Monday, November 29, 2010

Ice Skating on Positivity

Sydney's gone.

I have closed my school, put my dreams to bed and turned instead to face the mounting challenges of Japan. (Another blog for that.) Me, the eternal optimist, experiences defeat. There is no rosy face to it - I lost. My learning is in the admission - don't try to cheer me up.

I had been ice skating on positivity, but there lurked death-freezing danger as reality created cracks across my veil of thin ice. Can you see me, joyously skating across the lake of my hallucinations? There I am, laughing and shouting then suddenly: GONE. Where is he? Oh, I think he fell into a hole…

It was my wake up call. I still imagined I was 26, but without a million dollars to back me up. BodyChance in Sydney needed money, resources and most of all - teachers. Who was going to staff my studio? In my own article of DIRECTION, I pointed out that a school can not thrive in the absence of a thriving practise. Actually, it was that article for DIRECTION that first triggered my doubt: I was not able to implement what I had in Japan - the very source of our success. I was trying to create a school without first building a public business of teaching.

Those who know me well understand that more than a school in Sydney has fallen apart. My words read lighter than the heart that conveys them.

Yet I am still like those self-righting toys with the sand base at the bottom - I have rocks at my base in the form of belief, who hold me to my task in life and I turn again to building an extraordinary business around the discoveries of F. Matthias Alexander. Albeit just Japan. Good lord - isn't that big enough?!

So there is a rosy face I guess: the learning of defeat. Now I know: if I want to start a studio in another country, I need a lot of available time, a lot of money, many skilled BodyChance teachers, a lot of support and a well thought out plan of constructive action. This time, I had none of the above. It looks so obvious now - why couldn't I see it then?

Madness - but that is what happens when you ice-skate on positivity alone.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Nuggets of Knowledge

If you're a turkey on November 24th in the USA, just before the inevitable is about to happen, life is a wonderful thing. You are fed, cared for by your owner, who may occasionally have a longing look, so that generally - based on past experiences - why wouldn't the next day be the same as the last?

Such is the danger of habit, for this poor turkey (unawares) is about to be devoured…

My thoughts were provoked by a headline in the New Yorker this morning "Gobbled" with a trio of active turkeys pictured in the glorious morning light of a country setting… A quote from Susan Orlean's piece:

"Unlike megafarm turkeys, which have been engineered to have breasts so disproportionately huge that the birds can’t stand up when they’re full-grown, Royal Palms are athletic and lively and curious."

Read more here: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/susanorlean/2010/11/gobbled.html#ixzz16L2PlyWu

In the Turkey World, something close to genocide has just occurred, and with a jocularity and banality which, to this vegetarian and Buddhist, is almost unfathomable. Almost - but I have it in me too. I am not so arrogant to think I am immune to the way we all desensitise ourselves to horror.

Would I upset your sensibilities if I described it as systematic, organised industrial murder? Probably, so I won't do that. We are not accustomed to thinking this way when it comes to animals.

Loving a cockroach is one of the many challenges I have undertaken, and do continue to endure, in my current life. Only when it is our beloved chewawa, or cat or other pet that we have taken for companionship, are we are allowed to indulge in anthropomorphism. But not if we plan to eat the creature.

Gobbled.
(Susan isn't going to eat hers.)

###

So why the morbid meditation on the fate of the turkey?

Because, based on the past, we can not know the future. However, we mostly live as though the future will be a continuation of the past. Like the turkey, if every day was like this, then we can't imagine that November 25th will be any different from November 24th.

Recently I have discovered the failings of the inductive process. Nassim N. Taleb's book "Black Swan" has a lot to say on this subject. But mine is not an intellectual discovery, mine is a raw emotional ride I have been on these past few weeks. (Does it ever stop?)

Life has become unimaginably different these past weeks - edifices built upon deep conviction and emotion evaporating before my protruding eyes. Right now I am musing on the nature of the changes that I am both author and witness too. I can not be concrete, but will let slip nuggets of knowledge as those that will be affected by my changing, will themselves be informed by it.

The biggest news, hidden here for those who actually read my rantings, is that I have closed BodyChance in Sydney. Everyone knows, so that can be public. I'll share more about the Sydney decision, but not now. My other news is already made public, but only for those that can see what they usually fail to notice.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Peering Under the Sheet of Civility

In sooth, I know not why I am so sad:
It wearies me; you say it wearies you;
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born,
I am to learn;

I've always been attracted to this opening of Merchant of Venice - somehow it speaks to me. It reminds me also of Henry Thoreau's quote:

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

In Buddhist philosophy it is called Duhkha or dissatisfaction, a condition that exists perennially at the base of every action we make.

What we usually call "fun" is most often only a temporary cessation of Duhkha. I get hungry, I feel wonderful while I eat, then I get hungry. Those who read my blog will know that every night these days I get hungry, so I have plenty of opportunities to study Duhkha.

These last two wistful days I spent wandering around my Osaka studio, pretending to be intent and focused, were all the time tinged with this delicate desperation. Hanging back at the wings was a sadness, not clearly defined but ever present when I let it.

So where does "will" fit in with this? I practiced my daily quantum accelerator (good boy that I am) and chose enthusiasm as the antidote for this lingering malady, but knew moment to moment that I needed choices that took me away from the inclinations that drove me. Sometimes I did, but after lunch collapse set in, and I supplicated to it.

The focal drive of this object called me is an endless source of fascination! I have many an analysis for the moods that try to possess me—fatigue, missing my little girls and wife, hearing of distrust some staff hold of, the schizophrenia of trying to get a start-up going in Sydney while overseeing an emotional shakeup in the Japan. Seeing it all written down here, the last two days are making more sense.

"Will" has its place, but acceptance is a beaut little tool too. It just is. I continue my disciplined life, my meso practise, my precepts, my self promises and say to myself "What I did today is what I did today." Part of the skill in managing myself is knowing what is kinder of all the choices that face me, providing each choice has a functioning role in the greater vision that possesses me.

I am writing in an odd way tonight, I am not my fingers! It is this mysteriousness of living that attracts me in the Venice quote. That there is the unexplained, that there is still a mystery to manage. If we really knew it all—where's the fun in that?

Tonight I have no answers, I feel some disappointment with myself, I am lonely but not desperate, I am tired but still thrilled to write, I am hopeful while overwhelmed by a multitude of necessities. All these contradictions, and I am sure something sits deeper under that. I have enlisted the support of a coach soon, and look forward to peering underneath the sheet of my civility.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Mr Bone Knows Why

In Tokyo now, miles away in mind from Australia - only the paper lists keep it living.

This week a small class organised by Ikuo Nishioka, the ex-Chairman of the Intel Corporation of Japan, at his Business schools in Roppongi for some middle level executives from large Japanese corporations. I gave a quick powerpoint, then lots of demonstrations to my now accustomed looks of surprise, wonder and joy. I manage to throw in a mention of Victorinox's 40% productivity increase through AT—that got noticed. And there were the obligatory one or two doubters, looking through a cocked head wondering what my trick must be…

Of course nature's the trick—the wonderful capacity we have for natural movement, pain free. It is always the first surprise I love the most: the way the pain vanishes, the way nothing happens to make the pain vanish "What did you do?" It was a shock, wrote one participant after the evening, to learn that there is "nothing to do." I understand that. It is a huge shock. In these days of power yoga and body control pilates (there is even yogalates now) to learn to do less is almost heretical. Of course exercise is great, tone is necessary, flexibility takes movement—but the point of our work is not any of that. It is not even about release. The pain thing, as spectacular as it can be, is just a side show, and a distracting one at that.

No—the real thing is the evolution of human consciousness, and FM's discovery is a powerful factor in encouraging its development. Of course there are no shortage of other modalities working at the same goal, but none bring with them the concrete reality of using information on how our bones range themselves around joints to calibrate the state of consciousness, in a remarkably reliable and consistent manner. Mr Bone Knows It. Mr Bone Is It.

So BodyChance Japan is working on Gold Membership from April 2011. We seek the time-challenged market, not the financially-challenged market. My overwhelming concern right now is profit. Without a bottom line PL profit—who will invest in BodyChance? Who would lend us money to expand? I have to figure that out, and going up market seems the only way, otherwise we will remain stuck as a one centre marvel, slowly going tacky.

There's only five ways to make money in a business: cut costs, raise prices, sell more to each customer, sell to more customers or sell the business. Being a service industry, and selling our time for money, makes it hard to cut costs, although we try. And as I don't plan to sell BodyChance anytime soon, that leaves just three ways to make more.

Michael Masterson wrote a brilliant book—a text book really—about the 4 stages of a business. "Ready, Fire, Aim" He based it each stage on revenue. 1st is zero to one million in sales (that's us); next is one million to ten million (that's next). Stage two is all about increasing services, offering more variety. My other constant companion is—we need products, not just services. For our work, the obvious product is an information product. So I am dead keen on the development of that. Keep watching our website (if you can read Japanese).

