Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Sciatica

"Even the teachers are running"

That's how the Japanese describe their Xmas season - of course it is not Xmas here, much as the big department stores would love it to be so. But it is bonus time - all the corporates pay out, and everyone's running around planning what they will do from next April, including BodyChance.

People are leaving jobs, planning moves, deciding what they will study in the New Year. It is a busy time for BodyChance also. Take this weekend for instance. It started organising things around the Body Thinking One Day Human Body Users Guide workshop - this is the workshop that graduates of the two year BodyThinking course will be certified to teach. The graduation is coming up in April, so the next three months of the BodyThinking unit will be orientated to the content and pedagogical methodology of teaching to groups.

The course concept will be presented to about 70 Bellydance teachers and students who are coming to BodyChance's "Bellydancing Event". The BodyThinking One Day Users Guide to the Human Body Course is a teaser for AT lessons and joining our one year Ippan (public) program. While preparations for this are going on, we scheduled a meeting with our new "Medical Advisor" Dr Tsukasa Fujimoto. He is joining the BodyChance Research Project and helping us develop and hone the measurements we are collecting every 6 months on the progress of our ProCourse trainee members. We are coming up to the two year mark, so now we need to figure out how to analyse the data in a meaningful way that 1. gives us a clearer picture of how our members are changing in relation to the work and 2. the beginnings of a consumer product that we can start offering the 100+ members of the Ippan program.

The vision is to spin off a new company which will offer a "Co-ordination Health Assessment" for consumers, with a series of conclusive prescriptions that send them across the road, clutching their report, to book into BodyChance Ippan Program where our "technicians" (BodyChance teachers) will educate them on how they can manage their co-ordination effectively. After 6 months, it's back across the road to see how they are progressing on a series of measurements that demonstrate the changes that have occurred in a way that is difficult for even a hard-nosed sceptic to argue against, but of course they will.

Dr Fujimoto is an eminent Japanese Neuro-surgeon who has recently retired, having just published his autobiography. Yes, he is quite famous here. He spent his career investigating and assisting people with headaches - which led him to us, and a process of learning about Alexander's stupendous discoveries. His wife, an Opera singer, is a ProCourse member (trainee).

Same day, but after teaching a three hour class of the Directors Course Unit of our training, a late evening meeting with Yasuhiro, a ProCourse 3rd Stage trainee member, who is heading up our new internet Alexander books course - which is becoming a new Unit of the training, but one that does not require your physical presence. I wanted to pull study of the books out of the training to free up more time for practical work, but I still see studying Alexander's books as a critical part of the training process. You don't have to love them, you don't even have to agree with them (like me), but you do need to be familiar with them.

Part of that project - the reason is took so long to get going - is finding the money to get them translated into Japanese. Now that we have secured the rights to UCL and, soon CCCI, we have two people (Yasuhiro on CCCI & our new Board Member from SONY Yuko Suzuki on UCL) working on their translation this year, so we are ready to launch more book units in 2011.

I've left out the two Management meetings, the ATI assessment, the 2nd Stage assessment process for Yoko-san in class, the organising of the legalities and tax issues (and writing the agreement) for selling 42 shares in BodyChance to graduates of the ProCourse to help me raise money for the new Sydney studio I am planning for 2012. And yes, I also had to wash my clothes, talk to my girls, arrange buying a car in Australia, pack up everything for an 8 month "sabbatical" from Japan, organise the management issues for the three new full-time staff members that will join us in April and, somewhere in there, eat.

So is it any wonder that my old, old sciatica returned to my leg. Oh dear - what is that telling me? I concluded one thing - if I move in my old way, I think in my old way. So all of me is having a daily, hourly, minute by minute conversation with my right leg - which still stubbornly believes that in times of multifaceted activities, lateral rotation at the hip joint is definitely the solution. It's all part of a re-energised habit kicked off by my retinal attachment operation which basically retained the sight but decimated my ability to see. So I started unconsciously turning my left eye forward, creating an invitation for my right leg to resume it's laterally rotating support system, which had been on holiday for many years.

It's December in Japan and yes, even the teachers are running.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Minister For Everything

I am a cowboy at heart, not an intellectual.

I try to make it look right, but it's not really me. It's a constant struggle, as many of my goals depend on an enlightened mind that understands and can navigate so many different worlds: business (me?!), neuroscience (me?!), anatomist (me?!), language (hopeless at Japanese still), writing/communication (this), Buddhism and of course Alexander discoveries, with all the pedagogical issues that howl around the propagation of his work.

These last two are most treasured and important to me - the study of human consciousness itself, primarily my own, hence by extension everyone else's.

In 1996, when I was on the small Working Group that organised His Holiness the Dalai Lama's visit to Sydney to offer the 11 day Kalacharka ceremony, my nickname was "Minister for Everything". It was meant as a derogatory remark to accentuate my maddening tendency to want to know everything about anything. And this has always been central to my own disorder as a human being - a case of gluttony, a case of wanting too much, resulting in a lack of focus, of persistence, of commitment. It's apparent in many things I have done, and still do.

Yet, like all disorders, there is a flip side which is extremely beneficial. If this tendency to gluttony can be harnessed to serve one master, then rather than being detrimental to its owner, it becomes magical. Much as many people disliked me, so there were others who were thrilled with what I could do. The sheer volume of creative planning, analysis of different needs, the master plan for whole project, the detailed budget, the staffing allocations, a twist on the publicity, the videoing of it - all of the above and more flowed from my flawed consciousness in service to His Holiness.

His Holiness has often said, that in small measure, our faults can be harnessed to benefit us. He gave the example of two Buddhist practitioners living in the same household. He pointed out that the self-cherishing mind could lead to competition between the two partitioners: "Did you do your practise to day? I meditated for over an hour actually." But a little competition, His Holiness remarked, could be a good thing if it spurred you to practise more.

So I see my disorder this way. I can't not not be me - that much I have concluded. Short of becoming enlightened in this life, I am stuck with the cluster of habits, imprints and personality disorders that were hardwired into my brain a long time ago.

So giving up on the premise that I can fundamentally change the energetic organisation of my personality, the next obvious step it to channel the energy of this personality in a constructive way. Do I believe no transformation is possible? Of course not. But transformation involves effectiveness in directing the energy of activity, of thought , of intention. It is not of the nature of Jeremy becoming His Holiness, or any other spiritual mentor. I think this is a wrong understanding of change, and is usually motivated by people who lack love for the precious qualities of their own human consciousness.

People may think that these "confession session" blogs indicate a disturbed mind, a person in angst, a person in conflict. Far from it. These reflections are born from a recognition of the precious and magical nature of my humanity - how wonderful it is, how extraordinary, the whole "what a piece of work is man" speech from Hamlet. I am in love with my Self, but not the disordered self, but the Self that is ordering the disorder. Terrible choice of words, but the idea comes through doesn't it?

Which all comes down to this: my approach to this dilemma these days, as BodyChance grow richer, is to ask others to do what I really can't (and often don't want) to do myself.

In BodyChance, Cathy Madden is the light behind our training approach, a transforming conduit from Marjorie Barstow, who herself stood upon Alexander's work and said: "Why not this too?" and so a whole new movement in the AT world was born, a movement that is being increasing felt by the Alexander community as time marches on. In England, Don Weed - a long time student of Marj - has shown members of STAT that with the right approach there are plenty of people who want to train - "50 new students have joining the ITM Teacher Training Course" they proudly state on their website.

