Jacob Heringman, lutenist - Diary
There have been interesting responses to yesterdayís Diary entry, from Andrew Keeling in his Diary, from "Nat Fly" in the Guestbook, and in private emails from friends. Lots of food for thought, which I will sleep on.
Iíve just spent about 4 Ĺ hours with Kenneth Bť, and art conservator and enthusiastic (and skilled) amateur lutenist from Cleveland. Heís over in London to supervise the installation of a priceless painting which the National Gallery here is borrowing from Cleveland, and he came to dinner and to try out some of my lutes. It was an interesting and enjoyable evening.
Zan returns tomorrow from her week in France. Unfortunately Iíll be away performing in Lincoln when she gets here, but if all goes well (i.e., if my train doesnít get blown off the tracks in these gales), weíll be together by about 1 AM.
Monday afternoon. Hideously wet and windy outside. Yesterday evening, a thunderstorm! In February! Freakish weather.
Saturdayís concert in Lincoln went well. Getting there and back was a disaster. There were no trains between London and Peterborough due to downed power lines at Hitchin in the high winds. So the so-called "Great Northeastern Railway" company had to ferry passengers between London Kings Cross and Peterborough all day on buses. Not pleasant. And not quick. So we arrived late for the rehearsal. Luckily it didnít matter in the end. The concert went quite well really. Getting back was equally tricky, and I fell into bed at around a quarter to three yesterday morning. Yesterday I lay pretty low. Zan returned Saturday afternoon from her week in France, so we were able to have our first quiet evening together last night.
Zan is now decorating furiously -- weíre in a major phase of doing things to the house. Weíll shortly be going out to see friends for supper.
Itís a quiet Wednesday evening; Zan is on the phone to Jane, while Iím making calls and sending emails at my desk.
Last night, we were treated to a wonderful meal by our friend Bill (of Fretwork), celebrating his fiftieth birthday. He produced some marvellous wines that he bought 20 years ago, and had been cellaring ever since. It was a truly fabulous treat. Iím not used to drinking fine old wines, though. They have a powerful effect on the body. I awoke at 0530 this morning after less than five hoursí sleep, and that was about the end of my sleep for the night. I got up feeling somewhat hung over, and left a bit late for "school", but made up time by running part of the way there. By the time I arrived, I felt absolutely fine. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the exercise had invigorated me. Exercise is a wonderful thing. Itís good for a hangover, for depression, for stress, etc. Doesnít take much. 40 minutes of brisk walking makes a world of difference. And itís nice to see that Iíve got so much more energy since I started the course. I can feel the Alexander Technique work giving me energy as I do it.
A lot of scrambling is going on at the moment, trying to sort out the cover art for the Jane Pickeringe disc, which will be released in about six weeks. Unforeseen problems have arisen regarding the image we had been hoping to use.
I taught my lute pupil Georg this evening. It was a stimulating lesson for both of us, I think. My teaching is growing more confident. Iím now less often afraid of teaching, and I less often feel afraid that I might have nothing useful to say to a pupil. I find myself now better able to approach teaching in a spirit of exploration and discovery. I donít feel that my job is to convey knowledge necessarily; I see it more as enabling them to learn for themselves.
Good heavens! Has it been sixteen days since I last wrote?
Actually, thereís not a lot to catch up on. Things have been ticking along in what feels to me like a thoroughly uneventful and rather mundane way.
On the training course front, Iím on my week-long half-term break at the moment. Iím halfway through the second term (of nine), and therefore I suppose Iím one sixth of the way towards becoming a teacher of the Alexander Technique. However, as I think Iíve written before, I donít see that outcome as an end particularly. Like a true Alexandroid (donít worry about the end, focus on the "means whereby") Iím much more focussed on the process, the "how". The result (becoming a qualified AT teacher, I hope) is almost incidental. Iíve always felt that even if I decide at the end of this training that I donít want to make a career out of teaching the AT, the three years spent in this work will have been the best thing I could ever have done for myself as a human being (apart from marrying Zan, of course).
The last few weeks have not been easy, though. I think my last couple of diary entries mention some of the "intrapersonal" barriers Iíve been running into. They are still very much there. The thing to do is examine them, accept them, get to know them, recognise that they are I and I am they, "breathe into them", as my friend Gerald would say. Donít try to do away with them by violence. That would be violence to the self.
I donít know if any of this makes any sense to anyone other than myself, but if it does, and if it is helpful to anyone, so much the better. If not, tough.
