Being with Erika: #04, Melbourne 1991 – Tea Ceremony

I arrived at Fulton Street, Armadale for my appointment with Erika. After my lesson with her six years earlier I was curious to discover how I would experience this one. But a lesson with Erika was nothing like what we are conditioned to expect. A lesson almost invariably began with a cup of tea.

Erika confessed that she had heard on the Alexander grape-vine that the ‘Chair of STAT’ was coming to Melbourne and she had been looking forward to meeting me. She did not remember the young teacher she had met in London after her Memorial Lecture in 1985. She left me sitting in her living room and went off to get the tea.

As I looked around I noticed several editions of STATNews were lying about on the coffee table and on chairs, all open at pages on which were articles I had written over the past two years in relation to various bits of ‘STAT business’.

“Oh dear,” I thought. “She certainly does her homework. She wants to find out what makes me tick.”

She asked me, with regard to the Alexander Technique, what I was concerned about. I was not aware that I was concerned about anything, but I said, “That it is all still a mystery”. We talked on a little more and then she suggested we go into the next room to “do some work”.

I fell straight into the first ‘trap’. As soon as I saw her hands moving towards me I immediately started to ‘give my directions’.

“Whoa!” she said. “You’re getting ready aren’t you! Wait and see what it is I am going to do.”

She commented on some of my misuses, saying she was trying to see my “trick”. The whole time she was directing my attention to the outside; using her hands just a little – to initiate a change – and then immediately taking them away again. A gradually increasing sense of length and width in my back was beginning to appear, and it was something that was ‘doing itself’.

She asked if I would like to work on her and I was struck by the quality of relaxation and liveliness in her body. ‘Work’ was never allowed to become something that we were doing for its own sake though. As soon as anything became fixed (a thought, an idea) she redirected my attention.  The conversation continued throughout.

“It’s really something practical”, she said. “When I look around and I see that the sink has filled up again with dishes, instead of grumbling I put my head forward and up and I get on with it. That’s the Alexander Technique. That’s Zen too.”

I was still calmly expanding as I left, with a sense of something really new. It was as though a light had been shone through the diamond of Alexander’s discoveries from a completely different angle; I was given a glimpse of hitherto unseen aspects.

© 2013 John S Hunter

Other Posts on Being with Erika:

#01, London 1985 – Annual Memorial Lecture
#02, Brighton 1988 – Key Note Address
#03, Melbourne 1991 – “Come for lunch!”
#05, Melbourne 1991 – Jean Jacques by the Sea
#06, Back in Melbourne, 1992
#07, “Where did you train?”, London, 1993
#08, “It’s all the same”, London, 1993
#09, “Making the Link”, London, 1993
#10,  A Lesson in Stopping, London, 1993
#11, Hands, London 1994
#12, “Yes, but you’re worrying!”, London, 1993
#13, “Nothing special”, London, 1994

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