freedom for life

The Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre has been offering Alexander lessons and workshops since 1994.

Richard Casebow

Richard Casebow

Back in the mid-1980s, I started to suffer from severe sciatica that often made walking and working difficult. At the time, I was training in London to become a Chartered Accountant and I left, as I was spending increasing amounts of time off waiting for the pain to subside. Around this time, I also became depressed, as my prospects seemed to darken with little hope of a normal life. In seeking help I found my way both to a psychotherapist and then to an Alexander Technique teacher, both of which helped enormously. The therapy with forming a life plan and understanding myself, encouraged me to dream of the life I have now. The Alexander Technique gave me the practical tool to help realise it and to allow me to rehabilitate myself to lead a full normal life.


The link between Alexander Technique, Psychotherapy and the art of living intelligently became something that has fascinated me ever since and is something I have continued to explore myself and with pupils and clients since. This blog is my attempt to elucidate the links, as well as to talk about Alexander Technique pure and simple and the benefits of therapy.


I founded the Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre in 1994, Counselling Conversations came later after I became a practising therapist in 2003. Professionally I act as the Treasurer of the Personal Construct Psychology Association and sit on the board of the UKCP’s house magazine The Psychotherapist. When I am not to be found working, there is nothing better I like to be doing than spending time on a Scottish hillside, exploring the arts or just spending time with friends and family, including the family cat. 

 

 

Friday, 25 March 2016 09:26

Magic Time Part 1

My mother loved food and cooking, it was one of her passions and she spent much of her retirement refining her skills, which gave her great pleasure. In some senses cooking was her religion, cook books were her bibles and, as  in a religious community, you could set your watch by the comings together for breakfast, morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea and supper. It provided a daily rhythm to life at home, while her jam making and preparations for Christmas helped set the seasonal rhythm. 

Over morning coffee and afternoon tea there was a great deal of catching up as to each other’s days and wideranging discussions about what was happening in the world and in the family and, inevitably of course, food. The rhythm established would be hard today in a world which is ever more demanding of people’s time. Where smart phones intrude, for some families and couples, 'together time' is becoming a disappearing into different respective virtual worlds, diminishing the time for getting to know each other and impoverishing relationships.

Knowing each other is an ongoing process that can become fatally arrested in a couple, who after an initial bout of getting to know each other, settle into a routine of assumptions about the other, rather than a voyage of continuing discovery, as each changes through living what is hopefully  a meaningful life. Of course the former is all too easy with the increasing demands of work and if a couple has children then their needs are nature’s great diary organiser for life, making it hard is to put aside time for each other and for oneself.

Time for oneself to really stop and think, time for each other, including time for love making, are all too often what people sacrifice in the face of demands on their time. Such time is now often construed as a luxury rather than the necessity that it really is. When it comes to time for oneself, it is time to develop the relationship each of has with ourselves. The first step in this is to stop and not allow ourselves to get ‘distracted from distraction’ by flitting around online and frittering our time away. As we stop we can become aware of our habitual thoughts and attitudes and learn to separate from them, clearing a space for what is emergent of our selves. If we go deeper we find our own deep rhythms of muscle, air and fluid to discover a relationship with ourselves where can really start to learn to know ourselves.

I always come to this need to stop and have a relationship with myself in order to find my way forward. The practice of stopping is foundational to the Alexander Technique and is basic to all other approaches of developing and growing where there is an awareness of the need to breathe, be mindful, as well as coherent and thoughtful in living. Alexander Technique at this level is so basic that it can be taken into all other approaches, allied with them in ways that enhances them, illuminates them and allows them to be better explored and understood by their practitioners. This contention rests on the understanding of use, mechanics of co-ordination, movement, breathing and relationship that underpin the Alexander Technique and the development of constructive conscious control in our relationship with our selves and others. 

I will be elaborating Magic Time in a short series of blogs in order to look at how the small-scale actions that we take set up the conditions for how our lives unfold and carry implications that are of major significance years ahead, implications that we can miss in the moment when we take them and yet establish the habits that determine our lives. 

Friday, 29 January 2016 18:39

Would it Help?

