Sunday, 31 August 2014

On 13:15 by Victoria Stanham in , , , ,    4 comments

Hello! Welcome to the blog. How are you? I mean it, and the answer should be important to you. Take a few seconds of outer and inner stillness to check how you are right now (physically, mentally, emotionally) and to decide if you’re well disposed to reading this blog.

This is a blog about the Alexander Technique in its relation to changing habitual reactions (physical, mental, emotional).

The purpose of this blog is for you to experiment with different ideas about how to do things differently, o how not to do them entirely.

My name is Victoria Stanham, and I’m a teacher of the Alexander Technique. I spend most of my days investigating and experimenting with the ideas I share in this blog.

My objective for today is for you to have a new experience with attention management. I’d also like to offer you at least one new idea of how to organize your thoughts that is directly applicable to changing habits with the hopes that it may answer a question you have on the subject.

If you’re interested, take a minute to clarify your question. Make it concise and clear.

As you continue reading, check regularly what effect it is having on your degree of physical, mental or emotional tension. Try to note if what you’re reading makes you nervous, angry, calm, confused, or whatever.

Take also note if you’re attention wanders off topic, and you start reading in automatic mode, without processing the new information. If this happens to you, stop, breathe and bring your attention back to the present action. If your attention insists on wandering to another topic, re-evaluate if it’s worthwhile to keep reading or if perhaps you should be taking care of that nagging business on your mind.

The ability to monitor our attention and our bodily reactions to stimuli in our surroundings is at the foundation for our success (or lack thereof) in any attempt to change a habit.

A habitual reaction follows this sequence:
1. I perceive a stimulus (conscious or subconsciously).
2. I respond with an automatic action that requires no conscious thought.

Sometimes this is good and useful. Thank goodness we don’t have to reason our way through every single action we undertake daily. That would be exhausting and very inefficient!

But sometimes, we realize that our way of reacting is causing us trouble, and we may want to change it. This, we soon realize, is not easy because habits are strong and “comfortable” (however detrimental they may be to our wellbeing).

So, in order to be successful in our enterprise, we need to learn to stop before we react, and thus give ourselves time to decide what response we truly want to give.

The problem is that we are not always aware of the stimuli that trigger our automatic reactions, and we only realize we’re reacting in our undesired way when we’re already more than half-way down the road.

The solution to this problem is to learn to perceive the signals that indicate we’re already preparing a response.

Our responses to stimuli start way before we become consciously aware of them. Our brains are constantly anticipating, building our responses based on previous experiences of similar stimuli.

Anticipation manifests itself as a state that is simultaneously physical, mental and emotional. It is perhaps easier for us to note this preparatory response in our bodies (changes in heart-rate, breathing rate, muscle tension, skin or gut sensations, etc.).

As we learn to become aware of these anticipatory reactions, we start to have the possibility of changing them.

And in order to become aware of these anticipatory responses, we need to become more aware of our bodies.

How does one go about doing that?

This is where the help of a guide becomes invaluable. If you’ll accompany me, I’ll be happy to show you the roads I’ve already walked.

So, in brief, the new reaction that we want to establish would follow this sequence:
1. I perceive the stimulus (consciously or subconsciously).
2. I perceive my anticipatory reaction… and let it go.
3. I remember my purpose.
4. I re-evaluate my response options.
5. I decide on one response.
6. I execute my choice, all the time keeping my greater purpose present and monitoring my response.

You’ve reached the end of today’s blog. It’s now your time to evaluate.

Has your quesiton been answered?

See you next time.


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

On 20:01 by Victoria Stanham in , , , , ,    No comments

You’ve arrived at the blog. Welcome.

Before we begin, let us take a minute to come to internal and external stillness.

Sit down as comfortably upright as you’re able. Relax your eyes and your jaw.

Become aware of your breathing. Allow the air to go in and out without trying to directly control it, allowing your breathing to be just the way it is right now.

Little by little we’re going to let go of what we were doing before arriving here: the previous webpage, what we were reading, what we were thinking.

Every action has a certain degree of inertia.

We are like a bucket full of water. We thrust our bodies and minds to and fro, and all our internal environment (physical, mental and emotional) becomes agitated, like waves in a storm.

Now we want to start something new, we’re going to read a new blog, it’s a new action, distinct from the one that preceded it.

Stopping before starting something new allows us to give the new action its due space (physical, mental and emotional)… or to simply realize that we don’t want to or don’t need to undertake it at all.

Do you really want to read this blog? You won’t know until you stop, allow the storm of residual activity inside of you to quiet down, and take a moment to listen to yourself.

That is why we bring out bodies to stillness for a moment, and we bring our senses to our inner environment for a check in. Even though we have brought the bucket to a standstill, the water inside it takes a tad longer to quiet down and pool.

Bring your attention to the sounds around you, those at no more than arms length, and then those a bit further. Take your attention to furthest sound you can perceive. Let go of that sound and bring your attention back to the space around you. Now take it into your inner space. Listen for the sounds of your heart, your breathing, your guts. 

Without losing that connection to your inner sounds, expand your attention up to where you find it adequate and comfortable in order to read the rest of this blog.

With this act of stopping and coming back to your senses, you are preparing yourself for receiving, opening up for perceiving, for taking note of how you are right now and how you feel about what you’re reading.

You are already reacting to the stimulus of these words.

If the water in your bucket is still, you’ll be able to notice what that reaction is.
What wave is stirring your water? Is it the response you want to give? Is your response appropriate for your desired objective, for achieving that which you came here to achieve?

