Is it hard for you to put your awareness of your body, and your care for its needs, first? When you try to do that, do you find yourself running up against resistance in others or even yourself? I’d like to suggest that whatever your challenges, it’s worth it. It’s the medicine we need on a personal and a societal level.
Cranial nerve sequencing, which I’m focusing on in these newsletters, is the simplest, most direct self care program I’ve created to date. One nerve at a time, you get lovingly familiar with your own embodied brain. You can quietly care for yourself anywhere, anytime.
Why do we study embodiment anyway? In my case, it was at first selfish. I needed healing badly, and the Alexander Technique showed me that healing was possible. It was only much later that it occurred to me that I could be medicine for others through taking care of myself.
Maybe you have been there yourself. You start changing your behavior – like say, taking more time for yourself within your family, holding better boundaries. You start realizing when you are uncomfortable with other people’s behavior, and you start letting them know. When I first started doing this, my body screamed at me “this is risky!!!”
When you start putting yourself first and standing up for yourself, folks can have a range of response:
or even appreciation!
but you have to step into that risk zone to make a change, and your body needs extra support to take you there.
This past three weeks, I was asked to work with the cast of a medicinal play that does this for the audience. What To Send Up When It Goes Down was written by a black woman, for a black cast, for a black audience. While non-black folk are welcome, they are not central.
The play expresses rage, historical bitterness, hurt, grief, but also joy, determination, and love. It is a healing celebration of blackness, brilliant and biting. This is what self-care looks like.
The actors were already familiar with The Alexander Technique from their training, so establishing a common ground for communication was easy. Place your needs first. Take care of your back, your knees, your breath, as opposed to the needs of a the audience for example, or a larger racist society outside the theater.
This play gave me the gift of viscerally feeling the pressure of that racist society bearing down on me like a ton of bricks. So much so that when all the non-black folk are asked to leave the theater so that black people can conclude their healing ritual in safety, I was crushed. Not by being excluded, but by an embodied understanding of what that means. My heart is just broken.
And my body is the source of the medicine I need. My 600-million-year-old nervous system is right there, waiting for me to appreciate and use it wisely. Thank god I’d been teaching the Alexander Technique for 3 hours before seeing the play!
It’s my favorite kind of problem solving to find simple ways that each individual performer can do that within a larger theatrical structure. It always serves the play, it always improves the performance, without fail.
I believe that if a performance is crafted in such a way that the performers are challenged but also deeply cared for, it will physically affect the audience and imbue the work with secret healing powers.
Right now, as you breathe through your nose, and let the air wash over the olfactory organ that lives in the space between your two eyes, allow your own attention to settle on your own body. Breath as quietly and softly as you can.
This area between your eyes is incredible expressive. If you look at other people, you’ll notice how much emotional information you get from seeing their eyes, noticing their breathing patterns, and the expressions made by the muscles around eyes and nose.
Touching this area with your awareness right now, it may help you settle into whatever emotions are present for you, no matter how subtle. For me, as someone who lived my earlier life in a pretty shut down state, each breath and each emotional color or tone is a gift. I savor it.
I hope you hear a message from your own body – and follow it. We all need you on board the medicine train!
And if you live in the NYC area, please help these beautiful black actors sell out the fall run of Aleshea Harris’s play at Playwrights Horizons. It’s an incredible show.