Often when we are teaching on our feet, rather than writing, we communicate better and more naturally. More spontaneously. We’re addressing real questions and concerns. There is an immediacy to our responses.
Students tend to remember these quips, these aphorisms, more than they do complicated discourses and explanations.
These are quips, notes, jotted down from two students who took a nine- day retreat with me in Santa Fe. A few of the quotes, being out of context, were not understandable. For those, I tried to recreate their context.
These quips are not in any particular order.
Please send me your favorite teaching quips and aphorisms. firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to read them, and pass them on to my students as well.
October 1-9, 2011
What’s in a name? Alexander’s name for his work in 1900 was Kinesthetic and Respiratory Re-education. Currently mine is The Peaceful Body. “The Work” was how Alexander referred to what he was teaching. Find what resonates most with you.
When life is hard and you are hard, things will be hard. When life is hard and you are soft, things will not feel so hard.
You eyes never close. Your eyelids lower.
Often we are aware of what we’re getting but not of what we’re losing.
Hips joints love to rotate. Knees and lower backs don’t.
If you think you’re free but you don’t feel it, you’re not. Just throw it away. Take a little slump. (Marj inspired.)
When doing Tai Chi, the arms are like the tide rising and falling.
Great Alexander research can be done by looking at art – at images, poetry, and sculpture.
We can thrive when we give more attention to the process than the end result.
Imagine you are the earth, and those electronic devices around your body are moons. Your gravitational field must be stronger than the gravitational pull of the tools you are using. If not, you will be pulled into them, attached, caught like a fish on a line. (Bill Conable inspired.)
Direction: when you send a signal to part of the body that exactly corresponds to the truth of its structure, it becomes energized and the entire body must then reorganize itself around this truthful change.
Desire: The will expresses its desire to the nervous system, then the nervous system, in all its wisdom, co-ordinates muscular activity. Just using your willfulness to directly move your muscles lacks refinement. (Robyn Avalon inspired.)
The nervous system will interpret desire intelligently, if it is well tuned.
The “i” (Chinese for heart/mind), moves the chi, and the chi moves the body. (from The Tai Chi Classics.)
One aspect of “Alexandrian inhibition” is leaving out what you don’t need.
The truth is friendly. Facts are friendly, if you don’t take them personally. (Wilfred Barlow, and Byron Katie inspired.)
Good technique doesn’t show. And this goes for the Alexander Technique, most definitely.
Return home to yourself more often, more deeply. Abide, dwell, rest a little longer.
It’s not my job to control my head and neck. It’s not my job to control my breathing.
The sternum is the place where two great rivers meet – your lengthening river which cascades, curving from the head down to the feet, and your widening river, which is your arm structure from finger to finger, which just happens to be the same length as your lengthening river. Two great rivers within us. Currents.
The pelvis is a basin (vessel). That is its fancy Latin name.
Balance is not symmetry If you think it is, you can be quite certain you will be making yourself stiff.
A tremendous amount of power is generated by the mind, toward constructive or destructive ends.
When something moves, something is touching something, and a sound is being produced, and can usually be heard. “touch/ movement/sound.” Can you be aware of them simultaneously? For example, the motion of your fingers, the touch of the keys on the keyboard, and the sound that is being made as you type? Or, the sound, feel, and motion of your feet as you walk up the steps?
The best preparation for speaking well is listening well.
You are not sitting on a chair, you are being supported by a chair.
We tend to see the world from the top down, rather than from the bottom up. That is a cultural bias. Start scanning the world from the bottom up, and feel what happens.
It’s important to know when to let go of AT in life. I often call it – “The Grand Alexanderian Inhibition.” It’s our version of, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” MB would say: “You don’t want to think about your head and neck your whole life do you?”
Cheng Man Ching – “When you come to class, come as a complete beginner, no matter how long you have studied. When you practice on your own, even if you’ve only had one class, practice like you are a master.”
My Top Ten All Time Favorite Quotes of Marjorie Barstow
Marjorie L. Barstow: first person formally certified by F.M. Alexander
to teach his work. (1899-1995).
There is nothing to get, there is only something to lose.
You are all trying to do something, and that something is your habit. All I want is to show you is a little bit of nothing.
I wonder what would happen if, ever so delicately, you let your whole head move ever so slightly away from your body and immediately let your whole body follow?
Can you delicately move with my hands, just a little bit, this way?
Did you see that? (addressing those watching.) What did you notice? (addressing the student as well as the group.)
If you are up, because you are afraid to be down, then you are not up, (lightly, effortlessly, and powerfully suspended and supported from within). If you are “up” but you don’t feel up, then you are not up. You might as well just stop trying to be up and take a good slump.
Up is not a position.
Can you leave yourself alone?
My job is to help make you sensitive. What you do with your sensitivity is your own business.
At some point you have to say, “I am tired of hurting myself.”