Already people have registered to partake in, A Grace of Sense – Where Our Inner World and Outer World Meet, from Scotland, England, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Iran, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and United States. That is why I decided to teach two classes, as to accommodate all of our different time zones. Usually, I have to trek around to world to get to people from so many different countries, but this way I can do so leaving a much lighter carbon footprint.
Yes, I cannot be with you in person. I cannot work with my hands as a way of helping you to access this material. But, at the same time, as I acclimate to this new medium I find, there is a surprising amount that I can successfully communicate visually and verbally.
Eventbrite makes it very easy for you to read about and register for this course. If you give yourself the time to read this material slowly and let it sink in, then you will know if this course if for you. If my words speak to you, if they move you, consider studying with me. If you have any questions, write to me. I am not going anywhere!
There is a handsome saving if you register by August 15th.
“In Bruce’s class you feel as if you are sitting by a deep, soft lake. He is the embodiment of his work. His pace and patience, his quiet confidence, allows people to unfold and open layer by layer. The superfluous falls away, leaving only life’s inner vitality effortlessly expressing itself through you. And then you know, ‘That’s who I am, that is who I could be.’”
Margarete Tueshaus – Alexander Teacher, Equestrian, Germany
Gone is the straight-lined striving, the stopping and oughting. Instead curiosity, inquisitiveness, and permission to experiment, to play, to open boxes and to climb out of them into a world of possibility – a world both soft and strong. And all this through a quiet power, a clarity of speech, and a wealth of wisdom. For me, Bruce’s work is more than exciting; it is important, both to the world and to anyone involved in any way with Alexander’s Technique.
Annie Turner – Alexander Technique Teacher, England
Having done so for 30 years, Bruce continues to teach annually in Europe, Asia, and the United States helping people to understand and experience the interconnectedness between physical and spiritual grace.
In 1982, Bruce co-founded the Alexander Alliance International, an intergenerational, multicultural community/school, now with programs in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, England, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and America.
Some of us become fascinated with the body, how it works, some of us specifically with how it moves, others with the natural grace and physical beauty inherent within our original design.
Some of us feel that Alexander’s work is complete within itself, all encompassing. Others of us enjoy interfacing Alexander’s work with other somatic disciplines such as Yoga, Tai Chi, Aikido, Feldenkrais, Somatic Experiencing, BodyMind Centering just to name a few.
Some of us devote ourselves to applying Alexander’s work to art, particularly the performing arts, to dance, acting, and music, and to the creative process. For others of us, everyday life becomes our art form, our vehicle through which we study and evolve.
Some of us become less interested in the body per se, but in consciousness, embodied mindfulness, and in sensory receptivity.
Some of us become intrigued with how we react or respond to myriad stimuli from within us and all around us, to our own thoughts, emotions, and sensations, and to the thoughts, emotions, and actions of others. We study the role habit and choice play in our lives.
Some of us become enthralled in the connection between Alexander’s work and physiology, psychology, philosophy, theology, sociology, gender studies. Some of us become intrigued by the relationship between movement and meaning, or between culture and coordination, or between physical and spiritual grace, or between science and sentience.
Some of us love and teach through procedures developed by Alexander and enjoy using his language when speaking about the work. Others of us teach through procedures developed by first and second generation teachers, or have chosen to teach through our own procedures, and prefer using contemporary language through which to get Alexander’s ideas across to others. Some of us enjoy using images and metaphors to help us when teaching, and others do not.
Some of us teach predominately through observation and language, others of us predominately through silence and touch. And many of us interweave all in the process of imparting Alexander’s work.
Some of us work more educationally and others more therapeutically. Some of us are interested in injury prevention and rehabilitation, others in learning how to be more open, open to new ideas, to acquiring new ways of perceiving and understanding ourselves, that is, in self-knowledge, in becoming freer and happier.
Some of us belong to this professional society or that professional society, others to no professional society. Some have trained within a training program structured in one way or within a training program structured in another way. Others have gone through apprenticeships, and a few of us, like Alexander himself, have trained essentially on their own. Some of us have trained through one lineage, others through another, others through multiple lineages.
Some of us teach a lot, some a little, some not at all. Some of us love Alexander’s books, and others of us find them tedious and convoluted.
This is who we are. This is our community at large. There was a time, when I was younger and full of hubris and just plain foolish, that I was convinced my training and orientation to Alexander’s work was superior to others, stemming from the one lineage that truly possessed the essence of Alexander’s work. But now, thankfully, I don’t feel that way. I have come to embrace the diversity within our community at large and to see this diversity as healthy and lively and creative.
It is so freeing to know that we can pursue our own approach to the work because so many others are pursuing their approaches to the work. For example, I can work more experimentally, procedurally and linguistically, because I know that others are preserving Alexander’s language and procedures. That is a great relief to me.
Now, after 50 years inside of Alexander’s world, I find myself for everyone and against no one. Finally, I am becoming freer and more flexible, acquiring some mobility of mind. Maybe this was precisely what Alexander was after. Maybe this was what Alexander meant by being but a signpost pointing all of us into unknown directions, and so, so many directions at that.
A good question might be, how can we transition from thinking in terms of some of us, to thinking in terms of all of us? How can we zoom out so far that, like an eagle high in the clear blue sky, we can see the finest of details and, at the same time, behold the entire field, the parts and the whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, not just one facet of the diamond, but the entire diamond, and not only the entire diamond, but the light that shines from that diamond, outwards in myriad directions into the world, and inwards as well, illuminating who we are and what we might become.
What Alexander’s Notion of Personal Use Mean for us
at the Alexander Alliance International
Currently, our curriculum is two-fold, personal and professional.
First. Without having spent years integrating Alexander’s work into one’s personal life, it is not possible to become a teacher of his work. Personal transformation is the basis upon which a life as an Alexander teacher is founded. Therefore, I will go into some detail as to what this transformational process entails.
