The other day one of my clients was saying that, through her Alexander lessons, she has become more mindful about how she’s going about her daily activities. I think that’s a really nice way of putting it, but it also made me ponder on what kind of ‘mindful’ we are being, when applying the Alexander Technique. And, what might Alexander thinking also give us, that may not come under the general umbrella term of ‘mindful’? It’s something about organising ourselves – let me explain.
But first, let’s think about how we would tend to do things, if we don’t have the benefit of the Alexander Technique. Usually, all it takes is a simple thought and the action is done – I fancy a cup of tea and I don’t even notice myself putting the kettle on; I’m going out and I find myself half-way down the street while thinking about other things. FM Alexander coined the term ‘endgaining’ to describe our tendency to focus solely on the aim of the task in hand (the ‘goal’), with barely any thought or awareness of how we go about achieving the goal. It’s a sort of ‘automatic pilot’ and the downside is that we generally have no idea what exactly we’re doing with ourselves in the process. For example, we may not be aware that we’re making far more effort than needed to achieve what we want, or that we’re pulling ourselves off balance, or that we’re reacting automatically and immediately to most things (whether the bleep of our phone, emails, or our habitual thought patterns).
So what happens if we bring in Alexander thinking and skills? We’ll find that we can achieve our immediate and life goals in a more enjoyable and effective way because we also pay attention to looking after ourselves in the process. As we go about our everyday activities, we’ll begin to notice when we ‘forget ourselves’, concentrating solely on the immediate goal; noticing when our mind slips into the future, ahead of the rest of us. We’ll become much clearer in knowing what, we want but we’ll also pay attention to how we get it. In not immediately and unconsciously reacting to a stimulus/impulse, we give ourselves the time to choose what we really want. But more than this, we also have the opportunity to bring our attention to ourselves to know where we are, to sense the ground under our feet, to invite ourselves not to pull ourselves away from our natural upright dynamic balanced state. You could say that we become more organised.
Putting the Alexander Technique into practice brings us to a state of being that keeps us in the present moment. This is a fully embodied presence, with an awareness of our whole mind-body self, which is integrated simultaneously with an awareness of our surroundings (‘expansive awareness’). Of course, life will constantly be pulling us away from this presence but it’s something that we can choose to return to at any moment, and again and again. And as we ‘give ourselves a moment’ before responding to whatever is happening right now, we allow ourselves to organise. This brings us in a dynamic poised state, ready for anything.