As for new services, well there's the Gold Membership, although there's no gold members yet. Plan to launch that next April. We are also embarking on niche marketing campaigns—currently katakori (like sore/frozen shoulders, a big thing in Japan), presentation and (wonderfully left of field) stuttering. Sales growing at 30%, but still growing.

And my life is sculptured every hour these days—breaks are scheduled like everything else. Not that I have many, but it's the life I choose. I get overwhelmed sometimes at how profoundly small we are. I sit in the bullet train as building after building whizzes by, thinking "We are no bigger than half a floor of that building over there." And there are SO MANY MORE. When we ever be able to make a significant impact socially….?

If I'm lucky I've got 25, maybe 30 years of productive working life left. Then it's all over for me. My deep wish is to leave something that lives independently, that carries on. I think we have that in Japan now. I aim to have it in as many places as possible before the end. Sydney next. Oh Sydney. Don't start me on that…

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I Am Still Quite Mad

I wonder if anyone noticed that I’ve stopped my series?

I write these things, it goes into this virtual abyss, and very little bounces back at me. So I wonder. Do me a favour and let me know if you want me to continue with it or not…?

So I have been away from my Blog, and in a swirl of constant creativity through exploring ways to get the business going in Sydney. What a challenge this is proving to be. Yet now it is starting to look simple. Now I am wondering why I thought it was difficult.

As regular readers of my blog know, I recently passed through my night of despair. Breaking my wrist and requiring surgery was the symbolic cry for help that alerted me to that I could not keep on going the way I was going. So I made major personal decisions—which are not for this blog—so that now interesting, unexpected consequences are manifesting all around me. The real truth is that exceptional results require a little magic.

These days I am filled with possibilities, and overwhelmed with the idea that if I even succeed by 1% of my vision, there will be no teachers available to teach. In Japan we are already examining the issue that we can not educate teachers fast enough to meet the demand we are achieving. 35% sales growth in an economy that’s tanking. This is a nice problem, but a major structural fault of the business—without teachers, how do we expand? And this is a school that currently has 80 people in ProCourse (Alexander Technique Teacher Education), but all at various stages of achievement.

And while sales roar ahead, costs grow even faster—50%—which makes for another impossible problem. The cost structure of the business is lethal—way too many human resources are needed to generate the sales we get. No business can survive long term this way. Are we like the internet companies of the past—more intent on expansion than making any money? No—we are too small for that. We will never make it out the other side.

Of course—what do you do when you’ve got too many clients and not enough teachers? Raise your prices of course. Or introduce a higher end service that makes profit.

Not that I have that problem in Sydney yet, or Japan—but I can see if my latest Oz marketing plan works, we will quickly be overwhelmed with people knocking at our door. To make it happen is going to require a 24/7 focus from me for a sustained period of time. How can I achieve that?

Well, I need something to keep me awake. So will you be surprised to learn what that is? I am going to stop eating dinner. Once I have made my first million—cash in the bank—I’ll start again. Why use the money as the measure? Good question. Because it is real. It’s substantial. If I can’t do that, who am I kidding?

So despite a broken arm, despite collapsing into myself for awhile, despite two major health scares in one year—I am still quite mad.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Transformational Strucuture #8

THE MUDDLE-HEADED WOMBAT…

My mother loved to call me “The muddle-headed wombat” because my ideas, plans and intention shifted around like leaves in a hurricane. What I have learnt is that being muddle-headed is fine, providing you have a clear vision driving it. In fact, with clarity, muddle headedness can work to you advantage. How’s that? Well, here’s my story…

Three years ago on a bullet train in Japan—on my way to teach in Tokyo while reading a book on leadership by Pat Mesiti—I decided to open a BodyChance studio in Sydney. I had no idea how I was going to achieve that—at the time it seemed enough that I had the clarity of my intention.

I kept that clarity, organised my life around it, and finally arrived back home in January of 2010 to launch my new project. Needless to say, for those who follow my blog, it did not turn out the way I intended. It’s rare that anything does. The divide between conception and reality is never greater when bringing to life non-existent things. Luckily, BodyChance Sydney is no longer non-existent! I have two wonderfully clear and committed companions that breath life into my evolving project.

So I have a school, the same intention, but a wonderful variety of different plans. That’s my muddle-headed part. This is the message to take from reading to-day’s excerpt of my essay on transformational learning structure: intention manifests multiple possibilities—if you are stuck in one path you won’t learn. My continuing journey to create a hugely successful college of BodyChance Alexander Technique Teacher Education in Sydney continues, but it continues in ways I never imagined on my fast-moving train of three years ago. Every day a new piece falls in, every day an old piece falls out.

To realise the creation of something that did not exist before you conceived it, you need a vision of razor sharp clarity, a huge intention of ‘no-matter-what’ and an ability to think creatively on your feet, “to turn on a dime” as the Americans say. My mum called it being “muddle-headed”, I call it creativity.

Alexander had all that, and applied it in just the way I have described above. This is how great transformation in your self and in Society happens. Read it, then please: plan to change the world!



***



ALEXANDER’s JOURNEY

It is clear when you read Chapter 1 of Use of the Self that there was a long period when Alexander knew what he needed to do, but simply couldn't do it. Actually, this kept repeating itself over and over until finally he reached the final Stage 3 of the learning process. The first instance happened like this:

"I now believed I had found the root of the trouble, for I argued that if my hoarseness arose from the way I used parts of my organism, I should get no further unless I could prevent or change this misuse.

When, however, I came to try to make practical use of this discovery, I found myself in a maze. For where was I to begin? Was it the sucking in of breath that caused the pulling back of the head and the depressing of the larynx? Or was it the pulling back of the head that caused the depressing of the larynx and the sucking in of breath? Or was it the depressing

of the larynx that caused the sucking in of breath and the pulling back of the head?"

In this passage, you can see how his intention is clear, he is focused on testing a whether his idea of the cause is correct or not. This research focus then threw up a lot of questions that needed 'testing' so that is the process Alexander entered into…

"As I was unable to answer these questions, all I could do was to go on patiently experimenting before the mirror."

Time passes, his understanding evolves, and then he reaches a new point with a more comprehensive theory of what needs to be done…

" It is impossible to describe here in detail my various experiences during this long period. Suffice it to say that in the course of these experiments I came to notice that any use of my head and neck which was associated with a depressing of the larynx was also associated with a tendency to lift the chest and shorten the stature."

After further testing, he finally comes to a new stage…

"Having got so far, I considered I should now be justified in attempting to put these findings into practice. To this end I proceeded in my vocal work to try to prevent my old habit of pulling my head back and down and lifting the chest (shortening the stature), and to combine this act of prevention with an attempt to put the head forward and up (lengthening the stature) and widen the back. This was my first attempt to combine "prevention" and "doing" in one activity, and I never for a moment doubted that I should be able to do this, but I found that although I was now able to put the head forward and up and widen the back as acts in themselves, I could not maintain these conditions in speaking or reciting."

He carries on this way for a long period of time, slowly coming to a clear and comprehensive understanding of the co-ordination necessary to overcome his hoarseness, which is the second step of Stage 2: formulating a comprehensive and final understanding of what needs to be done…

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Transformational Structure #7

HOW TO LOSE SLUGS AND GAIN PARTNERS WITHOUT EVEN TRYING

I’m having fun reading my own seminar notes!

If you want to have fun, don’t just read it—live it. That’s what I am doing in my journey to discover a way to create another thriving, successful BodyChance in Sydney: employing lots of people, getting great media attention, lifting the work into the minds of consumers in the same way that Yoga and Pilates have already managed. Everyone will benefit, but BodyChance will be ahead of the pack. THAT’S the plan.

So, now it is time for Testing. For experimenting with my ideas. And I am learning (from myself) that I need to let go of stuff. And “stuff” can be people, ideas, circumstances that are not inducive to my vision. Oh dear. So who gets fired? No-one really, I just hire new people around me, and the space is gone for other things. All those behavioural distractions that do nothing but mask the creeping despair… Well forget that! Here’s what I wrote to a colleague about that in an email recently:

“I know the drill - it is hard to lift yourself into the new life while surrounded by the old. I am learning clearly these days that the associations you have are integral to the direction you are going in. To shift that direction comes internally first, but it can be facilitated by consciously re-engineering the outer. That's hard to do with family and long-time friends, but sacrifices come in many forms for great achievement. It just depends how obsessive you are, and what you want to accomplish.”

So how do you “re-engineer” the outer? Well, every 2nd Wednesday: Philadelphia, Sydney, Mudgee and me all Skype about lifting our business game. On every Friday too. And now a local friendship that could evolve into a regular thing (if N is reading this – come on! Email me and we’ll toss around ideas over a coffee in that beautiful place of yours!).

