CAM Alexander | Clutching at Straw
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Clutching at Straw

One of the biggest challenges in being a pupil of the Alexander Technique is that when operating at its’ best the technique directs you back to yourself. For the brief period of a lesson you stop doing some (or all!) of the stuff you normally do and instead something else is allowed to happen. You are just being you. With nothing extra. No bells. No whistles.


You experience an absence of what usually is – that might mean an absence of muscular  pain, stresses of work, anxiety about past, present or future…


However, often this absence of ‘stuff’ is very challenging. It can feel like an absence of personality, and absence of humour or ‘nicety’. It unplugs you for a while from your usual happenings and brings you into deeper contact with all the things you normally don’t experience. Things you might perhaps actively avoid experiencing.


You move from something feeling familiar to something unfamiliar, normal to less than normal, rightness to wrongness.


This is not always easy. It can be challenging, it can be emotional. You come face to face with yourself, and you might not always like what you see…


A ‘growth mindset’ is the view that we are always learning, that challenges can be overcome, that we can improve ourselves, solve problems or develop new skills, and this is a valuable mindset to have. 


However – sometimes the most profound liberation, change or personal growth takes place because we stop trying to grow. For a moment in time, we do not try to improve, we do not try to get rid of pain, we do not try to cover up difficulty from ourselves and we face the light of day. However cold, however harsh, however hard. And we experience, in spite of all our efforts, that we are in fact, quite fundamentally “OK as we are.”


It seems paradoxical to pursue lessons in something which is teaching ‘OK-ness’ but in many respects that is what all good lessons do. They teach you that you are ok, in the right place, at the right time, and this lends us the much needed confidence to learn something new, to allow an organic process of personal growth. The experience of an Alexander Technique lesson might well be powerful, it might well feel nice as certain muscles let go and the body functions more easily, but the experience needs to be repeated if the learning process is to continue. 


Growth does not come so much from the disciplined mindset of wanting to be better, but a disciplined mindset of being ok either way. For better or for worse. For richer or for poorer. In sickness and in health. A marriage with ourselves that will last a lifetime. But this mindset will take some work – it runs contrary to what life has told us so far…


We’ll always want to gravitate back to what feels normal, even if we are unhappy in our normal-ness.


The human experience of living is beset with struggle, and each persons’ struggle is real. But if at times you stop and notice you are indeed clutching at straw… just know that you can clutch as much straw as you like, because you’ll be ok either way.

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