I make a point of reminding myself to weave the “forward and up” directions of AT into all my activities. Of course I often am sidetracked and forget – becoming wrapped up in achieving a more specific goal (particularly if whatever I am doing is time-sensitive). Then I remind myself again.
When, a couple of times a day, I create the opportunity to really give the directions first place in my attention, I notice a myriad of small changes. First of all is a sense that time has been set aside for this very purpose and nothing seems more important – that in itself is an extraordinarily quieting notion. “It’s time to give my directions some thought, and that’s what I’m doing.”
After about ten minutes, my whole self seems to become longer and lighter (this is a common observation among people who practice AT). But I also find that my sense of possibility continues to open up, and I am aware that whatever beneficial changes I have already brought about are indeed observable, and I become curious to see what more can be achieved.
Perhaps I will spend only twenty minutes, first in semi-supine and then seating myself and raising myself from a chair, slowly and repeatedly. For those twenty minutes I will stop any expectation of a reaching some benchmark sensation or physical goal, but just let the lengthening, widening and breathing improve, then going a bit longer to see if I might lengthen, widen and breathe a bit more.
Those twenty minutes of practice are discrete from all the other twenty-minute sessions I might do in the future. Each session tends to have its own character and progression in terms of what seems to need particular attendance – always coming back to my neck and back softening, widening and lengthening, my head lifting and tipping the tiniest bit forward, like an almost undiscernible tip of a hat, and letting all my extremities – arms and fingers, legs and toes – have that little bit more freedom and expansion, coming out from my center, like points of a star.
Yet over many practice sessions, there is an accrual of past experiences that seem to add up, incrementally. Sometimes there is what seems a bit like an “event” – a new level of skill and freedom is observable – but I have become accustomed to enjoying that, as it comes, and not expecting to “be there” when I return to my next session.
Each session begins in a new place, and ends in a new place. Very often the mood or set of concerns I set aside when I begin a session are not there when I emerge. It is a kind of “reset.” It is very pleasurable to note how things that are bothering me fall away, because they are beside the task at hand.
This is the relatively ideal or easy part of the work. Just as beneficial – even more, perhaps – takes place in the middle of demanding activity when we can manage to direct while attending to the activity, and incorporate the directions into the activity (or perhaps, adapt the activity to the well-directed self). Next time I notice I’m doing this, I will take time afterwards to write about it.