... AND HOW IT BRINGS YOU CLOSER TO WHAT YOU WANT
Photo by Drew Graham on Unsplash
When I have struggled with perfection it has always been as a response to outside stimuli, related to how I ‘should’ look, act, be, or what was expected of me.
The way I have changed this has become a staple in my coaching - embracing one’s own perfect. The five steps is a way to get back into conversation, or fine-tune the conversation with your intuitive self; the knowledge that you carry with you in your psychophysical system. It serves as priming for the bigger changes - an empowered way in.
This way we never have to chase perfection or dance to someone else’s tune (unless we want to). We can focus on progress without overburdening our system with the pressure of feeling like we have to live up to something already defined. We can be here and now, who we are, a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time.
1. CATCH YOURSELF
Practice noticing what you are telling yourself in words and actions. What is the message/s behind your actions and what signals does it send to you and the world around you? If there are several messages - write them down and see if they can be summarized into one.
Here are some questions that can help coax out the messages;
What kind of situation, people or stimuli alerts you to think of the message?
Is it related to the way you look, feel, move, behave, or perform?
Is it related to where or who you want to be in the future?
How do you tend to respond?
What main emotion/s or feeling/s colours your response?
2. ASK WHAT AND WHY
What, if anything, do you want to change? About the way you look, feel, move, behave, or perform? And why?
If it isn’t obvious - ask many times until you get to the root of it. Make sure it really is something fuelled from within you, rather than something only fuelled by what someone else wants you to be or do. Sometimes our wants align with what someone else asks and expects of us, but pay attention to if any contradictions, confusing aspects or mixed messages come up for you, so that you can decipher what is true for you.
3. REVEAL PERFECTION
What is already perfect about you? And about the messages to yourself, about wanting something and why? Spend some time here if this is new to you. Actively learn about your psychophysical system so you can begin to embrace the fact that you are whole and perfect and how, in relation to what is going on.
4. RENEW YOUR WANT
Here you discern whether or not this change is something that you really want. Perhaps you have discovered that the initial want was not authentically yours or that a new one has come up through this process. Articulate it as clearly and specifically as you can.
5. MOVE TO CHANGE FEELING
In all change we desire, there is some kind of feeling connected to the outcome. Often we want to feel differently, to have a different experience - and the only way to get there is to actually move in a way that brings about that feeling we imagine. Now it is time to do exactly that.
Put yourself there - connect to that feeling, even if it is just for a moment, but see what you can do to keep connecting to that more and for longer. Whatever comes to mind for you is the right thing to do - whether it is cooking a nourishing meal, dance ecstatically or gently, sing your heart out or touch yourself. Even if it feels contrived to begin with or if you have to go through some emotional muck to even get there, the act of going there will cause change and bring about a different feeling.
Apart from connecting with your want this also serves as a letting go of anything you no longer desire.
Now that you have begun to embrace your perfect and probably have a clearer vision of what you want, from here you can start taking action and make any changes necessary in your life to move towards your want.
THE X FACTOR
“When you pray, move your feet”
Make sure that you pay attention to your whole system through each step of the process - it is not only an intellectual processing - it’s a full body experience. Each step needs to have an element of movement through you and out into the world. It needs to be expressed out loud in whatever way, shape or form that works for you - with your voice, your movement, actions, tasks, choice of art form; write, speak, sing, draw, build, dance it out.
When we express ourselves, whether it is to let go of something, or with the intent to create or solve something, it is part of our job as artists, and humans to continually stay present so that we may serve ourselves and the world in the best way we can. When our expressions are held in, held back, our ability to thrive and live a full life decreases.
Our thoughts, wishes, intentions, dreams and plans only moves us forward to whatever degree we are able to let go of what might be interfering with our natural coordination and take action to move forward. Embracing perfection means embracing that we are moving creatures of creation. We are here to learn and develop through built-in curiosity, creativity and spontaneity, which are results of our design when we function optimally.
This process will prime you for success in any challenge and allow you to become whatever you want to be next, solve whatever crux you need with minimum struggle and maximum outcome. This is how you engage your superpowers - use them at every turn of struggle, conflict and stress.
You are your own heroine - hear her (feel free to replace with your own pronoun).
You have all you need - reveal it.
Move and Be Moved.
ON SELF-LOVE PRIMING FOR MORE EASEFUL PROGRESSION & GROWTH
“and he said: you pretty full of yourself ain't chu
so she replied: show me a person not full of herself
and I'll show you a hungry person”
Nikki Giovanni, “Poem For A Lady Whose Voice I Like”
‘Nobody is perfect!’
