Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Inner Life of a Basukubotcher

I am a Basukubotcher, aren’t you impressed?

Not impressed? Oh… ☹

Well, let me tell you what I can do!

If you’ve got a bad back, I can cure it. In fact, tell me of any pain you have, I can most likely show you how to get rid of it. (BTW, orchestral musicians can also get better at playing.) Did I mention I can improve your golf stroke, help you sort out that communication problem with your boss and get you faster at running? As well, I can make you more aware of your time management, turn your once strenuous swimming into a pleasurable experience and facilitate more communion with your inner child. And your eyes will definitely get better – you can even throw away your glasses! So there. I can do all that. Yes, that’s what a Basukubotcher can do! Do you believe me?

Well, OF COURSE NOT!!!

Who would believe one practitioner of ANYTHING could achieve all that? Now you understand the fundamental marketing problem of an Alexander Technique teacher (which, BTW, is what a Basukubotcher is more commonly known as).

The answer of course is not to claim all these things. However, that’s easier said than done. Why? Because in each group lesson at BodyChance, it is the case that each of the issues presented above did in fact occur.

In 2009, a journalist once visited my group lesson in order to write an article for a prestigious magazine in Japan. She watched these wildly different activities as each student presented today’s “activity” request. At the end of the class she looked at me quite bewildered: “But where is the technique? What is it that you are doing? What do I write about?” I understood her dilemma immediately.

Alexander’s discovery is unfathomably empty of form. Alexander tried to give it form, and what his community ended up with 50 years later is a series of stereotyped activities with teachers arguing about the most inconsequential details – such as: “How far must the hip joint flex before I rise from the chair?” Does it matter?

Not to me. It’s relative, not absolute. It depends on what you want and where you are going. Nothing lives devoid of context and when we imagine it does we do so at our own peril. And Alexander Technique teachers are in peril if they live devoid of the concept of a marketplace.

How is it possible, that 117 years after the first Alexander Technique lesson was given, this work still languishes in relative obscurity? What are we doing wrong?

It’s a question that vexes me every day. At BodyChance we still see growth. Every month, we attract around 50 new faces to our studios for an introductory lesson of some kind. Some are there for the first time, others the second or third. Enrollment in our public membership program is currently at its lowest ever, yet our Professional Teachers Education Program is still powering on – currently 83 students. Our conversion rates have fluctuated between 5% and 45% without any clear explanation as to why. Not that I can figure out.

It's great that we are educating teachers, but we also need to create a market place for them to teach in. That’s what woke me up at 3.30am this morning, bright as a button, wondering and wondering what to do next…

The niche. It’s all in the niche. My newest idea is to coach BodyChance stars – teachers willing to go out there and attract a crowd of loyal followers. Each herd of followers are collected around a niche: a hobby, a profession or a wish that acts as a glue to bind them into one coherent community.

Once you have that, you can then write a convincing AT message-to-market match. Be it running (Malcolm Balk), swimming (Steven Shaw), golf (Roy Palmer), vision improvement (Peter Grunwald), playing the horn (our very own Basil Kritzer) or personal coaching (yours truly), the Alexander Technique message needs to offer just one clear benefit that convinces the niche it is operating in.

Is this the right way forward? I have no idea. I am in a trial and error process. Although Alexander seemed to degrade the trial and error approach, I found Tim Harford’s explanation of it’s positive aspects in a TED talk quite enlightening…



So my trial and error process continues. Who knows where it will end? I do have a set of 7 principles I have recently adopted, but the jury is still out on that. I still carry around my big vision thing, but I am feeling more battered and chipped these days. The constant failure to meet my own expectation is silencing my propensity towards grandiosity. Let's try the humble approach that expects nothing, and is surprised by a just little….

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

BodyChance Challenges


What's news in Japan?

I know several of you that are interested in the goings on in Japan and have wondered when I will offer an update. This is it. What are the challenges?

Creating a profitable service industry company is the overriding challenge. Our salaries are currently at 54% of revenue - that makes it a challenge to generate meaningful profits. Why do we want profits? To expand stupid. No bank or investor will hand over actionable money to us without a record of gorgeous profits - such a record has yet to be established by BodyChance. It is the challenge facing us now. I've had conversations with very rich people who might, one day, be willing to invest - but step one is proving that there is a business model for Alexander Technique that makes money.

How are we meeting this challenge? Several ways.

1. Build a niche presence. We are repositioning BodyChance into a niche market. i.e. a service that talks to the needs of our potential clients. In Japan that market is katakori. Kata = shoulder, kori - pain to translate simply. It is huge in Japan - everyone and his dog is out to grab a piece of the action.

