Monthly Archives: June 2018

Not doing, and the national obsession with ambition, not to mention trashing

Recently I’ve thought a lot and blogged a wee bit about “un-doing.” I first came upon the concept when reading a book by a diet/nutrition and heart health guru, who said we grow up with so many bad messages about food and eating, that the process of becoming more healthy is a process of “un-doing.” I got it!

Learning to un-do for me today, comes out of my year-long lessons in the Alexander Technique. Today I was completing my book, The Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford (2015 publication). I also “got it” about why un-doing is so tricky and difficult to learn.

He was talking about the coming robotization of most if not all, jobs. One way to address this difficult direction our society is taking, is a guaranteed income. Of course, some would drop out of the labor force completely and live on this government dole. In response, Ford says that “in other words, they will generally be among the least ambitious and industrious members of the population” (at page 269.)

Eureka! Anyone who does not do a “typical” or “normal” job to earn money, or chooses “not to work” for a while or permanently (like when a mom or pop decides not to be breadwinner and stay home to raise the children–certainly a job!), is considered to be “unambitious” and “not industrious.” That’s especially true of they want to sit and paint, or go bird watching or fishing, just travel, or  sit and meditate.

We are a society programed to strive, struggle, suffer—and work in government offices or with corporate bosses, or perhaps for the lucky or unlucky few, work for Silicon Valley-like tech start-ups and established IT firms. If we don’t elect to follow that typical career pattern, then we will be looked down upon in society, as unambitious.

How can we, then, ever stop a moment to learn to “un-do” bad physical, emotional, job or family habits that no longer serve our needs or changing priorities in life? How can just sitting and smelling the roses, or contemplating our navel (meditation) be tolerated, before there arises an unsettling, deep-seated anxiety that we are not being useful and productive like mom or dad taught us to be?

When I walked out of a 16-year litigation career to open ROMANTASY boutique, a sexy lingerie/toy shop for “romantic singles and loving couples” in 1990, most thought me to be strange at best, self-destructive at worst.  Maybe I was both. Hardly anyone could understand why I would give up a staid career, feeding at the public trough as I used to call it (having worked my entire legal professional life for the State of California and never in private practice). I was so worried about doing it that I never told my mom until months later, and then of course, never shared with her the intimate details of precisely what kind of lingerie shop I had opened!

I was definitely un-doing a whole helluva lot of programming, but also un-doing an enormous amount of job stress in a very toxic environment. Toxic to me and my spirit, if not to countless others who can tolerate or thrive working in a very difficult, angry profession, and working within the penultimate bureaucracy of government.

Today I continue to practice not doing every day. I ask myself the question my AT teacher Elyse asks me:  “How can I do less?” That’s a curious concept related to un-doing. First, you have to not do something you always do, in order for the question to arise. Second, you have to scan your body, mind and heart to identify what is not needed at the moment, and only then can you let it go.

I often say that Alexander Technique is like biofeedback for the body and soul. It is that and much more. It gives one techniques and a chance to stop, reflect, and then choose something potentially much more beneficial.

Our American value system rewards production, as Ford says, but it also rewards striving and struggle. “Work hard” said my mom and dad (implying that rewards will come)–but maybe not the rewards they were thinking of.

I wonder if we didn’t follow that advice, would there be fewer burn-outs and flare-outs? Would there be less conflict and hostility we see on the streets and certainly, in social media discussions these days. I was surprised/not surprised to learn on the news today that Congresswoman Maxine Waters of SoCal received many death threats after she recently urged folks to suit up and show up to protest/speak out about abhorrent behaviors by our so-called president and his elite Wall Street gang, even to any public servant found in public places or at home. She’s urging us to exercise our legal, First Amendment rights, and she gets death threats for doing the same?

Let’s stop for a moment and go back to basics. There is nothing in the First Amendment or any other document for that matter, that I know of that requires peaceful protest to be conducted outside of government buildings. There simply is no “right” time or place for protest, so long as it is a peaceful expression that does not interfere substantially or moderately with public or private passage or places by anyone. I don’t know about you, but it’s one of the basic reasons I live in America.