Throughout the entire training, we train somatically, that is, we work on attuning ourselves physically, and we explore the relationship this physical attuning has upon our lives personally, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. Our physical attuning process is founded upon the insights and principles discerned by Alexander as to how we learn to function in accordance to our “original blueprint”, our inherent cognitive-neuro-muscular/fascial-skeletal design.
Regardless of our personal life situation, we share a common context in which our lives unfold. Alexander’s work attempts to shift for the better, our psychophysical relationship to the contextual framework in which our lives unfold. This shift in how we relate psychophysically to life’s contextual framework, indirectly but significantly, influences the content of our life, the way in which our lives unfold, and how we experience this unfolding. Our training is devoted to this contextual shift.
Our Common Context
Pedagogically, I divide our life context into nine facets: Structural Support, Ground Force, Spatial Freedom, Organ Capacity, Temporal Existence, Respiratory Restoration, Sensory Receptivity, Motoric Refinement, and Social Harmony/Inner Peace.
One. Structural Support
We share a common structure. We are all Homo Sapiens. At any given moment, we are using our structure in a particular way. At the Alexander Alliance, we learn how to respect and treat our structure according to its inherent design. This frees us into our natural support, allowing us to be at once, light and substantial, soft and strong, relaxed and ready, stable and flexible, peaceful and lively, receptive and generous, awake to ourselves, to others, and to the world around us.
Through Alexander’s work our personal relationship to our physical structure, to being consciously and appreciatively embodied changes, for the better.
Two. Ground Force
All of us are subject to gravity. Gravity derives from “gravis” or “gravitas”, and means heavy, weight, serious. For our purposes, gravity might best be thought of as “the law of mutual attraction” which states that bodies are drawn to each other through gravitational attraction. The strength of their attraction is greater if they are close together, and lesser if they are more distant. This force of attraction exists between any two bodies. Or, we might refer to Newton’s third law of motion, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When we sit in a chair, our bodies exert a downward force into the chair, while the chair exerts an equally upward force through our bodies.
These forces are not grave, not serious. They are positive, interactive forces, I dare say, joyful. These forces allow objects, both animate and inanimate, to rest. The more we can rest, the more support we can receive. The more support we receive, the more grace and lightness we experience.
Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to gravity changes, for the better.
Three. Spatial Freedom
We all live in space.
There is space within. We all possess a sense of space, or a lack thereof. Sometimes, we feel trapped, or cramped, that we have no room to move or breathe. Sometimes, we feel open and free, that the future is open to us, that the horizon widens forever, that the sky is the limit, that life is deep and vast, like the ocean. Some of us seem to spread out, some squeeze in, some hold back, some thrust forward, some press down, some pull up. How to be spatially unbiased, spatially balanced, spatially omni-directional?
There is space between, between us and our smartphones, our computers, our steering wheels, our soup bowls. There is space between us and those around us, when on a crowded train, when waiting in line at the grocery store, when sitting at the kitchen table.
There is space all around us, above us, below us, before us, behind us, beside us. Unbeknownst to us, we live with blinders on, zooming in on what is in front of us, narrowing our worldview.
Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to space within, between, and around, changes, for the better.
Four. Organ Capacity
We are all organ-isms, creatures. Even though we have a sense of internal space, in reality, the space within our structural framework is fully occupied; the cranial cavity, thoracic cavity, abdominal cavity, and pelvic cavity. Again, unbeknownst to us, we impinge upon our organs, exert pressure against them, prevent them from moving. We ignore them. Sensing our organs, our organ life, reminds us that we are alive, human beings being, rather than only human doings doing.
Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to our organ life changes, for the better.
Five. Temporal Existence
We all live in time. A second is a second, a minute a minute, an hour an hour, a day a day, a year a year, a decade a decade, and yet our subjective sense of time varies. An hour can fly by in a second, an hour can feel like an eternity, for better or worse. We can find ourselves waiting, a temporal event, for an urgent phone call, for a needed document to download, for the train that is late to arrive. Then again, there is long-term waiting, for the kids to leave home, for the perfect person to come into our lives, or for when we will be earning much more money, or for when we finally retire and get to travel. Or we find ourselves rushing about, worried about being late, meeting deadlines, getting everything done that we have to do. Time pressure. Clock time.
Then, there is biological time. Pacing. Tempo. Right timing. Eating, walking, speaking. Time to think. Time to feel. Time to breathe. Time to let the beauty of the world sink in, into our bones, into our hearts. Biologically, we by nature, mature, age, die. Our lives are temporally finite. We only have so much time, so many breaths. “Number your days”, King David suggests to us in Psalm 90. Don’t waste them. Don’t miss them. Experience them. Enjoy them. Be grateful for them. Live them. Make the most of them. as he did so well. What does it mean to age gracefully? How can we best adapt to our aging bodies? What do we want to pass on, to give away?
Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to time changes, for the better.
Six. Respiratory Restoration
Unknowingly, we often interfere with breathing, without understanding how or why, or even when, we do it. It helps to become aware of the particular ways in which we interfere with breathing. This, it turns out, is not so easy. As soon as we begin to set about studying our breath, this very act of studying it begins to change it. Immediately, we want to breathe right, or well, or fully. Instantly, we superimpose our attempt to breath better, whatever our idea of that is, on top of our habitual way of breathing.
Seeing that breathing defies being studied directly, our only recourse, if we want a way into the mystery of breath, is to study it indirectly. This means looking at the conditions that surround breathing. Breathing responds to pressure of any and all kinds. External pressure, for example, altitude, pollution, over stimulation, under stimulation, danger, as well as safety, comfort, love, a cat resting in your lap.
Breathing responds to internal pressures as well, like exertion, hunger, fatigue, strain, disease, self-imposed standards, time restraints. Breathing responds to the entire gamut of thoughts, sensations, emotions – be they painful or pleasurable.
