Category Archives: Living

Finding a Voice

40+60 Feet, Euw.

Feet, Euw. (Photo credit: bark)

As a classically-trained singing teacher and vocal coach, it has been my privilege to teach aspiring performers at all levels.  From career-track professionals in opera and musical theater, to church choir singers, and those who only sing in the shower — I’ve developed a good reputation (over 25 years, at this point) in my field for developing singers with beautiful, expressive voices.  My point of view has always been a bit unusual, which is one of many reasons that I no longer teach at a university.  I always thought of developing the person first, believing that the voice inside would emerge.  I observed that employing the reverse order in that process produced undesirable results — unless you were in the business of growing an especially delicate strain of narcissist.  To me, voice is an almost sacred form of self-expression.  To help someone unleash that expression — or to find a self that has something to express — is interesting and wonderful.

And so, an unusual voice lesson last week sticks in my mind.  A new client, E., has sought several Feldenkrais sessions to help him to deal with his symptoms  resulting from Parkinson’s Disease.  He is tall, slender, and in his late 60’s. He says he was diagnosed shortly after he retired, three years ago. His left hand trembles almost continuously.  His walk is slightly stooped, with the characteristic Parkinsonian shuffle. His natural soft-spoken demeanor has been rendered wispy, weak, and almost inaudible. He complains of unstable balance, and fatigue when walking.  This was his third session.

Previously, he and I explored how he senses and uses his feet, and how his center of gravity can be used for power and propulsion.  We began this day with him lying on his back, with his right knee bent and right sole of his foot standing on the table.  His left leg was long.

First, I asked him to hum a sustained pitch in a comfortable range.  He made several attempts, each of them very soft, unsteady, and lasting less than two seconds.  I asked him to review an earlier movement — to push, gently, into his standing right foot, and to experience again how  the pressure from his foot can cause his pelvis to roll, as if beginning to roll onto his left side.  We began to explore how his inhalation and exhalation could coordinate with the movement.  He sampled inhaling while pressing with his foot, and then he tried exhaling with the pressure.  For now, we settled on the latter.

After doing a few of these gentle movements on both sides, it was time for a rest.  His breathing seemed less hurried, and his tremor had decreased noticeably.  I asked him, once again, to hum.  There was more sound, and he was able to sustain the hum steadily for a full three seconds.  As I  brought his attention to the vibrations he could feel by gently touching my figertips to his forehead, cheeks, and chest, his breathing deepened, and he was able to hum for over five seconds.

Next, I asked him to press the table with his foot and turn his pelvis as before.  This time, we added a hum as he rolled his pelvis.  His hum became stronger, and of longer duration, each time. And then, I asked him to open his mouth, and to make an “Ah” sound on the same pitch as before.

E. took a breath, pressed his foot on the table.  His pelvis began to roll, and I heard, “AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”  Again, on the next press, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

“That seems a lot stronger,” he said.

His wife’s eyes were the size of saucers.

His voice was just as strong while pushing with the other foot.  And then, I asked him to see what would happen if he bent both knees, stood both feet on the table, and pressed into both feet?  He saw how he could easily lift his pelvis away from the table.  Nobody would have guessed that this elderly man would be able to do a “Bridge.”  And then, as he pressed the table, slowly lifting his pelvis, we heard, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

We paused so he could rest.  I spoke to his wife.

“He’s going to be ‘talking back’ to you now.  I hope you’re okay with that!”

She smiled broadly.  “Oh yes!  That will be just fine!”

He stood up, and walked.  Standing tall, his gaze level with the horizon instead of down toward the floor.  I asked him to take a breath, and to feel the pressure of his feet on the floor as he stood — and then to speak. “Honey, I love you!” he boomed.  His wife beamed. His hand was quiet.

There is more that he can learn. Will we cure his Parkinson’s?  Probably not. (Although E. would fight me on that.  He is a man of faith, and believes that he will be completely cured.  Let it be so.)  Will his tremor disappear?  Now, THAT is quite possible.  Just as he discovered his voice, quite surprisingly, he will discover how to manage and keep a good quality of life where it most matters.  Like ‘talking back’ to his wife.

 

 

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5 tips to fall-proof your life #Feldenkrais

Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932), via Wikipedia

Falling in love is wonderful! Yet, accidental falls are a leading cause of injury and emergency room visits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that, on an annual basis, falls affect 1 in 3 older adults.

