As part of my Alexander Technique teacher training, I have to fulfill a certain number of hours of independent study work to complement classroom hours. Some of this is taken up by writing a final paper, reading set books and other organizational bits and pieces. 80 hours of this work is elective, with a large array of possible projects to undertake. One of the options is journaling. This seemed to me a perfect thing to do, as I like to write. Although I am extremely self-motivated and productive on the whole, the burden of self-imposed discipline can be quite taxing. In looking forward to the whole process, I thought I would start this blog, not just to give me structure, but also to give me direction. It’s great to have even as informal a forum as a blog to publish your work. It gives you focus and a sense of voice as you picture who you might be addressing and how you wish to express yourself as you write.
6 weeks in, I am still glad I made the choice to go this route, but you might have noticed I haven’t been writing lately. It’s been difficult to think about writing. Each week we have a theme that the different teachers in the program weave into the daily work. “Observation skills/ways of using the mirror” and “Verbal directions/communication/feedback” were the themes of weeks 4 and 5. These were interesting themes to work with, given what was going on with me at the time.
I’ve noted before how mentally taxing this program has been. It might seem surprising when you look at the work we do each day. There are a few class discussions and short lectures during the week, but nothing excessive. We do some reading for the discussions, but the amount of pages set is quite manageable. The practical work we do is not physically strenuous—just the standard Alexander Technique procedures of standing, sitting, shifting weight, walking. What is a challenge is the level of focus, the level of attention to detail. For three hours every day we are participating in the equivalent of a mindfulness meditation practice. Every moment of action and repose, every moment of listening and observing is underlaid with self-observation and re-direction of habitual patterns.
By week 4, my brain was in a complete fog. My level of mental exhaustion was significant. I was coming home every day after school and sitting on the couch, zonked out in front of the television for a couple of hours. Eventually I found out that a little bit of yoga could turn everything around and clear out the cobwebs, but I had to be careful not to do too much and and tire myself out for teaching.
By the end of the week entire chunks of my consciousness seemed to be offline. I felt like I completely lost the capability to be rational and discriminating. Without meaning to, or even being aware of what I was doing in the moment, I managed to upset a few people with what I said. It was very confusing. A thought would appear in my head that seemed very rational and unprovocative. The thought would come and I would say it out loud and then the person I was speaking to would react in a way that seemed completely out of order, taking offense where, it seemed to me, there was none to be taken. I would reflect on what had happened and be unable to find any empathy that would connect what I said to the way the person reacted.
I should say that I wasn’t going around being crass, incendiary or bigoted. I think I was just being blunt and insensitive. And I hope I’ve managed to make amends where it was owed. (If any of my friends, loved ones and teachers should read this, I’m really, really sorry!) It was fascinating, and alarming, to experience living with seriously curtailed conscious faculties. It makes me wonder how often we are in our full minds during the day. Since then, with much sleep, things have been slowly getting better. My superego has gone into overdrive since I’ve realized what was going on. It’s made it a little better to catch myself before saying something stupid.
Also, the thrust of the following week was giving feedback in such a way as not to give offense or cause distress. I was squirming in my seat all week. Karma in action.