Here in Japan we have 65 people on our ProCourse training program, and more than a 100 more now signed up for our Ippan annual membership program of one private lesson or one group session every week. We reached that growth in 18 months, and we're already planning the opening of a second studio in Tokyo.

Folks - Alexander's work is still alive and kicking, don't believe the doomsayers. The world is about to be flooded with a whole new generation of teachers, an extraordinary renaissance of our work is coming. Believe it.

For BodyChance, the other thing I am doing is organising a ProCourse Summit in Switzerland before the next Congress in 2011, where all the Training Directors and Associate Directors of BodyChance's ProCourse trainings in Tokyo, Osaka and soon to be Sydney (numbers 10 teachers now) will gather together for three days to do an overhaul of the curriculum and set up various experiments and changes.

Finally the Minister for Everything can take a rest, and feel proud that something good has come from something bad. Personality disorders are great!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Just caught up on all the emails and info about UK regulation - my goodness, what a tiring issue to be worrying about.

My sense is to re-invent AT and sell that. Who needs to be an "Alexander Technique teacher" anyway? It's not like it's a fabulously well known brand folks - don't kid yourselves. There's some gravitas to be sure, but you wouldn't lose that anyway: "Based on F. M. Alexander's discoveries but the Alexander Technique NOT."

Except for Japan - God bless them. We don't have to worry about all this here. I once went to a lawyer asking him about regulation and how we might handle that? He asked me how many members were involved - it was under three digits at the time. When he got up off the floor from laughing, he told me to come back when we had a million or more were involved. Until then, the Japanese Government couldn't care less.

Personally I think AT is situated wrongly anyway - human potentiality is more relevant than human repair. So just like Madonna, a rebirth might be a healthy thing. Look out for BodyChance Coaches - OK?

If I decide to do that, please understand it has nothing to do with my idea that I have invented something new or better or different - it is simply a question of positioning the product where it doesn't attract government regulation.

Who needs that?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Seeing the Self

Our friends all suffer from our personality disorders, yet we rarely see or understand them ourselves - although these days I am coming to notice my own more clearly. To me it is perplexing - why is that a problem for other people? How can I possibly change this aspect of myself? Is it my problem or theirs? Finding answers only comes when the information about the disorder is clear.

And there's the rub - the flip side of our disorder is often the very thing that creates our success. In my own case, I have a talent to plan, to imagine, to create an endless cascade of ideas and possibilities that mostly overwhelms and discourages people closest around me. When I go into flight, people either feel that it is too fast and noisy and they simply can't (and don't want to) catch up, or that I fill the space around me so thoroughly with myself, that there is no space left for them to simply be.

To those who know me - I am aware of it. And it costs me, in small and significant ways. This year alone several people have walked out of a being in relationship to me: their core issue being - I suspect - this inability they perceive of me being unable to hear them. On that score it is often the case that I know people are against my plans - I simply choose to ignore their objections. Sometimes I listen - and I have spent my whole life attempting to develop this ability to listen - but another voice chimes away inside claiming that they just have fear for the unknown, and that if I listen and follow every objector around me, I will simply not get everything done.

I am a person on a frantic mission, no question of that. Frantic? Why frantic? Well, the clock of life is ticking. Death - as the regular reader of this blog will know - is already stalking me with finality and definiteness. Right now I have stumbled upon something the likes of which could reengineer the consumer presence of Alexander's discoveries in the world within a business model that could benefit millions of people for hundreds of years - and make a shit load of cash while doing it. Alexander's work is a commodity - it is like gold in your hands. But just as the internet is a place where you're always needing to be figuring out - what is the next angle? How else can we sell this thing? - so is Alexandersphere a mysterious place to be doing business, a new internet-like something at a scale that has not been witnessed as yet…

It is like an improved software program. We are installing this new software in the human brain - the essence of primary directed movement - and slowly reprogramming the world. I spent a long time thinking about the mission of the company I have started. And after 18 months - and going through many options - the simple truth of it hit me. The purpose of this company is to make Alexander's discoveries accessible to everyone on the planet. It will take hundreds of years, but when it is finally accomplished, as it most certainly will, humanity will not be quite the same anymore.

Alexander fantasied himself about this in his books, didn't he? Was he neurotic too? Probably he was, especially if it turns out that my theory about my disordered Self is true.

Alexander wrote that the adoption of his discoveries by humanity would constitute a new step in the Evolution of the Self that would usher in Man's Supreme Inheritance which is the Conscious Constructive Control of the Use of the Individual as a Universal Constant in Living.

And it will all be accomplished on such a huge scale, that it will eventually generate mountains of cash. It will transform the pain industry, eliminating thousands of jobs while creating even more new ones: rehabilitation programs will evolve into razor shape treatments that are so effective they leave patients better off than they were BEFORE their injury! Any why not?

This is the Alexander Technique after all. This is the thing that two Nobel Scientists have acclaimed, one of them being the father of neuroscience, Sir Charles Sherrington himself. This is the same Alexander Technique that the British Medical Journal in their August 2008 issue published a break through study which demonstrated a 86% reduction of pain in a study of 579 people. If that can't make you money in this world (?) nothing can.

I don't think this is just my drunken grandiosity, but it sure needs a little dose of insanity from somewhere just to keep it gong another day. It will, after all, affect primary school curriculums.

So, what if I could figure out a business model for doing AT on a corporate scale in a huge consumer market? What if I could capture basically the same sized market that Macdonalds does - then can you see why I am frantic about it? Ray Crock was 53 when he started Macdonalds. I am 54 and counting. But I honestly think I am on the edge of cracking something huge.

Macdonalds for a food chain? Well, why not Alexanders for a movement chain? What you eat and how you move - can you think of two things more important that those? That is the arrogant vision I am holding on to inside. I will even be offering shares in a few years. BodyChance has googles of potential. So. Such a vast and drunkenly grandiose plan (I've done my time in AA, NA etc.) requires a highly neurotic person with Niagra Falls in their brain, constantly spewing ideas out onto the early morning dew.

Such a person would be me - meet my personality disorder.
(If I could bow now, I would).

While I function in this hallucinatory world - for that is all it is - protecting myself from feeling any of the pain my insanity is inflicting upon those that surround me - out pops another idea, a new plan: ideas after ideas until all the weary people surrounding this endless thinking waterfall, finally nod off and go to sleep. Meanwhile, I dash out another idea in my drunken lust for planning things while I use this process to distract my attention from the pain I might be feeling if I was truly in empathy with those people around me. I continue to believe that all this is actually real.

So yes, I see my personality disorder quite well I think

But… (and here it comes)

What if I am right?


My spiritual teachers assure me that my job in life is to be of assistance to others, and this is at the core of the mission I follow so frantically. At a certain level, there's no room for doubt or cautiousness in me at the moment - yet I can see that this is neither wise nor beneficial to my plans in the longer run. How can being a catalyst for hurt towards those closest around me be congruent with a spiritual purpose? Clearly something is amiss here. Doubt is the artist's friend - without it arrogance, coarseness and stupidity can breed - so why would I choose to ignore that???

So I have my doubt, this blog is actually asserting it. For me there continues to be this unanswerable question pressing in upon the space surrounding my purpose.

Another irritating aspect of my personality disorder for friends and foe alike, is the changeability of my point of view. People start to distrust what I say to them, having already experienced shifts of viewpoint that leave them feeling stranded and betrayed on an island of my making! While I am witnessing this storm around me, what is my neurotic voice chiming to me inside?

Oh, that things change, everything is always changing, and people live with the delusion that things stay the same, when they simply do not. Sure what I said awhile ago is true, but that was then, this is now - things have changed.

