It’s been an exhilarating three weeks! During this time, I taught in person and, for the first time in 3 years, I again used my hands to teach. I also graduated from my school. I was in the 40 year program. Most everyone graduates in 4 years. I was my slowest student and finally felt that now I was ready to graduate.
And, I formally bequeathed my school to the next generation. I have been the owner and director of the Alexander Alliance since the tender age of 32. Who am I if not the owner and director of the Alliance? At times, I feel waves of sadness moving through me. Though when these waves grow still, I find myself feeling free, soft, proud and at peace.
At lot, right?
At the end of the retreat, we performed a ritual, a ceremony, one we needed to help us in this great time of transition for our community/school.
It began several days before. Collectively, the new directors of the Alliance and I effortlessly and enjoyably realized what this ritual needed to look like and what it needed to do.
We decided to call it, Love Runs Downstream, a Korean saying referring to the importance of passing on our love to future generations.
We decided to invoke my mentors into the ceremony, the mentors of our community/school.
Two days before the ceremony, in class, I showed images of my mentors: Marj Barstow, Buzz and Peg Gummere, Elisabeth Walker, and Erika Whittaker. In class, I was teaching my students about primary and secondary curves. It was so clear to me how my mentors were able to keep all their spinal curves in balance over the years. I wanted my trainees to see how beautiful, functional, and alert it made them. Years ago, I wrote a short piece about this. Here it is.
I devoted my graduation talk to my mentors. I wanted the trainees and teachers at the Alliance to understand what I had, in essence, learned from my mentors and what I was getting ready to pass on to them. For me, Marj was all about skill, about her ability to uncover a person’s true nature, their inner beauty, their inherent dignity. It was like watching clouds parting, revealing behind them the clear presence of the full moon. Buzz was about never ending learning, Peg about seeing the beauty in the work, in everyone, in everything. Elisabeth about graciousness. I spoke about how in all my years of watching Elisabeth teach, I had never seen her make any student feel bad about themselves. And Erika, about her honesty and humility as a person, about her being a teacher who did not teach but rather conversed with people about the work on common ground, one person to another.
In preparation for the ceremony, we took beautiful stones whereupon we wrote the words, Skill, Learning, Beauty, Graciousness, and Honesty. This is what I wanted to pass on to them, what I had cherished most about my mentors. For Alexander, we chose the word, Principles. As I was one of their mentors, they asked me what they should write on my stone. I said that they might know that better than me. They chose the word, Revealer, one who reveals that most deep and true within someone. This is what I most loved about Marj’s work. I felt honored.
Our stage for the ceremony would be a flight of steps that wound its way like a stream running down a hill. On the top step a trainee wore a sign that read Alexander, another below them a sign that read Marj, and so on. Below the mentors, I stood, looking up to them as I had when they were alive for so many years.
Below me stood the next generation of Alliance directors, those that will, no doubt, carry the Alliance forward for another 40 years.
Alexander said to everyone, “I give you my principles.”He placed his stone in the basket and passed it to Marj who placed her stone in the basket and said, “I give you my skill.” Marj passed the basket to Elisabeth who placing her stone into the basket said, “I offer you my graciousness”, and then to Buzz who said, “I give you my joy for learning”, and then to Peg who said, “I give you my love for beauty”, and then to Erika who said, “I give you my honesty”, and then to me whereupon I wept for one minute unable to speak. Everyone was crying.
There I stood as if all of my mentors were living within me. I was overwhelmed. Finally, I managed to say, “I give you my ability to reveal”.
The new directors were waiting for me below. I offered the basket of stones to them. They placed their skillful, loving hands under the basket. Together, we held the basket. And then…slowly…I slid my hands away and joined the trainees. The basket and the stones and all they represented was now theirs to protect, nurture, and one day pass on.
The transmission was now complete. Those stones, I am sure, will be kept in a safe place. Perhaps they will be taken out and presented at every graduation to remind us of what we are carrying. In 40 years, more stones will be added and another transmission will take place. As so it will go. That is my hope.
This morning, I wrote a letter to the new directors.
Your team is now set up to carry those stones for another 40 years. I trust that when the time comes, another Love Runs Downstream Transmission Ceremony will take place and a new generation of dedicated, talented, capable teachers will love and protect those very stones and what they represent.
All of you likely know the story I am about to tell, but just in case you do not, and even if you do, now would be the time to let the story sink into your bones.
Driving home with Marj, after an afternoon of teaching, I turned and noticed that Marj looked tired. She was now 88 and her osteoporosis was setting in. Marj, a woman of few words, said to me, “One person can only do so much.” I had never really seen Marj sad before.
I told her she had done so much, having pioneered group teaching and teaching in activity. I said that, pedagogically, it was a huge contribution to the future of the work. Marj turned to me and with her steely blue eyes looked straight through me and asked, “And what will your contribution be?”
That question pierced my heart. That question gave my life direction.
And so now I ask you,
“And what will your contribution be?”
Note: Elisabeth and Peg each lived to 100. Buzz and Marj to 96, and Erkia to 93.