A Guest’s Journey: Chelsea Pines and New York Provide Balance

by Jeanne Barrett

Jeanne Barrett is a devoted guest of Chelsea Pines Inn.  She was born and spent her childhood in Seattle, but grew up in all the most essential ways in NYC.  She has been a teacher of the Alexander Technique since 1987.  Jeanne returned to her original home of Seattle in 1993, where she enjoys a large and diverse practice teaching Alexander principles.  She is also currently dedicated to effecting the release of elephants in zoos and circuses to sanctuary.

Time compresses and expands with memory.  There are arcs of dramatic sequence, notable moments of change, and the intersection of personal history with a wider, expanded awareness.  Details accumulate, and insights break through, if we are lucky enough to receive them.

As Chelsea Pines celebrates its 25th Anniversary, the intertwining threads of our stories become a wider narrative of general themes and specific moments.

In 1984, I moved from Hong Kong, where I had been living for 5 years, to NYC.  I had previously lived in the city very happily and couldn’t wait to return.  I recall being grateful every single day to live in the greatest city in the world, and at the center of the world.  By 1986, I was self employed as a personal trainer, racing all over the city to assist people in their fitness goals. I loved, and still love, the light, the rhythm, the extremes, the ongoing dance of intense urban life!

Once I had returned to the city, I pursued the extensive and deep training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.  I felt as though stumbling happily onto the Alexander Technique answered all of the questions I had not yet asked.  With the Alexander Technique, I found a means to serve the world constructively, and to also have a means to constantly learn and grow in my service.  It is a technique in search of a philosophy, which suited me ideally.

Then, love intervened!  This led me back to my home city of Seattle. I found that all the complex, nuanced skills I had developed to thrive in NYC applied nowhere else.  This was annoying, disconcerting and frustrating.  I also found that without the clamor of the city, I was left with my own internal noise.  Years of psycho-therapy in NYC had not at all prepared me for hearing my own chatter in such an audible fashion.  New skills had to be learned, new ways of both quieting and accommodating internal noise.  The Alexander Technique, in the skills of active stillness, of dynamic non-interference, assisted and supported my difficult transition.  I made it, I survived, I learned a new sense of internal quiet, but I still yearned for the city.

And thus began the exploration between the bucolic green and relative ease of Seattle and the intensity and density of NYC.  My solution thus far is to hear my own noise in Seattle, and see myself in larger context in NYC.  My heart is more open with both realities.  Seattle is more quiet and homogenous (finding the variations in what seems like the same tone), NYC is multi-layered and far more vastly diverse (seeing the overall order in chaos).  Micro and macro, the joys of softened definition of self.

The Alexander Technique involves, in part, a balance of tonal response that yields an integrity of form, as well as a conscious response to stimulus, whether the stimulus be mental, physical or emotional.  The integration of the entire self is key in Alexander principles.  There is no “right” way, no “ideal” posture.  We seek balance, openness to change, and a willingness for new experience.  Between Seattle and NYC, I have found an ideal tonal balance of tonal response to life as I know it.

Thank you to Jay and Chelsea Pines for providing the necessary balance of my NYC home!

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