Of course, for the opportunist, it is a lovely song. For those left behind in the wake of my new plans, it is no comfort at all. Success in business, it is often said, is dependant upon the speed with which change can happen. The corporate monoliths that finally fail in business do so because they can not adapt to changing circumstances quickly enough. The fourth biggest company in America before the advent of the Ford was a maker of whips. Now they no longer exist.

But at least they were reliable. They made whips, and continued to make whips, and they didn't disappoint the people who thought they were a whip making company. In a way, our Alexander community is a little bit like the whip making company. These days people want something that we clearly don't offer in a way that is wonderful for them. Yet at the core what we have is what they need - so why are so many Alexander teachers struggling to make a living, and most not even doing that?

But I veer from my subject, which is what I always do - yet another frustrating, personality disorder for others to suffer in my presence. So as usual I got nowhere figuring this out. I see what it is that people object to in me - I am not blind to that - but I do not see a way to change that without ceasing to be who I am. Recently I have been concluding that this is the package you get - take it or leave it. I am not without compassion for the effects of my disorders upon others, but I can not see how the engine of my ambition can function without them.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Giving Directions

Alexander was adamant - you must first think one thing, then while continuing to think of this, you think a second thing, then while continuing to think those things, you think another and so on: this whole process Dewey called Thinking in Activity and “anyone who does it will have what a new experience in what they call thinking” (FM in UOS Ch 1).

However, FM was only adamant about that in his discovery story that he recorded into writing during his first training in 1929~33. He was not adamant about this all his life - in fact he came to the point, which he never recorded in his writing, where he believed we must stop this process of “giving directions” as quoted by Walter Carrington in his diary:

“At tea FM said that he had, at last, decided that we must cut out in future teaching all instructions to order the neck to relax or to be free because such orders only lead to other forms of doing. If a person is stiffening the neck, the remedy is to get them to stop projecting the messages that are bringing about this condition and not to project messages to counter-act the effects of the other messages.”

Given the continuing fondness for “giving directions” in our Alexander community, it is surprising to me that this opinion of Alexander’s is not more widely known for being the heretical recantation that it is. If Alexander thought we should stop “giving directions” why are we still doing it?

Well, for good reasons, chief among them being that we all suffer from varying levels of attention deficient - an increasing chronic problem in our modern world. Our quality of attention is at the heart of the issue of “giving directions” so it is worth digressing a little by pulling out some information that has been utilised by meditators for thousands of years to achieve levels of attention that can deliver extraordinary powers of insight and well being to understand how we might intelligently understand what this whole process of “giving directions” is all about.


Omniscience is the quality of knowing all things in every moment, of being able to have your attention with every sentient being in every moment, without discrimination of past, present and future. It is a totally incomprehensible concept to our dualistic minds, but in the Buddhist analysis of reality, those that achieve this quality of attention are called realised beings, for they are able to simultaneously know the conventional truth of dualistic existence as existing within the absolute truth of non-duality or dharamkaya.

We - being those that have consciousness - all possess the ability to realise this, and it comes about by the removal of the obstacles and afflictions that suffocate our knowing. Our consciousness is defined as having two qualities: that of knowing, and of luminosity. Neither of these have any material form - consciousness is considered a formless phenomenon - yet in human beings, gross consciousness does exist in dependance upon organs that are essential for the arising of different categories of consciousness: the consciousness of seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, touching, feeling and knowing.


Unless we are omnisciencent - and I don’t remember meeting anyone who was - our capacity to know something fluctuates depending on where and how we direct our attention. Attention is not a faculty that requires any effort on our part. From the moment of our birth, to the fading of our life, attention is filtered by our intention. We place our attention here or there depending on our intentions.

So our attention is driven by our intention, but the two are easily confused. Attention is not something we can turn on or turn off. Can you stop seeing? Even if you close your eyes, you still see something. Even while you sleep, you hear things. Attention is not the same a being conscious of something - that is intention at work. Attention it is simply to ability to receive information. Or that is how I am asking you to consider it for the sake of these ideas.

We receive huge amounts of information every second and we are totally unable to intentionally place our attention on all of it at once. So we must be selective, and that selection is directed by our intention, which in turn is powered by our interests, our desires, our passions.

We can direct our attention any place we like - so how do we decide where we want it to go? Well, as I said, if we have a passion for something - a person, a hobby, a food - then our intention calls us to pull up any information that exists in relation to that object. If the desire is out of control, it is very hard to decide to place our attention somewhere else. We obsessively look information about the person, food and activity we desire.

So part of the ability to bring attention under our direction is to tame the unbridled passions that afflict our consciousness. In the absence of these afflictions, in the presence of satisfaction and contentment, a wonderfully new question might arise in our consciousness: what will I place my attention on now? What do I intend to study now?

Alexander suggested that the most profitable candidate for this newly freed intention is the primary control in the use of our self - intend to pay attention to that by directing it in every activity. Hmm. How does that work?

Intention is fuelled by knowledge, which itself is the product of being able to distinguish one thing from another thing within a holistic framework. When a dancer watches another dancer, they have their attention on things that we, the non-dancer, do not even know. They have educated themselves, so their attention can be placed in ways that we can not do. However, we see everything they see - that don’t see anything extra. So in my analysis of attention and intention, our faculty of attention functions with no limitations compared to theirs, however their intention is vastly different to ours.

Being that they have studied dance for so long, when they direct their attention, they direct it in ways that we can not possibly do. They make distinctions between things that we do not even know you could make distinctions between. The placement of the hand at this angle instead of another angle during the dancing of a flamenco dance, is simply not something we can pay attention to because there is no intention to do so.

Intention is the key, and Alexander made a case for placing your attention on your use of your self, and he proposed a method for doing that. That method is his idea of “giving directions” but this is an intention, it has nothing to do with attention.

But people use their intention to see if their attention has been able to make the change that they were hoping to make based on an experience they had previously. If I use intention this way, I interfere with attention. If attention was a person, it would answer you like this:

“What do you mean is your back still hurting in the way it was a minute ago? I am telling you everything I know. All I know is what you are already doing, so why are you asking me if I can tell you something I just didn’t tell you?"

So intention is not something that looks back, not even for a second. Attention is the report of the intention, of “what just happened” and it is already a settled matter. It is history, be it only a milli-second ago. Intention on the other hand is directive to the future, even one second into the future. So “giving directions” is something projected into the future, something that is not “known” while intending it.

And we can educate ourselves around this intention - second by second, day by day. That is why the repetition of words is meaningless without the company of a vastly growing reservoir of distinctions of intention in relation to our use. The words only exist because our faculty to maintain attention with our intention is so dismally poor.

So by reminding ourselves to stay with the intention by a skeleton or words - or by wordless imagery or any other method that can hold our attention to our intention - then we are growing, However, searching into past experience does not give us much new to consider - it can actually decrease the acuity of our intention, it does not enhance it. Which is why intention is needs to be a fresh something projected one second forward, seeking more information through experimentation with thought, while attention is always the report of that one second - and can not be shaped by anything other than intention. The report is necessary - to shape the next intention. The two dance together, but dwelling mostly on one (trying to feel out what is going on) or the other (chanting words like a machine) do not work. The process starts with intention, it always must, while attention is being directed towards the object you are considering - the Use of the Self.

This seems impossible to most people—they can not believe that the mere throwing of an intention into the future will change how they co-ordinate themselves. Which, when you think about it, is nonsense of course. We do this all the time, but not it seems when our intention is around the co-ordination of our self through the activities of our day.