So that’s what the practical application of my episode is about today. To be honest, my article feels rather dry and academic to me now. I think I was trying too much to show “I know something.” Oh poo to that. Sorry it is not so clear, but by the evidence of my own life—there are nuggets of gold if you actually do what I analyzed is necessary to transform your life…

___

Testing

BACKGROUND

From the Stage 1 of the work (i.e. The Wisher who Gathers Information and Finds Meaning In It) you will have discovered new ideas that can be tested in real life situations: how valid is this idea? Will it make any difference to me? By testing your current understanding in a practical way, you gradually come to a clearer recognition of your reality – what is the actual basis of the obstacle to my wish?

Another word for a 'testing' is 'experimenting', but what is an experiment? Generally speaking, it is a controlled observation. So essentially this step of 'testing' is no different from the step of 'researching' in Stage 1. However, the difference is that now you have a much clearer focus, you have a clearer idea of what you are testing. You have definite controls in place and you have a clearer focus for gathering information than you had previously.

Going on from that, in an Alexander sense, an experiment involves giving up something. At a behavioural level, it often means some kind of sacrifice on our part. Harking back to my own habit of drinking, in the end I gave up not only alcohol, but an entire way of living. Friends, social engagements, regular places – my whole daily living pattern changed, and most of the change was about losing what I had, not trying to make something new. The new life followed the loss of the current one. Only after I had stopped doing what I had been doing, did some new kind of behaviour start evolving.

So pupils will have lots of patterns of being that are very entrenched, that feel very much part of who they are. The shy person, if they truly decide to move their whole head and body while asking their boss for a raise, may feel too arrogant and overbearing when they first go about 'testing' this new co-ordination. But they understand that this unusual feeling is all part of how they can realize their wish to be more assertive and clearer in asking for what they want.



WORKSHOP

In working with each person, you need to understand when a person is at Stage 2 in their own process; understand that they are ready to make a decision to work with themselves. You can be rigorous with them, help them see that only they can do what is necessary for change to happen. Insist on their autonomy by giving less support with your hands, more guidance cognitively. Remember – you are primarily teaching them how to act within a process of change.

Many people do come to us at Stage 2 – they already recognise that something is wrong, they have already gathered a lot of information about it, and have many ideas about what to do. So far they have been unsuccessful – visiting you is another step in their Stage 1 plan of researching their problem.

Mostly, these people are lacking knowledge of primary control and choice (inhibition) in relation to their wish. With only a few simple demonstrations, they may quickly embrace the new ideas and start changing quickly. It is wonderful to find students like this! Their wish is already strong – if not, they would not be ready for Stage 2 of the learning plan. You don't need to work with their 'Wisher', you need to work with their 'Decider'.

However, the student who thinks they are already at the end of Stage 2 (as opposed to the beginning) is a different proposition. They 'already know' what is wrong and they have already formulated their own solution. They may be coming to seek help implementing their own faulty methodology, rather than take on a whole new way of seeing their problem. Then it's clear you have to take them back to Stage 1, and convince them to use their wish as a force to understand their problem in a new way, not as a force to dismiss Alexander's discoveries. We have all had pupils who love to continuously 'argue' for their own point of view, blocking any new learning that might come about. If instead you can introduce the concepts of primary control as a positive inhibitory influence on co-ordination and behaviour, and demonstrate their effectiveness in relation to their wish, you will have succeeding in getting them into the learning plan you are advocating.

There can be many games and processes that lead the students into testing out these new ideas. This stage of the workshop assumes they have knowledge of the basics, that what they are doing now is learning how they can apply this in their daily activities.

Ideas here may be spending one whole session going through the stages of a day, and all the activities that you do. Each student picks something they do every day, and the teacher goes through that with everyone, illustrating the kind of experiments that each person could be doing on their own between lessons.



TEACHER TOOLS

Can you devise fun and creative ways for students to understand their thinking processes? By understanding what is going on with the student, are you able to set up a situation that leads them to discover things without being told?

Basically our job is simple: analyse a person's use while in activity, work with them on finding a means to change it, then offer them whatever support they need to make that change until they are ready to be on their own.

The key here is that you don't want to do the students' work for them: you want to find ways that they can learn for themselves.



NEXT TIME: Alexander’s process and how he transformed his world with it. And ours eventually too!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Transformational Structure #6

THE LONGEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR

Last night was the winter festival at Shearwater, the Steiner school that my kids attend. Parents, kids and teachers all gather outside to watch the 570 children perform on the grass amphitheatre with candles, costumes and chants. As we were standing around waiting, my mentor (whose child also attends) called me over, gestured for me to listen as he talked business with a successful local business man in the town that I live. So I stood and listened to them talk about numbers of people on the mail list, how a google add campaign could lift one aspect of business, schemes to lift the numbers of list, a plan to JV another income stream etc. etc.

As I took in their friendly business banter, I could feel my own business intentionality waking up… “Oh, I could this, and that. I must make my list happen, and campaign to get more people that way…” I came out of the fog, out of the sludge—suddenly, in a few moments, I was back feeling motivated, crystal clear and ready to act. Then I went to the meta-position and thought “Wow! This is what you are missing Jerry.” I understand, for about the 100th time, how critical it is to be in the energy field of others who share your aspirations, who vibrate in the same way, who want similar things, albeit wrapped in infinitely different forms.

The winter festival honours the longest night of the year, and sometimes I have been feeling this year as the longest night of my career. I find direction, I get lost. I find it again, lose it again. Not that my super objective ever gets lost, but the means whereby—the turns, twists, bends and reverses—these I keep discovering moment to moment, day by day, week after week.

In this condition, the primary challenge is motivation: keeping the fire alight—this is true for anyone, whether like me aiming to launch a new business by the mere sweat of my brow, or someone desperately seeking a job to pay the mortgage and care for the family (like me). Every day can feel insurmountable, the urge to seek refuge in behavioural distractions continuous. How can you manage?

That’s the subject of to-day’s 6th instalment on the deeper structure of transformational processes: you can not do it alone. You need mentors, teachers and people around you that offer support, that challenge and give in ways that you need to be able to carry on…


Stage 2: Decider

BACKGROUND

Think about this: what was the tool that opened up Alexander's investigation? It was a mirror. We can think of the mirror as functioning both literally (in Alexander's case) and metaphorically (in the case of teacher and student). The teacher is the mirror for the student: their primary job is to reflect back to the student the truthful information about what they are doing.

We don't change by just researching and analysing alone. At some point, we need to step up to the challenge of change and be willing to take risks, to let go of cherished beliefs, feelings and behaviours, move out of our 'comfort zone' and behave in ways that initially feel entirely alien and uncomfortable to us, even morally wrong in some cases. In the interest of achieving what we consciously wish, we need to subject ourselves to a state of great insecurity and turmoil. This is not something most people can do alone: you need help. You need a constant presence in your life that keeps reminding you to 'decide' to make this change. Whereas we talked about how the "Wisher" influences our learning plan, at this stage wish is not enough. We need a new influence, a new source of energy, now coming in the form of a "Decider" influence: our teacher, our group, some person or thing that keeps reflecting me back to me, just as Alexander needed to do before he could progress. If you look at the chapter, he writes three special paragraphs about how important the mirror was to his progress. (In Use of the Self, Chapter 1 “Evolution of A Technique.”)

Each stage is subtler than the last, so if you had trouble understanding the first Stage of the learning plan, you may be finding this stage even more mysterious. If it is clear to you, you will be excited by the implications that this second stage has in relation to your own teaching pedagogy and/or individual learning process.

An easy way to understand this stage is to imagine yourself or some other person you know with an obviously self-destructive habit that you have clearly seen needs to be changed. I can talk personally about my own past habit: I consumed excessive amounts of alcohol over many years. Originally I saw no harm in the habit, but through an innate process of research and analysis—Stage 1 of the learning plan—I came to the recognition that I needed to change.

So someone at Stage 2 of the learning plan already knows the problem, already recognizes the need to change. They may have many solutions in their mind (as I did) but somehow stay stuck (as I did). For me, just the wish to change was not strong enough—I needed more, I needed a "Decider" within me: in the form of an urge to be willing to do whatever was necessary to achieve the change I wanted.

How do you find your "Decider"?


WORKSHOP

The teacher is the "Decider" in relation to the student. Not that you make any choice about that: your ability to be a “Decider" for a student is entirely based on the student’s willingness to accept you as such.

If a student will not follow your suggestions, there is little you can do for them. This is true at the level of using touch, it is true at the level of behaviour. At the level of touch, I can not make a person's co-ordination change if they are unwilling for it to change. I may be able to force a change by skilful manipulation, but in my book that involves stepping over the line: now I am taking over the responsibility of the student to make the change on their own—my "hands on" is supplying everything. This can only result in an increasing relationship of dependency, simultaneously decreasing the autonomy of the student and their ability to consciously guide themselves. Isn't this the reverse of what the work is about?

