Recently there was a party to celebrate three new graduate teachers and fifty years of Alexander Technique at Lansdowne road in Holland Park. I trained there and as you can imagine quite a few others. It had been a long time since I had offered myself the luxury of a visit and although I knew quite a few people there, there was an awful lot of new students and teachers I had never met.
The party always starts with the giving out of the certificates for the new teachers. Nowadays this is done by the new head teacher, Ruth Murray. It was Walter Carrington, but all things must change and with Walters passing away, a new head. So Ruth said of one student, Sabeha, that she had found it very tough to get through theAlexander Technique training (I can vouch for that).
Once all the certificates had been given out a Swedish chap, Peter, rather humorously, chatted for ages and cracked jokes about the teachers and the A.T and it was all very nice and funny and long. Another Graduate played a wonderful piece of Brahms on the piano, however, the student who had apparently struggled so much, said the least, but most profound thing anyone has said in the Alexander world for some time and I was deeply moved. She said, ‘The Alexander Technique gave me me back.’
And I too can vouch for that. So what do we mean? What does it mean to get your life back?Where does it go? The answer should ultimately resonate with everyone. None of us are really truly in touch with ourselves. There are so many external influences that disrupt our personal space, suppress our natural inclinations and take us somewhere other than where we want to go. Examples are many, a mother who wants to pursue her own creativity, an artist tied to the need to pay bills, a would be architect forced into law by his parents, a women abused by her husband, a pushy wife, a pushy husband, a busy career, the list goes on. We are all capable of losing ourselves in life.
So how can the Alexander Technique help?
In order to understand this we must first understand what happens both mentally and physically when we lose ourselves in external matters. Without a doubt the mind becomes very separate from the body. As we concern ourselves more and more with stuff that is not actually what we want to concern ourselves with, we become tense. As the tension increases our mind tries harder and harder to avoid awareness of the body. Obviously-it feels uncomfortable. As we drift further away from our body mentally, the mind becomes more stressed. Before we know it mind and body are as far apart as one side of an ocean to another.
With this separation comes the big shut down. We no longer know ourselves. We are drifting through life trying to avoid thinking about our lives. We will do anything we can to avoid facing the truth. The mother throws herself even more into the children’s life, the would be architect, becomes the best lawyer in town, the abused women blames herself, the busy career becomes the complete centre of our world and before we know it we are living in a trance someone else put us in.
So the Alexander Technique slowly brings us back to a mind/body harmony, gently coaxing us out of the trance. Guiding us away from all the stuff we have to do tomorrow, later on, yesterday. Into the most powerful moment never experienced, NOW.
We are no longer allowed to drift off in our mind to avoid how tense the body feels. On the contrary we are taught how to come back to our bodies (ourselves) find that tension, release it and at that moment of release we find ourselves again. We are home. Now, after some time practising in this way we find our true selves again. The selves, ambitions, desires, aspirations that have been hiding under all that tension and could not be acknowledged by that mind that was in a trance and wandering as far as it could away from an awareness of that painful body.
So all the false everyday masks that have been put there to benefit everyone but ourselves drop to the floor. And what we find there, because we have found it gently, slowly, under highly sensitive Alexander Technique hands, is something we begin to love and appreciate in a true and honest fashion. The me that got lost a long long time ago.
Nicholas Chapman July 2010
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