I am sure you have heard it before. Every time it comes my way I want to fight it, not only due to my intimate relationship with it as a woman and artist but also because I work with people to change how they view and express themselves in order to live life to the fullest. I witness again and again how these beliefs get in the way and how deep they run. Anything that you say to yourself repeatedly become a mantra, a message to your system, but mantras are only helpful if they are constructive.
This particular societal mantra is well-intentioned and is supposed to help us not be too hard on ourselves when we make mistakes or choices that don’t turn out the way we intended or when we are trying to live up to high or ridiculous expectations. It might offer some relief, yet I experience it as deflective, dismissive and unhelpful at best and as a cop-out or excuse (to continue acting in irresponsible or destructive ways) at worst. It never offered me any solace and it perpetuates a belief that we are somehow incomplete beings.
I will break it down.
Nature is Perfect
Walking through a forest I do not look at the different trees and go – 'that’s an imperfect or flawed tree', I simply appreciate the diversity and beauty. I might describe the trees as bent, or majestic or small or tall, dark or light or see how one might not have gotten enough water, or perhaps too much. I might see a flower that has wilted, or turned towards the sun and begun to open up but they are all perfect and beautiful at any stage. It is the effects of circumstance in combination with who they are that has rendered them different.
Our problem with nature is not only that we dwell outside of it, but that we see ourselves as separate from it, even while walking through it.
- Katy Bowman
Why would we be any less perfect than nature? We are nature!
Would you ever call a newborn baby imperfect? A toddler? How about a younger child? A teenager? A young adult? An adult, or elder? Why would you be any less perfect now than when you were a newborn baby? You are just in a different stage of learning and growing; different as it relates to human development in general and your individual circumstances, values, beliefs and choices in particular.
Growing up I often experienced adults treating me like an unfinished human who with time would learn the great wisdoms of adulthood and then, only then, be complete. The truth is all children are already complete and whole and one of the greatest gifts you can give a child is to mirror that for them.
Perfection is built-in
We carry with us, in our design, the wisdom that allows us to learn and grow. Yes, we all make mistakes, but we do not make them because we are imperfect, it is quite the opposite. The act of doing something or the way we do it might not be the best for any given situation, but the function of it is perfect.
We know that the only way to learning and success, comes from failing. As Samuel Beckett wrote;
“Ever Tried. Ever Failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
This is an essential part of our design – it is how we learn – we have a built-in feedback system that allows us to build skills. To make that function something imperfect is like saying our design is imperfect. When we fail we become aware of new things, which enables us to actually succeed. How perfect is that?
The new mantra could be: 'you are perfect and see how that tells you what you need next.'
Owning our doing without being our doing
In no way does you failing make you a failure as a human being - it only proves you’re human. It is common that we attach our actions to our identity, which makes it harder to admit that our actions might need some changes and updates since it somehow equates us to being wrong, flawed, faulty or bad people.
I like to think of what we call flaws, defects or imperfections, just as effects of genetics and upbringing, rehearsed patterns, or responses to whatever challenges we have gone through.
In my experience calling them what they really are does the following;
Ultimately it enables us to take charge of our lives and be more empowered – if I am perfect then I can do something about my problems. If I am faulty somehow it is easier to doubt my ability to get through and become a victim of my circumstances. When I am already perfect, I do not have to be ashamed of who I am or what is happening to me, I can more easily ask for help when I need it as I can see it as part of my nature - part of my current perfect.
Wholeness is what we are really looking for
Perfection, as we often relate to it, is an idea or image that we as a culture always chase some version of - something we all feel we need to live up to. The destructive nature of this is that we feel like if we do not follow this or that idea of perfection, if we are not doing things ‘right’, we will not be accepted, loved, cared for, or respected. I believe that this search for perfection has everything to do with wanting connection, to feel whole, loved and like we belong.
The problem is that the image we chase is always in the future - it is a future perfect, and often not our own and it will always exist there and make us act less like ourselves and more like what is expected or desired of us from the outside. To break this pattern we need to find ways to exist here and now, in who we are. We are whole. Peel off the judgement talk and begin to highlight your perfection, begin to reveal what is already there.
As we come home to ourselves and feel whole again we also connect to the knowledge of our perfection. The things that has made you feel bad about yourself will not be important anymore, they will lose their power over you. As we witness our perfection the story we tell ourselves will also change.
