5. To assimilate and continue with what you may have gained in a specific session of work with a teacher.
The time immediately following the lesson or "turn" may be the most important time for assimilating what you have received from the teacher’s hands and what you have learned in that period of time.
6. To achieve further progress on your own in improving your conditions of use and to make progress in relation to your general growth and development.
This also includes working on yourself in order to deal better with a particular immediate problem that might require careful judgment in resolving, or in order to deal more objectively and effectively with issues from the past, such as are brought to the fore in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.
Becoming more in touch with your reasoning (Alexander's phrase), as well as reaffirming and strengthening a particular life direction, also fit into this possibility.
Whether working on yourself for one or all of the above purposes, the process involves what Alexander called "directing" or "ordering." He did not make a distinction between the two terms in his writings, nor do most of the senior teachers who trained with him. Sometimes teachers use the terms to refer to a silent, verbal process, and sometimes they use the terms to mean a totally non-verbal process. In my experience, while working with a number of teachers who knew Alexander personally and had extensive work from him, I have found a lot of controversy and discrepancy over the definition of these two terms and over how they should be understood and used in the teaching situation or when advising pupils on how to carry on by themselves with the Technique. Some teachers are opposed to any silent saying of the words of the directions, while others feel that it should be an integral part of learning the Technique. Later I will give examples of various perspectives on the use of "directing" or "ordering," but for purposes of clarity I would like to begin by making a distinction between the two terms.
I prefer to use the word "directing" to mean the completely non-verbal form of projecting an intention for a lengthening or freeing to occur in a certain way in a certain part of the self at any given moment.
I use "ordering" to represent the silent, but verbal saying of the directions or orders to oneself. (This is distinct from saying the orders or directions aloud—either by the teacher or the pupil.)
Alexander tried to clarify the concepts of "directing" and "direction" when he wrote of “the whole question of the direction of the use of myself” in The Use of the Self:
. . . he [the pupil] must learn to give the correct mental orders to the mechanisms involved, and there must be a clear differentiation in his mind between the giving of the order and the performance of the act ordered and carried out through the medium of the muscles.
I recall being told that Alexander used to say that the directions were to be projected "one after the other and all together." He describes the effect in The Use of the Self:
This process is analogous to the firing of a machine-gun from an airplane, where the machinery is so co-ordinated that each individual shot of the series is timed to pass between the blades of a propeller making 1,500 or more revolutions to the minute.
There have been various ways of altering the phrases of the directions slightly in order to make them more effective. For instance, I have often heard:
Let the neck be free,
to let the head go forward and up,
to let the back lengthen and widen,
and to let the knees go forward and away.
Following is a discussion of various views on the possible uses of the directions and orders.
"Directing" was described to me by my first teachers as "thinking" as opposed to attempting to "do" something to achieve a result in the neck-head-torso-limb relationship.
Sometimes "directing" was also explained as "wishing," but never as "imagining" or "visualizing." I have found the word "intending" useful in my own teaching as a description of "directing." The phrase "an act of attention alone
" is also very effective in the first lesson situation for describing the process, and I usually demonstrate this with an illustration from my 1975 master's thesis
to give beginning pupils an experience of directing. I ask them to b aware of the direction one of their fingers is already pointing while their hands are resting on their lap or on the arms of a chair. Then, while leaving the hand and finger still, I ask them merely to "think of" or "imagine" that finger pointing more
in the direction it is already pointing. They usually notice a subtle change in the resilience of the finger, without actually having "done" anything other than "project that message from the brain to the mechanism."
I was never taught the silent, verbal "ordering" in my early years of private lessons with various teachers including Joan Murray, Walter Carrington, and Frank Pierce Jones, nor was ordering taught in the teachers’ training class I attended given by Walter and Dilys Carrington and Peggy Williams. In fact, any use of the word-phrases silently was very much frowned upon there. However, Dr. Barlow describes the use of words for teaching in his book The Alexander Technique:
. . . information about use is conveyed by manual adjustment on the part of the teacher, and it involves learning a new mental pattern in the form of a sequence of words which are taught to the pupil, and which he learns to associate with the new muscular use he is being taught by the manual adjustment. He learns to project this new pattern to himself not only while he is being taught but when he is own his own.
It isn’t clear here whether the words should be used silently or how the pattern is projected while pupils are on their own. Further on, Dr. Barlow writes of a first lesson:
The teacher places both his hands at the sides of the neck and asks the pupil to say to himself the words "neck free, head forward and out" (or, if standing or sitting, "forward and up").
This approach to teaching was objected to by my teachers as a form of "conditioning," and I was inclined to agree with them. The extreme opposite approach, which was how I was taught, is simply to give pupils the experience first and wait until much later to try to get them to participate in any further way than merely leaving themselves as free as possible (i.e. "inhibiting" in order to be directed and moved by the teacher. However, in retrospect it also seems that this could be a form of conditioning. I still recall the great disappointment I experienced during my senior year of college after having my first series of lessons (nearly every day the previous summer) when all the wonderful feeling of "up" and direction suddenly left me. I even remember exactly where I was and the very demanding thing I was doing at the time, and there was absolutely nothing that I knew how to do to re-establish for myself the better conditions of use. I had understood intellectually that the result came from a certain use of my neck in relation to my head going forward and up and my back lengthening and widening, but, of course, however I tried to direct my neck, head, and back only turned into a stiffening or holding—a position. Finally, I gave up all attempts to recreate the feeling and waited until the following summer when I was able to have another series of lessons. The direction and "up" quickly came back, though, in the very first lesson, and after the summer I found that I had gained enough basic
experience and understanding of "directing" and "direction" to see me through the rigors of army life for the next three years.
Somehow, I had learned to "think" the directions and they maintained, to a certain degree, the condition that had been cultivated by my teacher's hands and words in the lessons. Of course, I also had intermittent lessons during my three-year army enlistment before I left for England to join the teacher training course. Therefore, it could be that the hands-on reinforcement I was receiving during those years merely gave me the impression
that I was maintaining my improved conditions of use primarily from my own powers. This illusion seems to be borne out by what I describe later on about the results I achieved from using Kitty Wielopolska's version of ordering when I was quite ill and under a great deal of stress.
There are only a few other written accounts of teaching besides Dr. Barlow’s that give us any clues to the ways words can be used in working on ourselves. First-generation teacher Patrick Macdonald says something similar to Dr. Barlow in his 1967 lecture to the Alexander Society entitled "On Giving Directions, Doing and Non-doing":
Giving direction, then, is not and cannot be the same for a new pupil as it is for one of a few weeks, months, or years experience of the Technique. For the new pupil, directions start merely as words. These should be learnt by heart, in the proper order, and they should gain in content with time, experience, and the frequent application of the teacher's hands. They must progress from being merely words to a release of force, which acts in certain ways along certain paths. The words, therefore, turn into acts, but acts of a very delicate and subtle kind which are not to be confused with the ordinary kind of activity commonly called "a physic
Mr. Macdonald does not say that the directions are to be said by the pupil silently or aloud, just that, at first, they are words.
