“When you realise there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you” Lao Tzu
“I’ve been thinking my directions a lot at home but it isn’t working”
It’s great when an Alexander Technique pupil makes a statement like this because it tells me a lot about how they’re thinking. It’s not uncommon for a new pupil to be having thoughts such as: ‘my neck should be free’ and/or: ‘when my neck is free it should feel like…’ These thoughts will affect what a pupil does next. If they think that their directions ‘haven’t worked’ they may think that they’re not doing something right or that they need to increase their efforts and try harder.
This way of thinking our directions leaves us doing battle with our current experience (eg our sense of a tight neck) creating more tension in our bodies. We are judging our experience, not liking what we find and wanting it to be different. We then react to this perception of our experience by reverting to our habitual way of dealing with difficulty – we try harder to get the result that we want or that we think is right. Unfortunately, this reactivity creates more contraction and tightening in our muscles.
Tempting as it is to try to ‘do’ the directions and/or look for a desired result, the Alexander Technique requires us to think the direction: ‘let the neck be free’ and then let go of any requirement or expectation for the neck to be free. This is a big ask as it is the opposite of how we usually approach things.
So it is helpful before we give our directions, for us to inhibit – to stop doing. When we stop doing, we allow more space for being. In many ways this is the work of the technique – not the trying harder to get somewhere else but the willingness to be where we already are and the willingness to let go of the end result we are aiming for.
Learning to inhibit and direct is more about waking ourselves up from autopilot and habitual responses and seeing how it is to inhabit this moment and to make a clear choice not to react habitually. As we bring a gentle acceptance to our experience, the body, no longer in fight or flight mode, can soften a little and the freedom that we had been striving to find earlier can emerge out of our ability to let go.
It is counter-intuitive but our tension is more likely to disappear when we stop trying to get rid of it and let go of our attachment to the desire to be free of it.