Touch can certainly act as a 'motivator' for the student, waking them up to their potentiality, and helping to validate the truth of the information you are offering. This in turn can awaken the student’s willingness to listen and follow your advice, thus activating you as a powerful 'Decider' in their own mind. But it is still their choice that creates you as that in their mind, it does not come from your abilities or skill of touch alone.


TEACHER TOOLS

Winning the trust and confidence of the student, by being an honest role model for what you are advocating, is the most essential tool you have for Stage 2 learning. Unless the student is willing to test out and be guided by what you are proposing, not much change will happen.

Teaching a student at Stage 2 means getting them to do more of the thinking on their own—lots of questions, practical experiments, constantly getting them to test their own ability to learn about themselves autonomously.

Being able to understand how a student is thinking about the problem is essential at this stage of development. Asking questions is an art—the right question often leads the student to discover the answer themselves. Teachers need to be able to learn ways to elicit information from the student, by coupling together their observation of the students' movement and language to guess at some of the 'invisible movements' present in the student's cognitive view. And if you don't know—ask them: what are you thinking about? Don't be satisfied with their first answer, keep questioning until you hear the answer your intuition was guessing was there…

To practice this art, in your teaching, start asking yourself the question: what does a person need to be thinking about in order to move and behave in this way? This kind of analytical skill, and the creativity to imagine what might be going on in a person's thinking, are essential tools to develop in order to guide a student at this Stage 2 of their work with themselves.


ALEXANDER

This stage corresponds with Alexander already knowing what he needed to do—the primary and secondary 'directions' he needed to project—yet finding himself unable to implement them:

"I set out to put this idea into practice, but I was at once brought up short by a series of startling and unexpected experiences. Like most people, I had believed up to this moment that if I thought out carefully how to improve my way of performing a certain act, I should be guided by my reasoning rather than by my feeling when it came to putting this thought into action, and that my "mind" was the superior and more effective directing agent. But the fallacy of this became apparent to me as soon as I attempted to employ conscious direction for the purpose of correcting some wrong use of myself which was habitual and therefore felt right to me. In actual practice I found that there was no clear dividing line between my unreasoned and my reasoned direction of myself, and that I was quite unable to prevent the two from overlapping. I was successful in employing my reasoning up to the point of projecting the directions which, after analysing the conditions of use present, I had decided were required for the new and improved use, and all went well as long as I did not attempt to carry these directions out for the purpose of speaking."

Harking back to my excessive drinking habit mentioned previously, I personally equate this stage to Alexander's words above like way: I knew I didn't want to drink. I would go out to meet my friends with this idea clearly and strongly in my intentions. Yet at the moment I meet with my friend, and found myself being offered a drink, it felt too wrong, too 'out of character' to say "No, I am not drinking tonight." So instead of doing what I intended to do, I would smile “Oh, why not?!” and have the drink. Like Alexander writes above, it didn’t always happen like that. Sometimes I could say no, sometimes not. But on the balance of it, the old behaviour prevailed far more many times than not, and I was at a loss what to do next.

***

NEXT INSTALLMENT: The secret and unique method Alexander devised for solving the problem of what to do when you don’t that which you said you would!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Transformational Structure #5

Apologies to the 5 people actually reading this series. That's how it feels to me – funny how sensory perceptions colour our states of being isn't it? In fact, it is not a feeling at all. It is a judgement, a conclusion that is mostly based on my hallucinatory projections. To unravel this mess, first I need something more concrete than my own deluded thinking. I could track the number of hits to the blog—there are ways of collecting such information. Based on that, I could then better assess how many people (might) be reading. On that a feeling would also arise, but now based on something more than conceptual cognitions with historic precedents that are no longer related to current conditions.

And this kind of constructive thinking is what the next instalment on running groups is all exploring…

***

Analysing

BACKGROUND

Once we have researched our topic, then the creativity starts: how can we interpret this information? How does it all fit together? Are there any patterns that suggest new ways of understanding the situation? It is not the answer we are looking for, it is the question. We get the answers we want, once we figure out the questions we need to be asking ourselves.



WORKSHOP

One function of a group setting, as opposed to an individual lesson, is that through watching a student's interaction with a teacher, the other observers in the workshop are developing their skills of observation and analysis. They are not passive in their learning roles – with the teacher's prompting, every person can be actively learning.

It is part of a teacher's function in a group teaching situation to make sure that the other participants are being engaged in the process. There are many methods for doing this, and one sure way is to seek out the best teachers (in ANY modality – not just Alexander teachers) and spend time watching and wondering how they do what they do…



TEACHER TOOLS

Taking on the point of view that we are assisting the person in including information about the entire area of their own co-ordination in pursuing their wish, essentially we need to be asking three questions:

i – What is the purpose of this person activity?

ii – What do they need to be doing?

iii – What do they need to stop doing?

During early lessons, we ask these questions and give students the answers, but our aim is to be training the student to be able to engage in this process successfully on their own. How we give 'answers' to the student at this level is often through using touch – a person can experience a new way of doing things, and in the process realise what they have been doing previously, and how they can change that in the future. But the use of touch is not always the most effective way to make a change at this level – offering a student a new way of thinking can be just as effective in certain circumstances. It is important to see that touch is in service of a greater goal, and not the goal itself. Touch is a tool, not an end.



ALEXANDER

After the passage quoted in "Research/ALEXANDER", where Alexander writes about the two facts he had at hand, he then goes on to analyse those facts:

"I considered the bearing of these two facts upon my difficulty, and I saw that if ordinary speaking did not cause hoarseness while reciting did, there must be something different between what I did in reciting and what I did in ordinary speaking. If this were so, and I could find out what the difference was, it might help me to get rid of the hoarseness, and at least I could do no harm by making an experiment."

Later he summarizes his approach by presenting his plan:

"(1) to analyse the conditions of use present;

(2) to select (reason out) the means whereby a more satisfactory use could be brought about;

(3) to project consciously the directions required for putting these means into effect."

At Stage 1 we are only working with (1) & (2), aiming to get a clearer understanding of what is going on in order to decide upon ways of testing out our ideas by making experiments.

***

NEXT TIME: A need for energy that can fuel the change process… Without it, nothing moves!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Biccy Budget Slashed, But ProCourse Continues

I flew in my dreams last night, in the last quarter of the night when the Dalai Lama says the meaning is most significant. I am on my back, looking up at trees and I can power myself, I can move miraculously across the tips of grass blades, in a field where a white cow is flying over fences designed to constrain him, staying ahead of the black cow in pursuit.

Yes, the Biccy Budget (for buying Arnotts Assorted Cream Biscuits) has been slashed, but our Sydney ProCourse continues. Three people dropped out, after only three weekends. I could be depressed, but I am past that now. I've done dark. We still have four members, so the tide is out. Whatever.

Instead, I march my faithful four down to Darling Harbour, with a fistful of flyers each, to watch as I cajole, terrify, entertain and lure whoever will listen to my declamation: "You can win $50 dollars today!" (And I snap the yellow note between my fingers, hold it high above my head amongst the glistening harbour water) "And the reason you have bad backs is the same reason you can't win this $50 dollars!" (…as an amused group of sunglasses ladies, hungrily holding ice creams in hand, park in front of this odd man in the afternoon sun) "And to win this $50 all you have to do is stand up from the stool without moving your head about."

"I'll do it" pips a little creature somewhere below my knees.

Quickly I think (they could win it) "But you need to have a bad back."

Soon they have one, and clamour again for a chance to win. More people stop, amusement is building - what is going on here?

"Will you take a flyer?" my students ask. Some will, some won't, some hand it back saying "Save a tree."

Than a rangers is there - I register on the video at the Central Office of the Sydney Foreshore Harbour Authority. "You have to stop" says the ranger "You don't have a license." Ah, a license.

So we stop. My students are excited. They enjoyed this little school excursion. We learned so much today - what interests people in this work? What kind of explanations kept them listening? What kind of explanations did not. Who stopped, and why.

Some of you who follow this blog may be expecting the next instalment of the structure of a BodyChance workshop. Well this was it today - creativity, moving out of the box, doing the undoable. That was today's lesson.

And it was fun. I wonder if the cow will fly tonight?

Friday, June 04, 2010

Transformational Structure #4

This is the fourth installment from an essay I wrote for the Lugarno Congress for Alexander Technique teachers in Switzerland in 2008. In that sense it is written specifically for teachers of Alexander Technique, but as a plan it is generic—anyone working in the field of transformation of restricting cognitive constructions (and name me one that isn't) will understand and use what I am writing about here. To save you time, there is a short synopsis just before the article proper!

However, before then – what is topical for me now? As I write tonight, I have completed the first day of a seminar on internet marketing—how FaceBook, Twitter, a Website, Mailing List and Blog all converge together to create a "story' for people which is compelling enough for them to tell their friends and eventually buy in to the service you (I) am creating.

