The essential pause: wait to worry

Posted by Jeanne Barrett on February 19, 2023 in Uncategorized

Our current times include concerns on a scale from personal to global and back again.  Since life brings unexpected challenges and ongoing demands,  there are ample opportunities to form a worry habit.  Like any habit, the more we react to stimuli in a contracted manner, the more the habitual reaction becomes a default setting of sorts.  Worry (or anger, irritation, impatience) begins to weave into who we are and how we move through life. We are using the instrument of self in the same way over and over again, bracing for uncertainty.  This does not help us remain effective in response to the surprises of life.

Alexander tools of intention and attention can potentially improve our emotional regulation and reduce the seeming helplessness of habit.

We all think, move, feel and sense with our entire instrument of self. No mode (thought, sensation, movement, emotion) can be plucked out of the context of our integrated self. We have choice in response, but only if we allow the time and quiet to seek means of indirection.

With any worry, irritation, or impatience, I only recognize and name the emotion because of physical and mental cues:  my facial muscles harden and narrow, I fix my shoulders, my attention shrinks.  Heart rate increases, respiration becomes more shallow.  Mental chatter gets noisier, looping unhelpfully. I am less aware of the space around me.  Where can I begin to shift this experience?

Attempting to change an emotion directly (by repressing, ignoring or exploring) generally proves counter productive, and may even deepen worry mode.  Directly changing a muscular response disrupts the entire balance of tone and is likely to produce undesirable results. You can’t change a part of the system without affecting the entire support system.

Asking for overall quiet begins to shift the gears.  Allowing time and seeing/hearing outside myself shifts the rhythm of the gears.  Less chatter, more connection and curiosity.

Change comes in increments.  Allowing time is not a freeze but a chosen, momentary pause.  Overall quiet is not a deadening but a broader curiosity: what might happen if I allow a moment before bracing?  Can I allow my Alexander teacher to sit or stand me without worrying about getting it right? Noticing where my attention is and making a choice in that regard reduces the helplessness of habit.  I can wait to worry, even for a heartbeat.

I have time to let the bus arrive, wait for lab results, board a plane according to rows.  If I need to quiet, I can take a break from the news.  While I allow time and quiet, new experiences might happen.  The bus is late, but I hear seasonal bird songs.  I don’t read the news and rush less to get ready for work. I can wait for information instead of bracing in advance, and remain effective in response.

I can choose my attention, allow intention to inform me, and see what happens next.

Happy curiosity works best.