Follow these 5 tips to “fall-proof” your life, at any age:

1. Improve your awareness.

Distraction and boredom are the leading causes of accidents behind the wheel and at work. Both pull you out of the present moment. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation, yoga, and Feldenkrais, can develop your capacity for awareness to “be here, now.” When you improve your overall awareness and ability to pay attention, you will increase your personal safety.

2. Take your time.

“Hurry” creates carelessness, distraction, error — and greater risk of injury.  You can learn to move quickly without hurrying! When you stand up, take just a few moments to “get organized” before you go lurching off immediately and risk a fall. In less than 10 seconds, you can feel and re-position your feet so that you can walk without turning your knee or ankle. Feeling the surface of each foot on the floor (whether barefooted or not) can help you feel more stable and secure in movement.

3. Develop coordination, along with strength and flexibility.

The value of exercise to maintain overall health is well known. And yet, coordination seems undervalued in many exercise programs. The appearance of proper form may not tell the whole story. If you are holding your breath during an action, or if you feel unpleasant twinges with the exertion, then those are clues (learned through sensing) that your coordination could be improved. In fact, well-coordinated movement feels like it flows easily, and there is no feeling of strain (as distinct from the work required). Classes or lessons in the Feldenkrais Method can help you to fine-tune your everyday movements for better coordination. This fine-tuning process will also positively affect your balance, posture, and gait – all elements of organized movement. Improved coordination can help keep you safe.

4. Adapt to prevent falls.

In your home environment, make sure that floors and walkways are clean and cleared. Rugs should be securely fastened to the floor to avoid slippage. If you need a rail in the tub, install one. Wear shoes with skid-proof soles. If you must use a ladder or step-stool, be sure that it is properly braced, and see if you can get a friend to spot you. Line yourself up (and your center of gravity) directly with what you are reaching for. Re-position the ladder, rather than leaning.

Sometimes, YOU must do the adapting. Get your eyes checked and corrected if necessary, and turn on an extra light if you need to. Alcohol, sugar, and some food allergies can cause impairments that affect your balance, awareness, and attention, so “know thyself” and take appropriate action.

5. Learn to fall.

For high-performance martial artists, falling is an every-moment possibility. They don’t try to avoid falling. Instead, they learn to fall WELL, and they practice it until they have mastered it.

The usual reaction to the feeling of falling is to powerfully contract the extensor muscles (also known as the “anti-gravity” muscles) of your back and neck, and to “brace” the fall with a rigid and outstretched limb. The resulting stiffness practically guarantees that you will, indeed, fall – and that you’ll be hurt. Regular lessons with a Feldenkrais teacher can safely and gently teach you how to feel softness in your body, how to fold and roll with minimum impact – and get up again!

Mindful movement can help you to move safely and comfortably at any age.  Let us show you how!

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Not Just WHAT: Also HOW

Perhaps you’ve had this experience:

Yoga Class at a Gym Category:Gyms_and_Health_Clubs

Image via Wikipedia

A news report on the radio or TV catches your ear.  An item shows up on Twitter, or in your Facebook feed.  An article in a magazine jumps out at you.

“New research shows [Insert one of your favorite activities here] can lead to [your worst nightmare/direst consequence imaginable]. . .”

Coffee.  Sugar.  Alcohol.  Mobile phone use.  Sitting.

In the face of such frequent and contradictory reports, it is tempting to stick your head in the sand and just shrug your shoulders as you continue to do what you like.  On the other hand, human nature can rear its dogmatic head, and you might be tempted to make a rule that supports your own behavior.  [You know you've made a rule if you think your way is what is best for everyone. The rule also probably includes the word "always" or "never."]  Examples abound:  from advocates of particular dietary practices, exercise disciplines, spiritual beliefs, political ideologies.

Is it just human nature?  Is it an ego out-of-awareness that insists it is right, and everyone else is wrong?  Modern media revels in the opportunity for “Point/Counterpoint” argument, trash-talking, and polarization.  While it might make for “TV worth watching,”  it seems that in most cases, you are better served by having a more nuanced viewpoint.  Warning:  you will get a lot of flack for answering “It depends.”  You can’t just spout bumper-sticker aphorisms, and you have to stay actively engaged with your own thinking process, to develop a sense of fine-tuning in your beliefs and corresponding actions.  Alas, it is inconvenient, and any opportunities of offering a 30-second sound bite can be kissed goodbye.

