(Visionaries is a work in progress, so if you would like to read the articles so far please go to the page ‘Visionaries’ in the menu at the top of the page)
Through the simple act of lying in the semi-supine position and the focusing of the mind inside the body with a global general knowledge of anatomy and physiology combined with positive
This is surely a wonderful opportunity. But modern people seem so heavily conditioned to use their minds exclusively for intellectual end-gaining tasks and achieving, and forcing their bodies to the gym or over-stretching at the yoga meeting, that they often find this idea a waste of time and energy. This meditative reflective use of the mind seems alien, perhaps vague and a little frightening to many. Today’s successful ‘winner’ image is a citizen who is highly intelligent in terms of intellectual skills, and physically fit, slim, super-confident.
The idea of being able to take your own well-being into your hands, by using your own resources to perform detailed quality control, is both too simple and arrogant to some. We have learned to depend almost entirely on and to abdicate responsibility to specialists and professionals, who are paid to look after us. Our infrastructure in developed cultures demands that our health and education are taken care of by experts, and so controlled and uniform to enable societies to function relatively smoothly.
But such uniformity can become a straitjacket. It can stifle all creativity and originality. It also drives us to lose contact with ourselves, our inner magical energy which is entirely unique. Like Alexander did, we lose our voice, defer to batteries of experts and strutting egos, instead of keeping confidence in our own unique mission and gifts.
So, the process of restoration and re-establishing the spiritual connection with our divine energy can begin by lying in this foundational semi-supine position. It is important to take time away from our busy lives in the ordinary world to recharge and realign ourselves. Alexander work, as I have mentioned, was a large part of my spiritual rebirth, and it was during these daily sessions of lying on my back that I started to realise that my mission was to attend to my well-being until I reached a point where I could devote myself to the well-being of others, without resentment.
So, in addition to the physical easing and opening out of the body, we can learn to be truly honest with ourselves and take down our social masks more and more often. Of course, all body work is experiential, so what you read here of my experience and knowledge has to be tested for yourself, and assimilated to fit your own unique spirit and energy.
Gravity is a wondrous energy which allows us to keep our feet on the earth and our heads reaching up into the sky. However, to enable this pressure is needed. The force of gravity is a massive force to contend with every moment of our waking lives, and it can take its toll if we are not vigilant.
Scientists claim that during the evolution of the human species there was a crucial moment: this was when four-legged ancestors decided to stand up, to survive more efficiently, to fight, to defend themselves, to pick superior fruit from the higher branches of trees, and to widen their horizon as their unique consciousness developed. It is ironic that as we stood up, most of our horizons shrank and we became trapped in a prison of our own making, the intellectual mind.
Those of spiritual persuasion are more interested in how our unique consciousness enabled our complex skills to carry out our divine missions, to stand with open arms and to share love unconditionally in human form.
When we first start to lie in the semi-supine, sheltering from the pressure of gravity, we must commence to adopt an attitude of non-doing. In other words, we inhibit (another of Alexander’s technical words) the desire to do anything at all. The way we are trained for daily life is intense because we are taught to constantly attend to the stimuli surrounding us in order to be a valued member of our social groups and communities, to be seen as ‘caring’ or ‘mature,’ as ‘polite’ an ‘considerate,’ etc. Of course, at root, we are all of those things naturally as we arrive in physical life from the goodness and blessings of the invisible world. But in social and group situations our egos may start to develop, and we may become competitive and arrogant, taking on some of the more negative emotions produced by group dynamics and the often overwhelming expectations of others and authorities. So, it may be difficult at first to change that continual pattern of reacting to our environment.
A good example is the ringing of the telephone, as I mentioned in the last article. We react to the ringing of the bell, and so often we develop a muscular tightness, over tensing muscles and ligaments, exerting extra stress on our bodies. Much of this may be created by the expectations of others around us to answer, and also responding to the person ringing, and we need to be able to deal well with this common demand made on us many times during the average day. But, with Alexander re-education, we can learn how to use exactly the appropriate muscular tone and ligament tension so that we do not induce any extra stress on the already gravitationally challenged skeleton and musculature.
Another good example of this over-exertion can be seen in the seemingly simple act of holding a glass or a cup full of liquid, which we desire to drink. This is something most of us do several if not many times a day, so we do it mindlessly, without thinking usually. Physiologically it is a complex series of actions if we analyze them carefully, but it all starts from the natural impulse to drink liquid, and often in a social setting like afternoon tea or cocktails. If we can identify the second such an impulse appears, which requires being mindful, then we have a good chance of noticing that we are overusing the body, especially in respect of our grip of the cup handle or shape of the glass. It is important that we do not spill the contents of the receptacle, but because we are performing this action according to the expectations of those around us and to our intensive training in infancy, we become quite tense and squeeze the cup handle or glass very tightly.
