You respond with muscles. You furrow your brow, you sit up more straight. You're anxious so your breathing becomes shallow.
What do muscles have to do with attention?
It's your early teens and the idea of 'cool' enters your mind. You want to look cool, perhaps a cool walk? How does a cool person walk?
Your conscious mind intervenes in your walking. 'You' start 'doing' walking, where before it was natural.
A new habit is formed.
We have endless internal stimuli that trigger this kind of 'unnatural' habitual behaviour.
We walk, sit, stand, talk and breathe in the suboptimal ways our conscious minds once learned to do these things.
into conscious control.
Your system knows how to walk, sit, stand, talk and breathe without 'you' getting involved.
"If you stop doing the wrong thing the right thing does itself" – F.M. Alexander
In the world of AT this is called 'inhibition',
the skill to widen the space between stimulus and response – a path to freedom.
which pre-dates Freud's use of the word.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor Frankl
🍕: Love this quote. I have used the (self-discovered, I thought!) technique of "intentionally inserting myself" into that space to great effect. My view on what about myself is "nature" and what "nurture" has shifted dramatically because of this practice 👍🏻
Inhibition is a momentary thought that precedes the action itself, in order for the movement to occur with less muscular interference in the body. Inhibition is a pause to allow for a change in the approach to an action. Imagine that you are craning your head and neck forward to see the computer screen, with your shoulders lifted and tension in your neck. Instead of just pulling your shoulders down (merely tightening other muscles around the shoulder blades), allow for a moment of pause or nondoing. Let your breathing become apparent. You may sense the body naturally releasing tension around the neck and this in turn invites you to bring the head, neck, and shoulders into a place of reduced strain.
I have a theory here inspired by Alan Watts.
"It's a chronic habitual sense of muscular strain which we were taught in the whole process of doing spontaneous things to order." [6:30]
The effect of Alexander Technique is to undo all of that.
As we loosen the grip of the chronic muscular pushes and pulls of "I', we in turn loosen the grip of the "I" itself.
This is why I think AT is so profound and why I'm keen to share this perspective on it.
State of consciousness
This can feel...strange.
You catch a ball flawlessly, elegantly and with no effort, but it's like you watch it happen. You set an intention to catch the ball and your hand and arm just reach out, perfectly. #holding an intention
When we enter such a state naturally we call it "beginners' luck".
There's a particular state of consciousness that comes about through practice of Alexander Technique – a kind of very pleasant, wide open three dimensional spatial awareness.
We use similar language to that used in Zen. The barriers between Self and the world break down.
Link with other theories/frameworks
potential connections to Iain McGilchrist's brain hemisphere model, sort of a "walking on the right side of the brain" parallel to the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain📒" (h/t Sarah McManus)
For those familiar with Taoism, such spontaneous action may sound familiar as wu wei.
Alexander Technique, then, is a 'western' framework in which to explore and cultivate non-doing.