So now, a new book and accompanying article in the New York Times has come onto the radar. It is potentially as important as the early research on the effects of cigarette smoking.  A lot of people will be upset.  The subject?  YOGA.

In the article, How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body, renowned Yoga teacher Glenn Black takes a courageous (and some might say heretical) viewpoint about the yoga-is-for-everyone mindset.  Quoting from the article:

Black has come to believe that “the vast majority of people” should give up yoga altogether. It’s simply too likely to cause harm.

Not just students but celebrated teachers too, Black said, injure themselves in droves because most have underlying physical weaknesses or problems that make serious injury all but inevitable. . . “Yoga is for people in good physical condition. Or it can be used therapeutically. It’s controversial to say, but it really shouldn’t be used for a general class.”

The entire article is worth a read.  Black’s viewpoint, and that of a new book The Science of Yoga: The Risks and The Rewards, is a highly nuanced and sensible one.  As a Feldenkrais teacher who works with a lot of yoga enthusiasts, I’m often asked “What do you think of yoga?” or “Is yoga GOOD?”  I often wonder if their underlying question is, “Should I be doing yoga?”  I’m delighted to say “It depends.”  It’s not just the WHAT (Yoga).  It’s also the HOW — how it is taught, how you approach it, how you monitor yourself. . .

Moshe Feldenkrais was famous for saying, “If you don’t know what you’re doing, then you can’t do what you want [to do].”  Ah, there’s the rub. With yoga, it is important to know what you are doing.  Many people begin a yoga class without having the slightest inkling what their physical limitations are, with the belief that yoga will “fix them.”  The temptation to stretch just a little bit farther, or to conquer that challenging pose TODAY, is a siren song that can lead to serious injury. Of course, many people enjoy and benefit from their yoga practice. Surely, the difference lies in the experience and intentions of the individual in any given moment.

I’m not bashing yoga. You can get hurt doing ANYTHING — yoga, crossing the street, cooking, ballet, playing the violin. . . you can even put yourself in pain during a Feldenkrais class, if you aren’t paying careful attention to yourself!  The bottom line is, people are not going to stop yoga (just as some people have not stopped smoking), no matter what “the evidence” might say.  People will indeed continue yoga, as they will continue to study ballet, climb sheer rock faces, drive fast, eat sweet foods, clean their houses.  Of course, the analogy breaks down a bit with the examples of smoking, driving, and shooting, as other people can potentially be harmed by your actions.  But that’s another debate.

I hope the new book will say that yoga is an interesting and potentially satisfying pursuit. I hope it will say that there are substantial risks, and that prospective students need to begin with both eyes open and feet on the ground, before attempting that headstand. As with living in general, your presence and attention are required.  You can’t expect to “phone it in,” and nobody is exempt from the laws of physics.  I hope the book will say, “You have to pay attention.”

I’d love to see our culture and our education system support the idea that it is beneficial to learn to respect yourself, and the physical sensations your body send to tell you “THIS is enough.” If we can learn to appreciate the long-term process of learning and improvement over a lifetime, rather than the fastest result possible — well, we might just then be on to something.

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7 Ways to Get Out of Pain – Naturally

Hang around on this planet long enough, and Life will eventually deal you some pain and unpleasantness.  My feeling is, we get plenty of it without asking, just by showing up.  We certainly don’t need to go looking for it, or inviting it in the door.  If you’re a hard-core WHATEVER, my ideas here might offend you.  The  pursuit of extreme endurance and physical punishment is your choice — have a good time. However, it is a dangerous and completely inappropriate lifestyle for people who have real pain.

For people  with chronic or persistent pain (including emotional pain), it’s reality and it’s non-stop. There is no glory in hurting, and pain adversely affects your life. You MUST liberate yourself from our senseless “No Pain, No Gain” culture that drives you to ignore your common sense, your physical sensations, and your own well-being in pursuit of a bogus promise that pain will make you better.  Even if you simply have occasional aches and pains, here are seven techniques that can help you find your way out of pain — naturally.

