The Alexander Technique, Somatic Experiencing and the Magic of Non Doing-Courtney Bird

ImageThere’s a blue bird who speaks to me on my porch. I just got done with a yoga practice and the line, “when you give energy, you get energy” comes back to me.
So I am going to pour that into my writing.

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                                                 “to thine own self be true”

Yesterday I worked with a woman named Debby Jay, she works with people doing a form of healing work known as the Alexander Technique. I had never heard of this before New Years, so when I met her and discovered what she does I wanted to know more.
The front of her house was covered with soft yellow leaves, and as I stepped over them I felt a sense of relief, the color yellow always comforts me.

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What I discovered was that the Alexander Technique is designed to help people attune to their inner experience. Or rather the work Debby does is to help people get in tune with their inner experience and their bodies by also using somatic experiencing.
She explained to me how people are not always in tune with what’s going on, a lot of this is conditioning, family functioning, if one felt they could not express their needs and boundaries  then many times they would stop owning their feelings and experiences,  and would lose touch with their bodies. Which is known as dissociation.
As she spoke about this I felt all the times I left my body when I felt uncomfortable, when I felt I couldn’t express what I needed or how I felt if someone stepped too close into my space.

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It’s sort of a surreal experience, I think a bit of the french film, Fantastic Planet, when all of the blue people are meditating and leave their bodies to go to other worlds, leaving their bodies behind, but instead of this being a healthy experience, leaving your body in this way, it becomes damaging experience by not expressing and owning how you feel. Not being able to set boundaries for yourself. We can only control our own bodies and the way we feel, and if we don’t do this it can be very destructive to one’s self.

As she talked she told me a bit about the relationship she had with her Husband, also a teacher of the Alexander technique. She told me how they took time every morning to have tea together, and how they also took time to just “be”. They would lay down in a sort of restorative posture, their heads propped up on books. She explained how crucial this was in the beginning of their relationship, how it saved it in a sense. This “non-doing” the just being in the body, they would sit and talk and look at the ceiling.
She showed me and I laid down on the floor with her.
Within minutes I felt incredibly grounded and at ease, like there was nothing to accomplish, nor their need be anything to accomplish. It was just a matter of feeling your body supported by the earth. She asked me to try opening my legs straight on the floor. To feel what happens when I did this, the opening.
And that is what happened, my body opened and felt longer.

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Non-doing is a huge principle of the technique. We spoke of the culture we live in, and how we are a very achieving culture. She explained to me, how she stopped trying to work so grandly because it began wiping her out and so she changed her focus to a more personal one, “it’s a different way of being in the world, to take joy in the simple things.” Like having tea together in the morning, or the way she showed me her backyard and she smelled the orange from the tree.
The work she does to share this with other’s has a lot to do with the notion that people do not have the tools to have a positive daily experience. This is what she wants to bring to people, coming from a place of love and compassion. Mamma Eva told me recently,  you must love what you do, if you don’t, don’t do it.

Image a stone i was given to remember my experience.

I asked Debby what she thought love was:

“Whoa i don’t really know.
Love is a very difficult word to talk about, I’ll talk around it. I think I bring a lot of love to my work. I have a lot of respect for people who want to change, and they have a lot of courage, to seek help of another when you’re in need, it takes a lot of courage.
People have to have a false self to present to others- i feel for the burden that imposes, so i think i bring loving kindness , trying to create space for them to explore who they are.
But thats what i would call it.
There’s many kinds of love, theres the love i found for our new cat, and I’m surprised by it because its a new thing .
An appreciation, a sense of wonder about everything.”
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After this meeting I wanted nothing more then a cat to cuddle up with, my wish came true when I found my white neighborhood cat prancing around the next day. I laid on the grass and she cuddled next to me, so peaceful. I asked, “what do you have to teach me guru?” She purred and curled around on the grass. More non-doing.
Back to Debby’s where she worked on me a little. I stood and she asked me to feel the light radiating from my back. To breathe more fully from certain parts of my body, allowing myself to be longer, have more space, and yet still feel rooted to the ground. We walked around a bit and her soft touch allowed me the ability to move and open in a gentle way that felt so different then anything I can describe. It’s hard to explain the experience, but I felt open, lighter, and even empowered.
She asked me to not try to lift my chest so much, to let go of the effort. I asked her why that kept coming up, I kept putting the effort in, thinking their must be more i needed to do for it to be right.
She replied,
“We’re trained to try hard.
I was brought up to believe the harder I try, the more i would learn.
We’re a doing culture, not a  being culture.
If we’re not doing then we think we’re not accomplishing.
When people come here and have an experience of non-doing, they don’t have words for it, its a lower brain experience. “
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Then she spoke about grace, and how its the birthright of having space, taking up the space you are intended to have, not impinging on anyone but not impinging on yourself.
You can change your mood and life dramatically just by the way you allow yourself to have space in the world. That was an amazing notion that I had not really given too much thought to before. How important it is to be in our bodies, allowing ourselves our feelings and giving ourselves the space we deserve.
The new experience she had given me was something she lived for she explained, ‘if we lived each day like that, asking ourselves what new options or experiences are available to us, then we could live in a more positive way’-
“with a sense of wonder…It’s a way to maintain a positive outlook in the midst of painful realities.”
Lastly I asked her a wish as I always do, A wish on what she wished everyone would learn
She told me,
“I guess I would wish that everyone could learn that whatever their feeling is true for them, and that they don’t have to be ashamed of it, or embarrassed or deny it.
To own one’s own true experience, I think would be a great thing to learn.”
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                            thanks Debby for meeting with me.
                            Here’s a quote she shared:
‘If you’re an alive body, no one can tell you how to experience the world. And no one can tell you what truth is because you experience it for yourself.’
 
Stanley Keleman
You can reach Debby at debby@debbyjay.com and debbyjay.com .
And me at courtneybird.com
Credit also to Michael Gelb on effort and trying hard.
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