Discovering how we are using ourselves, provides the potential for huge change
“The function of man is to live, not to exist.” Jack London
Wilfred Barlow describes ‘use’ as ‘…the way we use our bodies as we live from moment to moment. Not only when we are moving but when we are keeping still. Not only when we are speaking but when we are thinking…not only when we are communicating by actual gestures and attitudes but when, unknown to ourselves, our whole bodily mood and disposition tells people what we are like and keeps us that way whether we like it or not.’
It is not just our bodies that we use from moment to moment, but also our minds. Do we have our mind fully on what we are engaged in or are our thoughts busy analysing, judging, processing and comparing what has already happened or anxiously worrying about, managing or projecting what may happen in our near or distant future?
The principle of the Alexander Technique is to work on the whole self, with the assumption that our ways of being, of using ourselves, are neither purely physical nor purely mental, but that we always operate as psycho-physical beings. Discovering how we are using ourselves provides the potential for huge change.
How we function can be interpreted as how well our internal organs (liver, heart, kidneys etc) are functioning, the efficiiency of our digestive and circulatory system or the ease and accuracy with which we perform a particular task. Perhaps also it refers to the way we are living our lives. Are we active participants or passive recipients? Do we appreciate and engage with our surroundings, our loved ones, ourselves or do we simply accept our lot as ‘ok’? Are we surviving and ‘getting by’, slightly resentful but resigned to the things that other people have and we don’t, or are we flourishing and thriving, heart-centred and generous, loving the life we are living?
How we think and where we choose to put our attention can have a huge impact on our emotional wellbeing. Our habits of use are not simply physical but also mental and emotional. Our thinking and a lot of our beliefs are habitual. Transactional Analysis theory states that much of the way that we behave as adults is a result of decisions that we made when we were very young and ill-equipped to make sense of the perplexing adult world around us. And although these decisions, the experiences that led to them and the associated feelings are recorded permanently in the brain, as conscious adults, we do have the freedom to make different decisions.
The Alexander Technique helps us to discover how we are using or mis-using ourselves in ways that do not contribute to our overall wellbeing and gives us the tools to consciously make a different choice. Not simply in the way that we sit, stand and walk, but in the way that we think and behave at all times. So, if we choose, we can have a whole different experience of life.
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.