Tuesday 31 July 2012

Being in the "Now"

"The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it is called the present.

Back in Autumn 2011, I decided to take a break from this blog in order to spend some time working on myself and considering what I wanted from The Alexander Technique and what it can give to me. Sooner than expected, I've now realised what this stuff is all about!

AT enables you to live in the current moment - the "Now" - with minimal effort or distraction.

It's not the same as meditation, relaxation or deep contemplation, however. For that you could take-up meditation techniques such as Za Zen or Transcendental Meditation. There is a huge world of techniques for relaxation, visualisation and spiritual development which you could also choose from. So, what makes AT different and special?

For me, it's all about the activity of living here and now, rather than simply experiencing or observing the "Now" in a static way. I accept that there are other methods (including Yoga and Tai Chi) which can also help you actively to experience the current moment but, to my way of thinking, they require you to perform artificial, "ritualistic" movements that, although good for you physically, bear little relation to "real" life.

AT trains you to perform your normal daily activities and routines in a new way - one which minimises undue effort and involves the whole of your psycho-physical being.

You might be asking the question "what's so important about living in the Now?". In answer to that question I would point out that most meditation and relaxation techniques encourage you to focus on the present moment because that's the only point of power you have to change or create anything. We can't live either in the past or the future.

Don't waste your effort reminiscing about the past, because you can't change that. Don't get tied down and attached to a particular future that you wish for yourself, because there is an infinite number of possible futures out there to be experienced - any one of which becomes more or less likely to occur according to what you are doing Now!

AT teaches you to use your senses passively. What I mean by this that, instead of sending your eyeballs out of your head to grab an image and bring it back for analysis, you allow an image to float into your eyes so it can be perceived calmly. Don't try to pull sounds into your ears, smells into your nose or tastes into your mouth. Let your ears take-in what you hear, your nose and mouth respond to what you can smell and taste and your physical senses become aware of your interaction with your immediate environment.

And - importantly - don't over-react to what you sense. Make conscious choices about the appropriate degree of response to all the stimuli that you are receiving at any given moment. In AT we call the process of controlling your unthinking, habitual response to stimuli "inhibition", and I've written about this before here.

In my post Can we define inhibition? I explained that our awareness of the energy that our senses are receiving is up to half a second later than the point in time that we actually receive the energy! This is a slightly shocking revelation. It means that what we believe is "Now" is actually not! Given what I've said about the point of power being in the present moment the only way we can actually take control of the true Now is by somehow getting ourselves back to that point half a second or so in the past! The practise of inhibition helps you to bring your responses closer to that point. In so doing, you discover an improved feeling of being in control of your life and a greater sense of personal fulfilment.

What makes AT special is that it teaches you to direct your "normal" physical responses with a sense of freedom - no special postures or ritual movement to practise - just being you in the "Now".

Try this as an exercise.

Stand or sit in a comfortable place, preferably with access to the outside, or near to something that's pleasant to look at and experience. Don't try to do anything. Just relax your neck and head so that your back can lengthen and widen. Relax your pelvis, hips and legs directing your knees forward and away from one another. Let everything that your physical senses can perceive wash over you and don't focus on anything in particular. Remind yourself that the picture inside your head isn't the real Now. Everything in your world is coming from your mind. It's your interpretation of what you are experiencing. 

Remember to include yourself in the frame of your world - at the centre, where you belong - like the controller of a computer game. Except this is the game of life - your life. Be pleased with the way your world appears to be, knowing that everything that would benefit from being changed can be changed - by you.

Now that you have found yourself in the centre of your world, carry on with the rest of your day, maintaining that image of yourself. Book yourself an AT lesson (or a few) so you can learn how to keep this feeling going.

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