Breath is not an action; it’s a response. When we decide to run up a hill, we don’t stand there and breathe until we have enough air to make it up the hill. We start running. The air of the world, and our bodies reflexes, without our having to ask, help us to accomplish what we have decided to do. Just like that. Such support. Such kindness. Such faithfulness. And how often do we stop, and say thank you?
Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to breathing changes, for the better.
Seven. Sensory Receptivity
We all are endowed with senses, though some of us do not have all of them. We see, hear, smell, taste and touch. We also have less known, less educated senses that tell us about ourselves, our kinesthetic and proprioceptive senses.
There’s a very simple way of speaking about what happens to our senses. As our motoric activity increases, often our sensory receptivity decreases. The result is that our actions are not as informed as they could be, which often makes our actions less accurate, more effortful, and less effective. To add to this, a diminishment of sensory receptivity prevents us from experiencing how we are doing, what we are doing, as we are doing it, reducing our ability to delight in and appreciate life as we are living it. We don’t want to live an unlived life.
It is as if, within us, there is a doer and a receiver. There is the you who washes your hair, and the you who senses and enjoys your hair being washed, or the you who does not sense it being washed. There is the you who is feeding you a spoonful of soup, perhaps potato leak soup, or miso soup, or lentil soup, or split pea soup, or French onion soup. And then, there is the you who is aware of receiving this soup, tasting it, savoring it, feeling thankful for it, or the you who is unaware of receiving the soup and who is not tasting it. Reawakening the receiver within us, the one who is not putting out, not on output, but the one receiving, on input, keeps us from becoming depleted, allows us to be replenished.
Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to our sensory world changes, for the better.
Eight. Motoric Refinement
We all move. The question is how well, how enjoyably, how appreciatively? The more sensitive, accurate, and reliable our senses become, particularly our intra-senses, our kinesthetic and proprioceptive senses, the more refined our actions become, the more precise, the more efficient, the more effective, the more effortless, the more fluid, and the more beautiful. Everyday movement, everyday actions become interesting and pleasurable; walking up and down steps, riding a bike, folding laundry, cleaning the house, cooking a meal.
Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to moving through our life changes, for the better.
Nine. Social Harmony/Inner Peace
We are all social animals. Existence is co-existence. Even if we choose to live our lives as a hermit far away in a cave, in isolation, it is a social choice we make, a relationship we have with society. Most conflict that we experience happens in relation to other people. Being in social conflict is a physiological event. Fear and anger are physiological events. Everything is a physiological event. Likewise, being in social harmony is a physiological event. Love, kindness, empathy, joy are also physiological events. How we are physiologically, when in the presence of others, can dramatically influence, for better or worse, how we feel about others, and how they feel about us. Peace is a physiological event.
In a very real way, we also have a social relationship with ourselves. Are we our own best friend, and/or our own worst enemy? Do we respect and care well for ourselves, or do we disrespect ourselves and abuse ourselves? Inner peace is also a physiological event.
Through Alexander’s work our personal, physiological relationship to others and to ourselves changes, for the better.
Dieses Buch war lange überfällig – das einzige AT Buch, das mir begegnet ist, in dem das Potenzial an menschlichem Reichtum, Tiefgang und Kontakt, welches in unserer Arbeit zu finden ist, voll zum Ausdruck kommt.
Marcus Sly – Alexanderlehrer – West Sussex, UK
Meisterhaft. Diese glänzende, erkenntnisreiche Sammlung von Essays ist eine anmutige und freigiebige Schilderung Fertmans eigener Erfahrungen im Lernen und Lehren der Alexandertechnik. Fertman besitzt die Gabe, die feinen Nuancen und erhebenden Tiefen der Alexander-Praxis herauszuarbeiten. Der Band ist überaus fesselnd und mit bemerkenswerter Verständlichkeit geschrieben, und die große Empathie des Autors gegenüber seinen Schülern ist durchweg zu spüren. Sehr zu empfehlen – eine echte Schatzkiste.
Anonymer Amazon Kundenkommentar
Bruces Art des Schreibens ist voller Emotion – Liebe, Friede, Freude, Traurigkeit, Neugier; dabei ist es bemerkenswert, wie tief und schön und ohne Sentimentalität er diese Emotion ausdrückt. Er schaut hinter die profane Ansammlung von Köpfen, Hälsen und Körpern, mit denen die Alexandertechnik beginnt; hinter die nächste Schicht, wie die Schüler ihre Lebensentscheidungen treffen; genau auf den innewohnenden emotionalen Wesenskern des Schülers. Seine Geschichten und Bilder nehmen uns mit in seinen Unterricht, unversehens lernen wir an der Seite seiner Schüler. Ein Buch zum genießen und sich daran ergötzen.
Karen Evans – Alexanderlehrerin – Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, UK
Dieses Buch ist voller Menschen, voller Leben. Bruces Lehre ist zum Ausdruck seines Wesens geworden.
Jacek Kaleta – Alexanderlehrer – Tychy, Polen
Ich liebe Bruces Buch – jede Seite ist eine Lektion. Dabei wirkt es wie ein Zwiegespräch, das macht es so lebendig und persönlich für den Leser. Dies ist das erste Buch, das ich meinen Schülern nicht nur empfehlen, sondern sogar mit ihnen durcharbeiten möchte.
Annie Davenport Turner – Alexanderlehrerin – Mere, Wiltshire, UK
Just out. I can’t read it. Please share with those who can.
Might make a good holiday present!
Available in hard and soft cover.
Please order this book by writing to Lara Weidmann at:
Healing the Rifts within Our Alexander Community at Large
“Now at first sight, all this evidence that the universe looks the same whichever direction we look in might seem to suggest there is something special about our place in the universe. In particular, it might seem that if we observe all other galaxies to be moving away from us, then we must be at the center of the universe. There is, however, an alternate explanation: the universe might look the same in every direction as seen from any other galaxy too. We have no scientific evidence for, or against, this assumption. We believe it on the grounds of modesty: it would be most remarkable if the universe looked the same in every direction around us, but not around other points in the universe! The situation is rather like a balloon with a number of spots painted on it being steadily blown up. As the balloon expands, the distance between any two spots increases, but there is no spot that can be said to be the center of the expansion.”