Teaching this year, I have found myself telling pupils about the scene from Bridge of Spies, where Mark Rylance’s character when asked if he is worried, answers ‘would it help?’ It is a good line and delivered deadpan it is a good gag used again in the film. I find myself repeating the story in part, because when Rylance became the first artistic director of The Globe, he made sure that the Alexander Technique was there at the start in the heart of their work as a theatre. It also gives me a chance to express my admiration for Rylance’s work as an actor in both Bridge of Spies and Wolf Hall. In both he was given the space and the time to show a stillness in which a spontaneous emotion might appear or be stifled, to allow for something else to emerge appropriate to the situation. It’s terrific acting, with terrific presence. And in the process, as in the question would it help?’, something is revealed about our choices in being human, and if we become sufficiently aware, to know ourselves in relationship to others. 


When considering Alexander’s work it is important to remember that he started in the theatre as an actor and that he saw his technique as a means for developing conscious control of behaviour as much as anything. Which in turn means we have choices with regard to the attitudes and approaches that we adopt towards people and situations. Here there is a bridge to my work as a therapist where I am working with roles people have adopted, almost without fail for good reason in early life, which are no longer working for them now and need to be revised in ways that are comfortable for them. 

 

The idea in both practices is to invite people to experiment with putting to one side, the familiar, the habitual, in favour of an emergent change congenial to their overall aim. In Alexander work, there is the constraint that goes always with integrating responses so that we put our breathing, poise and balance first. In doing this, as in therapy we often have to learn how to be with ourselves when anxious, worried, panicked etc. At the beginning this often involves gentling ourselves, understanding ourselves without being critical, before beginning to question whether our worry or anxiety helps us or not. Over time we can learn both how not to be habitually worried or anxious, as well as to deal with the vicissitudes of life, when they come crashing in, disturbing even the ‘best-laid schemes’ which throw us off balance and off course. 

 

When this happens, the pause that gives us space, to stop and consider our response, where our breathing slows, where we settle ourselves to know ourselves, is the right way forward wherever we learn it, whether in therapy or Alexander. There are differences to the area of each learning: in therapy it is in the quality of intimate relationships that emerge; in Alexander it is the freedom and poise of movement that arises. Put them together and then you have something.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015 17:58

How To Sing Upside Down

I am awe of the athleticism of opera singers generally, and Wagnerian singers in particular, although not because of the popular misconception that they are loud. Wagner operas are conversational in style and he scored them so that the orchestra gives room for the singers to be heard. So the idea of singing upside down suspended from the set by a wire, leaves me somewhat amazed. Yet it is what Robert Lepage asked one of Karen Carghill’s colleagues to do in his production of ‘The Ring’ at the Met.

She was talking about this at an SCO study day on Wagner and in speaking of the technical challenges her colleague faced, I was delighted to hear her mention the Alexander Technique as the way to meet the problem that allows you to get back into your back and give you the ‘strength’ that allows you to breathe freely. For Karen Carghill, ‘breath is petrol for singing’ and you could easily adapt that to say that breath is petrol for life and it is useful to know how to co-ordinate things well to make the most of your natural capacity to breathe.

Rather than focusing on the mechanics of breathing though, I would rather talk about direction and the relational nature of Alexander’s work. Alexander was very clear that it was the relation between head, neck and torso that mattered and not the position - which is how most people approach postural problems and Alexander’s work. The trouble with thinking in terms of position is that it invariably involves trying to fix things by holding yourself somewhere, interfering with breathing and dynamic movement.

Breathing is something that starts when we are born and continues throughout life. It starts before we master activities such as sitting or standing which are foundational achievements for making progress with all skilled activities which human beings undertake. It also starts before we learn to co-ordinate and control sound for speech. It is useful to note that babies are capable of crying for long periods until they are heard, without any harm to their voice. They do not lose their voice, or become hoarse, they just cry. They have not learned to interfere with breathing by articulating sounds or being upright.

It is only as these things are learned that we can talk of good or bad use, although personally I prefer to keep such terms out of the whole thing when teaching and think in terms of better or worse and what is helpful in a given situation, including singing upside down. Which brings us to the problem of how to stay in you back while hanging from a wire. Well the answer is to think up even if your head is pointing down and here is a relationship that we have within ourselves that is often hidden, one that goes to the deepest layer of muscles that allow us to extend, that attach to our spine, at our core. These muscles allow us to lengthen and for that to happen the head needs to go in a certain direction, which would be described as ‘up’ in terms of our normal orientation and relationship with external space. The ‘up’ though in Alexander is always in relationship to how our heads, necks and torso are connecting and that means in swimming front crawl, up is towards the end of the pool to which we are swimming, or in semi-supine, to the wall behind our head. Remembering this facilitates much more dynamic movement and of course will help you, should you ever be faced with the challenge of singing upside down!

