Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Day My Life Changed Forever - A Day I Can Never Forget

Kings Cross is a red light district of Sydney - not unlike Shinjuku in Tokyo, around Times Square in New York or Soho in London. Kings Cross is populated by gangsters, prostitutes & drug addicts - so many different kinds of people looking for happiness, but mostly finding only pain and suffering.

It was in a place like this that something extraordinary happened, and my life's work began. It was 1978 and I was 18 years old. I had recently joined one of Australia's most prestigious Performing Arts School - N.I.D.A. This is where Mel Gibson and Kate Blanchett both trained as actors. I had gained one of 23 places out of more than 1,000 applicants.

I was in my first term, on a weekend break, when I took my fateful walk through Kings Cross. And it was on that day, in a few blinding seconds of revelation, that I decided my life was to follow Alexander's discoveries. To the horror of my parents, my fellow students and the teachers of NIDA, I walked in the next day to tell them I was leaving.


"I am leaving this NIDA course."

"But why?"

"Because I want to learn about F. M. Alexander's discoveries."

"F. M. Who???"

In those days, the Alexander Technique was not well known in Sydney. There had only ever been one teacher - Alan Murray - and he had died several years ago. I had been lucky enough to have lessons with him, starting when I was 15 years old. My father had discovered the work through reading Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World and a man who owed his prolonged life to Alexander.

My father had a serious back problem - I remember him using a walking stick. As little children, we had to be careful not to jump on him or try to cuddle him too quickly. Then one day - it seemed sudden to me - he was without his walking stick! Instead, he was picking me up in the air and swinging me around. “What is this???” my little mind excitedly wondered. Dad explained that it was something called Alexander Technique and he showed me his books. They looked scary and complicated, with long titles and few pictures, but I loved them all the same. They saved my Dad.

At the time I was 10 years old and I tried to read those books, but I kept falling asleep and they made no sense to my childish mind. I didn't give up, because I really wanted to understand how something could change my Dad so quickly, and so well.

Of course life interrupted my interest, and I continued growing up, becoming interested in theatre, especially Directing. My sister was also interested, so we become inseparable mates as we explored making a career in the theatre.

Then something happened to her. I went down to see her perform in Canberra, the capital of Australia, at a playwright's conference in 1973, and she had fallen apart. I subsequently found out that she was in love, but the man was gay and she hadn't known it. He was not interested in her as a partner, and she got depressed.

In the car, on our way home, I tried to cheer her up. I thought of many different things I could say, hoping to unlock her heart and make space for her grief, which I could feel was being held tightly in her body. I tried to make a start but she brushed me off. I was hurt, but I too tried to brush it off - telling myself that I had done nothing wrong, that I was only feeling compassion and wanting to help. I told myself that these were her feelings, her pain and there was nothing I could do to relieve her pain, no matter how much I wanted to. I began to quieten down inside, and I stopping thinking about my sister.

And then, at that moment, the most amazing thing in all my life happened.

It was like a light came on, something inside me woke up. A new voice started speaking to me. We all have voices inside us, right? We scold ourselves, we congratulate ourselves, we plan things, think things all the time. So, like everyone else, I already had many voices inside that talked to me about different things.

But I had never heard this voice before. It was scary, and new. I almost felt invaded, and wondered if in fact I was going insane. However, I wasn't going insane, instead I was discovering a profound and moving truth - that my body did not lie. My body, my movements held my truth.

This new voice in me said "Look down at your legs, look at your arms - why are you so afraid?" And it was true. All the time I had been talking to myself about my sister, feeling hurt and trying to understand that it was not my fault she was upset, I had been twisting my body as though someone had just punched me across the face.

We were sitting in the car - she on one side driving, me on the other side as passenger - and my whole body was turned away from her, crushed down while I stared vacantly out the window. I understood at that moment that my previous head voices had been deluding me, and this new voice knew the truth. I had been telling myself not to feel hurt, telling myself I had done nothing wrong, but my body was telling another story.