A Rift Resolved
At the 11th Congress in Chicago, I decided it was time to apologize to Yehuda Kuperman for what I now perceived as my arrogance at the 4th international congress in Sydney in 1994, and for my having, most likely, offended him at one particular gathering. So, I did. A 68 year old man apologizing to an 81 year old man. It’s not over, until its over.
Watching Yehuda at the 3rd international Congress in Engelberg in 1991, I was impressed with the way he moved, with his naturalness, so at the 11th congress, I encouraged Alexander Alliance students to take his classes, and they did. They were moved by Yehuda and by his work. They invited him to Santa Fe, that they might continue to learn from him. He accepted. He was moved by them, by how open they were to learning. Yehuda invited them to Israel. Robyn Avalon, Margarete Tueshaus, and Roselia Galassi, Alexander Alliance faculty members, accepted and went to Israel to study further, and also to share with them some of the way in which we work. Yehuda was moved. The Alexander Alliance is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a school in October 2020. We invited Yehuda. We hope he accepts. A rift resolved.
The Grand Illusion
I wonder. How did all these rifts within our community at large begin?
Perhaps our 1st generation teachers were each on their own planet, perceiving the illusion that each of them stood at the center of the Alexander universe. This grand illusion was so convincing, perhaps the 1st generation teachers passed their assumption onto their students, and most of their students, assumed, without question, this assumption to be the truth.
Of course, it stands to reason, that if my teacher stood at the center of the Alexander Universe, and if I stood next to them, then I too would be standing at the center of the Alexander Universe. If my teacher was special, then I too must be special. And since there is only one center to the universe, no one else, but us, could be standing at the center of the universe.
This leads to the unverified conclusion that our way is the best way, the only right way. As we know from Alexander’s findings, there is no more rigid position than the right position, no more position as inflexible, dogmatic, blind, and potentially destructive than the right position. Once we have established our position to be the only right position, we hold onto it with great gusto. And if we alone are right, then it seems only logical that everyone else is wrong. Our profession is not alone in this delusional thinking. We see this delusional thinking operating politically and theologically all over the world. We see it in every institution, in every business, in every family, within each and every soul, all over the world.
But even though Alexander recognized this universal problem, he seemed blind to it when it came to how he perceived his own work. In Alexander’s writings, I perceive a sense of superiority, a hubris, self-righteousness, a lack of humility, and I believe that, insidiously, we absorbed this attitude. Somehow, without exhaustive evidence, we continue to see our work as superior to Yoga, Pilates, the Feldenkrais Method, Gyrotonics, the Rosen Method, Somatic Experiencing, BodyMind Centering, and to every other study within the somatic field of education. We’re both inter and intra-professionally snobby. We do not stand on the ground of modesty.
The First Act of War
A person with whom I have had the honor to study with for many years was Byron Katie. Her work goes to the heart of this problem. It’s a powerful tool that cuts through self-inflation, grandiosity, egocentricity, and superiority complexes. It begins with the acceptance of the fact that we all judge other people, groups, professions, etc. The question arises, “Is it possible that our judgements are untrue?” We practice asking questions like, “Can I absolutely know that what I am believing is true is, in fact, true?” Likewise, when people judge or criticize us, we practice asking questions like, “Could they be right?” Do we really want to know the truth, or do we just want to be right?
God exists. Can I absolutely know that is true?
God does not exist. Can I absolutely know that is true?
We are in a climate catastrophe. Can I absolutely know that is true?
We are not in a climate catastrophe. Can I absolutely know that is true?
The Democrats should move to the left to defeat Trump. Can I absolutely know that is true?
The Democrats should move to the center to defeat Trump. Can I absolutely know that is true?
A human life begins at conception. Can I absolutely know that is true?
A human life begins at six weeks. Can I absolutely know that is true?
A human life begins at birth. Can I absolutely know that is true?
We discover that, not offense, but defense is the first act of war. When someone attacks us, there is, as yet, no conflict. Perhaps this could be the idea behind, to turn the other cheek. “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.” The conflict begins when, instead of thinking about what they are saying, instead of inquiring into whether or not what they are saying could be true, we reactively defend our right position. If one person is hard, and we are hard, that person will feel hard. If one person is hard, and we are soft, that person will feel soft. If the bed is hard and our bodies are hard, the bed will feel hard. If the bed is hard and our bodies are soft, the bed will feel soft.
Making room for the possibility that we may be wrong. “Let’s hope something goes wrong,” says Alexander. Immediately, as soon as we allow a little room for doubt, for not being sure, for the I don’t know mind, the body becomes freer and more flexible. We become freer and more flexible.
One of my favorite films is entitled, Doubt. Here is the plot from Wikipedia.
In 1964 at a Catholic church in The Bronx, New York, Father Brendan Flynn, (Philip Seymour Hoffman), gives a sermon on the nature of doubt, noting that it, like faith, can be a unifying force. Sister Aloysius, (Meryl Streep), the strict principal of the church’s parish school, becomes concerned when she sees a boy pull away from Flynn in the school courtyard. She instructs her Sisters to be alert to suspicious activity in the school.
Sister James, a young and naive teacher, receives a request for Donald Miller, an altar boy and the school’s only African-American student, to meet Flynn in the rectory. Donald returns to class visibly upset, and James notices the smell of alcohol on his breath. Later, she sees Flynn placing an undershirt in Donald’s locker. She reports her suspicions to Aloysius.
Aloysius and James confront Flynn. Flynn denies wrongdoing, claiming Donald had been caught drinking communion wine and that he called him to dismiss him as an altar boy. James is relieved by Flynn’s explanation, but Aloysius is not convinced. Flynn delivers his next sermon on bearing false witness and gossip. James later asks Flynn about the shirt he put in Donald’s locker, an observation she kept from Aloysius. Flynn explains that Donald had left the shirt in the sacristy, and that he put it in his locker to spare him additional embarrassment.
