Lessons with Miss G: #8, Hands
A friend of mine went for her first lesson with Miss Goldie. Being from out of town, my friend was staying in the house of another teacher in London. When my friend got back to her digs, her host asked her, curious about the lesson with Miss G, “What were her hands like?”
My friend, to her and her host’s surprise, heard herself saying “Oh, she didn’t use her hands”.
She later explained to me that of course Miss G had used her hands, but what she experienced in the lesson was not about “hands”; it was about what was going on in her brain and nervous system.
Another colleague, speaking of his lessons with Miss G, once said that “she grabbed your throat with her bony hands and you thought she was going to throttle you, but in time you learned to love those hands”.
Some people I knew, quick to judge according to their own criteria, never returned after one lesson – not finding the soft, direction-giving hands they associated with learning the Alexander Technique.
It is true that Miss Goldie did not ‘give directions’ in the way most of us were used to. Sometimes she hardly used her hands at all – just a light tap from time to time as a reminder to ‘think in activity’; at other times she might be very firm in indicating a direction – particularly to the back.
My own impression was, like my friend’s, that the hands were almost incidental; there was a contact on another level taking place which called forth a different quality of attention.
She told me that Alexander, speaking of his students after the training course one morning, complained that ‘They are all in such a hurry to use their hands. I’m waiting for the one who isn’t”
© 2013 John S Hunter
Being with Erika: #11, Hands, London 1994
Although she did not express it very much, Erika was concerned about the way that Alexander’s work had developed over the fifty years since she had been at Ashley Place. I will try and put into words in another post what she conveyed to me over a period of several years, but I recall that when on one occasion the subject of “hands” came up. I told her the story Margaret Goldie had told me, about FM saying after the class one day that “They are all in such a hurry to use their hands. I’m waiting for the one who isn’t”.
She was visibly shaken. This was obviously of quite some significance to her.
“Then why didn’t he tell us?” she exclaimed. Of course, I could not answer.
Soon afterwards she had the opportunity to speak to Walter Carrington about it, and asked him if it was indeed true that FM had said that. Walter replied that it was true.
“Then why didn’t he tell us?” she asked.
Walter’s reply was: “FM didn’t believe in telling people what to do”.
This whole incident had particular resonance for Erika because of the division of the students into two groups in the first training course and all that had ensued from that.
© 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!”
#04, Melbourne 1991 – Tea Ceremony
#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
#12, “Yes, but you’re worrying!”, London, 1993
#13, “Nothing special”, London, 1994