Lessons with Miss G: #7, Stopping
To come into Miss Goldie’s teaching room was to enter a space of quiet presence – another world, in a way; one in which there could be some insight into the hidden laws which control human reactivity – and the possibility, if just for a moment, of becoming more free from them.
The form of the lesson did not seem so different from any classic ‘Alexander turn’; you stood in front of a chair; you might sit down and stand up; you could be taken into “monkey” or work through “hands on the back of a chair”. But there was no mistaking the fact that the medium (of the procedures) was not the message; the work was about what was happening in one’s brain (a place where, it is worth remembering, there is no sensation); moreover parts of the brain which seemed to be stubbornly resistant to being accessed and activated.
In the early lessons there was little outer movement – perhaps a centimetre backwards or forwards in the chair – but there was movement; the movement of thoughts, of nerve-impulses, of energies normally well below the radar. It was a revelation to see just how much of the unnecessary was taking place.
She showed us young teachers that sensations, be they ones of muscular release or of directed energy (depending on the school where one had trained), did not on their own address the great problem which – to Alexander – was at the heart of his work; human reactivity. It became clear that FM’s concept of ‘Man’s Supreme Inheritance’ did not only mean going through life with a more upright posture, a lengthened spine, a feeling of gravity in the pelvis or of contact with the ground, or any other kind of sensation – however subtle; it was the developed capacity to make choices and decisions; “the transcendent inheritance of a conscious mind” 1
And the key? Stopping!
“Stop doing your thing”, she would say again and again. “Quiet throughout, with particular attention to head, neck and back! Not you, doing your thing!”
She held out the promise of a kind of ideal: one in which ‘stopping’ meant the absence of interference with the workings of the organism at a very deep and fundamental level; not just muscular tensions but habits of thought, uncontrolled emotionality, attitudes, the functioning of the internal organs – everything.
She said once, rather enigmatically, “If we could stop – really stop, all our difficulties would simply disappear!”
1. Man’s Supreme Inheritance, FM Alexander. Chapter III, The Processes of Conscious Guidance and Control. Published by Mouritz, London 1986.
© 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