Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Transformational Strucuture #8


My mother loved to call me “The muddle-headed wombat” because my ideas, plans and intention shifted around like leaves in a hurricane. What I have learnt is that being muddle-headed is fine, providing you have a clear vision driving it. In fact, with clarity, muddle headedness can work to you advantage. How’s that? Well, here’s my story…

Three years ago on a bullet train in Japan—on my way to teach in Tokyo while reading a book on leadership by Pat Mesiti—I decided to open a BodyChance studio in Sydney. I had no idea how I was going to achieve that—at the time it seemed enough that I had the clarity of my intention.

I kept that clarity, organised my life around it, and finally arrived back home in January of 2010 to launch my new project. Needless to say, for those who follow my blog, it did not turn out the way I intended. It’s rare that anything does. The divide between conception and reality is never greater when bringing to life non-existent things. Luckily, BodyChance Sydney is no longer non-existent! I have two wonderfully clear and committed companions that breath life into my evolving project.

So I have a school, the same intention, but a wonderful variety of different plans. That’s my muddle-headed part. This is the message to take from reading to-day’s excerpt of my essay on transformational learning structure: intention manifests multiple possibilities—if you are stuck in one path you won’t learn. My continuing journey to create a hugely successful college of BodyChance Alexander Technique Teacher Education in Sydney continues, but it continues in ways I never imagined on my fast-moving train of three years ago. Every day a new piece falls in, every day an old piece falls out.

To realise the creation of something that did not exist before you conceived it, you need a vision of razor sharp clarity, a huge intention of ‘no-matter-what’ and an ability to think creatively on your feet, “to turn on a dime” as the Americans say. My mum called it being “muddle-headed”, I call it creativity.

Alexander had all that, and applied it in just the way I have described above. This is how great transformation in your self and in Society happens. Read it, then please: plan to change the world!



It is clear when you read Chapter 1 of Use of the Self that there was a long period when Alexander knew what he needed to do, but simply couldn't do it. Actually, this kept repeating itself over and over until finally he reached the final Stage 3 of the learning process. The first instance happened like this:

"I now believed I had found the root of the trouble, for I argued that if my hoarseness arose from the way I used parts of my organism, I should get no further unless I could prevent or change this misuse.

When, however, I came to try to make practical use of this discovery, I found myself in a maze. For where was I to begin? Was it the sucking in of breath that caused the pulling back of the head and the depressing of the larynx? Or was it the pulling back of the head that caused the depressing of the larynx and the sucking in of breath? Or was it the depressing

of the larynx that caused the sucking in of breath and the pulling back of the head?"

In this passage, you can see how his intention is clear, he is focused on testing a whether his idea of the cause is correct or not. This research focus then threw up a lot of questions that needed 'testing' so that is the process Alexander entered into…

"As I was unable to answer these questions, all I could do was to go on patiently experimenting before the mirror."

Time passes, his understanding evolves, and then he reaches a new point with a more comprehensive theory of what needs to be done…

" It is impossible to describe here in detail my various experiences during this long period. Suffice it to say that in the course of these experiments I came to notice that any use of my head and neck which was associated with a depressing of the larynx was also associated with a tendency to lift the chest and shorten the stature."

After further testing, he finally comes to a new stage…

"Having got so far, I considered I should now be justified in attempting to put these findings into practice. To this end I proceeded in my vocal work to try to prevent my old habit of pulling my head back and down and lifting the chest (shortening the stature), and to combine this act of prevention with an attempt to put the head forward and up (lengthening the stature) and widen the back. This was my first attempt to combine "prevention" and "doing" in one activity, and I never for a moment doubted that I should be able to do this, but I found that although I was now able to put the head forward and up and widen the back as acts in themselves, I could not maintain these conditions in speaking or reciting."

He carries on this way for a long period of time, slowly coming to a clear and comprehensive understanding of the co-ordination necessary to overcome his hoarseness, which is the second step of Stage 2: formulating a comprehensive and final understanding of what needs to be done…

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Transformational Structure #7


I’m having fun reading my own seminar notes!

If you want to have fun, don’t just read it—live it. That’s what I am doing in my journey to discover a way to create another thriving, successful BodyChance in Sydney: employing lots of people, getting great media attention, lifting the work into the minds of consumers in the same way that Yoga and Pilates have already managed. Everyone will benefit, but BodyChance will be ahead of the pack. THAT’S the plan.

So, now it is time for Testing. For experimenting with my ideas. And I am learning (from myself) that I need to let go of stuff. And “stuff” can be people, ideas, circumstances that are not inducive to my vision. Oh dear. So who gets fired? No-one really, I just hire new people around me, and the space is gone for other things. All those behavioural distractions that do nothing but mask the creeping despair… Well forget that! Here’s what I wrote to a colleague about that in an email recently:

“I know the drill - it is hard to lift yourself into the new life while surrounded by the old. I am learning clearly these days that the associations you have are integral to the direction you are going in. To shift that direction comes internally first, but it can be facilitated by consciously re-engineering the outer. That's hard to do with family and long-time friends, but sacrifices come in many forms for great achievement. It just depends how obsessive you are, and what you want to accomplish.”

