, but the truth of the matter is I am a liar.  And those lies I tell myself are those that are most severe, if for no other reason than I believe them on some level.  Tonight at my AT class with David Jernigan, on of my lies was exposed.

David had been working with us and I was in a state where I was free in my body and mind was thinking constructively.  Alive to what I was doing and how I was doing it.  David invited me to get out my guitar while he was working with another student at the piano.  I'm still integrating the revelation I received from Bill Conable two weeks ago regarding the use of my right arm & hand.

David questioned me at to why I did something in a particular way. I responded that I was bring the guitar to the body, not bringing my body to the guitar which is a very valuable principle taught to me in Guitar Craft. As I began to bring my right hand back to the guitar, my old habit asserted itself and there I was telescoping my right arm to bring my hand into position.  I showed this to them and marveled at how easily this habit came out, after I have been so careful recently.

I then demonstrated the usefulness of my "old way" of using my arm and hand because I can get greater volume and hence have a broader range of dynamics available.  And then quite by accident I discovered that the difference in maximum volume I could attain in either position was negligible.  How or why I never discovered this early escapes me.  Perhaps when I was using my right hand in a position that I knew was better for my long term health, I did not want to find out how much power was available to me.  Then I would not need to do the work of letting go of the habit and cultivating the awareness and diligence to undertake this. Who knows.  But I did fit the information to support my habitual use.  In other words I lied to myself.  Years have been lost where this had not needed to be so and the recent suffering from tennis elbow may never have manifested.

Of course when I took out my guitar at home and went to investigate this further, at first I could not or perhaps would not attain the greater volume.  Persistence of habits is so strong and even terrifying.  I also know that a practice based on principle and intention can allow habits to be transformed.  C'est la vie.  Now my lie has been exposed to me and to you.  What's next?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Searching For the Question

... cenas de uma quinta-feira ... Sometimes I need to take a journey into the unknown.  Lately much of my travels into the unknown have been through the Alexander Technique.  Certainly this is not a bad place to question and investigate for my long term musical health.  But then sometimes, there is an urge - for something new, something different.

Yesterday I played with the negative direction of "I am not a guitarist" again.  A slight stripping away of pretense and permission for myself to not move right into an established mode.  I followed this with "I am not a composer."  Certainly I am not trained in a traditional music school, yet I do create and perform my own works.  For the sake of being open to change, to life, I continued to direct my thinking away from any usual pattern of thinking and using myself.

Then the intention formed - To create a love song.

I had fun exploring what arrived yesterday, and returned to this tonight.  Something was missing though.  What was missing?  Come back to my body, find my feet, release my length.  Revel in the good news that the search had begun.  The decision to go and embrace uncertainty, wade through the muck, and be in the process.  Breathing in, I let go of yesterdays idea, and began again.  Breathing out I explored.  Then a triad built on fourths, followed by another appeared; and I heard what was there.

A musical question, one of intrigue and this question was pulling me along.  I played this 30 seconds of notes for my wife and she heard it also.  I was off.  Listening to the question and searching for an answer.  And then another one.  Reformulate the question and listen, search, and listen once again.  A form was found and the ideas taped.  Now to rest, to listen again tomorrow.  To search, to question, and to listen; ready to let go and step out into the unknown again.

What questions await me?  What questions await thee?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Event Horizon

Infinity of Matter: The Event HorizonBalance the consistency principle with the inconsistency principle.  Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt

The wisdom of Oblique Strategies once again informs the practice of my life.  What is consistent - Habits.  And what is inconsistent - my conscious choice of how I use myself, how I move through life, how I respond to situations. By interjecting and inviting in moments of awareness throughout my day, the scales begin to tip and my habits are examined.  As these moments of awareness become more frequent through strengthening the habit of pausing and checking in with myself, life is enhanced for myself and the world.  May I become consistent with examining my inconsistencies.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Releasing One Small Habit

Canadian goose
When I woke on Monday, there was a familiar tightness in the area of the right elbow.  A stiffness was present in part of the right side of my neck and as I moved my arms about, a tightness in  a muscle of the upper right arm.  Some position I had assumed during my sleep had aggravated the muscles and tendons that comprise my condition of "tennis elbow."