It was not until I began questioning first-generation teacher Kitty Wielopolska more specifically about how she taught that I found an account of "ordering" that was more complete. Kitty had private lessons with Alexander for several years before she attended his first teachers' training course in the early 1930s, later retraining with Patrick Macdonald in the 1960s. She had often used the expression "ordering" in our many conversations about the Alexander work, and I knew that she spent extended periods of time seated in front of a mirror working on herself by doing that she called "ordering." I had always assumed that she meant the same thing by "ordering" that I had understood as the non-verbal "directing," but when I asked her one day in the course of our dialogues to describe how she explains "directing" in an introductory lesson, she said:
I say the direction, or order, or request must be put into words, silent, but verbal, in the head. It must be a word. It can’t be a mere thought.
I try to illustrate it by saying that when you start to get up in the morning you're sort of reviewing the day and you think "I've got to do this, and I’ve got to do that; but I must not forget to stop at the post office." And then that goes into words. That is important. You actually talk to yourself about certain things. and the rest is just a vague sort of smear. You may be making a casual list as you get dressed, in your mind, of the things you want to do, but the important thing, buying the stamps . . . it is definitely put into words.
When I’m teaching a first lesson, I want to emphasize the necessity of the word immediately, as F.M. did with me in my first lesson.
In the early part of the century there was no idea current that the body has its own intelligence. Now it's a more commonplace fact. If you instruct the body, through verbal directions and give them kindly as one would to an intelligent child, the intelligence, which has never been appealed to, comes alive, and the creation of a psycho-physical whole commences. Several things can impede this psycho-physical growth. One is that if the pupil visualizes, it is, again, what his
the body should do. In reality, he has no idea how, for example, the back should “widen” at any particular time, or indeed at any time; but when left to its own intelligence, its own knowledge, it can proceed to carry out a request as it wishes. I think courtesy in instructing the body is important . . . even to the point of saying "Please . . ."
Kitty definitely presents "ordering" here in a way that distinguishes the process from the results, as Alexander does in the quote above about the clear differentiation in the pupil’s mind between "the giving of the order and the performance of the act ordered and carried out through the mechanisms of the muscles."
Barbara Brown’s biofeedback research seems to support all of what Kitty says about the "body’s intelligence." Here is an extensive quote from her chapter of Supermind, "The Intellect of the Unconscious":
One of the most striking features of the biofeedback phenomenon, particularly exemplified in the learned control of nerve-muscle cells, is the consummate orderliness with which the learning is accomplished. With no more than the mechanical representation of the muscle cells’ activity and an explicit or implicit command to control those cells, somehow mental mechanisms execute the instructions with remarkable precision and remarkable rapidity. The result is an ordered alteration of physiological activity. Through the brain’s neural networks of millions of nerve connections, exactly those nerve filaments and their chemistry and electrical behavior are selected and directed to proceed with incredible efficiency to accomplish an objective still in the "mind’s eye."
The rapidity, the specificity, and the efficiency with which this learning occurs (sometimes within two minutes or less) imply the existence of a mechanism for ordering the most molecular of the body’s [sic] physiologic activities toward a new objective conceived and defined by the mind-brain’s [sic] intellectual functions. This ordering action, moreover, takes precedence over the effects of all spontaneous or automatic activity, and is a strong indication that the mind-brain possesses a separate function capable of evoking and putting into effect orders for physiologic activity to follow, orders specifically tailored by either the mind-brain’s own resources or by another of the mind’s self-governing faculties. Since the result of the ordering process is completely compatible with the intention to change the physiologic activity and even though consciously there is no knowledge of how to proceed, the result is the most precise and parsimonious use of the available physiologic mechanism. One can now begin to think in terms of some highly developed innate qualities of the mind-brain complex, one of which could be called a sense of order.
A sense of order can be distinguished form other evolved senses that are subconsciously appreciated only. A sense of order is an awareness of the sequence of proceeding, and implies an ability to sense how things will
fit as contrasted to a sense of continuity, or that things do fit, once fitted. It is different from a sense of harmony, which is the sensation and awareness of the appropriateness of elements to a particular pattern. A sense of order implies an innate ability to anticipate orderly sequences
Although I had known her since 1968, Kitty did not give me the account described above of presenting ordering until 1979. Since 1972, we had worked together often, and she would frequently say the directions, or orders, aloud while working on me. Sometimes she would even have new "special orders," as she called them, to give each time we got together—like the "eye orders" described in her lecture with Dr. Mario Passaglini for ACAT teachers and students.
When Kitty spoke the orders aloud for m, something deeper happened in my conditions of use than when we were engaged in regular conversation while we worked. It also had a much fuller effect than I would receive when other experienced teachers merely asked me to "think" the directions in a lesson, or when they would murmur the orders softly, over and over, like a chant. Kitty’s voice became fuller and richer than her normal conversational tone when she said the orders aloud for me, and this quality of voice seemed to make it more possible for me to "receive" the effect of the direction from her hands as she worked on me. There was also an unobtrusive quality in the way she spoke the orders, perhaps because she spoke them as if they were just as much for herself as for me. She would say, "My neck to be free . . . my head . . . etc." In a way, it was as if she were providing my own "internal" voice with reinforcement by saying the orders for me as though I were saying them silently for myself. This direct experience of her work in those earlier years of our working together greatly supported the above explanation of "ordering" that she gave me in 1979.
Until then, I had felt there was little value in working on myself any more extensively than by occasionally lying on the floor and "directing" or non-verbally "thinking" the directions when I was fatigued. I had carried with me such a strong effect from my training experience that my direction was a constant that manifested itself powerfully in every waking moment and even in sleep. It seemed that no kind of calamity or effort could possibly destroy this constancy. Unfortunately—or perhaps fortunately—this proved to be an illusion, just as my experience from my first summer of lessons had been.
During 1980, I began to suffer from the recurrence of a kidney problem that I thought I had overcome completely during my training. At first, it only gave me periodic bouts of pain, but as the year went on there were more and more frequent occurrences. Even strong painkillers could not stop the pain; but because I had a fairly good standard of use as a result of my training, I could recover from the initial attacks fairly quickly and resume my teaching the following day as if nothing had happened. Eventually, however, the continued recurrence of pain began to wear me down and destroy my ability to retain my better conditions of use by merely "thinking" the directions or by "wishing" them. I could "think" the directions for all I was worth, but the "thinking" just did not get through enough to give me a satisfactory level of direction that was required for teaching several lessons a day as well as conducting a teacher-training course.