Monday, 05 October 2015 13:35

Stillness

A few years ago, I went to hear Paco Peña play during the Festival here in Edinburgh. As well as the flamenco dancers you would expect, he had with him a troupe of African dancers. Both sets of dancers were equally fine, totally different in style and yet had something in common, which I recognise from teaching Alexander Technique.

Flamenco, highly stylised in its gestures, with it characteristic rhythms was contrasted with shaking dances from Africa. In both the performers achieved a stillness in the use of their head and neck which allowed for bodies and limb to move in co-ordinated rhythms to the music. Watching the performance taught me a lot about stillness and dance, and I have been thinking about it a lot, since I took up dancing last year and made 2015 into my year of dance.

Movement Medicine and 5 Rhythms, both dance meditation practices, have given me a place to develop my conscious control from an Alexander perspective, while exploring the non- and pre-verbal aspects of living, that deeply influence each of us with regard to what it means for us to be in the world.

Deep changes in being involve finding stillness. The ‘still point’ is where ‘the dance is,’ to paraphrase T.S. Eliot. My dancer who emerges on the dance floor is Alexander’s self that emerges in daily life, if I allow myself to really stop and allow my creativity, spontaneity a place.

It prevents a ‘hardening of the categories’ and encourages us to develop habits of process, where we meet people and events as we find them in their uniqueness, rather than as stock characters in an old and familiar play. This kind of freshness, aliveness to possibilities, allows for a direction of travel through life, where we integrate our actions with our breathing, trust not just our heads, but listen to our hearts and if we are courageous enough open them to the people who are around us. Which is often what needs to happen in therapy, where people who come, have often lost trust in others and themselves.

It can be no easy task learning to trust others. Part of my work as a therapist and as Alexander Technique teacher is to create a safe space and safe relationship where people can learn to feel again what has been, frozen, lost, hidden or never developed. In this finding the stillness, where we are ‘breathed’ as the mystics would say, we find a freedom and a potentiality not just in movement but in words and relationships, where we can speak of how it is, rather than get lost in conceptualisations that hide more than they reveal.

Stillness allows for the creative spontaneity, that allows us to adapt to the vagaries and vicissitudes of life; that allows us to dream new futures, see new possibilities, have hopes for a good life, a better life. In this, as always, it is the qualities of our relationships with ourselves, other and the earth, that are of most significance – and which can only be found in stillness, in the ‘standing now’ of the Greeks, before speech, as a prelude to speech, to the speech by which we care for ourselves and others.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015 18:48

On the High Wire

I was the boy who always failed to jump the stream when I was younger. I would watch other people leap across and be the one who could not quite make it – I began not only anticipate that I would not make it but to also dread having to be seen to fail. It was something to be expected.

That had started to change by the time I had qualified as an Alexander Technique teacher when I remember being able to run along a balancing log in a park. What made this memorable was my mother’s reaction of delight and wonder that my balance had improved so much – she appreciated in that moment just how powerful and life-changing Alexander Technique and Conscious Control were for me.

I literally took this a step further this month, walking the high wire for the first time at the tenth Alexander Technique International Congress. It was a great opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones, to work with one’s peers and generally marinate in Alexander work at all levels of ones being. There were many highlights and many fine, fine teachers, so in singling out Wolfgang Weiser here, it is as an exemplar of all the master teachers who I got to work with and all who were there.

Wolfgang is, as well as being an Alexander Technique teacher a balance artist who uses the high wire to help people achieve a new integration in their use. Hence, my first steps on to the wire, captured here and Wolfgang’s work with me to get a better integration while balancing on the wire.

What strikes me is the confidence I had in myself in stepping off here. Traditionally, I have been very afraid of heights and balancing. Here it was easy and while it helped that Wolfgang, from the moment we met him until the moment we finished, exuded a sense of safety and confidence that all would be well, I was also aware of making choices to inhibit and direct in anticipation for stepping forward. In this I put aside any residual fears that I might have brought along with me and allowed myself to just be aware and enjoy the experience – this is Conscious Control. And as I come up to having spent more than half my life using the Alexander Technique, developing Conscious Control, I realise how much my life has been enriched in so many ways from being the boy who failed to jump the stream, to being a well-coordinated man. And this says nothing of how it has helped me cope with whatever difficulties I have faced, as well as its help in developing rich relationships, not least with my fellow teachers who all were all so inspiring in the living practice of our work.

