“Where there is a depth of awareness, there is reverence for presence.
Where consciousness is dulled, distant, or blind the presence grows faint.”
– John O’Donohue
“Awareness” is a word that often used to puzzle me.
It was an idea I looked for in the ether, that I equated with enlightenment. Once I became an Alexander teacher, I discovered that awareness is the marriage of a physical and mental experience meeting the world around a person at any given moment. The key is discovering how to meet the world in any given moment. It is truly by using and noticing the world around us with our fabulous senses – touch, hearing, taste, kinesthesia, vision – that we can meet the world and as F.M. Alexander would say, “be in relation to” it. This common principle of Alexander technique means that when we are in a space of noticing, we can feel our own physicality, and notice our thoughts as we meet the world around us with our senses.
When I look back on my fondest memories: my Dad surprising me with a raspberry, seeing a momma bear care for her cubs in the wild, eating gelato while watching the sunset from a shore in Italy, I realize that it took something waking up multiple senses that made me feel truly alive, because it was such a physical experience. What if we could access that awareness at any given moment to bring us out of our day to day autopilot and into a full “aware” experience of life?
This is one of the beautiful things Alexander Technique can do for us: to offer us access points out of living on autopilot and into our physical experience of life, which as a result gives us access to new tools for ease and coordination in our bodies, helps us notice our thought patterns, and truly feel alive.
When we come more into awareness with our physical being in the world, we can truly discover the beauty within us. One of my favorite authors, John O’Donohue, defines beauty as “the luminosity of presence.” Presence can be defined as repetitively meeting the world with awareness through our senses and physical being. This does not mean we need to be aware and present every second of our life, as quite frankly, that would be exhausting. It is useful to be able to tap into our presence to offer other options to habitual thought patterns or body patterns that may not be serving us.
I see Alexander Technique teachers use their hands and words to bring a person into relationship with the present moment and therefore reveal their innate beauty. Physical awareness, even the simple act of touching or smelling something, makes a huge ripple effect on one’s whole life because you begin to notice yourself in relationship to everything around you. When we disconnect with ourselves by slipping into auto-pilot, or getting lost in thoughts about work, or absorbed by a digital screen, we usually lose a sense of our physical being in the world. All it takes is noticing the disconnection, which can take a millisecond, and then choosing awareness through our senses to bring us back to our physical experience.
How do we slow down long enough in our busy world to come out of our habitual auto-pilot? Before my Alexander training, I thought that slowing down would take hours of meditation and yoga classes. I would attempt these practices without physical presence because I didn’t understand what that meant, and therefore experienced multiple injuries. However, upon beginning my Alexander training, I began to take second-long pauses during these practices, and slowly my ability to be present in both mind and body began to develop.
To this day, I still pause to actively bring my awareness to the present through my senses especially when I am stressed or doing a high pressure activity. It is amazing how taking a little pause here and there to notice our state of being can create change in our physical body and soul. This is one of the many ways that you can apply Alexander Technique to anything in your daily life – take moments through your day to pause, even for a second, to notice your full being. These moments are actually key to our ability to slow down, to add consistent self care into our lives, and create the conditions to reconnect with our innate beauty. Give yourself pauses in the music you sing, in the food you cook, in the moments you get ready to start your day, and you will renew your presence and constantly discover your inner beauty.
Darci Balkcom is a part of the TVF faculty and a certified Alexander Technique teacher. She is a passionate educator and bases all of her teaching including voice and yoga on the principles of F.M Alexander. Based in New Mexico, Darci spends her time teaching privately and at the New Mexico School for the Arts, making music, and snuggling up with her big German Shepherd.