The Vault

Why We Must Train Ourselves:

Teaching The Alexander Technique

By John Woodward

 

I can do the best I can for you, and if you don't know it and you don't understand it, you will react to me as if I were your enemy.

FM Alexander

The Duddon estuary is a place where earth, sea and sky meet together in boundless sweeps of openness. Boundaries incessantly merge and shift. 'The Mosses' the locals call this open tract of sea-washed mud flats and grass. The turf feels wonderful under bare feet, springy yet compliant. I live by the Duddon estuary and it is a source of great self-renewal and replenishment for me.

To get out onto the Duddon mosses I must first wade out across Kirkby Pool. Quaintly mis-named, Kirkby Pool is actually a river, meandering and fanning out at this point as it enters the estuary. A little further along there will be no river bank at all. A river is defined by its banks. The river water will spill out thinly, over and under the open mud flats where it will meet sneaking tides that daily creep in beneath the mud flats. Crossing can be tricky because of what local kids call 'sinky'; in other words quicksands. But I had my safe place to cross. The other day found me dangerously thigh-deep in mud at my 'safe' crossing spot. An estuary is alive, restless, and ever-changing its outlines. Things had moved on. The river had shifted course. And yet here I was, waist deep, clinging on to my 'safe' crossing. I wasn't looking. I hadn't seen that things had altered. It was no longer safe. This seemed an allegory of my life in a lot of ways; habitually clinging onto 'safe crossing places,' although situations, people, even the geography around me had changed, moved on. No wonder I often felt 'stuck in the mud'! Afterwards I felt incredibly fortunate to have the Duddon mosses 'living' so nearby—a great teacher indeed!

I have spent a lot of time lately with student Alexander Technique teachers, going over ideas about teachers and teaching. Often I sink deep into muddy confusions and contradictions in this area. These late night soul searchings and discussions have been very formative. The students openly have given me a lot of feedback about their experiences. Clearly I am not the only one who finds many 'tricky' crossing places in the process of becoming a teacher! The students have given me a lot of attention which is one of the most precious of human gifts we can share together. This piece is warmly dedicated to them, an attempt to make more coherent my experiences of teaching and being taught the Alexander Technique.

Throughout my development with Alexander work I've repeatedly had an experience of understanding something at a deep level of my being. Does it glorify this experience to call it an 'enlightenment'? It can happen unpredictably and unexpectedly. It is as if something suddenly gels, slots into place. I've somehow 'got it'; it's become a true part of my understanding of myself.

It fascinates me that this often happens with things I've actually known for a long time. For example, recently I was involved in a lesson when suddenly, out of the blue, I understood an aspect of lengthening and widening my back. I had studied this in terms of anatomy and physiology; I knew about it at a head level. But something suddenly 'clicked' into place. The details are not important here. What interests me is the difference, highlighted by these experiences, between knowing something and understanding something in a way that it becomes a true part of ones being.

You often find this distinction between knowing and understanding implicit in Alexander's own writing; and the Alexander Technique has something rather special and important to say about bridging the gap between knowing and understanding. I will explore this later in the context of teaching the Technique, but for now, back to another of those mini-enlightenments.

It's odd how clearly I remember these intense moments of insight. I can see that room in the little 'Power and Limits' Centre in Bowness. I can even smell it. Looking out at that stunning view over the Fairfield Range you could just see the thin blue tip of Lake Windermere. It was the spring of '85. There was a light dusting of snow on the tops. Such experiences are in their nature ineffable, but it's a challenge to put words to these experiences and I want to have a go.

Suddenly, standing there among the plants in the window, I understood at some deep level of my being, that I had no responsibility for anyone else's inner work, either as a teacher or in any other capacity. I realized that it was definitely not my business to help, correct or even improve anyone else's inner workings. Furthermore, that any attempt to do so was in some way mutually damaging.

With all this, I well recall a great sense of relief. It was indeed like having a good Alexander lesson; a great burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I was liberated, lightened and easy. I felt free to be me. It struck me what a great privilege it was to be involved in this work of becoming a self-possessing and self-supporting being.

This is still at the heart of my understanding of the Technique. Looking back I realize that this was the inner spring-board that enabled me to begin to teach the Technique. This was indeed the moment I became a teacher.

But everything wasn't that rosy.