Monday, 25 May 2015 11:08

Alexander Botox For The Soul

The face of decision or, as I some times more colloquially put it, having first warned my pupils of an impending profanity, the ‘what the fuck face', is something that we all share. Charles Darwin observed that it exists across culture, although different cultures will construe its meaning differently. From a functional perspective, it is a psycho-physical attitude, as Alexander would have called it.

 face of decision

What the fuck? - The Face of Decision

The ‘face of decision’, a phrase that I wish that I had come up with but which belongs to Alain Berthoz, commonly occurs, when things do not go our away, our anticipations about the world are invalidated and ‘we go what the fuck’, not necessarily verbally but in our psycho-physical attitude and our way of being in the world. What Berthoz also notes is that what goes with this is a closing down; we narrow and hold our breath.

The type of thinking that emerges is very characteristic of Western thought. It is representational, abstract and objective;it inhibits free flowing movement. The return to free flowing movement is what I am always aiming to help people work towards whether I am in my role as an Alexander Technique teacher or Constructivist psychotherapist. In both my practices the face of decision is encountered in relation to physical or emotional hurt, life challenges, anywhere we face difficulties. And sometimes, if those difficulties have been pronounced enough, the face of decision becomes the predominant and defining psycho-physical attitude to being in the world. Resolving this attitude into some other attitude that is open, expanding, that allows for wonder, curiosity, joy, play and ultimately love where the invalidation is or has been core, is a common element to both my working hats.

With core interpersonal invalidation where someone has failed to behave the way we want, the way we need, the way we anticipated and ‘we go what the fuck,’ we tend to objectify them. We lose sight of where they or we may be coming from; we lose our capacity to understand them and ourselves; we lose our ability to move freely with others, disrupting the free flow of all of our relationships.

This can happen in our most important relationships and often hides where we experience ourselves as most vulnerable, our e-motion halts, sometimes even freezing. Objectifying the other becomes all too easy at this point, we relate to an 'it' rather than a 'thou'. In the couples work that I do, Gottman’s four horsemen of the apocalypse, the habits that destroy a relationship, are unleashed, in criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt. The move in couples work is the same move that I invite people to make in individual therapy and Alexander Technique but approached differently according to the practice we are working with. In Alexander Technique lessons, I invite people to apply the Alexander Technique, by using inhibition to the mental act that is occurring in the psycho-physical attitude that is the face of decision. In doing so, I invite them to accept whatever emotional experience they are having and to understand themselves in relation to whatever is happening in their relationships. As they do, it becomes possible to return to their partner with a psycho-physical attitude that involves a look of love towards their partner. They find a spontaneity, a way to move freely, to dance with their e-motion. In doing so, their reasoning starts to flow, allowing them to find ways forward together with their partner, if their partners are willing, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Working at this level with constructive conscious control and the psycho-physical attitudes at this core level is something of a specialism of mine and not something that everybody needs to work with. However, we are all tempted to use the face of decision, leading to less productive ways of thinking and reasoning, where we successfully inhibit it and find the flow, we lose the worry lines, we look younger, we are practising Alexander Botox for the soul!

Friday, 13 March 2015 14:16

A Book can Change Your Life

You can use a book to change your life and you do not have to read it! You just have to put your head on it! The actor Jonathan Pryce testified to this in last weekend’s Guardian, in answer to the question: ‘Which book changed your life?’ He answered, “The one the teacher put under my head during the Alexander technique sessions at Rada. I grew an inch and a half.” What he was referring to was the Alexander Technique practice of lying in semi-supine with your head on a book to prevent you from pulling your head back and shortening and narrowing your back. Semi-supine is in some ways the classic Alexander exercise; it offers a balanced way of resting, or relaxing without collapsing, which leaves you lightly energised and ready to get on. Too often people tensely energise themselves in their daily round of activities and the result is that they get to a point where they collapse in a heap at the end of the day, fatigued and set up for restless night’s sleep. It does not have to be this way. Either in the daily round of activities or in resting. It can be hard not to get tensely energised at points and balanced resting is a way of ‘re-setting’ yourself as one of my pupils puts it. However, balanced resting goes beyond ‘re-setting’ oneself if things have gone wrong, even though it is essential at these points; balanced resting is part of the ebb and flow, between stillness and activity, that makes up life, and conscious control applies to both parts of the cycle, even in sleep.

