Riding waves

Alexander Technique teaches us to aspire to being conscious of our own power, and to bring it under our conscious control, as F.M. Alexander, the Technique’s creator, insisted. My own experience, however, with the Technique and with life, has made me somewhat skeptical of the word “control.”

Other sources of power emanate from our environment, or from within.

Control seems much more absolute than anything we are likely to attain in the course of real life. I would argue that what we have is influence. We have undeniable influence over ourselves, and in AT work, we strive to be as conscious as possible to wield that influence for good.

We also encounter other sources of power, or stimulus, that emanate from our surrounding environment, or from within ourselves. We use the Technique to prevent ourselves from reacting, immediately and irrationally, to stimulus, and to chose the best means of responding in a way that will be advantageous.

We can exert influence over our own reactions by inhibiting them in their immediacy, and directing ourselves, as best we can, to make the most of our opportunities and to minimize harm. Sometimes we are able to gain observable goals – we swim a mile and reach our intended shore. Other times, our conscious influence, versus the power of the stimulus, enables us, at least, to float.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the value of floating beyond the value of swimming vigorously toward my destination. We can float without swimming. But we cannot swim without staying afloat. Much needed navigation can take place if we can maintain our poise, continue breathing well, and look around.

I’ve also come to understand the power of influence, and its limits, in our relations to things outside ourselves. We can, and do, strongly influence other people, and the conditions of our lives. But we can’t truly change anything or anyone outside ourselves – nor can we really change ourselves. We are who we are.

But we can be of considerable and significant influence, for good or ill, over ourselves, and to some extent, over other people and things. Going up; coming down; these are the possibilities we deal with moment to moment our entire lives. We go up when we can, and we can’t just stay there, any more than a wave can stay at its crest. We can’t make a wave stand still.

We are in a constant state of flux, directing to go upward and forward, and there is no stopping this work until we, ourselves, stop living. The quality of our lives seems to lie in the way we navigate the worldly waves on which we ride, and the waves within us.