When I teach Alexander Technique, I put a lot of emphasis on the importance of vision. How we look out at the world can have a profound effect on both posture and levels of muscular tension. But we can also work with sound. Here are some ideas to explore.
- Sit or stand, and keep your eyes open. You don’t have to be in any special location. Listen to the sounds around you. Try not to judge whether they are pleasant or not. Just listen.
- Are the sounds coming from near or far? Be aware of the space between you and the source of the sound. Don’t listen out, let the sounds come in to you.
- Do certain kinds of sounds grab your attention more than others? Human voices are very appealing. The trick is to spread your attention around the sound-scape, including all the other background sounds as well as the voices.
- Stay aware of what is happening to your vision. Have you glazed over visually in order to listen? You don’t need to, in fact that will lead to a narrowing of focus that leads to increased levels of mental and muscular tension. Keep your vision wide and open, let the world come in to you. You are dividing up your attention between sound and vision without giving precedence to either one.
- Monitor how long you can do this for without becoming tired, glazing over or losing awareness. It may not be long at first, and there are no prizes. 30 seconds done well is better than 30 minutes done with effort and strain.
- Try this at your desk. You can change focus from working on a task to listening without your boss noticing the difference, for a sneaky refreshment break on a busy day.
- Take it for a walk! Move through space but stay open visually and with sound. The world is full of life and rhythm. You’ll be amazed at what you discover.
On my recent walks in Bloomsbury I’ve been struck by how loud blackbirds sing, and how many people are sneezing. Also the ‘whoosh’ of cars passing by is quite pleasant when you frame it as sound not noise. Give it a try and share your discoveries in the comments below.