Application to sleeping is one of the most common lessons I give and I have blogged about this in the past, and learning how to get in and out of semi-supine form the basis of this. Being in semi-supine itself though is what is important; some teachers favour a body scan type approach to this but for me this is not as useful as learning how to lightly focus on the ceiling so that everything lengthens and widens of its own accord as you lie there. That is how you find the extra inch and a half if it is there, and it is not there for everybody. The extra height can be welcomed and sometimes not; however, the real value of this exercise comes with the practice of conscious control in resting with the use of the eyes and the expansion that occurs on the floor.

When you get up you have an experience of more poise and balance, and, more often than not, of things working comfortably again. In addition, the released tension pattern allows you to be more aware of when you tighten and shorten, as you start your daily round of activities again, giving you a chance to use the technique and inhibit and direct so everything continues to flow and you move back and forth between activity and stillness – which is the cycle of life, the cycle of living.

Thursday, 26 February 2015 19:13

Anniversaries

Monday will be the first anniversary of my father’s death and as I approach it I realise what an extraordinary year it has been for me. It is fair to say we did not get on and that throughout most of my life we had a difficult and problematical relationship, the details of which are not really important now. To go into them would not honour the last hours we spent together, and how,in those hours, my life started to change, and has changed for the better, as I have integrated the experience into my life.

In the period leading up to those hours, he had decided to refuse hospitalisation for an infection and then food, which reflected a choice he had made, that it was time to go. This was understandable in terms of the diminishing possibilities of his life, as Parkinson’s decreased his powers and pleasures. In choosing to die then, my father, if I knew him at all, was hoping for a good death, which as I understood it then and understand it now, involved being at peace.

For this, he asked me a few months before, in a period when he wished to make amends, that I come when the time came and sit and be still with him. This is something he had seen me do when my mother was dying and is a capacity which I have developed through learning and teaching the Alexander Technique. As a capacity, it involves being very present to the person you are with and attuning yourself deeply to their breathing.

When my mother was dying this was relatively simple, in that she required someone just to be there with her, witnessing her struggle within herself between good Barbara and bad Barbara, as she prepared to release herself. My father needed more holding. In many ways, this reflected a struggle I think he had within himself all his life that only resolved itself in those final hours.

That struggle was not unique to him, it was present for many men who became ministers in the Church of Scotland. He was capable of inspiring others in his work and influencing them greatly, as I was greatly privileged to hear of from someone who knew him at the weekend. What they often saw was his feminine side, his devotional side, where he was, I suspect, a lovely man. My relationship was somewhat different, as it often is for children of people with a public role. I experienced a different man, a man shackled within a system that was inherently patriarchal and authoritarian, a man systemically bound from showing himself, his beauty and finding his own ‘preciousness beyond reason’ for himself.

In that last period of time we spent together, I entered his reality which was of the physical resurrection and suggested we say the Jesus prayer from the Orthodox Christian tradition which I had recently come across in working with a client. In doing this I was very much coming from my professional standpoint of needing to enter the reality of others to understand and help them, as well as that of a man faced with a dying father in pain and not at peace, and needing to enter his reality, however much I did not share it.

I am so glad I did. The prayer has a particular breathing pattern and by leading my father through its simplicity of what to say, on which part of the breathing cycle, he gradually settled, into the pattern, and then himself as we repeated it for just over an hour and a half. When I left he was at peace, away from the horror that had been developing that morning. His beauty was radiant, he was
physically changed, in a way that I can understand and measure as an Alexander Teacher, and maintaining the pattern, when I left, of a man at peace in himself. He was on his way to the good death that he wanted and which occurred shortly afterwards.

The change was not just in him, it was in me as well, and it has taken me fully this year to realise it in myself, to find the peace and physical change in my ongoing life that I experienced then for myself, as I ministered to him. Something I suspect he always wanted from me, playing a part in the difficulties we had and ultimately in the resolution we achieved together, where I was just a man tending to his father in dying. Now I am the boy who has lost his dad and whose life is just beginning again. I know of no better way to end this very personal blog than to quote from a poem we both loved and seems so well to sum up what happened that day:

And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.

Elliot, T.S. (1944) Four Quartets London: Faber & Faber p42

Monday, 12 January 2015 16:13

Really Stopping

If you really stop, and I mean really stop, and especially if you are not used to stopping, then it really feels to most people that they cannot do anything, and so they revert to the familiar, and the habitual. The familiar and the habitual have their uses; they can help us to successfully navigate life but they can also trap, harden us to the new, stop us from exploring, inhibit our spontaneity, hinder our creativity. Unless, that is, our habits support our exploring, release our spontaneity and open us up to the possibilities of ourselves and our lives.