Last night we launched the second round of KST = Katakori Sayonara Trial. What's it a trial of? Our monthly continuity membership program - BodyChance Basic - offering you the opportunity of attending BodyChance groups morning, afternoon and evening 6 days a week. If you attended every one (one some do God less them) at market prices you are getting over $4,000 worth of group lessons. Yet for now we only charge $178 as the monthly membership fee. $197 if you adopt the individual lesson plan.

Welcome to Japan, especially Tokyo, one of the most fiercely competitive markets in the world. 30 million people within one hour's travel from our studio door, with an uncountable number of businesses combating each other for a piece of that consumer pie.

Last night, one our guests was a person who completed our first KST program in May this year. "I was completely cured" she declared when I identified her to the group. (Thank you, I thought, you are doing my job for me.) You could see the other people shift in their perception, and begin taking the idea more seriously. Later she signed up for BOTH our Oban Intensive and our month long trial. She's the lucky one.

On the niche strategy thing - once we get KST automated, we will add another niche. Once that is automated, another. I believe we need to build at least three such marketing niches to move into serious profits. These marketing machines automatically pour the punters into our studios - and we send them out happier, healthier and willing life long converts to the Alexander revolution - help us build the community please.

2. Build the community. As we graduate more teachers (only 30 in 12 years so far) we are in fact generating our own competitors. That's a good thing, but why would someone choose us over getting individual lessons when they want them, where they want them, with no commitment beyond the next lesson and probably paying less!? It's the community stupid. So we are busy building community. We have shifted our whole focus from individual lessons to group teaching. Guess where are retention rates are higher?

The individual lesson will eventually become a high end product, which means branding our company as "the place" to go if price is not part of your decision process.

But the groups is where bonding occurs. It is where people meet others than in normal Japanese society they would never cross paths. We create something unique in Japan - Alexander's discoveries cross boundaries in just about every kind of way you can imagine. It makes for a compelling community experience for the highly segmented lives of normal Japanese.

3. Another major change structurally for BodyChance has been introducing a team of full-time teacher managers. Burrowing a page from my other life, I decided that "Actor Managers" would work best at the moment i.e. to build a team of all rounders - people who can teach AT and be involved in the Marketing, Sales and Business building of BodyChance.

Our longer term plan is to open new BodyChance learning eco-systems in multiple locations. (Folks can read my article in DIRECTION for a more detailed description of how this education eco-system operates) Our studio in Osaka is now at the growth stage Tokyo reached three years ago, so we are currently active in finding bigger premises.

4. To manage all this we need better systems. So we have now embarked on the project of generating a detailed Operations Manual which would serve as the bible when opening new learning centres. This is all a struggle for many of our team members - all this business related technology is getting eyes popping and fears stimulated: what has this got to do with the Alexander Technique?

Well, lots if you actually want the work to go mainstream, which is my avowed intention. I reckon I have spent closet to $30,000 of my own money on education in the three skills of marketing, sales and business over the past 4 years. The best people, the actual doers, charge a lot - but who else should I be learning from?

It's starting to pay off, but like the work itself, the more you know the less you know you know. Hmm - that could be a good Facebook muse. Go find me now: www.facebook.com/chancejeremy

Friend me please - I dialogue with people there these days.

5. Strategically, we have decided to jump on to FaceBook and leverage our advantage in knowing that one day it will be huge in Japan, whereas right now the uptake is hovering around the 4/5% level. Only the innovators are on it, (for those familiar with the bell curve of diffusion of innovation) and I've noticed that the "innovators" also turn out to be BodyChance's clientele. Most of them are going on it. That tells me a lot. I wish we could grow as fast of FaceBook but there's the rub…

6. BC Pro - the mother of BC Basic. Professional teacher education. Of course this is THE heart and soul of BodyChance: our four year, full-time Teacher Education program. We have 80 enrolled now, and the challenge pedagogically is building an "Alexander college" as opposed to an Alexander Training School. Of course this is a snail - you can't rush Teacher Education, but there are amazing discoveries I am realised pedagogically which are beyond my ability to share in a few words in this blog.

The question I wonder about these days is this…

“How can BodyChance continuously educate the greatest number of teachers, along a graduated path of individual teaching competence, with the least amount of effort, in an optimum amount of time?”

Would love to see a panel at the Congress tackling that question. It might even tempt me to come!

Over the last few years I have been working to get the synthesis of my own views, and those of our 6 Associate Directors - most particularly Cathy Madden - out of my head and into a curriculum, one sufficiently comprehensible for other teachers to learn from, and be guided by. Now we have been going 12 years, FINALLY there are native Japanese teachers educated by us with the skills to carry on ProCourse Education but they want to know the plan!

