Noticing Myself

I found my way to Alexander lessons after reading a book in the library. It touched on the whole mind/body relationship and I immediately thought, ‘Wow, I want some of this’. I had previously had a few non-specific joint pains and a doctor had told me that there was nothing wrong with me, to go away and stop thinking about it. I was also feeling a kind of emptiness in my life. I began to wonder about this and questioned exactly what I was doing to myself. Opening that book was the start for me. 


My first contact with lessons was through a six week evening course, and I immediately had a feeling of new confidence that I could do things that before I had felt afraid to do or thought I couldn’t do. Lying down every day seemed to release me from my usual way of thinking. I found I really enjoyed the suggested reading, whereas I had not really read many books since I had left school over thirty years earlier. School for me was learning, remembering and then repeating the information in an exam. It just had to be done, and I did it. I did as I was told and didn’t seem to be able to act outside those rules and think for myself. I didn’t do anything for myself. 


I felt different about everything. For what seemed the first time in ages, I felt excited. This really meant something to me and I wanted to go on with it. I remember feeling great, but at the same time overwhelmed and when, after a few weeks, small setbacks happened I seemed to revert to letting all the doubts and fears come back into my life. I couldn’t seem to find the feeling I’d had right at the beginning. Things were upsetting me again, and after about only half a dozen individual lessons I decided to stop. Even at this stage, I knew I would go back to Alexander, but it seemed not to be the right time for me.

I continued to think about the Alexander Technique on and off for the next four years, and then decided I would find another teacher. Even this was difficult for me to do. I had to find a name, make the phone call - I continually put it off: tomorrow, next week, another month, but all the time knowing I would do it. I had seen a different way of being. I realised that I didn’t have to stay the way I was, could make a choice and change things. 


During the next set of lessons I found myself trying to find the same emotions and experiences I had previously had (I know now this is net possible). I kept a diary of what happened after each lesson and reading it recently helped me remember things I had forgotten. I stopped waking up with my heart thumping. For the first time in ages I slept through the night, my breathing felt easy, and one week I had written that my chest felt ‘see through’ - a really strange description but it was exactly how it felt. I seemed to fill the car seat after a lesson and I found myself smiling a lot more. 


Other times I was cross with myself because of things I felt I was doing wrong. Changes were slower, I was impatient and sometimes nothing seemed to be happening. I nearly gave up but knew I couldn’t. I gave up writing in my diary after three months because it seemed pointless and negative, but I still went to the lessons. I was still in a perpetual cycle of negative thinking. It had taken me over ten years to recognise this. I could see what I was doing and the circle just came round again and again. I knew it had to stop, but I didn’t know how. It was as if my senses were deadened to everything around me because I was so concerned about myself. 


Lying down was sometimes a struggle, as so many thoughts crowded into my head, distracting me constantly. A suggestion on how to deal with this worked so easily it surprised me. I thought it would be difficult but it wasn’t. The little everyday worries that before had taken up a lot of my time became less and less important, and I found I became a much calmer person. It was difficult to explain what was happening or why, but a few months later I realised I had changed, and this time it had been so gradual I hadn’t really noticed. And this is the thing: I realised I had never really noticed anything at all about myself before, about my shoulders, my walking, my breathing. I had been too busy going over and over what I had done or said, worrying what people were thinking about me. They were probably not interested, because they were also thinking about themselves. I slowly realised I had wasted my time doing this every day.

I continued my lessons, and read even more books and everything felt so different. I found my voice and said what I wanted to say. I no longer worried that it was not perhaps the right thing to say. I expressed my own opinions, and I felt more honest and happier for saying what I knew was right for me, even if it went against what someone else thought. I also realised that even though I had grown-up children, I had still felt like a child myself, not the real parent but just someone playing the part. Then I noticed as I was speaking to my daughter or son, or if I was on the phone at work, the voice I heard didn’t sound like mine any more, but someone else’s, sounded mature and confident, who knew exactly what they were saying. I noticed physical changes too. My feet were straighter when I walked - I had previously walked with my feet turned out in a ten-to-two position, and I began to become aware of a new sensation in my neck and shoulders. I also felt it was time to give up a habit I’d had for over thirty years of sitting on a cushion when I was driving. I had convinced myself that I couldn’t drive without it. I took a chance, and I was quite safe! 


Over the following months, and due to an increased awareness of everything around me, I came to believe that this was my particular way forward. It just felt right. Nothing else had grabbed my attention the way Alexander lessons had. The lessons were a haven. There was no negativity, no criticism, no need to worry if I was right or wrong, and this was something I had not experienced before. 


Training to be an Alexander Technique teacher was the next change in direction for me. It was not a simple decision, with many personal and financial problems to overcome during the three years of training. But I proved to myself that if you remove the obstacles you place in your own way, anything is possible. I still have many days when I seem to be going backwards: the difference now is that I can let those thoughts go and move on. By coming back to what I can hear and what I can see, by feeling the ground under my feet, I am smiling again and feel so lucky to have discovered a fantastic way of living.