FM Alexander, inventor (or discoverer, take your pick) of the Alexander Technique, described his work as “investigations in a new field of practical experimentation upon the living human being”(*).
Yow!! That sounds, well, DIFFICULT. Most of us would hesitate to take on a field of practical experimentation. And ‘investigation’? Sounds like the taxman. So how about this instead:
Same or Different?
It’s such a simple little question. But it hides a whole series of thought processes.
To start with, you have to recognise a starting point. You have to have something to be the ‘same as’ or ‘different to’; a ‘before’. It could be how you are moving, which is most likely in an Alexander lesson, but it could equally well be how you are tackling some big life problem.
Then you have to recognise an ending point. You have to have the thing that is the same or that is different; an ‘after’.
And you need a set of criteria to judge. Faster, softer, less soggy in the middle, happier, easier. There are plenty of different criteria, and by and large we each have our own.
Finally, there is of course the question of what you do with the answer, once you have one. Which is an entirely different blog.
But most important of all is the fact that you are asking the question. You are going through those hidden thought processes, repeatedly or – better still – consistently. You are no longer just accepting how you move for the slightly unsatisfactory experience you find it; or you are no longer assuming that the process of life has to follow the old, familiar pattern. By taking on just one simple question, things begin to look different.
Bill Watterson(**), master of the insightful and irresistible cartoon, put it this way:
Your preparation for the real world is not in the answers you’ve learned, but in the questions you’ve learned how to ask yourself.
‘Same or Different?’ is simply a brilliant question to ask yourself.
(*)FM Alexander, ‘Use of the Self’, IRDEAT edition p.409. I should just quickly point out that the living human being was himself, and the experimentation didn’t involve wires, lightning, or sharp objects. But it did involve a brain.
(**)Bill Watterson, address at Kenyon College, 1990, via @brainpicker http://ow.ly/pEki4. If you’ve not read his Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, you really must.
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net