Our beliefs and stories literally shape our bodies, actions and lives and when the they are lodged in our muscles and tissue via habitual patterns it is most often not enough to say to the system: “it’s ok - nobody is perfect”. At least not if you want to take action and change something and feel better in the long run. For active forward moving self-love we need to acknowledge the perfection here and now, even the perfection of chasing an idea of perfection as it alerts you to look at what you need and want. From there you can change the way you move and respond with greater ease, clarity and authenticity.
When perfection is already a given, when fully yourself, you can focus on choices and change from a place of true response-ability and empowerment. When you surrender to YOUR perfect there is nothing that stands in your way.
This is the new mantra: Everyone is perfect - how are you perfect?
PS. This theme continues - check in again August 13th for THE 5 STEPS TO EMBRACING YOUR PERFECT!
On Living the Revolution.
As I get ready to head back to London to teach the Alexander Technique, I am reminded by something a student said during one of my last visits. When cued to express what she noticed as she got into better coordination she said; “no gap”. I chuckled and exclaimed “mind the gap”, having seen that message in big bold letters countless times since entering the country, but that wasn't the only reason I enjoyed it. It is a rich image to explore in relation to teaching as well as the current political climate in which perception and belief is often mistaken for truth and knowing.
The warning phrase issued to rail passengers to take caution while crossing the spatial gap between the train door and the station platform points to an actual physical gap. A fact that all of us can agree upon. No alternative fact could convince us otherwise. There is a gap, period. It is one to pay attention to, or you might hurt yourself.
The student's sensation of 'no gap' was just that; a sensation of being whole with a whole world. This sensation gives us clues about how the student experienced the change, as opposed to reporting the ultimate reality. The change might more appropriately be described as all her parts working better together than actually becoming whole. She was already whole, and so was the world. When we are squished together for one reason or another, we don't function as well as we could and this can result in feeling disconnected, apart from the world instead of a part of the world, and it often leads to depression, stress, anxiety, pain or confusion.
The truth is that wherever we are on a spectrum of tension, necessary or not, we are always whole, always connected, whether we think about it or not, feel it or not - that is how we are built. Our senses are comparative, designed to detect change, which explains why our sensory feedback can arrive on a spectrum between true and false.
What happens in the space between our physchophysical experience and reality is one of the main reasons why it can be difficult to change an existing pattern. F.M Alexander called this faulty sensory appreciation. It happens when we get a glimpse of a better improved way of moving (includes thinking & communicating), behaving or performing, but then quickly revert back to what we are used to because the new way 'feels wrong' in comparison. This is a dance between what is, in truth, a better use, and what we have come to believe is 'the right way' due to the time spent dedicated to a certain pathway.
The perceived gap is as real for each person, as any train-to-platform gap is for everyone collectively.
It serves a very important purpose – it is there to alert us to mind, to pay attention to what changed, so we can adjust, stay out of trouble, or get into some - if that is what we choose. It exists so that we can hear ourselves and others, reach out for support if need be and find our way back home. We need to be sensitive to what our senses are telling us in order to act more consciously, to update the way we move in the world, and to stay more aligned with our values and desires.
With time and practice we can re-educate ourselves in order to gain a more accurate sensory appreciation and understanding about our use in situation and circumstance, and a greater resilience and empowerment in challenging times.
As leaders in our world build greater gaps (including the inverted ones calles walls), as they encourage greater seperation and segregation, generate hate and fear as opposed to love and safety, attempt to gas-light us or in other ways blatantly mis-use their power we need to remember that in each and every moment we have the ability to respond constructively, lead from a place of connection and invite them to follow us.
As leaders of our own lives and as students and teachers of eachother we do this by minding the gaps: by seizing the opportunity to learn as gaps appear - real and perceived. We need to pay attention to our assumptions, judgments, convictions, beliefs, projections, interpretations, privilige and analyse how these impact how we move, behave and perform.
Discovering the gaps and revealing the connections is key in the process of all learning and change. Change requires process; we have to go through one and let ourselves be moved by it in order to truly learn and integrate. If we are holding onto beliefs that does not serve us or other people, if we ignore the gaps, we will only be stuck resisting change. Change is the only constant thing, and that needs to be our focus if we want to evolve.