Part of the great relief from the Bill Conable workshop on Saturday was having this situation alleviated.  Now I knew it was possible to have freedom in my right arm, I had experienced this on Saturday and Sunday.   So what to do?   I needed to pay attention to my whole use of myself and to direct my thinking.

That morning at work, I sat in front of my computer.  I noticed a slight pulling in the right side of my neck.  Pausing to observe, my head was slightly tilted to the right as I looked at the monitor, pulling & shortening this area of my neck.  Meanwhile my right arm was also "shortening" to accommodate my relationship to the keyboard.  Later while carrying a few sheets of paper back to my office, I noticed that my right arm was "shortening" again.  Back at my desk, I went to close my right hand and saw that when I would go to close the hand there was a "pulling back" of the arm and a slight "scrunching" of the right shoulder.

Carrying a cup of coffee with elbow bent, I again saw this "shortening."  Is this a result of strategy I developed to "protect"the injury?  More likely this is a pattern of use that has been unconscious to me and contributed to the injury.  I took this information to my Alexander Technique session with David Jernigan last night.  Through the use of his hands and suggestions my freedom in this area was once again restored.  The possibility of this habit of shortening being let go is real, but I need to cultivate the awareness to allow this to manifest.

When I came home I went to play guitar.  Pausing to direct my thinking,  I came back several times to my arms are long.  Thinking about my recent work with negative directions, the thought "I am not a short guy" arrived.  Laughing as my 6'4" frame played with this direction.

In the 45 minutes that I have been writing this, I have paused several times to notice how I was using myself at the computer.  In taking the opportunity to direct my thinking and introduce a small measure of freedom I have noticed small scrunchings  and tweakings of myself and let them go.  But habits are persistent and as my awareness withdraws from my use, the habits reassert themselves.  As Thomas Jefferson said "The price of freedom in constant vigilance."  I have my work cut out for me.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Maintaining Freedom - Is It Possible?

We move according to how we think we are structured not according to how we are actually structured. -  Bill Conable

Spine
Here I am, a mass of habits.  Many good habits and some bad ones, with most of my habits engaging below the level of my consciousness.  Yesterday at an Alexander Technique workshop with Bill Conable, he introduced a great level of comfort and freedom into my left arm in particular and my whole self in general.  Bill has been working with AT for over fifty years and has an amazing ability to transmit freedom with his hands coupled with an astounding ability to see one's self-imposed limitations.

The freedom he took me through was and is still very palpable.  How may I maintain this freedom?   Certainly by use of the AT process. Using inhibition of an action and directing myself.  Noticing what I am doing and then working through the technique to let go of what is not useful.  Lie downs and more lie downs.  But what of those habits that might lie outside of pure movement.

As I began to move about my kitchen this morning the urge, habit really, to grab a few handfuls of granola stuck me.  At this time I also noticed how free and up I still was from yesterday's work.  The unity of my system is a sum of the parts.  Habits form and shape these "parts."  What if I inhibit this particular habit of early morning snacking and choose to direct my thinking instead.  After all this "grabbing a handful of granola" generally lies within my automatic behavior.

When ever I can disrupt my automatic behavior my entire system benefits.  One small act can and does influence the whole.   Pausing to direct my thinking right now and introduce length and width to myself as I type will positively impact how I use myself with the guitar.  These moments of freedom are fleeting and rare, yet powerful.  When one continues to comes back to the moment to notice and direct what one is doing, change becomes possible.  And this act of coming back to the body and unifying my actions with my thinking strengthens the ability to notice again later.

As I learn more about how the human system actually is designed to work and choose to direct my use along these lines rather than my habitual way of doing, a small measure of freedom is obtained.  Vigilance in observing how I move and taking the time to direct my thinking maintains these small freedoms.  Change is possible, freedom is possible; it requires a gentle persistence.  Just now I paused again to notice how I was sitting with the computer.  Bringing my actions within a conscious intentional act changes everything, if only for  a moment.