If this is all making no sense to you, maybe I am too tired to be writing. I am getting a little confused myself - but a reason to write all this was to dig deeper into my own thinking and fault it. I can now - I hear lots of arguments against what I just wrote, mainly of the clarifying kind.

Anyway, signing off as my bullet train is now approaching Kyoto. Maybe I will re-write this to make more sense, maybe I won’t.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Strike One

Death comes to us all, but rarely do we live with that truth on a day to day basis. This was certainly true of me - until this year. Now my eyes can not see the things I once saw with anything like the clarity I was accustomed just three months ago. There is pain in my groin from a recent operation, and a new thought is germinating in my mind: how soon will my aspirations for this life outstrip my capacity to continue reaching towards them?

In a way, it has already begun: I've experienced strike one in the outing of life, and I have a strange new feeling lingering around me like a deserted mountain held in a mist - the real sense of my own mortality. Lama Tsong Karpa, a great Tibetan Saint of 600 years ago, once wrote that those who feared death - when death came, would have no fear. But those who had no fear of death, when death came, would be very afraid. So I can gain solace from that - death hangs around me now. Goodbye to my dear little children, goodbye to the dreams and aspirations of this life - goodbye to my wife, friends, riches and reputation. Just ashes in the wind awaits me one day.

Not that I have a terminal disease or anything like that - just the struggle to read a book, the difficulty to walk at a speed I am accustomed to. Walter Carrington wrote that the most difficult aspect of ageing was that inside one did not feel one had aged, but the outer truth was incongruent with that inner map - and adapting oneself to new expectations, habits and behaviours was a constant task facing the ageing person.

Everyone around me tells me I am going to fast - while inside I feel I am too slow. Jaldhara says I work too much, push myself too hard, while inside I have a feeling of laziness. Incongruities, unreliabilities - where is the truth? What is the way? Others tell me these blows to my health, happening as they did in quick succession, are an indication that my vegetarian diet of 30 years is catching up with me. My iron is too low, and my macrobiotic mates tell me my food is way too yin - I need more yan.

So do I embark on a new research project to collect information about food intake, food theories - to analyse and experiment in the hope of creating a few more lusty thrusts towards my dreams? Or do I re-emphasis my daily meditation practice, take advantage of this new found realisation of death, and use it to remind myself of what really matters in this life, what truly goes with me beyond the grave? All good questions, with time and contemplation. This is the benefit of the realisation of death - one of the most basic realisations to have in the Tibetan Lam Rim Graduated Path to Enlightenment.

Now that's happy framework for this Eeyore gloominess - I am on my way to enlightenment!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Defective Understanding

I just read a most wonderful sentence which re-engineers Alexander's contention to be careful of the printed word and how we interpret it:

"Those who impose on texts the stains of their defective understanding derive only a superficial comprehension..."

Lama Tsong Karpa from a 600 year old Buddhist text.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Getting AT into the Sports & Fitness Industry

This is from a thread on the Alextech list, link is shown above...


Years ago I was talking with Marjory Barlow about the DIRECTION issue I published on the work of Marjory and her husband Dr Wilfred Barlow (still available for purchase BTW) and Marjory confirmed how "Bill" (was it?) had put together over two hundred different "Alexander directions". What the actual number was I can't remember - but it was jaw-droppingly high. I had heard about it previously - I don't remember from who - and I was hoping that Marjory could hand over some written material on the subject to publish in DIRECTION Journal. In those days there were stories hanging around that he could sort out someone's frozen shoulder in just one session. Having suffered myself from that condition in the past, I understood how knowledge of the 200+ directions would certainly assist in pulling off such an accomplishment.

Anyway, Marjory knew what I was talking about, but alas there was nothing to print. She mentioned that Bill had been working on something, but I never heard any more. And so I forgot about it.

Until recently. Now I am guessing that Barlow took his training as a Doctor, combined it with Alexander's knowledge of the working unity of human behaviour, and mapped the specific roles of the myiad of interacting muscular forces, to come up with his 200+ directions. I am not advocating this as a model for training teachers - in case you were thinking that - but I do think this hints at a vast new science of human movement, one which accurately relates specificity to holistic function.

The Fitness and Sports industry, and all the medical and para-medical parafernalia that accompany it, are the masters of specificity. We, in our closeted Alexander world, are of the masters of unity. Further energise a process of creating relationships between these two reservoirs of knowledge, and you have the makings of a new brand of scientific knowledge.

Part of the strategy of BodyChance - which is the company I now run - is to situate Alexander's discoveries square and centre in the Fitness and Sports industry. We are currently embarking on a long term project to do just that in Australia - the most sports crazy nation on this earth. (Haven't you ever wondered how a nation of 24 million people manage every Olympics to get themselves in the overall top ten gold medalists, along with nations who number 100 million and upwards?) Our plan is not a quick fix operation, it is an enterprise bound to take several decades. In this, I think we can burrow from the success of Alexander's work in the performing arts world.

Authority flows from the experience and knowledge of the activity you are involved in. Musicians who were trained in AT, returned to their world and started creating a good "buzz" about AT and how it can help. Our strategy at BodyChance is to consciously and deliberately start appealing to people in the Sports and Fitness Industry - sports persons, fitness trainers, small business owners of yoga, pilaties, aerobics clubs etc - and encourage them to come train with us; then support them to position themselves back in the market with a superior product that combines fitness & sports training from the holistic viewpoint of Alexander's discoveries. (After all, Professor Little's study showed that AT with a bit of exercise was an effective formula! :-)

When I look around the Alexander community today, it is obvious that one category of successful teachers are the niche marketers - people who "specialise" in applying the work to specific activity. When you can walk the walk in a particular field, and relate that information back to Alexander's discoveries, you have the essence of a great business. So penetrating any profession or sports is best achieved by training people who are already in it. The technology and art of marketing, focused to sell Alexander's golden product, makes the task simply one of finance, savvy and intent. The outcome is not in question.


I don't know about other teachers, but it has taken me decades to achieve the accuracy of observation and confidence to be able to observe high level sports performance, and offer any meaningful feedback that is short on the mumbo jumbo and long on accuracy and effectiveness. For a start, the serious in this field inevitably speak the universal language of movement - and more often than not expect the same from you. There are many language systems that have been created to describe movements - particularly in the dance world - but none have such universal agreement as does the language of the anatomists. Starting from the anatomical position, we can describe every movement with some accuracy. It is still quite a clumsy language, but that's what we have.

This is new thinking for me, evolving as I do in figuring out the pedagogical evolution of the BodyChance training. Only recently I decided that anyone who trains at BodyChance will leave with a good working understanding of the subject. Some have escaped my clutches, but these days my trainees are tested, and don't get their certificate if they fail this exam. Luckily there is a text book available for our BodyThinking module - The Anatomy of Movement. I recommend that any teacher - thinking as they read this that maybe I've got a point - go ahead and buy this book, spend a few weeks getting familiar with it, then keep it near your teaching space henceforth.

Our BodyThinking module is a not a dry attempt to learn terms - it is an ongoing experiment to relate the specific to the whole, to bring the wisdom and insight of Alexander's discoveries to bear on the known workings and functionality of the various movement systems within our behaviour. Every year we will take a new activity and go through the process of analysing the needs, misconceptions and co-ordinations involved in this activity. This year we are analysing Bellydancing - and we are having a lot of fun figuring that out. Like everything I do, it is integrated with the overall business strategy, so BellyDancing in the training school is also part of a marketing push in the Tokyo area to create new members for our Ippan Course (where you take out a membership for a year of weekly AT lessons).