Aloysius meets with Donald’s mother regarding her suspicions and is shocked by her seeming disinterest in Flynn’s alleged abuse. Mrs. Miller admits that she would turn a blind eye to the abuse, if it existed, in order to keep Donald in a school that will better his socioeconomic situation and to further protect him from his physically abusive father; Mrs. Miller confesses that she knows Donald is gay, and she fears that his father would kill him if he knew about what happened with Flynn.
Aloysius confronts Flynn and demands his resignation. She claims to have contacted a nun from one of his previous parishes who corroborated her suspicions and threatens to visit his previous appointments and contact parents. Flynn agrees to request a transfer and delivers a final sermon before departing.
Some time later, Aloysius tells James that Flynn has been appointed to a more prestigious position at a larger church. She admits to having lied about contacting a nun at Flynn’s former church, but believes his resignation is proof of his guilt.
She then breaks down in tears, saying to James,
“I have doubts…I have such doubts.”
This last scene is, for me, one of the most powerful moments I have ever seen in film. This moment when, a person who was absolutely sure she was right, and who acted on her rightness, finally realizes she is unsure, very unsure, that she could be completely and utterly wrong, was life changing for her, and for me.
From Generation to Generation
Our 2nd generation teachers are now our elders. Already there are 3rd, and 4th generation teachers, and soon to be 5th generation teachers. Some say, it takes at least three generations for the families of those traumatized by war to recover. Genesis teaches us this as well.
Adam and Eve experience a major trauma.
1st generation. Cain kills his brother Abel.
2nd generation. Isaac and Ishmael reconcile, but never speak to one another.
3rd generation. Jacob and Esau reconcile, and do speak to one another.
4th generation. Joseph and his brothers reconcile, speak to one another, and Joseph invites all his brothers to live with him.
We learn that healing is possible. Family unity is possible.
Blessed are the Meek
Meek, that is, unassuming, soft, pliant, gentle, humble.
We know, as Alexander teachers, that softness, gentleness, and pliancy is not weakness, but strength. Blessed, in old English, means bliss or happiness.
Isn’t this, in essence, what our work is about? Strength through softness. This most delicate and deep refusal to use force? This great and utter undoing. This becoming unfixed, unbraced, unblocked, unmasked, unchained, unassuming, unaffected, unshielded, unforced, unadorned, untied, untangled, unpretentious, unbiased, unburdened, unbroken…
It is so deeply satisfying to know that someone understands me so completely, not just my mind, but my heart.
The writing in this book comes from a level of mastery that is utterly at home with itself, and thus undemonstrative. It is deceptive in the ease with which it integrates and flows. Bruce writes early in the book that becoming an Alexander teacher took him three decades. What could he mean? The formal qualification these days certainly doesn’t take so long. He points to an understanding that being an Alexander teacher is about more than accumulating a significant quantity of knowledge, techniques and students. There is a depth, and a pathway into that depth that must be walked.
You will meet so much life and such a range of people here, all immersed in worlds both difficult and rich in possibility. A blind busker who wants to learn tai chi. A woman who wants to die but is unable to loosen her ailing body’s grip on life. A Korean protester with ankylosing spondylitis. A tango couple who discover something essential about their lives. A yoga teacher who learns to see her students for the first time. You will meet a thirty something woman buried in the ‘cute’ behaviours of her 12 year old self. Two Japanese psychologists, one confronted by a raging patient and the other as imprisoned as the dominating convict with whom she works. There is a terrified divorcee who, before a judge, pleads for custody of her children. A nervous physical therapist, lonely, desperate for connection. And others. In this book, you may find yourself.
Overhearing is at the heart of the book. We find ourselves present inside of lessons and partaking in workshops. We get precise descriptions of where, how and why Bruce uses his hands and his language. We feel the student’s process. We feel the onlooker’s process. And most vividly, we feel the teacher’s process.
Although the book is written very much in Bruce’s voice, (and those of us who have attended his workshops will hear his actual voice clearly as we read), the book is also multi-vocal. There are other voices and presences too. Old teachers, philosophers, students. At two crucial, moving moments we meet Bruce’s father and his infant son.
We meet Bruce’s mentors. Some of the charm of the book is in overhearing invaluable tips given to Bruce by such Alexander luminaries as Marj Barstow. “When we are distorted, we cannot relate well to anything”. (55) We get precise descriptions of the quality of her touch and its impact. We hear the exacting Erika Whittaker: “Bruce, I enjoy listening to your voice, but I don’t want to hear your breathing. Breathing is a shared silence, between you and God.” (73) As we listen in to this first generation of Alexander teachers, Bruce brings the founder almost within touching distance. At the same time, this is an autobiographical work, tracing Bruce’s movement through decades of work. But Bruce tells his story through the stories of everyone else.
The book offers a wealth of invaluable movement metaphors, each conveying a universal principle through movement, leading to an experienced truth, a felt truth. The arm structure is a widening river. Our kinaesthetic sense, a compass. The most consistent and generative metaphor is of the body as moving earth, the Earth as body. There is a wonderful extended metaphor, structuring an entire workshop, on the body as clay in the artistic process of becoming pottery. There is a beautiful, evocative individual lesson in which the body, lying down, becomes a landscape under rain.
The right metaphor or simile can also be the key that opens the door to Bruce’s understanding of a whole person. A psychologists’ movement patterns, while listening to a difficult patient, become understandable only after Bruce sees they are like a boxer dodging punches. Or his sudden realisation that a dying woman’s body was ‘bracing for impact as if she was about to be in a head-on collision’.
For Bruce metaphor is more than an artful way of connecting two ideas together. Metaphor here arises from, and is a way of experiencing, a deep connection to the world, a profound correspondence between all the levels of life. A kinship.
