Wellness is found not in isolation but in relationship. - Phillip Newell, A New Harmony
The weekend before I started this blog series, I began collecting quotes to use as themes for my posts. I found this one particularly challenging, so I decided it needed to be included. Today, almost two weeks in, is the day to write a blog about it.
At this point I feel like I’ve had some experience with being away from dear friends and family, and I miss my life. I’m grateful for the resources that give me a garden to go out in. I’m very thankful for being here with my husband. I watch out and worry for friends who are home by themselves. It’s clear both mental and physical wellness could be adversely affected by living all alone, cooped up inside, with no one to touch or see face-to-face in reality.
Whatever our circumstance, the tools of Alexander Technique can be very useful in combating the stress of isolation, the depression of listening to the daily reports on COVID-19. Like it or not, our bodies react physically to bad news and stress. We “pull down” - our heads sink forward, our torsos collapse a little, it becomes harder to breathe, and we set up a circle of non-support that makes how we feel even worse. Using the ideas of letting go of tension in the neck so that our heads can float up on top of our spines releases the entire body from this pattern. We can breathe again. Suddenly we are reconnected to our bodies, we become our full selves. Mind, body and spirit unite to help us stay present in the face of adversity.
We can make choices about how we react to stress, both mentally and physically. We can discover that we are in solitude with ourselves, rather than in isolation. Developing a relationship with one’s whole self is conducive to wellness. And ultimately, remaining well is what all this staying home alone is all about. Might as well start making friends with ourselves.
Exercise to try:
Free Your Neck
FM Alexander said, “Allow your neck to be free, to let the head go forward and up.”
This experience, under a teacher’s hands, is why most people come to Alexander Technique lessons. Alexander himself said that if words alone had sufficed to explain this experience, he never would have started teaching with his hands. What I can give you here is a taste of what this might be like. It can be done online, it’s much harder in writing.
To let the head go forward and up: This one is harder to explain. What Alexander is asking us to do is to allow our head to rest gently on top of our spines, like one of those bobble-head dolls. If my neck is free, my head can gently return to neutral, and that lovely feeling of freedom allows my head to move easily in all directions on top of the atlas, the highest vertebrae of the spine. Thinking up through the crown of the head and then gently exploring the movement of the head on top of the spine can help you find this place of neutral, of freedom.
When you find it, get up and take a walk. Move your head around - don’t try to hold it in one place. Take your new-found freedom out into your space. See the art on your walls, as if for the first time. Look out the window. Walk some more.