Under pressure & the Alexander Technique
Jane’s December 2019 Alexander Technique Project
Mio Morales, Alexander Teacher, posted a quote, on Facebook, this month. It was about inhibition written by Marjorie Barlow. It reminded me of the ideal way I might have tackled a project, but didn’t. Never-the-less, I did survive the project with inhibition and the Alexander Technique:
It’s a very active thing! Very, very, active. When you’re passive, nothing’s happening.
No, you’ve got to be very much on the spot to inhibit. For one thing you’ve got to be sufficiently awake to see the stimulus coming. Otherwise it’s too late and you’ve reacted.
Inhibition is further back than people think. Everybody thinks they are inhibiting getting out of a chair or going into monkey or making a movement of some kind.
It isn’t. It’s inhibiting your first reaction to that idea, whatever it is. Whether it comes from within or without. And you’ve got to be all present and correct to be able to do that, to be able to catch it.
An Examined Life
The stimulus, that I wasn’t on the spot to inhibit was the effect of a very small house fire/explosion. It kicked off a huge chain of events that have recently culminated, satisfactorily, in the rewire of a large Victorian house.
The biggest task was clearing and sorting 56 years of “stuff” there through keeping every sentimental object from a family of six and everything that might “come in handy” (broken or not).
It was a huge stimulus. A mental and physical challenge. My days and dreams were full of moving items. I felt like I was in a nightmare. A real life game of Tetris.
The job started off quite calm and measured. However, even though many things went to plan, some things did not. We realised we needed to spend much more time clearing the house. It made me try to do things even faster. Pushing myself to physical and emotional exhaustion. The sleepless nights, full of worrying about the job, just made it all worse.
I felt like a hamster on a wheel. I couldn’t stop. The stimulus, that I didn’t spot too well, that I didn’t catch because I had my eye on the end, whipped me along towards completing the first part of the project in time for the electricians arrival.
Paradoxically I had to stop and apply the process of inhibition. It’s the most fundamental element of the Alexander Technique. It felt extremely counter intuitive because my habit is to fire-fight and to push myself to keep going.
It is possible to inhibit whilst continuing to move but it really helped me to come to absolute stillness. The effect was that I stayed calm, grounded and capable of continuing anew.
I stopped mid putting on my work trousers (one leg in, one out). I stopped as I left the house. I stopped as I dashed along a corridor with arms full of stuff, I stopped mid argument, I stopped mid sip of water (so necessary with the physical work). I stopped when we had a break as I was pouring out the tea or washing the pots afterwards. All activities were up for stopping. Many times I discovered my shoulders had crept up again, outside of my awareness. My breathing was often shallow and rapid. In those moments where I stopped, it felt like the weight of the world fell away and I could breath easily again. My mind quietened and I felt calm and peaceful.
In an ideal world I would be able to be present all the time and spot the things that cause me to change my breathing and tense up, and not react to it. I was aware this project and my attitude towards it, was exacting a toll. I wasn’t always as present as I would have wished. However, the Alexander Technique was a great help. I did Inhibit (stop) as often as I could.
This process can be applied to all situations, especially one’s which seem to be out of your control. A lot of people tell me Christmas gets them this way. Try it and let me know how you get on?
- Stop whatever you are doing (as long as it is safe to do so).
- Decide not to continue.
- Really decide not to do that thing. Totally change your mind. Rest in the present moment.
- You can then make a choice: do nothing, continue with what you were doing, or do something else.
Notice what happens.
Alexander Technique Teacher