No response is correct of incorrect. All are possible and valid. The question is not one of right or wrong, but one of useful or not for achieving your goal. Does your response help you or hinder you?

Perhaps your response is taking energy away from your objective, funneling it instead towards other needs. Perhaps those needs are valid and deserve to be listened to and heeded. Or maybe they are just part of an old habit, an automatic response whose expiration date has long passed.

If you are able to ‘see’ your response to the stimulus, you’re ready to let it go and give way to the next logical, organic action that is in line with your objective.

Working with the Alexander Technique is based on this premise. We cannot change what we cannot ‘see’. We cannot change what we don’t understand. And the first step to changing something isn’t doing something new. The first step is recognizing what we’re doing and choosing to not do it any longer, and thus give way for the next action.
Some day perhaps, we’ll be able to match the inside with the outside. Bucket and water will move in such harmony that there will be no separation, no storm. We won’t need to stop our bodies first in order to stop the water. Stillness will be part of our movement, and harmonious movement will be present in our stillness.

But we’re not there yet. Today we’re at step one. Today we quiet the external, to give a chance to the internal to come to stillness too. And that’s alright. That’s the first step. All journeys start here.

So go back to your breathing for a moment. Allow the air to come freely in and freely out.

You’re ready for your next action. You’ve prepared the ground, you’ve quieted the internal and external waters. You’ve given yourself time. You have given yourself time and space to decide.

What do you want to do? What do you need to stop doing to allow yourself to go in that direction?

See you next time.


Victoria Stanham, Alexander Technique teacher and Pilates instructor.
I study developmental movement, taking great inspiration from the organic and free movement of the animal kingdom.
My goal is to achieve comfort, efficiency, elegance and balance, both in movement and in stillness, according to our physical, mental and emotional design.

Friday, 15 August 2014

On 13:10 by Victoria Stanham in , ,    No comments

You are choosing to read this blog.

Perhaps the topic interests you; or a friend you trust shared it; or you know me and like what I write; or you just want to read something to pass the time and the title caught your attention.

Regardless of why your’re here, the choice to be here and read this is yours.

Are you clear about your purpose? What do you expect to get from this investment of your time and energy? Are you reading by habit or by conscious choice?

Take a few seconds get clear about this. It’s important. You’ll soon see why…

I’ve taken countless lessons and workshops in my life. I didn’t take advantage of some of the good ones all I’d like to have done; nor did I drop the bad ones as soon as I should have done. And all because I wasn’t clear what for and why I was there in the first place.

Why do we go to lessons and workshops (or read blogs for that matter)?

Because some limitation is hindering us from enjoying that which we enjoy doing (dancing, singing, riding horses, taking care of the grand kids), and we want to help the situation.

Why do we choose a particular lesson or workshop?

Because it’s related to our objective (we may be aware of this or not) and it fits our available resources (motivation, time, money, energy, knowledge).

How do we know if we’ve chosen the right lesson or workshop for us?

We can’t know until we’ve tried it. But if we are clear about our objective we can evaluate if the lesson or workshop is helping us go in the direction that we want to go.

Why is it so important to be clear about our objective?

Being clear about your goals makes you an active participant in your learning process. If your ultimate goal isn’t the guide of your actions, you run the risk of losing focus and falling into old habits. So ask yourself, is what I’m doing here getting me closer or pulling me away from my goal?

What if I don’t realize if I’m moving nearer of further away from my goal?

Take a few seconds to analyze if your uncertainty is a product of the content of the lesson, the form and context of the lesson, or both.

1. If the problem is the content of the lesson (it’s not the “take” on the subject that you were looking for, or the workshop is not about what you were expecting, or you’re just not understanding what’s going on) but the form and context is fine, check with yourself to see if you are able to open up to learning something new.

It may even be that you’re actually getting the answer you need, but it’s not coming in the concrete form you were imagining it would come (hence the confusion). If you have an inkling that this might be the case, suspend judgment until later. You’re already there, and as long as you’re comfortable with the proceedings and having a good time, there’s nothing to lose by exploring a new take on your problem. At the end of the process check with yourself once again to find out if you actually gained your original goal, or perhaps some other unexpected goal!

2. If the problema is the form or context in which the lesson is given (you disklike the place, atmosphere or teacher, it’s cold, or whatever) but the content is good, check with yourself to gauge how much you’re able to “stand” the unfortunate circumstances in order to gain your goal. If the situation is not all that bad (or it is easily fixable) ignore the slight discomfort and hold on to what’s good and important for you.

But if you’re uncomfortable to the point that you’re getting angry or scared for your physical, emotional or mental integrity, perhaps it’s high time you get out of there… fast. I’m sure there are other far less traumatic ways of gaining your end than your current choice of lesson.

3. If the problem is the form or context in which the lesson is given and, to top it off, the content is not what you hoped it would be, there’s nothing to think about really, get out of there, go home. Surely there’s far better ways you could be using your time and energy rather than making yourself stick to something you’re neither interested in nor liking how it’s taught.

You’ve reached the end of the blog. This means that the form, context and/or content of it, wasn’t all that bad. J

Now it’s the time to analyze, evaluate and decide if it’s worth your while waiting for our next meeting on the next blog, writing to me with your questions, or sharing this blog with a friend.

See you next time.


Victoria Stanham, Alexander Technique teacher and Pilates instructor.
I study developmental movement, taking great inspiration from the organic and free movement of the animal kingdom.

My goal is to achieve comfort, efficiency, elegance and balance, both in movement and in stillness, according to our physical, mental and emotional design.