It is not just that the arm structure can be imagined as a widening river, but that both of these express the same principle. They each arise as an expression of a common set of dynamic forces, an aliveness that is the same at its core. And while a good metaphor is hugely useful in the process of teaching and learning, it is this kinship, rather than just a clarifying idea, that Bruce is ultimately inviting us to experience. Living into a rich relationship with the world is what is important for Bruce. We must not just connect these metaphors to our bodies, but we must take time to live into them. In this sense these are sacred metaphors.
Yet, this kinship that Bruce kindles, is not abstract or airy. It’s not an excuse for the spiritual bypassing of our world’s actual problems and divisions. It is grounded and grounding. Bruce asks us to consider the many correspondences between the world we live in and the body we live in. Between the inequalities of attention and tonal energy in the body, and the inequalities of income and empowerment in the world. Between the denigration and denial of the body, and the denigration and denial of manual labour and nurturing work.
Most powerfully, in a world increasingly marked by rigid separation and border walls, Bruce asks us to consider the bioregions of the body, also artificially divided through isolationist thinking. The neck doesn’t stop at the collar. The belt doesn’t actually divide the legs and lower abdomen from the upper body. Our living, vertical musculoskeletal connections, running north-south reveal such constructed horizontal borders to be faulty, mythical mis-readings, resulting in a loss of global unity and wellness. Bruce asks us “Where do we place our false boundaries. Our false borders?” What we have done to ourselves we have done to the Earth, and what we are doing to the Earth we are doing to ourselves. How could it be any other way?”
It is this widening sense of kinship, so damaged by the ways in which we are presently forced to live, that we most long for, and which we respond to in the book, kinship with others and with the world. There is kindness here.
At one moment in the book, Bruce writes about how it is straightforward to teach his trainees about their bodies, and how to use them. Using their hands is more challenging. But enabling them to ‘see people in their entirety’ has been surprisingly difficult. (129) “I want you to begin by seeing, not a body, but a person, how a person is being in their entirety.” Bruce calls this empathic appreciation of another, ‘beholding’. I might use an unfashionable but vital term and call it an act of solidarity, a joining with another in the shared condition of being human in a difficult world.
How does one read this book? I have read it six times now. Does one read it all the way through, in as few sittings as possible, responding hungrily to the ease and richness with which experience and wisdom are communicated? (I have done that.) Does one take it chapter by chapter, with breaks in between to live into, practice and embody its lessons? (I have done that too.) Or does one take it even slower, sentence by sentence with long gaps in between? (This, I have also done.) The book both pulls you in and pushes you out. You may feel divided between reading on and leaving the page just to look around, to look at people appreciatively, to engage with people in new ways, untried.
My only answer is… all of the above. It is a book to be read as many times as needed.
But a warning! Though you will gain enormously by reading this book, deepen your practice, and your teaching (if that’s what you do), the generative heart of the book may elude you.
There is an understanding in my tradition of Chinese martial arts that, though the teacher may teach you the content, methods and practices of an art, its essence cannot be given. It must be stolen from the teacher. This book is rich with possibilities, ideas, metaphors, examples, and most of all, full of vivid people and encounters. They are all there waiting for you. Waiting to expand your experience of yourself and the world.
But stop a moment and feel your way towards the source of this richness. You will find ‘a little bit of nothing’ (150), a field of generative spaciousness. I believe that, along with kinship, it is this great spaciousness that is the true essence and heart of the book. These two, kinship and spaciousness, are what the writing arises out of and points toward. These two cannot be given to you. These you must ‘steal’. Because, while this is a book to be read, over and over, it is actually, quietly, a book to be slowly, gently, lived. Over time, and through tribulation or triumph, darkness and light. And it is only in the living of the book that its essence will be internalised, or perhaps simply recognised as already gathered in your own heart. Because this is a lifelong process, a path rather than a destination. When people ask me, what was the impact of this book, I am tempted to answer, “It is much too soon to say!”
Loving the Work, Living the Work, Teaching the Work
October 10-18, 2020
Join us, the Alexander Alliance International, in celebrating our 40th birthday in Kalamata, Greece!
If you have ever been, currently are being, or would like to be deeply touched by the work we do within our international community/school, we invite you to join us for this extraordinary event.
Anyone who studies, or has studied the Alexander Technique, is welcome to attend: all Alexander teachers and trainees worldwide, all Alexander Alliance trainees and alumni, including alumni from our early incarnations; the Alexander School and the Alexander Foundation. Also, all teachers from our post graduate programs and from our professional development programs. Finally, all people who love and study the Alexander Technique.
Senior teachers from the Alexander Alliance International, Robyn Avalon, Midori Shinkai, Margarete Tueshaus, and Bruce Fertman will be teaching. Learn more about our senior teachers. We are planning to invite other renowned Alexander teachers and will keep you informed of our progress.
We will be on Mediterranean time. Though our teaching schedule will be quite full, we will make sure to have time each afternoon for walks inside the town, or for swimming in the sea.
A native Alexander teacher writes:
“Kalamata, as I’m sure you already know, is well known for its olive trees and the unique olive oil it produces. The local food is to die for. The hotel is a 10min drive from the main town. The sea in Kalamata boasts of some of the clearest waters in the country – you will see for yourself once you swim well away from the beach at approximately 1 mile inside where one can experience the awe of being in the middle of nowhere. It’s magical. A great advantage is that Kalamata is not your average touristy location – more of a preferred site for locals. It is likely to be exactly what you need for a peaceful retreat. I would highly recommend experiencing local olive oil poured on to freshly baked local bread … the purest form of the local natural flavours. Meat and fish for non-vegeterians will be an experience they will never forget. Likewise, the tomatoes, olives, cucumbers and green peppers will also be a flavour that vegans and vegeterians will cherish for the rest of their lives. The local deserts are very dense jams of local fruits and vegetables (there’s the famous aubergine jam!). Herbal teas are unique in Kalamata, with some protagonists being marjoram, sage, camomile and sideritis (known as mountain tea). For coffee lovers, Greece is a paradise.”
