Waxing physically and philosically...

After literally years of deliberation, and as a result of some delicate and some less delicate prodding, this blog is my effort to organize - to bring together - my thoughts about my work as a conductor and as a personal trainer, to rant and rave as necessary, to celebrate the little things and the larger moments of brilliance, and to share some conductive magic and life lessons gained through 'waxing physically and philosophically'.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Always look on the bright side of life..."

Dear Shane --

I've just come home from your funeral -- I have to say, you would have loved it.  There were so many people there that the entire side courtyard beside where there service was was filled, and people were sitting in the aisle and standing in the vestibule.  Your mom kept busy consoling everyone else and taking care of KD.  She managed to find a wonderful celebrant who made people laugh and smile.  Jordy and the other readers read pieces that reflected your humour and spirit.  The eulogies from Laura and your Auntie Joanne were full of beautiful 'Shane-isms' that reminded everyone about what is important in life, about what knowing you helped us know, and people laughed out loud through their tears and applauded the speakers.  And even special little treats to make a conductor happy -- Eddie walking all of the way to the front to place his flower, CW and KD driving their chairs independently again.  And, thank you very much Shane and James Valentine,  I'm still singing "always look on the bright side side of life" -- and if I'm singing it so should everyone else, right?


Beautiful music, beautiful music.

At the end of the service the celebrant spoke about how one of the things that grieving people do is give themselves a hard time about would haves and could haves and should haves -- and it is so true.  Earlier this week I found myself wondering if there was something I could have taught you through CE that would have made a difference, that could have helped you.  I spoke to KD, who was also giving herself a hard time, and consoled myself while I consoled her.  It isn't about what would have and could have and should have been done, there is no fault or blame; it was your time.  We are saddened; so very very saddened; but as you would have wished, today our hearts were filled with love and joy as were were reminded how precious life is.

The celebrant urged us to remember and to share -- and I found myself remembering our time together in CE -- you and your mom and Jordy and Greg and Rebecca and me rolling around on the floor, you directing traffic and trying to stay out of the way to avoid being crushed as we all tried to figure how to get Greg back on his back; you and Greg laughing at me in my twisted yoga positions trying to facilitate between you both at the same time, the sessions when it was just you and your mom and me, with you teaching us both how to facilitate certain movements and stretches, and telling us to push more and reassuring us that we weren't hurting you.  I found myself remembering the mature, adult conversation we had when you told me that you knew that you could still benefit from CE, but after a long day of bus rides and CAS, and with your cough being what it was, you weren't looking forward  to CE in the evenings, and that you found Bowen more beneficial because you could relax with it.  I agreed that taking a break was probably the best thing.  And then we had a hilarious 'discussion' about who would be the one to have to tell your Mom.

And I thought about Fighting Chance http://www.fightingchance.net.au/home.html -- a charity set up in memorandum of your dad and now your legacy -- 'because everyone deserves a fighting chance'.  I hope you know how many people have already been helped and how many more people will be helped because your mom and loves you so much that she is willing to fight to make the world a better place for other people and their families; her love for you extends far beyond you and allows her to empathize, reach out to, and love so many others.  I am so grateful that through you and CE I have found myself included in this embrace -- she is an amazing woman Shane.  Please keep an eye on her from wherever you are.  Some people wonder how they can possibly make a difference, get overwhelmed, and end up doing nothing -- but not your mom Shane -- she loves you so much that she moves mountains while everyone else stands around wondering if there is a pebble small enough that they can throw.  And with Jordy and Laura fighting at her side the vastness of your legacy is still to be seen.  Today at your funeral, in true civil riot spirit, we sang "we shall overcome" -- and as we were reminded to support Fighting Chance and Kairos I, like so many others in the room, felt my commitment to you, to your family, and to your legacy Fighting Chance.
 "Take up our quarrel with the foe:     
To you from failing hands we throw 
The torch; be it yours to hold high."
-- John McCrae

