What’s it going to be? A report on last week’s Alexander Technique workshop? (It was wonderful to be with colleagues from around the world. Thank you, Bob Lada, Debi Adams, and Tommy Thompson, organizers/presenters of, In the Company of Support.) Dismay at fellow citizens ignoring the pandemic? Missing summer vacation(s)? Preparing OSU course?
Questions. They are featured in the semester’s first presentation. What do I say about the question mark? ‘We will cultivate a spirit of inquiry, in the fine tradition of Frederick Mathias Alexander.‘ I add that it’s not so much about finding the ‘right’ answer or the ‘perfect’ posture, and more about exploration and discovery.
Well. I sure have lots of questions going into fall semester. Will the students be challenged by online delivery of the course material? Can we build the community which I consider to be essential for the learning of the Alexander Technique? Will OSU remain free from virus infections and subsequent shut-downs, or will we be confined to online-instruction-only within a couple weeks? (That’s the prediction of several colleagues—)
To all who are anticipating the return to school—-teachers, students, parents, and support staff, I send my best wishes for your safety and for the negotiating of this uncharted territory.
*And with a nod to Mrs. Whatsit, that remarkable creature found in Madeleine L’Engle’s, A Wrinkle in Time. If only we could all fly away on Mrs. Whatsit’s back, as did Charles Wallace, Meg and Calvin.
Poise (pwäz), n. v., poised, poising. —n. 1. a state of balance or equilibrium, as from equality or equal distribution of weight; equipoise. 2. dignified, self-confident manner or bearing; composure; self-possession.
This one word delights, as it simultaneously addresses both body and mind. From The Use of the Self, Mr. Alexander writes:
‘I must admit that when I began my investigation, I, in common with most people, conceived of ‘body’ and ‘mind’ as separate parts of the same organism…My practical experiences, however, led me to abandon this point of view and readers of my books will be aware that the technique described in them is based on the opposite conception, namely, that it is impossible to separate ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ processes in any form of human activity.’
But how? How do we recover mind/body integration, lost by so many of us?
Observe. Inhibit. Direct. Repeat.
That’s Mr. Alexander’s ‘Technique,’ or, as Bruce Fertman writes in Teaching By Hand, Learning By Heart, ‘inquiry.’
‘The Alexander Technique is an inquiry into human integration, into what integration is, what restores it, and what disturbs it. It’s a foundational study. Integration underlies everything we do. The more integration we have, the easier it is to do what we’re doing.’
Here’s to recovering poise with body/mind integration—–
‘Gently, but with undeniable will,
divesting myself of the holds that would hold me…
I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.
All seems beautiful to me.
–Walt Whitman, 1856
Did Whitman study the Alexander Technique? You might think so, reading this excerpt from his poem, Song of the Open Road. But no. Whitman’s words preceded Mr. Alexander’s birth by 13 years. Mr. A. was born in 1869, when Whitman was most likely undertaking yet another revision of his epic work, Leaves of Grass.
Long before Frederick Mathias Alexander (FM) lost his voice performing onstage, years prior to his launching of a self-study which formulated his principles and ideas, Whitman eloquently described the experience of benefiting from Mr. Alexander’s work. Applying kind and conscious thought to the stopping of ‘the holds that would hold me,‘ mind and body patterns can change, thereby allowing for the emergence of our best selves. ‘Divesting myself of the holds‘ is a key practice of the Alexander Technique, called ‘Inhibition‘ by FM.
Students report, and I concur, it’s a challenge to describe ease and poise in the Self. Thank you, Mr. Whitman, for providing Alexander Technique practitioners a few words worth pondering—–
*see 8/20/19 post here
‘Trying is only emphasizing the thing we know… let go of the wrong thing, and the right thing does itself.‘ F. M. Alexander
Me: Alright, Mr. Alexander, I will try. Oops. I mean, I will ‘let go of the wrong thing.’
FM: Yes, and the right thing does itself.
Me: ‘The right thing does itself‘? Does that mean do nothing?
FM: Well, yes, but it doesn’t mean that nothing will happen.
Me: Is this a zen koan? I’m confused.
FM: If you do what I did, you can discover what I discovered. Explore. Think. Apply thought to use.
(OK, then. Here’s an exploration: Sitting in my desk chair, I observe a thigh grip as I type this imaginary conversation between Mr. Alexander and myself. While quitting with the ‘grip,’ my feet seemingly move of their own accord, sliding back toward the chair legs, thereby relieving the thighs of their grip.)
Me: How was that, Mr. Alexander? Did I get it right?
FM: No. The right thing did itself, which is much different from getting it right. You did not do the right thing. You did not DO. Congratulations.
Dear Readers: Make of your daily life a laboratory, and play with all the possibilities for moving in new ways—-