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Practice of Jeremy Woolhouse, pianist and Alexander Technique Teacher in Melbourne, Australia

Specialist in working with musicians, RSI, posture re-education, neck, back and chronic pain management. 

Articles on Alexander Technique in life - by Jeremy Woolhouse

Monthly blog articles by Jeremy Woolhouse.  Alexander Technique for daily life, music performance, specialised activities, pain relief and management.

Washing the rice bowl.

Jeremy Woolhouse

There is a story of a zen monk who approached his teacher after reaching a great realisation:
“Master, I have attained enlightenment!  What should I do now?”
The master replied: “Have you finished your rice porridge?  Then you should wash your bowl!”

Many Alexander Technique students have moments where their intentions have manifested.  I may send the Direction* “free my neck” and feel an immediate lightness and ease.  There is a moment of satisfaction, that I have achieved the ease I asked for.

One may be tempted to see this as the conclusion of The Technique’s application.  To do so, however, is to fall short of The Technique’s potential.  Once we have the freedom which this Direction stimulated, there are more changes which become accessible.  These will not manifest if one does not take the next step.

That next step is “washing the rice bowl”.  It is continuing the ordinary activity of living, but in the new, extraordinary way.  It is also going back to “freeing the neck” again, starting afresh the process to ensure it is sustained, and to go deeper into the possibilities of what more freedom is available.  An improvement in coordination puts one into reach of further improvements, so it behooves one to send Directions to other parts and continue the initial Direction.

When I have sent one Direction and consider it successful, I ask myself: “what now?”.  I am asking myself what I notice about my body, thoughts, coordination, environment and activity.  Observation is perhaps the first response, but this question is also asking “what shall I do with my improved use of myself”.  The response to this is invariably some action - whether it be an artistic response, a domestic one or something else.  I may use my improvement to create an inspired composition, or to more effectively and enjoyably vacuum my home.


*”Direction” here is using the Alexander Technique jargon.  It is capitalised to distinguish it from the ordinary use of the word.  A Direction is an intention.  It differs from action in that movement is thought about only, not acted upon.  In this way, the body can respond in accordance with a natural coordination, rather than an imposed or habitual movement.

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