I'm heading home to visit my family in Canada tomorrow -- I was so sad to say goodbye to you today Shane, but I am so glad that I could be at your funeral.  You have reminded me to hug everyone just a little bit longer and to enjoy every precious moment.  So Shane, since you loved music so much, here is some Canadian music for you.  This Neil Young song always makes me homesick but in a nice way --  ..."dream, comfort, memory to spare, and in my mind I still need a place to go, all of my changes were there...".  For me, it is about the sweet pain of memory, and about coming home, and about change, and about embracing the helplessness we all feel about life sometimes; when K.D. Lang first sang it, it was because Neil Young was sick and she was filling in for him.  In her introduction she talks about him as someone who has maintained his integrity and his uncompromising vision and purity -- in this spirit I dedicate it to you and to your Mom.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


This was meant as a response to Andrew Sutton's post on Conductive World -- but I got excited, wrote too much for it to be an acceptable response length, and have decided to repost it here.  Please see Andrew's original posting and hopefully you will find further discussion here: 

Conductive Education: who is it for? -- Andrew Sutton

In terms of suitability -- or sweetability -- I agree completely.  For me it has never been about whether a person is or is not 'suitable' for CE, but I feel that it is appropriate to ask whether for a particular person and in that particular instance CE is appropriate for them.

For example
1.  There are some people that are looking for 'a magic pill' -- and whether or not the conductor feels that the person can learn and benefit that person might choose to continue to pursue their miracle elsewhere when they realize that CE involves hard work over time.  
2. Just because CE has been right for a person at sometime in their life doesn't mean that it is always right for them -- people have to choose depending on where they are at whether they want to work this way.   In fact Shane, Sue O'Reilly's son said that he preferred Bowen therapy for now because he wanted something gently and relaxing not something that required him to work hard when he was unwell and tired.   He will be welcome back if he chooses later, and maybe I'll learn something from Shane about Bowen 
3.  Sometimes, for whatever reason the relationship between the conductor and the participant is not conducive to a productive, positive environment for either person.  If there are 10 conductors and lots of options in the schedule there might be an other solution, but when you are running a small program by yourself accommodating a person might not be viable.  I have had people refuse to work with me or with other conductors; I have had a person that none of the conductors would work with because he was so vulgar and inappropriate.   

There are other factors too -- everyone might be suitable for CE, or as I prefer to say CE might be appropriate for everyone, but I think that conductors should have the choice to say 'this is where my comfort zone is, this is where my experience is, this is where I know I can be successful'.  CE might be suitable for everyone, but conductors tend to be specialized and that shouldn't be a judgement on their practice.  That said, oddly enough, I have had a lot of criticism from conductors senior to myself because I have 'specialized' in the 'weird and wonderful' or the 'too hard basket'

I'm quite proud to say that in my time as a conductor I have only twice said 'no' to trying with somebody.  One was a man in his mid nineties with advanced Parkinson's and rapidly progressing Alzheimer's who was not only blind and deaf, but also had never been English speaking.  Had I met this family now, with my practice being private and more outreach based I would have offered to work with him and the family in their home but I did not think my classroom environment was appropriate.  The other was a young man with late stage leukodystrophy malacia.  I remember him and his mother clearly as if I had met them yesterday  although it was 10 years ago.  I couldn't make contact with him, couldn't get a response, had no idea where to start, was terrified of the mother's desperation and conviction that he was still there, and as you said Andrew, I had no idea where to start or what to do.  In my inexperience I told that mother that CE wasn't suitable for him and I instantly regretted it and still feel guilty about not trying, and again now, with the option to work with him in his home I would like to think that I would try.

In terms of 'assessment' - I don't assess, I consult.  I meet with a person, let them get a feel for me, try to see where they are at, see what they are looking for, work out where to start, what I will need, establish the relationship and build trust, collect relevant information.  I never charge for consultations -- in private practice people are spending a lot of money for my time and need the consultation as much as I do to decide if CE is 'suitable', if I am the right person for them at that moment.

As you know, I also work as a personal trainer, and I have the opportunity to 'conduct' able-bodied and elderly people.  Sometimes this occurs subtly -- which to be honest is nice; I don't have to try to explain what CE is, I just approach a person or their session differently.  I also have able bodied gym clients who have taken an interest in CE, 'my other life', who I discuss pedagogy and CE with, who immediately pick up that I 'CE' them, and like it.  It is actually incredibly interesting and amazing to see what it is like to teach movement and problem solving to people not restricted by motor disorder -- it helps me understand things better regarding motor disorder.  People give me words like -- 'I just don't feel confident' and I better understand the role of thinking and perceiving in skilled movement