Since it was then difficult for me to go where I could have extensive lessons with an advanced teacher to retrieve a better standard in my conditions of use, I decided to experiment with the approach to ordering that Kitty had explained to me, and it made a remarkable difference. No matter how destructive a bout of pain I had, by ordering I could always bring myself back to a baseline standard of use and could manage to continue my teaching until I ultimately had surgery to correct the kidney problem.
Shortly after this success with ordering, I decided to try to pass it on to my pupils in case it might help them in their own work on themselves. At first, I gave it only to pupils who had had lessons for several years and who already spent a certain amount of time working on themselves as best they could. I had been rather dissatisfied with giving private lessons up to that time because, no matter how much pupils tried to carry through with what I taught them, they would lose more over the course of the week between lessons than I felt they should.
The results that these experienced pupils had with ordering were striking. They felt it offered them an enormous boost in organizing their own work on themselves so that they could actually improve their conditions on their own at last. I soon began introducing ordering to beginning pupils in about the third or fourth lesson, and it became a vital part of my teaching.
No doubt, there could still be much debate on the validity of "ordering" and whether it should be used in either teaching or working on oneself. I discussed the use of silent verbal orders with Walter Carrington in 1983 after he had read Kittty’s explanation of ordering that I quoted above, and he was very much against having pupils use words non-vocally in this way. He gave the example of seeing his mother mis-using herself one day and pointing it out to her. Her response was "Am I, dear? I’m saying my orders." However, Walter did concede to me that, at times, he does use words silently when working on himself; but he did not describe exactly how. Likewise, in a talk on the directions he gave in 1972 at the end of my training, he alludes to the possibility that others might sometimes, somehow, put the directions, or orders, into words. However, perhaps he was referring only to those of us in the training class who had had a good deal more experience in the Technique than the ordinary private pupil. He says in the talk:
We have seen that we live in a gravitational field. It is essential for us, therefore, to go up against gravity. But of course gravity is operating all the time, and because this is a constant factor in our lives, we need the constant reminder to go up. So when you look at the directions, or orders, they are not just something that you remember from time to time, that are given at the critical moment, that are just applicable now and then. You don’t pronounce them all the time. You don’t necessarily put them into words all the time. It is because you understand this and the concept that they are part of your attitude to life, what you want. And when you get it to that stage, you have got it made. And until you get it to that stage, you haven’t.
With the ordinary pupil you can’t expect to get direction. You can only hope to get a little inhibition. Gradually from the inhibition you begin to get the first taste of direction. Both inhibition and direction will be extremely intermittent and extremely precarious.
In the same conversation with Walter about Kitty's approach to teaching ordering I asked him if he still found it important to take special time to work on himself, even though he has had so many years of experience in the Technique. He said that he definitely did find it important to take this kind of special time, particularly because of the rigorous demands of his teaching schedule. He also said that, if for some unexpected reason the time that he usually set aside for working on himself was cut short just before his afternoon teaching, then he found it much more difficult to meet the demands of the rest of the day’s work.
I also asked Walter if he knew whether F.M. felt he needed to "work on himself" in his later years. Walter said that he certainly did, and quoted F.M. as saying, "If I weren’t such an old fool, I’d spend a hell of a lot more time working on myself than I do, particularly during the holidays." Walter also mentioned then that he thought it was definitely important to allow for more time to work on ourselves as we get older. He said that he particularly liked to take extra time, for instance, before he went out riding, to get himself going as well as possible, and that he sometimes did this while seated in a saddle on a wooden saw horse he used as an aid for teaching students in his training course.
Another first-generation teacher of mine, Peggy Williams, reinforces Walter’s opinion against silent verbal ordering. In an interview she says, "It was only when I stopped giving the orders to myself that I really began to understand what it [the Technique] was all about. That was the day when I suddenly decided I’d give up, and it was then that I stopped making this frenzied, silent verbalizing."
Peggy also says in the interview that she had not been taught how to use the words by Alexander himself but that the other teachers used them and she assumed she should too.
Frank Pierce Jones, with whom I also worked extensively, did not make much distinction between the terms "directing" and "ordering" either. He has some interesting comments on the topic in the last chapter of his book Freedom to Change where he writes:
My pupils learn to use conscious direction and inhibition without verbalizing it. After they have acquired sufficient confidence in their own thinking and are able to give attention to what they are doing without end-gaining, they can use words for "keeping close track of what is going on," as John Dewey put it, "words as names certainly being the great clinchers in an operation." I found directions (directing my neck to relax, my head to go forward and up, etc.) useful at a certain stage in learning the technique, especially when my mind wandered and I floated off in a stream of associations, or when I was distracted by some pain or discomfort and had difficulty giving my full attention to the technique. Soon, however, they took on a ritualistic quality and began to lose their effectiveness. I found that I was verbally giving directions but nothing was happening. A.R. [F.M.'s brother] made me realize that directions alone were not the equivalent of thinking in activity but that something beyond words was needed.
Of course, Frank was referring here mainly to the process of applying the principles of the Technique to daily life and not to the specific practice of working on yourself to improve your conditions of use. I worked with him before I trained to become a teacher and for three years afterward, and I never knew him to suggest to people to take a special extended period of time to regain or improve their conditions of use on their own, particularly by lying down on the floor in the traditional way that most other teachers do. His main concern was to demonstrate to people that the Technique could be incorporated into any activity. By this time in his teaching career he had completely dispensed with "chair work" per se, though he might work with a pupil from sitting to standing and later back to sitting again simply as one of a number of ordinary activities. Frank never did "table work" while I knew him and did not have a table where he taught in the front parlor of his apartment, which had no special Alexander teaching “arrangement” to it at all. Going for an Alexander lesson with him was more like going for a social visit in which hands-on Alexander work would be incorporated off and on as he would speak about various aspects of the Technique and initiate your doing various activities, like handling objects on a bureau or opening and closing one of its drawers, reciting passages from Alice and Wonderland for you to echo back to him as he directed your neck, head, and back, etc. The "lesson" usually extended right up to the moment you exited the door of the apartment as Helen, his wife (who had also trained as an Alexander teacher), might emerge to add her own versions of "Alexander lore" to the parting conversation as she brought your coat and helped you on with it in an obviously upwardly-directed way.