Let’s not do for a moment and let passions subside. Let’s wait a moment  longer before we rush off, so that our better selves can come to the forefront and guide our behavior. For my part, I’m going to set typing aside to get ready to go find The Most Awesome Cat in our local shelter today, where I volunteer to socialize kitties once a week. It’s my day of therapy and happiness. Most likely I’ll create nothing new in the world be it corset-related or not. No addition to the gross national product. No struggling. But I know I’ll bring a bit of cheer and/or comfort to a number of lonely cats and kittens who are also not doing anything while they wait for a fur-ever home. (Check out your local animal care and control, or SPCA, if you are in the mood to help out a furry friend! The unique little “old man” grey “Gus Gus” is still available at our San Francisco ACC!)


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Why, What, and How “Not to Do” in Corset Waist Training and Life

The novel concept of “not doing” was first called to my attention about a year ago soon after I started weekly classes in the Alexander Technique (“AT”) from Elyse Shafarman of The Body Project (San Francisco).

I’ve blogged about the basics of AT before, but some general information is included below, if the reader is interested.

One particular concept of AT, “not doing,” is relevant to corset waist training, as well as to a number of other things in my life.

A key point I make in my waist-training book, is that comfort while learning to bear up long hours wearing a corset, and while lacing tighter over time, requires giving up. I advise students to not resist the stays, to not try to suck in your tummy and make the lacing down easier, and to not hold your breath.

In other words, just give in and give up to the stays and let them hold and mold you. It might also require some to quit obsessing about results and just focus on the process and journey of putting on your corset, wearing it, and waist training, all the way through three months.

It all adds up to learning to “not do.” F. M. Alexander, an actor in Victorian times, used a different, awkward-sounding word for the concept: he called it “inhibition.” Yet “not doing” is the most difficult of AT concepts to apply. It’s also the most elegant and powerful AT concept of all.

We live in stress-filled times with constant striving and activity. Recently, instant gratification and convenience are the dual sources of many folks’ perceived happiness, and what they most value. I believe these times and these values, result in the fact that many of my waist-training coaching students reach a point mid-training, when they want to abandon the process to which they have committed for three months. If after pursuing goals and striving, they don’t see a downward trend in their weight or in their waist measurement, and fairly quickly, they get discouraged and want to quit. Some do, but most can be coaxed not to give up. Those students tend to reach their goals or come very close. It’s a natural response to want to quit, and a challenge to me, as a coach, to help them overcome.

Some respond to the ideas of AT with apprehension and even derision. There are commentators after the actor, William Hurt’s video session in AT (see below), who call AT “cult-like,” or who deride and dismiss the technique.  Strange to me, since the teacher talks a lot about simple postural changes to take pressure off our spines, necks and backs. Sounds good to me! But these commentators don’t hear well, or don’t listen to enough of the introduction, and thus, jump to premature, uneducated and therefore, erroneous, conclusions.

It’s taken me nearly a year to not only hear and read about the concepts, but actually to give them a chance to succeed and help me. I’ve had to give Elyse a chance to elucidate the main principles one by one and then repeat them, a chance for me to see them expressed in her body and movements, and a chance for me to repeat them day after day, with evident success.

I’ve concluded that in order to get an accurate and full picture of AT, one must experience the principles in class (at least four to eight classes are recommended by AT teachers and by me) and after, not just read or hear about them.

What doesn’t seem at all “cult like” and might be more palatable to some than to “not do,” is the approach of writer Patricia Hample. Hample published an essay “Scrap Your To-Do List” in a recent Sunday NYT review section (date not noted but likely one Sunday in April, 2018). She’s also the author of “The Art of the Wasted Day”. What she posits regarding happiness is the same or similar to “not doing” in the AT.

According to Hample, we’ve negated the “lost music of wondering, the sheer value of looking out the window, letting the world float along…liberated into the blessed loss of ambition…The essential American word isn’t happiness. It’s pursuit.” Maybe after all, she says, we don’t need a “to do” list? Maybe we don’t need to “do” yoga, or run to our Pilates class? Maybe we should just sit down in our garden for 15 minutes and look at the sky?