This is as true for me twenty five years after first encountering Alexander’s Technique as it is for someone coming to it for the first time. Their experience, in a first lesson on learning what it is they do, that they do not want to be doing, where they do it and when, and then successfully inhibiting or stopping it – is of not knowing how to actually move and get into action. It just feels impossible to move without resorting to the known and the familiar, the habitual.


If you have read this far and you have no Alexander experience, then it is important to be clear that what you do not want is anything that interferes with your breathing, anything that leaves you shortening and narrowing in stature, anything that is that constricts you and your experience of the world you are encountering. Which is often easier said than done and why, in the beginning in Alexander, we strip things down to the basic actions, like standing, walking, sitting, take hold of the world, looking at and being with another, articulating our thoughts to them and ourselves.


Outside the teaching room, these actions are embedded in life, saturated in meaning but we can and do learn that our manner of use - that is what we do with our head, in relation to our neck and torso - has a constant effect on our functioning and performance, whatever the situation we find ourselves in. At first, this is pared down in the teaching room to the simple acts listed above and taken out into life. Later if you take it far enough, into the act of thinking and using your intelligence, which is a prerequisite for learning Alexander’s technique and developing conscious control, it becomes a process of opening you up further to the world you find yourself in and a process of continually becoming more of your self. In the process you find yourself, as I have been finding myself this week, as my conscious control is developing and my manner of use is improving, faced with deeply held core habits and opening myself up by inhibiting them and finding myself at my edge. Where the leap into the unknown is the same as it always has been, where it was in the beginning, with Alexander, as it is for me, of trusting oneself, one’s reason, one’s thinking, in moving forward without the certainty of it feeling right and allowing oneself to find oneself, where one finds oneself, with a greater freedom in being one’s self.

Saturday, 08 November 2014 18:36

Living on the Edge

One of the facts of movement is that we move best when we are unstable but balanced. This is often a discomforting fact, something that we would prefer to avoid by seeking stability, predictability, limiting our choices to the already known. Life though has the habit of intervening when we go down this road; at some point we will be caught short. In simple movement terms, if we are trying to move and be stable, then we establish limits to what we can do and make ourselves prone to hurt and injury.

To move into balance, it is necessary to let go of stability, to unknow what we know, to pass through a moment of instability, without balance in order to find ourselves balancing on the edge, ready to step forward into the unknown in order to know it. Alexander Technique is as a process, as Joseph Rowntree, of ‘reasoning into the unknown.’ It helps us find the edge and step forward into a life of uncertainty, discovery and creation. It is there at the beginning of our first lesson, when we stand in front of a chair for the first time thinking we know how to stand.

The invite to place your feet under your hips and turn them out by 45 degrees, releases most people into a free balance, as they stop pulling forward by shortening by placing their weight through the balls of their feet. At the same time, their breathing releases, the gold standard, in terms of feedback of how we are doing. This free balance requires nothing else from us but the placing of the feet and freeing ourselves to look ahead. It teaches us how to stand well, without our usual effort and sets us up for learning the guiding orders in relation to movement and action.

There at the beginning of lessons, we are starting to unknow our most basic patterns of movement, in terms of standing, walking, sitting and taking hold of the world. Beginning there is a prelude to becoming more conscious of our habits, our ways of approaching things and other people. As our consciousness grows, as we grow our awareness, we learn the difference between attending directly to ourselves and being aware our selves with our attention free to gaze, glance and focus in our surrounding worlds. Within our growing awareness, subsidiary to our attention we learn the meaning of the guiding orders, in terms of distinctions between the small movements of the micro actions, that can interfere or co-ordinate the use of our self.

It is perhaps worth noting here that Alexander’s definition of self is very wide and loose and seeks to includes everything of our phenomenological experience. In this I think it can be related to both William James ‘self of selves’ and Jung’s idea of a Self, an archetype of wholeness that emerges in the process of time, in the process which is ourselves. And Alexander’s idea of the primary control, that use of the head and the neck in relation to the torso, is a control in process, that for him was a universal constant in our process of living, that is always taking us to our edges. Tantalizing us forward into unknowing our past and our present by moving forward into a future of increasing wholeness. We are never standing still in this, we are always moving forward with new levels of integration emerging if we work the process, of keeping our necks free, our heads going forward and up as we allow ourselves to lengthen and to widen, integrating ourselves in a daily practice of increasing psycho-physical integration. Through conscious control, we become whole again.

Page 2 of 7