Summary of Discussion
Whether working on ourselves by ordering or directing, or whether working on ourselves at all, we are still brought back to the main goal of the Technique— "universal constant in living"—i.e. a constant conscious direction that, if we are clear enough about the above distinctions between "directing" and "ordering," would not and could not actually be the verbal ordering. It is our job as teachers to help pupils develop this constant conscious direction, and I see “working on yourself” as an aid, an important aid, to achieving this ability—an aid which can include either "directing" or "ordering," or both.
Ideally, it would be preferable if we did not have to work on ourselves at all. I would rather not have to ask pupils and students to do so, and I believe that there is a condition of use that can be achieved that renders unnecessary and superfluous any working on yourself beyond the constant maintenance of direction, as Alexander phrased it, "in reaction to the stimulus of living."
Many of us have experienced this condition of use as a result of having three years of daily work in a teacher’s training course, but most of the time regular pupils and trainees need all the help they can get in improving and maintaining their conditions of use, especially if they are up against a very poor standard of use of themselves or having to cope with difficult external stimuli.
If pupils have frequent access to a trained teacher's hands, they might get along fine, perhaps, without taking any special time outside lessons for working on themselves; but, after a while, when they stop having regular work from a teacher, they often lose the effect of the lessons and do not know either how to improve their conditions on their own or even how to maintain the standard they've gained from the lessons. Ultimately, I think pupils should be provided with a means of working on themselves whereby they could dispense forever with having work from another person's hands, which is what Alexander's writings seem to hold out as a possibility for everyone who has lessons.
I am not suggesting that people necessarily give up ever
having work from another person. I think that another person's hands may always be able to offer something that people cannot provide for themselves. But the kind of dependence on work from a teacher that most pupils and many teachers still seem to be trapped by is not consistent with the ideal of "constructive conscious control of the individual" that Alexander charged us to achieve. Perhaps a lot of this dependence comes from such emphasis on the Technique as a way of bringing about change through the teacher’s skilled hands, which, certainly, can be a most phenomenal experience on the pupil's part. It is often so astounding what skilled and experienced teachers can do for a pupil that there is a great temptation just to leave the function of the Technique at that stage, whereas that experience should only be the beginning, only an exhortation to the pupil to learn ultimately how to bring him or herself to a better state without the aid of a teacher's hands, and, perhaps, even to go far beyond what the teacher can give.
Following are some suggestions for applying the skills of directing and ordering to working on yourself.
Procedure I: Ordering
To use ordering in working on yourself, I recommend that you memorize the orders just as you would the script of a Shakespeare play. Do not alter the words in any way. Give the orders while you are basically still, either lying down, seated or standing. Try not to have any distractions around, and take a period of ten to twenty minutes in which you can say the whole series of orders a number of times in an unhurried way. If you are sitting or standing, try to select a view which you can look out upon, keeping your vision alive and active so that you don’t drift inwardly into sensation or fantasy. Never focus your eyes on one object or point for very long. Try to allow for more and more of the scene before you to unfold and deepen in terms of textures, colors, light, shadow, depth, and breadth. (See Aldous Huxley's The Art of Seeing
) Then say the orders silently, slowly, and non-vocally to yourself as they are written below, leaving a few seconds’ pause where the dots occur between each group of words:
My neck . . . . . to be free . . . . .
My head . . . . . to go forward . . . . . and up . . . . .
My back . . . . . to lengthen . . . . . and widen . . . . .
My knees . . . . . to go forward an up to the ceiling . . . . . (or, forward and away, when sitting or standing) . . . . .
Go through this series several times before pausing to rest. This should be enough to produce some degree of change in your conditions. However, I usually give beginning pupils a slightly altered form of the phrasing, and I go into a detailed description of how I would like them to do the ordering so that there is a chance for them to have the deepest possible effect. First, I have pupils sit down and write out the orders as I dictate them. Somehow, it makes a difference for them to write out the orders themselves rather than merely receiving a printout from me. I also work on pupils with my hands while I am dictating so that they can be engaged in keeping as much direction going in themselves as possible while writing. This way the words of the orders have some chance to register right at the time they are writing them down. I also make sure to dictate the phrases with plenty of pauses at the dots so that pupils can catch themselves at "end-gaining" right then and there (quite often pupils are anticipating the next phrase so much that they start writing it before I’ve even spoken it). Here is the altered form of the orders:
My neck . . . . . to be free . . . . . †
For the direction to come forward . . . . . into my face . . . . .
and up . . . . . into the top of my head . . . . . †
For my whole back . . . . . to lengthen . . . . . and widen . . . . . †
For my knees . . . . . to go forward and up to the ceiling
(forward and away) . . . . . †
†So that my whole stature can lengthen up out of the contact
of my heels.
I explain that Alexander's original phrasing of the second order was "head forward and up" or "head to go forward and up," and I say that I have taken the liberty of changing that phrase so that it doesn’t imply a movement of the head forward and up through space forward and up. Most beginning pupils inevitably try to do something with the head to find a "right position" when they direct or order the head "to go forward and up," so it is worth taking special care to try to by-pass this tendency. Later, after pupils have had more experience through lessons, they can substitute "head to go forward and up" for "the direction to come forward into my face and up into the top of my head." I try to make it clear that an internal change is what we are looking for, not a position, right relationship, or right “alignment,” although the relationship of parts may change as a secondary effect—particularly if there has been any holding of the neck musculature going on, which inevitably contributes to a pulling of the head back and down in relation to the atlanto-occipital joint.
Immediately after I have finished dictating the orders for pupils to write out, I take them on the table and begin to work on them with my hands in the traditional way
while I proceed to explain to them how I want them to use the orders on their own. Then I actually say the orders aloud for them, asking them not to try to do anything to carry the orders out. I tell them that, if they like, they can repeat the orders silently after me or simply let the words be heard and do nothing more than that. I explain that the orders should be said in the special way that Kitty Wielopolska describes and not just rapidly over and over. I give the example that she gave me about getting up in the morning and putting the important thing that you must do that day into specific words that you silently say to yourself in a different way than when you “think of” other less important things more casually. You remember you have to feed the dog, bring in the newspaper, get some gas, buy a new pair of shoes, and those thoughts may remain only as images of the dog, the paper on the front steps, the gas station, the shoe store; but that important letter, that has to get to the post office by eleven o'clock, is often put into a fully "voiced" sentence or phrase of words in your imagination. Sometimes, for a music
ian, I say that it is like the difference between merely having a tune running through your imagination or actually "thinking through" or "intentionally hearing" a phrase of music
that you are working on for performance just as you would like it to sound in its most perfect rendering.