On the work front, Iíve been practising a lot for Virelaiís Renaissance Love Songs CD, which includes some extremely challenging music, and Iíve also been working on choosing the music for my next solo lute project, The Siena Lute Book. What fun!
Iíve also been dealing, as everyone must, with the rather large numbers of things that simply arise and need doing from day to day. To my frustration (Yes, youíve noticed! Iím never satisfied), the five hours a day spent on the course, plus the two or three spent on the lute, plus dealing with matters that need dealing with, plus teaching the lute privately to the odd pupil, plus an afternoon a week helping out at Fretwork Editions, plus the odd quiet evening with Zan -- these things fill the days to such an extent that Iím not getting any time at all to read. I love to read, and Iíve such a pile of books which Iíd like to get stuck into. These include, among other things, the writings of FM Alexander and related writings, which should form an important part of my period of training.
Never mind, when I stop to think about it, things are going beautifully.
Sunday evening. Zan is back from France, tired but satisfied with the way the performances went. But rather than resting on her laurels, sheís spent the afternoon (and will probably spend part of the evening) trying urgently to arrange the travel for Fretworkís next trip, and preparing madly for a lecture-recital that sheís giving at Birmingham University tomorrow. This is one of the hardest things -- having to keep going when you really need to stop and rest. Worst of all, she has to leave the house at 0615 tomorrow, to get to Birmingham in time.
Iím back on the course from tomorrow morning, and have suddenly realized that tonight is my last chance to do something vacation-like, such as reading a book. Iím afraid I have, as usual, put in too many hours at my desk and at my computer these last few days. Yes, there are things to do, but Iíve been doing them inefficiently. Iíve been doing the usual thing, which is to fill the available time with busy-ness, so as to leave myself no time to relax. Canít think why I do that to myselfÖ.
On a positive note, however, Iíve greatly enjoyed the hours spent practising the lute each day.
Wet and windy (see Andrew Keelingís Diary -- in London, itís much the same).
Weíre both at home, and Iím two days back into the school thing -- I can feel the energy returning to my body and mind. There is a noticeable surge of energy in me when Iím immersed in the Alexander work. It must be the right thing for me! Thereís also the odd fact that I get bouts of insomnia when Iím immersed in the work. Itís almost as if Iím so alive that I need less sleep. And yet I come home pretty sleepy from a morning at "school". Maybe the ideal is six or seven hoursí sleep at night, plus an hour in the afternoon.
Iíve been thinking a lot about the question of the mind/body split. Alexander people hold that the mind and body are inseparable; we are a "psychophysical unity". I believe this too. And yet in our daily lives, we talk so often as if they were separate.
I feel a pull in my lower back, and I say: "Aha! Thereís tension in my lower back. I must get rid of it." This suggests a separation of the mind (the "I" who must get rid of "it") and the body (the seat of the tension). How about an alternative, less "end-gaining" approach, whereby I say: "Ok, thereís a tension in my back. This is I at the moment. The tension is a part of me, and thereís no point in distancing myself from it because thatís impossible. Instead of beating myself up by glaring disapprovingly at the tension and trying fixedly to eliminate it, Iím going to accept that it is who I am at the moment, and look perhaps at where it comes from -- what larger pattern does it fit into?" By doing this, and continuing to direct my thoughts toward all the things that keep the system free and poised -- chiefly, keeping the neck free, as it happens -- I am likely to find that the individual manifestation of habit, which happens in this instance to take the form of tension in the back, will dissolve by itself. "Look after the means, and the ends will take care of themselves."
Similarly, if I wake at 4 in the morning (as I did the other morning), and lie there worrying about something which is not really very important, and which, anyway, is three weeks away, I can do what I initially did, which was to say to myself: "What are you worrying for? Itís not worth it. Itís a waste of time. It doesnít help. Why are you such a worrier? Stop it immediately!" This is another example of pulling myself apart into little bits. Iím separating myself from the habit of worrying, as if it were something separate from me, and, whatís more, beating myself up about it is just another manifestation of the larger pattern of habit. So, following the pattern of the previous example, why not say: "Ok, Iím worrying needlessly. Thatís obviously who I am at the moment. It will not forever be so, if I donít want it to be. I have a choice. Where does this tendency originate?" It may or may not be possible to find out, but it can be enlightening to look into it, because it can help me understand myself better.
I find this idea of the inseparability of the self to be very helpful in learning to accept myself -- all of myself.