Friday, July 6, 2012

. . . . . . . . . . ... I Am Not


A nap.
I really wanted a nap.
But it was late.
Too late to nap.
I must play my guitar, I must.
Because the nap would lead to me staying in  bed the rest of this day.

But first.
A Blessed AT lie down.
Played with a lie down in the prone position.
Using Missy Vineyards instructions.
This opened up something new.


Playing with AT directions.
Misdirecting my mind to allow freedom.
I am not playing the guitar.
And I did not.
I was not even holding a guitar.

Finding my center.
I am not holding my neck.
And I Am
Forward, up,     wide.
And then again. 
Lightly bringing
Different & various combinations,
of one hand or both and then again.
To the space where I am not playing guitar.

Finally
My guitar
Graces my body.
Quiet 
Body
Mind 
Strings.

 I allow my hands to float to the guitar.
As if driven by ocean currents.
I am not playing my guitar.
Moving hands.
Quieting mind.
Finding my center again,
and again.

Finally notes sing.
As I sing with them.
Boldly.
Uncharacteristically
BOLD.
The act of singing like this requires
Most of my attention.
And my hands play on.

I come to an end.
Pause.
Inhibit.
Think more negative directions.

I am not compressing myself.
And voila,
I was not.
More playing, 
More Alexander Technique.
More quiet.

More not playing while playing.

I am not a slave to my practice.
Another lie down.
First semi-supine.
Then prone.
More quiet.

Then this 
not playing Gathered Hearts 

A break w/out my nap.
Energized
Happy
Ready for more.
I am not holding my neck.
The setting sun
Silhoutes my shoulders, neck and head.
On the brick wall.

I am not doing the Alexander Technique.
But


It just may be
Doing me.



More playing.
More directing.
And now
A long big nap.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Negating Up

What goes up, must come down (Explored)
While waiting for someone at work today, the thought arose - I am not holding myself down.  Smiling as I saw a possible way around the often confusing "forward and up" of Alexander lingo.  I have used the direction  "allow my neck to be free in such a way that mu head is forward and up ..." for years.  And I still will, but there is something fresh about finding and exploring negative directions.  Jumping about Missy Vineyards book  I see she is very much concerned with her students developing spatial awareness by simplifying the AT directions.  From what I have garnered from others more experienced in the teaching and application of AT she is the first one to use "negative directions."

In the few instances I have directed "I am not holding myself down," I sense a lightness and easing upwards of my torso, while maintaining a connection with my feet.  Taking this one step further with "I am not holding myself back" as the negative corollary to "forward" I also found that I was not attempting to "do anything" in response to the "holding myself back" direction.   There is also another sense inherent in "not holding myself back" that could serve me well musically. 

I am practicing in a room that has a beautiful oval mirror which captures my torso from my navel to the top of head.  Framed in this manner within the oval gives me a great sense of width to complement the spatial relationships I am playing with.  Feeling light and free as I play guitar tonight. So onwards with playing with the AT directions and assesing the results.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Be in the Space

Looping Hot
Grateful tonight for simple conveniences such as lights and air conditioning after having done without the past two days. As I was taking my guitar out of the case I had a wish - May I be in the space where I am practicing.  So simple, yet so difficult to just be where I am.  To be alive in the space I am living in this moment.  Using the Alexander Technique principle of inhibition, I paused and directed my thinking, rather than just allowing my habitual responses to having a guitar in my hands to arise.

Using the negative direction of "I am not compressing my neck," I then moved on to "I am not playing the guitar."  From these thoughts and then thinking forward, up, and wide, I took in the space that has been offered to me tonight.  Enjoying the sound of my guitar in a different room, while lightly thinking to keep myself free.

Slowly the thought of "I am not playing the guitar," is offering glimpses of non-doing as I play.  While singing the bass notes of a tremolo piece as I played, I entered the piece in a new way; perhaps I entered the space within the piece.  Hearing what is possible for this piece and realizing I do not need to think about what the music means, but rather to play the meaning.  Slowly, ever so slowly, I learn.