For your business to work, it best grows out of your life purpose and passion. This is true of me. All my life—since the mystical (hysterical?) calling that prompted me at 18 years to resign from Australia's most prestigious performing arts school (NIDA) to pursue a career (vocation?) as a teacher of Alexander Technique—I have done nothing else. My first lesson was in 1969, so here I am, 41 years later, still doing the same thing.

And I am calling out for support - people who share my vision that Alexander's discoveries is one of humanities greatest gifts to itself, and 116 years after the first AT lesson was ever given in 1894, it is still crying out for visionaries bold enough to claim the mantle it so self-evidently deserves!

Is that you? The please contact me... Especially if you are in Australia now!



SYNOPSIS

My big message from to-day's seminar was: do your research. This is my article topic today—you can't figure out how to navigate your way if you have no idea of your starting point. If you are in Sydney, how is a map of Tokyo going to help you find the Opera House? This is how it is for me building BodyChance in Sydney. Can I assume a successful formula from Japan is repeatable in Australia? Who will come here? What are their needs? Can they afford it?

As in a workshop, so in a business, so in your marriage, addiction or vision. After identifying your purpose and passion, now comes the time for collecting information…

***

Researching

BACKGROUND

Research means gathering information about the obstacle: What does the student already know? What can they tell you about it?

There is a lot of information already available about what we are doing, how things are happening in our world, so collecting all this information within your field of attention is important for being able to do the next step of analysis.

Researching and analysing are two interdependent activities – talking about them as separate steps is slightly misleading. For example: a new way of analysing data can lead you to a different kind of research. So they always operate in tandem, each one becoming a support for the other.



WORKSHOP

The aim is to help the person know:

i - how to seek information about their own co-ordination in relation to corresponding information about their behaviour in seeking their wish; and

ii – how to use that information to recognize their obstacle(s) in a new light.



TEACHER TOOLS

Firstly, your student may be holding valuable information that they don't even realize has bearing on their wish. It is important to listen to them, to help them put together all the disparate facts about their current situation that they already know. It is better to let the pupil tell you about themselves, before you start telling them things about Alexander's discoveries.

Con-currently, you help them along the research path by using one of the most valuable tools you have: your touch. The teacher can use touch to awaken within a person a recognition of what is going on within a totally new framework of reference: Alexander non-doing and head co-ordination primacy. You 'reframe' the obstacle for them.

We are training the student to consciously manage their co-ordination whilst in pursuit of their wish. Under this heading comes the basic concept that head movements govern vertebral co-ordination, which in turn governs the use of the limbs. At this stage, the student knows basically nothing about this – the teacher's role is to awaken this area of knowledge within the consciousness of the student, and then demonstrate for them the diverse and powerful applications it has for researching and analysing what is going on in their lives in relation to their wishes.



ALEXANDER

The first information he gathered was recognition of two facts, things that he already knew before he started:

" When I set out on this investigation, I had two facts to go on. I had learned by experience that reciting brought about conditions of hoarseness, and that this hoarseness tended to disappear, as long as I confined the use of my voice to ordinary speaking, and at the same time had medical treatment for my throat and vocal organs."

These were facts, the analysis came next. (see next instalment: Analysing/ALEXANDER). Although it is not immediately apparent, close reading of the first chapter of Use of the Self reveals that there was in fact an extended period of collecting information by Alexander in his visits to numerous doctors and voice therapists:

"I therefore sought the advice of doctors and voice trainers in the hope of remedying my faulty breathing and relieving my hoarseness, but in spite of all that they could do in the way of treatment, the gasping and sucking in of breath when I was reciting became more and more exaggerated and the hoarseness recurred at shorter intervals. The treatment I was receiving became less and less effective as time went on, and the trouble gradually increased until, after a few years, I found to my dismay that I had developed a condition of hoarseness which from time to time culminated in a complete loss of voice."

Notice a few things in this passage. Alexander refers to "doctors and voice trainers" in the plural, so we can deduce his research involved visits to at least four different people. Later in the same passage, he writes "…as time went on and the trouble gradually increased until, after a few years…" so we know that this stage of his learning plan lasted several years. If you think about that, why would you want to skip over this stage of the lesson with your student so quickly? It is clear, when you read what follows, that this period of his learning helped Alexander develop a view about what was going on.

Another important aspect is to understand that 'research' can involve gathering information by testing the obstacle through contact with different modalities. Alexander's process of discovery does not exclude seeking help within other areas of knowledge or alternative techniques.

***

NEXT: Gaining insights from the information you collected or "When the Fun Starts"…

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Transformational Structure #3

Continuing my series on how to structure a group: today The Power of Wish.

For those just tunning in, the point I have been making (to save you time) is that the first job in any transformational relationship with another person is ensure that THEY are driving the process forward from within their own energy/cognitive construction. If you run the show, you get more of yourself. If you facilitate them to lead, you unravel a mystery…

The greatest compliment I can remember receiving was in Washington DC when I ran a workshop with some AT teachers, a Psychiatrist, a Dance Therapist and a couple of Psychologists back in the 80's. I had been invited as I was exploring "emotional directions" at the time, and how we need to recognise those if we want fundamental change. One of the participants came to me at the end of the workshop and said she gave herself the task to watch how I worked. However, she said she could never "see" me, it was as though I wasn't there. No matter how hard she tried to watch what I was doing, her focus was always drawn in the unfolding world of the participant I was dialoguing with.

Wow was I pleased with that! I do think a great anyone "disappears" in some way, just as a great translator, actor, musician or any other performer subverts themselves to facilitate the ideas, character or music that are being communicated. When we notice the "performer" as opposed to what is performed, I think ego is butting in and telling us "Aren't I great?". And of course – I know all about that.

This is how that principle, albeit slightly differently, is clearly evident in Alexander's own journey…

***

ALEXANDER

[Quotes all from Use of the Self, Chapter One: Evolution of a Technique.]

Alexander wanted to be an actor – that was his overall wish. It was a positive and concrete thing:

"From my early youth I took a delight in poetry and it was one of my chief pleasures to study the plays of Shakespeare, reading them aloud and endeavouring to interpret the characters. This led to my becoming interested in elocution and the art of reciting, and now and again I was asked to recite in public. I was sufficiently successful to think of taking up Shakespearean reciting as a career, and worked long and hard at the study of every branch of dramatic expression. After a certain amount of experience as an amateur, I reached the stage when I believed that my work could stand the severer test of being judged from the professional standard, and the criticisms I received justified me in deciding to take up reciting as a profession."

Whilst this was his clear wish the obstacle was the fact that he kept losing his voice:

"All went well for some years, when I began to have trouble with my throat and vocal cords, and not long after I was told by my friends that when I was reciting my breathing was audible, and that they could hear me (as they put it) "gasping" and "sucking in air" through my mouth."

When a student comes to a class, they may start by only talking about the obstacle, which is a natural thing to do. However, it is important for the teacher to unlock the wish that stands behind the obstacle, as that is the key factor motivating the student. It alone can determine how effective the lessons become. For example, the student may want their lower back to get better, but why? So they can spend more time playing with the kids; so they can advance in their job; so they can go back to leading their 'normal life'. The 'wish' needs to be expressed in the positive, not the negative.

The point to take from Alexander's own experience, is that the bigger the wish, the stronger the drive of the student to apply what you teach them. Unlock that energy in the student, and you have completed half of your job. Ignore it, and lessons will be like walking through mud, with the student always looking to you to supply the drive and energy of the lesson.

Alexander's wish was huge: this is clear when he writes about his emotions while considering the obstacle he was facing:

"My disappointment was greater than I can express, for it now seemed to me that I could never look forward to more than a temporary relief, and that I should thus be forced to give up a career in which I had become deeply interested and believed I could be successful."

Having a wish, or rediscovering the wish that energizes us, is an essential piece of our learning plan, but one that is often ignored in today's teaching environment. Our "great students" are usually the ones who have this wish in place! If we understand this, we can support all our pupils into becoming "great students".

***

TOMORROW:

The role of research in bringing about transformational experiences…

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Transformational Structure #2

The second instalment of my article on the underlying structure of a group that seeks to lead people towards transformational outcomes in their lives. Main point of today's article (to save you some time) is the critical importance of letting your participants set form/activity of the lesson...

***

Stage 1: Wisher

BACKGROUND

You start by wanting something. The something you want is the final result, this thing you want to possess, do, become. The wish needs to be expressed positively. Alexander: I want to act. Once the wish is clarified, then the obstacles to that wish become the objects that are researched. Alexander: loss of voice. The wish is a source of energy, a motivator to do what is necessary to achieve that wish. Without it, there is no direction, no means of calibrating where you are on your journey, no way of knowing how you are doing. Alexander: voice becoming reliable or not.