This is like a dream come true. I am finally feeling freer from being shackled to the task of Teaching - something I see these days as just one part of my job description.

I am a Master teacher - I know that. What I can do these days even surprises me. I say that because I get the evidence of it every day. What I am not, is a Master of Marketing, Sales and Business. Yet I know that BodyChance will amount to nothing more than an extension of this writer's blathering egocentric attempt to be someone "significant" UNLESS I establish mastery in those areas. I did it once, why not again?

Baring unexpected death, I give my self another productive 25 years to achieve that Mastery. Supposedly it takes 10,000 hours of application, around 10 years, so I should be hitting the mark in 2015! Will the ensuring 23 years be enough time to secure BodyChance as one of the world's game changing companies? Backed by the gold of Alexander's discoveries, I see no reason why not.

6. So I need to simplify my life. I am going into a cave called Japan these days. Gone is the grandiosity of world domination - making it in Japan will do for this life. I nixed my attendance to the Congress, withdrew from ATI, and these days refuse to do anything that doesn't fit into one of three categories - family life, business life, spiritual life. If I can't see a direct benefit from one of those angles - it's gone from my life. Part of me wonders why I am bothering writing this - ego really. We all have one. I love showing off, sorry if I come over badly. In the end, those who know me, understand this is deep.

I have to teach soon. To give you a "taste" of life in Japan for me these days, here is a list of the things I have scheduled during my next 14 days in Japan:

- 33 hours of ProCourse lessons covering 8 of the 12 different courses we run in Tokyo & Osaka.
- two interviews with magazines, one about how AT might help facial expressions with one of the leading women magazines of Japan (who ran me on the cover of a previous issue), the other with a martial arts magazine (we are getting a lot more men to BodyChance these days. They can feel the real possibility of a career in this work).
- one day filming a new DVD about our ProCourse Teacher Education for sale to the client base of the Producers of the video (no cost to BodyChance).
- taking a meeting to develop a new service specifically designed for the Fitness Industry in Japan (which we intend to make serious inroads into) through which I plan to generate another $100,000 in revenue next year.
- three one day meetings with BodyChance's 8 full-time staff. We cry, do business, "connect" a la NVC. You name it. What needs to be done, gets done. This is soul work as much as it is operations work.
- four classes specifically for BodyChance Graduates. No charge to them for this one, I ask instead that they frequent ProCourse to enrich the learning environment for our students. Walter's school inspired that idea. I loved how teachers would always visit his Constructive Teaching Centre in London, and I want to create that culture in BodyChance.
- Two business meetings with the Core team that administrate and implement decisions
- my personal coaching evening - the high end stuff. $970 for three evenings with Jeremy.
- attend two graduation parties (Osaka & Tokyo) for the graduates of our two year BodyThinking certificate programme. It is a part of the Alexander Technique Teacher Education, but the certificate entitles them to lead a one day BodyThinking workshop, which is about creating useful maps of our body's structure and movement. BodyMapping, but we don't call it that. Why? Branding stupid. Own the name, own the income stream.
- a featured class at Asahi Culture Centre in Shinjuku. My photo appeared in the leading national newspaper of the same name (they own the Centre) advertising "Alexander Technique". This is the work arriving in mainstream. They pay me peanuts - but it isn't about the money, its about being "legitimate." Ordinary Japanese worry about getting caught into "cults", and we used to smell a little bit like that at first contact.
- two BC Pro Information nights - Osaka and Tokyo - inviting people into Teacher Education.
- two Intros to our work, where I am letting people know about our new KST program in September.
- observing Cathy Madden start her 25 days of teaching for us in Osaka. I need to be a student too!
- spending an afternoon with Cathy observing the practise session of an A league Professional Baseball Teams before their evening play off at the Osaka dome. Invite from one of their coaches who got told by an American coach at the Beijing Olympics that AT is great for baseballers.
- a phone in with my internet coach in Australia, discussing our use of the website in generating leads and building our list.

And somewhere amidst all that, I write this, study my marketing books, make my daily FaceBook posts, meditate every morning and try to fall in love. No luck with that last one.

I so love the "we-don't-really-need-anyone-else" quality of Japan. It insulates our innovation - Japanese don't know how Alexander's discoveries are supposed to be taught. We are creating the boundaries. This is truly heaven for a maverick like me! When STAT knocked back my application for an approved school in Japan, they gave me a big favour.

