Don't let this unseasonably warm week in Chicago fool you. Whether you believe in La Nina or Snowmageddon(we usually get at least one of each forecast a year), there is only one thing besides death or taxes which is for certain.
Winter is coming.
Chicago has one of the highest rates of seasonal depression in the country. Sunlight is confined to a few hours a day, temperatures plunge, and we are reduced to squabbling over parking spots we have dug out for ourselves or stolen(I look forward to learning your position in the comments below).
I think depression in the city has another, more insidious contributing cause. And it is pulling down against the cold.
'Pulling Down' in the Alexander world refers to the act of compressing the body to meet a stimulus. This reaction is often linked to fear--we instinctively pull away from unpleasant things in order to protect ourselves. You can study this reaction in yourself in instances ranging from hearing a car horn behind you to shaking hands with an unfamiliar person. It most often starts with a compression of the head and neck, and it is this reaction which A.T. largely seeks to teach you how to resist.
We certainly do this in response to the cold, especially as the weather changes and our bodies haven't adjusted to the temperature yet. Notice your response next time you feel a cold gust of wind. Do you remain open or clench up? And though we eventually come inside and get warm, we carry this compression with us, causing discomfort, injury, and depression. The word 'depression' itself is a word that has literal connections to pulling down, as does our slang of describing 'feeling down'. I believe our physical state has a profound effect on our emotions, and the less space you have in your body the less room you have emotionally. This doesn't help a city which faces at least three months of winter horror every year and doesn't have a lot to enjoy once you get past the holidays. So not carrying that tension with you might help you to recover from an emotionally draining and challenging time.
There is more to this, An additional reason we pull down against the cold is to try and keep ourselves warm by compressing into our body heat and putting pressure on areas so we can't feel our own discomfort. And this makes sense and provides temporary relief. However, it might not actually be helping us. Compressing our bodies actually slows circulation of blood, and as a result our body heat goes down. So with exposure of more than a minute or two, we actually lose comfort and warmth in the exchange. When my Teacher, Daria Okugawa, first recommended expanding into the cold rather than compressing to me, I had a 'yeah right' response. However, when I tried it, I soon found she was right. So what I suggest is instead of fearing the cold when the weather starts cooling off again Friday, open yourself, embrace it, keep your blood flowing--and get some really nice thermal gear, which will keep your body heat from escaping.
Don't get me wrong. This won't turn Chicago in February into Miami Beach--and that's a good thing, because....eww. But it might help you a bit with the only circumstance in life you can ever control--your own reactions. And in a tough Chicago winter, that little bit of wiggle room might make all the difference.
Thoughts on what is going on in the work and the world right now. Many posts to come.