WORKSHOP

Ask everyone what they want? Get them to participate in the workshop by asking them to set the agenda of what will be explored. If you are working with students over a period of time, keep revisiting this question, and keep including it in the agenda of a workshop.

Also, during the workshop itself, try not to put students in situations where you are dictating the agenda almost all the time. The best structured workshop is the one that addresses the wishes, questions and needs expressed by the students. By linking that with the information concerning Alexander discoveries, you are creating a far more effective learning environment for your students.

Observation and Analysis need objects to focus on – what these will be can be set by the students, not the teacher. The teaching points and principles then arise out of the process of working with those objects of attention. Alexander chose the process of making a decision to sit or stand from a chair. In his model, the teacher decides the activity, the student follows the teacher's wish. An alternative teaching pedagogy is to let the student decide the activity. Essentially it does not matter. As Alexander himself pointed out:

"We are not teaching people to get in and out of chairs – we are teaching people how to make a decision against the habit of life."

So the students wish becomes important to reveal – it drives the workshop or lesson, and gives focus to their desired outcomes.

TEACHERS TOOLS

The teacher needs the skill to unlock from the person the truth of what they really want. Where do you learn that? Like all things Alexander – by consistently working this way yourself!

At the start of lessons, a student's real wish may or may not be apparent, even to the student. Teachers usually get around this problem by supplying the activities: offering chairwork, tablework or one of the teaching procedures that Alexander developed. The goal then becomes subtly distorted until it feels like the lesson is about how to do things more easily, how to be "released, loose and free". This was never Alexander's primary goal, it was merely a step to achieving something much bigger: conscious, constructive control of the individual. When the principles and practices of the work can be related to real life needs and wants of each individual student, then it work correctly becomes the tool or means for that person gaining their conscious intentions or wish.

***

TOMORROW: An analysis of Alexander's story, showing how all the points I make above are demonstrated in his own journey...

Monday, May 31, 2010

Transformational Structure #1

I write a lot of things, and some of my material lies languishing in piles around my office.

Are you wanting to transform your life?
Do you work in group teaching situations and need a fresh perspective?
Are you teaching, and want to know an underlying structure that informs your work?

I wrote a particularly long and thoughtful piece on "A Plan for Teaching Groups" which I've decided to run in sections in my blog for awhile. It's not been published anywhere. I gave it to teachers at my class in the Congress in 2008, otherwise that's it.

I don't know if it is about running groups, so much as about the process of transformation that I use structurally in all the work I do.

So the beginning of this article goes like this:

***

A Plan For Teaching Groups

BACKGROUND
This is a generic plan that works for anyone wishing to move towards a new situation in their life, whether that involves the gaining of a new skill, the transformation of a social situation, or becoming a different kind of person from the one you perceive your Self to be at the moment. This plan is the context for teaching a person to gain autonomy in achieving what they want for themselves.

WORKSHOP
This plan becomes the basic structure of both an individual piece of work with one person, as well as the structure of the entire workshop. The workshop or lesson is not primarily about helping the person to feel better by co-ordinating better, the primary purpose is to demonstrate how this process works, how it helps you achieve what you want, and how you can practice it on your own.

TEACHER TOOLS
Your own personal understanding of the scope of the work determines the skill set you need to help others. The basic tool set is a precise understanding of your own co-ordination compared to the average person, and the ability to consciously manage your co-ordination in any activity of life. With this skill set, you gain the ability to understand how others are dealing with this issue. From this skill, the ability to influence other people's choices about their co-ordination will naturally flow. The "touch" ability of an Alexander Technique teacher is a subset of their own co-ordination, unless that teacher develops a touch guided by the ideas of intervention and manipulation. Alexander's own pedagogy leant towards the category of manipulation, a word that is he often writes in his books to describe the way he uses his hands in teaching.
In workshops, another essential skill set is the ability to manage the overall quality of engagement of the participants of a workshop, and a use of language as a tool for positively influencing the ability of others to correctly conceive the information that is being offered.

ALEXANDER
The plan for this workshop is based on Chapter One of Use of the Self "Evolution of a Technique." In that chapter, Alexander moves through all the steps described below. If you study the chapter, and compare it to these notes, it is easy to understand how the plan below follows the stages of Alexander's discoveries. My language is different, but careful study will reveal that it is still essentially the same description as Alexander's own in that chapter. By getting this point clear in your mind, you can create a clear workshop structure and gain an understanding of the learning plan we are asking our students to apply to their own wishes for change, growth and development.

***

TOMORROW: Stage 1: The Wisher (in us all)

That's all folks!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Want A Whole New Life Update

I heard from a friend that my recent blogs, particularly my last, might have come across as though I was re-thinking my commitment to BodyChance in Sydney?

I am surprised to hear that, as I opened that blog by stating how powerfully I remain committed to staying on my current path. But if that isn't convincing to you, perhaps this is…

1st Reason

Since I was 20 years old I have done nothing else but study and teach others the discoveries of F. M. Alexander, so 46 years later I am not about to stop! What would I do? Who's going to employ a 56 year old who has never done anything else but teach AT - Small market eh? I think I could only employ myself!

2nd & 3rd Reasons

I have two compelling and rock solid reasons why I wanted to start BodyChance in Australia - as opposed to just staying in Japan - and those reasons are Angelica and Grace, my two children.

My heart has been moved by how they are blossoming under the influence of Steiner Education. The oldest one, Angelica now in year 5, transformed from a monosyllablatic rock of darkness, to a springy & brightly moving chatterbox. In Japan, without us realising the cause, she had been hiding herself, getting darker and smaller as time passed by. Seeing her now, I can never return her permanently to school in Japan. She's here to stay. Grace two - who is only in Year 2: ten years to go.

So you're stuck with me here!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Want A Whole New Life? Update

I heard from a friend that my recent blogs, particularly the one below, might have come across as though I was re-thinking my commitment to BodyChance in Sydney? I am surprised to hear that, as I opened this blog by stating how powerfully I remain commitment to staying on my current path.

But if that isn't convincing to you, perhaps this is…

1st Reason
Since I was 20 years old I have done nothing else but study and teach others the discoveries of F. M. Alexander so, 46 years later, so I am not about to stop now! Who's going to employ a 56 year old whose never done anything else but teach AT? Small market eh? I think I could only employ myself!

2nd & 3rd Reasons
I have two compelling and rock solid reasons why I wanted to start BodyChance in Australia - as opposed to just staying in Japan - and those reasons are Angelica and Grace, my two children.

My heart has been moved by how they are blossoming under the influence of Steiner Education. The oldest one, Angelica now in year 5, transformed from a monosyllablatic rock of darkness, to a springy & brightly moving chatterbox. In Japan, without us realising the cause, she had been hiding herself, getting darker and darker. Seeing her now, I can never return her to school in Japan.

So you're stuck with me here! Now, here's the blog that worried folks…

***
Want A Whole New Life?

Those who follow my blog know that I am public about the raging furnace of my aggregated consciousnesses. Recently my fire ran low, my embers are just faintly glowing, but luckily my mission is not linked to my emotional weather report. Emotions ebb up and down, enthusiastic one day, despairing the next - not a reliable base upon which to build dreams. So to those who wonder if I falter (?) know that I do not. My vision is not based on how I feel at any particular moment, and if that is how you run your life (?) I suggest you study the discoveries of F. M. Alexander: "When the time comes that you can trust your feeling, you won't want to use it."

My current crisis is precipitated by a number of elements - chief amongst them a loss of clarity. Clarity is power, remember? My vision is to build a company that will render access to Alexander's discoveries to everyone on the planet. I don't reckon I will get the job done in this life, so my sub-mission is to put in place the processes which will make that inevitable.

So part of that plan is "proving" that this can be done. That Alexander's discoveries can be harnessed to the energy of money to bring about global transformation of society. That is the BodyChance mission: To make profits through Alexander Education to bring about positive change in society. Is this a mission that interests you? Then I need you help. It's not something I could ever do on my own.

How could you help me? Well, you need to be in Australia, specifically Sydney. But not absolutely so, because any suggestion, advice, relating of experience or duplicate goals in other places could all feed to each other to create a burring fire again.

Japan is proving that Alexander discoveries are attractive to ordinary consumers - how it goes there we will see (we have yet to make real profits) but the prospects are looking good. But it is easy for people to say "Oh, Japan is a special market - you could not do that in the West." So enter Sydney. If I can build Sydney to mirror the success of Tokyo/Osaka (yes, we have two hubs of expanding activity in Japan now) then I have created a blue print to repeat this again and again: London, New York, Seattle, Z├╝rich, Boston, Brisbane, Paris etc. etc. As my lama says: "Think Big. Big love. Big life."

So Sydney is critical to realising the bigger vision: if I fail there, all I am is a loud wind bag of hallucinogenic proportions, blowing foul air on the truths of human society. I could be that, in my worst moments I have been that, but my intuition tells me I am on to something. That this could very well be, THE NEXT BIG THING.

