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Direction of our human laboratory

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If we are unhappy about some aspect of ourselves, whether this be a failed relationship, in some way our looks, level of confidence, emotional reasons or our reactions towards the opinions of others, then the tendency is to remain unhappy with this rather than taking the time to observe ourselves. We may even develop a critical habit, which affects everything we do, even right down to how we move and how we indeed think and learn.

The Alexander Technique was developed by an actual individual who decided to observe himself, his whole way of being, in a mirror. In doing so, he concluded that much of what he was doing with himself was in fact the opposite of what he intended to do, but how to change this without further getting himself into a mess? He looked to directing himself, that is he developed a learning process based on observation which focussed not on changing himself directly, but rather on how he thought. His direction involved thinking through a process about how he moved seeing a reflection of himself in the mirror. These days we work with a teacher, who guides and aids us in our own discoveries of how we move and our ability to see ourselves, but it is the changes brought about in our own thinking which bring about lasting change, such is the uniqueness of the Alexander Technique when it comes to comparison with other modalities. Direction does certainly involve thinking through and applying Alexander’s directions on a conscious level. Learning the skill of thinking up in the body’s musculature involves also being aware of ourselves in the context of our environment, where we are pulling down applies to us on a physical level and also very much on a mindful level, in fact the two are very much inseparable and truly pscycho-phyiscal, not something divorced from each other. In fact the two top vertebrae of the cervical spine, on which our head balances, are located very close to the cerebellum, the ‘little brain’ responsible not only for motor control but which also co-ordinates and regulates muscular activity and is very much influenced when listening to music. Direction is also a definite choice, as to whether we wish to pull down and slump, or whether we wish to ‘go up’ in the world about us. The cartoon of Charlie Brown pulling down was one to which I was first introduced by my own teacher and serves as a good reminder of what we do not want. Unlike shortening and tightening but much like our muscle spindles, direction and inhibition should work together harmoniously, however it is when we interfere with this, that we encounter difficulties and confusion.

Mozart has always been a favourite, the flute & harp concerto particularly but also his clarinet concerto, amongst others, but before and upon my return from Limerick this was definitely accompanying my writing, thereafter I learned that others also listen to Mozart to start their day in a similar fashion. Since then I’ve added his most beautiful, energising, as well as mindful, requiem to these. Direction definitely benefits from those things which bring us lasting enjoyment, peace, and inspiration, but it is also a firm intention to wish to come up to what is our full height. Last week I heard Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan, an orchestra created with intention and direction and on Sunday night I attended the late night Prom with a girlfriend to listen to Sir Andras Schiff play Bach’s Goldberg Variations.  Barenboim describes his desire to “create a platform where the two sides can disagree and not resort to knives” and a musician describes the orchestra as “a human laboratory that can express to the whole world how to cope with the other.” I very much believe that expressing both these sentiments first takes place with ourselves, in our own laboratory of our own mechanism.

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