So how do you “re-engineer” the outer? Well, every 2nd Wednesday: Philadelphia, Sydney, Mudgee and me all Skype about lifting our business game. On every Friday too. And now a local friendship that could evolve into a regular thing (if N is reading this – come on! Email me and we’ll toss around ideas over a coffee in that beautiful place of yours!).

So that’s what the practical application of my episode is about today. To be honest, my article feels rather dry and academic to me now. I think I was trying too much to show “I know something.” Oh poo to that. Sorry it is not so clear, but by the evidence of my own life—there are nuggets of gold if you actually do what I analyzed is necessary to transform your life…




From the Stage 1 of the work (i.e. The Wisher who Gathers Information and Finds Meaning In It) you will have discovered new ideas that can be tested in real life situations: how valid is this idea? Will it make any difference to me? By testing your current understanding in a practical way, you gradually come to a clearer recognition of your reality – what is the actual basis of the obstacle to my wish?

Another word for a 'testing' is 'experimenting', but what is an experiment? Generally speaking, it is a controlled observation. So essentially this step of 'testing' is no different from the step of 'researching' in Stage 1. However, the difference is that now you have a much clearer focus, you have a clearer idea of what you are testing. You have definite controls in place and you have a clearer focus for gathering information than you had previously.

Going on from that, in an Alexander sense, an experiment involves giving up something. At a behavioural level, it often means some kind of sacrifice on our part. Harking back to my own habit of drinking, in the end I gave up not only alcohol, but an entire way of living. Friends, social engagements, regular places – my whole daily living pattern changed, and most of the change was about losing what I had, not trying to make something new. The new life followed the loss of the current one. Only after I had stopped doing what I had been doing, did some new kind of behaviour start evolving.

So pupils will have lots of patterns of being that are very entrenched, that feel very much part of who they are. The shy person, if they truly decide to move their whole head and body while asking their boss for a raise, may feel too arrogant and overbearing when they first go about 'testing' this new co-ordination. But they understand that this unusual feeling is all part of how they can realize their wish to be more assertive and clearer in asking for what they want.


In working with each person, you need to understand when a person is at Stage 2 in their own process; understand that they are ready to make a decision to work with themselves. You can be rigorous with them, help them see that only they can do what is necessary for change to happen. Insist on their autonomy by giving less support with your hands, more guidance cognitively. Remember – you are primarily teaching them how to act within a process of change.

Many people do come to us at Stage 2 – they already recognise that something is wrong, they have already gathered a lot of information about it, and have many ideas about what to do. So far they have been unsuccessful – visiting you is another step in their Stage 1 plan of researching their problem.

Mostly, these people are lacking knowledge of primary control and choice (inhibition) in relation to their wish. With only a few simple demonstrations, they may quickly embrace the new ideas and start changing quickly. It is wonderful to find students like this! Their wish is already strong – if not, they would not be ready for Stage 2 of the learning plan. You don't need to work with their 'Wisher', you need to work with their 'Decider'.

However, the student who thinks they are already at the end of Stage 2 (as opposed to the beginning) is a different proposition. They 'already know' what is wrong and they have already formulated their own solution. They may be coming to seek help implementing their own faulty methodology, rather than take on a whole new way of seeing their problem. Then it's clear you have to take them back to Stage 1, and convince them to use their wish as a force to understand their problem in a new way, not as a force to dismiss Alexander's discoveries. We have all had pupils who love to continuously 'argue' for their own point of view, blocking any new learning that might come about. If instead you can introduce the concepts of primary control as a positive inhibitory influence on co-ordination and behaviour, and demonstrate their effectiveness in relation to their wish, you will have succeeding in getting them into the learning plan you are advocating.

There can be many games and processes that lead the students into testing out these new ideas. This stage of the workshop assumes they have knowledge of the basics, that what they are doing now is learning how they can apply this in their daily activities.

Ideas here may be spending one whole session going through the stages of a day, and all the activities that you do. Each student picks something they do every day, and the teacher goes through that with everyone, illustrating the kind of experiments that each person could be doing on their own between lessons.


Can you devise fun and creative ways for students to understand their thinking processes? By understanding what is going on with the student, are you able to set up a situation that leads them to discover things without being told?

Basically our job is simple: analyse a person's use while in activity, work with them on finding a means to change it, then offer them whatever support they need to make that change until they are ready to be on their own.

The key here is that you don't want to do the students' work for them: you want to find ways that they can learn for themselves.

NEXT TIME: Alexander’s process and how he transformed his world with it. And ours eventually too!