Tips4Pupils – Means-whereby

When I need to undertake a task of some sort there is an inner activity and an outer activity. The sequence, according to Alexander’s ideas,  of “inner events” is something like this:

  1. say “no”!
  2. consider my options
  3. make a decision
  4. organise myself (head, neck & back etc.)
  5. work out my “means-whereby” (the best way to do it)
  6. reconsider (I can still change my decision)
  7. let my head go forward and up and get on with it

Is it not the case, though, that there is often an assumption that as long as my neck is free (etc.) I am “using” myself well?

Think of any task involving a number of necessary actions. For example, decorating a room: I might need to move all the furniture into the centre of the room or even out of the room all together.

Where am I going to put everything? Which items should I move first? Should I empty drawers or bookshelves before trying to move heavy furniture? Where might I store the contents ? Etc, etc……That’s before I even start preparing the surfaces to be painted.

Unless I work out my means-whereby before I start, I am likely to have to do a lot more work than necessary.

If I start moving a sideboard around with no idea where to put it because I filled the only large enough space with piles of books, BUT….. I keep a free neck – does that mean I have “good use”?

Compare this with the practical man or woman – amateur or professional decorator – who, before starting, thinks things through and works out the optimum sequence of events, BUT….. stiffens or collapses somewhat while doing the practical work.

Whose “use” is better?

Taking a moment or two to consider the means-whereby we are going to carry out an activity (the best way to do it) can bring a new dimension to our understanding of the use of the self.

© 2013 John S Hunter

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4 responses to “Tips4Pupils – Means-whereby”

  1. Victoria Stanham says :

    I quite agree with you. T
    hinking out the best means-whereby is paramount to achieving a goal efficiently, with minimum wasted energy.
    Simply thinking to “free the neck” is not enough. It means one is leaving part of the decision making to habit; that is, the order of events will be according to our usual way of proceeding.
    However, if all one wants is to paint the room enjoying one’s body in movement, with no concern for the time it will take, one is very welcome to free one’s neck and start at any habitual point one chooses.
    In the latter case, just be sure you acknowledge that you are still making a conscious choice to act that way.

    • upwardthought says :

      Thanks for your comment Victoria. Your example of the “dancing painter” could be termed “conscious aimlessness” – which might be a contradiction in terms. Actually I think the way one approaches most things in life has a lot to do with “type” – something which Alexander did not seem to take into account very much. Interestingly, although he seems from his writing to have beeen very much a rational person, Margaret Goldie described him as an artistic type: nervous, sensitive, quick to react. That he was not dominated by these tendencies was, according to Miss G, due entirely to his work on himself over many years.

  2. Mark Josefsberg says :

    Great post, John. I think that we sometimes put so much emphasis on freeing the neck, we forget to go a little higher up and examine the use our brains and habits of thinking. Sometimes when Alexander Technique teachers talk about ‘thinking’, they just mean thinking about body parts.

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