As I’ve begun to simplify my life over the past two years, and limit my daily or weekly activities to things I truly value, reducing my corset work to coaching and writing books, then referring orders directly to senior corsetiere, Sheri Jurnecka, plus spending more of my days in my garden, or recently volunteering at the Animal Care and Control to socialize abandoned kitties, I’ve gradually become almost pain free. At the same time I’ve become more tranquil and content. Some days I just like to sit around in my bathrobe for much of the day, reading a new book or writing a new blog. In the past I would have called that “wasting time.” At first I even felt a bit of guilt! Today I call it “happiness.”

Does that make sense? If so, then by now the AT might be sounding intriguing to you. If you can get to that point, the challenge then becomes: just how do we learn to “not do” something?

Hemple has it right. Moving from pursuing, to just wondering — withholding action or judgment just a bit longer than we used to, not jumping to conclusions (usually negative ones) about why someone didn’t return your text immediately, or dropped out of contact, or didn’t “like” or even respond to your new post, take focus and effort. Tolerating the anxiety of non-response or not knowing the “proper” answer or getting immediate resolution, has been a bug-a-boo my entire life. It feels like abandonment, and likely has something to do with the excessively strict ways my mom treated and disciplined me, and how my dad was absent from the most important events of my childhood and adolescence.

As I’ve practiced having more “not doing” in my life, I’ve benefited greatly in my professional and my personal life. Yes, it will take continued effort for me to learn how to not do–and I look forward to the effort!


(Raven, my long-time web mistress and friend, ran across AT and emailed a link to the actor, William Hurt, in an AT class with a respected AT teacher, Jane Kosminsky. This was during a time I was recovering from a crippling back spasm with neck involvement (yet another one in my life, and the seventh incidence of it). I was particularly open to finding and exploring every single possible source of relief from pain, so I watched the video–and it was one step that immediately reduced my level of pain, and over the long run, positively affected my life. AT is not like any other therapy I’ve studied or tried, but is distinctly different, and for me, powerful in a positive way.

If you have any interest in knowing what a real-life AT session might be like and in seeing if there might be some benefits for you, check out the video. But first, I highly recommend you suspend judgment, keep an open mind, and watch the video all the way through, because there could be something of benefit to you regarding corset waist training, pain, and your life in general.)

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Why physicians frequently pooh-pooh or allege serious (but false or highly exaggerated) risk from corset waist training

From time to time I ponder why many doctors seem to pooh-pooh corset waist training, or worse yet, obsess about the “serious risk to life and limb” when we decide to pursue this age-old approach to sveltness and good health.

Yes — good health! Corset waist training according to general principles–such as training pursued with common sense, with respect for one’s own bodily messages and individual needs, and with reasonable, genetic- and experience-conscious goals– can address issues such as our burgeoning obesity epidemic.

Yet a number of pop docs (a certain Dr. Oz comes to mind….but he is not alone!) and even long-experienced non-celebrity docs delight in focusing on the risk factors of corset waist training, warning of possible permanent damage to ordinarily otherwise healthy individuals.

But damage to what is never clearly explained, nor is the factual basis of their conclusions revealed to the light of day so that the ordinary, inexperienced corset-curious person can make an informed decision about whether or not corset waist training might be beneficial to them.

Recently I’ve been reading a lot about Dr. John Sarno’s program to heal chronic back and neck pain, as well as address many other ailments that don’t have a structural causation (and even some that do!), ailments as diverse as: migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromialgia, allergies, skin problems, hypertension, tendinitis, knee pain, shoulder pain, and other.

If you have ever suffered from any of those problems or if you know someone who has, I particularly commend to you Dr. Sarno’s final book published in 2006, The Divided Mind: The epidemic of mind body disorders.

It is the seminal book on the topic, exploring Dr. Sarno’s theory of “TMS” or tension myositis syndrome involving non-structurally related chronic pain.

In sum, TMS occurs when circumstances trigger painful emotions submerged in our subconscious, that then become expressed in a physical symptom and pain. The pain is real, but it is brain caused.

According to Dr. Sarno, pursuing certain strategies and steps will bring relief from chronic pain to many: that is, (1) simply admit the possibility of a brain-caused chronic pain, and/or (2) bring to consciousness by insight work conducted by yourself or in psychotherapy, some of the negative emotions you may be repressing from childhood, from daily life, or from your personality traits such as perfectionism, need for excessive control, and “do-goodness.”