So how can you help me? Well, I'm getting there…

How do I make a success of Sydney? This is the question I have been asking myself, posing a differently shaped question and receiving various advices on an almost daily basis. So the obvious place to look for an answer is within the current success of Japan. Well, those who follow DIRECTION know that a new issue just came out where I penned a 3,000 word article explaining just that - so I won't try to repeat all the insights I gained again here.

The essence comes down to this:

1. Create a product (cost, convenience, content) that solves a problem;
2. Market it to people who can afford it.
3. From that market, build a Professional Course (ProCourse)

In Japan the statistics tell us that of every 100 people who book into our one year Ippan Course (for weekly lessons in group or individual) 10% of them will upgrade themselves into the ProCourse.

So THAT'S how you can build, and sustain, a successful BodyChance Alexander Technique Teacher Education Course.

Except there's one problem - resources. To build that in Sydney I need:

1. A full-time studio in Sydney's CBD, or some other central location. (Expensive)
2. Teachers to teach, who understand BodyChance AT Education (chair and table NOT)
3. A full-time administrator (expensive)

All this equals Working Capital, which I do not have. Now if you are beginning to think "Oh, this guy wants to me to give him some money…" then you are wrong. I don't. (Although if you want to invest, you can always let me know!) No, it's not money I want - it's energy: in the form of relationships, skills, networking - but I get ahead of myself.

So what do you do if you don't have working capital? You build a cash flow business. You get enough clients who pay into the business so you can use that income to build the business. This is the approach I am currently taking. However, this approach means I can not open the Studio in Sydney (yet), I can not build the market that will sustain the school longer term.

Although I have a vital lesson to learn from Japan, I can not apply this lesson in Sydney! It's the money, stupid. Longer term, when Sydney succeeds and Japan is turning over real profits, THEN I can ask other people's money. But right now, I have to "prove" that the BodyChance methodology of monetizing Alexander's discoveries is a valid, doable model.

So - that (finally) brings you to my current dilemma: if I can not build the ProCourse Education on the base of larger Ippan (Public) education - the studio, the central location, the one year course - then how do I build it?

Actually, this is not only my problem. This is a problem that any AT Teacher Education school has. And the sad fact of the matter is: none of them do it very well. The anecdotal evidence is that AT Schools the world over are struggling at various levels. Oh dear - so am I barking up the wrong tree? Maybe. But I have not given up yet.

What I have given up, which is a huge relief, is the idea of building the Ippan (Public) Education Programme any time soon. My goal is to first build the ProCourse Education. Now I have 7 people (or is it 5 as two people need to tell me if they plan to continue or not) and this creates a cash flow of about $15,000. Not much - it certainly doesn't cover the costs. I subsidise the school from my own personal funds at present. These are the true facts that a vision is born from. I am having fun doing all this, but there is never ending risk and surrender necessary to move ahead. If you wonder if you could do this yourself (if you are not already) then that may be your answer. There is not much that is "safe" about this path. Every day is an unknown, but that is why I like it so much. It means living the work in everything I do.

So - here I am grappling with this question: who is going to want to join BodyChance ProCourse Education? Where are they? How can I reach them?

I planned to get much further than this with my blog today, but I have run out of steam. How can you help me? Well, start by giving me your answers to those questions. Tell someone close to you about BodyChance in Sydney (if you can). Come an experience a free introduction with me if you live in Sydney (or close by). Go to this link to book your place:


http://www.bodychance.com.au/events/


If you want it for free, enter BODYCHANCE into the coupon box, so instead of costing $49, it costs $0. That's a simple, effective way you can help me right now.

Who knows - your life may never be the same again!

Wouldn't that be fun?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Deliverance

Dark days tinged with disappointment and despair have delivered determination unto my decisions...

Ambition has yielded to sobriety, and this creature understands better that balance is a function of intelligence.

BodyChance, that creature of my minds' imagination, absurdly flutters out from my 5 senses, faint projections on unsuspecting bases: which side is real - the base, or my projection upon that base?

The lives of those living in Sydney will continue on whatever I do. And yet, some lives are lived differently by way of my projections, while others remain as indifferent as the stars.

How quickly do I want to proceed? Always in a hurry. Be afraid of death, be afraid. Now, not later when it comes, but now. Then you are ready.

So I hurry. Then I stumble and fall - a broken arm, an eye falling out. Vision lost. My right hand is gone. Is this the way?

Clarity is power.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Siblings of Achievement

Can you imagine success fuelled by darkness?
Powered by inner demons seeking escape?
Shielded by dreams that seek to forget?
Startled by tears that convulse?

Snapshots in my life:
a broken arm
tears at Golden Week
relief fantasies with death

It was the last that alerted me most - that ticked away, hidden beyond my daily grasp is desperation, hope is draining away. I want to share this with everyone. BUT. BUT. BUT.

Never Give Up - it is what I am guided by now.

My business life these days is shaped by my family: their needs, their wishes, the possibility of constructive living. My beautiful eldest daughter, who - until only a few months ago - was herself sinking into darkness, hiding herself from the tightening noose of Japanese school life, while puberty overtook her body. I was thinking she had become monosyllabic - hormones dulling her childhood - but once in Mullumbimby, at the happy Shearwater Steiner school, she came out of hiding: a bright face glowing lively again, lightening her voice and confirming to me that our move to settle into Australia had suddenly raced ahead of our deadline for achieving it.

So that is my situation now - a fabulously successful experiment in Japan roaring ahead, despite a stagnant economy, and Jeremy - sitting on the joyful crescent of its success, tumbling down into the emptiness of Sydney. I left Sydney 10 years ago and once the work had flourished there. Now very few teachers earn a full-time living, one school languishes with 6 or 7 trainees, and publicly there is little feeling of care or knowledge about AT in Sydney these days…

I had people helping me - but they wanted co-operation, which I didn't offer, so they left. Then someone on a basic salary - but I can no longer afford to pay that, so naturally empty pockets pull stronger than passion. Many people around me are inspired by the mission of BodyChance, are happy to be involved and committed in heart and soul to its cause, but we all need to earn a living. That is the crux of it, that is why I started BodyChance in the first place - to create a culture of success, to generate interest, excitement and engagement in Alexander's discoveries with the wider community again.

What has happened to that vision? Nothing, but I am understanding now the loneliness of carrying a vision. I am the first person who is never paid. My salary, so painfully developed over 10 years in Japan, now devotes itself to funding BodyChance Sydney and I am alone in funding that vision. If I can pay, I can get support - but without that, well… When you are in my shoes, support is not agreeing to be paid to work for BodyChance - that is employment. And it is reasonable - who works for nothing? It is a ridiculous idea. Except that I do. Hundreds of hours, $30,000+ investment, and still very little to show. It is my vision/burden and it feels more the later than the former at this time. Sigh.

Will I give up? Of course not. Do I feel strong all the time? No. Have I made stupid decisions? Of course. Have I been clever in building BodyChance Sydney? No. Have I learnt lessons? Many, and continue to do so.

I hate to complain, I love to hype, but there is a darker side to creating a vision and I am with that now: a feeling of darkness, even a whiff of despair putrid and poignant. I will regenerate, I will continue - but I wonder if it can be said that vision and darkness are siblings in achievement?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Balls In the Air

If you can imagine Martha Graham marrying Noam Chomsky - Lucia Walker is the child of that family! She has her own style as a teacher - created mainly by herself, as she does not seem to "follow" any particular lineage of teaching.

At BodyChance Alexander Technique ProCourse Education in Sydney, Australia over the three days of May 7/8/9 2010, Lucia throws balls in the air and then asks you to collect information about all wonder of things…

- do you startle or not? do you think that is a bad thing? really? isn't it part of being human?

- are you annoyed when your ball does not fall into the hand of the person waiting to receive it? are you joyful when it does? isn't this also something natural? isn't it a deep part of your self that when your co-ordination requests are fulfilled, you experience a natural joy? Alternatively, when you fail, you feel some frustration - isn't this only natural?

- when the ball drops, why say sorry every time? isn't dropping the ball as natural as catching it?

- what happens if two balls or more are thrown to you at the same time? the story of the juggler who received 12 of them - inspirations in possibilities...

- as the ball arrives, how is your focus? do you see the ball, the thrower and the others standing in the circle? what would happen if you just focused only on the ball? or only on the people surrounding the ball?

Of course our weekend together was not all about throwing balls - there was Bozo Looking for a Corner too! All about exploring your focused vision and your peripheral vision; your ability to connect with someone, while still holding the group; noticing your excitement in response to the game, but having the ability to guide that excitement appropriately towards the people and circumstances of the game.

Lucia's work is multilayered. Often you start with one simple idea, conjoined with an activity, then build on that - creating the complexity of living within the jurisprudence of a game: non-confronting, non-personal, but "You" am still there, "You" are still behaving in ways that mirror back into your real life, and in so doing engender discoveries and insights that eluded you previously.

