Being with Erika: #10, A Lesson in Stopping, London, 1993
Whenever Erika was staying with me I was always keen to get her to talk about her insights into the Alexander Technique and the key individuals involved in its discovery and transmission. Sometimes this became a distraction from actually ‘entering into the moment’.
Erika taught me a lesson, without words and without touch.
After dinner one evening I was washing up. Erika picked up a tea towel and began to dry the dishes. I was impatient to go and sit down and talk about the Alexander Technique. Erika was living it. The more I rushed, the more contrast I sensed between my movements and the freedom with which her arm would appear from somewhere behind me and pick up a plate or bowl or cup. But still I carried on along my furrow of end-gaining.
Then the hand stopped appearing. I turned a little so I could see her in my peripheral vision. She had “stopped”; not ‘frozen’, not ‘paused’ but ‘stopped’. Sometimes when one was with Erika, one became aware of her thought processes. She had stopped, and was giving herself a choice. I felt at that moment that she was perfectly free to put down the tea towel and simply walk out of the kitchen, or to remain quiet and still, or to carry on drying the dishes. She chose to carry on.
By now I had got the message; not only about my own rushing, but more critically about the difference between ‘pausing’ and ‘stopping’. Stopping opens a door into other options.
Even a seemingly mundane activity like ‘doing the washing-up’ could be a medium for teaching.
© 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
#11, Hands, London 1994
#12, “Yes, but you’re worrying!”, London, 1993
#13, “Nothing special”, London, 1994
Tips4Pupils – Pausing is not Stopping
A pause is not a stop; they are quite different. A pause implies that one is going to do the thing, but not yet. A stop has no such implication. We are free to do something else.
If you press the pause button on an old-fashioned cassette player, the motor is still engaged but with, so to speak, the brakes on; as soon as you release the button the machine can only continue in the same direction it was going. If you press the stop button, other options become available; you can rewind, fast-forward, record or even remove the tape.
Real stopping means giving oneself real choices.
But take care! With choice comes responsibility.
© 2013 John S Hunter