I was at the filling station corner of Flood and Main, just across from Norman High, in Norman, Oklahoma. I was walking in front of the car, chest high, posing quite a bit for the young female in the passenger’s seat. Getting back in the car—having fulfilled my manly duties inside—she happened to say: I like the way you walk. I remember it vividly. It was a replay of a baseball story. A pitcher, first time at bat in the season, slashed a home run. So what did you think of that, coach, was the post-game question. Worst thing that could have happened to him, the coach growled. And so it was for me.
From that point on, I was conscious of presenting myself, chest high, shoulders back, head held high. And when I began having debilitating back pain in my twenties, I did not make a connection. Why would my lower back be in such a mess? The pain became more frequent and crippling. I spent days on the floor, crawling about only when nature dictated.
Enter now, a gifted teacher of the Alexander Technique. And no, I didn’t go because of back pain, but because some of my singing pupils were doing so well with voice lessons plus Alexander work. And, from that point on, my back pain diminished until it was no longer a factor. Until that is, and rather ironically, a recent convention of teachers of Alexander Technique. And it’s not that unusual. Surprisingly, way too much sitting, extended plane travel, bad mattress, and perhaps, some enforced uprightness on my part (filling station redux). So the Alexander Technique is no panacea. It is in fact a technique, a skill, a means of artful self care. It celebrates not your facade, but your three dimensional self, having a back for goodness sake. It teaches us not so much to present our selves as to occupy our selves. Imagine your self, then, not advancing, not going forward as you walk, but existing in a stream of dissolving nows, images in a stop-motion photograph trailing behind. Feel that gravitas. Move, walk, and run in it, and forget the filling station. Maybe there is such a moment in your life, not so bad, sweet really, but it really might be time to do something different. Occupy your self.