My Alexander Journey
A Mindfulness Trail
Through The Forest
continued part 3
My hips too ‐ tightness ungripping ‐ and my legs coming out of my hips easily, lightly, swinging out from the torso. They know how far to step ‐ they know how to move ‐ and my spine releases up more as my feet touch lightly but assuredly on the ground. My feet know where to go ‐ they find the spot so long as my eyes are looking ahead and a broad awareness fills my mind.
I notice that there is less strain, it is less hard work. As someone with M.E. my ability to walk used to be very limited indeed. At one time I used to need a stick if I went out, something I found hard as an ex‐walker who loved the open air. My ability to walk has gone up, gradually. I know, though, when I am "flowing" walking and when the act of walking is a strain on my system. I could tell when I moved my awareness to the neck as primary focus rather than the feet that something changed. I also became aware of my feet in a new and more deeply connected way. My awareness of them came through muscularskeletal connection; from inside, rather than an awareness from the "outside‐in."
This is a snap‐shot, an experiment conducted informally on my holiday. It has left me with a clear experience on which to reflect. Looking back on my own story of M.E., it highlights for me that if the system breaks down around the area of the 'control centre’, the nape of the neck where the spine and skull meet, there are far reaching consequences.
I used to prefer the term 'primary relationship' rather than primary control. As I have moved through my training course I have come to see that it really is the primary control.
It works as if it were a master code that we can all learn to use for greater ease, efficiency, health and well‐being. For those of us with M.E. it can mean the difference between accepting an invitation to a meeting or social activity or not. It becomes possible to trust that one's stamina will be available; trust that we have a method to enhance whatever stamina we have available on that day. It can make the difference between going out for a walk, and feeling unable to make that step.
In Scotland I had a new experience for me of Alexander's "directions", even 'orders' as he called them in the early days. As I pick my way up through the forest, finding sure footing, I hear Alexander's instructions for directing "one after the other and all at the same time..." sound in my mind. They evoke what underlies the details of practical application. Intention. The key question. What is my intention?
Now back home in an autumnal Sussex, I find a great time to explore primary control is when engaged in repetitive tasks which involve a lot of movement. I like exploring it while gardening: raking leaves, sawing with a pruning saw, planting spring bulbs. Doing these tasks can give us the experience of our back ‐ the spine and the large muscles that dominate our back ‐ being the power house of the body. We can learn to allow that power house to
become more central in our awareness.
What is my intention?
How is my neck now?
Choosing to ask the neck not to grip around the task, choosing with that not tightened neck to allow the spine to lengthen, and sending the head, the crown, forward and up from our atlanto‐occipital joint, allowing length to arise between the tailbone and our nodding joint between the ears. We can check as we move: am I expanding around this task or am I tightening, drawing in upon myself?
How is the breath?
Am I allowing it to move freely or has it tightened with my neck muscles and literally gripped the job too hard, stifling my life energy in the process?
I am at the beginning again of another journey. Each morning I start afresh with this learning. The task is to let go of my previous understanding and open to new discovery. These discoveries cannot be forced. They grow from observation and patience. I have learned so much on my training course ‐ and I am very grateful to all my teachers who have helped me thus far.
(1) M.E. is also described as Myalgic Encephalopathy and Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction syndrome, (CFIDS). I am not engaging in debate regarding names or definitions in this article.
(2) FM Alexander: The Use of the Self: Ch 1: Evolution of a technique (p 28 Orion publications ISBN 0‐75284‐391‐5). First published 1932 by Methuen & Co Ltd.