Saturday, July 21, 2012

I Am Not Determined


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.

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