Using this model, I will entice into the training those people who have skill sets that can inform and enrich our BodyThinking module. Obviously the next move is looking at different sports, systems of training etc. and THIS is the seed that will eventually flourish into an Alexander presence in the sports and fitness industry.


Another desire I have with the BodyThinking module, is to slowly build a knowledge base available to AT teachers who want to shift from being chair and table teachers, and move towards the application field. Those teachers who think this move is only a matter of making a decision... well, you need to talk to me about that. I was a chair and table teacher for 10 years, so I know what I am talking about when I say that the move into application work was as wrenching as my first year of teaching. And continued to be so for many years after! So I hope that one day BodyChance can start offering training to teachers who want to switch. A "switch" campaign no less! (I hope you can see my tongue-in-cheek amusement around that one...

"Hallo. I am a chair and table teacher."

"Oh, hi, I'm an application guy.")

Anyway, right now I am on the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto with nothing else to do, so I have got a little carried away with this post. Sorry for going on so much. I will put this on my blog too I think.

To finish I want to say that as a collective, AT teachers carry an extraordinary understanding of human movement, and mostly this knowledge dies with the teacher who carries it. In this day and age, when computer animators have the potentiality (with enough time and money) to program every movement vector of every muscle in every moment - I keep wondering what would have resulted if Wlfred Barlow had been able to instruct them in his 200+ directions!

Friday, June 26, 2009


Finished two days of Brendan Nichols at the Vasace Hotel in Surfer's Paradise. It was his "Marketing Boot Camp" where he takes us through the ABC of marketing your business to make money. "Marketing is getting them to the door, sales is getting them to walk through it." Greg and Michael were there the first day, but both of them could not stop themselves tracking all his NLP gymnastics, probably seeing him do stuff that was subconscious for him. They spent the breaks swapping stories about how he was constantly embedding messages for people to come back, but they said in the afternoon he relaxed and did more of the authentic work, without the subconscious leading. I saw it more clearly myself the second day - he's got amazing technique.

I realize that an amazing array of strategies are available to create and utilise a list of BodyChance interested folks - the sky's the limit. The limit, as I still suspect, will be the availability of teachers, not the availability of work as the situation stands today. Eventually they will be clamouring for what we have to offer, and there will be many mimicking our model, but without approaching the excellence of our own teachers. For the next five years the goal is to develop teacher training methodology across a number of schools in different locations and cultures (for now Japan and Australia from 2010) and develop a system of training that is followed at every BodyChance Studio. This gives students flexibility, and it gives us a huge experimental resource where we can being testing and measuring the efficacy of our teacher training.

Starting in 2008, we began asking our trainees to accept an experimental program of 7 different measurements at 6 monthly interviews over a two year period. We decided to use the 2 year certificate course - BodyThinking - as the domain for this first venture into finding a set of variables that can be interrelated in a way that offers some compelling evidence of change in their overall, functional unity. Beyond that, we have no idea. Some of the experiments were suggested to me by Neuroscientist and Alexander Technique student Lucy Brown, who spoke at the first Lugano Conference in 2008. We also received suggestions from Yosuke Yamada, a research scientist at Kyoto University's Human Posture Lab. The idea is taking a different approach to developing criteria for qualifying a teacher of this work - find concrete measures that can be calibrated against the head's movement relation to the spine, arms and legs. We also hope to develop a compelling, consumer product that will give people another health measure that is unique, and unseen by medical science. So we are developing this product through Greg, and his contacts at Sydney University's Laboratory of Movement - who could be advising Greg on database construction and ways to manipulate data based on Greg's information. Greg is heading this project, and the prospects for it in the long term are extraordinary. It will be fun developing that business, while also collecting valuable data available for an almost infinite number of mathematical variations.

Selling all these things is Bredan's forte, and I am overflowing with ideas so the question is when, not what. Priorities need to be based on the most effective way to generate a healthy cash flow that can fund continuing development of product streams. Another face that has entered the BodyChance mandala is Paul Cook, Publisher and Editor of DIRECTION (yes, it still lives and very well under Paul's stewardship). Greg & Michael took an early plane home this morning rather than return to Brendan, so I brought Paul along to enjoy the show.

Brendan was great - the idea of marketing Alexander Technique obviously penetrated his thinking, because he kept mentioning about it all day, and was indirectly coaching me on ways to build BodyChance. One suggestion was a whole multi-faceted selling program around themes of Knee Pain, Neck Pain, Arm Pain - you get the idea. Each one I mount a separate campaign, building a story of redemption through AT by addressing more specifically the specific needs and issues that rise for each kind of pain sufferer. AT is horizontal - EVERYONE is interested it alleviating pain at some point of their lives, or helping others around them to do it - but I learnt at Brendan's that horizontal markets are harder, bigger, more diverse. A vertical audience is better: they are easier to target with specific emotional benefits, a campaign that is designed with them in mind. Niche, niche, niche - that was one of Brendan's advice. Like people who suffer from knee pain. AT teachers often try to be all things to all people - they advertise to a horizontal market without the economic muscle to be particularly effective. The result is 125 years of relative obscurity of AT from ordinary consumers.

So from tomorrow we have a series of meetings with Tom, Greg, Michael, Paul and myself about marketing these 9 weekends in 2010, and looking at the general strategy we will follow towards the launch of the Studio in January, 2012. I want to put Paul in charge of marketing and the website, and use Brendan's ideas to achieve a profit off the workshops in 2010. All this is up for discussion, together with a plan for the legal structure of BodyChance, it's relationship to Japan and the way equity can be handled. It promises to be an important week.

Oh - and I bought myself a new home in Mullumbimby, that has the fabulous quality of being cash neutral/positive, though it will cost me $765,000 to buy. It will be a great resource for BodyChance - I can let it out to the company to hold small workshops here for Japanese with all accommodation and teaching fees in one package. This can also serve as a pilot program for the eventual Japanese attendance at the Sydney Studio. Tomorrow, in the midst of everything else, I have to complete the Loan Application, fax everything to Jay and...


Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Maintaining an equal feeling towards my two daughters is the focal point of my practise of dissolving the feelings of attraction and aversion that the concepts of "friend, enemy or stranger" so easily conjure up inside my heart. Them, and some irritating correspondents I receive messages from occasionally.

How to feel equal to all these? Well, for now it is impossible to class the correspondents in the same category as my daughters, and indeed there is no need - the concept does not need to be thrown away - I can still label a person an irritant - but the aggression, the inappropriate behaviour: all these things are only harms to myself, and my spiritual purpose.

Many parents will tell you they feel equally to their children, but on the whole they are lying I think. Why would the tendency we have outside the family - to have favourites, people whose company we enjoy more than others - be somehow magically evaporated once you crossed the threshold of your front door? No - don't believe that nonsense, people always try to delude themselves.

Yet I feel great trepidation at even considering this issue in an honest matter - as though the admission of the fact becomes the primary cause of it's own being, feeding the very fire I want to put out. So with great delicacy and care do I meditate on the differences in my attitude and treatment of my children. This is part of the practise of equanimity - not fuel the idea that flames out to burn me, but douse water on any idea that seeks to put prejudiced favour of one before the other.

Douse it with what? With truth, with the absolute understanding that every human being is created with an equal desire for happiness, and an equal right to it. At times the demand of one can outshine the other, and one can appear to give favour, but in essence that moment of decision is based on circumstances, based on a consideration of many things - NOT based on a feeling of feeling better with one rather than another.