The most important thing to get across to pupils is that saying the orders in this way is not to be done in a hurried or automatic repetition, like "my-neck-to-be-free-my-neck-to-be-free-my-neck-to-be-free . . . ." When teaching pupils this approach to ordering, I say the orders aloud in a clear, full voice as naturally and as pleasantly as I can, without forcing or contriving a special tone or inflection. As long as I think of saying the orders for the pupil, rather than to him or her, the tone of my voice usually communicates a quality that they pupil can easily go along with. It is not in any way a hypnotic quality of voice, nor is it persuasive, dull, or monotonous. It is simply full and alive. I say the orders aloud exactly as I have written them above, and I especially remember to take time to pause between each group of words so that they can have the best chance to register, or "get through" to the pupil. Sometimes I even say "pause" aloud where the dots occur between the groups of words as they are written above.
I go through the whole series by saying aloud each order five times (including the phrase "so that my whole stature can lengthen up out of the contact of my heels" after each repetition) before passing on to the following one. This also gives a better chance for each order to "get through" to the pupil’s musculature than if it is said only once. After going through the series of orders saying each order five times, I go back to the beginning and repeat the whole series in the same way. When I have finished, I then say that this is how I would like the pupil to work with the orders at home. I suggest stopping to rest after doing two connected series and then going on to do two more connected series, taking about twenty minutes for the entire process.
I also emphasize that I do not want pupils to try to seek a one-to-one correlation between each order and the part (neck, head, back, or knees) that it pertains to. Your neck may not actually start to free until you get to your knees, or until you have ordered the whole series in this way for several days, weeks, or months. You are not seeking an immediate result, and you must not stop and say, "Let’s see if this order actually made my neck and freer." However, you are welcome to notice whatever might happen as a result of ordering at any time during the process. Certainly, if it is leading you to a stiffening, a holding, or into some kind of trance-like state, you want to notice that and consider how you could alter your tone, or speed, so as not to provoke such a negative reaction. (Sometimes, if pupils are extremely end-gaining by temperament or by habit, I ask them to use only the nouns of the orders and leave out the verbs so that they keep themselves as far away as possible from "doing"
Frank Jones's comment on the use of words is significant here, even though he is not referring to a special period of working on yourself. He says:
There are two difficulties inherent in the use of words for learning the Alexander Technique. First, they can get in the way of observing and act as a substitute for thought. Feedback is an essential part of the technique. If you are not allowing your spine to lengthen while you are making some response, there will be a decrease of freedom in your movements. In that case, it is important to be aware of what is happening so that you can re-establish your control, but if you are saying directions to yourself you may miss what is happening because the directions have become and end in themselves. Second, words carry connotations with them from earlier experiences. Such words as "relax," "forward and up," "lengthen and widen," already have meanings that may get in the way and prevent you from having new experiences . . . .
The Alexander Technique might be defined as a method for knowing simultaneously what you are not doing as well as what you are doing—knowing, for example, that you are not interfering with the "primary control" while you are talking, listening or thinking, using the term in the sense of "problem solving" or "ratiocinating." ("Verbal orders" would be bound to interfere with all three of these activities.)
Since I agree with Frank on this last point, I think it is important to confine "ordering" only to "working on yourself" and not try to do it while engaging in other activities—at least not activities that require verbalized thinking or specific activity of the imagination, such as speaking, musical performance, or other creative activities. However, I do like to use ordering sometimes while I am doing activities that have a regular on-going rhythm to them, such as running, swimming, and walking, which do not require much of any particularly verbal thinking in order to be done well. But if I don't do any ordering during those sorts of rhythmic activities, that is not to say that that I stop "directing" in a non-verbal way as a constant that permeates the entire activity.
To support my choice of saying orders for a pupil with the pauses between the subjects and verbs of the phrases, I refer here to a quote from psychologist and neuro-physiologist, Dr. Mario Passaglini, who states in Kitty Wielopolska's talk on the "eye orders" to ACAT teachers and students that I mentioned before:
You have two parts to the order. The noun tells you where the action is going to take place. It is helpful to place that action where it is to occur. You think "my eyes." So you think where it is. Then you leave the verb [of the order: "free to widen and see from the pint of vision"] alone. The verb is actually doing the work. The verb is setting in motion those natural connections that will allow that relationship between brain and muscles to flow back to where it was. Do not interpret the verb. Say the verb and let the verb work.
"Special orders" may be useful to supplement the basic orders. Kitty and Mario claimed the "eye orders" can be useful as a preliminary to the primary orders
—especially since the eyes are not normally "controlled" in the same way that we control our limbs, head, and torso. I recall that Kitty told me she gave the eye orders alone to pupils at the start of a lesson for the first few weeks before she introduced any of the regular orders.
Other "special orders" that Kitty worked with were more "psychological" or "emotional" in nature. For example, she might use:
Let all my stored bodily anger (or grief, etc.)
be dissipated by graduated amounts.
Let all residual tension be dissipated by graduated
amounts from my whole sacrum (or lower ribs, etc.).
Of course, she meant these special orders to be given only in the context of directing the primary control, and not as ends in and of themselves. She often quoted Alexander as saying, "Beware of specifics!" Sometimes I recommend that pupils devise their own special orders, particularly in conjunction with a certain life direction they may be working on, or with some breakthrough they may be trying to make in psychotherapy or psychoanalysis.
I also suggest adding a word of "quality" in the phrasing of the orders, such as:
My neck . . . . . with peace . . . . . to be free . . . . .
For the direction to come forward . . . . . with peace . . . . .
into my face . . . . . and up . . . . . with peace . . . . .
into the top of my head, etc.
This seems to add a greater depth to the effect of the order. However, I think that each person should choose the qualifying word that works best for him or her. Someone else’s neck might "interpret" peace differently from how my neck interprets it. The word of quality may also need to be changed from time to time if it "wears out" and ceases to have any meaning or effect.
Relationship of Ordering to Meditation
It is worth noting at this point the strong similarity between the process of ordering and some techniques of meditation. I have often been incredulous that pupils—and even some Alexander teachers—persist in viewing Alexander work as something mainly for the "physic
al self," while they do meditation for quieting the "mind" and enriching or elevating the "spiritual self." If ordering is understood in the way I have described here, there should be little difference between the psycho-physical effects of the two processes—that is, of course, if meditation is done within the context of directing the primary control. I must admit, however, that I have never pursued any particular form of meditation that uses a mantra or a specific focus of attention other than the "observing" that J. Krishnamurti encourages in his talks and that is striking like the awareness invoked by "inhibiting" in the Alexander Technique.
Nevertheless, I think these comments from The Psychology of Meditation
by Claudio Naranjo and Robert Ornstein clarify the similarity quite well:
The word "meditation" has been used to designate a variety of practices that differ enough from one another so that we may find trouble in defining what meditation is.
A trait that all types of meditation have in common, even at the procedural level, gives us a clue to the attitude we are trying to describe: all meditation is a dwelling upon something.