Also, because our hands and arms are over-used often, we have lost their connection with the spine. If we look at the typical drawing of a human being made by a child, we can see that most of us perceive the arm to commence at the edge of the torso at the level of the shoulder, and this is substantiated by the lexical item ‘arm.’ But we must remember that the word we use to refer to something is not the actual thing referred to, far from it.
In actual fact, the arm connects into the spine by a series of nerve and muscular links. So, if we remain mindful when we make this simple action, we may be aware of our spine as we extend the arm, and then the delicacy of the sense of touch as we pick up the vessel. Added to all the anatomical details of picking something up well, we can add static electricity, which is generated between the skin of the fingers and the material of the drinking vessel, which helps to make them adhere together if there is not an excess of tension.
The human body is a magical and highly complex organism. If we take an inert object in our hands mindfully, our bodies will adjust to the weight of that object. If the tea cup or glass is full or empty, the body will automatically measure the weight and make the appropriate muscular, ligament/tendon and skeletal and adjustments. But how often are we really mindful? ‘Mindful’ means to be entirely present with all your awareness and energy; in the now and here, in other words.
Imagine yourself pouring all of your attention into what may be construed as a mundane action such as taking a cup of tea in your hands. We are generally so distracted by a social situation, or by the style, colour and design of the cup and saucer, or by the quality and condition of the tea – everything except allowing the body to utilise all its miraculous complexity to take the cup and saucer skillfully, beautifully, smoothly.
This kind of one-pointed way of living is what spiritual adepts focus on so that they are never separate from their actions. They minimise the information which they need to compute during executing such a complex action. Of course, most of us do not live in a monastery but in a chaotic relentlessly busy life where every moment is spoken for and at a distance, or indirectly.
However, despite the way we live in modern life, we can decide to have islands of total absorption scattered through our days. During my Alexander training, I realized that especially when I was executing mundane habitual actions, I could gather all my attention, lengthen my spine, let my head go up into the sky, my heels sink down into the earth, and block all information influx so that I was not distracted from being absorbed utterly in using my body. It felt so releasing, so wonderful. I actually could sense that my body was a superb manifestation of my unique energy, my divine origins, and that this energy, which had temporarily taken on this potentially beautiful form of the human body, was eternal, full of love and purity and goodness. This could be interpreted as a spiritual realization, as I later found out, but at the time, it was such a relief to allow my body to work in its innately beautiful way.
All beings have the potential for beauty and elegance if they can decouple their intellectual measuring/judging/assessing mind. Of course we need these extraordinary skills to live in a modern world, which has been constructed by the intellectual mind to enable us to live in huge social groups reasonably successfully, but we must not lose contact with our unique divine nature at all costs, because, the world badly needs our goodness and our positive light.
Our human potential is something invisible, but its realization in actions, which will help others and make the world a glorious place of balance, will make it highly visible. The great spiritual masters tell us that we each create the world with our minds, and that we are reflected in the world and the world is reflected in us because we are not separate from it. As we can see from the example of picking up a drink either mindfully and mindlessly, we have a penchant to become distracted by everything that is intellectual about the things in our world, but that information is not the object itself. The map of an area is not the territory; you must go to that place and experience it to know it directly. This is the basis of meditation: experiencing direct reality not using intellectual data to create a synthetic, abstracted version of that thing.
This invisible world is made up of non-doing-energy: energy which does not consciously ‘do’ things. Feelings and sensations are a large part of the invisible world, and they simply occur outside our control often. These energies are concrete and universal, unlike those of the visible world, which are abstract and interpreted according to each individual mind. In other words, we do not ‘do’ feelings or sensations. We simply acknowledge them or act on them, or alternatively hide them.
It is non-doing that will provide the greatest opportunity for sheltered rest from the bombardment of gravity, and for closing down the mundane mind so that the higher mind can fill any and all spaces. In addition, this is the best state for preparing to receive the non-doing hands of a highly trained and sensitive Alexander teacher/facilitator. If the Alexander subject is still distracted by the visible external intellectual abstract world, he or she will not be able to entrust the Alexander teacher with their entire body. He or she will not be able to let go, to release their limbs, to receive the non-doing messages which are sent through the hands of the teacher.