I now painfully realized that so many difficulties in my life arise from my being pulled out of myself, with a distinct loss of inner perception. Dimly I could see how little of what I regarded as learning was really self-directed or self-appropriated. I came to see how easily I get 'yanked' off my supports at physical, mental and emotional levels. I am pulled out of myself attentionally, pulled off my supports physically. I lean. The first thing I do is to pull down and collapse onto my body frame-work. Then, as my support system fails, I go on to loll and lean on my immediate environment. I expect it to prop me up as I flop into chairs. I depend and lean on people around me, on my relationships to my teachers, and on authorities (and this quite definitely includes Alexander). I lean on institutions, training courses, regulatory bodies such as S.T.A.T., on higher ideals.

What I lean on most of all is habit. I depend on habitual ways of coping with life. To the extent that I lean and collapse onto these habits, they become dull, mechanical, repetitive ways of being and doing. Reality becomes boring, flat, two-dimensional. I realised then, as I still do now, how much of my life is out of control in exactly this way.

More than anything else I want to be able to work at freeing myself from the self-imposed limits of these fixes. Come to think about it, this is precisely what the young FM Alexander was desperately trying to do in order to get back into his chosen form of self-expression, acting. Either way this is what most interests me about Alexander work. First and foremost, I must be a user, a consumer of the Alexander Technique. Sometimes I wonder if this is a selfish motive for being involved in Alexander work. I honestly don't know. Certainly I realize that the deeper I've become involved in this work, that a dozen lifetimes might not be enough for the amount of work that I have to get on with.

I'm reminded here of a young Japanese monk, Kyogen, who, it became known, had reached an enlightened state. Many friends came from all over to quiz him as to how he felt, to which he replied, "As miserable as ever." Certainly this experience of mine stirred up a veritable hornet's nest of problems and confrontations. Some of the difficulties are purely and miserably mine, a product of my past experience and the ongoing process of integrating essential insights, but other difficulties seem to lead on toward the heart of the Technique and, in a very interesting way, throw light onto the true nature of teaching.

I have developed this model for what often passes as teaching. It's one that involves filling up empty vessels. Quite simply, the teacher has the knowledge, the pupil doesn't. The interaction which takes place between teacher and pupil then involves the teacher putting the knowledge into the 'empty container' of the student. I suppose you could mildly call this activity 'instructing.' I prefer my own made-up word 'teachering.' It is an awful word to describe a dismal business.

I recall my own occasional experiences of being 'teachered' in the Alexander Technique. It was always a dismal and disastrous failure. I remember two sorts of reaction. Mostly I would be left feeling just like an empty vessel. I felt like I'd never learn anything about this damned technique. My teacher knew all this stuff and I didn't. I was stupid and ignorant because I didn't know. If I didn't feel like that, then I'd feel 'bolshy.' When someone tried to shove some piece of knowledge into me then I'd feel that old habit of wanting to push it right back out, it reminds me of a kid trying to eat and vomit at the same time. This push-in-push-back reaction is an old habit package from my school boy survival kit. I now know a few better ways of handling being teachered that tend not to leave both participants locked in attitudes of attack and defence. Nonetheless, all the old habits are still in there.

I had a lot of difficulties, on reflection, with being trained to do Alexander work. On the other hand, I felt a strong bonding with the spirit of FM Alexander whenever I felt I was training myself. All the teachers I respect and admire have always fostered that sense of self-direction. But one doesn't always get handled in this way. I chose to leave one training course in the middle of my training in reaction to being what I call 'teachered.' Desperately difficult and painful as it was, I can well recall feeling very wholesome and strong about working on myself at that time. Somehow it was as if the work I'd been doing really became mine. Come to think about it, this feeling had the opposite effect of being teachered, it fed and strengthened me.

The Alexander Technique clearly has a firm foundation in self-direction, so it comes as no great surprise to find that Alexander work persistently meets 'teachering' type conditioning head-on. The Technique is such a strange business with its soft and gentle exterior concealed beneath a 'whim of steel.' Certainly I find myself confronting these conflicts in my work on myself, but they occur at other levels too, from the professional institution of Alexander teaching, to teachers training prospective teachers on training courses, to the level at which teachers meet pupils in workaday situations.

The way in which the work of the Alexander Technique leads inevitably into these conflicts and confrontations is a very healthy, if difficult, process. Plainly I am suggesting that the Alexander Technique cannot be teachered. It's worth going into this in more depth because, the reasons for this take me a little further toward the heart of Alexander work.