While in most of one’s daily life the mind [sic
flits from one subject or thought to another, and the body [sic
] moves from one posture to another, meditation practices generally involve an effort to stop this merry-go-round of mental or other activity and to set our attention upon a single object, sensation, utterance, issue, mental state, or activity.
. . . while certain techniques emphasize mental images, others discourage paying attention to any imagery: some involve sense organs and use visual forms (mandalas) or music, and others emphasize a complete withdrawal from the senses: some call for complete inaction, and others involve action (mantra), gestures (mudra), walking or other activities. Again, some forms of meditation require the summoning up of specific feeling states, while others encourage and indifference beyond the identification with any particular illusion.
The very diversity of practices given the name "meditation" by the followers of this or that particular approach is an invitation to search for the answer of what meditation is beyond its forms. And if we are not content just to trace the boundaries of a particular group of related techniques, but instead search for a unity within the diversity, we may indeed recognize such a unity in an attitude. We may find that, regardless of the medium in which meditation is carried out—whether images, physical experiences, verbal utterances, etc.—the task of the meditator is essentially the same as if the many forms of practice were nothing more than different occasions for the same basic exercise.
If we take this step beyond a behavioral definition of meditation in terms of a procedure, external or internal, we may be able to see that meditation cannot be equated with thinking or non-thinking, with sitting still or dancing, with withdrawing from the senses or waking up the senses: meditation is concerned with the development of a presence, a modality of being, which may be expressed or developed in whatever situation the individual may be involved.
This presence or mode of being transforms whatever it touches. If its medium is movement, it will turn into dance: if stillness, into living sculpture: if thinking, into the higher reaches of intuition: if sensing, into a merging with the miracle of bang: if feeling, into love: if singing, into sacred utterance: if speaking, into prayer or poetry: if doing things of ordinary life, into a ritual in the name of God or a celebration of existence. Just as the spirit of our times is technique-oriented in its dealings with the external world, it is technique-oriented in its approach to psychological [sic
] or spiritual [sic
] reality. Yet, while numerous schools propound this or that method as a solution of human problems, we know that it is not merely the method but the way in which it is employed
that determines its effectiveness, whether in psychotherapy, art or education.
In More Talk of Alexander, Dr. Barlow likens ordering to meditation:
Firstly it is useful to tell pupils that for a short period at the start of the lesson they should "give their orders and not do anything to implement them." I would call this "first-stage ordering." This period of directing at once begins to calm the mind [sic
], and such an initial calming is not very different from the calming effect which might be achieved by meditation or prayer or some other repetitive mental disciplines. This effect is soon apparent to the pupil and in many disciplines the effect has been found to be so beneficial it has seemed by persevering in such a way (and without elaboration) a sufficient "state of grace" can be achieved.
Procedure II: Directing
Working on yourself solely by directing is more difficult to describe than working on yourself by ordering. And, in many ways, directing is more difficult to do without the ego trying to produce an immediate result or change. This is often why ordering can be useful in the early stages of studying the Technique, if the orders are "said" with the appropriate quality and speed.
It is easier to achieve a freedom from the act of trying to gain a result if you are saying the words and allowing them to work. Of course, if you are saying the orders in a frenzied way, they will obviously be bound up with an end-gaining attitude. This simply contributes to more confusion and frustration, as Peggy Williams describes above.
Directing, if not done with a gentle approach, can often result in "holding" or "stiffening." So it is useful to consider what source the most non-end-gaining directing can stem from. I think that "awareness" or "attention" can be the best starting point. If you simply place your attention or awareness at you neck, head, back, and knees—that can be the beginning. (If you can sustain that awareness—even only in your neck region—through an activity, it is a great step towards acquiring skill at inhibiting and directing.
Even if you do not actually succeed in altering any habitual patterns of tension as you maintain that awareness, you actually have
altered the “thinking” part of the psychophysic
al pattern just by sustaining the awareness. The most habitual tendency in poor use is, when reacting and responding, to shift awareness away from your primary control to some other field of focus and to cut off from proprioception and kinesthetic perception entirely. This is the "mind-body dichotomy" in actual operation. We "split" ourselves then and there in the shift of attention.
"Intention," or further clarity in directing, can then be based upon this "awareness" or "attention." The clarity of intention comes mainly from knowing more and more about what excessive tension, interference, and pulling down you don’t
want. Then identifying or acknowledging where UP is in relation to the center of the earth—or gravity’s pull—is a good starting point from which to establish an "intention" to free yourself and to direct or "go up" in order to improve the integration of the mechanisms of your primary control, whatever position
you are in.
The debate on chair work and table work vs. application work misses the point that even invalids, e.g. people who are paralyzed from a stroke, should be able to direct and work on themselves according to the principle of the primary control even if they may not be able to achieve a complete manifestation of what Alexander called the "normal working of the postural mechanisms"
that can be elicited by a teacher in the sit-stand-squat dimension of chair work. Just because you are not in possession of that normal working of the postural mechanisms, the process, the process of directing toward an improvement
is not invalidated. As long as a person is at least in possession of consciousness, direction towards integration and wholeness should be possible. In fact, I would think that the most crucial thing for invalids or people with injuries may be directing and working on themselves to complement whatever treatments or restrictions to which they are subject.
"Intending" for you neck to be free, your head to go forward and up, your back to lengthen and widen, and your knees to go forward and away—all together and sequentially—can happen in a split second. Continued projection of these intentions can easily lead to the category of "working on yourself" we are addressing here. Unlike ordering, this procedure can happen while you are engaged in other activities, although it is often hard to do it then. I often work on myself by directing when I am reading a newspaper, looking in a shop window, or waiting in a checkout line. There is a limit to how successful this directing can be, though, depending upon the demand of the particular activity or depending upon the strength of the stimuli around me. If the demand or stress of the situation is too great, then directing merely for the sake of preserving a basic standard of integration and "up" is sometimes about all I can muster. At least that is better than not directing at all, and it is constant and constructive. However, when I eventually get some distance from the demand or stress of the situation, this minimal directing I have already been doing promotes a much more immediate return to improving the integration of my use.
Extended and exclusive working on yourself occurs best when you are relatively quiet and in a reasonably good mechanical advantage for improving your conditions of us at that particular time. There are times when lying on the floor in the traditional Alexander "rest" position may not be as useful as it could be until you have worked at directing for a while in sitting or standing or, for instance, in one of the positions involved in the procedures devised by Raymond Dart.
Whatever your position, you need to be manifesting the "intentions" of the directions of the primary control with an attitude towards change by leaving your whole self available to them.
