Don't just do something, stand there... so you can choose and decide

(originally published 12/7/00)

The following is a quote from Walter Carrington's new book, "The Act of Living: Talks on the Alexander Technique":

"When people are asked to do something, and they go to do it, almost invariably their immediate reaction is to tense up.  That's the problem.  It is what puts people's reactions so wrong in so many cases.  It is absolutely habitual.  They tense in response to things, particularly if it's something unfamiliar or unusual or emotionally charged - particularly emotionally charged.  Now if you can make a conscious, voluntary habit of responding by inhibiting or, if you like, saying I have time - it doesn't matter how you express the thought to yourself so long as that's what you convey - you've got the time to choose and decide how you're going to carry on from there.... The essential thing about inhibition is the realization that you have the time, you have the possibility, to choose and decide."

In my lessons recently, I have noticed many of my students and I have been observing and debating the value of tension, effort, and strain in the doing of our activities.  It's not that anyone of us really advocates busting blood vessels.  Rather, it is the constant challenge of questioning what our sense of feeling may be telling us is the "proper", "necessary" amount of effort to get a thing done.  The idea suggested above - of slowing down and taking time to choose - is a tool often overlooked and underutilized because our feeling sense tells us we "must get on in with it in the way we are already going or we'll never get it done. "

To begin allowing for the possibility of taking that time, we have the Alexander lesson.  This is time we've agreed to spend practicing inhibition, and are more willing to slow down.  Then, we begin to take this tool into our lives.  At the office with ringing phones and deadlines.  At home with the hustle and bustle of family and home life.  In the heat of the moment when someone has said something that elicits a strong reaction from us...

Before we can change a thing, we have to know what the thing we want to change is.  Try this tool - saying "I have time" as breathing space to allow yourself to see more clearly what it is you are doing in order to choose what you will do.

Let me know how it goes.