Somehow on the long path from childhood to maturity we receive virtually no instruction in the quality we vaguely refer to as poise. As adults we may wonder by what influence do we shape the quality of our lives, or more accurately of our living if not by the manner in which we utilize our selves physically and mentally.
Non-doing, in case you were wondering, does not necessarily mean non-action. Non-doing is simply a state of being which is free of physical fixedness and mental attachment. In fact, non-doing may be better described as correct action. This of course also includes the possibility of taking no action at all.
An unusual and surprising thing happens when a student is first introduced to the Alexander Technique. Usually suffering from pain, discomfort, or dissatisfaction in one's performance or appearance, the first time student is immediately given the experience of choosing a careful, reasoned response to simple everyday activities such as walking, sitting and rising form a chair.
In teaching the Alexander technique my first order of business is often to dispel the notion that the Alexander technique is a therapy which is done to the student. In actuality, the Alexander technique is a process which the teacher invites the student to participate in - so that the student becomes active in seeking her own development.
It begins with an almost imperceptible twinge in the shoulder. Or, one day you might notice that you can't run as far as you used to. Maybe it's your lower back that finally cries out "Uncle!" or it's one of your favorite knees.
Are you depressed? Or are you emotionally balanced. Are you feeling anxious? Or are you calm. Is your demeanor passive? Or are you assertive. Do you feel tired? Or rested. Are you shy? Or do you feel comfortable in groups.
Ever wonder what is causing your back pain, or making you slouch? Have you noticed that “sitting up straight” or having “good posture” doesn't seem to work and is difficult to keep up for very long?
Let's face it folks: end-gaining, as it is known in the Alexander parlance - works! It clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. End-gaining in all its forms; the desire to win, to obtain, to conquer, to defeat and to overcome has marked the upward surge of Western civilization as we know it.
Letting things go on the mental level has direct and tangible benefits for the physical system. What we experience as imbalance or incongruity mentally often equates to muscle ache, joint pain, and other stress-induced complaints in the physical plane.
If ever there was a cornerstone in the Alexander technique it is the immutable difference between thinking and doing. Learn this lesson well, intrepid seekers - learn it often. You will revisit this nuance over and over again in your journey.
Adolfo Santamaria is an Alexander Technique teacher and amateur sunset watcher residing in Los Angeles, CA.