I began to be aware that a lot was happening, (even if I didn’t seem to be ‘doing’ anything) if I stopped trying to ‘get it right’ and ‘allowed’ myself to not react to a stimulus in a habitual way. I liked this feeling of ‘lightness’ and was reminded of G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly’. I was amazed one day on the way home by train from the ‘Good Food Show’ taking my heavy rucksack off and feeling myself, very unexpectedly, spring up! As Frank Pierce Jones says:
Once I bad experienced the kinaesthetic effect, the reward was so great that I tried to recapture it directly and to hang on to it when I had it. This proved self defeating, however. It was the indirect effect of a psycho-physical process and could only be obtained by not trying for it... Inhibition is a negative term but it describes a positive process. .. The immediate effect of Alexandrian inhibition is a sense of freedom, as if a heavy garment has been removed .
(Jones, Freedom to Change, p. 10-11)
I realised that my Alexander Technique lessons were having a big impact on every aspect of my life and at this point (about six months after my lessons started and after I’d had about fifteen lessons) I started to keep a journal of notes and quotes and pictures about my Alexander experience, my own words on the left-hand page and pictures and quotations on the right. I’ve never been a journal-keeper, but this one continued and I treasure it as being full of pictorial and verbal and poetic images of my voyage of discovery, and sometimes quite a source of amusement at myself.
I titled it The Emerging Self - which seemed right at the time! The trouble is that words cannot adequately describe or explain experience; as Alexander himself said, ‘Be careful of the printed matter: you may not read it as it is written down.’ What I’ve written and quoted, and the pictures I’ve stuck in my book can act as triggers for me, but they may evoke something completely different for you! ‘I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but what I want you to realise is that what you heard is not what I meant.’ (Strangely enough, I reached the back cover of the book at the same time as my last lesson before I started training as an AT teacher). What follows is a selection of ‘snapshots’, an incomplete and potentially misleading account of isolated - but linked - events in my Alexander journey!
I called the first ‘chapter’ of my journal ‘Farewell to Shadowlands’ and quoted CS. Lewis from The Last Battle:
... Do you remember? Do you remember?...
... Dare we? Is it right?...
... Can it be meant for us?
I then continued with what I remembered of my initial impressions; my expectations and my experience. At the start of the journal I wrote that:
I learned to stand, sit, walk, go up and down stairs, to breathe or rather I was shown and taught to or rather I unlearned some of my habitual ways of doing things (and a new way is starting to emerge). A lot of this is conveyed by touch as well as verbal instructions, hands being used to clarify and reinforce verbal messages.
It was so difficult to articulate what Alexander Technique is and does!
For part of each lesson I lay on an Alexander table. I perceived the Alexander ‘table’ as the doctor’s examination couch experienced mostly during pregnancy and after our car crash - or the delivery bed - the place where my babies came into the world. So the AT table, for me, had connotations of the place where I was totally exposed and vulnerable. But where something life-changing and miraculous (even if somewhat painful) could happen. The place where my innermost recesses were probed. The place where I met with life and death.
And this exposed me to myself, and enlarged and expanded me so that I could no longer fit in my familiar -if dark, damp, and cramped ‘cave’ (even if I wanted to).