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 ...


  1. I really enjoy reading how you work with yourself using Alexander Technique directions - in particular these inhibitory directions. I wonder, could "I am not LEANING" be useful??
    And isn't it interesting just when we have success in letting go of one particular habit of tension, than another - new or old - seems to pop up, as if in compensation... I guess that joy can be found in that we always have something to work on :)

    1. Many thanks for your time and attention Imogen. I will be, in fact just was applying your "I am not leaning" direction. By chance I visited an earlier post I wrote today back in June titled "The Simplest Direction Yet" where I had also noticed this tendency to lean into my pelvis. But then I forget. Guess now is the time to work with it.

  2. I see a design pattern here... Whatever the leading edge is, a person will notice whatever is interfering with or resisting the intended expression. That resistance or interfering feature will jump into their field of awareness to become obvious so it can be cleared. Otherwise the mysteries that are interfering can remain completely hidden, buried in routines...where they can be overwhelming in their complexities. (I think that Fritz Perls in his "gestalt" ideas also discussed this phenomena.)
    Does there does come a time when routines work for you rather than against, which was the intent behind almost every habit's design? I have experienced that there exists a form of "productive procrastination." This is when you find yourself interfering, and then a positive reason to be doing such things suddenly appears to justify itself. As if you somehow knew the need for having the habit in your "bag of tricks" was going to be useful in that moment. Every habit has the appropriate circumstance of its "proper" use.

  3. Franis, funny that you bring up the notion of "field of awareness." I was reflecting on yesterdays experience while I was eating lunch today and arrived at the thought that perhaps my awareness was not broad enough. Maybe just a bit too focused on the specific perception of my "misuse" that I noticed yesterday rather than on the Primary Control. Also as I replied to Imogen, I have actually noticed this same pattern of use before, but then forgotten about it.

    Perhaps I did not grasp the literal hold "The Lean" had/has on me the first time. Now with more experience and options I can begin to unravel another of my previously "hidden" complexities.

    Your sentence "Every habit has the appropriate circumstance of its "proper" use" also struck a chord. The second habit that arose in the evening,let's call it "The Arc" for how I shorten my right arm to suspend my right hand over the strings, did once have a "proper use." I was accommodating a particular guitar shape & an instrument that did not project well. "The Arc" provided more power to play louder or so I thought. David Jernigan helped me to find this to be false in a lesson a few months back.

    Yet somehow this position still "feels powerful" or "right" to me. Thus there are times "The Arc" slips in beneath the level of my awareness particularly with a piece like Senseless Loss which has a deep emotional content and requires an increase in volume throughout. Even though it is an inefficient use of myself, "The Arc" might have it's moments of usefulness still, if only to provide that sense of power. I sense that I may have just stepped on some Alexandrian toes with that statement though. I do know that over time I can gain this sense of power with better use, but there is still this interim period in which I must create.

    Finally there was a time where my application of AT principles worked against me. Confused with how to direct and when; so many habits needing to be addressed at once; and the desire to make music were all clashing in my brain and actually distracting me while playing. But this passed as all of life does. Now my routine of applying AT principles and exploring them in either straightforward or unorthodox ways informs me and my playing.

    Many thanks for your thoughtful and evocative comments. You are amazing.