Monday, March 18, 2013

W12.01 Why I Believe BodyChance will Become a Billion Dollar Company

One thing Alexander Technique teachers have not done very well over the last century is to learn to work together. Why is that? I have many theories, no real answers, but I can not find any compelling reason not to do that. I can find many compelling reasons to work together.

The overriding reason is that banded together, a group of teachers have what I call economic muscle. They can implement business, marketing and sales systems whose complexity would defeat all but the most ardent practitioner of the money-making arts.

Why would you need to do that? Well take a look at the historical success rate of Alexander Technique teachers in the market place. It is abysmal. Today, Alexander’s passionate vision of transforming education and the health of human society has withered away, leaving in its wake a profession which continues on largely on the fringe, a profession whose members overall are about as much in demand as the actors who wait tables in New York.
A significant number of you who undertook the three years of teacher education have not created a full-time career teaching: you struggle to find pupils; some of you have made this their ‘hobby’; some of you still think of it as your ‘vocation’ – but you kept your day job; some of you cleverly co-opt it into your original career. Compared to the numbers who have trained, precious few occupy their lives as full-time professionals. In over 100 years—is this all we can manage? It is deeply disappointing to me.

I believe something is wrong with this picture. If Alexander’s discoveries are of such significance—and as I wrote previously, I agree with Walter Carrington in rating Alexander's discoveries with those of Einstein and Newtown—then why do Alexander’s discoveries continue to wallow in obscurity? Why does “The Alexander Technique” mostly manifest in our society today as an also-ran amongst a plethora of modern day mind or body techniques? Pilates, Yoga – most consumers have heard of these, but much less frequently have they heard of Alexander Technique. Why are others doing so well, while the discoveries of Alexander, who Aldous Huxley described as “the father of the non-verbal humanities in the Western world,” do so poorly?

The answer, I believe, is contained within a nascent 21st century question that is beginning to intrude into some Journals of modern day science, namely: “What is human consciousness?” Today there is a coalition of scientific disciplines, collected together under the general denominator  of “cognitive science”, that is beginning to challenge the prevailing materialistic view of our world by asking difficult and currently unanswered questions about the true nature of human consciousness.

If the 20th century was all about discovering the nature of matter, then I predict the 21st century will be about discovering the nature of consciousness. But this is an altogether different scientific problem, requiring an altogether different methodology to explore it. The idea that knowledge can exist separately from the person possessing it, which lies at the heart of our modern day research and education edifice, is now being challenged by many mainstream scientists.

It begins with the emerging discovery by medical science that our mind, in mysterious and unexplained ways, has the power to influence the health of our bodies: through prayer, through meditation, through mere thought alone.

In 1967 the Harvard Medical School began conducting experiments to detirmine the effects of meditation on our well being, and have since evolved a theory of a ‘Relaxation response’ as a counterfoil to the “fight or flight” response we have to stress. The mechanism remains unexplained, but if one follows a certain procedure, its effect can be reproduced every time. That sounds very familiar!

Alexander’s work is situated within this emerging coalition of scientists, all working to bring legitimacy to a branch of scientific research once dismissed as too ‘soft and fussy’ to be taken seriously. The atom, after all, can explode. What can human consciousness do? Bend spoons?

Rachel Zahn has proposed the idea that the first world war, with its devasation of an entire generation of male youth, coupled with shattering the illusion of an advanced, intelligent civilization, nipped in the bud the blossoming movement led by such Western thinkers as William James and John Dewey, and instead ushered in an era of behaviouralism, which only began to be discredited in the mid-fifities. Interestingly, as scientists begin returning to these questions, Alexander’s name keeps popping up in old literature!

A New Way to Physically Calibrate Consciousness
Every new scientific advance of our understanding of reality needs an innovation of observation, a new instrument from which to see the world afresh, so that data previously collected but not apprehended coherently, can be re-interpreted within a radical new context. Sometimes this new innovation is an object, such as a telescope, sometimes it is a new idea, such as “the earth is round”.

Alexander’s work offers scientists exactly this kind of observational innovation. Alexander’s simple discovery of a governing relationship between head and spine, which in turn integrates other bodily systems is so simple, it is breathtaking. It explains and organises data in a way that has not been possible before, offering a previously unknown, but now unparralled mechanism for consistently and reliably calibrating the condition of our mental and physical health.

Alexander teachers spend all their time exploring this simple discovery in lessons: how it affects your physical pain and discomfort, your capacity to breath, your ability to move, your relationships with others, your ability to think, play an instrument, do sports, recover from an injury. It’s applications are infinite.

