On Now

An essay by Nadia Banna, for the lying down practice of the Alexander Technique.

I've recently been noticing how my inhibiting and directing play out in the present moment.  When I often think I'm fully conscious, in the moment and sending my directions, I've noticed that there are often other thoughts in my mind about the past or the future at the same time, a kind of radio static that I don't need.  

So I'd like to encourage you to notice, right now, what's present in your mind and your body.  See if there are any thoughts or voices that are swimming around that may even be so habitual that you hardly notice them occurring in your mind.  Accept that the starting point is right now, however you are in this moment. So in addition to to your thoughts, notice where you are in space and within yourself. Notice the contact you're making with the floor and your head on the books. Notice how your legs are relating to your back, and your pelvis to your torso. And notice your breathing.

Sometimes I like to think of this interaction between the mind and the body - these sending of directions - like a conversation with another person.  You might start by saying something in your conversation like "Release the neck, and let the whole spine follow that release."  (Wouldn't it be nice if even conversations with actual other people all started that way? Imagine the difference in the quality of the conversations we might all experience!) And then after you start that conversation, you wait.  You let the other person (your body) receive the message.  You don't start plotting what you're going to say next without hearing the person's response and reaction.  So allow that waiting to be a ripening of the intention you sent yourself.  And then, go ahead and send it again, just to see what happens.  I often find when I have lots of thoughts aside from my directing, that it helps to repeat the direction, as if you're in a noisy room where it's hard for your voice to be heard in the conversation.

And then, based on the response, see where you might next send a direction.  I often feel my lower back release into the ground more after I ask my neck to release.  So allow your back to spread onto the floor, and ask the ribs to fall back and up.  And allow your whole torso to elastically expand in all directions with each breath. Or you might follow another thread based on what you're sensing.

And then come back to the present moment again.  Even though we were just there, in the present moment, now is a whole another moment, new and fresh again.  Check in and see if you've slipped into the past or the future.  Perhaps even through sending your directions, you slipped into the past by expecting a certain kind of release or by criticizing yourself for where you are now because of what you did or encountered yesterday or on the way here. Or maybe you were holding somewhere in your body because you were anticipating a non-cooperation or even pain or soreness as you sent your direction. And just let your directions be in the present moment, with no expectation of where the conversation will lead.    

Something I've been noticing in actual conversations is how I participate in them.  It's often easy to feel like I have to do more to fully participate in the conversation, when in fact just by doing less my participation is often more natural and full.  So just like in a conversation with another person, see if there is any forcefulness in your participation with your current state.  Let the conversation happen naturally and organically by giving yourself room.  By giving yourself enough space, you'll be able to stay back and not interfere with the very directions you're sending.  It's not a matter of disengaging, but rather of restoring the spaciousness within our thoughts and bodies so that we have room to release.  So allow yourself to fully occupy the moment and space on the floor.  Release your arms and legs out of your back, and notice the aliveness in your whole body.  You're both asking for the connection within your whole spine and body and allowing the elastic release.  Connection and release often feel to me like two sides of the same coin. 

See if you can find that connection and release in your ribs with every breath. Allow the air to come in and let your back expand into width as the spine releases.  As you exhale, allow the ribs to return without gripping or contracting.  Make sure you're not pulling your back off the floor or tightening the neck.  Undo in the shoulders and  let them release out and down to the elbows and then out the fingertips. With each breath, find the connection all the way through you and allow the breath to help you release more into the ground or table, out the head and out the arms and legs.  

Now, go ahead and extend one of your legs and allow the release all the way from the lower back, through the hamstring and the calf and out the heel.  And continue to allow your spine to release.  Connect the big toe all the way through the leg to the opposite side hip. thinking through the leg like there's a swath of fabric that's being opened up from being folded.  It expands in all directions, opening into length and width allowing the passageway of the pelvis to be three-dimensionally open.  And then return the leg to its original position, still allowing that connection between the big toe all the way through the inner thigh and over to the opposite hip.  And extend the other leg.  Again let the release start in the lower back, and allow the leg to extend and be supported by the floor, not at all "holding" itself up.  And think of that diagonal connection between the big toe and the opposite hip.  Make sure you're still allowing yourself to breathe. And then go ahead and bring that leg back up.  

The beautiful thing about lie-downs, I think, is that there is nothing else to concern ourselves with.  We can be fully with ourselves and our present reality.  Even if there is something going on outside of ourselves, which there pretty much always is, we can allow that activity to pass through us while still allowing our coherence to be the primary focus.  Our present reality is concerned with "am i allowing my back to lengthen and widen into the floor or table, and my head to release off the top of my spine, and my ribs to release, and my arms and legs to release out of the back."  When I allow that presence in my body to be primary in my lie-down, instead of any superfluous thoughts or things happening outside of the present moment, the quality of my releasing and directing changes.  It's easier and clearer.  I am inhabiting my body fully, allowing it to fully exist.

My thinking about today's lie-down was related to Eckhart Tolle's book, "The Power of Now." Many of you have probably read it.  There's a quote that I came across that I thought was nicely connected to the Alexander principles, so I'll read it to you now:

"Use your senses fully.  Be where you are.  Look around. Just look, don't interpret.  See the light, shapes, colors, textures.  Be aware of the silent presence of each thing.  Be aware of the space that allows everything to be.  Listen to the sounds; don't judge them.  Listen to the silence underneath the sounds.  Touch something - anything - and feel and acknowledge its Being.  Observe the rhythm of your breathing; feel the air flowing in and out, feel the life energy inside your body.  Allow everything to be, within and without.  Allow the "isness" of things.  Move deeply into the Now."  

And, now, your Now is in the upright.  So when you're ready you can come up to standing.