45 kilowatt hours in a day! Our son’s home for Christmas. He left the heater on in his space, 21.5 degrees, and disappeared for 2 days. ‘Hell is other people’. You can’t rely on other people and you can’t rely on your reactions to them. Christmas is a challenging time for that. 

What can I rely on? What are my bankers? I used to think going for a swim was one. ‘Get into your good bodies…go for a swim’, the family therapist advises in ‘Succession’, HBO drama I’m enjoying. He then proceeds to dive into the shallow end, and loses half his teeth.

For me, in the leisure centre pool, there are too many variables. More ‘other people’, in the wrong lane, giving each other advice about stroke technique and fitness. Then there’s my own stroke. I’m always liable to neglect the important bits, do too much, forget my neck, lose my back, start gasping. So a trip to the pool doesn’t always deliver what I need, which is (always) head/neck/back integrity and a sense of calmness.

In an empty pool, alone, I float like a jelly fish. I do this at Croft Farm and I encourage people I’m teaching to do it. It’s the most integrating thing you can do in the water, this and floating vertically. Just experience the buoyancy of your head and hang there, letting your back lengthen and widen. That’s one of my bankers. My head floats just under the surface and I’m very grateful for this. I can’t go wrong. 

The other, on dry land, is finding a quiet spot, sitting on a cushion with legs crossed and knees on the floor, the way the Buddha taught, with one hand resting palm up on top of the other. Head goes up away from bottom, elbows go away from each other, knees away from back and away from head. Using the Alexander Technique I think and try not to do the directions, ‘neck free, head forward and up, back lengthening and widening, knees forward and away’. This is very conducive to natural breathing, which can only happen when the head, neck, back relationship is integrated.  

My brother Mike taught me this (though understanding the meaning of those simple directions is a process which began 20 years ago with 3 years’ training with the late Stephen Cooper). But this, sitting-meditation with direction, is the best thing anyone has ever taught me. My brother will be 60 tomorrow, on Christmas Day.  Happy Birthday. Keep right on!

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