Disclaimer.  This ain’t magic.  As my colleague Irene Gutteridge says, “Slow and steady wins the race.  Quick fixes are man-made. Not Nature-made.  Real change requires time.  Not impatience.”  Engage with the process, give it some time, keep an eye out for changes — and you can get out of pain.

1. Whatever you’re doing — stop.
You don’t have to stop it forever, just stop for right now. Just for a few minutes, for Pete’s sake.  Stop.  Really.
It’s like the old joke:
“Doctor, it hurts when I do this.”  
“Stop doing that.”
Stop for a moment, and feel all the muscles that have snuck up on you to wind themselves into a frenzy of tension.  Take a break to REST — 10 minutes, a few hours, a day — and you’ll be stronger and more comfortable when you continue.

2.  Slow down.
Perhaps you can’t stop what you are doing immediately.  Take a few moments to notice the rhythm of what you are doing.  See what happens if you slow down.  Does the movement feel more difficult, or more easy, at the slower pace? If you slow down, you can actually feel what you are doing. You might notice that you are working harder than you need to for the task.  Slow down and see if you can streamline the movement with a minimum of muscular effort.  You may need a few tries to “dial it down.”  Taking time to slow down can make your movements more pleasurable.

3.  Keep breathing.
Chances are,  you’ll find you’ve been holding your breath, or just barely breathing.  Notice what you are doing, before you try to change it.  Pay attention to your breathing as you continue.  Experiment with what works for you:  does it seem to make sense, or feel better, if you inhale during the action?  How does it feel to exhale during the action?  You may find a way to synchronize your breathing with what you are doing so that you are immediately more comfortable.  Your muscles and your brain need oxygen, in steady supply, and on a regular basis, to function well.  Notice when you hold your breath, and see if you can resume your breathing, lightly and easily.

4.  Think before you act.
Take a moment to consider:  is this action safe?  Is there an easier way?  Like it or not, we are all subject to the laws of physics.  Gravity can work for you, or against you.  If you are lifting something (even a purse, briefcase, or diaper bag), face the object and line yourself up with it before you lift it.  That means no picking up something heavy while reaching behind yourself. I see lots of people with very sore shoulders who have hurriedly tried to yank their purse out of the the back seat — an unwise action, resulting in completely preventable pain.  Think, move smart, and keep yourself out of pain.

5. Respect your limits.
If you are in pain, you will not solve your pain problem by ignoring it and pushing through.  I know IT SUCKS to not be able to do what you want, exactly as you want.  Tough.  This is reality.  When you feel yourself getting tired, or knocking at the door of pain, BACK OFF.  Work for shorter periods of time, and take frequent breaks so that you can rest.  It’s the RESTING that helps you recover — NOT some ego-driven idea of “refusing to acknowledge defeat.”

Frequently, people with persistent pain will have a day when the terrible dull ache lifts.  It’s as if the sun comes out.  They actually feel GOOD.  And on that day, the person will try to do everything that has been delayed, piling up, postponed.  They go non-stop for several hours, shopping, gardening, doing housework, cleaning the garage, socializing.  And the next day, they are worse off than before.  This discouraging cycle can be stopped if you pay attention to your limits and stay within them.

6.  Change your position frequently.
Human beings are not meant to be still or stuck in one position — no matter how “correct” you believe it to be.  For example: Your concept of good posture, handed down from parents, teachers, or your drill sergeant, might be too rigid and too generic to work for the long haul for you.  Fidget in your seat, get up and walk around, slowly and gently move your shoulders, arms and legs.  Extreme stretching, or quick movements to crack yourself, will not produce the long-term solution you seek.  Keep moving, just a little, to keep comfortable.

7.  Learn how to move, your way, from a Feldenkrais teacher.
You can make significant progress to improve your situation by exploring these experiments on your own.  However, if you need a little guidance, you can see a Feldenkrais teacher to help you learn more ways to move and live without pain. As you learn new ways of moving — or reconnect with the effortlessness you felt when you were younger — you can learn your way to a more comfortable existence.

[The preceding post is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or treatment where advised.  If your pain does not subside within a reasonable time, consult your healthcare provider.]