In the final analysis, working on yourself still involves making the clear distinction between making an improvement in the use of yourself only by either directing or ordering, instead of resorting to making motions to achieve the change or improvement. Even skills gained from movement disciplines, such as Physiosynthesis or Yoga might be transformed into direction if a clear differentiation is kept between directing (or ordering) and doing.
I suspect that we shall find that "image" and "imagination" will also have to be taken more into account in understanding this working on yourself function of the Technique, even though Alexander and most of the teachers he trained were quite opposed to "visualizing." If ordering is effective in any way at all, surely the words of the orders (as most words do) also produce images in our imagination that may be indirectly a significant part of the process of improving our conditions and manner of use. Non-verbal directing may also not be so far removed from using some kind of active and deliberate imagining, even though we can still question seriously the value of picturing our heads as helium-filled balloons or pumpkins on the ends of poles (as I have heard some teachers describe directing). But "imagining" our heads as our heads gong forward and up surely is not very far removed from "thinking" or "wishing" our heads forward and up. If "thinking" and "wishing" do not involve some function of the imagination, it would be very surprising.
Some recent writings and research on the function of imagery do suggest that the words we say to ourselves may only be transformed into physiological events through the operation of the images that the words produce in our imagination. Obviously, this transformation process would need to take a certain amount of time (in terms of seconds or minutes) in which to occur effectively, and the length of time may even vary according to the psychophysical make-up and general condition of each person at the particular moment this process is attempted. Therefore, the extended and unhurried quality of time I have suggested above for ordering would be more likely to insure this change-over from words to images that could then lead into actual direction. (The requirements of this transformational process might also explain why some people have not found their attempts at ordering to be particularly effective as a means of working on themselves.)
At some point, I hope there will be an extensive examination of the issue of working on yourself through imagery and imagination with reference to Luigi Bonpensiere’s insights into what he termed "ideo-kinetic facilitation" of movement (as distinct from its "physio-kinetic facilitation").
His work was regarded very highly by Aldous Huxley who wrote a foreword to Bonpensiere’s book on the subject. Huxley pointed out there the difficulty in receiving the full benefits of any special method without having first secured the knowledge of a good use of the self as a whole.
Since Bonpensiere's writing (1953), literature and research on the function of imagery and imagination have obviously developed enormously, and I don’t think we can afford much longer to ignore their potential relevance to the teaching and learning of the Alexander Technique—particularly as medicine and psychotherapy are utilizing imagery techniques more and more in healing processes. At the very least, it behooves us to try to see how knowledge of and experience in the Alexander Technique can fit into or enhance these other approaches.
I hope these thoughts and descriptions might be of some use to anyone who is interested in exploring the workings of the Alexander Technique. I believe that many of the points I have raised deserve serious consideration in light of the current examinations of teaching approaches—especially the ones that seem to consider the Alexander Technique only as a movement technique. In recent years, many people involved in the Technique have seized upon one of Alexander's earliest phrases, "true and primary movement" to support their view of the Technique as only having to do with movement. They seem to have overlooked the fact that Alexander later substituted the term "primary control" for "true and primary movement in each and every act." As he saw more clearly that an improvement in the use of the self comes about best by directing instead of doing, his work evolved along the lines of further sophistication in the non-doing realm instead of the doing realm.
To advance with this sophistication it behooves us to explore and understand fully the basic properties of both ordering and directing.
Notes and References
"Conditions of use" pertains mainly to the quality of muscle tonus (anywhere from extreme tightness to extreme flaccidity) regardless of whether those qualities of tonus are long-standing or more recently built up. "Manner of use" pertains to how we do things—respond, behave, direct our neck-head-torso-limb relationship, etc.—whether we do them consciously or subconsciously. Conditions of use usually cannot be immediately altered at will, whereas most aspects of manner of use can be altered immediately through inhibiting the subconscious response patterns causing them and by directing our primary control of the use of ourselves as a whole. For a more detailed description, see my article "Manner and Conditions of Use: A Crucial Distinction," which appeared in AmSAT News
, Summer 2003.
Barbara Brown, Supermind
(New York: Warner, 1973), p. 258–259.
F. Matthias Alexander, The Use of the Self
( London: Victor Gollancz, 1985) p. 20.
F. Matthias Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance
([New York: Dutton, 1918] Kent: Integral Press, 1910), p. 122.
F. Matthias Alexander, The Universal Constant in Living
( London: Mouritz, 2000), p. 108.
In the 1923 edition of Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual ([Kent: Integral Press, 1923] London: Mouritz, 2000)
Alexander phrases the directions:
Order the neck to relax,
the head to go forward and up to
lengthen the spine (p. 111).
(Widening the back appears later on p. 115).
I have never heard any of the senior teachers Alexander trained, whom I know, use the phrase “Neck to relax” for instructing a pupil or student; so I assume that he must have changed the phrase to "neck free" during the years after he wrote Constructive Conscious Control, since all these teachers use "neck free" unanimously even though they differ in many other ways in their teaching. "Relax" and “relaxation” are usually avoided or strongly denounced as part of the teaching vocabulary because they imply "collapse" to most beginning pupils. Senior teachers also pretty consistently speak of the back "lengthening and widening" in one phrase when they teach. The word "spine" seems to have been discarded for the most part too. However, I have more recently heard teachers trained by Mr. Macdonald use the phrases "the separation between the head and the neck" and "the upthrust of the spine" instead of "neck free" and "back to lengthen and widen." These teachers claim that Mr. MacDonald was uniquely able to elicit a "thrust along the spine," and they seem to find it significantly more effective than what they receive from most other teachers who focus on the "back lengthening and widening" as a whole. I have found it difficult to pin these teachers down, however, as to whether "up thrust of the spine" is merely a metaphor for "lengthening of the spine" or if it is a different phenomenon that Mr. Macdonald has developed in his own teaching. I only experienced one lesson with Mr. MacDonald himself, in 1981, ten years after I had qualified as a teacher, but he never used the expression with me then, and I didn't find that what I received from his hands-on work with me was substantially different from what I had experienced from the work of other senior teachers I have known.
Frank Pierce Jones's research on the "startle pattern" corroborates Alexander's choice of the particular sequence of the directions. Electromyograph readings show that most reactions start at neck level and pass down the trunk and limbs in a fraction of a second. Sometimes milder reactions happen in the neck and nowhere else. Many people seem to overlook the fact that Alexander saw his work mainly as a way of dealing with reaction, rather than as a movement technique or as "bodywork." He defines it most succinctly in The Universal Constant in Living, p. 114:
My technique is based on inhibition, the inhibition of undesirable, unwanted responses to stimuli, and hence it is primarily a technique for the development of the control of human reaction.
 The Use of the Self
, p. 59.