So I really must get off and prepare my class. One thing I love about Marj's pedagogy is the student's responsibility for driving the learning process. Of course I always come up with a game and have one or two activities on standby if called for, but these days our students understand that they must come up with the topics for the class, not me. I respond, draw on my 40+ years of experience in this work, and the class does itself. So my plan for the class means creating a nice game/activity (I usually create something new - it is one of my teaching disciplines) and then think through what are the main teaching points I want to come through today.

I am teaching a ThinkingBody class, which - aside from exploring the application of Alexander's discoveries to everyday life - digs down into the learning process: 1. Purpose 2. Observation 3. Analysis 4. Support 5. Experimentation 6. Direction 7. Inhibition 8. Experience 9. Integration.

Don't understand it? It is based on Use of the Self, Chapter One "Evolution of a Technique" so why don't you come along and join our two year ThinkingBody course? Who knows, you might want to continue on when you finish that and do our BodyThinking course. And then, who knows, you might want to continue on after that and do our Teaching Methods course. And if you have done that much, then for sure you may as well decide to go to 2nd Stage and start your apprenticeship as a Teacher. And I mean, well - if you get that far, you may as well take your three assessments and graduate as a Teacher to 3rd Stage. Over 2 years, you only have to give 50 lessons and a workshop before you get a BodyChance Teacher Diploma.

How long will all that all take? Oh, about 9 years. But just 4 if you do it full-time.

As they say in Japan "bye bye".

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nature is Kind

Been busy, as you can imagine, reliving again in Japan.

Many messages have gone out - not all posted here. However I am posting tomorrow's message to those on our list in Japan.

I slowly evolving my own understanding of the work, and how it can be used to support people undoing the stress they give themselves over the events of the last few weeks...

***

Once upon a time a lone lady in a kimono
waited by the edge of a river.
She needed to cross the river,
but could not get her self wet.

Not long after, two monks came along,
so she pleaded to be carried across the river.
The tall monk agreed, and carried her
across the river on his back.
The shorter monk was shocked
by his companion's action,
and silently fumed for one hour
after the woman had left.
Finally, he could contain himself no longer:

"You were wrong"
he blurted out to the taller monk
"It is forbidden to touch a woman,
but you did even more!
You carried her across the river!!"

The taller monk smiled compassionately.
He looked at the shorter monk and said:

"My dear monk - I carried the woman
for just 5 minutes whereas you have been
carrying the woman for over an hour."

***

Nature is much kinder than our own minds.

Unless you lived through the tsunami,
most people only directly experienced the big earthquake.
And the earthquake lasted only a few minutes
- that is all. But the stress has been going
on ever since. It is not the earthquake itself that stresses us,
it is the thoughts we have about it that stress us.

Like the short monk who fumed for one hour
about the five minutes his taller companion
carried the woman over the river,
our minds tend to replay the earthquake
like a YouTube clip over and over again.

It is understandable that we would do that.
It is human nature to do that.
I am not in judgement of that.
I am not writing that this is wrong.
I am only pointing out that we create
the stress we feel, not nature.
Nature is much kinder - it only scared us directly for a few minutes.
Ever since then, we have only been scaring ourself.

BodyChance is known as the undoing school.
It is the place where we learn how to undo
those things that cause us pain.
Usually at BodyChance we focus
on things like katakori, or back pain.

But on this Friday April 1st,
with the whole new BodyChance team of teachers,
we will focus on undoing the stress of the earthquake.
Not just the earthquake,
but any of the events after it
that are still causing distress in your daily life.

Undoing is a process of seeing the truth.
It is a process of directly knowing
how I am inflicting harm upon myself.

On April 1st I am offering you a unique opportunity.
Come not to learn something new,
but to unlearn something old.

Come not to do new techniques,
but to undo the unnecessary techniques.

If you want help with your current situation
reply to this email and tell us you will come.

I look forward to meeting you then.

cheerfully

Jeremy
BC Education Director.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Living in Truth - Japan #2

Continuing to post to my blog the messages I am sending out in Japan to the 3,000 on our list. Since yesterday, it has been posted on several blogs, shared in Mixi (Japan's FaceBook) or retweeded more widely. We are getting a positive response - it is good to feel these ideas are supporting people in this crisis.

***

This is Jeremy, BodyChance Education Director.

My guess is that you are thinking about your life deeply at the moment?

I know I am. So many questions come to my mind. So many unanswerable questions…

What will happen in Tokyo? Will I still be able to live here? Should I leave Tokyo? Should I leave Japan? Do I carry on as normal? Do I stay at home and wait? What is the best thing for me to do? Who can I talk to about this?

There are all questions I have thought about. I am guessing you must be thinking about the same.

