Saturday, January 21, 2012

Of Course it's the Neck

brancabstract 7/7

This morning when I woke, I felt as if I had been run over.  A long stressful week professionally, ending with an 11 hour day Friday.  The sonic assault of my professional environment seems to take a great toll on me these days.  After rising I wrote briefly and read a few pages from Thich Nhat Hanh's Breathe, You Are Alive: The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing, which  I've been studying since October.  Grateful for the day off, I was in a place where I just did not want to decide what to do today.  Fortunately I have my morning routine, and my loving wife with whom I practice.

She reviewed the Blue Heron Walking form from the Qi Gong class which I could not attend this week.  Becoming confused with the form, I wanted to let go of Qi Gong altogether.  Fortunately, she continued and I followed.  Taking us through forms which I am familiar, slowly my body let go of the stress and found release.  Towards the end of the session, we were standing and pausing, allowing the Qi to consolidate.  I found myself in a slightly unfamiliar stance, that had a sense of rightness.  I savored this moment for a bit as she began moving through the word for the day.  Smiling I began to move again, knowing that I can not hold onto anything, and just must continue to arrive in each moment.  An extremely pleasant contrast to the last couple hours of work yesterday.

Later in the day I was unclear with what to do next, so I rested.  After waking from my nap, I stayed in bed and meditated on the body.  Finding again the area of discomfort on my right forearm, I noticed a tightness below the right shoulder that appeared to be working to "hold" the shoulder in position.  As I just now tried to locate this area, I noticed the relationship between this "muscle" below the shoulder and movement I found myself doing while playing tonight.

Revisiting an exercise from Pedro de Alcanatara's excellent book Indirect Procedures: A Musician's Guide to the Alexander Technique (Clarendon Paperbacks) I was putting a rest in during the second beat of a measure.  This brief inhibition of my regular playing, has proved illuminating when I worked with this previously.  I was also playing the piece slower than usual, focusing on observing the use of my right hand.  As I approached a section that I generally play with great intensity, I found my head slightly scrunching down and to the right.  Certainly not a surprise that a poor use of the neck would impact my playing from an Alexander viewpoint, but I was fascinated with finding this particular quirk on my own.  As I continued working in this manner, I noticed this again in relationship to a "mistake."  Subtle and as I write this I sense a dropping in my shoulder for some reason.  Pausing to inhibit my typing and thinking through the AT directions.  As I scrunch the neck and slightly lift the shoulder, I sense the "muscular holding" previously referred to.  Playing with this again there appears to be a habit of this "scrunch of neck and lift of shoulder " in my use.  No idea how this habit developed or why.  Now at least I have a sense of what I am working with. 

                           Photo by Luca Biada.


  1. Very nice! Thank you for sharing this experience of moving mindfully through your day!

  2. Thanks for your interest Jennifer. I'm enjoying your blog also.

  3. Thanks for sharing your explorings & discoverings Patrick. One of the things I appreciate about Mr A is that he doesn't ask "why". He merely invites us to observe/sense and then....: Do Nothing About It! b/c to do means to judge. [why else would I 'fix' something?!] To do means to let my Ego jerk me around [...never thought about it this way]. But in that delicious space-between, AKA inhibition, my Body Wisdom/ my Self can begin finding its own right way of being.

    Also: thanks to your wife & the Blue Heron Walking....