– What was the reason or motivation or expectation when you started learning AT?
I’m just trying to remember…but I think my main reason or motivation was in wanting to move more freely and more accurately. I was getting interested in dance at about the same time. I was taught a form of dance finally, that was also looking at ‘good use’, and releasing into movement instead of making a lot of effort. And then there was also Tai Chi. So that was at slightly less mechanical and more energetic level, I was learning Tai Chi. For some reason I remember coming out with the feeling in a very different state — much lighter and fuller and more powerful. I knew about AT but not that much, I suddenly understood what maybe it was aiming for. I thought, “Oh, if it’s something like this, then I’m very interested.. if I could reach this place more easily”.
There was also that before I got involved in movement and was wondering about training as a teacher in AT, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do but I was always interested in education. Then I started doing a teacher training for children, and it wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. So there’s something about learning that was always interesting to me. And it seemed to be a very interesting approach to learn.
– Has the reason changed as you keep learning?
Yes and no. I think how I would describe the reason has changed a bit. I think it is probably the same reason. I often talked about in teaching about ‘how to be a human being’ , where those things that are really precious but somehow really difficult for us. So at another level, how really to be a whole person and fulfill my purpose in life…well, getting a little closer to understanding what that might be.
And I love the process in teaching of seeing people seem to get closer to expressing themselves more fully. That’s maybe what I love the most – it’s when I sense myself expressed in myself more fully, and see other people doing that.
– As a personal experience, have there been anything that you particularly felt you benefited from learning AT?
Yes, I did think it helped me learn how to dance, and helped me understand why I like to do that. And.. oh there’re lots of things.. I think it has helped me be more happy. But it’s quite hard to tell, because over time you don’t know what would have been there without. But the principles really give me a way to stay interested in life and also in something about.. I suppose it’s sensory pleasures – pleasure in whatever happens.
-You’ve been doing something other than AT as well, for example dancing. So I am curious to hear about the relationship between those other things and AT, for you. Perhaps it’s more psychological in nature, or not..
There’re quite a few other things that I do as well as AT.
-Is it like you needed those other things because AT itself didn’t offer what you wanted enough?
I’m not sure about the answer to that, but yes in a way.. but I was never expecting AT to.. Well, no, I don’t think it’s that it wasn’t enough. It’s that it helped me be more interested and available to other studies and interests.
And with dance and contact improvisation, improvisation particularly, they were supporting each other. I can’t even imagine learning one without the other.
Then at personal level, what’s helped me a lot has been Chinese medicine, specifically ‘Five Elements Acupuncture’ – it’s a particular form of acupuncture. I’ve been curious about how that gave me or helped me so much in the way that AT obviously hadn’t. In another way I’ve also always found it a little frustrating with that, because it’s a healing practice, it’s an intervention — you have to have someone do something to you. And it did make me realize how much I valued AT being something that, even though you learn in interaction, you can find entirely for yourself.
It was interesting because near the beginning of having treatments in that, the person treating me knew a bit about AT and said even the energy has its habits running in meridians, and maybe for some reason it has got into those habits and it needs support. And I felt that.. yes, the treatment I had in specifically the relationship with the practitioner that I had really gave me something back or new or.. something else.
And then the other thing both personally and for teaching, I think what’s given me one of the biggest support (but also AT gave me great support) in learning and practicing that, is what’s sometimes called NVC, Non Violent Communication. That’s the model and it’s very much about present moment. So both in terms of communication and resolving difference, but also mainly connecting to people and also connecting in yourself, it has kind of been a really great addition to me for AT. You become extremely aware of habits of language and communication.
– So the model is about the wordings and things like that?
Well, partly it’s about wordings.. But as I’ve studied it more and practiced it more, I realize that although it is about the language, what constitutes violent language which in the model is basically judgment and labels. Even good judgment – anything that fixes somebody is violence in our language. But actually it’s more about attitude, what you are doing in yourself, and what your intention is in speaking or communicating. As I’ve gone on, I’ve realized that. And that has made it a bit easier. Because it’s very hard to change some of the word patterns. But in fact if you change, if you really see what’s behind them, it changes what happens.
And yes, I’ll add in, with the dance thing, I have been teaching and continuing to teach and perform, and that’s been a help.
With both acupuncture and NVC, it has occurred to me early on in my time with them, whether that would be something I wanted to do professionally – train to do and then do that. And in both cases which I found quite exciting, I thought, “No, it isn’t – these things I can’t imagine my life without, but the thing I really want to do as my work or that what I have to do, is AT” – well, at the moment.
– (everyone) Why?
Partly because it’s what I’ve learned, and I know. Partly because it has these elements of teaching, and people learning and me learning as a continuous process. So does NVC. It has touch and physical communication in it which goes underneath language and thinking, in a way that’s really precious to me. I think I discovered I communicate things that way, that I hardly know what they are but I do know what they are. And in that way it’s very practical. I don’t only mean in everyday-life practical, but I mean it’s very physical. There’s that difficulty with language, when people say ‘physical’, they think, “Ok, then it’s not emotional, it’s not mental, it’s not spiritual”. I suppose (and that’s part of my general beliefs) that what the physical does, what we can do, is refine the physical so that it’s more capable of expressing all the other layers of the person. So It’s not about separating, because they’re not separable. But if they’re more clear or more clean or more something, then all this, the juicy stuff, can get through.(laugh)
– I myself am interested in that, I think it’s precious that AT has this ‘physical’ aspect to the approach. But that approach doesn’t only influence the physical aspect — The influence goes over to the psychological, or spiritual or other levels (because those are undividable). I’m very interested in the potential of what AT can do. I’d like to know more how that works.
Maybe just to finish the other question about why do I want to do what’s called AT; it’s because it’s based on the idea of unity of a whole person and observation of what is happening now, rather than analysis of something that happened before or.. anything else. It’s main principle is about “What are you doing now that you could change if you wanted to”. I really enjoy that — practicing that teaching. And because it also has questions about language and communication that interest me.
About the other, the ‘physical’ thing; I mean I’m always curious when people say “Oh, yes”. Well, one of my difficulties with Alexander profession is that it’s been so resistant to connecting to any others. Because it says, in England especially, I think it’s done a damage by that. “We’re not going to go to the alternative / complementary medicine fair — we’re not a medicine, we’re not a healing.”, “No, we are not going to go into universities and schools because we can’t do creditations and exams. We are different”.
So it does have, and that’s why I love it, this way where it doesn’t fit with other things. But I think it’s a pity not to recognize common ground. And that’s becoming more and more necessary. So some people prefer to be recognized in-with body workers — what’s called “body workers”. I don’t like the term, but of course people working with the body are also very interested in whole parts — they are not just interested in the body. Almost nothing is [interested just in the body]. Some people have a more mechanical…like western medicine is somewhat more mechanical in terms of intervention and fixing, and that’s why Alexander was always going, “We need to be more indirect”. But many other therapies work indirectly. So I think it’s a pity to separate at that kind of social and recognition level.
But at another way, it is different.
But yes, it’s curious when people talk about it, when they say, “But you approach the whole thing through the body” – because of course in all our learning we get drummed into us that it’s thinking that counts. So is it? Is that even … is Alexander’s doorway body or thought?
Possibly slightly different styles of teaching emphasize one more than another. And some people talk about it in a way…I think Marjory Barlow used to talk a lot about the nervous system, which is of course quite a bridge between brain, thinking and body. I often talk about what Alexander says about the “nature of human reaction”. I like words like that because reaction happens at all of those levels, and you can’t say that’s just physical or emotional.