Equilibrium: Freedom and Limitation
One hears a great deal of talk about ‘freedom’, but it should be remembered that in all spheres of life – and that includes Alexander Technique, personal development, spiritual growth and education – limitation, or boundaries, are just as important.
The balance, or lack of it, between freedom and limitation manifests itself in many ways in a human being, some of which I will try and address in separate posts.
In, for example, improvised music the satisfaction comes from finding freedom of expression within a given scale. Although this may be modulated, it is nevertheless the relationship with that scale which gives form, and creates the satisfaction of tension and resolution.
In dance (for example Argentinian Tango), in order to experience the wonderful freedom of moving with another – sometimes in dynamic opposition, sometimes ‘as one’ – both partners must first accept the limitations of the dance form.
We tend, in contemporary times, to demand a great deal of ‘freedom’ in how we behave. However, it is not only for the sake of the ‘social contract’ that boundaries need to be both understood and respected, but also for the development of certain – what could be termed – ‘inner qualities’.
Limitation must not go too far. As the I Ching states:
“… in limitation we must observe due measure. If a man should seek to impose galling limitations upon his nature, it would be injurious.” 1
The Book of Changes also warns, however, that without appropriate boundaries development cannot progress:
“Unlimited possibilities are not suited to man; if they existed, his life would only dissolve in the boundless. To become strong, a man’s life needs the limitations ordained by duty and voluntarily accepted. The individual attains significance as a free spirit only by surrounding himself with these limitations and by determining for himself what his duty is.” 1
What, for me, are the unnecessary ‘boundaries’ that restrict me, and what are the ‘limitless possibilities’ which lead to dissolution? In my own ‘use’ the challenge is to find a dynamic balance between freedom and limitation, and to be perceptive enough to recognise both.
1. I Ching, The Richard Wilhelm translation, rendered into English by Cary F Baynes, Hexagram 60. Chieh / Limitation, published by Penguin Arkana, London 1989.
© 2013 John S Hunter
Equilibrium: Aimless and Purposeful
“Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go.”
Ecclesiastes 9, 10
What are the values of contemporary society? On the one hand there are the so called “high-achievers”, bent on material gain, political power or sporting glories; on the other hand there is a culture of being ‘laid-back’, ‘hanging loose’ or ‘chilling out’. Where does one find valued for their own sake being purposeful, alert and engaged.
In AT circles, has the rejection of a “driven” attitude to life caused a drift away from the purposeful towards aimlessness? Do muscular release and saying “No” become new habits which generate a kind of lassitude?
What did Alexander have to say on this subject?
“We must cultivate, in brief, the deliberate habit of taking up every occupation with the whole mind, with a living desire to carry each action through to a successful accomplishment, a desire which necessitates bringing into play every faculty of the attention.” 1
Primary Control gives a direction – internally – but this new inner organisation needs a purposeful application; an engagement with life. This can help us develop other faculties and possibilities.
Not end-gaining does not mean giving up ends. Without an end, how can there be a means-whereby one can achieve it? “Non-doing” should not become “nothing-doing”.
1. Man’s Supreme Inheritance, FM Alexander, Chapter VI Habits of Thought and of Body. Published by Mouritz, London 1986.
© 2013 John S Hunter