The other day I moved my bag from the floor, onto a pile of blankets, which were on a chair.
I did this so that I would have room to lie on the floor as part of my daily Alexander technique.
I lay down and thought no more about the bag I had placed on the chair.
My routine involves a lengthy period of lying still without external distractions.
Occasionally I move limbs into different positions to allow gravity to perform different stretches.
Having done this for about eight years now my awareness is quite finely tuned to register all the subtle changes that occur in my body while I’m doing this.
It’s very absorbing as a result.
At some point my bag fell forward slightly.
It seemed stable when I put it down but after a while it had fallen forward for no apparent reason.
Nothing I could easily discern had changed and yet it had moved.
Seemingly on its own.
Then it didn’t do anything else…
then it did it again…
…but not as much.
Seemingly on it’s own.
The reality is that a huge number of things had been going on.
Cause and effect had been taking place.
The weight of the bag, the angle I had put it down at, the properties of the surface it was resting on and so on were all slaves to gravity.
The fact that all these elements were interacting beyond my perception did not mean that they weren’t taking place.
Having happened once I was the attuned to the possibility of it happening again. I EXPECTED it to happen again. Eventually it did. Not at a time I was able to predict or as much as the first time though. I had witnessed a result but had no comprehension of the factors operating that caused the result. As such it was a kind of mindless if briefly stimulating blip to me. I enjoyed seeing the result but was not involved in the processes leading up to it. I couldn’t personally replicate it.
It seems to me a lot of people approach education like this. Some surprising or pleasing result appears, seemingly out of nowhere, everyone gets excited and says “Do it again, do it again”. But little attention is paid to how the result was arrived at. Then when either it doesn’t happen again, or does but isn’t bigger and better, there’s a feeling of disappointment and interest wanes.
I think of those people that can balance stones. That looks like magic to me. I understand vaguely that it’s probably something to do with centre of gravity but I can’t do it. That doesn’t mean I think I couldn’t learn to do it, or that I think it genuinely is magic, but I’m aware that I’m not motivated and won’t learn to do it. It will remain looking like magic to me.
When I started studying Alexander I didn’t have any comprehension of what I was getting into.
I had RSI. I was in pain. I wanted it to stop.
At first I made progress during lessons. Being shown directly by someone else what the likely causes of my pain were and what to consider to relieve them helped. The relief would last for a while and then the pains would gradually return – apparently for no reason. I’d need to go back after about three weeks to repeat and gradually expand my understanding of the process.
The real reason my pains returned was because all my existing habits would reassert themselves and the new information would fade from my mind.
Learning to focus on that process meant that gradually I could learn to control it. The results would become more predictable and therefore manageable. In this instance I’m glad it doesn’t seem like magic to me.
As a musician I’m flattered to be praised on my playing ability or compositions from time to time. Usually it’s along the lines of :
“That’s amazing, you have a natural talent”.
“Well, I’ve worked hard at it for a long time. Hopefully I keep getting better”
“Yes, but you have to be talented to start with”
“Well, there’s patterns to everything – it’s never too late to learn”
“No, I could never do what you do”
I usually give in around then.
A habit of believing you will be unable to learn is a hard thing to beat.
On the other hand…
Deciding that you are happy to stop enquiring before you see past the magic is an ok position too.
Ideally you should be aware that it’s a choice you can make between the two
If you really want to learn something you need to accept that results happen. Results can be desirable or undesirable depending on your point of view. Understanding why and how to achieve or avoid them can be much more important than what eventually happens.