Wednesday, January 30, 2013

W05.03 My Teams of One


Marjorie Barstow died on Monday 31st July, 1995.

The night she died I had an extraordinary dream. I was in alone in a house, or so I thought… Suddenly this woman appeared at the end of the hall: “I can see you” she said, and her eyes bore deep into my essence. I realized in that second that I was totally naked, that I could never hide from her, no matter what I did. The power of her penetration terrified me, and I let out a startled cry and sat bolt upright in my bed – all in one flash movement. And there I was, wide awake in the middle of the night, sitting up in my bed - my heart beating fast - wondering what the heck had just happened.

Two days later, I found out that Marj had died that night.

My mentor was gone – but was she? I think the best mentors live on as voices inside, offering echoes of advice once heard when present to their many words and experiences with you. Marj was one of a long line of mentors that led me to where I am today…

After Marj’s death, I carried on with my lifestyle: flirting around the world, doing seminars for Alexander Technique teachers on Marj’s way of working, while also going more deeply into my “emotional work” version of Alexander Technique. My home base was a lovely apartment (which I still have) at Clovelly beach in Sydney, and it was on a sunny day there that my next mentor found me. Or I found him – I am not sure which is true.

Vicky Mackenzie, a freelance Journalist, had come to interview me about Alexander Technique, and when the interview was finished we got talking. It had been two years since Marj’s death, and during that time I had begun to notice that I seemed to be marking time – after the heady years of discovery alongside of Marj, I now noticed there was little personal development happening. I was broke at the time, so I could not afford a ‘life coach’ or do seminars, but I had always been interested in Buddhism. Maybe that was a way to spur my personal development? I thought: “That’s cheap – they usually don’t charge to study religion,” so I made the determination that I would visit a different Buddhist Centre every week for a year, until either I found a place that felt like home or I gave up looking.

As I told Vicki my plan, she remarked: “Oh, I have just finished writing a book about a Tibetan monk!” Her book was “Reincarnation: The Boy Lama” (Wisdom Publications, 1996). and it turned out to be a compelling and moving drama by an ex-Fleet street journalist on the life and times of Lama Yeshe. I had found my new mentor. I know for certain that Lama Yeshe sent me to Japan, although I have never met him in person. He was dead before I even knew he was alive.

Arriving In Japan
It was through further miracles, too numerous and varied to relate here, that I finally found my Self arriving at Kansai airport in Osaka in October, 1997. I had just come out of a three month purification retreat – living in a little hut 5,000 meters above sea level in Solukhumbu region of Nepal – to be met by the woman who eventually became the mother of our two gorgeous daughters, Angelica and Grace. And I stayed in Japan, as most of you know! It was not my plan, but it was the plan that happened to me.

Yuzuru Katagiri, the Godfather of Alexander work in Japan, took me under his wing, and started mentoring me in the mysterious ways of Japan. Yuzuru had personally sponsored the first teacher training school in Japan, had been bringing many great Alexander Technique teachers, had translated numerous books, and he generously supported my efforts to open and run a school. Over the years his service was invaluable, but as the school grew, and he aged (Yuzuru is now in his 80’s) the demands of ATA (as I was then calling my school) outgrew his ability to offer support.

It was my business, but it was imploding. Students were graduating, but I was failing to enroll new students. The journey that started from there has been documented in my article for DIRECTION Journal. It was my desperation and growing despair that reminded me again that whenever I had been in this place before – I had found a mentor to pull me out…

Yuko Suzuki – who now heads Operations for BodyChance – was at that time in the high echelons of Sony Corporation, and a regular student of mine. She spoke English and was the only person I could think of to turn for help: “ATA is in trouble,” I told after a lesson one day “Can you find anyone who could help me?”

That simple request led to the transformation of my business, of my life, of Alexander Technique in Japan. It was like a line in the sand, a moment that I now look back and realize: “Oh, that is when I really began to get serious about Alexander Technique as a business.”

So when are you going to get serious? When will you draw your line in the sand and say “I don’t care how I feel or what it takes, I will follow this direction to gather many students, succeed financially as a teacher of Alexander Technique and leave the world a little better than I found it.”?

How Do You Find A Mentor
If you feel lost, you need to find your mentor. A personal, face-to-face person is the most powerful – aim to find that person. At a deep level, you are calling for someone who will reflect back your ignorance – particularly your active ignorance, because that lives in the domain of what-you-don’t-know-you-don’t-know. You need a trustworthy guide taking you from the known to the unknown.

Gurdjieff once defined a mentor as any person who knows what you don’t know. Another way to define a primary characteristic in an effective mentor is based on a maxim in our teaching: you are only as good as you are able to functionally integrate the work. So when I choose mentors, I ask: do they walk the walk? Or just talk the walk? Have they demonstrated their knowledge by what they have created in their own lives? Or are they a theorist dispensing advice that they do not follow?

My financial advisor, for example, needs to be a very rich person before I will listen to them. I want to know, just as I would with my Alexander Technique teacher, that they have tested, implemented and lived the choices they are asking me to make.

Where’s the proof? It is in how they have lived their lives…

TOMORROW: My Business Mentors and Who I Recommend You Study
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