My jetlag is slowly fading, but the most incredible memories remain from my two weeks teaching for BodyChance in Japan!
As I sit here, sipping hot soba tea, there are a number of amazing stories that I’d like to share with you. I’ll start with one that moved me deeply, as told by Michiko Hatakenaka, about her husband Yosuke Kusonoki’s revelatory experience listening to me play the violin during the 5-day residential retreat in Gotenba:
“Thank you, Jennifer Roig-Francoli, for the great performance you showed us at the Golden Week Retreat in Gotenba. My husband Yosuke couldn’t hear from his right ear for 30 years due to conductive hearing loss from an operation when he was a kid. But when he was listening to your violin, he discovered that he didn’t have to define [limit himself to believing] that he can’t hear, because he can feel and hear from his whole body. He can still feel and hear the vibration of music from many different sensory systems, even through skull and bone. He said he heard the slight sound of your violin through his right ear when he gave away his definition not to hear!”
Yosuke told me what had happened when we said our goodbyes at the end of the retreat, and his wife told me it seemed miraculous. He later added,
“My right ear woke up from the silence and restarted to try and catch sounds from your violin. I clearly remember the moment I decided not to hear from the right side at 10 years old when I took a phone call and put it on the left ear (before that I used to put it on the right). Through your violin, I found that I was the one who had denied my right ear, and I am so sorry. Thank you for the beautiful experience.”
I can only imagine what this new sensation must have meant to him, after not hearing anything in his right ear for so many years. I feel so humbled to have played a part in waking up his awareness to hear in new ways, with his whole self!
This story is such a wonderful reminder to us all not to limit ourselves by any beliefs we have about ourselves – even something as seemingly obvious as believing that we are deaf in one ear if the hearing nerves have been cut. Yet, can we ever be 100% sure about anything?! I don’t think so.
The most important thing that I have learned (and continue to learn) from the Alexander Technique is to stay open to All-Possibility.
I have been taught this lesson over and over again, as the Alexander Technique shows us to open our mind-body-selves to the endless mysteries and surprises of Life. One of the ways we can stay open to All-Possibility is to withhold definition (in the words of master AT teacher, Tommy Thompson): definition of who we are, what we are capable of, what the world is…to withhold definition of what is possible. When we do this, we are opening the door for unexpected miracles to happen.
Learning to Listen with the Whole Self
Yosuke’s story reminded me of an inspiring encounter I had with the remarkable musician, drummer Evelyn Glennie, who is profoundly deaf – in both ears. I was a member of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra at the time, and Ms. Glennie was the soloist. She performed barefoot in order to fully receive the orchestra’s vibrations through the floor into her whole body, and her performances were absolutely spectacular – technically flawless and musically rich.
Through her, I learned that hearing with our ears is only one aspect of listening; allowing vibrations to enter into the whole self is a much deeper and more expansive way of listening.
This is what Yosuke opened up to when he was listening to me play, while withholding definition of himself and what was possible, in the context of a five-day immersion in the BodyChance Method of the Alexander Technique.
Ms. Glennie has a wonderful TED talk on this topic, which can be accessed here: How to Truly Listen.
Remembering Evelyn Glennie’s example gave me the courage to start performing without my shoes on a few years ago, which I do often, even in places such as Carnegie Hall. I hope to write more about that in an upcoming blogpost! (And stay tuned for new blogpost translations coming up IN JAPANESE!!, offered by another student inspired by my visit!)
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