Soon you realize there are no answers to be found. You don't know what to do…

This is what feels so frustrating, yes? You want to know what will happen. You want some security – some knowledge that is real – to base your decisions on. You wonder "How can I decide what to do, when I do not know what is going on?"

This feeling of being lost is not unfamiliar to people who study Alexander Technique at BodyChance. It is actually how life really is. We think life is certain, we think life is concrete. When we discover that life is not like that, we feel confused.

However, the truth is that nothing ever stays the same.

When my teacher Marj would give me a lesson, I felt terrific. I felt so good. I would think – "Oh, I want to keep this feeling forever. I want to stay like this." Mary would look at me, and quickly say:

"It's never going to feel the same twice."

Marj did not want me to fix things. So about Japan now, you do not want to say to your self "It is like this" . Why? Because tomorrow, you will change. Tomorrow, everything around you will change.

Now you are living in a time which is teaching you this truth. Your life is changing: every year, every month, every week, every hour, every second. You do not know what will happen in Fukushima. Will it be OK? Will it be a disaster? You do not know.

So today you live in this suspended world. And this is the world as it actually is. This is the true world, the world where change is the only constant thing.

So now is the time to live your life truthfully. This day, this moment is real, but tomorrow, next year, next decade, next generation – none of that is real. You do not know what will happen tomorrow, or next year, or the next generation.

Each day you wake up and seek more news. Until you look, you do not know what the world is like today. But you do not have to wait for the news to decide how your life will be today. You do not need to be a victim of circumstances. Instead, you can accept that the world is uncertain, and be certain of its uncertainty. You can decide: "This is how I will live today. In each moment, I can be certain that I do not know what will happen next…"

When you have fearful thoughts, ask your self: "Are these thoughts helping me? How real are there? Do I have any power to change what is happening now?" If you answer yes, great – go do something about it. If you answer no – then what point is there for you to be thinking this way? Do you want to encourage these thoughts?

Sure, you can not really stop your thoughts. That is impossible too. But you can understand "These thoughts of mine are not real. I am only saying it to myself. I do not need to listen to my thoughts as though I was listening to the NHK News!"

This is a helpful question to carry around with you: are these thoughts helpful to me? Are they necessary? Do I want to encourage and nurture these thoughts? Will this help me or not?

And many times you will find "It does not help me to think this way. This is only my imagination. I only know about today. I only know about now. So I will just stay with my whole self."

For those of you who have studied with BodyChance – now you think of your whole body, your whole movement. This brings you back into the present moment. In the present moment, all your power is there.

This is the way to live your true life. It has always been like this. Sometimes it takes a crisis for us to be reminded of how life actually is.

Nothing is sure. Nothing is fixed. But if you love and cherish your self and others, you have the comfort of your self. You have the comfort of this moment. In this moment you can be whole. You can be you. And you can only do what you can do. Nothing more. And nothing less.

My heartfelt best wishes to you all.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Undoing Way - Japan #1

I will start posting messages I am sending out to our Japanese list and visitors to our website...

***

Hi,

I am Jeremy from BodyChance, and I am writing to you from the Gold Coast in Australia.

I sometimes wonder why I left Japan the day before the earthquake hit - is there any meaning in that for me?

And the only meaning I can take right now is my determination to come back. It has tested my will, as a foreigner, to know if Japan is really a home for me. I discovered that it is. I plan to return on March 24th and do what I can to support you through this terrible crisis. I don't mind if my life is shortened as a result – I am only afraid to waste my life. I am afraid to go to my grave without being able to say "I did what I could."

I've just come off a conference call with the members of BodyChance's full-time staff, and I ended our conversation with tears in my eyes. I had not felt nor understood till that moment what a crisis of confidence is happening for you in Japan. I want to come back and be with you all. I want to tell you what a wonderful people you are.

So many people the world over care for you now – do you know that? My friends in Australia talk of nothing else - we are all concerned for you, for Japan's welfare. One beautiful outcome of this tragedy can be your discovery of how much you are loved by others in the world.

Right now, many of BodyChance staff are experiencing fear – they have many concerns. I asked to them - how can we offer leadership to others, when we our selves are feeling so unsure? And for that, we look to the deeper qualities of the work we offer at BodyChance. At the top of our website we say that undoing is more important than doing.

What is there for you to "undo" in a crisis such as this?

There is a lot to undo – beginning with all the 'noise' the voices in your head make as you try to understand and cope with what is happening. There are two reactions you have. The first reaction is primary – your feeling. It is strong, present and moving from one state to another. The second reaction is what you say to your self about your feeling – this is the 'noise'. This is the part of busyness that you can "undo".

