I’m back home in warm, sunny Long Beach, CA after 8 days of teaching in New York City. Like all of my visits to NYC, it was a full and fabulous trip. I always leave feeling refreshed, grateful, exhausted, and inspired. The turbulent six hour flight home Friday night, without Wi-Fi, provided me with plenty of time to reflect back on my trip.
For the third year in a row, I presented a Body Mapping class at SUNY Stony Brook. This was my most diverse class there yet, with a nice variety of instrumentalists. Afterwards, each student expressed their gratitude for the class, saying how helpful it was, and that they already were seeing and hearing some noticeable improvements. Yes!
The next day, my friend Carol Wincenc and I presented our 2nd annual, “Day of Musical Rejuvenation” in Manhattan. We had a lovely group of flutists, vocalists, as well as a pianist. Everyone participated in a Body Mapping class, some performed in a “tag team” style master class, and an evening recital. We enjoyed great food and great conversations…what a day it was! There were many aha moments, but one of the highlights for me was working with a musician who, when I first met her last year, was dealing with an injury. Over the course of the year, she sought out the advice from a doctor and bought the Body Mapping book specifically for her instrument. She went on to explain that between taking a break from playing (doctor’s orders) and working with the Body Mapping book, she was able to get on the other side of her injury. Her performances at the class and recital were extraordinary, and she totally brought the house down! Another highlight was standing with Carol on the street at the end of the day, watching a group of the students share their contact information, and make plans for when they’ll see one another again. That right there was what it’s all about; the camaraderie, the friendships, the bonding. The relationships we form with one another at master classes and the like, are often lifelong. Some will become our friends, and often our colleagues, too. I can think back to many master classes and summer camps I participated in when I was a student and some of those musicians are my friends and colleagues today. In fact, some may even be reading this! (Hi!) Needless to say, Carol and I agreed we need to do this again next year, and the year after, and the year after…
It was a treat to work both privately and in master class settings with some of the finest young musicians from The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, SUNY Stony Brook, Mannes, and even a couple of international students who are currently in New York, studying with Robert Dick this fall semester.
What trip to New York would be complete without the “Only in NY” happenings? This pretty much includes those things you only see and hear in New York.
If you’ve spent time in NY, you know exactly what I mean. The guy walking down Broadway dressed as King Tut, with his patient and loyal yellow Lab dressed as a lion. No it wasn’t Halloween. Or the lady hailing a cab, dressed to the nines, holding either an end table or bench on her back – not entirely sure which. Or the people that insist on pushing you further into the ridiculously over-crowed 1 train. Even though there is zero room, and I’m wearing my instrument on my back, they mutter a few expletives, and shove some more. Oh yes, and let’s not forget the incessant, non-stop horn honking, for seemingly no reason whatsoever. Seriously, does it ever stop? Perhaps my favorite though, was the wise older woman who, when I thought I left my new iPhone in a local shop, repeatedly said “check yeh bay-ug” about 8 times. I finally listened to her, checked my bag and then she walked away saying “with women, I’m tellin’ you, it’s ALWAYS in thah bay-ug.”
There were a few low points this trip, for example losing my unlimited weekly Metro Card two days and three swipes in. When I told a few locals about it, they replied, “Yeah. I’ve been there. That sucks.” My response? To really show the MTA, not spend another dime on the subway, and walk 40 blocks back to where I was staying. I felt so proud of myself, like I beat the system. That’s right! I beat The Man! That was until I woke up the next day to pouring rain and had to buy another Metro Card.
And, then there was the epic, two day process of replacing my iPhone that died. That was fun. First world problem, I know, but still…
And finally, on the way to JFK Friday afternoon, my Uber driver and I were involved in a hit-and-run car accident. Some guy rear ended us, which made us hit the woman in front of us. Much to my surprise, my Uber driver went above and beyond and got me to JFK in the nick of time. I’m fine, by the way. Sore, but fine.
Despite the low points of the trip, I managed to find ways to integrate Body Mapping into those situations.
Let’s go back to the 1 train: By allowing my hip, knee and ankle joints to remain free and unlocked, I could stand on the most crowded train, without hanging on, and not lose balance. Locking up would immediately compromise my ability to go along with the natural ebb and flow of the moving train. For students, or anyone trying to map these areas, especially the ever ambiguous hip joints, keep this in mind the next time you’re riding the subway, or BART train, or whatever public transportation you take that requires you to stand.
How about the lost Metro Card and the long walk uptown that followed? For the first few blocks, I’ll admit it, I was pretty steamed. But, then something really cool happened, I started enjoying the walk. Like really really enjoying the walk. Taking it all in. Using my inclusive awareness to stay present and experience 40+ blocks with all of my senses 100% aware; the feel of the crisp fall air, the various aromas floating out of restaurants, and the spectacular colors of changing leaves on the trees. I happily took it all in and thought, “I love the fall! How cool that I get to be here to enjoy it!”
Let’’s take a look at the car accident: Admittedly, I was quite shaken up, and if it weren’t for my thoughtful Uber driver Sanck, I wouldn’t have made my flight. He got me there and took care of filing the police report after dropping me off. After getting on the plane I thought, “This is going to be a loonnngg flight.” But then I remembered another body mapping colleague’s “Constructive Rest on Airplanes” app” (I know, right? What are the odds?). The next 30 minutes were spent listening to that and it was exactly what I needed. I use this app often, but this time it really made all the difference in the world. Thank you, David Nesmith, for this helpful app.
Here’s the thing, Body Mapping isn’t just about how we use our selves with our instruments, and it isn’t just for people in the performing arts. It’s about how we use our selves, and it’s for everyone.
I offer these considerations for you:
Take a moment the next time you’re chopping onions and check in with your head, neck and arms. Are you hunched over the counter, carrying tension in your shoulders as you madly chop away?
Think about how you are seated at your computer the next time you sit down to write a long email? Are you balanced over your sit bones and reminding yourself to keep your head balanced on top of your spine?
How about your comfort level while driving your car? Can you let go of the tension in your jaw when you’re sitting in bumper to bumper traffic?
Schlepping something heavy around, like a giant backpack stuffed with books? Start carrying it with both straps, so you can evenly distribute the weight, and then try to allow the front of your spine to help you out. The front of our spines are meant for weight bearing and weight delivery, not the back. Organize yourself around the front of your spine and see if that backpack feels a little more manageable.
Tune in and open up your awareness. You may just surprise your self.