Lucia has crafted her own "hands off" teaching technology: that binds a group in happy explorations of human behaviour leading to discoveries that then reflect back into everyday living. The researchers of the Art of Group Teaching need to take attention and learn from this gentle, inquisitive, fun-loving student of human potentiality and intelligent living.

A deeper current that also flows through Lucia's work is that you are OK - that behaviours you condemn yourself for are no more than exaggerated tendencies that are naturally at the core of every human being. The obsessive desire to be right - destructive as it may become - is still part of a natural movement. The regret at mistakes is the source of the vitality that creates success - everything weaves together in a embroidered cloth of living that is deliciously colourful moment to moment, that provides experiences containing everything we need to know about everything we want to know, including the discoveries of the Alexander Technique.

Balls in the Air - wondering at your reactions to the everyday moments that all living consists of, that is Lucia.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Knowing No

Rosa Luisa Rossi is flying out of Australia as I write this, no doubt saying no to something while receiving information about the results of continuing with her wish towards a new, unknown behaviour—this is the simple teaching, with profound results, that she shared for BodyChance ProCourse Education during these last few sunny April days within Sydney's glorious harbour side environment. It was lunch by the water, and reflections on deep but simply generated changes, wrought from Rosa Luisa's discoveries over 12 months of intensive Alexander related research.

Rosa Luisa, with 28 years experience of learning and teaching the work, worked together with Dr. Joanna Maria Otto—a German neuroscientist and recently graduated AT Educator—by relating together known facts about how our brain functions, with the procedural flavours of Rosa Luisa's teaching technology.

How does the brain govern habit?
How does the brain change habit?

[Note - these were my posing of Rosa Luisa's questions, not her actual questions. Here's Brendan's re-formulation:

"How does the embodied nervous system participate in maintaining and reproducing certain sensori-motor correlations despite variations in context?"

and

"At what points in the circularity of sensori-motor correlations known as habits, do opportunities emerge for conscious redirection of sensori-motor patterns along new lines of correlation?"]

What is the "primary control" in neuroscientific terms?
What is direction and inhibition?
Why do we use our hands? How does that work?

The emerging answers to these questions was experienced by the newest Members of BodyChance's ProCourse Education (Alexander teacher training) at SimplyActive Health Fitness Centre in the heart of Sydney's CBD.

What impressed me most, was the way she deftly re-introduced the concept of no without causing the stiffening "stop" that I had abandoned as a teaching technology a long while back. The reason for my shift away from this approach implied within Alexander's writing, is that I noticed that this two-stepped approach—"Say no to the old stimulus, then give your directions for the new behaviour"—introduced a bizarre response, almost exclusive to Alexander learners. Pupils and teachers alike often exhibited a kind of held, waiting, spaced out look (at its worst) that didn't much look like it was connected to any joie de vive. Closer to the stiff-necked pride of the defeated. I am exaggerating of course, but polemic is one method to stimulate people to think. It also pushes people more rigidly into their corner, so how could I critique myself in a constructive way that would get the point across?

I had been saying "no" to using "no" in teaching and with myself—what Rosa Luisa introduced is the need to know "no", to understand how it functions as a positive in my nervous system to bring about a change in my behaviour. Her simple insight is that no and yes occur simultaneously, not as two steps.

I had come to the same conclusion, but with an entirely different teaching technology to implement this idea. Marjorie Barstow provided the model for my approach, when she asked the simple question: "If your head is moving forward and up, haven't you already inhibited it going back and down?" So the processes of direction and inhibition (noticed I reversed the traditional order that they are usually written?) are not two separate processes, they are two sides of one behaviour.

Of course, when you read Alexander's "Evolution of a Technique" in Use of the Self, it doesn't come across this way. He worked quite hard at separating his wish (to speak) from his means (the directions) because he noticed that any strong wish to speak repeatedly caused a habitual response towards his old patterns of behaviour. So he writes:

"I therefore decided to confine my work to giving myself the directions for the new "means whereby", instead of actually trying to "do" them or to relate them to the "end" of speaking. I would give the new directions in front of the mirror for long periods together, for successive days and weeks and sometimes even months, without attempting to "do" them, and the experience I gained in giving these directions proved of great value when the time came for me to consider how to put them into practice."

I also once asked Marj about that period Alexander spent "in front of the mirror". (Marj was training with Alexander during the time he was writing this chapter—apparently he would bring it in sometimes and read it out to those at the school then.) Marj was emphatic about one point: "Yes, but Alexander was moving all the time." I wondered at that comment, what does she mean "Moving all the time?" when Alexander writes how he was just standing there giving directions.

I mean, there's Alexander, busily giving directions, but not going ahead with what he wanted to do. And this message seems to have imprinted itself on the consciousness of Alexander Technique teachers—first you have to stop the old thing, then direct the new thing, then do your activity. So in certain cases—it becomes three steps!

No wonder Feldenkrais commented that Alexander Technique teachers look like they have a broom stuck up their b#m. From my own experience of training in London in the 1970's, I spent countless hours standing there giving my directions. We even had the expressing "I am setting myself up to…" Little did I understand then that I was, truly, "setting" myself, becoming what these days I call an Alexandroid.

And it all emerges from a profound misunderstanding of the discovery that Alexander wrote about in "Evolution of a Technique". Watching Alexander himself, as he appears in his "teaching" film towards the very end of his life, there is someone who is truly NOT setting himself up for anything. He is process, moment to moment: alive, receiving information, interested and curious about all around him.

And so it was with Rosa Luisa, as we experimented with her ideas over the last three days: saying no to whatever we recognized as being inappropriate to our wish, while simultaneously saying yes to that wish, and continuing in the activity of that wish, and receiving new information concerning how that wish/activity was proceeding. There were no steps, it was one continuous, unified activity.

This way is opposed to the often times practice: "Oh, I am misusing myself (judgment). I'd better stop that (inhibition). Now I will improve my use (by giving directions-often in the form of releases to parts we know get tight) and carry on with my wish (the activity)."

Such a complicated schedule.

Instead of that, give yourself a "no-yes", all in a unified moment richly filled with new experiences, moving moment to moment towards my wish with all my information available, leaving me Freedom to Choose (FPJ's book title)... We enjoyed exploring the work this way, and Rosa Luisa got herself a ticket to come back to Sydney and work for BodyChance's ProCourse Education again in 2011!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Everything Is About Movement

This is a post in reply to a question about my statement:

EVERYTHING IS ABOUT MOVEMENT, EVEN BEING.

***

One of my favourite chapters of Alexander's writings, after Evolution of a Technique, is Habits of Thought and of Body (MSI Part I, Ch 6) - and he is basically writing what you are saying - that all movement arises from conception - and I agree wholeheartedly with that.

And I personally characterise my conceptions as movements, very subtle movements and confusing ones too: who is the thinker of the thought? who is the watcher of the thought? who is the asker of the question? They are all "me" at different moments, all me in different movements, so even "me" is a movement: a collections of habits, experiences and ideas that constantly move: now I am a great guy, now I am an arrogant guy, not I am a useless guy etc. etc. So even "me" or "self" is in constant movement.

Here's a quote from FM, taken from that chapter, on this point:

...we see how easily the fallacy arose of assuming an entity for the subconscious self, a self which at the last analysis is made up of these acquired habits and of certain other habits, some of them labelled instincts,...

Alexander, MSI: Part 1 Ch 4, p.53

And that's a wonderful thing - because if I wasn't always in movement, I simply couldn't change. If I try to think of something that truly is still, all I can think of is space. Space doesn't change, nor does it function. It "is" in the way people seem to think of "being" or "stillness" i.e. as in "back is back" - but space isn't functioning at all! It's not doing anything, not changing, it can't affect a single thing - is that how we want to conceive of our self?

There is not a particle in this universe that is not in movement, that is not changing from nano-second to nano-second. My effort in applying this work is to constantly ground my understanding in whatever factual basis is available. And the physics indicate that this is how things are existing - in constant change or movement. So the concept of "stillness"? Well, at best it is a term relative to something else, at worst it is a deception, based on feelings, that would have person believe they are remaining in a certain condition. It just isn't true - they are never remaining anywhere. There's no such thing as stop. It's just a human invention, handy at times, but in contradiction to how things actually exist.

Which is why I also gave up on teaching this idea of stop and inhibit. All that mostly does, from my observations, is cause people to get stiff. Same reason - when you perpetuate a misconception, you interfere with nature's plan. I don't deny that the idea of "stopping" is a useful tool, I talk to myself that way sometimes, but these days I find there is often a more effective "replacement plan" that achieves the same thing by leaving out this extra step of an hallucinatory moment of stop.

Anyway - maybe I've gone too far of track, but I thought it only fair that I underline how this goes to the core of my understanding of the work. Everything is about movement, even being.