The process we engage when using the Alexander technique is a moment by moment process of cultivating conscious choice in direct relation to stimuli, as opposed to seperate from it. We evolve through our experience, not by side-stepping it or surrendering to defaults based in perceptions and beliefs that are removed from the dynamic reality of our interconnected world. When engaging in this kind of process our response-ability dilates. The pool of consciousness and choice becomes greater, and psychophysical integration, i.e real change, is possible.
When we dilate it makes us more available for connection and generates a better quality in our relationship with ourselves, and anyone or anything around us. If we stay curious about how to bridge the gaps in ourselves, how to integrate who we are and who we think we are, what we do and what we think we are doing, it will help us see others from a place of compassion, and to see what we all have in common. It will reveal that we are one kind; humankind. It will reveal that we are part of nature, not seperate from it, and that when we hurt anyone or anything we also hurt ourselves. These are facts.
By cooperating with the deep knowing that we are all part of an interelated whole, like Martin Luther King said it in Oberlin, Ohio 1965; “by living out this fact, we will be able to remain awake through a great revolution”.
On POSTURE vs MOVEMENT
When I say I teach the Alexander Technique, as an answer to what I do, people usually either have no idea what it is, or they ask;
- It's about posture, right?
It is about conscious movement in activity - HOW you do what you do at any given moment. The activity can be anything and the Technique gives you a constructive process to use in order to restore coordination or prevent patterns of uncoordinated movement, behavior, and performance.
Posture is a holding pattern, a position, a place, that cooperates poorly with the truth of our moving selves. It is a physical expression of being out of coordination and that is often what we observe in ourselves and other people. Focusing on posture reduces us to bodies, in the sense that it includes only our general shape and perhaps bones and muscles. It gets us into a 'body and mind' thinking instead of cooperating with the truth that we are whole human beings in a whole world and that everything is connected.
As a colleague of mine recently said; perhaps poise is a better word. Poise is a more dynamic word as it suggests balance, which is constant movement. If I had to pick one word of what the AT is about it would be RELATIONSHIP; of the whole to the parts, and the parts to the whole, in constant conversation, i.e. coordinated movement. It is about how we respond in relationship to ourselves, other people, circumstances; the world that surrounds us at any given moment, in any activity.
I teach WHOLE RELATIONAL COMMUNICATION in the moving now.
You might say: but isn't this really just a word preference discussion? Posture is just a word, and you could use it to describe the Technique. Yes, if you define the word as a moving relationship, without attaching any rigid or static belief, you could say the Technique is ALSO about posture. However, today there is an overwhelming amount of people that have immovable beliefs connected to the word and so I find it limiting and unhelpful, both in regards to how people move using it, and in general as it relates to the whole of the Technique.
Posture separates, rather than integrates us and is connected to 'parts-thinking' as well as a 'right-and-wrong' world, where we try to put everything in the 'right' place; a culture of fixing. When I was going through my Alexander Technique teacher training I came in one day in turmoil - things I had closed the door to in my life had literally started breaking down the door and I was fighting to stay composed. When it was my turn all I could say was:
- I have been having this pain in my knee, I am not sure what is going on.
My teacher responded: “we all know this is not about your knee”, and yes, I did know, my teacher knew, the whole room knew, because partly they know me, but also because I was doing what I believe many of us do when we are in chaos and things are too hard to deal with in the big picture – we focus in on a part, preferably physical because those parts are safer to look at, they distract us from the whole and then we don't have to look at our lives and answer the question – what am I doing that is causing my dysfunction?
Instead we have already made our answer - 'It's just my bad knee (insert your part of choice) that is acting up', as if it was its own separate unity acting on its own accord. From this place it is easy to pass on the responsibility and say - now can you fix my part? Instead of: can you help me unravel what I am doing that is causing this part to hurt?
The Alexander Technique is an educational process which allows you to train your response-ability and ask for your whole self to function better in relationship and then if you still experience discomfort in a part, then looking at the part might also be helpful, but whole always comes first.
This is when experiencing stress, discomfort or pain in relationship to HOW you move in your life whilst doing what you are doing. Pain in relationship to a mechanical injury naturally needs to be looked at by a physician. Visiting an Alexander Technique professional in the process of healing a mechanical injury, however, can be very beneficial in order to create healthy compensation patterns.
As you integrate the use of the Alexander Technique into the fabric of your life, it is about the ability to respond to stimuli with conscious choice, about coordination and intention; carrying yourself and your ideas forward; creating your life as you want it. The Alexander Technique is, in the words of my teacher Cathy Madden:
Conscious Constructive Kindness to Yourself
Cooperating with your Design
Supporting your Dreams