Sunday, November 25, 2007

Alexander Technique Part II, ....continued

The first part of this article is here.

Michael Gelb, in his book Body Learning says direction is the new experience of trusting one’s reason rather than one’s habit, even if it feels awkward. He says that the best conditions for good use are brought about when one released the tension in one’s neck, so that one’s head could go forward and up and one’s back could lengthen and widen. One must give up any attempt to ‘do’ anything about securing these conditions, as one understands the word ‘doing’. In a word, direction becomes a matter of thinking: ‘up’. This has been very interesting and subtle for me. I have experience with these ideas of not doing from studying Buddhism and particularly Zen. In those cases the similar instructions have been focused on mind training and it is so wonderful to be able to relate to these instructions through the body. I feel like it has all the useful qualities of training the mind but actually being able to relate through the context of the body makes the experience very lasting and real.

I feel Gelb’s approach to the learning process is a very effective approach that embraces all the qualities that are needed to truly encourage good use from an early age. If I had had Alexander Technique as a young person along side my ballet training I feel I would not have developed the poor use inspired by ballet that I did. The emotional aspects of the readings were very interesting to me. Everything Gelb talks about as being the effects of Alexander Technique on the emotions are the very qualities I strive to achieve. The possibility of not always reacting to my environment and instead letting there be a gap before I respond would make everybody in my life much happier. In general I can check in with myself, bring my attention into my back and let my defensive initial responses pass, but when I am tired I generally snap and that is when problems in my life occur. I appreciated they way Gelb approached that subject and find it very useful.

The idea of loss of fear is important to me, to be able to make the structural choices that are of the best use and most effective would not only relate to my everyday use but to my climbing technique as well. I love the idea of being able to organize my body in an instant, the way it needs to be organized with optimum strength and the least strain. My husband Peter calls this being able to think on the rock, similar to the Alexander approach of letting there be space in the mind to move beyond the habitual patterns and into good use. Interestingly, I studied Japanese archery throughout elementary school. I have only a vague memory of those lessons but I do remember that the Master Shabata Sensei had unbelievably good use when I look back on that time. He has lived into his nineties and I still see him sometimes, my employer is a kyudo student of his. Even now Shabata Sensei is strong when he does kyudo though when he is walking or sitting he looks old and hunched. But when he does kyudo he becomes very still and awareness comes into his body that is like a listening, his use changes and I can truly say he is using the means whereby.

I have had more positive change through Alexander than from the other things I have done, some of which are mentioned in the book, such as aikido. I understand and appreciate the premise of aikido but when I took it I always felt withdrawn when my partner would ‘attack’ me. I like the ideas of centering and blending with conflict that aikido provides, it just wasn’t the most effective thing to influence my use, I just could never become comfortable with the actual practice of aikido when we had to engage with another person, I never didn’t get scared. But Alexander combines all the principles of aikido, kyudo, meditation and other things I have done and has the gentleness that I can respond to and open to. I am truly enjoying this work and plan to continue throughout my life.

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