It will not help to get caught up in your thoughts. Why? Because your thoughts always work to create the worst picture of things – they are biologically designed to do this. However, the design doesn't serve you now as it did 100,000 years ago.

Can it help you now to always be thinking and imagining the worst? Do you have the power to change the outcome now? Basically not. Your thoughts affect you deeply, but they do not, for example, make much difference to the nuclear reactors in Fukushima. And it is not those worries that are really your true experience. Your true experience is not about nuclear reactors, tsunamis or earthquakes.

Your primary, true feeling has no thoughts. Your true experience can be felt without noise of your thoughts. Quietly, silently, I encourage you to be present to whatever feelings you have. There is no wrong feeling to have. You may feel guilt. You may feel excitement. You may feel despair. You may feel frustration, anger, helplessness. You may feel relief, joy and guilt all together. Whatever you feel remember it is just that – a feeling. It does not say anything about what will happen. It is not the predictor of the future.

Your feelings, when left to run alone, will transform into something else. How often have you started to weep, only to find yourself laughing a minute later? Feelings are like this – they naturally move from one state to the next. However, when you embroider your feelings with fearful concepts, you unnaturally attach an idea that is not existing in the feeling itself. You add the idea to the feeling, and think that both feeling and idea are the same thing.

When this happens, the idea carries you away from the natural enfoldment of your feelings. The idea suppresses your feeling, and you mistake the idea for being your feeling. Then your emotion gets fixed by the idea. The idea might be about Tokyo in disaster, the idea might be about losing your loved ones, the idea might be about your business collapsing. They are strong ideas, but they do not live in your feelings. You attach these ideas to your feelings.

You start to believe that this feeling and idea are the same thing. And then you are trapped. This terrible idea, together with a feeling, holds you day and night until you are unable to live any more. Do not let that happen to yourself. Undo that fixing of idea to feeling.

Free your feelings from the ideas that try to hold them. Let your feelings move from one state to the next. Undo belief in your ideas. Instead, see your ideas as just ideas – not truth, not real, not actual. Just ideas. When you can "undo" the idea, and let your feeling free, you will be free. You will be new. You will be more who you really are.

How can you do this? By sharing with others. By connecting truthfully with other human beings who are willing to listen and be listened too. Who do you have like this in your life? Go find them, go be with them. I encourage you to continue your normal life, but continue it with an honest sharing of your feeling. You do not need to pretend you are OK, but you do not need to collapse your life either. Stay with the life you have, and bring into that life the truth of your feeling.

And from this truthful space, you are far more ready, far more stronger, to deal with whatever will happen. It does not mean everything will go well, or everything will not go well – it means you are in yourself ready to deal with whatever happens. The only thing that is really true, is what you are feeling right now. Stay with that, not with your imaginations.

This is the deepest meaning of the undoing way.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Shall We Dance?

This is a short description of a workshop I will present on March 4th in Tokyo to 300 members of the Dance Federation. In Japan they are known as Social dancers and BodyChance has been developing a relationship with their community. In 2009 I wrote a series of 6 articles describing the Seven BodyChance Movement Principles.

There - betcha didn't know that?

Oh there's a lot going on in Japan that you don't know about. I kind of like it that way actually. But Brendan recently cajoled me on FaceBook to start using my blog to post things I am writing. I am prolific these days - in the last week I think I have written about 15,000 words in the form of Sales Letters, articles, emails to my students - it's all blah, blah, blah from Jeremy these days.

Anyway, enough of that for now. For my Japanese friends who love to read my English blog, this is a advance preview of the talk. Of course it is being translated into Japanese now, and will be published in that form eventually. So this is the only English version around at the moment, and probably ever.

Enjoy...

***

Which is First—Artistry or Technique?
A Radical New Viewpoint
Based on the Discoveries of F. Matthias Alexander

In the worlds of music and dance, there is a constant debate concerning the balance between artistic expression and technical excellence. For example, Japanese are known internationally as having the highest technical standard of social dancers in the world, yet some argue that their artistry suffers as a result. This debate pits technique against artistry – which should take prominence?

But are we asking the right question?

Could it be that the problem is not between artistry and technique, but rather the problem only arises because you divide something that is indivisible? Can you separate your self from your shadow? While you may be able to think of "me" and "my shadow", that does not mean you can actually separate them, does it?

The Seven BodyChance Movement Principles that I explored in my series of articles in DanceWing are based on the discoveries of F. M. Alexander, originator of the Alexander Technique. Alexander had a lot to say about our alarming habit of dividing where no division exists. This debate between artistry and technique echoes our tendency to divide between mind (artistry) and body (technique) – but can mind and body be separated from each other, any more than artistry and technique can be separated?