For a start, unlike the 'teachering' situation, the tide of knowledge in Alexander work flows predominantly from the inside outward. This is implicit in Alexander's own repeated emphasis on the 're' in the re-education process involved in Alexander teaching. From this it follows that we must assume that the pupil already has all that she needs to know inside her. The teacher's job then is not to put knowledge into the pupil, but to facilitate the process of letting it out, enabling her to rediscover it. In these terms, I do my job of teaching the Technique properly when I enable the student to recapture a point of inner observation and to regain access to that inner drive to become a more aware, self-supporting human being.

When knowledge flows from outside inward as in the teachering type of interaction then knowledge comes to be regarded as a commodity. Knowledge is treated exactly like goods that can be possessed and accumulated like wealth. More importantly, knowledge comes to be bought and sold like goods as part of the 'teachering' process. So you, the teacher, have the goods, the knowledge. I the pupil, don't. I buy your services so that you can fill me with the knowledge. I question deeply whether knowledge can be appropriately treated as a commodity. As I understand it, our human genotype has remained relatively unchanged over tens of thousands of years. This means that we are not much different from Neanderthal man. What makes us different, cleverer in fact, is that common pool of wisdom, knowledge and ideas that we call culture. On this basis, knowledge and ideas are social creations. Ideas come through you rather than from you. They are not possessions but gifts to us all. Yet we persist with this notion that ideas are somehow private property, to be exploited, copyrighted, patented, and bought and sold. The major reservation I have with all this is the way that it operates as a massive interference with the ease with which good ideas may be shared and passed around like the gifts that they are. It blocks me.

I remember, at university, people would often be 'bitching' about how so-and-so had stolen their idea. I realise how much of my conditioning regarding 'originality' operates as a block to simply absorbing ideas freely, as gifts, into the current framework of my understanding. I often find myself blocked by an inner voice saying, "Hey, this is someone else's stuff, not mine." And then I worry about 'getting it together.' All these problems are 'grist to the mill,' work to be done, blocks to be unblocked, fixes to be unstuck.

There is a distinct passivity about the pupil's part in a teachering exchange. A typical pupil might implicitly be saying things like:

"Right, I've paid my money now get on and fill me with knowledge," or,

"Motivate me," or,

"Tell me what to do next."

This passivity is part of an underlying dependency, a leaning-not-learning relationship. In order to become the empty vessel I relinquish my inner authority. I give it to the teacher along with my inner direction. Eventually, this has led me in the past to the ridiculous situation in which I can't envisage the possibility of any learning taking place unless someone is shoving it down my throat: "Teacher knows best." "No, I wont attempt that. I might get it wrong." "I'll hang on to find the right way to do it."

So I cease to look inside to explore the next step in my learning process, a distinct loss of inner perception. Also I hand over judgment of my learning process and capabilities—and often my self-worth—to the teacher, a loss of inner direction and inner authority.

This shows itself physically as a weakening of my body's self-support system. I collapse. I pull down.

What does this represent gesturally or in terms of body attitude?

Fearful resignation—as my head pulls back: "I'm no good at it."

Helpless passivity—as I shrug my ineffectual rounded shoulders: "What can I do?"

Powerlessnes—as I turn my palms outward: "I'm in their hands."

Immobilised passivity—as I lift my upper chest and hollow my lower back: "Sort me out."

Psychologically I'm left with an overwhelming sense of the carpet of life being pulled from under me, running to stay still. Inside I have an aching sense of loss like a gnawing great big hole inside me.

Then it seems almost everything around me is mobilised to sell me things to assuage my loss, to fill up the hole: high status jobs, fast cars, food, drugs, alcohol, finishing up in a passive collapsed heap in front of the TV. Of course none of this does any good. It only seems to feed on itself. It's a vicious downward spiral in which I end up as a passive, ever-open mouth. The more you shove in, the bigger the hole becomes.

Obviously I'm desperately in need of some way of turning the vicious downward spiral into a virtuous upward one. I want to restore my inner integrity, to find myself again. This is what Alexander work has helped me to do, and what interests me about working with the Alexander Technique.

I want to emphasise that, gesturally, the pulled down and collapsed state dramatises an inner state. This is central to my understanding of the Technique. Only by working on that inner state can we initiate true, self-directed change. Anything else in body work terms is, as Alexander put it, "meddling with the details."

Your inner state is yours. It is, as they say, 'where you're at.' It changes from moment to moment. And it's the place we meet together to begin work in an Alexander way. We can't begin to work together without a deep and enduring respect for each other's inner state. Your inner state is, in the nature of things, accessible only to you. Your ability to inhibit may be limited. Your sensory appreciation may be positively debauched. Your conscious control may be running riot. But Alexander work begins exactly where you're up to with your inner work at any given moment.