Anyway, I am being obtuse as one day those little creatures might even come to read this - so for today that is enough. It was useful to write about it, as I have a clearer understanding of a few things now.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Chairwork II

In the morning at 2am - yes, sometimes I start the day early - I was searching my email database for something, and came across an email from a teacher about chairwork. No need to mention who here, but I was taken by how lightly the idea of working outside of chairwork was treated, almost as though one only did that if one didn't have sufficient abilities to do chairwork. All said in a nice way, but still overtones of...

So, I got a little carried away and wrote a passionate and challenging response, which later the writer (gently) pointed out that I had I read more of the actual email, rather than read into the email more that he in fact said, I might have had a more balanced response, and I am sure he is right.

Anyway, here's what I wrote (lightly edited):


Early in my training school, many students - aware of what is happening in other Alexander circles - started clamouring for me to do "chairwork" and "hands on" - neither of which are part of my training program (other than getting in and out of a chair which is an activity with no special status in my mind).

I refused for the simple reason that I did not want my trainees attached to any "form" - which to me is how traditional chairwork often operates. It can be a safe haven within which one can explore the principles. Ask someone to step out of that haven and explore the same principles, and my guess is that many teachers would simply be at a loss what to do.

I am of the opinion that if you do the same thing every day of your training for three years, you do get some familiarity with how to take someone in and out of the chair. Yes, we still need refined abilities to do that, and the depth that one can go into with this activity is tremendous. No arguments on that score. However, I do think that any action, however difficult, when repeated again and again over a long period of time, assumes a kind of comfortable familiarity.

I put the burden on my students to come up with the subject of our lesson - these are the kinds of requests I have dealt with in just the last three weeks (no kidding):

- I stutter when at my work, but nowhere else (23yo man at intro class)
- People say they can't hear me speak (28yo woman at same class)
- I freeze up whenever anyone is taking my photograph (trainee in ThinkingBody Course)
- I get the same pain as my patient whenever I massage (Trainee in BodyThinking Course)

Firstly, when faced with such requests - there is no form to hold on to. Taking them in and out of a chair won't fly. I don't doubt they would get benefit, but I do doubt they would leave the lesson any wiser in knowing how Alexander's discoveries, and the process it involves, can be an aid and support for them in dealing with the specific problems and difficulties of their lives, as they conveyed them to me above.

Secondly, for me each request becomes a new adventure in discovering how inhibition, direction etc. can be applied in delightfully unexpected ways. These oddball requests test me on how clearly I can understand and apply the work in any situation. There is no chairwork "procedure" to enjoin with a principled approach - the principled approach is all you have; the form to enjoin to that must be re-created every lesson. You need to investigate the request, quietly collect information about their co-ordination, consider it internally, then suggest a means whereby that takes into account all the information you have collected and puts a plan together that allows a person to experience a sense of accomplishment; or at least begin to cognitively AND experientially understand how to deal with the issue they have brought you by using the principles and discoveries of Alexander.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


After a posting by Franis Engel on the google AlexTech list about "Decision-making Tires Out Your Brain?" (click Heading to go to google group with full email history) - I commented that they did not make any allowance for joy, enthusiasm in their study. Which led me to reflect on the pedagogy of teaching AT which asks the students to pick the activity, rather than invite them to get in and out of the chair for the duration of the lesson (unless some tablework is thrown in of course). So I wrote this comment:


Again I think this issue illustrates Marj's genius as a teacher - she saw that tapping into the joy of her students ("You always move better with a smile") was less "exhausting" and instead had them gleefully making new choices because of the clear and present benefits that would come to their chosen passion. Fatigue does come - of course - but there is MUCH MORE stamina available for the work.

It's another convincing argument - for me - for AT teachers to give up this relentless obsession of getting in and out of a chair, which to me gets more and more ridiculous as I get more experience in the pedagogy of harnessing a student's interest to the process of making new choices. I don't mean to insult people, but I really do think it's such a waste doing 60~100% of only chair work all the time. These days, my average would be around 2~3%.

I predict the day will come when this is the norm in our profession, and I intend to be one of the key instigators of this transformation of our profession. It's time to give up the tired old pedagogical methods of Alexander's heyday, and come into the 21st century.

Finally, scientific research is giving us some solid reasons to make this change!


...which provoked a response in defense of "chairwork" so I felt I needed to clarify what I meant by responding with this:


I do regret that you may feel "belittled" by my comments. It is clear from your email that your work with people in the chair has integrity, purpose and effectiveness - I don't dispute the efficacy of using chairwork to teach Alexander's principles. Of course it works - Alexander spread his entire work doing just that. I would be a fool to try to argue against it as a valid methodology of teaching this work. My point is not so much against chairwork, as it is for other possibilities.


Once upon a time there were four woman - granny, mother and a friend watching daughter cutting off the sides of a beef to put it in the oven. "Why are you doing that?" the friend asked the daughter, who replied "Oh, that's what my Mum always did." So the friend turned to the mother and asked her "Why did you cut off the sides of the beef?" And Mum replied: "Because that's what my mother always did." So finally the friend turns to the grandmother and asks her "Why did you cut off the sides of the beef?" To which the grandmother replies: "Oh I had to. The oven we had was too small to fit it."


If you had the Olympic team of judo - would you train them all in chairwork? And if so - why? Do you believe you can't do everything you wrote below by simply exploring the specific co-ordinations these men and woman are occupied with every day in their judo practice? I know a group of actors who were "taught" the Alexander Technique and every session they were all told to lie in semi-supine and... well, I wasn't there so I don't know what was done. But it basically gives me the creeps when I hear stories like that.

Frankly I believe that a lot of teachers continue with chairwork not because of any powerful pedagogical arguments in its favour, but simply because they don't know what else to do. Faced with a professional opera singer, my guess is that many teachers would shy away from a rigourous analysis of the specific activities and needs of that person while singing, for the simple reason is that they were not trained with the ability to do so. It's the percentage thing that troubles me, not the actual fact of chairwork.

It's fine to do chairwork, and yes - it can be powerful and effective. If it works for you, go ahead. But I doubt I could have built a thriving business in Japan on the back of chairwork. And anecdotally, it seems there are a lot of other folks in the Alexander community finding it hard these days to make a living and I have to ask - why is that? Could it be that our pedagogical approach leaves some people a little mystified and lacking confidence to practise on their own? Or do they just get bored after awhile?

I don't know is the truth. If you want to understand my position better, I wrote about it in the Lugano Congress Papers "Teaching Technology" and the previous Oxford Congress Papers in "A Tale of Two Pedagogies". It is something I have been considering since I first trained as an Alexander teacher in the 1970's, and challenged the then prevailing notion that this work can not be taught in groups. Oh really? Who said that? Your grandmother?

I hope you can understand my point - I have every respect for you as a colleague, my only wish is to develop our ideas of teaching method. In my opinion, they are due for a overhaul.


And that is that for another week!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Success Vision

So, I did make it after all.

Last night I began teaching another of my slightly "out there" experiments in teaching: the Success Vision Course - using Alexander's discoveries to generate temporal awareness so that we can, moment by moment, make the choices that guide us towards the successful vision we generate of our future. This is a uniquely human capacity.

I wonder if Betsy the cow begins every morning with a highly developed temporally conceived plan for the day? "Oh, first I'll go down to the bottom meadow and get some of that tall grass before bloody Alfred eats it all, then I'll head off to the creek for a chat with Phyllis (unless she's overslept again the wretched old cow) and… oh yes! Now I remember: I have an appointment with Mad Fred at the North side gate at lunch-time.."

