By Everett Goldner
At times, thinking about the Alexander Technique seems to me like trying to hold an inflated ball underwater – it doesn’t want to stay in place. It wants to rise and having risen, it wants to bob around. What is Alexander about?
I’ve done enough of it to know that there isn’t any definitive answer – today in session, Leland said that Alexander is for “people who are searching,” which is true enough. There isn’t a goal to the work or some point at which the process embarked on in Alexander ends, and so, because it is open-ended in this way, it naturally touches on very large questions. But it doesn’t do so in a large context – the context is in terms of how the body is relaxed or adapted to how it is standing or how it sits down.
If I am standing and move to sit down – before taking Alexander lessons, my goal would have been to reach the chair. It’s actually more accurate to say that I had no goal at all; I would just plop down in a chair and then be in the chair. Through my Alexander lessons, I’ve learned to forget about the chair totally. It doesn’t matter that the chair is there; what matters is that I can stay present and engaged in some sense with my body and with gravity while moving towards it.
Removing the ostensible “goal” (sitting in the chair) from the question of “how do I get from A to B” changes everything. If B doesn’t actually matter, then I can feel free to experience everything about moving from A. Letting go of the expectation is very freeing.
If I say that Alexander is for people who are searching, it brings the question of why we’re searching. And of course answers will be different for different people – personally I’ve always thought of myself as a searcher in the spiritual sense – people like the word “seeker” when speaking of spirituality; either serves just as well. A spiritual quest, of course, really has no end – we could speak of spirituality in terms of attaining happiness, which then becomes a discussion of what it means to “attain” happiness and why happiness is or isn’t in the moment that we’re in right now. It’s like the bobbing ball; inquiry makes it move around and shift forms, modalities. Alexander is like this too.
Alexander is about letting the body be open, be expansive and generally feel at ease. This of course helps the mind feel at ease as well. And when we feel at ease, we’re less concerned with questions like – what is it about, what is the thing for. And this is part of a spiritual quest too – letting the question go in order to, as a guru of mine once said, “just take the time to smell the roses.” It’s a truism in spiritual work that answers come when you aren’t expecting them, and by being so squirrely and hard to pin down, Alexander definitely matters in matters of the spirit.