When I've experienced this rare coming together, or meeting of minds, then I'm quite happy to go along with Alexander's claim that this involves taking a step onto another, higher, plane of our evolution, one on which there is the implicit acknowledgment that you are taking responsibility for yourself and I am too. So we begin to work on a level of mutuality, a reciprocal respect for each other's inner authority and inner work. It is an act of deep love and sensitivity between two human beings, and it's the reason why I am motivated to do Alexander work. All that I've said so far comes under the general heading of blocks to be unblocked in order to permit or allow this sort of meeting to occur.

Let's cut back to my caricature of a pulled down and collapsed state. In fact, in terms of my experience, it's hardly a caricature. When I look inside I see huge tracts of my life over which I have some awareness but little or no control. I am pulled down and heavy under the accumulated baggage of habits. The point is that I can come to know a lot about the self-defeating and self-negating aspects of those habits. My frustration and difficulty come with the realization that knowing is of little use when it comes to my reacting in conditioned ways. What I want is a set of tools with which to work this knowledge and insight into a fuller and truer understanding of myself. This is why I've come to characterise the Alexander Technique as a set of working tools for opening up pathways into the territory between knowing and understanding. True understanding begins for me at the very point where I can control my reactions. Then I can begin to understand myself more wholly and fully in a more consciously controlled way.

One of the biggest fixes happens whenever I delude myself that, because I know something, I also understand it. As an example, I know that it is often self-limiting for me to continually compare my performance with that of others. It is self-limiting because nine times out of ten I end up immobilised, with the words "I'm no good at that" nailed to my forehead. But still I react that way. I work my way into the territory between knowing and understanding at the point where I stop the reaction—inhibition, and look inside at my choice of response—sensory appreciation. Then I can control the course of my actions creatively as opposed to reactively—direction.

So here I am using the Alexander Technique as a set of working tools for translating knowledge into understanding. The dynamics of self-directed change involve me working at the interface between myself and my habitual reactions, in order to fashion my knowledge into a deeper understanding of myself, widening out areas of choice, and increasing my degrees of freedom.

The pulled-down state dramatises, above all, a fear response. After all, this is what the 'startle-pattern' represents. I imagine that if Alexander took his original problem to a modern-day performance psychologist, he would call it a conditioned fear or stress response. There is a lot of fear surrounding the teachering business. The outstanding fear response for me is the fear of getting it wrong. This is another important aspect of how I get pulled out of myself. I'm conditioned to evaluate my performance more by comparison with that of others than by looking inside to see what possibilities are actually in there.

Certainly Alexander writes as if getting beyond the right and wrong axis formed the first base in his re-education process. He states in Man's Supreme Inheritance that:

[the pupil's] "apprehensive fear that he might be doing wrong, and his intense desire to do right, are the secrets of his failure",

and that: "The fundamental principle in the re-education of such a subject is the prevention of undue and unnecessary apprehension."

He speaks of his work as:

"adopting principles which will create new and correct habits and eradicate fear and apprehension from the souls of human beings."

I've come to regard this aspect as being a first principle in the way I do Alexander work. I can only begin to open myself perceptively to the person I'm working with if I can inhibit many habits of mind to do with wanting to get an effect and get it right, along with the many attendant fears that I might get it wrong. Just like the pupil, if I start to worry in this way then I get pulled out of myself, with all the associated difficulties already mentioned. But if, together, we can confront these self-defeating and self-limiting fear reactions then this opens up the possibility for us to meet on an entirely different plane from the usual. I realize I need to do a lot of work on myself to enable this to happen. It's this sort of meeting that makes it all worthwhile. Out of this interaction grow two human beings moving towards greater awareness and becoming a little more self-supporting and self-sustaining. The mutual empowering effect of Alexander work is very important and special to me.

If teacher and pupil don't meet on this level, then we can maybe do something with all the outward appearances of Alexander work, but somehow miss the central point. Walter Carrington set me off thinking about this when he said that it was not uncommon for people to be doing things that looked like Alexander work, but which in actual fact were not. Imagine this scenario: Enter left, 'pupil,' thoroughly pulled out of himself and collapsed down, desperate for 'out there' knowledge to fill his great hole inside. Enter right, me, in the role of 'Alexander teacher.' I'm out to improve people's posture, to get them going up, to transform their lives. Teacher and pupil enter into a comfortable learning relationship . Hands on work gets done. The pupil maybe learns to sit, stand and walk better. Postural improvement takes place. The story seems to have a happy ending. But is this how the real 'steel' cutting edge of Alexander work can be misused?