I have worked as a performer, so I understand the need to divide technique and artistry in your thinking. Van Gough, for example, would go to the art museum and copy the brush strokes in the paintings of many different Masters. Was Van Gogh only doing "technical" work, or was Van Gogh developing his "artistry"? I have been asking myself this question for many years. It is profound question that exists in all human skills, not just social dance.

So first let me demonstrate the problem we have when we divide these two…

DEFINITION OF DANCING "TECHNIQUE"
1. To make something consistently the same
2. Regardless of the situation, to meet the same standards of excellence
3. To meet precise angles, speeds and spatial forms for figures and amalgamations

DEFINITION OF DANCING "ARTISTRY"
1. To create something consistently original
2. To connect authentically with your music, partner and audience
3. To be fresh, responsive and spontaneous within figures and amalgamations

Consider those two definitions carefully – they do seem to be in conflict with each other, don't they? When you realise how contradictory the aims of both seem to be, is it any wonder this is an area of major concern within Social Dance?

So how can you reconcile two opposites?

That is simple – stop dividing them! Alexander had the same problem with the division of "mind (artistry)" and "body (technique)". Of course you are able to imagine them as separate within your thinking, but then your thinking no longer reflects reality. You are assuming a false view. And it is this view that creates the problem you are seeking to fix!

Can you start thinking in a new way?

Yes, of course you can. And what is this new way of thinking? It is the view that does not add separation to unity. I will need to demonstrate this with an example.

[At this point Jeremy gave a presentation of Social Dancers making an entrance]

How can this idea be put to practical use in the teaching of Social Dance?

In this case, we can learn from the way that Alexander himself thought about human movement. How did Alexander think in a way that did not add separation to Nature's underlying unity of all movement? First, he stopped thinking in terms of "body" and "mind". So for the teacher and social dancer, this is the first step – give up thinking in terms of "technique" and "artistry". Secondly, Alexander found a new way of thinking to express what is happening.

What follows is a description of Alexander's way of thinking. To start speaking in your lessons this way will be an exciting and challenging journey, but a journey that my experience shows me can have a profoundly beneficial influence on the effectiveness of your teaching and your dancing…

What is the New Thinking?

1st Step – Let "Now" Be Number One…
In Alexander's case, to avoid thinking in terms of body and mind, he began thinking in terms of the "critical moment". We can also call that moment "now". Now is the only moment that you can perform in. You can not perform before "now" and you can not perform after "now" – you can only perform within "now".

It is quite simple, and obviously true. Does anyone disagree with that? Of course not. So thinking in this way puts you back into Nature's way of being. Whenever your thinking aligns with the reality of how things exist, you will experience harmony. (Alternatively, whenever your thinking falsely represents Nature's way of being, you will experience conflict.)

2nd Step – Continue With Your Attention In Now…
Many dancers have told me an interesting fact: the only time they injure themselves is when they are not paying attention to their dancing. Is that true of you? So this step is a subtle point, but one every social dancer is familiar with: when your attention drifts from the moment of "now", the expressive quality and precision of your movement diminishes. I am sure you have all noticed this fact.

Many things take our attention away from now: fear of a mistake, lack of confidence, doubt about a figure or amalgamation. In every case the mechanism is the same: your attention is no longer placed on what you are doing. Instead, your attention is away with the fairies, hallucinating on some idea that has no concrete reality in the current moment. So, ensure that you continue with your attention in now, then…

3rd Step – Choose To Let Your Dance Do Itself
This is when "technique" and "artistry" could distract you most. You imagine what you want, then try to impose that idea on the movement of your self. Your "idea" does not emerge from "now" - it is not in response to the situation you are in right now - instead (usually arising from fear or doubt) a "mind" imposes itself on a "body". This comes from your abstractive thought. But abstractive thought has no place in the moment of "now".

Every great dancer, athlete, scientist, teacher or craftsperson will tell you the same thing: when they are at the peak of their ability, there is no abstractive thought present. Sports people call it "being in the grove." I am calling it "let the Social Dance do itself." I am sure you understand this, and if you don't - talk with other dancers about it. Many understand this point clearly.

4th Step – Do We Trust Our Own Self?
We can never be better than the best that we are. Our 'best' can only be expressed when we give full trust in our own ability to be our self. As soon as we doubt our self, we have opened our thinking to unhealthy separation. Out of fear we "impose" solutions on our body.

So what are we trusting?

