Friday, May 13, 2011
Boxing Al Fresco
Once upon a time, I became intrigued with biofeedback for stress management. My interest in biofeedback was something that dated back to my college years, when many were experimenting with a number of modalities of biofeedback and equipment. Many types of body control were documented. Later, some styles were adopted by the medical profession for a variety of conditions.
A well known psychiatrist located on the Upper East Side had provided a testimonial on a stress management book. I contacted his office. He was expensive, but this was to be a limited number of sessions, training under his guidance, in his office and with his equipment. I was told that insurance would cover the program (it did not).
The sessions became ones of psychotherapy - I never did get to train at all on his equipment. When I confronted him about this, he said that there was no value to biofeedback training if my behavior and mental processes were just to undo the relaxation I achieved. True, but was not what what I had…and I saw this would become a long extremely expensive process with no end in sight, so I quit after a short number of sessions.
However, I must admit that I have never met a person who could read me so quickly and thoroughly. I was like a pane of glass to him and he was in my head. He made a number of observations that I remember clearly to this day. I told him of my interest in cello and that I was taking classes with a woman who was an alumna of the Juilliard School. Proud that I had the privilege to study with someone like her, his response surprised me. Bad he said. "Why?" I said. "Because you turn everything into a job." He knew that learning to play cello was a serious commitment and would do little to bring me pleasure, only to add another burred to my life. He was right. I quit the cello after six months, telling my teacher that dragging my cello out at night to practice was feeling like a job. She heartily agreed that this was not good at all and she encouraged me to quit.
My doctor suggested instead that if I wanted to learn music as a hobby, that I try something much less demanding, like a recorder, where I would not be dragged into a hobby that was like study at a music conservatory. He also demanded that I take a Saturday and squander the entire day away, i.e. waste time frivolously. He knew my temperament all too well, that I always had a hidden agenda and only felt good if I could justify my activities as "productive."
Recently, in the early morning, while writing near an open window facing the park, I heard a very peculiar slapping type of sound. It was unique to me and I could not guess what was going on. Getting up and looking out through the foliage of spring, I saw a woman sparring with her trainer in the raking early morning light.
I could not help but reflect on how so many residents of New York City were overachievers with schedules packed with activities, whether cultural, interpersonal, hobbies, classes, training, meetings, business functions, gallery openings, theaters, clubs, bars, festivals, etc. To ask them to do something is like a request to be penciled into the appointment book of the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
I fully realize that this woman may in fact be a well balanced person. Being physical is great for mental and physical health. She may not be overextended. Or perhaps she is a neurotic New Yorker, type A personality, choking with activities and entrenched with the busy busy ethic. Or, perhaps she is a young woman, freshly arrived straight from the corn fields of Kansas, just enjoying a little boxing al fresco.