Occasionally I remind myself, in relation to chair work, that in fact, Alexander chose habits of sitting down and rising from a chair because they are convenient. Such activities are easily accessible, everyday sort of habits. Also, doing them hasn't any high emotional loading, unless of course you're an Alexander student! A chair is simple and reassuring. But here we are back to that soft exterior hiding a 'whim of steel.' Alexander takes an everyday habit as a convenient paradigm, or model, for exploring the process of becoming aware of, and changing, habitual responses. He says:

"I begin with procedures that involve simple activities on the pupil's behalf such as sitting and arising from a chair, in order to give him, in the easiest possible way, the opportunity to inhibit his habitual response when any stimulus to activity comes to him."

I remember during my training doing chair-work with a teacher who was saying that you start teaching at the point at which you get heartily sick of others poking and pushing you around. Then you can get your own back! I don't want to give any more weight to this than the half-jest that it was. But it stands as a jokey metaphor for the way that the teachering interaction is mutually damaging, as indeed, I think all leaning-type relationships ultimately are.

Krishnamurti talks eloquently about this when he describes how leaders ultimately destroy their followers and followers destroy their leaders. In this instance the teachers destroy their pupils and the pupils destroy their teachers. There is a built-in self-destruct mechanism in the process. It's especially dangerous in terms of Alexander teaching that I may come to behave as if I have some privileged access to esoteric knowledge and power that the rest of you 'ordinary mortals' don't have. I come to see my job as dispensing this knowledge to people in a typically teachering way. This is merely the playing of an old tune on a different fiddle. But more than that, there are unbearable contradictions in this instance between the ideology and the reality, between the body of knowledge of Alexander's work and its practice.

The essential process in Alexander work is that it always moves me from my current framework of understanding of myself in the direction of greater self-mastery and deepening self-awareness. This process is always and everywhere at odds with aspects of my conditioning that run counter to that direction. For me, a large proportion of those habits relate to what I call 'teachering.' In other words, I need the real Alexander Technique to get me out of a mess that I got into by being at either end of the teachering process!

To go back to the distinction between knowing and understanding, I may well know about the limiting aspects of teachering interactions. The point is that I still have to confront, as honestly as I can, the manifold different ways that I react in teachering ways. This inner work on the self is at its most challenging at the interface where I meet people in the context of an Alexander lesson. It's so easy and very seductive for me to lean on traditional, customary and accepted ways of defining a lesson situation. But it's a very important process for me to 'defamiliarise' myself with these habits; to look deeply at the 'anatomy of the lesson situation. There's this devilish whisper in my ear, "Why not just give them what they want, feed into the pupil 'out there' knowledge? Go on, improve their posture, transform their body use. That's what they want, expect, and pay for." Saying no to Mephistopheles is not always easy. I have not always come up to this challenge. But to be seduced in this way is, to put it mildly and in Alexander's terms, "meddling with the details."

My reading of Alexander suggests that his theory is supremely an inner state one. Alexander says to me that I cannot fix up or repair my existing habits. I must get back to the inner state which is manifesting itself through my body-self. Stop, look inside, know thy needs, know thyself, understand thyself. These all challenge me to stop, look inside, and examine the reactions that pull me out of myself, physically, mentally and emotionally. Working with the Technique has, for example, enabled me to understand a little more about how I come to evaluate and judge myself by constant comparison with others; how I come to see myself as an empty vessel to be filled up with 'out there' knowledge purveyed to me by others rather than appropriated by myself; how to deal with unwanted fear reactions associated with 'getting things wrong'; how to let go of habits that limit and negate.

Out of all this I grow a little more toward the supreme inheritance of a conscious mind; the ability to steer the course of my own life. Through this work I elaborate my freedom and broaden out my range of choice. It is these facets of the human condition that inspired and moved Alexander to write his books. Small wonder people cast Alexander's books on one side as being unreadable if all they seek in his works are improved ways to make people stand, sit and walk better!

Whenever I try to teacher the Alexander Technique I feel all these central strengths of Alexander work shifting from beneath me like estuary mud. The process of marshalling thought to write this piece is a part of my on-going attempts to tackle this problem. Being open and attentive to them takes me on to a broader understanding of the nature of true teaching. This ultimately involves an empowering, facilitating process which enables and feeds both participants who grow a little toward becoming more independent, self-supporting creatures at all levels of their beings and doings.

