My students are my heroes because they are willing to face fear.
They are willing to accept it, and to learn how care for themselves, to use their conscious mind to embrace and relinquish unconscious reactions that can really restrict their bodies, their options, and their creativity. Each and every person I work with has inspired me this year with their willingness to experience and work with some kind of fear – large or small. Even relaxing and opening up can be scary!
I find that the absolute best way to loosen the grip of fear is to give it recognition. To admit it: Yes, I’m scared. Recognition brings relief, and somehow I can breath again. And then, can I stop making myself rigid, stop holding on to the idea I thought was so important, stop anticipating dreadful things to come? Can I begin to really take in what is going on around me? Chances are, there might be a good reason for my fear and I might need to respond, to move. Or, it might just be based on a previous experience that is not relevant but somehow got triggered. This kind of “stopping” actually mobilizes energy, thought, creativity, and imagination, all of which are needed to solve problems at hand. In the Alexander Technique world our word for it is “inhibition” – or the un-doing of an unwanted reaction.
We practice this skill in the face of small fears, daily, so that we can meet larger challenges with skill. Here are some things that I have noticed my students are afraid of. These issues have come up while working with the most pedestrian of movements like sitting, standing, walking, or relaxing and releasing on the table:
– looking weird, stupid, or different
– making a mistake (even and especially when we are not sure what is right in the first place)
– pain that might happen in the future (seconds, minutes or hours) but is not happening right now
– showing emotion
– getting old
– admitting frailty because it makes us vulnerable to attack
Fear is so ever present in my life that half the time I don’t even notice it. Little fears, nothing major, but just the sight of a plastic bag blowing in the wind can take my mind to the great pacific garbage patch, and then straight to extinction…..it’s just how my mind seems to work. I’m incredibly sensitive and I go to the dark side quickly.
If I take the time to check in, when my mind goes to the dark side, physically itʻs like a tiny version of being a deer caught in headlights. I freeze! I become rigid, my field of attention narrows to a pinpoint. It happens so fast – my conscious mind is always one step behind my physical reaction.The feeling is as if – well, I’m OK right here right now, so if I can just stop time, perhaps everything will just STAY alright.
For some reason, Iʻve had this feeling quite a bit this holiday season. Perhaps itʻs because there are so many elements of my life that are in flux; or maybe itʻs the collection of tragic events that we have experienced this winter, or maybe the combination of both!
The problem is, time doesn’t stop, traffic doesn’t stop, other people don’t stop. Everything else keeps moving. My rigidity – of thought, of body, of emotion – can become profoundly destabilizing. My students keep me honest – together we face small and large fears, we practice opening ourselves up to new possibilities of thought and movement. THATS AMAZING! Each student is different, but each one is so courageous! I feel so lucky to be doing this work.
I still have a special affection for my inner “deer,” I love this incredibly sensitive aspect of my physicality. I still go rigid when frightened, but I know how to take care of myself.
Here is a very sweet not so metaphorical video the shows the process beautifully (click the link to watch it on youtube -itʻs copyrighted and only available there):