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12 Things – #resound11

What are 12 things your life doesn’t need in 2012?  How will you go about eliminating them?  How will getting rid of these 12 things change your life? (Props to original Author: Sam Davidson). If you did Reverb10, how are you making out on your 11 Things from last year? (reverb11)

OR

Take today to talk about 12 things you would like to accomplish in 2012. . . (#resound11)

Last year, I listed 11 things I could do without in 2011.  They were:

  1. Sugar.
  2. Clutter.
  3. Paper.
  4. Time wasters
  5. Discouragement.
  6. Fear.
  7. Bullshit.
  8. Email updates from organizations I’m no longer interested in.
  9. Worry.
  10. Tangeants — unless they look fun.
  11. Activities, objects, and relationships that do not contribute to my sense of well-being, wholeness, and happiness: social, spiritual, financial, physical, emotional, intellectual, professional, personal, recreational.
    Champagne

    Image via Wikipedia

    How am I doing?  I’ve found they are all of the works-in-progress variety, and I believe each category has inspired major improvements in the past year.  I am more mindful and consciously choosing LESS in the sugar (including alcohol), clutter, paper, time wasters, discouragement, fear, bullshit, and unnecessary emails categories. Numbers 6 and 9 are constant battlegrounds, but I am aware sooner when I start getting myself all wound up about something.  I feel healthier and happier overall. This is still a good list for the coming year.

Number 11 was an area of major growth last year.  I pruned away a lot of my “social network” and relentless busyness in favor of quality relationships that actually had a mutual benefit.  I think number 11 is a good standard from which to operate in the coming year.  I may be more ruthless about it.  Those things that do not contribute to my sense of well-being are probably hold-overs from the other categories, especially numbers 4 and 7.  I need to “calls ‘em like I sees ‘em” earlier, and more often.
What to add to the list for 2012?  Twelve is a rich symbolic number, signifying completeness and universality.  Into the vacuum created by all this doing less, the universe will rush.   More celebration, more travel, more quality, more learning, more collaboration, more harmony, more rest, more appreciation, more gratitude, more acceptance, more health, and more love.  Those are 12 things that will be a good foundation for the coming year.
[I am blogging daily (ish) during December as part of #reverb11 and #resound11.  Join us here.]
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Best Meal – #resound11

What is the best meal or best food that you have eaten all year? Did you make it? Did you get it at a restaurant? Do your best to describe the food and the experience with us.

If I’ve already told you this, please forgive the re-telling of the story.

I still get excited thinking about the best meal of the year, which was our Thanksgiving dinner.  It was a personal, all-time best in the “Holiday Meals” category.  Even more importantly, the meal was shared with family and friends whom we cherish.

First, the food.

Thanksgiving DinnerEverybody knows there is only one way to make a proper Thanksgiving dinner:  and that is the way you had it when you were a kid.  Marital discord arises when different traditions clash. That’s not how MY mom made it. . .

Thankfully, I’m over that — and so are my adult children.  I’ve been delighted in the past 10 years to discover, despite a highly invested story put forth by my ex-mother-in-law that I was somehow incapable of cooking Thanksgiving dinner, or didn’t want to, or couldn’t be bothered; that I am a damn good cook and can crank out a Thanksgiving dinner with the best of them.  New traditions have evolved since my divorce.  The only thing my kids (now 28 and 23) insist upon are the bread stuffing they grew up with (my mom’s recipe, unwritten but passed down by oral tradition and eyeballing it), lots of wine, and at least one pumpkin pie.  I think everything else is negotiable.

This year, I was open for something new.  I consulted the ultimate food guru, Alton Brown.  Every one of his recipes is reliable and totally delicious, so I decided to put our Thanksgiving fate in his hands.  I purchased a minimally-processed turkey and chose to brine it.  I had not had a proper roasting pan, so purchased one, with a rack, for the day.  My parents had not used a rack — just put the bird right into the pan, breast up, and away we went.  Let me tell you, I am now an enthusiastic convert to rack use — what a difference it made! In the spirit of adventure, I started preparations the afternoon before, and followed Alton Brown’s directions.  After brineing the turkey overnight, then cooking it at 500 degrees for 30 minutes, and then down to 350 for the remainder of the time, our 15-pound turkey was done in 2.5 hours, tender and falling off the bone, with an actual flavor that I had not dreamed possible for turkey.  And, if you look up “golden brown” in the dictionary, you will see a picture of our perfect turkey.