My body - this new voice pointed out - showed me what had really happened: clearly showed how I felt crushed and unloved.

I remember sitting there in the car - my sister still silent and driving - wondering what was happening to me. Was I going mad? Was this the beginning of a mental disease? Or had I discovered something profound? Was I waking up to a whole new understanding about my human life?

It was the moment that I first truly began to understand Alexander's discoveries, a moment that took me into a process that ultimately led to my walk through Kings Cross, and my final decision to change the direction of my life away from theatre and towards learning and teaching the discoveries of F. M. Alexander.

Over the next few months I began watching this phenomena of how fear moved through the body in myself and others. I began noticing that people's words and people's body movements often told two different stories. But the person believed their words, they believed the story they told to their Self. But their body carried a different truth. If they ignored this truth, their body began to demand attention: pain was the main message. So many people experienced pain, and felt confused about. “Why do I have this pain?” they wondered, without knowing that their thoughts had tried to deny it.

I went a little crazy though. Not like insane, more hard-to-be-with. I was so excited by my discovery, that I only ever wanted to point this out to people. I could see it in them, but they did not appreciate my pointing it out. I wanted them to discover what I had discovered - that our body carries the truth about our Self. That our movements are the direct expression of our emotions, our beliefs. Alexander said it himself:

"Belief is a muscular activity."

And for the first time, I deeply knew it. I went to re-read Alexander's books, and they were now so clear to me. Alexander’s message was obvious, and deeply profound. What had once been complex was rendered simple, and I was ready to see.

And it was in this state of mind that I took my fateful walk in Kings Cross, and saw. It was a walk that would change my life forever…


The above is an example of “telling your story.” A few key points to make:

Firstly, my story is true – every bit of it – and my conscious intention is to develop intimacy and connection with you. There is a very simple way for you to do that too – be authentic, honest and well-intentioned. The purity of your wish – to help others – will come through. This is the long version of your USP.

Secondly, this is a business relationship – not a personal relationship. The purity of your wish – to help others – goes on to say: in a way that supports me. It is an exchange. Alexander Technique teachers, and many others, get so confused about this that money as a success driver goes AWOL. Do you forget the second part, which is about being paid? In your desire to be authentic, do you think it is being unauthentic to exchange your time and expertise for money? In a personal relationship, that sucks. In a business relationship, that’s normal.

Thirdly, the potential is always there to develop a personal relationship. However, protect your Self from your own magnanimity, or you will face burn out. As you leverage your personal disclosures to develop intimacy with your followers, they do not understand this in the same way you do. They feel you are a personal friend, because that’s what many of them are wanting. Research any famous person – they are both stalked and showered with generosity. I love the way Justin Bieber handles his fans – he acknowledges that his success depends entirely upon them, not him, and expresses his gratitude often. You can feel he is genuine about that.

Fourthly, your story is the edited version of your life that reflects your USP. It only includes events that are emotionally and logically consistent with the niche you are seeking to create empathy with. I have had a lot of challenges with my sexuality – do I include that in my story? Only if I am running a dating site! As with writing headlines, when you write your story know who you are writing it for. Show how you faced the same challenges they faced, felt the same emotions they felt, dealt with the very problems for which they seek your help.

Fifthly, your story is always ongoing. Notice how I ended my tale above like a soap opera – ending a chapter, but making clear there’s more (which I have written). This is your definitive story – which can be available front and centre on your website, or delivered by a series of step emails, or posted out as a booklet, or given away free as a download, or made into an audio or video. How you deliver your story depends upon your niche’s media proclivities. Alongside your definitive story, there is your “what is happening now” story by twitter, facebook, email, articles, faxes, podcasts, videos, teleseminars –whatever media matches your niche.

Lastly, the purpose of your story is to deliver a communication that allows you to concisely present what would otherwise be complex information.

So it’s time. Go write your story.

TOMORROW: You Can Solve Just About Any Problem With A Sales Letter
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