Thursday, November 15, 2007

Japanese Body Thinking Certificate Course

I am in the process of radically re-engineering my Alexander training in Japan. I am sure to have my critics, but I thought it worthwhile to start jotting down some of the ideas that are driving this change - not the needs to meet the market that I have commented on previously, more the meaning of the work as it is for me today.

I am developing two courses in tandem, the Body Thinking course to be launched next year - the one most resembling what people call "Body Mapping" these days - and the Thinking Body course, which will launch in 2009 with an identical structure, but different content. I thought now I would elucidate my thoughts on the root foundation of the course I am assembling together. This may make it clearer than I am making a hybrid marriage between simply informational/experiential body mapping, and the deeper aspects of AT work.

Remember that my program is actually designed to be the first stepping stone towards the final outcome of being an AT teacher - it is designed with that idea in mind, although it offers "interim" practicing certificates along the way which is where I am sure to experience the most heat from the AT community!

Actually, what the course can become is still in the process of forming - and the formation now is at a very basic what-is-this-work-about, level, not actually concrete processes, more the ideas that underpin it. At the moment the easiest way for me to articulate my conceptual foundation is to burrow from Buddhist ideas, link them to Alexander's and arrive at the 'BodyMapping' conclusion which superficially, the first "certificate" course is all about.

My interest at the moment is the relationship between the object and the label we give that object. The "label" can be my physical structures, my idea of movement, my concepts about time, result, need, wish etc. The object is the thing that is existing that can, in some but not all cases, be sensorially perceived by others. So as we are dealing with a person's co-ordination, the 'objects' are the anatomical structural bits, the movements that they can make together and the concepts that drive them.

The 'Body Thinking' course is taking more focus on the anatomical structures and the movements that they are capable of. The 'Thinking Body' course is taking more focus on the concepts that drive these movements. Eventually I will offer both courses in tandem, in a way that they complement each other. The way I am guiding my movement is influenced by my concepts, so initially the concepts I hold of 'what is a head?' and 'how does it move in relation to my spine?' and 'what is my spine?' and 'how does it in turn move in relation to my limbs' etc. are the basis upon which I evolve strategies for different activities.

[ASIDE: However, I am also keen to create a "stand alone" structure so that doing one still lets you arrive somewhere where you have some skills to be helpful to other people. Part of my ambition is to tear down the huge wall that now separates the Alexander "expert" and the "beginner". I think there are baby steps that people can take, and share with each other which, while obviously fraught with possibility of distortion are, nonetheless, often of more help than harm to others. Anyway, I intend to test that in practice.]

Alexander's idea that we live in delusion I equate with this: we hold the idea of our head as the head itself. When, for example, I think my 'whole head' even with the word 'whole' it is still not the head itself. The label is different from the basis of the label. In Buddhist terminology, they express it by saying there is the label, and there is the basis of designation of the label - and these are two different things. If I say head, I say it on the basis of something that is existing there. What is existing there has society's consensual agreement - 'this is a head' but the thing that is actually existing there is NOT the head, it is the basis of designation of 'head'. It works as a basis of designation because it functions in a way that everyone agrees a head should function, so we label that thing 'head', However, it is not a 'head.' There is definitely something there, but it is not a 'head' there. The 'head' is my conceptional designation, not the object itself. Thinking that both are the same is already a mild form of sensory delusion.

Problems arise when we confuse the label with its basis of its designation. We think that our idea of head IS THE ACTUAL OBJECT, and it clearly is not. From this common way of relating to the objects of the world, our delusionary aspect arises. In Alexander terms, between the actual thing that is existing there, and the label I give it, there is some kind of discrepency, some kind of difference.[ "All the fools of the world actually believe they are doing what they think they are doing" - Alexander] The label can never be the same thing as the actual object because it has been created so there can be consensus about what that 'thing' over there actually is. If we already knew what is was, it would not be necessary to learn the word we use to lable it. What is an 'atama' do you know? Of course not. But actually, for a Japanese, that is what there! There is no "head" there for a non-english speaking Japanese person. However, if we assume that our label and the object are identical, we already have some kind of faulty appreciation. The further my idea departs or differs from the actual existing thing, the greater my faulty sensory appreciation of the world becomes.

In one sense, no matter how healthy we are, we are all hallucinating, we all have some degree of faulty sensory appreciation. There is no such thing as correct or perfect sensory appreciation because the whole process is so individual, so much MY concept of the world, not the world itself, so my concept will always differ in some way from yours. Healthy just means that our view accords more closely to the reality of things, or with what others agree is the reality of things (which may in itself be an unhealthy distortion, albeit a commonly designated one.)

So this process of moving my idea to more closely match the actual world around me us an important process to understand and apply which will lead to increasing harmony with things, and consequently - happiness. (But that's another essay!) I remember Cathy Madden telling me that the American Indians only have two 'rules' or 'guides' - be honest and be kind. I see the process I am describing here as part of being honest - being honest with how things actually exist, not how I want them to exist, nor how I imagine them existing, but how they actually are existing. Which brings us to the BodyMapping principle - we try to move in the way we believe we are built, not in the way we are actually built.

I see this as the key aspect of learning that is on offer in the BodyMapping course (= Body Thinking Course). Of course I may not put it like that to the public - it doesn't flow that well in marketing terms! Still, I still see that as the primary activity: discarding distortions and replacing them with as much clarity as can be mustered at the time. The process by which that can be done is of course linked up with FM's chain of related discoveries.

The subject matter to use as a means of exploring and practising this process could vary. In the Body Thinking course, we take the position that it is really good to get a clear idea of how you are put together: to clarify the structures and clarify how they can move (and how they can not). In other words, do a spring cleaning of all the labels, make new ones with a clear basis of designation which accords better with how we are put together. Just focusing on structure itself is not the point, it is the dynamic between structure and movements that is critical. It is really your normal AT training - but with, I plan, a little more rigour, structure and emphasis. More on why I want that in another posting.

So publicly it is put out as a course on leaning about all your body parts and how they can move. More fundamentally it is about PRACTISING a process of identifying faulty ideas that put us out of co-ordination and learning how to deal with them.