Not So Certain – What Can We Learn From Each Other?

Bruce Fertman, charming man and terrific Alexander teacher, has written a piece called ‘Constructive Doubt’.
I like what Bruce says, and I wanted to pick up on the word ‘rifts’ as I think this is an important issue in our AT community. Is the word ‘rifts’ helpful?
Certainly there are differences among AT teachers roughly according to lineages.
‘Vive les differences!’ say I.
‘Vive les differences’, with an attitude of humility. ‘My way’ is certainly not the only way. I teach in the way that I have been taught and learnt (starting over 40 years ago); and I teach in the way that my own work has evolved during those years. My goal is to maintain an attitude of not-knowing. I have learnt a huge amount from other teachers since qualifying from my very traditional training as an AT teacher. They include teachers from all AT lineages and others. Bruce, I remember being beguiled by your words at a talk you gave in Sydney in 1994. I still assume that I do not have the whole AT picture. I have enough to be able to help a lot of people, to teach them useful skills and a less fixed way of looking at themselves and the world. And I am still learning and having a ball. And I would still regard myself as a fairly ‘conservative’ teacher, if ‘conservative’ means sticking to basic principles. (Yes, cue question here…)
Emphases vary between traditions and between teachers. You can only teach out of your own experience. (This is where ‘rifts’ started – all the 1st gen were teaching out of their own experience, which necessarily were not identical). We mustn’t harden into any sort of position, least of all, one that you got from someone else. So it make sense to both deepen and to widen your experience. My own strong preference, and what I have encouraged in my trainees, is to do this after you have thoroughly steeped yourself in ONE tradition, mindful that it is not the only way, and mindful that other traditions may have pieces that yours does not articulate as clearly.
Here is a metaphor (geography buffs, please allow me some license – it is a metaphor, not a map!:
In the 1400’s and 1500’s traders sailed east around Africa to reach the Spice Islands in the East Indies. It took a lot of time for someone to try sailing west. Eventually it was realized that you could reach the same islands by sailing either east or west – same destination, different route. Main thing was, keep sailing! Certainty about the ‘right’ way to get there was shifted.
For Alexander teachers, keep teaching, with less certainty, out of Bruce’s ‘constructive doubt’, and stay curious. We can learn from one another.