Who are you, gentle reader, Curious One? Where do you live, how did you find your way here, how do we connect through this intimate/isolating medium?
The question is also reflective, a writer’s prompt from the Continue reading
Who are you, gentle reader, Curious One? Where do you live, how did you find your way here, how do we connect through this intimate/isolating medium?
The question is also reflective, a writer’s prompt from the Continue reading
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.
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.]
My favorite food?
Hands down — it is sushi.
I could eat sushi three meals a day. I’ve never tried it (three meals a day, for an extended time), but in my foodie fantasy land, that is God’s truth.
Sushi is my celebration and special occasion treat. For birthdays, holidays, beginnings and endings, anniversaries, landing a big client or contract, or focusing on new business at lunch — sushi is my first choice. Sushi is special. Even if I had it three meals a day, I think it would still be special. Maybe that’s what is missing in our fast-food, rush-rush, drive-through world: nothing special about meal time. Perhaps that is the challenge: how to make each meal, each moment, special. . .
In the sushi world, I’m not terribly adventurous. No spiny or slimy stuff for me. One seaweed sushi or ikura is plenty. No blowfish or other life-threatening choices: I have responsibilities and a full schedule tomorrow, thank you. But baby, bring on the yellowtail, the seabass, the fresh salmon. I’ll even go red snapper, fresh scallop, and tuna. Hand rolls, frankly, I can take or leave. Spare me anything cooked. No smoked salmon or weird shrimp. Gimme raw, raw, raw.
Anything with edamame is great. The agodashi tofu is to die for. Avocado — fugeddaboudit. Add a cold Kirin, or a hot sake, or a slushy cosmo, and I’m your’s.
My favorite sushi place in Houston is Myako, on Westheimer. Happy Hour sushi is a gift of the gods to be savored and enjoyed as often as possible.
I love the clean, fresh, energized sense of being alive that follows a meal of wonderful sushi. Breakfast, lunch, dinner — sushi would be divine.
Any meal, eaten with gratitude and appreciation, provides profound nourishment for body and soul, the deepest elements of our humanness. I thank the fish for their sacrifice. I am grateful for their naked beauty and succulence. I celebrate the skill of the chefs who prepare and present the feast. I thank my body for the energy that food provides, that I may serve my community with strength and skill — and with love. THAT is the secret ingredient in any food, any meal, any gathering, which nourishes, heals, and connects — LOVE. Let all your eating and sharing and providing be acknowledged with love and connection, and gratitude. It’s all we have, really.
In a theatrical production, the week before the show opens is one of intensive, all-out work. The steady pace of work — the regular rehearsals, design, production, and promotion, culminate in what is commonly called “Hell Week,” more politely known as Tech Week. lt is a week of late nights, long hours, and all hands on deck! A tech rehearsal can run four to six hours, or longer, as costume malfunctions are thwarted, lights are adjusted, the light and sound people rehearse and execute their cues — and the process is grueling. People in the theater come to thrive on the adrenaline rush before and during performances. Will everything get done on time? Will everything be perfect?
Business people also talk about performance. They mean getting results, producing the contracted deliverables on time and under budget. What I have just described as “Hell Week” may provoke a response from some of my entrepreneurial friends: “Well, then, every week is hell week for me!” Indeed, the pace of deadlines, developing new business, and responding to client’s needs often puts these brilliant people “on a tightrope,” so to speak. The thrill of keeping the balance between walking that line and falling off is exhilarating to them — until the stresses build up, and the people burn out.
What are the indicators that you may be on the edge of burn-out? First of all, you may notice more aches and pains. Tight muscles, shallow breathing, a feeling of being “out of shape” sometimes is actually your system on overdrive, letting you know that it is time to put on the brakes. The next problem is that ongoing stress suppresses the immune system. Frequent colds, a bout of the flu, or feelings of being run-down and exhausted are all signs that rest, good nutrition, and a “recharge” are in order. Business peple have a strong ethic that “the show must go on.”
Continuing to run your personal empire from your sickbed does not qualify as rest. Your brain and nervous system need to completely disengage from “work” for a period of time. Take a walk, spend time in nature, go to a movie — or check in to your yoga or Feldenkrais class. Each of these, done regularly, will provide your system with the regeneration it needs.
My young friends in business could take a lesson from the theater. The production schedule has a regular rhythm. The acceleration to what can be the frenzied pace of tech week takes place during an extended process. After the peak of exertion, it is time to deliver the performances. This requires a different kind of energy — the kind that creates the feeling of “flow,” of ease and well-being, despite the demands of the piece. The actual show is always much shorter than a tech rehearsal: it is the streamlined, “express” version, where each number is performed only once in a night instead of three our four times. You get to enjoy your own results, and take pride in what has been created, both individually and corporately. You go home and rest between performances. And then, the show closes. The set is dismantled, the costumes are cleaned and returned to storage, you have a big party — and then, the theater is “Dark.” Like a farmer’s field, it lies fallow for a time, until the process starts again.