I wonder. I can't get inside a cow's mind, but I doubt this kind of "plan" is driving Betsy's choices moment to moment. Yet it is possible for us to function this way - to think a thought (in the form of consciously created plans/visions) rather than have thoughts thinking me (in the form of reactions to environmental conditions). Successful people mostly make decisions quickly, but change their mind slowly; whereas unsuccessful people often find coming to a decision difficult, but are changing their mind all the time.

To use temporal awareness successfully, we do first need a plan. The plan does not have to be concrete - like the S.M.A.R.T. goal system (goggle it) - it can also be ontological: developing a state of patience, tolerance, generosity, enthusiasm etc. What is essential is the necessity of our recollection of the 'success vision' acting as a guide for the choices we make within the forever moving critical moment of the present…

If a man knows not what harbor he seeks,
any wind is the right wind.

The Vision Success course was partly inspired by an passage from Alexander's Universal Constant of Living where he wrote:

"The employment of inhibition calls for the exercise of memory and awareness—the former for remembering the procedures involved in the technique and the proper sequence in which they should be used, and the latter in the recognition of what is happening. In the process both potentialities are developed and the scope of the use of both gradually increased. Moreover the experiences thus gained not only help in developing and quickening the recalling and connecting memory, but cultivate what I shall call the motor-sensory-intellectual memory."

That is basically the foundation for the course. These two facilities—awareness and memory—operate in tandem to inform our choices moment by moment. Dear Betsy (the cow remember?) has wonderful awareness in terms of present time – animals are often admired by us for their capacity to be in the here and now – but I suspect possesses a very poor ability to learn and adapt by means of utilizing creative memory to inform the present.

From a totally different perspective, but basically alluding to the same ideas, is this extract from "Burnt Norton", the first of the "Four Quartets" by T. S. Elliot (interestingly written in 1943, much the same time Alexander was writing UCL quoted above):

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present. Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the page which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose garden.

I was told, back in the 70's, that this quote was inspired by Alexander's work. I can't remember who told me, and it surely is some kind of nonsense, but nonetheless I feel some kind of continuity between these two ideas, some deeper truth that all things are existing as possibilities, and will be if we are, and can never be what we are not.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tommy's Teaching

"I will never try to know you, I will forever try to see you."

Writing now after witnessing the final workshop of Tommy Thompson in Japan, and hugely impressed by the way Tommy has given a voice to Alexander's discoveries in a way that totally accords with the Buddhist view of Self – the lack of anything inherently existing from it's own side. In my comments below, I may be misrepresenting Tommy's viewpoint, so please hold the idea that these are my impressions of Tommy's ideas.

Tommy's view is that there is no "number one" as Marj often cajoled us: " 'Who is the most important person here?' The student? No. The Teacher? Yes." For Tommy, there is no number one person – there is a relationship, an interdependency between you and I which creates us from moment to moment in the "ongoing, forever moving present, which is the only place where change can happen."

Tommy uses his hands to "disperse your commitment to who you think you need to be" so your Self truthfully emerges moment to moment, depending on the conditions present. His version of inhibition revolves around this idea: we have an "identity" that we are "committed to". In Buddhist terms I consider this to be the concept of a fixed, inherently existing Self. That inside me there is a 'Jeremy' that I am committed to. This idea of a fixed 'Jeremy' (and that is all it is, an idea which is given life by tensional habits that interfere with the natural function of primary control) is merely a habituated summary of the person I think I need to be. In Tommy's terms (as I interpret it) this habituated identity is built on the false notion that I can not be who I am being in any moment, but instead must manufacture a person that I consider you need me to be. And the primary 'others' are my parents or primary care-takers, followed by peers, cultural customs, the lure of advertising and all the other influences that are telling me day and night who I need to be to realize happiness.

What a wonderful way of giving voice to Alexander's notion of Self. It neatly sidesteps the whole conversation of 'body' and 'mind'. It is interesting to note that although Alexander himself did talk about "psycho-physical" unity, so imbedding this duality in the creation of a new hyphenated word, he also insisted that there is only a "critical moment" into which our "use" of our "Self" enters moment by moment. This holistic way of considering the work morphs into a new language that Tommy devised to guide people into a new experience of who they consider themselves to be—by "dispersing their commitment to who they think they need to be" which is their habituated self.

However, a different kind of duality starts to emerge in that the "Self" is created not only by environmental conditions, but by vows, decisions, promises, intentions, goals and the like which abide within our consciousness of 'self'. These are not such material things, but they are real in the same way that thoughts are real. As Mother Teresa put it: "Love is not a feeling. Love is a decision." So who I am, emerging as I am moment to moment, is partly shaped by the "other" - which includes other people and environmental conditions – and partly shaped by these "ideas & promises". Are these in the same nature of "belief" as in "I know myself" or do they differ?

I do think there is something different between, say, a vow not to kill any living thing and a belief that there is no God. Both exist very thinly within my consciousness, but one is actionally directive in nature, the other more a basis for making decisions – a premise upon which to build a vow, rather than a promise to behave in a particular way.

Anyway, fascinating as this is to me, I am off the point. The idea I started out presenting as another kind of duality within this model is the distinction between "doing" and "being". Tommy says that "intention dominates our action when we move in the direction of the focus of our attention", and in so doing "leave where I am" or "sacrifice my being". This is Tommy's version of Marj's "I am number one." I do not need to leave where I am to follow the focus of my intention, I can preserve a quality of being while doing whatever I am doing. Whenever I do depart from this quality of being, I am "endgaining" as Alexander put it, or "letting the focus of my intention dominate my action", as Tommy puts it.

From this comes the idea of "attention" – Tommy is primarily interested in observing this, asking the question: how is the person's attention interfering with the efficiency of primary control? Tommy does not observe the "use of the self"—he remarked that that is only "periphery" to his interest—instead he observes the person's attention: what kind of relationship do they have to their intention/activity? This is of paramount importance, because we are always existing in relationship to someone or something else.

So from this evolved a whole series of exercises involving touch that totally reminded me of the days of my training in London, an approach I ultimately rejected as a training director for I think that it 'objectifies' the person I am working with. In this kind of relationship, my partner slowly ceases to be who they truly are, instead slowly becoming "a human being I am touching" – i.e. they are no longer really that human being (i.e. Yumiko, Nao, Ryo etc.) but instead they are the "person/body/thing" I am using to practise how I place my hands on another. Of course the trainees all love this approach – must people do. Only Shigeko (that I know of) got the same uncomfortable feeling that I always got back in the old days of my training.

Anyway, I am definitely in a minority is disliking this way of training teachers, and I am happy to let other teachers pursue it, providing I don't have to either be involved, or agree with them. After awhile the atmosphere of the workshop got a little spooky, with everyone going into this prolonged silence while they considered how they were using their hands in touching the other person. Innocent enough, and hard to see why I object to it, but basically everyone got out of touch with the real world that was all around them. There was an atmosphere of operating within this cocoon of ideas.

However, to argue against myself, I do think there is a need to understand the "technicalities" of teaching—including that of touch—but I would tend to introduce this exploration of touch as part of an ongoing lesson, rather than separate it out into its own activity. However, we do need to explore and know the component ideas that make the whole experience possible. An example of this is in knowing how a person is using themselves. While it is wonderful to look firstly for the infinite potentiality of our pupil so we are "being present to being in relation to something that is bigger than our desire", my question is: how do we see such a thing? Perhaps we don't, perhaps we do – I have no real answer to that. But I do know when it is not there, because I can see how a person's co-ordination is expressing their idea that has fear, ignorance and attachment within it. This is what I see, what I understand is the possibility available beyond that.

