Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Question Remains - Where Am I?

Leucantha, Lady in the Lake (2)

Doing a pre-guitar practice lie down, I noticed the area below my right shoulder blade that sometimes becomes sore from playing. Direct anatomical expression of this area is beyond my competence, and the muscle in question may even lay deeper within my back or within my neck.   I do know the area was sore.  I focused my thinking on letting go of this tension.  Then I took a more universal approach and thought of allowing my neck to be free.  Where within the muscular pathways of my neck am I "holding on," or using myself poorly.

As I continued the lie down and thought of releasing my neck, the discomfort left.  I wondered about the discomfort I have noticed in the upper part of my forearm of late.  What is the relationship between what I often notice in my back and what is happening in my forearm.  How am I using myself right now as I type?  I found a slight lifting of my shoulder and a shortening of my arm.  Where and when did I learn this pattern of use?  This is not the first time I have observed this manifestation.  Certainly there is a cause, a habit that has evolved within me that has led to this being regular and now causing discomfort. Now my work is to let go of this habit as a typist, as a guitarist, even in how I hold a cup of coffee.

Finding freedom of use within any activity, invites in this freedom to all activities. So the question becomes Where am I?  Am I typing mechanically or am I aware of my body, my breath, as I express these thoughts with my lap top? 

From my work with the Alexander Technique and examining anatomy texts, I have gained a much greater appreciation of the number of muscles that comprise what we call our necks.  These muscles extend deeper and further in the back and the chest than I had ever imagined.  As they layer and extend through the passages around bone, tension in one will impact the flexibility of others.  Conversely freedom in one affects the rest. Regardless of my state before a lie down, I always rise in a better one.  Free and aware, my musculo-skeletal system placed at an advantage for me to undertake activity. Time for another lie down before I pick up my guitar.


  1. So beautifully expressed, Patrick. As an Alexander teacher, I always enjoy reading how you apply the Technique to your entire life. Lying in constructive rest is (as you well know) one of the single best things we can do to take care of ourselves. Not only do we rest, restore and re-energize, but also, we learn where we are carrying habitual tension, and how our thinking can help us to let that tension go. And, just as a musician's perception of pitch gets more exacting through practice, so can our perception of unnecessary tension through regular practice of awareness, inhibition and direction during constructive rest. That's a skill that will help with all activities of living. Thanks for a lovely post.

  2. Hello Patrick--I love the lyricism of your writing. A lie down's never 'sounded' so layered. Wanting to suggest you might consider playing around with including your guitar in a not-your-first lie down of the day. A musician's instrument is a powerful stimulus, often triggering patterned responses even when nothing's being played. I've had guitarists [& other musicians of small-ish instruments] place their instrument across their chests; in various distances from their body; & have even had them play [play-fully!] while in a lie down.

    Happy playing!

  3. We inter-are, even within our bodies. Congratulations on your self-discovery and rest, Patrick.

  4. Bill - your comment is a succinct expression of the value of constructive rest. Well done.

    Lynn - thanks for this idea which proved to be very powerful for me and I suspect will yield untold riches.