Late in his life (he passed in 2016 and it was his obituary in the NY Times that first drew my attention), Dr. Sarno suggested another title than TMS for this mind-body problem, and suggested that some popular alternative treatments he had ignored such as meditation could be effective in treating TMS, as well as the main methods he suggested. But his original program and diagnosis of TMS stand as the most familiar ones, and TMS is a shorthand that I will use.

Today I was reading a chapter by Dr. Douglas Hoffman printed in The Divided Mind. Dr. Hoffman has a specialty in nonoperative orthopedics/sports medicine practiced in Duluth, Minnesota. He is the team physician for the University of Wisconsin-Superior and the Duluth Huskies baseball team. It was in his chapter that I was reminded of one reason I have posited in the past, for why pop docs and ordinary physicians get tricked into dissing corset waist training as an obvious strategy for addressing chronic pain as well as the obesity epidemic.

Let’s first review two other principle reasons:

  1.  We already all know about medicine’s tendency, and society’s tendency, to go for the “quick fix.” Social media feeds and exacerbates if not causes, our need for instant gratification and convenience:  “want it now, pop a pill, refuse any personal responsibility, and move on to what is ‘really’ important” — whatever that may be. Go for the surgical fix to obesity:  liposuction, bariatric surgery, nip and tuck, and forget the actual money investment and time needed for recuperation, not to mention the possible side effects and risks of failure necessitating fix-it surgeries and more time lost. Wearing a corset for three months of dedicated, common-sense waist training seems like “too much of an effort”, but surgery is a false “effective” preference that dazzles and bamboozles unthinking patients seeking quick relief.

2.  Same can be said of pill pushing by unthinking doctors and demanding patients. We already know that many major drug companies can be blamed for seeking higher profits thru pill pushing, and thru free samples given to willing doctors who then prescribe the medicine as a preferred treatment, even if alternatives would be cheaper, just as or more effective, and less addicting.

But the third reason, and perhaps the most elusive and important reason that doctors diss corsets, is addressed in Dr. Hoffman’s article:

“For a doctor to ” be able to understand and effectively apply Dr. Sarno’s principles, one must acknowledge their own shadows and painful emotions. Additionally, a physician’s position of authority is compromised with this perspective since patients become empowered by discovering that they have the ability to heal themselves. (p. 315).

If doctors cannot admit to their own repressed or denied negative emotions of anger and fear, then how can they possibly believe that the same in their patients might be the cause of long-standing pain and suffering? How can they suggest to patients and be able to effect recovery merely by the suggestion of same? Dr. Sarno “cured” some 60 percent of his chronic pain patients in this manner after only a few office visits and two two-hour educational presentations to a group of them.

Clueless doctors without personal insight, who cannot admit that some or many patients have an ability to heal themselves, –including with corset waist training — doctors who cannot admit that they are unconsciously feeling professionally threatened as possibly “unneeded” or “ineffective”, are missing the boat and indirectly harming their patients. They are failing to offer an alternative diagnosis for, and truly inexpensive and potentially beneficial strategy to address serious health problems such as obesity, a problem that is growing by leaps and pounds (sic.) around the world.

Who can doubt that it is a good thing when some pursue moderate corset waist training to heal themselves from bad posture, low back pain, overweight, hypertension, and obesity, and to gain a measure of enhanced well-being, sexiness, and increased energy and mobility?

Why not try common-sense, moderate corset waist training (if you are otherwise in generally good health) to see if it increases your zest for life not only now, but in the future as well? A good prospect for success takes only modest resources of about $300-500 to invest in (1) a good custom corset, (2) my detailed $14.95 how-to book or (4) my $400 three month coaching program (includes a copy of both of my books), and/or (5)  consulting responsible, fact-oriented corset educators such as Lucy Williams (see many educational videos on YouTube and on her website) and Heidi of Strait-Laced Dame.

And, by the way, knowing about TMS and following Dr. Sarno’s program since reading his book on Feb. 11 of this year, has helped substantially to restore me back to 99% perfect back and neck health with the virtual disappearance of disabling pain.



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