Tommy reminds us that we are working with that person's potentiality for becoming other than what they are currently committed to being – this is so much preferable than working with a person's "habit of use" in the negative sense. We don't work with the habit, we work with the potentiality – and I appreciated the reminder of a lesson once learnt that I was due to hear again!

However, I also know that (for me) what lets me understand a person has some kind of ignorance, irritation or obsession operating within them—and that is causing them a harm they do not want—is the detail of my observation of their "habitual" use. Often a tiny gesture or aberration has been my only clue to uncovering a profoundly deep idea that needs undoing for a person to move into a new idea of the possibility of their Self…

And perhaps my need to do this highlights one of the key differences of my own work: rather than give the experience, I seek to introduce an experiment within a person's thinking so that they can give themselves a new experience of who they are. Tommy uses his hands to support a person "dispersing their commitment to being who they think they need to be". Tommy's idea of inhibition involves this: withholding definition of who I am committed to being to allow in new information that informs the experience I am having of me. It is a truly wonderful approach, and helps me learn another way of communicating to a student in a situation that calls for it.

However, from my side, I am still curious to find the activity that doesn't let the old habit take place—that is chosen and thought out by the student, not constructed by the intervention of my hands. This experiment is set up before my hands touch. My touch is not there to open up choice, or to allow a person to accept information other than the information that their habit is committed to, although that can certainly happen; rather my hands are there to give confidence to their new choices, to support the possibility that a person is courageously asking of themselves. We are not waiting until the confidence or support is there, we are jumping over the cliff where habit is no longer living.

Anyway, Tommy's work has been fabulously stimulating, causing me to question and re-decide about fundamental aspects of my own work: to change some of my long held ideas, to confirm others and, most importantly, to continue to allow myself to receive new information of any kind in the exciting adventure I call life!

If he comes to a theatre near you – get some tickets!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Building A Property Empire

What an exciting three weeks it has been.

My whole idea of Property Investment (PI) has been turned on its head, and I am now striking out in a new direction that joins two parts of my investing/business life into a cohesive whole. For those who don't know, I run a Studio in Tokyo (and just recently Osaka) which is bringing the discoveries of one of the 1988 Bi-centenary 200 Australians that made Australia great to the attention of the world (otherwise known as Alexander Technique).

Well, when you open a studio like this, we have to be very careful about location. Near the station, near your target demographic, right building, right atmosphere. Having picked a good location/situation, you don't mess with it when its working by moving to another location. Expanding might mean (here in Japan) opening another Studio at another station to add to the convenience of members. But never move your existing studio while the business is flowing in.

Then it slowly dawned on me - why not use the cash flow of my business to slowly build substantial equity in the longer term? Macdonalds did it that way, so that now they are the largest holders of retail Real Estate in the world. In the mid 90's it was estimated at USD $8.8 billion. Well, I don't think I can manage that, but leveraging my business to build a substantial property holding is my newest research question in the area of PI.

Of course ABC Learning adopted a similar strategy - and look what happened to them! So, like anything PI, not without it's risks, but if sensible planning, sufficient capital backing and good numbers prevail - I might have a vehicle which gets me out of this schizophrenic mind of flipping between my business (which is a passion) and PI (which is a challenge).

Any thoughts? Is there somewhere I could study up on this approach to building a business?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Self, Others and the Inbetween

In 2005 Scientific American ran an article called "The Neurobiology of the Self" by Karl Zimmer which investigated how we create a sense of self at the level of the brain itself. Here are two interesting quotes from that article:

1. Several brain regions have been found to respond differently to information relating to the self than they do to information relating to others, even to very familiar others. For instance, such regions may be more active when people think about their own attributes than when they think about the characteristics of other individuals. These regions could be part of a self-network.


2. The sight of someone being touched made her feel as if someone were touching her in the same place on her own body. She thought everyone had that experience.

That last one is a real kicker - apparently our brain has to learn how to differentiate what is "self" and what is "other", and some people get it wrong!

Of course, as a Buddhist, I am convinced that the stronger the sense of self becomes - with its selfish demands and ruthless actions to ensure them - the unhappier I become. The more I am able to consider others in the same way I consider my self, the happier I become. What is "self" anyway? It is essentially something we posit in relation to "other". I mean - I am "other" to you right? But I am "self" to me. So who is right about that? So dissolving these two is a key element in generating some kindness and compassion towards each other.

About this I often ponder an Alexander type question: How can you dissolve the sense of self by using a strong sense of self to do it? If we do it like this, aren't we are using the habit to change the habit? I don't think it can work this way. To paraphrase Alexander: Can you perceive a thing by an instrument that is already delusional?

So sometimes I work on thinking of the "inbetween" - something AT teacher Marie-Fran├žoise says she got from Buzz Gummere years ago. This "inbetween" reality I posit for myself is neither "self" or "other" - it is a world in between these two. Just as "self" and "other" are relative concepts, not consistent the way blue is consistent, then why not begin by inventing another one which takes the hardness and edge away from the original two?

The "inbetween" is what happens between us. It helps me to dissolve the sense of "your idea" and "my idea" with the notion that almost everything in my life is happening as a result of reactions to other things that are happening. With just my "self" nothing can really happen - it takes "others" to make it happen. So what I call my "self" experience is entirely dependant on the "other" things and people I am reacting to - to see it like that, not to see it as just "mine."

In my AT work this becomes very helpful (which I why I use it) in that if I begin to feel a negative emotion towards a student or myself, I understand it as a "mix" between my self and the other person right in that moment. So then it is useful to ask - hmm, what's this emotion about? How come I am feeling this now? What is going on with other person? How could I change so they could change so I could change? So the priority is focussing on them as a means of knowing my self.

Maybe it sounds a little weird written like this, but what the heck. I find it helps sometimes and I mention it only as I see that finding creative ways of slowly dissolving this strong sense of self and other is the beginning of being able to develop kindness and compassion towards each other.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Purification & Detirmination

Monday, March 9th

Purification and Determination - two things that usually occupy my every Monday morning.

The purification part starts with cleaning my office and, while I do that, thinking about things I regret and would like to do differently. From impatience with my two little girls, to one too many days sipping wine. I'm by no means a slosh, having only 3 to 4 glasses of the red on average in a week, but still I grabbed for a bottle last Tuesday much to the disdain of my 6 year old:

"Daddy - what are you doing? This isn't Daddy day or anything!"

Don't you love 'em? No beating around the bush. 6 years old and full of wisdom. So that gives me pause, I wonder. Hmmm - maybe getting tooooo carried away here? Nothing to be alarmed about, but Monday's the day to catch things before they get to crisis stage. To look at my life again and ask: am I still going in the direction I want to be going?

And then comes the determination - setting goals, both value based and S.M.A.R.T based. Setting resolve is essential. It's not saying: "These are things that I want to do." It's saying: "I will do these things. I will move in this direction." One can really understand and feel strongly that an action is the right thing to do, without really having the resolve to do it. It's the person who jumps into the sea to save the drowning person that has resolve, the ones who watch helplessly from the shore, full of the knowledge of what they know is the thing to do, are the wanters, the hopers, the would-if-I-could-but-I-am-not-sure-yet. I am always hovering about somewhere there, but...

One of my wonderful teachers Marj once recommended: "Why don't you quit hoping and do something about it?"

Mondays: purification and determination.