A Grace of Sense
Where Our Inner World and Outer World Meet
The seat of the soul exists where the inner world and the outer world meet.
Where they overlap, it is in every point of the overlap.
However, if the seat of our soul, (psyche, heart/mind, animating spirit, breath), exists where our inner world and the outer world meet, that is, if the seat of our soul does not exist exclusively within our own little bubble, then for us to survive spiritually means we must find ways, even in these times of increased physical distancing, of living in the overlap. The goal of this training is to lead us out of isolation and safely into the overlap.
About the Course
This training is for anyone wanting to learn how to be physically and personally comfortable with themselves and with how they interact with the immediate world around them. You will learn a great deal about your own body, not so much intellectually, but practically and personally; how to receive support from your body, how to find pleasure within your body, and how to, once and for all, truly love your body. You will learn, in great detail, a few simple, enjoyable movement patterns that will give you an operational understanding of how your entire skeletal structure works, (head/torso, arms/hands and legs/feet). You will learn how to relax your organs. You will learn how not to breathe, but to be breathed. You will learn how to receive massive support from the ground, how to relate to time and to space in tremendously freeing ways. You will learn how to walk with power, comfort and ease, how to handle all the objects you relate to in your everyday life in a totally new and refreshing way, how to be with people more peacefully, how perhaps best of all, how to live fully within the sensory world.
If you are a somatic educator, movement teacher, psychotherapist, if you are someone who wants to be able to help people in the ways I do, this training program will provide you with a great deal of material you can use online or in person, individually or in groups.
If you are an Alexander Technique teacher or trainee, this material may greatly expand your repertoire, particularly if you wish better to understand the interplay between body and being, movement and meaning, and sensory and spiritual life.
It has taken 57 years of teaching movement for my work to have become as simple, clear and deep as it is now. By offering this online training my hope is that, despite the current pandemic, we can meet and learn together.
I encourage you to take your time reading this. It will take about 15 minutes to read. If what I have written touches you and speaks to you, and if you should decide to join me, I promise you my devoted attention throughout this course of study.
Themes to be Explored
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense…
We are all endowed with senses, though some of us do not have all of them. There’s a very simple way to understand what happens to our senses. As our motoric activity increases, often our conscious sensory receptivity decreases. The result is that our actions are not as informed as they could be, which often makes them less accurate, more effortful, less effective, and sometimes inappropriate. By conscious sensory receptivity, I mean the awareness of sensory input. The diminishment of conscious sensory receptivity prevents us from experiencing how we are doing, what we are doing, as we are doing it, reducing our ability to delight in and appreciate life as we are living it.
It is as if, within us, there is a doer and a receiver. For example, there is the you who washes your hair, and the you who senses and enjoys your hair being washed, or the you who does not sense your hair being washed and therefore cannot enjoy it. There is the you who is feeding you a spoonful of soup, perhaps potato leek soup, or miso soup, or lentil soup, or split pea soup, or French onion soup. And then, there is the you who is tasting it, savoring it, feeling thankful for it, or the you who is not tasting it. Haven’t you ever been so distracted that you’ve sat down, proceeded to eat lunch not tasting one thing, finished the meal and then a half hour later can’t quite remember if you ate lunch and, if so, what you had? 100% doing, 0% conscious sensory receptivity. Reawakening the receiver within, the one who is not putting out, not on output, but the one receiving, on input, keeps us from becoming depleted, allows us to be replenished.
A receiver differs from a perceiver. A perceiver witnesses, notices, observes, sometimes analyses, occasionally understands. Perceiving is primarily a mental activity, a mindfulness practice. Receiving is a sensory practice. A receiver senses, feels, experiences, enjoys and appreciates. With receiving we go beyond the perceiving of our actions into the receiving of our actions, beyond the perceiving of the world into the receiving of the world, beyond the use of the mind alone, and into the mysterious workings of the heart.
Your Place in the Family of Things
Photo: Tada Akihiro of Apache Potter Filipe Ortega
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
In his book, I and Thou, Martin Buber understands this profoundly. For Buber, there are only two possibilities when it comes to relationships. One, subject-to-object, or two, subject-to-subject. Buber refers to the first as an I-It relationship, and to the second as an I-You relationship. I-It relationships are utilitarian and I-You relationships are existential, that is, about mutual existence. In other words, an I-It relationship is a being to non-being relationship, and an I-You relationship is a being to being relationship.
Buber goes into great depth around this simple idea. He explains how you can be in an I-It relationship with a person. If the reason for the interaction is primarily utilitarian, a person can turn into an It. What can this person do for me? How can I best utilize this person? On the outside, we may appear warm and friendly, but our deeper motives for relating to this person are essentially utilitarian. We want something from them. We do this a lot. More than we might like to admit.
But, thankfully, we can also be in an I-You relationship with people, but not just with people, with anything. Of course, if you are in an I-You relationship with another person, or with your beloved dog or cat, or with your blossoming apple tree in your backyard, you feel that this entity you are being with is alive. You feel their existence. You are in their company. The relationship is about being with, not about getting anything from, or anything done. But, and this is a very positive but, we can also be in I-You relationships with objects.
Here is what I have come to realize. Respect for the world and self-respect are inseparable. When we handle an object roughly, we handle ourselves roughly. If we decide not to handle an object roughly, we cannot handle ourselves roughly. If we decide that this object can feel everything we are doing, then we begin to feel everything we are doing.