Not only will we be in Kalamata, we will be living and dining by the sea at a four-star hotel: The Filoxenia Kalamata. We are providing a PDF (click here) so that you can hold on to all the details about where we will be. Being a family friendly school, students do on occasion bring along family members. If you should decide to do this, let us know and we will help you work out your accommodations.
Now, to return to the content of our Alexander Retreat!
As we will be a gathering of people with different levels of experience, there will be separate classes for students, trainees, and teachers, so that everyone can work and progress at their own level. At chosen times, we will all convene and work together.
Here’s the schedule.
Saturday / October 10th
Travel and Arrival Day
Our first short gathering will begin at 21:00.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday / October 11th, 12th, 13th
Optional Morning Classes: To Be Announced
Morning Classes: 9:30-13:30
Afternoon Break 13:30 – 17:00
Late Afternoon Classes 17:00-20:00
Evening Events: To Be Announced
Wednesday / October 14th
On Wednesday, we will only have morning classes so that those who wish can take off the entire afternoon and evening to further explore the outskirts of Kalamata. Space will be provided for those who wish to stay at the retreat center and study together informally.
Thursday, Friday, Saturday / October 15th, 16th, 17th
Back to work.
Optional Morning Classes: To Be Announced
Morning Classes: 9:30-13:30
Afternoon Break 13:30 – 17:00
Late Afternoon Classes 17:00-20:00
Evening Events: To Be Announced
Sunday / October 18th
Travel and Departure Day
How much will it cost?
We have done our best to keep our pricing reasonable. We got a remarkable group deal with the hotel, which is why we could hold this retreat in such a luxurious place. Here are the prices, which includes three meals per day.
Triple room: EUR 53,33 per person per night (limited number)
Double room: EUR 67,50 per person per night
Single room: EUR 110,00 per person per night
Additionally, there is a room tax of EUR 3,00 per room per night, which is payable directly upon checkout.
The entire booking will be made by the Alexander Alliance Germany. We had to commit to paying the room and board for everyone, and therefore our cancellation policy is stricter than if everyone were responsible for paying for their own room and board.
Here is how it works: When you register for the retreat, your room and board must be paid in advance to the Alexander Alliance Germany. If you should have to cancel, we can refund your tuition, but we cannot refund your room and board. If you find a person to fill your place in the retreat, then we can totally refund your cost for room and board.
As for tuition.
Alexander Alliance International Trainees:
Very Early Bird: EUR 450 (until 15th January 2020)
Early Bird: EUR 500 (until 31st May 2020)
Late Bird: EUR 550 (registration deadline is 15th September 2020)
Alexander Alliance Alumni, Post Graduate Graduates, and High Touch Graduates:
Very Early Bird: EUR 600 (until 15th January 2020)
Early Bird: EUR 650 (until 31st May 2020)
Late Bird: EUR 700 (registration deadline is 15th September 2020)
Alexander Alliance Self Development Programs and Guests (Alexander Trainees, Alexander Teachers, Alexander Students):
Very Early Bird: EUR 700 (until 15th January 2020)
Early Bird: EUR 750 (until 31st May 2020)
Late Bird: EUR 800 (registration deadline is 15th September 2020)
What are our options for getting to Kalamata and our hotel?
Click on this link for starters, but we are going to make it even easier.
It’s low season, so there are not many direct flights to Kalamata, and they may be a bit more expensive, but it is possible. Flying into Athens, may be the more affordable way to go. We will organize a bus transfer from Athens airport (ATH) to the hotel on Saturday afternoon, October 10th, and also one from the hotel to Athens airport (ATH) on Sunday morning, Oct 18th. Thanks to our 4-star hotel, the price will be quite affordable, depending upon how many of us, ranging from EUR 40 to EUR 15 per way.
We will arrange for the bus to leave on October 10th from Athens airport (ATH) to our hotel in Kalamata around 16:30, and from our hotel in Kalamata to Athens airport (ATH) on October 18th, around 8:00. The drive will take between 3 and 3,5 hours. Another option would be to individually rent a car at Athens airport and give it back in Kalamata.
Endlich am Ende angelangt, steigt er auf sein Fahrrad und schlängelt sich durch enge Straßen, gesäumt von alten, staubigen Läden und verwitterten Holzhäusern. Es ist Winter, 18:30 und bereits dunkel. Schwere weiße Schneeflocken fallen in Zeitlupe durch einen indigoblauen Himmel, so wie sie es in Kyoto seit 1400 Jahren tun.
Aus den Nebenstraßen des alten Kyoto taucht Herr Yamamoto auf wie in eine andere Welt; weite Straßen voller vertikaler Neonreklamen, große LED Werbeflächen, Hochhäuser von Finanzinstituten und teure Kaufhäuser. Er hält an vor einem 7-Eleven, schnappt sich ein Bento und eine Packung Butterkekse zum Teilen während der Pause, steigt wieder auf sein Fahrrad und bemerkt, dass er spät dran ist.
Herr Yamamoto ist ein 50-jähriger Mathelehrer an einer Oberschule, der vom Ruhestand träumt. In seiner verschlissenen Leder-Aktentasche, die nun scheinbar erschöpft in seinem Fahrradkorb ruht, sind die Klausuren seiner Schüler, die er später in der Nacht noch benoten wird, denn an diesem Abend wird er selbst an einem Unterricht teilnehmen, einer Klasse für sich selbst.
Herr Yamamoto hofft, mehr über seinen Körper zu lernen. Er möchte mehr Energie haben. Er möchte etwas Spaß haben, sich etwas Gutes tun. Der Empfehlung eines Freundes folgend, hat er sich gegen seine Vernunft angemeldet für eine Reihe von Stunden in Alexandertechnik.
