From a new student at the Alexander Alliance Germany upon finishing her first Retreat…When I read letters like this I suddenly remember what I frequently forget. I remember why I first began studying, why I first began teaching. I remember that I have a job in this world, no matter how modest a job, something given to me, of value, to be given to others.
(Replies below, in italics, are mine.)
It has been a very intense week for me and I am very, very grateful for everything I experienced. I now understand what you mean by “voice work”. I had a more technical understanding of voice work, resulting from my singing lessons. Somehow it clicked in when you were talking about it in another context, as you speak of “hand work”.
Yes, I mean it in the most basic way. Humans seem particular inside of the animal kingdom in four ways – our uprightness, our brains, our extremely articulate and versatile hands, and our extremely articulate and versatile voices. It turns out that Alexander Technique is about what is distinctly human. Humans use their voices primarily to communicate, and that means in social situations. So working with the voice is my way of entering into how we function socially. Social situations, relationships or the lack of them, are when we most often disturb ourselves, get ourselves off balance. So learning how to deeply dwell within ourselves as we interact and empathize with others, for me, is a big part of our work.
I’ve joined a workgroup which meets regularly on Mondays to practice and discuss everything we have learned in the school. That’s great and I enjoyed this first meeting very much.
I am so glad and moved that you guys do this. What a great bunch of students at the Alexander Alliance.
I have started observing myself and other people. Concerning myself, I now realize how much additional work I do in every day things like brushing my teeth, kitchen work, using the telephone and much more. I didn’t realize this ever before. It’s, on the one hand, surprising to realize what I have been doing for years to my body, and on the other hand, good to know that I can change it now.
This is perfect. It’s exactly what is supposed to happen. Suddenly you begin to notice all the little movement and actions that make up everyday life. You wonder why you never really noticed these things before. You start to sense them, become curious about them. This is what I mean by the Sensory World. You are not just going through the motions of life unconsciously, you are now consciously sensing your life, the little things, which collectively make up the majority of your time on earth. What could be more important? Felt existence. Experienced existence. Lived life. Letting it all in.
Concerning others, I am seeing them with different eyes. For the moment I often observe how they walk, stand, and move. That’s so interesting. I could spend hours just on this…
For me seeing is one of the great pleasures of the work. That’s why I studied Figure Drawing for some years. I just wanted to be able to look at someone for three hours until I began to see them, really see them. I would come home from those classes, after such a long day, full of energy, so exhilarated because my eyes were opening. My eyes were beginning to touch what they were seeing. Marj Barstow and Erika Whittaker both felt that watching people, not critically, not judgmentally, but just beholding them was an important practice for an Alexander teacher. When I sit in a train station, or at an airport and do this I begin to love everyone I see. I don’t know why. It just happens. You begin to see the precise relationships between a person’s emotional being and their physical expression. You begin to really see what they are doing physically – how they are holding themselves, how they move, where they hurt, how they gesture. It’s like you are beginning to study homosapiens. Oh, this is what we humans do!
I am also thinking about the question ‘What would the body be without the word body?” That reminds me of a book I read about Constructivism during my linguistic studies at university. I’ll let you know when I have come to a conclusion.
I don’t often come to conclusions! My life seems perpetually unfinished, in process, sometimes in limbo. So any conclusions would be most welcomed. Yes, I think language is very powerful for humans. We construct whole worlds out of words. Sometimes these words help us to better see the real world, but so often they can prevent us from seeing the world as it is. I look forward to learning more from you about language, and I hope you will share your insights with all of us at the school.
I hope you are having a good time in Japan.
I am. Thanks. And thanks for your good letter. Stay in touch. I love hearing from my students.