But is it art?
Yes! The art of non-thinking is an art! Why? You may well ask. It is standard for people to wake up, start thinking and never stop until sleep comes round again. Actually, this is crazy. You will agree that this is the truth. Just take a moment now and try to imagine when last your mind was really free from thought in a conscious way. Can you imagine that? A sense of just being, not worrying about everything.
Before I started practising the Alexander technique, my mind was constantly running at high speed, worrying about everything, never slowing down, constantly worrying to the point where often what I tried to do went badly wrong. In one instance I was working for a friend making things out of metal. Clocks, mirrors, candlesticks, it did not matter, since my mind never stopped, I always went wrong, made some mistake or other. In another situation, visiting someone’s house, I would be the one to knock over the tea.
Worrying too much.
I don’t expect most people to be clumsy in this way, but we all have a version of this. Someone was telling me the other day they could read pages of a book before realising that they hadn’t taken any of it in. It’s etched into the faces of others, those worry lines, that intensity. Some people go about there jobs as if they were afraid of making a mistake at any moment. I had a new client like this just the other day and his body had contracted so much it was as if he wore a straight jacket all day.
Improve how we use the mind.
It isn’t necessary to use the mind so badly. In the end, FM Alexander wasn’t teaching a body technique but a mind one.
You see, eventually, as I continued to practise the technique, I became proficient at working in the workshop and no longer made continual mistakes and certainly could no longer be called clumsy. The hilarious thing is that I did not connect this newfound skill to the technique, but to what I had started to do. That is to say, I had stopped allowing my mind to wander during activity. I was so impressed with the results of this that I called it, the art of non-thinking.’
It really hadn’t occurred to me that the Alexander Technique was anything to do with this newfound focus, but the more I practised non-thinking in this way, the more awareness I seemed to experience. Not just in what I was doing, but in my connection to my surroundings. I realised that because of a difficult childhood, I had actually withdrawn mentally. I was not present. It was as if my mind was the only place I inhabited. The external world – the trees, the sky, other people, what I was doing at any given moment, was not something I could fully engage in.
The art of non-thinking is to realise that being fully present is not a game of words. For most people, they think that if you are not pronouncing words in your head, you are not conscious!
Practise the art of non-thinking.
Take a moment to look at something whilst you stop words forming in your head. See how long you can do it for. If you need some help, take a deep breath and focus a little on your breathing. Carry on not forming words.
It is important to realise that words are walking sticks. We must rid ourselves of our crutches as soon as we can. We can describe a beautiful sunset, but can we really see it.? If we think in words we use just one small part of the brain. A tiny part that burns off a lot of energy and also a part that depends on rest. Words categorise things, put them into a very particular box. Limiting perception.
Try to experience a flower without words.
There are other parts of the brain. In the ‘Tao Te Ch’ing,’ a book of Chinese wisdom, it says, ‘In order for the mind to be full, empty it first.’
We stuff the brain full of ideas, thoughts, worries and ultimately anxiety all day long. There is an art to stopping this. It takes practice. Some will be better than others. No matter, take a walk and do not speak to yourself. Just look and just listen and maybe even smell.
For some people, they cannot even sleep because they haven’t the art of non- thinking.
Just try a second then two, then three and so on. Do not worry, do not judge yourself.
Freedom from words is the answer to expanding your mind. not shutting it down. Think about it, words are an aspect of mind, the mind must be bigger than this small aspect. Can you experience this? Only through the art of non-thinking. Stop. Stay silent, be conscious and keep walking.
With practice, you will go to this place often. With practice, you will realise that at the heart of the art of non-thinking is a journey to the centre of yourself.
For those who are aware of meditation, this is not meditation. We do not meditate whilst walking down the street! This art is akin to meditation like a cousin. This work will be enhanced through meditation. However, knowledge of meditation is not necessary, neither is a desire to meditate. It is true that this art of non-thinking will expand your conscious because words diminish it. True consciousness.
It is through the Alexander Technique that I have understood and experienced this art of non-thinking. Many years before that I read about and misunderstood these ideas. First, we must stop the body from suffering discomfort. If a body is out of sync it is like a crying child constantly seeking your attention. Once we experience comfort in the body, the art of non-thinking begins.
There are many ways to get the body to be comfortable and quiet, the easiest way I have found is the Alexander Technique. Also, deep relaxation techniques such as yoga nidra can help us.
Perhaps it is difficult to begin this process alone. Please feel free to call me if you have any questions or if you would like to learn more about this life-enhancing idea, the art of non-thinking.
For further information about Nick Chapman and his work www.alexandertechnique.tv