(While I’m on vacation — from teaching and blogging — I hope you enjoy this piece from my website archives. It’s from a few years ago, for those of you who may be wondering why Willy doesn’t get a mention. He hadn’t been born yet!)
The skill I’ve developed through my Alexander work in manifesting intentions paid off in an unexpected way today.
I have been running with my dog, Freddy, for a few months now. Several times a week, we jog down to the river park along the Hudson and back–perhaps 3-4 miles in all. Freddy is faster than me and has far more stamina (who knew Chihuahuas were so athletic?), so he always tended to run a bit ahead, barking all the while. I interpreted this behavior as wanting to go faster and greeting everyone we passed.
Yesterday I began reading a book by the “Dog Whisperer,” Cesar Millan, on dog psychology and training, Cesar’s Way, and learned enough to realize that Freddy was running ahead of me because he considered himself the alpha dog in our “pack” and he was barking to alert his pack of perceived threats–bikes, buses, other dogs and runners, etc.
This morning, I changed my intentions for our run. I decided to actively take on the mantle of alpha dog, designating myself the leader in my own mind and taking the responsibility for alertness and judgment that comes with this role. I noticed that the change in my thinking brought about an immediate if slight change in my carriage and my confidence, which Freddy apparently picked up on.
Today on our run, without my having to give any commands or corrective tugs of the leash, Freddy stayed slightly behind me and automatically changed his pace to match mine whether I was running fast or slow, walking, or pausing altogether. He barked about one third as much as usual, and the barks were quieter and less insistent than usual. Most surprising was his behavior when we passed other dogs walking with their owners. Instead of his usual mad scramble to approach the dogs and sniff and play, he ignored them–as I was modeling–and continued silently following me.
Cesar Millan reintroduced me to a concept I know deeply from my years of Alexander study: “energy and power can be focused and controlled. Biofeedback, meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques [and the Alexander Technique!!!] are excellent for learning about how to control the energy you project…. Learning to harness the power of the calm-assertive energy within you will also have a positive impact on your own mental health–and on your relationships with the humans in your life.”
See what happens today if you decide to take on the role of alpha dog. (You can try this even if there are no dogs in your life.) Just decide to be what Cesar calls calm-assertive: “A calm-assertive leader is relaxed but always confident that he or she is in control.” You can pretend to be someone who has these traits–Oprah, James Bond, or Rin Tin Tin–if you don’t think you possess them yourself.
Let me know about your experience in a comment to this blog entry.