Living on Biological Time
Time feels very real to us. A second is a second, a minute a minute, an hour an hour, a day a day, a year a year, a decade a decade, and yet our subjective sense of time varies. An hour can fly by in a second, an hour can feel like an eternity, for better or worse. An entire life can fly by in a blink of the eye. Ask almost any person nearing the end of their life. We can find ourselves waiting, a temporal event, for an urgent phone call, for a needed document to download. Or we find ourselves rushing about, worried about being late, meeting deadlines, getting everything done that we have to do. Living on clock time. Time pressure. Then, there is long-term waiting, for the kids to leave home, for the perfect person to come into our lives, or for when we will be earning much more money, or for when the covid crisis finally ends and we get to travel, visit our friends, go out to eat, go to a movie.
Living in the world of clock time and the world of body time are like living in two different worlds. A clock has numbers on it and that is how we know what time it is. A body does not use a number system to know what time it is. It uses a sensory system. It feels out what time it is. For the body it is always the right time for something. It is our job to figure out what it is the right time for. When all our senses are tuning in to what our body is saying and we give our body just what it wants, we feel good.
Maybe our bodies know how to “tell us” the time. We sense when we are hungry, our body feels something, and this feeling tells us that it is time for us to eat. We eat and at a certain point our body will sense something, telling us that we have eaten enough, that we are no longer hungry. Sometimes we listen; sometimes we don’t, just like sometimes we listen when a person is talking to us, and sometimes we don’t. Learning to listen and to follow the biological beat of our own body.
No Center, No Circumference
We all possess a sense of space within, or a lack thereof. Sometimes, we feel trapped, or cramped, that we have no room to move or breathe. Sometimes, we feel open and free, that the future is open to us, that the horizon widens forever, that the sky is the limit, that life is deep and vast, like the ocean. Some of us seem to puff out, some squeeze in, some hold back, some thrust forward, some press down, some pull up. Unaware of doing it, we impinge upon our space and sometimes the space of others. We want to live our lives with a pleasant, invigorating sense of space within us. We want to feel spatially unconfined, unfettered.
There is space between, between us and our smartphones, our computers, our steering wheels, our soup bowls. There is space between us and those around us when on a crowded train, in line at the grocery store, at the kitchen table.
There is space around, above us, below us, before us, behind us, beside us. Unbeknownst to us, often we live with blinders on, zooming in on what is in front of us, living our lives running along tracks, down invisible corridors, through high hedged mazes, unable to see and sense the immensity of space around us.
Space exists. A lot of it. It’s up to us as to how we wish to relate to space, as an It or as a You.
When you take a look at what humans do throughout the day, physically, it is fairly simple. At any given moment, we are either: (1) Lying down. (2) Sitting. (3) Reclining. (a combination of sitting and lying down.) (4) Standing. (5) Squatting. (a combination of standing and sitting.) (5) Leaning. (a combination of standing and lying down.) (6) Walking/Locomotion. (or other gaits, such as jogging, running, sprinting, crawling, climbing, skipping, leaping, swimming, etc.) (7) Transitioning between the basic forms above. (8) Working. When working, we are usually using our hands in some way, and usually handling tools in some way, and often we are with other people in some way, which means often we are either speaking or listening. Sometimes we are playing which is working in such a way where enjoyment supersedes practicality.
This is all we do. At any given moment, something is happening from (1) through (8). Some of these foundational actions are unique to homo sapiens, and are what we excel at: standing, walking, using hands, using tools, and speaking. Evolutionarily, these abilities emerged together, and developmentally, as infants and toddlers, they also emerged together, so it makes sense, as adults, that we continue developing them together.
But we don’t. We assume, mistakenly, that once our ability to sit, stand, walk, speak and use our hands is established that no further attention is required. But I have found this not to be true. Around the age of 6 or 7, and perhaps most noticeably as we grow into our teens, something happens, a fall from grace, a loss of inherent dignity. It is as if we were given a noble mammalian blueprint, designed by Nature herself, and somewhere along the way, we misplaced it. Actually, we didn’t misplace it. It is right where it always was, but something now is covering it. Together, we will unveil this inherently upright, upstanding, honorable blueprint.
Our Mother Who Art on Earth, Hallowed Be Her Name
Photo: B. Fertman
Many Native American cultures refer to the Earth as Mother. Kivas, their religious chambers, unlike churches that aspire upwards, descend downward. Climbing down a ladder through a vertical tunnel, we return to the womb. Frank Waters in, The Man Who Killed the Deer, writes;
“Hush, son! You are in the womb of Our Mother Earth. You will be here many, many months, a long, long time. You have entered a child. You will be reborn from here a man. Then you will know why it is you must stay. Let there be no more whimpering, no more questions, son…. You are in a womb: in it the eyes, the ears, the nose and babbling mouth do not function. The knowledge that will come to you is the intuitive truth of the spirit, the quiescent wisdom of the blood, transmitted through senses you do not use outside. The pulse of the earth throbs through these walls which inclose you; the embers there reflect the heat of its glowing heart; that little hole runs into the center of the world, into the lake of life itself. Remember you are in a womb, child…Listen, son. In your mother’s womb you were conceived… From an individual human womb you were born to an individual human life. It was necessary, it was good. For twelve years you have belonged to your lesser mother. Now you belong to your greater mother.”
From where doth our support come? It comes from the Earth, but first we must learn how to go down to get it.