An introductory lesson will consist of the Alexander teacher sitting at the head of the pupil lying in the semi-supine, and first focusing him/her self on non-doing. Then when the right moment comes, non-doing hands will be lightly applied to the back of head-neck area of the pupil, and he/she will start to talk and listen to the non-doing mind of the subject, either out loud or silently. The words and the soft hands will be encouraging of lengthening the spine and deepening the breath. It is easy to see that the teacher will encourage non-doing above all else.
Gradually, once the process of lengthening has started, the teacher may move to one side, pause, prepare, and then very softly take the pupil’s hand, and then the arm. It is at this point that the subject may be tempted to help the teacher, but it is easy to see that this will interrupt the non-doing process. So, the pupil must let go of the entire weight of the arm so that the teacher can take it over and encourage the arm to lengthen too. And so, this process will continue, the teacher always returning from the limbs to the head, until the subject is truly lengthened and widened also.
This process will be repeated lesson after lesson until the re-education of non-doing is complete. The unconscious implication of a real letting go of the body that we usually hold on to so tightly for numerous and various reasons, is a real letting go of the mind, and a realisation that the intellectual aspect is only one of the miraculous ways we can use it. There are countless other ways.
As we explore the aspects of our higher consciousness in this way, we will probably eventually encounter reality, as I did. We are no longer building our own version of the world, but are equipped and receptive to embrace reality. We can throw away the map and actually feel our feet on the ground and our skin in the atmosphere of that territory.
This is the visionary Alexander; without any knowledge or experience of meditation or work with the higher consciousness, he designed a technique, which allows us to interface with the invisible world, and to strip away all the mental and emotional constructs to reveal our true nature, what some call our Buddha Nature. Such work can purify negative karma and reveal healing abilities and many other skills we have lost contact with. Interestingly, the invisible and ancient skills such as clairvoyance and telepathy, only work with concrete data; in other words, with direct experience.
In Buddhist terms, the Alexander teacher must be empty of ego and doing in order to be effective, to be a pristine channel untarnished by ego or self-serving. The direct experiencing of emptiness can lead the pupil also to become empty during sessions, and to then take that integrity and calmness out into their daily lives.
Sitting in and out of a Chair
Alexander began his teaching career by spending most of the time guiding people to sit in and out of a chair. He deemed sitting and standing, which we do perhaps hundreds if not thousands of time each day, one of the most difficult actions of all to execute in a non-doing way. Moving backwards to sit down often causes tightening in the low back and excess strain on the spine, and standing up from sitting can cause a stiffening of the neck and shoulders, and extra strain on the legs and arms. He also observed that most chairs were not designed for efficient sitting or standing.
One of the problems of this action is that we interfere with arms and shoulders and use our legs stiffly, and these interferences are exacerbated by badly designed seating. Once we are seated and desire to stand up, we often exert too much muscular and ligament/tendon stress and too much intellectual energy. Sitting and standing is an art which if we leave ourselves alone we can execute beautifully and without effort. It all depends on our primary control. We must lead the upward standing movement with the head, and allow the body to follow effortlessly, and lead the downward sitting movement with the pelvis, allowing the rest of the body gently down using gravity to advantage.
Learning how to move smoothly and efficiently in the field of gravity is the re-educational aspect of the technique. We can use our energy so much more efficiently than we do mostly. The domination of the intellectual mind and thus arrogance causes us to think we know best, but Alexander realised that was not the case. We are apt to squander our personal energy in the same way that we squander the Earth’s energy.
Another vital spiritual notion in this respect is that it is only the hyper-active intellectual aspect of the mind which can make us separate from the Earth. In reality, we are each an intrinsic component of the universe, and if our minds are operated in a balanced way, then we will be able to be a positive influence on the environment. We are well aware in today’s world that the Earth and its environment are wildly out of balance with dramatic global warming and climate change. So it is logical to assume that if vital components of the universe with unique higher consciousness and power potential like humans are balanced and not tyrannized by their negative emotions and limited non-supple mind, they will be a balancing influence on the whole organism of Earth.
We have the choice of each taking responsibility for our well-being on the basis of the idea that every thought we have affects every cell of our bodies. If we fill our minds and bodies with negative emotions and damaging stress, then we will in time manifest those things in our cellular and skeletal being.
Emotional anatomy is a phenomenon we can observe if we watch people around us. Stanley Keleman (see illustration:http://www.alexander-technique-london.co.uk/somatic-emotional-therapy-the-work-of-stanley-keleman/) is a leading expert on this phenomena. The posture and movement style of people is a direct expression of their minds, unless they are spiritually trained or informed about the continuum of the body, mind and spirit.