I discovered years ago that I, like most people, have a tendency to keep different aspects of my life separate, and that this habit of compartmentalizing things is not at all conducive to living the fullest, best expression of myself as a whole person.
Over the years, I have been countering that habitual tendency to split and divide myself and my attention by practicing the Alexander Technique, and applying it to consciously unify and coordinate my body, mind, soul and spirit in all areas of my life.
I am interested in doing this in large part because I observe that I am happier and much more effective in all that I do when I am thinking and acting from my whole self instead of leaving parts of myself out of my experience. For example, the more I make music from my whole self, the more I and my audience enjoy it, and the more the quality of the music and the experience improves.
Here’s a brief illustration of how I used to think before, compared to how I prefer to think now:
Depending on my activity in any given moment, I used to take on one of the following roles as I thought appropriate, behaving something like a chameleon:
I am defining myself, and identifying myself as a…
Alexander Technique teacher
Family relative (daughter, niece, aunt, etc.)
Rather than think of myself as taking on a specific role in relation to the task or person at hand,
I realize that I am…
Aware of having an experience of myself as myself – who I am – in this current moment. I am aware of thinking, feeling, believing, or doing (or not) whatever I am thinking, feeling, believing, or doing (or not) in this present moment.”
By giving precedence to the conscious awareness of my experience of self, this way of being in the world keeps me firmly rooted in an unchanging center; whereas the first way of being gives priority to constantly changing parts over the whole.
If I pay more attention to the parts than the whole of me, I will experience myself as divided and separate from other aspects of myself, and I will feel torn and conflicted because parts of me are being ignored or judged as less important than others. It will be difficult to keep my life in balance this way, because I will often feel like parts of my life are being neglected; those parts of me will tend to communicate their sense of being abandoned or neglected by calling out to me through feelings of discontentment or even pain.
I will also tend to feel separate from the world outside of me, as I give priority to some parts of my life and people over the others. I will tend to feel guilty for neglecting one area while paying more attention to another.
For instance, if I am paying a great deal of attention to practicing my violin for upcoming concerts, thinking of myself as a “violinist” above all, I may start to neglect my family or my students, putting them lower on a hierarchy list of importance. The “mother” or “wife” or “teacher” aspects of myself will then begin to feel guilty very soon for not living up to my high standards for those other areas of my life. Because I play both modern and baroque violins, I may even start to feel guilty about neglecting the modern violin if I spend months practicing and performing mostly on the baroque violin.
Contrast this way of thinking with the new way, in which I don’t identify myself with ANY specific role over another at any time. Instead, I know myself as pure awareness of my experience of the present moment, and whatever comes into my life in the present moment is what receives my focused and undivided attention. Everything is referenced back to myself, my experience of it, and my awareness of that experience.
All of this may sound very abstract and maybe even unintelligible – it that’s the case for you, that’s ok! Understanding all the details of what I’m saying isn’t the most important thing; understanding that there are two clear and simple ways of living, and then choosing one, is all that really matters.
The choice before us is very simple. Either we continue to indulge the habit of separation, or we STOP doing that, allowing everything to exist as a unified whole. The first way creates fear and unhappiness; the second nurtures being, consciousness, and bliss. One way gives precedence to BEING; the other, to DOING.
I prefer to choose the way that keeps me and my world centered, coordinated, integrated, and whole; as opposed to the habitual way that makes me feel separate from myself and the world around me, divided, guilty, and stressed.
Which way do you prefer to live?
Do you prefer to take on roles which are dependent on your circumstances, or to know yourself as the pure awareness which does not change, even as it reflects and experiences the constantly changing environments within and around us?
Do you prefer separation, fear, and darkness? Or union, love, and light? Which do you choose, right now?
The music that emerges from you, by the way, will reflect your choice in direct proportion to your degree of resolve. Your listeners may not be consciously aware of the projection of your choice, but hearts will always be able to discern the difference between the two ways of being.
So, if you wish your music to move hearts and souls, including your own, it’s best to be centered in your awareness of your experience of the present moment – moment by moment. Play from your whole self, not from your identification of yourself as a musician or a violinist or a professional or an amateur.
Don’t limit or define yourself! Choose to withhold definition of yourself, and just be who you are, right now: the whole you that you are! You’ll see – it’s a miraculously wonderful thing to simply BE pure awareness.
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