Friday, 29 March 2013

Day 10: Days End In Dublin

My last night in Ireland - I fly to Paris early tomorrow. It was a bittersweet morning, wrapping up the convention, packing bags and saying goodbye. I'm exhausted from so much input, fast friendships, curious meals, a whirlwind of plans and impressions.

Today I am meeting myself. I've left the safety of an intentional environment, the cushioned landing for my adventure. I've nothing planned next, and a lot to consider. What's my role, in my professional community, in my own teaching practice, in my experience of myself? I want to be an uplifter, an advocate for the most expanded version of everyone who passes through my world. I think that I can be, and this wild dive of mine is my personal expedition into being that for myself. I'm feeling tender, for sure; a result I know of needing rest, simple food, quiet, and the gentle hand of time to allow my system to recalibrate. There's no getting around this awkward phase.

A new friend, Philip Nessel, invited everyone at the convention to describe on film what the Alexander Technique is to each of us... For me, it's the guiding principle of being kind to myself. Sometimes we can't get around things that are unavoidably awkward or painful. But we can, I can, not add to the discomfort of those times. As my teacher Bob Britton says, we have the option to take refuge in mobility - not stability. Things are always changing, and the more we can just let them be as they are, the more changeable they'll be.


Thursday, 28 March 2013

Day 9: Celebration

Thursday was a jam-packed last-day-of-the-convention. Mixed with a final meeting to assign coordintors and working groups to our action ideas were rehearsals and dress-up for Talent Night. I still managed to steal a brief nap before dinner so I could be fresh for two performances!

My new friend "B" and I did the Shim Sham. Other performances included beautiful pieces on violin, cello, piano, and voice, plus juggling, story-telling, and comedy. Before the last number, which was a heart-warming collection of Irish tunes, Glenna and I had a little fun with "The Stripper" by the David Rose Orchestra - I'm still waiting on pictures, sorry! Not to boast, but our performance was quite well received ;-)

I did get a picture of me and all my California teachers - of course John is being silly....


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Out and About In Dublin

On our free afternoon (Tuesday), a number of us took taxis to the city; others visited a prehistoric archeology site. Downtown excursions ranged from pints of Guiness at the factory, to whiskey for warmth at the pub, to a science exhibit at Trinity College called Oscillations. We watched washing machine motors spin 8-foot sine waves, examined bacteria growth influenced by hertz, sat in a giant "mouth chamber" to feel the buzz of vowels and consonants, and admired sand patterns created by a vibrated steel plate. It was a bit chilly for wandering, so we headed back to the convention center for dinner. So my view of Dublin was a bit limited, but I was entertained to see a crowd of flag-cloaked and face-painted Irish men collect on a street corner and break into song! Something about football, I think....

Later that evening we watched a presentation by Rachel Zahn, who has orchestrated international conferences between scientists and Alexander Technique teachers. There are promising opportunities to contribute our body of experience to the study of cognitive neuroscience and robotics.


Monday, 25 March 2013

Day 6: In Full Swing

As I lay in bed last night, sweaty and happy after 90 minutes of dancing Lindy Hop AFTER attending the evening's wildly funny Limerick Competition, I found myself realizing: This is exactly the experience I was hoping for. I feel like I'm at summer camp. I'm in love with all these people. I'm laughing, crying, making funny faces, having profound conversations, sharing myself and meeting others with an open heart. I thought I'd have to find my way to a retreat center later this spring to be in a setting like this.... Now I'm amused to ask, if the Universe has seen fit to fulfill my wish in the first FIVE DAYS of my journey, I wonder what else is in store for me??! As in, how amazingly good is this gonna get?!?!

The hilarity began at last night's dinner, as Storyteller Extraordinaire Glenn Swift demonstrated how to skillfully hang a spoon on one's nose, to which Giora responded by demonstrating a careful balance of a salt shaker. After dinner the crowd got rowdier at all the Alexander-themed limericks, or more accurately, at the "judges" and their obvious favoritism. One of my favorite limericks was this one:

Alexander's advice upon doing
Any act from crochet to canoeing,
You must stop first and check
If you've stiffened your neck,
Then decide if the thing's worth pursuing!

After the winner was selected, twenty-odd people still had energy for a lindy hop lesson and dancing. My new friend Korina and I taught the basic step and a few turns, and celebrated how nice it is to teach well-coordinated people! Tonight she and I practiced the Shim Sham, a lindy dance, for the talent shoe Thursday night. I'm doing another dance number too; stay tuned for details.... Maybe even video, once I watch the tutorial!

There's been some general malcontent about the food; apparently I'm not the only one with sensitivities. Thankfully the kitchen has been very accommodating, but you know how it is, when really you need sleep from all the excitement and new experiences but instead, they serve dessert... This innocent-looking sweet got me in trouble twice tonight: once in eating it (and oh, it was good!) and again in a grievous error - I dared challenge an Irish man that this was, in fact, called a Banoffee. I mean, really?? Alas... Banana, cookie, toffee... I should have known!


