Saturday, August 11, 2012

Inhibitory 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

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