One senior teacher was widely known to use the phrase "ease your head up and let your body [sic
] tag along" when working with students in a group situation while she would attempt to teach them how to begin an action. But it seems impossible to me that this instruction could lead to anything but a "doing"—no matter how subtle—instead of what most other senior teachers I have known understand Alexander to have meant when he used the word "directing."
Joe Armstrong, "Effects of the Alexander Principle in Dealing with Stress in Musical Performance," unpublished Master's thesis, Tufts University, 1975. http:www.joearmstrong.info/JoeThesis.html
It is probably important to acknowledge here that, of course, there can be varying degrees of ability, from pupil to pupil (and even within the same pupil, depending on various factors such as health, emotional state, and fatigue). And, in some cases, some pupils may not be able to detect any change at all if their kinesthetic and proprioceptive awareness ("sensory appreciation") is severely hampered or "disconnected" from their thinking and imagining.
Wilfred Barlow, The Alexander Technique
(New York: Warner, 1973), p. 172.
The Alexander Technique
, p. 175.
See my article "Reconsidering 'Forward and Up'" (2000) where I draw upon my Army basic training experience of learning to do the "low crawl" to challenge a common interpretation of Alexander’s direction for the head as part of the sequence of directing our Primary Control most positively by applying the principles of the Alexander Technique to our daily activities. http://www.joearmstrong.info/FWD&UP3rtf.htm
Patrick Macdonald, "On Giving Directions, Doing and Non-doing," in C. Bowden's F. Matthias Alexander and the Creative Advance of the Individual
, (London: Fowler, 1965), p. 182.
Catherine Wielopolska, Never Ask Why: The Alexander Work and Schizophrenia
, in conversation with Joe Armstrong (Novis: Aarhus, 2001), p. 131.
, pp. 263–264.
Catharine Wielopolska, "The Discovery and Use of the Eye Order in Teaching the Alexander Work,” with Dr. Mario Passaglini, ed. by Carol Atwood, unpublished, pp. 3–10.
Walter Carrington, "The Knees Going Forward and Away," unpublished lecture transcribed by Christina Benn, 1972.
Peggy Williams, "Peggy Williams—An Interview," compiled by Glen Park (London: 1982).
Frank Pierce Jones, Freedom to Change
[Body Awareness in Action
], (New York: Schocken Books, 1976), p. 157.
 The Universal Constant in Living
, p. xxvii.
After nearly fifty years of working with the principles of the Technique, I have come to think that the ability to work on oneself should be considered as being quite distinct from what one can receive from the collaboration with a trained person’s hands. And I think it is even possible for someone to gain an ability to work on his or her self that is refined in its own right on a tangent that can extend in subtlety far beyond what can be created within the hands-on collaboration between two people—even if the hands-on collaborative work brings about extraordinary improvements within its own parameters. These activities need to be viewed as two different
sources for maintaining and improving our standard of use, although they are quite closely related.
Aldous Huxley, The Art of Seeing
(New York: Harpers, 1932).
There have been numerous ways of explaining the forward and up direction of the head, but one seems to persist that describes the head as "being fully poised on top of
an erect spinal column, and then falling
slightly forward off the top of the spine
in order to elicit a lengthening of the back. I have written elsewhere that employing this concept may indeed produce an effect, but since it cannot occur when we are not in an upright position, it does not seem to fit in with Alexander’s concept of a "universal constant in living," even though I believe Walter Carrington has said or written that Alexander himself ascribed to the idea. See my articles "Reconsidering Forward and Up" http://www.joearmstrong.info/FWD&UP3rtf1.htm
and "Forward and Up Reconsidered" http://www.joearmstrong.info/FWD&UPRe1frt1.htm
It is worth mentioning here, too, that I will have explained to a pupil in the first lesson that "table work" (or "floor work," if one is doing it on one’s own) is not meant to be a period for "relaxing" or "releasing tension," but that it is a period for "transforming" the working of our supportive musculature into its most balanced condition. I also say that we are attempting with table work, rather, to bring a person as close as possible to standing up while still lying down. I even go so far as to say that it would be most convenient if we actually had a table that could be moved very slowly from being parallel to the floor into a right angle relation to it so that the pupil could experience the transition from lying down to standing up in a gradual enough way so as to have the best chance to understand and experience the supportive action of the postural musculature in both relations to gravity. The same procedure in reverse, from standing to lying down, could also be useful I would think, since so many people immediately collapse when they lie down and "give up" their standing function entirely. In fact, I have read some descriptions of floor work where pupils are encouraged to let their weight sink into the floor, which is not at all conducive to the build-up of lengthening in stature that we are intending to cultivate. We still want to be going up in every fiber of our being even when we are lying down.
 Freedom to Change
[Body Awareness in Action
], pp. 157–158.
"The Discovery and Use of the Eye Order," pp. 9–10.
"The Discovery and Use of the Eye Order," pp. 6–7.
If understood and experienced fully enough, I believe that the psychophysical unity that the Alexander Technique engenders ultimately brings us to the point where we can no longer consider that "we" have a "mind, body, and spirit," but that we are essentially whole beings
who engage in various processes
: thinking, imagining, moving, being still, feeling, etc. Alexander himself says, in the first paragraph of The Use of the Self:
. . . in my search for a means whereby faulty conditions of use in the human organism could be improved, I must admit that when I began my investigation, I, in common with most people, conceived of “body” and “mind” as separate parts of the same organism, and consequently believed that human ills, difficulties and shortcomings could be classified as either "mental" or "physical" and dealt with on specifically "mental" or specifically "physical" lines. My practical experiences, however, led me to abandon this point of view and readers of my books will be aware that the technique described in them is based on the opposite conception, namely, that it is impossible to separate "mental" and "physical" processes in any form of human activity. (p. 21)
Claudio Naranjo and Robert Ornstein, On the Psychology of Meditation
(New York: Viking, 1971), pp. 5, 7, 8, 150, 151.
Wilfred Barlow, "Ordering," More Talk of Alexander
(London: Gollancz, 1978), pp. 164–165.
 The Universal Constant in Living
, pp. 107–109.
Raymond Dart, "The Attainment of Poise" and "An Anatomist’s Tribute to F. M. Alexander," Skill and Poise,
ed. A. D. Murray (no place or date), pp. 175–212; 91–121.
Luigi Bonpensiere, New Pathways to Piano Technique
: A Study of the Relations Between Mind and Body with Special Reference to Piano Playing
(New York: Philosophical Library, 1953).
"When, however, specialized physical training is based upon wrong principles and given to persons unacquainted with the proper use of the self, somato-psychic costs are unduly high and the net result is apt, in the long run, to be more harmful than beneficial." New Pathways to Piano Technique
, p. xii.