Closer To Nothing

Tune into any of my lessons, and chances are you’ll spot the following pattern:-
Karen       – so what do you need to do in order to(*) pick up a cup of tea?
Student   – reach out with my arm
Karen       – Exactly.  And while you’re reaching out with your arm, what do you need to do with the rest of yourself?
Student – (pause to think) Nothing!!

It’s a big step for a beginning student, realising that the rest of yourself

  • is very important;
  • needs to do nothing at all(**)
  • is almost certainly over-tense

But once students become comfortable with these concepts, they start to experiment with the process of stopping, or letting go, and to recognise stopping for themselves.

Once they start to realise what they are stopping, they also start to realise what they are not stopping.  Despite the huge improvements they are still creating a large amount of unnecessary muscle tension.  They are still quite a long way away from “nothing”.

But that’s ok.

In 15 years of Alexander Technique I’ve never seen anyone who has completely achieved this particular brand of “nothing”.  Some people have got pretty close, but even the best teachers I’ve ever met still have some unnecessary muscle tension.

All Alexander students(***) are working to get closer to nothing.  To gradually do less and less of the unnecessary stuff.  And each time we get a bit closer, the rewards get bigger.  That’s why we keep having lessons, keep reading the books, keep thinking, keep asking questions, keep pushing the boundaries.

To get closer to nothing.

(*) or any other activity
(**) “Nothing” isn’t technically correct.  There is a small amount of muscle work needed to sit upright while you drink your tea.  But it’s so small as to be almost invisible, so for practical purposes, “nothing” works quite well.
(***) teachers are also students

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CNHC and ITM registered Alexander Technique teacher.

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4 comments on “Closer To Nothing
  1. samiggmik says:

    I’ve just thought of a catchy one-liner to describe this concept – ‘The Alexander Technique is not doing, it’s not doing’. Howzat?

  2. ImogenRagone says:

    I often say Alexander Technique is a process of subtraction, and invite my students think about “doing less” as they perform any given activity or movement. “Can I do less?” is an interesting question to pose to yourself in any activity. So yes – it’s all about working to get “closer to nothing!” Love finding new ways of expressing things. Great blog!

    • Thanks, Imogen. I should own up at this point, and say that the actual phrase came from one of my brilliant students (I realised late last night that I’d forgotten to give her credit. Mary – thank you so much). It absolutely ties in with the idea of subtraction; what is interesting as a teacher is the way different people respond to different ways of expressing the same idea. You never know which set of words will be the key to unlocking a major leap of understanding.

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