Tag Archive | freedom

Marjory Barlow: #2, “The Only Freedom We Have”, London 1984

Some years after that first experience of ‘magic’ with Marjory, I began to see her regularly for lessons. It was during my last term of teacher training,

Her approach was very much to emphasise ‘saying no’, ‘giving orders’ and to work with the basic procedures. She talked of ‘orders’ rather than ‘directions’ and the ‘orders’ were given with the idea that they might bring about some change later. She once described the process as rather like laying telephone cable: no messages can get through until the cable reaches its destination; if you don’t feel anything happening, it doesn’t mean nothing is happening; just go on ‘laying cables’ and be patient; eventually the messages will get through.

Marjory would often say. “I’m doing exactly what F.M. did. I haven’t changed anything.”

In one lesson she said to me, “My use might be a bit better than yours; that’s only because I’ve been working at it for longer. But when it comes to saying ‘no’ to a stimulus, we are all in the same boat. That never becomes easy or automatic.”

She also said – and it was one of those moments that really stay with you “the space in between stimulus and response is the only freedom we have“.

© 2013 John S Hunter

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