Sensation – How to regard it?

If we wish to improve habits of posture, movement, or breathing we can not rely exclusively on sensation! Sensation on its own is a dead end. If you think about it, it is clear that your habitual way of inhabiting yourself feels normal. Yet your characteristic norm may encompass compensatory (mal)adaptations to old injuries, or other on-going (mal)adjustments, that generate pain, strain or even injury, ie mis-use. This is normal – we each end up with our own quite individual way of using ourselves, and this is what each of us works with. Yet, despite the fact that our particular pattern is ours alone and is some sort of development from our Use as young children, and that it feels normal, any Alexander Technique teacher can demonsrate that it probably represents something of a departure from what is natural, easy or strain-free. In other words there is a gap between what you think you are doing and what you are actually doing.

The sensation or experience of yourself associated with your habitual “normal” way of using your self is thus suspect – we all become completely habituated to our habitual way of being in ourselves – even when it is demonstrably strained or distorted or tense etc. It still feels “normal”! So relying on our sensation is the same as relying on a measure which is calibrated to a norm which we don’t want! I.e. it is not reliable.

So what do we use as a guide, if our sense register is not to be relied upon? We use as clear a picture as we can create, of where we want to be. This means using a concept of what is possible, a wish, an intent, a desire. It means deliberately seeing yourself releasing your neck and allowing length and space as you reach for the salt or answer the phone. Your Alexander directions are an expression of an intent and a possibility.

You are unlikely to avoid sensation and this would be a mistake. You can use sensation incidentally, in a detached, disinterested way. I.e. you don’t want to be attached to a particular sensation, or to getting a particular sensation. This would be limiting of further development and would mean that you are no longer in the zone of open possibilities – you would not be giving your directions, but rather trying to feel something out. So rather than feeling stuff out, work with your directions in a detached way, observe any sensation in a detached way, but not actively rummaging for sensation. If you are rummaging, you are not in the zone of potential change, but rather stuck in unproductive sensing.

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