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Lessons With Miss G: #4, The Table

In one of my early lessons she asked me to take my shoes off and get on the table. This was a narrow couch up against the wall in one corner – and there it stayed.

There seemed to be several telephone directories under my head. Miss Goldie sat at the top of the table and I had the impression that she was just pulling my head. But unexpectedly at some point my back came with it and lengthened out.

“Do you see?” she said. “Head forward and up and back lengthen and widen are part of the same thing.”

I didn’t see, but I felt a new sensation in my spine.

Then something quite odd happened. I had by this time become deeply quiet; my body almost in a meditative state but my mind still alert. She had a finger lightly touching one knee. My eyes were half closed so I couldn’t see her, but while her finger was still on my knee, as if by an act of simultaneity, both hands arrived at the back of my neck. The sensation in my knee was still so clear that I was, for a moment, very confused. How could she be in two places at once?

After about 15 minutes she asked me to get up, reminding me that it was “still part of the lesson” and to put my shoes on.

It was the only table-turn I received in twelve years.

© 2013 John S Hunter

Lessons With Miss G: #3, Arriving Late

I always experienced a degree of anxiety when on my way to a lesson with Miss G. She seemed to take away all the little “tricks” I relied on to have “better use”. What I thought was the application of the Technique, was now being challenged as actually another set of habits.

Certainly one of the most inadvisable things to do, for a worrying sort of person like me at any rate, was to arrive late.

After an agonising wait for the lift there was that extra flight of stairs to negotiate to get to the fifth floor – but all of that paled into insignificance compared to the dramatic confrontation that was about to ensue: not, I must in all fairness add, with Miss G – but with oneself when, standing in front of her chair and with her calmly looking at you or placing a finger on the back of your neck, all the inner mental turmoil and over-stimulation of the nervous system – aggravated by, but certainly present anyway, the last-minute rush – came sharply into one’s field of awareness.

This was not a phenomenon limited to arriving late, of course; there was even something to be gained by the hard-won struggle to find – perhaps only at the end of the half-hour – a moment of real inner quiet. But it was arguably more productive to arrive early and allow some time to “settle” before the lesson. The distance between her and you was then slightly shortened and some of the subtleties of the inner psychic processes might better be glimpsed.

Besides, arriving early one might be fortunate enough to have a “waiting-room experience”.

Because the stud-walls separating her teaching room from the waiting room were so thin, one could hear more or less everything that was going on. Miss G would usually be putting someone through their paces; occasionally one might hear a pupil making some kind of doomed objection to her critique, though it was more usual to find them agreeing with her. “Yes, Miss Goldie!”

One wondered, of course, who it was she had in there with her and on more that one occasion I was very surprised to see a familiar face coming out of her room – though with perhaps a very unfamiliar expression on it.

© 2013 John S Hunter

Lessons With Miss G: #2, Decisions.

In I think my second lesson with Margaret Goldie she said, “Now I am going to ask you to make a decision, and it will be the first decision you’ve ever made.”

At the time I found this a very strange thing for her to say.  Had I not been making decisions all my life?  Had I not decided that very day to get out of bed, to get on the tube and to come and have a lesson with her?

We assume that because we end up taking one course of action rather than another that we have made a decision.  But is that the case?  Perhaps we have merely acquiesced to impulses following the path of least resistance. The evidence was that I could not decide to not get out of a chair, in fact decide not to do, so what decisions could I make about my life…….?

Miss G’s assertion opened a question for me about what decisions really are, a subject to which Erika attached a great deal of importance (see Tips4Teachers – “…not to do…”).

© 2013 John S Hunter

Lessons With Miss G: #1, The Beginning.

About a year after qualifying I began to have lessons with Margaret Goldie.  Friends who were already her pupils had spoken highly of this lady, who had her first lessons with the Alexander brothers in around 1927.

For quite some time the question of whether or not to go to her (let alone whether or not she would accept to see me) hovered in the air. In many ways I was rather comfortable with what I already knew; I was assisting on two London training courses and my work seemed to be appreciated; I was teaching at the Royal Academy of Music; I had a private practice and was a member of the STAT ‘think-tank’ that was advising Council on future policy. My new career seemed to be blooming. Nevertheless I knew in some part of myself that there was a very significant gap between what I was attempting to put into practice, for myself and for my teaching, and what Alexander had written about in his books. I didn’t know how to cross that gap. I was already familiar enough with what was going on in the other London training courses to know that, however positive and good it might be, it was not what I was looking for.

What I had learned was extremely subtle, skillful and helpful – both for myself and for others, but it was not connecting with my daily life in the way that I believed it could. I was told by a colleague from Switzerland that some of the trainees on the course where she trained had even left the school after having lessons with Goldie, claiming that what they were doing in their training course was no more than a game. For sure, part of me did not want to be challenged in a way that might expose me as a fraud. Were those fears irrational? All of this was going on at a more or less sub-conscious level until one night I dreamt that I was having a lesson with Margaret Goldie. I had no idea what she actually looked like (nothing like the woman in my dream, as it turned out), nor do I remember anything much about the ‘dream-lesson’ – except that it was definitely with Margaret Goldie and that something quite different was going on. I don’t hold much store by dreams so I did not think that this was some great message from the beyond, but I did think there must be some reason for it. In any event, it was the prompt I needed to ring her up and try to get an appointment to see her.

I half expected to find her in some sort of ‘guardian of the gate’ role when I rang, but as I was able to say that a friend, already a pupil of hers, had recommended I contact her, she readily agreed to see me. A week or so later, off I went to her premises in Soho Square.

The room was at the top of a five storey office block in one corner of the Square.  The lift went up only as far as the fourth floor, which meant that you, and she, had to use the stairs for the last flight; if you were lucky, you might catch a glimpse of her seeming to float effortlessly up them– despite her eighty-odd years of age.

I had been warned not to adopt a wide ‘MacDonald’ stance in front of the chair, but even so I was immediately asked to put my feet closer together. I fell straight into the trap of moving my feet as if the end were what mattered and not the means; it was clear right from the start that everything that happened in her teaching room was grist for the mill, and that I would not get away with any ‘unconscious’ activity.

At the end of the lesson I asked what I owed her. Sitting at her little bureau she looked at me with her extraordinary blue eyes and said that I should think about what the lesson meant to me and how I valued it, then I could tell her what I wished to pay.

“I used to have a fixed fee” she said. “But some people don’t have two stones to rub together and can’t even afford the bus fare; and rich people –  well, they don’t appreciate anything unless they pay through the nose for it.”

I suggested a fee which felt right to me and she said that would do fine. One couldn’t help wondering what she might have said if one had offered her an amount too little. Some years later I found out – but that story belongs elsewhere.

Thus began my twelve year journey of discoveries with Miss G.

© 2013 John S Hunter