Etwa zwölf Schüler haben sich versammelt, Männer und Frauen, alte und junge, größtenteils Menschen, die sich einfach lebendiger fühlen wollen, ein bisschen leichter, ein bisschen glücklicher.
An diesem Abend habe ich mit den Schülern gearbeitet an Tätigkeiten, die sie im Beruf ausführen müssen; an Dingen, die sie nicht gerne tun. Ich arbeitete mit einem Mann, der Telefonanrufe von verärgerten Kunden annimmt, die sich beschweren über das, was sie gerade kauften und es zurückgeben möchten. Ich arbeitete mit einer Frau, die auf Händen und Knien einen Holzboden schrubbt. Ich arbeitete mit einem Mann, der sich morgens als erstes von seinem Boss anschreien lassen muss.
Nun ist Herr Yamamoto an der Reihe. Er öffnet seine Aktentasche und lässt den Stapel unbenoteter Klausuren herausgleiten. Er geht hinüber zu einem Schreibtisch in der Ecke, setzt sich hinter den Schreibtisch, wirft den Stapel Papiere auf den Tisch, zieht einen Bleistift aus seiner Hemdtasche, seufzt tief, und beginnt.
Ich schaue nur, fühle was er fühlt, spüre was geschieht durch meinen gesamten Körper, so wie ich seinen gesamten Körper betrachte. Unter dem Tisch sehe ich seine Füße und Beine einwärts gedreht, besonders sein linkes Bein. Sein Becken rollt zurück. Sein Magen ist eng. Seine Brust ist eingesunken. Sein Kopf sinkt und neigt sich nach links. Sein Körper sieht aus, als würde er weinen, aber Herr Yamamoto weint nicht. Dann sehe und fühle ich es: stumme, verzweifelte Resignation.
Herr Yamamoto kritzelt etwas auf die erste Klausur. „Wie hat Ihr Schüler abgeschnitten?“ frage ich. „D. Nicht gut.“ Herr Yamamoto macht weiter. C. D. C+. F. Er schüttelt seinen Kopf. Er altert vor meinen Augen.
„Herr Yamamoto (so nennt ihn jeder), wie wäre es, wenn ich Ihnen ein wenig helfe?“ „Onegaishimasu“ sagt er, sich leicht verbeugend. „Bitte helfen Sie mir.“ Ich gehe hinter ihn, lege sanft meine Hände an beide Seiten seines Nackens und führe sachte seinen Kopf zurück nach oben. Sein Körper steigt, wie ein Mann, der lange unter Wasser war und endlich hochkommt, um Luft zu holen. Seine Brust schwillt, sein ganzer Körper dehnt sich reflexartig in alle Richtungen. „Zen, zen chigau, waaaaa“ sagt Herr Yamamoto mit einem Ausdruck von Ekstase auf seinem Gesicht. Alle lachen. Ich kann fühlen, wie sehr alle ihn mögen.
„Okay, Herr Yamamoto, zensieren Sie weiter ihre Klausuren und wir schauen, was passiert.“
Alle lächeln, bis auf Herrn Yamamoto. B+. Eeeeeeeeh!?, ein aufsteigender Klang, zu hören, wenn Japaner angenehm überrascht sind. Mehr Lächeln und etwas Lachen, aber nicht von Herrn Yamamoto.
A. A+. A. Nun rollen sich alle buchstäblich vor unkontrollierbarem Lachen auf dem Boden. Es ist nicht zu unterdrücken. Herr Yamamoto jedoch bleibt still und ausdruckslos. Ich bin nicht sicher, was er fühlt. Ich tue mein Bestes, bei ihm zu bleiben, aber das ungezügelte Lachen im Raum ist zu ansteckend. Ich falle ein.
Und plötzlich lacht auch Herr Yamamoto. Er lacht so sehr, dass Tränen seine Wangen hinabrollen. „Vielleicht haben diese verrückten Buddhisten recht“, sagt Herr Yamamoto. „Vielleicht ist die Welt nichts als ein großer Spiegel.“
„Mit dieser Bemerkung lasst uns schließen.“ sage ich. Rasch setzen sich alle in einem Kreis auf den Boden, kniend in Seiza, und verbeugen sich tief. Immer noch von Ohr zu Ohr grinsend rufen wir laut „Domo arigato gosaimashita.“ Vielen, vielen Dank. Wir sind dankbar für das Zusammensein, dankbar für unser Lernen, dankbar für etwas Leichtigkeit in unserem Leben, dankbar für Herrn Yamamoto.
Herr Yamamoto wirft sich seinen Schal um den Hals, wirft seine Aktentasche in den Korb, und springt auf sein Fahrrad. Die frische Nachtluft füllt seine Lungen. Der Schnee sieht weißer aus. Er wirbelt; er fällt aufwärts.
Japanische Wörter und Phrasen
Bento: eine Sushi-Box zum Mitnehmen
7-Eleven: eine japanische Supermarktkette, geöffnet von 7 bis 23 Uhr
Domo arigato gosaimashita: vielen Dank
Onegaishimasu: bitte hilf mir, bitte nimm dich meiner an
Seiza: traditionelle und förmliche Sitzhaltung, auf dem Boden kniend, Beine eng gefaltet unter den Oberschenkeln, Po auf den Fersen
Zen chigau: völlig anders.
Original: Bruce Fertman, aus „Teaching by Hand, Learning by Heart“ Seite 100, „A Little Lightness“
We teach what we most need to learn. At least that is how it is with me.
Have you noticed it’s relatively easy to make good use of Alexander’s work when we are doing well, but nearly impossible when confronted with something truly challenging or threatening? How can we practice sticking to principle under emotionally charged circumstances, when relating to family members, when encountering problems at work, while coping with physical injury and pain, when overwhelmed by stressful thoughts and emotions? LifeWork is a procedure I developed, slowly, over the past 40 years. That is to say LifeWork is a “way of proceeding,” to teach people how to employ Alexander’s teachings when under trying conditions and when faced with harsh realities.