Changing The Habit of Wanting to Change Things
When we learn the Alexander Technique we become more familiar with the ‘mechanics of movement’ discovering that there is an optimum way for the head, neck and back to be co-ordinated. We also learn how we are interfering with this in a habitual way. Mindfulness encourages us to focus a little more on the ‘mechanics of thinking’ and to realise that, just as there is an optimum way to use the body, there is an optimum way to use the mind.
If we realised that we were making ourselves unhappy, we would probably want to stop doing that. And yet, we are constantly, subconsciously, sending ourselves messages that contribute to a sense of failure or dissatisfaction.
If we pay attention, we will notice that the mind is always busy analysing, comparing and judging our experience or making plans and projecting into the future. The mind loves to focus on problems (or perceived problems) – the gap between where we are and where the mind thinks we ought to be or the difference between what we’ve done and what the mind thinks we should have done.
It’s just how the mind operates habitually. It’s part of our survival mechanism and is influenced by the ‘measures of success’ created by the society we live in. However, when we believe that there is a problem or that something is missing or that we should be doing something else or that we should have something that we haven’t got, we end up constantly striving, always trying to do things, get things, change things or achieve things. And the reality is that no matter how much we achieve, the mind will always come up with something else that needs to be addressed.
Not only is this exhausting, it’s also demoralising. Operating in this way, means that we carry around a sense of dissatisfaction, a ‘not quite there yet’ feeling or a ‘not quite good enough’ belief. These thoughts and feelings become the norm so that we no longer even notice them. It is just part of the pattern of this habitual use of our thinking. It is our habitual means-whereby.
There is another down-side to this habitual way of thinking – we can get so caught up in the thoughts and resulting busyness, that we don’t appreciate the things around us. Our attention is so caught up with what we think is wrong, that we don’t notice the things that can give us pleasure.
If you’ve ever wondered why you have difficulty motivating yourself to meditate regularly or to stop and appreciate things fully – it’s often because our survival-focused mind sees these activities as a waste of time.
We need to re-educate the mind. We need to make a conscious decision that feeling good is a priority for us. We don’t want to feel bad and nor do we want to simply ‘get by’ or ‘get on’. We want to enjoy and appreciate life – not just on holiday when we can ‘switch off’ but every day. Feeling contented and fulfilled is important to us.
The Alexander Technique is about giving us freedom from habitual ways of reacting and it can help us to change the automatic thinking patterns that drive us and influence our well-being. When we apply inhibition to our thinking, this doesn’t mean that we need to try to stop our thoughts. We cannot inhibit something that is already happening. Inhibition is about making the space for something new – a conscious, reasoned means-whereby of use.
Noticing pleasant experiences may be considered a waste of time as far as our survival is concerned but is vitally important for our well-being. When we pay attention to our actual experiences and when we take the time to savour the things that make us feel good, we are re-training the mind – letting the mind know that feeling good is back on the agenda.
Note: these posts represent my current thoughts and experience of the Technique and will probably be most helpful for existing students and new teachers of the Alexander Technique.