Sunday, 24 March 2013

Day 5: Playing Around

Wow. I am thrilled to be in the company of such world-class teachers, and they all seem like they're playing! Yesterday I took a workshop with my NC colleague Glenna Batson on "coming from the heart" in our teaching. We began with a movement exploration of our physical heart and moved on to bring a new awareness of its pulse, depth, and support to putting hands on. This morning I attended a session on freeing the voice with Vivien Mackie, where we played games and sang. I've just come now from a practice lindy hop session - I've got a new dance friend, and we'll be teaching a basic lesson tonight - after the limerick competition, judged (of course) by my teacher Giora!

I've exchanged work with old friends and new, been part of rich conversations on the future of our esteemed profession, and discovered the biscuit boxes tucked in all the tea/coffee break rooms.

I'm afraid there's not much good news on the food front - I am at a retreat center after all, and being in Ireland and all I should have thought ahead about my sensitivity to nightshades.... Three meals in a row with potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant AND peppers has led me to eagerly anticipate plan old boiled vegetables for the remainder of my stay :-€

I did photograph yesterday's unusual breakfast of sliced meat and cheese. I'm afraid I took all the frilly lettuce garnish, too, but I have no regrets!



Friday, 22 March 2013

Day 3: The Conference Begins

Fortune has again smiled on me: my host gave me a lift to Emmaus Centre, where I'll be for the next week. Door to door service! Especially nice given the typical Irish weather of rain. I have a lovely little room to myself, and am so excited to be amongst colleagues. I just saw my trainers, John and Giora, and I'm so happy!

Before leaving home, I'd read in guidebooks that I should purchase travel insurance. Since I'd rather prepare for the best, not the worst, I created for myself a certificate in case I'm ever in a doubtful moment:




Thursday, 21 March 2013

Day 2: The Rail/Sail to Ireland

Even though I woke up around 5am, I still managed to miss the 8:30 bus that would have delivered me to the station for the 9:10 train to the ferry to Dublin... So I ended up running at breakneck speed, with a full pack on front and back, to the train. Ugh... Perhaps the point of my trip is to learn how to LEAVE SPACE for myself... In my body, as I'm practicing accepting its shape and in deepening my application of Alexander's principles, in my mind as I learn a new language (9 days to Paris!), and in my emotions and spirit, putting myself in new environments to see how they feel and how I respond.

Canal boats, English countryside

I thankfully DID make the train, 5 minutes before departure, although 12 hours later I'm still coughing as though that was way hard on my lungs - quite the price to pay. I found a comfortable seat with a big window view of the countryside - canals with a selection of pretty boats, community gardens, and fields of sheep mixed with neighborhoods and industry.

Riding the train is so fun. Pulling through the station of Crewe, I look at the faces on the platform, wondering their stories. Is this an ordinary day for all of them? Amazing that in the midst of (their) normalcy, (my) adventure is happening! I recall trains I've ridden, stations I've passed through: Glenside to see my Kistler family, Berkeley to San Francisco, the R5 to Bryn Mawr, the Regional Rail line I took every day to work in Philadelphia.

View from Irish Ferries

As I post, I am warm in bed at my Couchsurfer host's home outside Dublin. The ferry ride was no less pleasant than the train, with space to stretch out for a real nap. My hosts are a lovely couple with a baby, and I sure am enjoying myself!


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Day 1: Arrival in London

After I got settled in my room (thank you, airbnb), i headed to the grocery store. What fun! It's small amusements like this that make my day: King Prawns and Rocket sandwiches - that's the generic grocery offering! Love it.
They don't refrigerate eggs. Look at the cake selection! Or maybe you'd prefer some fancy sausage?
My personal selections: check out the flavors on the soup and smoothie, and the hummus was delicious...

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Forty's Curves

I’ve always looked young for my age, so even though thoughts of aging have been crossing my mind for a few years now - little noticings of wrinkles and spots, the so-infrequent grey hair, I pulled each one out - it wasn’t until my 39th birthday that I didn’t want people to know exactly how old I was turning. Anticipation of turning forty has been a major push this year (which has contained the deaths of my dad, stepdad, and uncle, a major transition in my marriage, moving out of my home, and now this, my European Adventure). But the thing I want to CELEBRATE is that somewhere in the past few months, as I acceded to the notion that I am a Forty-Year-Old, I let myself consider: gee, my soft little belly has looked just this same way for forever… Maybe it’s SUPPOSED to look this way. Oh god! Really? Yes, I’ve been eating and exercising for years thinking that I was missing the boat, that my belly should be flat and firm, I wasn’t being good enough - I still love my baked goods! - when it’s actually been just the way it was meant to be?? Wow. I have been allowing myself a freedom to be shaped the way I’m shaped, finally - at forty! - thinking that I have a great body. We’re still cultivating our friendship, my brain and my body, and this is a nice new development. Perhaps it’s also the expectation of France, where in my mind they appreciate a woman with curves, a woman who has taken loving care of her forty-year-old body… And still wants to play! I’m after the Sensual Life, no doubt. Stay tuned, this may get personal….