There are a million different ways of saying anything, in fact we humans love using as many words as we can possibly find in our vocabulary to say what are in essence very simple messages. We may even find ourselves in trouble as a consequence of this, or we may decide to re-think what we have said but because we don’t tend to think about how we are using our bodies as we speak, in the moment, we lose sight of our balance. We become so embroiled in the act of speaking, we lose sight of ourselves, our breathing and equilibrium. We may even also be so fearful that we just cannot speak, we lose our voice.
Suppressing one’s voice is how FM Alexander, a Shakespearean reciter, came to develop his technique. He came to see that even before the act of speaking, he was doing certain things with his head, neck and back, things which were hampering his ability to breathe and speak freely. He certainly wasn’t thinking of freeing his neck, the balance of his head or the length and width of his back. At every turn, he came up against the same problem, how to speak and indeed move, for this is what the act of speaking entails, without shortening himself. He later developed directions, short phrases we can use to remind ourselves to return to thinking about where we might be shortening or tightening our muscles. The face and vocal mechanism have literally hundreds of muscles, all working together during the act of speaking, allowing sound to travel, expression via singing and the spoken word, and freedom to air what we wish say, or the reverse.
If we are frightened, we tend to use our voice and words in ways that are not beneficial to us, ways which mean we shorten ourselves. We could in fact make ourselves smaller or larger during the act of speaking, both of which are in fact making ourselves smaller because of the tension created within the musculature. This is why the art of stopping can so useful. I’m not talking about coming to a halt, or even totally stopping what you wish to do, I’m talking about really stopping all the chatter in our minds. All the chatter within us which knawes at us on a daily basis, all of which stops us from returning to ourselves and how we wish to be. Sometimes we even have a voice which is so desperately wanting just to get heard and that too involves stopping, not just on our part, but also on the part of the listener, to allow a space for self-observation. It may be then that we will discover that it is us who is causing the interference, we may just not have stopped long enough to notice things within ourselves, things which we perhaps would like were otherwise.
For the first time we may feel safe and have a space where we can come to someone who understands, with all our faults, habits and failings, our struggle with tension and pain, but also the experienced ability to stay in balance with themselves whilst listening with their hands. With their knowledge of the voice, this may awaken within us a desire to express ourselves in a clearer way in our wish to be heard and to communicate, maybe even to be ‘understood as to understand’, as best as we are able. Perhaps we have made attempts to be heard, but because we each return to our habit, we find that we are not heard as we would like. Sometimes words even just fail us and that too can cause us to shrink within ourselves, rather than expressing ourselves, the shrinking being our muscular response to how we feel. Or we may find that we just always seem to say the wrong thing, if we speak at all. We may also observe that we avoid where we perhaps most wish to connect, all of this having to do with our own thinking.
There are a million and one ways to speak the sentence. There are also a million and one ways we find to shrink and narrow ourselves. Also a million and one ways to use one’s back, one’s neck and one’s head, not to mention our feet. Being on the small side of tall, which we all are, whatever our height, I’d rather think about allowing all the height and width I can muster whilst bringing thinking to bear. Just saying is fraught with problems because we are so adept at interfering with ourselves that we may only see things from our perspective, rather than perhaps considering the wider picture, that there might be three, even five, possibly even seven, different ones, all equally valid, and that there might be a reason why this so. Perhaps there was someone who needed to learn what stopping was all about, perhaps they also realised that they had not stopped in their activity in the past, that they wished to improve this in themselves, perhaps they realised they needed help with this. Perhaps, there is always a new possibility for a little more release of tension, of fear, of worry, even of
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