As we mature, we learn not to be afraid of “the dark.” The key to excellence in performance is to recognize the rhythm, and don’t skimp on opportunities to regenerate. Your health, creativity, and bottom line will all thank you in the long run.
Find a Feldenkrais teacher near you at www.feldenkrais.com . In Houston, that’s me!
I am a social being. An extrovert, perhaps. I like to go to parties and meet people. It’s the perfect way to mix business with pleasure.
I don’t like to drive at night.
In the past month, I’ve adjusted my budget and my priorities for safety and comfort. I now hire a driver when I have an evening event to attend — particularly if I plan to indulge in a beverage or two.
One evening during the holidays, we went party-hopping: from the Galleria to the Museum District, then to the Heights, and back home to the Galleria. We took a cab to a soiree in a part of town, the East End, where we always get lost if we drive ourselves. Recently we have found a driver we like (@AlextheDriver), and have had him ferry us to Houston Grand Opera, and to a fundraiser tonight on Houston’s far east side.
We met @AlextheDriver at a company open house that was attended by Houston’s Twitter set. Alex was working the door, checking ID’s (I always love being carded, even though I know the person is just being charming to a little old lady) and making sure people got name tags and wristbands. We struck up a conversation in which I told him we were waiting for our taxi to arrive. He mentioned that he was also a driver, and he would be happy to drive us sometime. We started following each other on Twitter the next day. I was happy to do business with another independent business person, and I’m happy to recommend him to others. Alex runs his cab as a business, not a job. He gives excellent, dependable, and personal customer service. It’s a business relationship that benefits us both.
Me, taking taxis to parties? It is a splurge, yes. However, the peace of mind (as they say) is priceless.
Have you recently made a choice that improved your life? What was it?
The unusual rhythm of the past several days has taken its toll. Although it is now 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday evening, I am about to call it a day, get in bed with a book, and I hope to be asleep within the hour.
Yesterday Houston had an unusual ice storm. Although I spent the day lounging and surfing the web, I also did some writing, put together a workshop handout, and rescheduled cancelled appointments.
Today, Saturday, was a half-day of work, presenting at a workshop. Tomorrow, Sunday, I’ll be working for a couple of hours on a project I enjoy. But work it is.
The work of a solo entrepreneur is to take advantage of opportunities. Opportunities don’t always come on a convenient schedule. The ability to be nimble, to respond, and to excel is part of makes me successful at what I do.
I am grateful to have work. I am grateful that I work at something that I enjoy, and that I am compensated well for that work. I am grateful that I have personal autonomy to set my own schedule. I am grateful that I did not have to skate dangerously on treacherous, ice-coated freeways yesterday to go work for someone else. Most of all, I’m grateful that I pay attention to my physical sensations and emotional cues that say, “If you’re going to do all of this, and be all of this, it is time to rest for awhile.”
As a culture, we drive ourselves to exhaustion to gain the approval and avoid the judgment and disdain of others. Our Puritan heritage values industry and abhors laziness. We have internalized the mistaken idea that unless we are relentlessly and slavishly busy, we are on the slippery slope to laziness and oblivion. Our epidemic of stress, depression, preventable illness, and injury is the result of this world view.
My wish for everyone: find work that you enjoy for its own sake. Work when you are working. Play when you are playing. Do all the work you can for one day, and then rest. Whatever is left undone will be waiting tomorrow.
Everyone is talking about the weather. In Houston, this morning we had 19F near the Galleria, 21F officially at the airport. We were surprised by a sudden loss of power at about 7:45 a.m. Luckily, my iPad was charged up and ready to go. Since I didn’t have access to the wifi, I fired up the 3G and checked my feed of people in Houston. There I quickly found out about the rolling blackouts that were adopted as a strategy to conserve power. Even after a press release this afternoon saying there would be no more rolling blackouts, another report this evening says to prepare for outages tomorrow. It is going to be interesting.
We were without power for 82 minutes this morning. It was another opportunity to notice how habituated I have become to my preferred routines. The coffee, the shower, the sitting down at my computer to write. We sat around in our pajamas looking at the iPad while we drank our coffee this morning, then sprung into action to make up for “lost time” as soon as power was restored about 9:07 (but who was counting?). We didn’t lose the time, we just spent it differently than we are accustomed to doing.
It looks like things may get nasty tomorrow as sleet and freezing rain hits. Our pantry is pretty well stocked with supplies to get us through until it warms up a bit on Saturday. This is extreme weather for Houston, but all you have to do is turn on the TV –if your power is on — and see reports of places where things are so much worse.
