In my last article, I wrote about “stretching your attention muscles” instead of “focusing.” Here’s another reason why not to concentrate and what to do instead.
When you try hard, you lose touch with your self
Working with a massage therapist who came for Alexander Technique lessons, we arrived at the root of the pain and fatigue that was beginning to interfere with his livelihood. He was trying so hard to do what he assumed was expected by his clients that he was hurting himself with his efforts to “do it right”. And he focused all of his attention on his clients, only later noticing the consequences of what he was doing to himself.
Naturally, he wants to provide a good service, and many of his clients come for the hard massage he gives. But by not focusing exclusively on the goal of a “proper” massage and broadening his awareness to include himself, his work became easier and enjoyable again. He learned to coordinate himself in a way that he could apply force without damaging his own body. He’s busier than ever now, without the pain and more able to use his energy effectively.
When we put all our attention on our goal, not only do we interfere with our innate coordination, as I wrote in my last article, we forget about how we are treating ourselves, and we tend to pay for that later with sore joints and muscles.
However, if we are curious rather than furiously concentrated, we begin to notice more. We begin to notice what we are doing with our own selves. When we realize that, we realize that change can happen, that we can stop making ourselves hurt.
As you practice the Alexander Technique, paying attention to your self – and giving your self permission to “not do” unnecessary effort – becomes second nature. Curiously checking in with your self to discover how you are using your self becomes part of how you go about your activity. And the great thing is, you can’t get it wrong! There’s nothing to get wrong. You’re just noticing. And when you notice something “wrong,” that’s when you’re headed in the “right” direction.
The next time you are trying hard to do something or to get something right, see if you can notice something about your self. Invite your self to pause and wonder what’s going on in your neck. Are you making a “this-is-hard” face? Does it help you to do what you want to do? Can you notice something about your surroundings as well as what you are focusing on? What changes? Try narrowing your focus and then let it open up to include your self as well as the sounds and sights around you. Which way makes it easier to move? Which way helps you think more clearly?
I’m curious to know what you find! Write me and tell me about your experiment of concentrating vs expanding your attention.
Stay tuned for the next two reasons why not to concentrate and what to do instead! See summer class information below, including the 6-week class in Missoula starting 7/9 and a donation-based class in Charlo. Don’t miss out!
Wishing you a fantastic summer!