– What sort of reasons are there for your students to come to your lesson? In your case?
Quite a range. I see quite a few musicians and singers. People who are just not quite satisfied with their life and their health, and they want. Sometimes people even say they want something for which they are responsible as a way of improving that. So in a way, that feeling of “It’s not quite good enough”. Sometimes, various kinds of pains or back problems, or when people have tried many other things and nothing’s worked and this is the last chance. But I’m glad, and I have a bit of a theory that people attract what they’re interested in working. And then I think there’s some element of curiosity, really. People who are interested in being more conscious.
I think I told you that for two years now I’ve worked at a convent. Even before, some individuals came to me, then I see more people. They don’t really go out very much. And there it’s quite a mixture. They in a way are concerned about taking responsibility for their health, in a community people don’t want to be weak or sick. So I like that way, there’s a sort of realization that that’s something you can do, as well as contribute to your practice of whatever you do.
I also have some people where somebody says, “Oh, you should do AT”. There are different reasons.
I know my mother (= Elizabeth Walker, AT teacher) hates the word “posture” being associated with AT, but actually I’ve had a few people who come for that reason. To me it seems a very good reason. They know that how they are both feels and looks and everything else horrible, and they want to change it … I’ve had a couple of teenagers like that, and that’s really nice.
– Say somebody has told this person to go and get some AT lessons, so this person comes for a lesson without not really knowing what it’s about, or without wanting anything in particular — how do you find working with this kind of person?
Well they must want something, if they came. If it’s been a child, maybe the parent has rang me up. Then I always say, “Do they want to come?”, and they go, “Yes”. I’m not interested unless someone is choosing – whatever age. They have to want to. So it needs to be presented in the way they are interested to start with. But I have had people with whom it’s a bit vague why they come … I quite like that actually. (laugh) Because there’s an openness there. It’s almost like an understanding without quite realizing it, of this whole issue of discovering potential – taking away what’s interfering with the potential.
And usually if someone says, “Oh, my friend was saying how great it was, so I’ve come”, then I will say, “Well, what did she say that you thought ‘I want some of that’?” I mean, I’ll always try and find out what’s the thing that touched someone.
I mean, I’ll always try and find out what’s the thing that touched someone.
And often people come with one motivation and reason and it changes very quickly.
– How it changes for example?
Well, one person came to me whom I did know through dancing. She had a job but she did dance classes, and she came for some lessons. She thought it would help her dance. And I think she came every week after work. And after few weeks she said, “You know, I came for that reason, and I am getting that, but my main reason is very different from what I expected — it’s about taking time for myself”. She said, “I suddenly realized, you know, this is so strange for me, and that strangeness is really adding a new dimension to take an hour off, sort of ‘off’ from life, to pay attention to myself.”
– I guess there are pupils who’ve been taking lessons for a long time. What kind of people comes long time?
Well, I’ve been teaching since the beginning of 1988. So all that time would be long. I mean, I’ve got some people who have been having lessons probably that long, but not with me all the time – they were somewhere else before. A couple of musicians like that. And there is one woman who comes not that often now – an elderly woman. She’s now in her 70s. I think she must have been coming over ten years.
– Why does this person keep coming to you?
Shall I give you her phone number? (laugh)
Actually with her, it’s interesting. I’m not quite sure. I think she likes me (everyone laugh).
Just in a comfortable way.. I’m just thinking about the musician people… there is something in the people who keep coming where they’re interested in learning but where there is also just this assumption that you can get helped and supported by someone doing that with you. So there doesn’t have to be, and I quite like that, it takes off me. Sometimes maybe too much the sense that they’ve got to learn something. Actually, maybe not. Maybe it’s enough to come.
So when I said she likes me, it’s like maybe it’s enough to just have that reminder of something — something shift a little bit, to be supported, to be in a place where you remember, to have someone be kind to you and pay attention to you. Also I realize there’re something about that which helps me give up some control as a teacher. Also with younger people I had to do that. That I might never know their reasons for coming, is fine. If I give something, maybe it’s not mine to also have the ‘why’ or the every thing. And the other thing, of course, of people who’ve come a long time, is that they have their motivation.
Some people really make progress when they stop having lessons. They come back later and go, “I really needed to do that”. I did, when I stopped my training. That was when I began. That’s when I started working. (laugh) Before that, it was like, “Oh, someone will tell me something”. And when I came out, it was like, “Oh no, I’ve gotta do this all on my own”, which was hard but also a bit exciting.
I just wonder if I answered the reason for coming a long time. Yes, I think it’s support in their practice of the technique, practicing and learning it. And one other thing is just like all of us, who relatively go on for a long time. It’s that as the sensitivity and interest develops, it develops — you want more. I had one musician who thought she was only gonna come for about four lessons. She’s now been coming for about four years. And she comes quite often when she can — maybe a week or so.
– Do you think the Alexander principle goes with the idea that someone goes back to themselves?
Can you say a little bit more? Or different way of describing ‘goes back to themselves’? Their natural…?
– Yes, true self.
Right. What my mother calls ‘inherent’ – which means you come with it; coordination and good use. Um…yes and no.
The language that previously described it, certainly in my training…I don’t really believe it. I don’t think I’m trying to be like a child – that kind of naturalness. I’m interested in consciousness, even though the unconscious grace of different sorts is very wonderful, that’s not the one I’m after. And I don’t think it’s the one the people come for lessons are after. It’s the conscious one, which is really difficult to find.
But I mean, at certain level, whatever true self means, yes, I do think Alexander is one of the best ways I see for coming back to it… So we do say ‘coming back’ rather than ‘going back’. ‘Coming back’ means ‘here’ rather than ‘there’. I’m just suddenly realizing what the difference is for me. When you said ‘going back’, I was thinking where my true self is, but if it’s like ‘coming back’. So, yes, I do.
I don’t think I realized that at the beginning. In fact I was a little worried that if I took away my habits, I would have no personality left.
– I was worried, too.
Boring and mechanical… Yes, maybe that’s really a worry of youth. We’re very attached to our personalities (laugh). And what I discover is that actually…I don’t know what you call it.. something about people gets clearer and stronger. So I presume that’s the true self. It’s like as you take stuff away, you get a stronger and stronger somebody appearing.
– Lots of interesting things… thank you for telling us. Do I have other questions that I missed asking you? I wonder… I feel I have some more questions…
[To others] Or any of you? I want to ask all of you the same questions. Now I realize that’s what’s strange about an interview. (laugh) It’s kind of nice. I sort of feel quite special, you know (laugh) – to all these questions, I get a chance to say all the stuff. But it’s not like a conversation. Normally in a conversation, we can go, “I think this, and what about you?”. Or you go, “What rubbish!” — you know, you do something. (laugh)