In another innovation for this year, I actually made gravy.  You see, gravy has been a murky mystery, fraught with cross-motivations, since my youth.  My Dad always made giblet gravy, and I thought it was the absolute grossest and most vile-tasting substance imaginable.  I could never get on that gravy train.  However, this year the pan drippings looked so fantastic that I just had to try — no giblets or neck, thank you very much.  Voila!  Fabulous, rich, dark, turkey gravy.  Unbelievable.

The meal was rounded out on my part with mashed white and sweet potatoes, Alton Brown’s “from scratch” version of the ubiquitous green bean casserole, and an amazing cranberry chatni from one of my new #houstonbloggers friends.  Friends and family brought wine, pies, traditional cranberry sauce (homemade), fabulous challah and a creamed spinach casserole that was to die for.

We feasted.  We laughed.  We took pictures of the turkey.  And we were thankful.  Best meal of the year, hands down.

[I'm blogging daily (ish) during December as part of #resound11.  Join us here.]

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More – #reverb11

What do you wish you had done more of in 2011?

 

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 25:  An airliner is...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

In 2011, I did not travel as much as I have in recent years.  Even though I had good reasons for staying home, I found that I really missed it.

 

I financed two eye surgeries this year, so that is where my funds were allocated.  I skipped the annual conference by my professional association partly for that reason, but mostly because the program just didn’t excite me.  Then, the music festival I had taught at the previous two summers suspended their operations for this year, so that removed another opportunity.

 

Staying home was the right thing to do.  It was wise and prudent.  I also found that I have come to rely on spending a couple of weeks away from home.  The travel recharges my internal emotional and creative “batteries.”   In 2012, I am planning several trips for continuing education, as well as an occasional weekend getaway.  I am also open to the possibility of accepting some out-of-town gigs and expanding my horizons in that way. I look forward to new found “get up and go” potential in the new year!

 

[I am blogging daily (ish) during December as part of #reverb11 and #resound11. Join us here.]

 

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Catch phrase – #resound11

What is your trademark phrase, or a quote or saying that you repeat often?

Via allstarpuzzles.com

My normal schedule throughout the year is to teach four or five Awareness Through Movement classes each week.  I enjoy it because the vocabulary is rich and varied, and I tell my students that “in this class, you’ll always be doing something a little strange. . .”  However, if you were to make a “word cloud” out of one of my lessons, I think the biggest one would surely be

NOTICE.

Not a catch phrase, really — more of an invitation.  Each part of a lesson is like a tiny experiment, or like inventing a recipe.  You add an ingredient, and then “taste it” to see if it what you intended, or if you like it, or if it is interesting.  And then you continue, based on that new information.  In Awareness Through Movement, you are asked to experiment with very gentle, yet non-habitual movements — and then afterwards, to pause and “taste the recipe:”  NOTICE how you feel now.  Notice what is different.  Notice what you sense. Notice what you notice. It’s a very subtle and gentle practice of paying attention, learning to pay attention both specifically and more broadly.

This process is remarkable, and enjoyable.  Through the lessons, people feel less stressed, or move with less pain, or gain better posture (among a slew of other physical benefits).  But more deeply and more importantly, I think, is that they learn how to surprise themselves once again. They learn how to appreciate and enjoy small things.  They become more patient and compassionate and sensitive, with themselves and others.  They discover new capacities and enlarge their thinking to include new ideas and possibilities.  And it all starts with “NOTICE.”

What do you notice?  Please leave a comment.

[I am posting daily (ish) during December as part of #reverb11 and #resound11.  Join us here.]

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Friendship – #resound11

I started writing last night and had to stop. My thoughts were a jumble at the end of the day, and as I tried to get organized, I tapped into some deep emotions — sadness, aloneness, and a strange agitation.

This morning, things look brighter. As I reflect on friendship in the light of day, I feel blessed to have many friends. My friendships are all authentic — meaning, at what ever level of intimacy or familiarity, the enjoyment of time together is genuine and valued.

As I think of current friendships, my upstairs neighbors are probably at the top of the heap. We’ve been through a hurricane together, for Pete’s sake! They are the ones you’d borrow a cup of sugar from, or a corkscrew, or call after a traffic accident, or to bail you out of jail (hypothetically, of course!). It’s not a matter of quantity of time spent with them, but the quality of that time.  My business partners, Paul and Julie, are right up there, too.   I have known them for 10 years now, and it’s hard to express how much I appreciate their friendship and support.

