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.

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