Body Learning

The Alexander Technique is an approach to enhanced postural and body awareness. In many ways it all boils down to the Zen of "Attention", combined with a skeptical attitude toward the immediate evidence of one's senses. It was developed by Tasmanian actor Frederick Matthias Alexander in the late 1800s.

Body Learning: An Introduction to the Alexander Technique by Michael Gelb is mystical and muddled, frustrating in its lack of structure; it originated as a masters thesis. Since writing Body Learning (1981), Gelb has evolved into an inspirational speaker and author focusing on themes of creativity and leadership. His writing drips with "I", "me", and "my". It also lapses into unfortunate promotional hype and arbitrary jargon, with disclaimers that what he describes cannot be described, only shown.

But amidst the meandering come moments of poetry. In the chapter "Direction", for example, there's the striking suggestion:

Attention — something to give rather than something to pay

In greater context and somewhat more diffusely:

Attention is very different from what is usually called concentration. Concentration is often associated with a state of over-tension manifested by a furrowed brow and interference with breathing, almost as though one were trying to hold everything in place so as to be able to focus totally on a certain aspect of one's surroundings. Attention in the Alexandrian sense involves a balanced awareness of oneself and one's surroundings with an easy emphasis on whatever is particularly relevant at the moment.

Frank Jones has compared the process with spotlights on a lighted stage: the general surroundings are visible, while different parts receive greater emphasis according to their particular relevance. Alexander found that most people were unable to direct their attention and as a result suffered from 'mind wandering' or over-fixated concentration. Learning to apply the Alexander directions provides an invaluable experience in controlling one's powers of attention. Attention can become something we give rather than something we have to pay.

Other noteworthy tidbits:

Gelb quotes himself in third-person at one point (often a danger sign!) as saying, "The essence of the Alexander Technique is to make ourselves more susceptible to grace." That's a sweet thought. Perhaps ...

^z - 2015-06-19