"Do, or do not. There is no try."
Although these words were spoken long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, they ring true today and have much relevance for the aspiring Alexander Technique practitioner.
Intention is fundamental
One key word in our practice is intention. If we have no intention of coordinating, then we are likely to revert to habitual or instinctive guidance. We could say that our intention, or lack of, can define whether or not we are engaging in the technique.
In coming to Alexander Technique, all students have some intention. Usually it is to find more ease, manage a condition, or to improve on a skill. As study progresses, we create, abandon, refine, expand, or develop our intentions, our attitudes to them and approach to attaining them. Without intention, we have no context for Alexander Technique. Our coordinative intelligence cannot function optimally unless it knows what action it needs to coordinate for.
I propose that intention is binary. We have intention, or we do not. We may not be clear of our intention and at times we are unaware of having one. The clarifying of intention is the realm of Alexander Technique. Misguided or muddled intentions become appropriate and lucid through the process.
Directions are manifestations of intention
One way of positively expressing intention is through the giving directions. These are intentions which are inclusive of coordination, and have no direct action instruction (“doing”). Most of the verbal instructions the teacher gives the student in a lesson are directions, and the ability to direct oneself is the core skill of Alexander Technique.
When we come to application of the Alexander Technique, again, we either do or do not. If you are sending a direction, you are engaging in Alexander Technique. You are giving yourself the best opportunity for coordination and ease in your task. We could say you are moving in the most appropriate available way to reach your big picture intention.
If you are not sending a direction then you are not using Alexander Technique. Direct, or do not direct. There is no "sort of" directing or “half” directing.
Our system always respond to directions.
The role of consciousness is to send directions, and get out of the way to let the body do what it needs to (in whatever capacity it can), in order to fulfil the intention. The direction may or may not manifest in the expected way! There may be no discernible response at all. Such an experience is not a failure of direction. It may be that the body is unable or to respond, or it may be that it is responding, but below the threshold of recognition. Reflection is appropriate, so that the direction could be revised if needed, but it serves us best if is void of emotionally charged labels such as “right” or “wrong”. There is no scope for failure. Sending the direction is enough.
If students to say "I try to direct” I am wary of an implicit sense of judgement. It is though there is an an unsaid negation - "I try to direct but ... it doesn't help / I don't do it well enough / I'm no good at it etc. in each of these statements there is a judgement. There is also negative reinforcement and lack of commitment. To follow the principle of the technique, we must commit to the directions we give, and suspend (inhibit) judgment for them to be effective.
We must send the direction without requirement for it to have a specific effect. If we are not able to keep open the option for thebody to not respond to directions, we impose change and end up end-gaining - using habitual, direct and often ineffective methods of making change.
Don’t try to direct
If you find yourself using “try”, see what happens if you substitute it for “intend”. “I intend to be articulate” is a much more powerful statement than “I try to be articulate”. To "try to direct" undermines the process. It is Implies a possible or probable failure from the outset. Just direct. That is enough. Each time you send a direction, you are engaging Alexander Technique and by doing so, you make the best use of what the conditions allow.
Direct, or do not. There is no try. And may the force be with you.
Image licensed by dreamtime.com ID 34008145 © Scott Prokop
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