Likewise, my BFF soul-mates, partners in crime across the miles, are people from my own Feldenkrais training in Chicago, now almost 10 years ago. A few are in my inner circle: Craig, Ger, Diane, Kristine. Carla, Joanna, Scott, Christiana, Therese, Dan,Terri. Marian, Ellen, Phyllis, and everyone. Regardless of the frequency of contact, there is a bond and a love there that is extraordinary. I would do anything for any of my “litter mates” from that experience — and I think they would for me, as well.

In this era of social media, it’s so interesting to see which friends from high school have reconnected. It is liberating to be almost 40 years out and free from the bullshit drama of growing up, settled in lives and relationships and careers. I find that now, as then, there is an affinity, a shared history and sense of humor, a context, and an appreciation for them as people. I think if we lived close to each other, we would once again choose each other as friends.

I know how friendships come and go, ebb and flow, fall away, intensify. Friendship has never felt solid, or like a “sure thing” to me. People change, they move away, they die.  I have changed, and moved away, changed status, job, economic bracket — and some friendships, however treasured, turn out to be “location specific.” Nothing is forever, and love and loyalty can’t make it so. For this reason, my friendships are precious to me, right now.

Perhaps that is why, last night, I felt sad and alone. Who are my friends? Who can I let in? Am I really fending for myself in the world? Is there anyone I truly trust? In the dark, I’m not so sure. In the daylight, I can see all the past, current, and prospective friends, and be grateful for them.

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Superpower – #resound11

Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound … we know you’ve got one. What’s your 2011 superpower?

For those of you going what the what … stop. Think about it for a moment: what have you learned that you can do better than anyone you know this year? What can you do that no one else can?

MB & Yoda's bedtime ritual. Image by Chris Welsh

I have a specialized ability that is the envy of many.  My dear partner C. says it is my superpower, and he should know.

My superpower is. . .

SLEEP.

In a dangerously sleep-deprived society, those of us who can get a good night’s sleep are at a decided advantage.  We are safer overall, our immune systems function optimally, we process stress better and think more clearly than those who can’t get to sleep at night.

As for my own sleep habits:  I start “circling the drain” by about 9:30 or 10 p.m. most nights.  If I can be in bed by 10, I might read until 11 or so.  Then, lights out and I am asleep within one minute on most nights.  I rarely set an alarm unless I have an appointment before 8:30 a.m., as I wake up on my own by 7 a.m.

I wake up slightly when I roll over, or when a cat comes to visit — but am able to get right back to dreamland.  Sometimes I wake up for a trip to the bathroom, if I am drinking enough water as I should.  However, I think mothers learn during their pregnancies to somnambulate as needed.  This sleepwalking skill persists even after the children are grown and gone, if it is cultivated and maintained. If my sleep is interrupted, I can be awake enough without being totally awake.

This is my biological clock, my biorhythm, and my preference.  I love to wake up early in the morning, feeling rested and ready for the day.  On the weekends, if conditions are right (low light, cool temperatures, snuggly sheets) I can sleep for 10 or 12 hours.  I don’t make a practice of it — I just trust my body to know what it needs.

The flip side of this regular, sleep-satisfied rhythm is what I call my “benign manic states,” and they occur three or four times a year.  If I am working on an idea or project and find a flow, I can work, play, and stay up for an all-nighter with energy that a seasoned college student would be proud to match.  I prop myself up the next day with a little coffee and a lot of protein, and go to bed early for the next couple of nights.  It is always well worth the temporary sacrifice.  I am thankful that I can choose to do this when I want, and that my life’s demands do not require that I live like this as the norm.

Most Feldenkrais teachers can help you to discover the ability to go to sleep, or to get back to sleep if you should awaken.  There is also some very useful work called the Sounder Sleep System that is safe, effective, drug-free, and enjoyable.  This is a superpower that can be learned — and practice makes perfect!

I have a bit more work to do tonight, but I’m right on schedule to get to bed by 10. To all a good night!

Problems sleeping?  Leave a comment.  Other superpowers?  Let’s hear ‘em!

[I'm posting daily (ish) during December as part of #resound11 and #reverb11.  Join us here.]

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