Monday, August 13, 2012

I Am Not A Student of the Alexander Technique.


A difficult beginning to my guitar work tonight.  Too much chatter as I was playing through a piece just to reconnect with it.  I moved on to review Stepping Stones which I have not played in weeks.  I was having problems cleanly executing some of the opening passages when I returned to working with inhibitory or negative directions.  Employing "I am not holding onto myself", I then returned to "I am not a guitarist" as I have found much freedom with this combination.

Then out of nowhere, the thought I am not a student of the Alexander Technique arrived.  I held this for a bit and explored playing the opening passages some more.  As I continued to hold this something was definitely shifting in my body.  Perhaps years of "trying" to get it right was being let go.  I was just sitting on a chair with guitar in hand.  No position was being assumed,  and my body was just responding to the directions in a different way that yet felt right.

I took a break to do an AT lie down.  While on the floor I continued with "I am not a student ..."  From there I moved to "I do not know how to use my arms."  As I lay there on the floor with this thought the release of unnecessary tension in my right arm was noticeable.  I am not sure what happens within the mind body system when these "negative directions" arrive but I do know that something happens.  Something within the system is shifting.

I returned to the guitar working with these two directions.  Just as I began to play, a bit of chatter erupted in my mind.  I replaced this with the thought of "I am not a performer."  The mind quieted and the playing was beautiful. I think there is fertile area for me to explore these further in the coming evenings.

Stay Tuned.


  1. You seem to be continuing the pull the tablecloth away from the table settings...

    I'm really curious what sort of discoveries you make from doing these things. I know you don't have to articulate them, except musically, but I'm still curious. I mean, when I've used these sorts of paradoxical statements and thought about what happened later, I discovered assumptions I didn't know I really had.
    For instance, evidently I used to hold the assumption that speaking in front of a group of more than a few people was really me positioning myself as an authority... which I wasn't really comfortable with doing due to my rebellious nature. Telling myself, "I'm not performing" brought my presence of mind back to where it belonged - inside of me. Until I had this experience, I didn't really understand how I was allowing my awareness to fly outward into imagining how others saw me from their point of view.

  2. Patrick, this is really really wonderful. Thank you for sharing this!

  3. Franis thanks for the probing question. The first thing that happens with “I am not a student of the Alexander Technique” and some of these other “paradoxical statements” is that my mind quiets. This happens very quickly, at least so far this has been the case. Mind you I have been practicing Zen for close to 20 years and other sitting practices longer than that, so I have spent my time observing, quieting, and focusing my thinking. Perhaps because negative or inhibitory directions are a new line of thinking for me, I am not burdened with any bursts of associative thinking leaps when I use them.

    Along with this quieting is an upward release of my body in general, quit similar as to when I have been working with an AT teacher or through directing my thinking in more recent years. What I find interesting is why is the body releasing, even though I am not directing my thoughts along these lines? I am not moving when using these inhibitory directions nor am I intending nor preparing to move. Does this physical quietness allow the neuromuscular pathways to somehow release unnecessary tension?

    Or is just the disruption to my “habitual thinking” in general or specifically along the lines of traditional AT directions enough to allow a measure of muscular freedom? Is it the disruption of or the quieting of the thinking? Or both? I know that when I have been on intensive meditation retreats and quiet the mind with gathas and other Zen practices there is also a release of bodily tension. And with the release of this tension it is easier to quiet and focus the mind.

    Or perhaps I have become too “identified” with the Alexander Technique in the past few years and just as in the case of “I am not a guitarist” a certain expectation is removed from myself? With the expectation dropped any associated thinking and muscular patterns can dissolve to a degree. More questions than answers, but I’ll keep investigating.

  4. While just holding these thoughts again, I saw that part of what is happening is that my mind does not know what to do with “I am not a student ...” so the mind does nothing. Couple this with non-doing in the body and a type of constructive action arises nonetheless.

  5. Hi Patrick,
    I find similar things happening whenever I use a negative direction for myself, Patrick. For instance, right now, when I think, "I am not typing", everything shifts and I immediately gain a broader perspective. Your question/answers all seem to make sense to me.

    To say "I am not" + verb is always a big relief from the habit of identifying/labeling/limiting myself as the one who is "doing" an action. Personally, I like to use the phrase "I am not the Doer", recognizing that the "Doer" of "my" actions is something very much Unknown to my thinking mind.

    I also like to think of the "I am not" statements with an awareness of Beyond-Being. What I mean is: I am, but I am also not. From a certain perspective, this world and this body-mind are real; from another perspective, they are illusory. It is always a relief to move away from identification with the illusory and into a perspective that recognizes my own nothingness, and "I am not..." helps me do that. Of course, there's so much more.....