There’s a beautiful saying by Confucius: ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. But in Alexander Technique before we take that first step, we need to know how to stop.
Sounds paradoxical, doesn’t it? To start, stop.
Let me explain, and then tell you about a stop that you can start with right now.
As an Alexander Technique teacher I take people through a journey of deep change, clearing away postural habits that have become ingrained over the years to reveal effortless natural balance and poise.
Alexander Technique seems to be all about posture, stress, back pain, movement patterns – the physical side of life. But the heart of the Alexander Technique is quite different. It’s a profoundly mental, not physical process.
It’s the skill of consciously choosing your reaction to a stimulus. That sounds quite technical, but all it means is this.
Life presents us with thousands of different inputs throughout the day: experiences, sensations, thoughts, words, memories. They can come from the outside world or arise within us. Each of these is a stimulus, and we will react to each one.
Most of the time we react to these stimuli in an unconscious, pre-programmed way. We do what we always do, and what we have always done. We don’t think too much about it.
With Alexander Technique we learn a different possibility: how to move from unthinking reaction to conscious response. Stopping is critical, because unless we truly stop then we carry all our old habits with us as we try to be different in the future. They are always there, ready and waiting to tangle us up.
So on a physical level, I may be unhappy with my posture but every time I sit down I tense my shoulders up exactly as I always have done. If I want to change, I need to stop my habit of tensing my shoulders. If I don’t, I can’t change.
The starting point for this stopping is to bring your awareness into the present moment, to find what T.S. Eliot called ‘the still point of the turning world’. Then as you continue to work in the Technique you learn the deeper and richer meanings of this stopping – but that’s best discovered in one to one lessons.
But you can explore starting to stop right now. So seize the moment! There’s no time like the present. Here’s an idea to try.
1. Let yourself come to quiet. Sit or stand still.
2. Notice how you are physically, mentally and emotionally. Tense or slumped? Tired or lively? Calm or anxious? Stay quiet. Don’t judge, just observe.
3. What has happened to your relationship with the world around you? Have your eyes glazed over as your attention dives inward? Notice your surroundings. Let what there is to see come in to you.
It’s that simple. You can choose to stay with this for a while, or to let it go.
Going through this process of starting to stop for just a few times a day will begin to lay down the pathways for profound changes. With repetition it becomes easier. Enjoy the journey.