By Everett Goldner
In Alexander sessions over many months, I’ve noticed that doing Alexander creates a kind of “loosening” – in the body, obviously, but also in the mind. Often in sessions I find myself in a state similar to a brainstorming state that one looks for while sketching out the beginning of a new project – a loose, relaxed frame of mind in which interruptions don’t matter and thoughts flow easily. In my last session, I mentioned that if you could take an MRI of brain activity during an Alexander session, you’d likely see all sorts of areas light up that are usually associated with creativity. There’s a relationship between how expansive and enjoyable your body feels and how at ease and ready to do interesting work you are; anyone can understand that. But how does Alexander actually produce this state, which it does produce reliably?
The actual technique isn’t something I have a real understanding of, but my impressions gleaned through the work I’ve done go something like this: your feet
are at one end of your body; your head is at the other. If you want to expand into life, then you have to let these two poles move away from each other. When we try to focus on something – a task at hand, like writing this blog piece for me, reading it for you or scrutinizing any kind of information – the tendency is to contract into ourselves. I can feel it sitting at my laptop right now; the near-compulsion to *lean into* what I’m doing as if that will somehow make it a better piece, as if I’ll somehow transmit more *stuff* to you, the reader, because I’m just *so focused.*
I won’t, of course. And while reading you have not the slightest idea what the writer’s physical posture was like unless they tell you, and why would you care? Whereas: if I let my feet drift away from me, my spine naturally straightens out – which, among other things, makes it easier to breathe – and my gaze moves back
from a place of friction, bent over one line or one paragraph – into a state of near-frictionlessness, where I can survey the whole page and much more easily percolate over what comes next.
One of the mainstays of Alexander, as you probably know if you’ve done any, is the chair. This notion that “having the chair means you’ll never sit in it”, which at first seems like an impossibly esoteric Zen koan, comes over months of sessions to make a lot of sense. If you’re not in the chair – then you’re mobile, whatever your relationship to it may be. And no matter how closely you approach the chair, if for a moment you stop and notice what your body is doing, you’ll notice that: it’s still mobile. When you extend this sort of awareness to the utmost degree, you’ll find that it comes to mean that you can still be mobile even while on the chair.
My first impulse was to write in the chair, not on – which goes to show you how entrenched is our cultural concept of being swallowed up by furniture, and needing to make an excess of effort to *get away from* furniture. You don’t need to make any effort at all. You just need to understand that you’re an entity that is not dependent on chairs to know who you are in this world. Expanding the body, letting the feet and head move out – this frees you from the chair even while freeing up your mind for more interesting things. The two go hand in hand.