It has been my experience that Alexander work moves me to examine my relationship with all authority except inner authority. At present I choose to work outside of any Alexander tradition or institution. I draw a lot of inspiration in my current circumstances from the spirit as much as from the work of FM Alexander. His life is a testimonial to rigorous self-exploration, self-direction and independent thinking, the man who literally, as well as metaphorically, learned to stand on his own two feet and follow his own head.

For me, one of the greatest challenges left by the legacy and example of this man's life and work lies in how we formalize, develop and pass around essential Alexander insights. One thing we have done, which I think has been a great mistake, and has done a disservice to Alexander's life and work, has been to try to gain respectability and acceptability for his technique by modelling training programmes in ways that make them acceptable to conventional, received, educational practice> There is an onus upon those of us that follow on from FM Alexander to fashion different ways that take the central tenets and implications of the Technique and work them into the kind of institutions we build, I don't think Alexander ever really got this aspect of his work together so, it's up to us!

It seems to me wholly inappropriate to fashion three year training courses modelled on university-type courses; that is, with curriculae, lectures and directors whose role it is to organize the dispensation of Alexander experiences and knowledge, and whose job it is to judge the competence of others to work and teach. There are many aspects of the 'hidden curriculum' built into the structure of such institutions that are, in part, responsible for my getting pulled out of myself. One aspect of the hidden curriculum Carl Fredrick calls:

HAVE — DO — BE

This says that you must have a set amount of lessons, you must do such and such procedures and then, when someone tells you, you might be ready to teach the Alexander Technique. This is teachering, based as it is on a deficiency or lack. I don't possess the knowledge required in order to be. I must strive and try by having and doing in order to attain it.

Of course, knowledge is shared and flows between teacher and pupil in a lesson situation. It flows on that underlying axis of true Alexander work which involves self-direction and self-mastery. This central axis is acknowledged by the reverse of HAVE — DO — BE:

BE — DO — HAVE

This model doesn't begin with lack but with wholeness. If we can look inside and find what we may be, then we can put the whole of ourselves behind what we do and in so doing we may have all that we need. This is what I want from working with the Alexander Technique.

As long as we 'ape' HAVE — DO — BE, or teachering-type models, in order to train people in Alexander work, then we have a situation in which, instead of the periphery feeding the centre, the centre will eat away at the periphery. The system operates under the weight of unbearable contradictions between the ideology and the reality.

The challenge is this:

How do we advance and promulgate the work of FM Alexander in ways that promote as First Principle that the individual is always and everywhere the director of his own learning process?

There are practical possibilities. I suggest that there could be a central regulatory body whose job it is to vet and examine individuals who choose to want professional recognition. The professional body could be extremely stringent in its standards, using many possible assessment procedures. It would be entirely up to the individual to train himself, with the help of others, to the necessary standards. This would allow people to dip more flexibly into and out of training programmes as it suited their special individual learning needs. It is quite possible that people may want to do intensive work on themselves as part of these programmes without ever wanting to actually teach. Others may want to teach but see no need for professional recognition. It has to be left to the individual. This would free existing directors of training courses from the business of judging the fitness of others to teach, opening up more exciting and creative ways for more established teachers to explore their enthusiasms or particular integrations. It is, of course, possible that individual directors may want to operate their own certification scheme. Again, that is up to the individual within a more flexible arrangement.

The scheme is quite conventional. It's the way many professional bodies operate, such as law and accountancy, in order to regulate and maintain professional standards. It has the powerful advantage of acknowledging the individual as the director of his own training. It's by no means perfect as a scheme. Any other ideas?

During the process of writing this piece I've used the Alexander Technique to allow ideas to move through me, the difference between writing with my hand as opposed to writing through it. This is a great challenge because, left to my usual habits, writing tends to badly pull me out of myself. On two distinct occasions 'I lost it,' end-gaining or putting words on display without thinking them through. It was fascinating to find those two passages singled out by the friend who first read them. The lack of wholeness or presence was quite obvious. I learned a great deal about the Alexander Technique from that.

I return from spending some time with my teacher. Over on the mosses the January high tides have pushed up the tide line. There is an owl that likes to follow the tide line like a silent swimmer, dragging the gathering dusk like a bow wave behind him. He never follows the same course twice! Like the estuary, when I look inside, things are moving and shifting. I read this through and realise I would not write it again in the same way. The ending is really only the starting point for a whole set of new beginnings.

ABOUT THE WRITER

John Woodward trained with Don Burton in the Lake District.

 

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