Listening to a TED radio programme last night, I heard the story of John Francis (click here to watch his TED Talk).
In 1971, he saw two oil tankers collide in San Francisco Bay, spilling 840,000 gallons of oil into the sea. He was so affected by this, he decided to not contribute to pollution any longer himself and refused to travel by any motorised vehicle (quite a thing anywhere, let alone California), choosing to walk everywhere instead.
This of course led to many conversations and arguments with people who thought he was just daft, or that he was even trying to ‘show them up’ somehow. Eventually, he decided to stop speaking for a day, just for a bit of quiet. He found this so valuable, he did it again the next day, and the next… and then for a year. And then for SEVENTEEN YEARS.
While he was silent, he still managed to take three college degrees and a PhD in land management. He also walked all over the world and became a famous environmentalist.
It was the quiet, however, that caught my ear, as it were.
Increasing quiet is one of the wonderful benefits students of the Alexander Technique experience, both in lessons and in just following the processes involved, day to day.
Unnecessary, unwanted muscular tension could be described as ‘interference’ with our function and exquisite ‘well-made-ness’. A kind of 'white noise' in the system. So can certain kinds of thinking, like constant anxiety, anger, resentment, guilt, undue fear, and so on. Indeed, unhelpful thinking very often leads to that unnecessary, unwanted muscular tension.
A curious thing often happens when someone successfully eliminates some or all of their unnecessary tension as a result of putting Alexander’s principles into practice: they become visibly calmer, quieter and more peaceful.
One of the things I first noticed and most admired (still do) about many of the more experienced teachers in the ITM Alexander Technique community was an air of quietness about them. In fact, this was one of the things that eventually attracted me to train as a teacher myself.
When you have more of this quietness, not only can you move with greater ease, pleasure and grace; you can also think more clearly, measuredly and reasonably, enjoying greater confidence in all your planning and decision-making.
This is no quick fix. You don’t start with chaotic thinking and movement, suss out some kind of cool trick and then attain sudden total calm. The Alexander Technique is a collection of processes based on certain sensible principles that you can start practising (just as you would with a martial art or yoga) and gradually improving at. You do the work and improve, and keep doing the work and keep on improving. There’s no end-point to the improvement as long as you carry on doing the work, no matter how old you get. How amazing and exciting is that?
In a very noisy and chaotic world, perhaps the idea of taking some of the white noise out and having less going on – not just on holiday, or while meditating or exercising, but all the time - sounds appealing to you. It certainly does to me.
I can highly recommend learning the processes associated with the Alexander Technique. Forgetful blips (I’m human after all) notwithstanding, they have been life-changing.
If you like the idea of learning how you can acquire more quietness and calm in your life, please message me or give me a call. I’d be delighted to hear from you.