Alexander lessons practically demonstrate that the origin of this dramatic mechanism—that has such a global, systemic effect on every aspect of our living—originates within the field of our human consciousness. It originats within the way we think.

Is thought or consciousness a material thing? If it isn’t, what exactly is it? What kind of relationship does this mechanism of consciousness—so demonstratably ‘there’—have with the known material world? These are the kind of questions that cognitive scientists are beginning to ask.

Underlying these questions is a fresh premise: nothing exists independently from you. Although simple, I am sure you don’t think like that. I am sure that you, like me, have been brainwashed into believing that there are things that exist, and can be measured and objectively understood, separately from my own subjective consciousness of that perception. All materialistic science and research is premised on this dubious assertion of independently existing phenomena.

Or at least this was the case until Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle” hit the scholarly airwaves. He proposed the preposterous idea that the person observing the phenomena affected what was being observed. What happened to “objective” science, with its idea of independently existing absolutes? From that day, this “absolutes” view of the world started to crumble, and another “relatives” view began emerging to take its place.

The evolving scientific methodology to explore this view, elegantly proposed by Varella, does not go along with the idea that there is separate “objective knowledge” that can be ascertained independently of the person ascertaining it. Instead this new methodology assumes that the subject, the experimenter and the objective results—measureable by 'hard science' are in a relative relationship; therefore no result of an experimental process can be considered valid unless there is an account of all these factors within that result. If you think about it, that's a pretty radical idea.

This is exactly how you are exploring in an Alexander lesson. Your lesson is an experiment in consciousness, as applied to the problem of the neuro-muscular ‘co-ordination’ of your system to do ‘things’. When I use the words ‘co-ordination' and ‘things’ I mean them in the widest sense: not just how you move from A to B, but how you problem-solve, how you relate to others, how you handle a crisis, how you breathe. In every instance, ‘something’ is responsible for co-ordinating your activity.

That ‘something’ is your consciousness: a poorly understood phenomena that sits at the heart of everything we do, yet until now has inspired only passing interest within the confines of conventional scientific research. It is an 'eel' of modern science, something that is so ubiquitous it slips away every attempt to investigate it. 

This is what Alexander researched; this is the subject of your every lesson in the Alexander Technique. Lessons demonstrate conclusively that the cognitive manipulation of this energetic phenomena can yield immediate and dramatic results.

As we all know, when you have an Alexander lesson, you can experience significant and amazing new discoveries about the nature of your being. For you, the information will be specific, effective, original and almost revolutionary. Then you leave your lesson and try to explain to your friend what happened.

You can’t: there are no specific exercises to describe. There is nothing special that you did. It is easy to describe what you do in a yoga class, or a Pilates class, or during your gym training, or while getting a healing of some kind: it is almost impossible to do the same for your Alexander class…

“What do you do in your lesson?”

“Oh, I sat in chair. Then I stood up again. Then I sat down again.”

“Oh really?”

“But it was amazing! I learnt so much.”

“I see.”

If scientific researchers have avoided the question of how to understand and organize human consciousness for so long—because it is so hard to get a handle on—is it so surprising that mainstream society has difficulty in appreciating Alexander’s discovery? Or that we are so clumsy in our attempts to communicate it?

Scientific discovery usually leads the consumer to new things, so if serious scientific research into Alexander’s discoveries is hardly even underway, is it any wonder Alexander’s work has proved so unsuccessful in gaining a significant following in the market place?

Which is a very long-winded explanation of why you struggle to explain this work, why it hasn’t rushed to the top of the popularity charts. Alexander is industrial, and industrial businesses need capital, deep research, long-term investment and visionary strategic planning – usually the kind of thing Governments do. Like building a railway line, or a national network of expressways for cars.

So if our work is ever to take the role it inevitable must – we need to band together, pool our resources and invest our lives in creating the entity that we can not wait for governments to catch up. BodyChance is my answer to that problem, and this week I will be inviting you to participate in my outrageous experiment to take our work towards a place it deserves to live.

Next I will share a real life example of this journey now happening in Japan. Then I will invite you into a relationship with BodyChance. I have a reasonable amount of cash available to me, and I want to invest it in your business. Convince me that you have a plan, based on the 12 Point Plan I am teaching, and I will invest in your business.

Stay tuned!

TOMORROW: The Ballet Girls – Leaders Of A New Niched BodyChance Business in Tokyo.

NOTE: This post is a re-edited version of the Preface to the Second Edition of my book “Principles of the Alexander Technique” which was re-published by Singing Dragon Press. Please tell your students about it! And write a review on Amazon for me. Thanks!

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