Getting into pajamas now. Making sure that phone and devices charge. Planning to wait until after 8 to try for coffee and a shower. Everything will get done. I’m sure we can all dig down and find enough resilience to muddle through two days of winter weather. We’ll be complaining about the heat soon enough.
In the days since the terrible violence in Tuscon, AZ, when a gunman took the lives of thirteen innocent people, including that of Federal Judge John Roll, and gravely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others; the general public has received a steady media diet of stories about traumatic brain injuries and prospects for rehabilitation. Thankfully, Rep. Giffords is doing remarkably well. We send our very best wishes to her, and to her family, during her convalescence and recovery.
As a result of this high-profile story, at both the national and local level, people are increasingly curious about the amazing capacity of the brain to regenerate itself, to find redundancies and “alternate routes” for parts that have ”gone off-line” due to stroke, or neurological process, or injury; and above all, that improvement is possible. (For an excellent summary, see this recent PBS Report.) At the core of the Feldenkrais Method is this very issue: how to create optimal conditions for any individual so that these changes in the brain — broadly called “learning,” can occur.
No doubt, Rep. Giffords will be getting state-of-the-art care at Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospitals TIRR Center. Their protocols are effective and tested, and I’ve heard that they are similar to those used in our military hospitals to rehabilitate the traumatic brain injuries as have been suffered by our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. They know what they are doing.
I always wonder how an already good experience can be made even better. And so, it makes me wish that Rep. Giffords, and all of our wounded veterans, were able to have access to the learning and improvement that occurs with the Feldenkrais Method, in addition to the care they already receive. The qualitative difference that our approach makes in easing pain, developing sensitivity and function, and improving balance and coordination, could be astonishing.
Our Method is already widely used in major hospitals in the US, most notably in the Kaiser Permanente system in California, and in the most progressive physical therapy settings. Until a few years ago, the Memorial Hermann Wellness Center offered a weekly class in Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement, and a practitioner worked with their pain patients on a regular basis until her retirement. This prior positive history with the method may justify re-opening the door. I would love to see a group of patients receive the present TIRR approach in treatment, and another group receive the TIRR approach with the addition of regular Feldenkrais sessions. My sense is that there would be a big difference in the group that also had Feldenkrais. In addition to the patient benefits, there is some preliminary evidence that people recover more quickly, which translates to lower costs. Improved patient outcomes and a healthier bottom line are in the interest of any institution.
It’s all very interesting to ponder. It also makes it important that people who have experienced the benefits of the Method — even if just for baby-boomer weekend-warrior pain — share their positive experiences instead of keeping them and us a secret. We may not get to work with Rep. Giffords, but future cases — no, PEOPLE — will benefit down the line. We wish her the very best. And, Rep. Giffords: I am at your service.
[Research studies about the Feldenkrais Method, including peer-reviewed articles, can be found at FeldSciNet.org.]
The last three days have felt strangely empty after the end of the fabulous #reverb10 reflective blog-a-thon in December. I blogged absolutely every day for three weeks, then lightened up a bit, and finished the year off with a summary post. Even though I did not blog every day, I improved drastically over my previous frequency — once a week in good times, once a month during dry spells.
What kept me going, however, was a daily practice to write on 750words.com — and today was my 39th day straight! I am racking up the badges and enjoying the process of dumping all the random floating thoughts jumbled in my brain out onto paper — or screen, actually — at the beginning of each day. I’ve gotten more done in the past month than I would ever have expected!
I had been looking for another good source of writers prompts. I looked at a few of the top listings on Google and was faintly dissatisfied, in that Goldilocks kind of way. I also crowdsourced an answer, asking for suggestions from my Twitter and Facebook peeps. Today, a friend came through: thanks to #reverb10 pal Noël Rozny and her recommendation, I’ll be participating in The Daily Post via WordPress.
So, my intention is to keep on keeping on. I intend to post something every day, or nearly every day, of 2011. I know it won’t be easy, but I fully expect it will be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The Daily Post, and the community of other bloggers with similiar goals: to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it, and encouraging others when I can.
What will I write about? I have no freaking clue, seriously. I just write about whatever is interesting to me at the time. As a person who has always had a keen appreciation for the “next shiny thing,” my interests are wide-ranging: art, music, theater, and all the performing arts: culture at large; education; learning; food and cooking and eating; friends and their creative expressions; and of course, my beloved adoptive city, Houston, Texas, USA; and the work that keeps me curious, playful, and eager to get up each morning: The Feldenkrais Method. And that’s just the stuff I can predict! As the page says, I am “open to possibilities.” The most interesting content, for both of us, is that thich cannot be predicted at this time.
If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way. The gift of your time and attention are most appreciated.