1. Your motor skills – trust the skill you already have. You can not make your self get more skill in the middle of a final performance!
2. Your sensory system – let the music and atmosphere influence your movements
3. Your Partner – connect with them and support each other
4. Your Audience – invite them to be included in your field of attention

Of course these all happen simultaneously, not sequentially. Remember the first step? We only have "now", and everything is mixed into now. The heart of this process is trust, and, most surprising, compassion towards your self.

Artistry Comes From Trusting Your Whole Self

In my experience of over 40 years of being in this work, I have found that the more tension a person has, the more hostile they are towards their self. You can only be hostile towards your self by imagining you actually have two separate parts: a mind that can tell a body what to do. This artificial separation of mind and body creates an unhealthy freedom to brutally manipulate your body.

Artistry is the very opposite of this separation. Artistry happens in the absence of abstractive thought, in the absence of separation. We can not make our self be artistic, because artistry is an expression of the unity of life. The hallmarks of artistry are authenticity, spontaneity and originality. The only "original" moment is the moment of "now" – when an audience feels that we are connected to them, connected to the music, connected to our partner then they too forget their separation, and become one with you in your dance. This is the height of artistry.

Which brings me to a surprising ending – self-love is the antidote for separation. When you care your whole self, and treat your whole self as one, you actually create the best conditions for the blending artistry and technique to the point, where each becomes a complimentary expression of the other.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Meditation On Fear

It's wise to have fear when driving through blistering snow on a twisted mountain road in the dark, don't you agree? Or to run east, when surrounded by fire north, west and south?

The young often lack this kind of fear, to their own demise. They drive with abandon and the statistics reflect it. Yet I do admire those without fear, I aspire to become like them. So is fear is a useless thing? Should I attempt to abandon it altogether. Some think so. Others do not...

Tsong Karpa, a Tibetan sage from the 10th century, once commented: "Those who fear death, when death comes will have no fear; yet those who have no fear of death, when death comes, will be very afraid."

I have often mediated on this concept—imagining my own death, or the premature death of my children. Some call me morbid for it, I say I am realistic because it counters sloth and redundancy. Who knows when anyone will die? My brother-in-law was told by doctors he had only 6 months to live. That was over 5 years ago and he's in better health now! Who else doesn't have a story like that?

Then I wonder - can fear be harnessed as a positive force for change, by motivating me to act, as opposed to an oppressing force to remain the same? Can it be that, used with wisdom, the same energy can render either outcome?

So now I have fear as a subtler force to comprehend. The fear that motivates my work - because I will be condemned if I do not do it well - is it wise or stupid? If I get the work done, but only because of that, is it beneficial or not? Well, I got it done didn't I? How bad is that?

Here my fear is not of my self, but of the opinion of others. Then who decides who I am? Me or them? In the case of others, fear is impotent. THEY decide me, not me. This impotent fear is bound to exhaust me, in the same way that trying to bottle a smell is exhausting - it simply can not ever be satisfactorily done; aiming for totality is living in impossibility…

So what would a constructive fear feel like? How would it be different? For a start, as with death, it must arise from an outcome that possesses a stench of inevitability. If it is not inevitable, then to live in fear of it is to hallucinate on outcome, then react as though that outcome was real.

That has to be a working definition of insanity, don't you think? I hallucinate the worst, then start reacting as THOUGH IT ALREADY EXISTED. Which of course, by behaving thus, makes me the agent of its creation. Hmm - that sounds like stupid fear to me. Yet I am sure, in small doses, it is constructive too.

If the only way I can motivate myself to act, is a fear of what others will say - this is a very human quality. We call it shame, and shame, like fear, can be healthy or not. It seems many "negative" emotions are double-edged swords. To thieve from another person generates shame - it if doesn't, we definitely think you are sick. So shame, fear - are they two sides of the same coin?

It comes down to this: do I know who I am? Do I know what I want to do? Do I know what I stand for? Answer those with clarity, then fear becomes transformative.

If I have no clarity around that, then I look to others to help define me. We all started that way - we looked to Mum and Dad for appropriate behaviours and ways of being. At some point - puberty I guess - I started to make my own decisions. Did I complete that process, or is it still interrupted by my vacillating need to seek the approval of others?

When I have the later, then fear and shame start to crush me; when I have the former - that I know who I am and what I want - then fear and shame become healthy devices that prod me back towards the path of my choosing when I start to stray afar…

So the question is not about the fear, it is about WHO I are fearing: my own judgements, or the judgements of others? If I make who I stand for as inevitable as my own death, then fear gives me energy to act towards the outcome that generates joy, for no person stands for gaining more pain.

Ahh… to not have joy - now THAT is something to fear!