I have Shabbos lunch with friends. I’ve known them for about a decade but haven’t been to their home in a year.
“What’s the matter, Luke?” asks the hostess at the end of the meal. “You haven’t said anything inappropriate all meal? We even have two single women here.”
I’m usually the king of inappropriate. At previous Shabbos meals, I’ve asked Jewish women in law school whether such an education encourages traits in the Jewess that would be better off discouraged.
I’ve also asked them their opinion of Philip Roth’s unparalleled insights into the Jewish woman.
During Succoth, I’ve asked them if they’d like to come back to my place and shake my lulav.
“Two years of Alexander Technique,” I say today. “I used to be easily triggered. I was stuck in startle response and when I’d get a stimuli, I’d go into fight or flight. My habitual reactions didn’t serve me well. I could shut up with great effort or I could interact from a disturbed place. Those were my choices. Because my head-neck relationship was disturbed, my whole self was disturbed. Now I’ve found freedom and poise.”
When I was a kid, people said I looked like a Holocaust survivor. I was that depressed.
I’ve been a bit off since then in the way I relate to myself and to others.
Even after years of therapy, I was still making inappropriate remarks on a regular basis.
Even after decades of God and Torah, I was still a shmuck.
I was locked and loaded in my body, just a gun waiting to go off.
People these days ask me if I’m tranquil because I’m more religious or because of the beard and the responsibility of representing Judaism to the world or is it the psycho-therapy or am I just getting older, perhaps I’m maturing at long last? Well, maybe all these helped, but the main thing that has changed me (and taken most of my money!) the past two years has been Alexander Technique.
I’ve learned to let go of the some of the unhelpful ways I’ve traditionally responded to life. I’m not stuck in a 24/7 pattern of fight or flight. I’m not compressing myself as much, not shoving all my organs and frustrations together in a downward cycle of needless tension and reduced functioning. Because I am more competent and graceful with the tasks of daily life, I’m not as angry with myself and with others. I’m not as frustrated with my body and with my life and I’m not as needy for cheap thrills and instant releases.
I feel more tranquil these days. I had many opportunities to feel ill at ease over Rosh Hashanah, but I kept telling myself to allow my neck to be free so my head could release forward and up, so I could let go of my tendency to hunch my shoulders and to instead think them out wide to the sides and to think of my back lengthening and widening while I considered my arms emerging from my back and their length down to my elbows and from there to my hands and then to my fingers, letting them uncurl out of my formerly locked fists.
Because I am more at ease with myself, I pick fewer fights and don’t need my fists as much.
I’m OK with myself. I’m OK with the way I walk and talk, sit and stand, blog and blunder. I no longer compress myself as much when I feel awkward and hence my feelings of dis-ease are reduced. I rarely stiffen my neck these days and thereby cramp my entire body (there are more joints in your neck than any other part of your body, hence if you tighten there, you will wrap your body in an ever-tightening straight-jacket of bad habits).
I’ve learned to let go of the layers of unnecessary tension that cramped me for decades. I have a little more length and width these days, and with it more freedom and poise, peace and joy.
“Would you like me to thank my Alexander Technique teachers for you?” I asked today. “Am I easier to host and to have around?”
“Yes!” responded the table in one giant chorus.
Chaim Amalek emails: Which has helped Luke more in life? Judaism, or Alexander technique? The impression left by Luke’s writings since discovering the latter is that Alexander technique has helped a lot more than has obedience to the rabbinate. Which leads to this obvious question:: Luke, if you had discovered Alexander Technique before coming across Dennis Prager, would you still have become an orthodox Jew? One imagines you instead a successful journalist, his opinions sought after by others, and his posture and breathing always correct.