Saturday, February 18, 2012

First, Do Nothing

There was a decisive moment, years ago, when I humbly recognized that I needed more help--not just for my neck pain of several months, but for the way I was living my life.  I was immediately led to the Alexander Technique, where I quickly learned that I can't--and don't have to--do everything; in fact, I must learn to do nothing!

To my utter astonishment, my AT teacher, Erik Bendix ( simply accepted me, just as I was.  He let me be me, he let me be human, he didn't try to fix me or change me, and he willingly accompanied me into the darkness that we all face when we take a good look at our unhelpful habits of living.  He didn't accept me because of how I looked, or because of my talents, it was just because I was me--no different from anyone else. My teacher helped me see that I needed to stop, and go in a different direction.  This was exactly the kind of help I needed, and I have continued onwards in the new direction he showed me, ever since.  He didn't even use many words...the few that he used were enough to give me abundant, rich food for thought--for a lifetime.

I remember one lesson in particular.  I got off the table, thinking, "This is amazing. What a beautiful profession my teacher has...  I could never do this!"  And, here I am, a successful Alexander Technique teacher.  (I consider myself successful because I am one!)  It feels like the Alexander Technique has taught me how to achieve the "impossible".  And it has happened, many times over.

This first AT teacher taught me so many things.  This one I will always remember:
Whenever I ask myself, "What should I do?" the answer is ALWAYS: "First, do nothing."
Of course, that "do nothing" can certainly look like activity on the outside!  It's more about an inner attitude.

There are so many choices, so many decisions, infinite possibilities.  How on earth could little "me" know what would be the very best thing to do in any situation?  It is obvious to me that I am not the Doer, and I am not the Knower--even though I know that both the Doer and the Knower are within and part of Me!

"Doing nothing" is so much more than it seems! It is very far from collapse or indifferent hardening.
"Doing nothing" means, in part, giving up trying to control, to know, or to fix what seems wrong.

It means:

I don't and can't know, so I give up trying to know.
I can't control, so I give up controlling.
I can't be perfect, so I give up trying.
I can't fix myself or anyone, so I give up interfering.

Only after I stop this kind of "doing", can something new--more in accordance with my best intentions--occur.

What I CAN "do"/think, are the following:

I know where I want to go, and that is up.
I know I'm made to go there.
I trust the design of myself, and of the world.
I trust the Designing Principle.
I know there is order, so I allow it to be.
I know IT will work everything out by ITself.
I know if I get out of my own and everyone's way, things will work exactly as designed, exactly as necessary.
If I stop interfering, I WILL go up,
And my true Self will show Itself.

I cannot change anyone else,
but I can aim to be Myself, and let this Self shine.
I can only BE that which I AM,
And that is all I can offer to those around me.
The best Presence of the Self is always here,
Whether we are aware of It or not.
And I trust--yes, I know!--that deep inside,
There are others who ARE aware,
And that whatever is "done" or "not-done" with awareness helps.

So all I can "do" is to lend my presence
And keep myself free of interference.
That presence, the Essence of the Self, is made of Pure Love,
And THAT is what those who are suffering need.

My friends, you are THAT, too!  So do not forget!!!
You have exactly what everyone wishes for and needs most, within you!!!
Don't cover it up with fear or worry, though sometimes that is terribly hard!!!
Don't shut down, don't close yourself off,
Refuse to succumb to the habit which hides YOU, the Self,
No matter what form you take on today.

It is in our nature to shine out what is Real,
To give what comes through us,
To see the Self in all and to LOVE ALL.

You can hear the Self best when your mind is silent. more thing...
Don't TRY to silence the interfering chatter of the mind.
Simply have the intention,
Leave your thoughts alone,
And return to non-doing and simply Being.

I am forever grateful to all of my life-teachers,
yet I know that the best Teacher is the Self within.


  1. In Guitar Craft we have an aphorism - Do Nothing as much as possible.

  2. You are, of course, right.

    The problem with "doing nothing" does, however, come with an inherent problem, and it's precisely the problem Alexander identified in The Use of the Self when he attempted to combine "doing nothing" with "doing" - ie that all of us do have to do "something".

    As Alexander teachers it's very difficult for us to disabuse pupils of the idea that the solution lies merely in doing nothing before they then go on to do something, as if the inhibitory directions were some kind of set-up for doing what they were going to do anyway, only better.

    "Thinking in activity" is, in that sense, something of a quantum leap in a world where all activity, from merely lifting a finger (and on up), requires effort, requires doing.

  3. Yes, I agree...'non-doing' combined with 'doing', or 'thinking in activity' is like making a quantum leap away from the habitual world of effortful doing, and it is a real challenge to communicate this to a student! F.M. called 'doing' a "terrible habit", and he said that, " is to this principle of non-doing that we have to look in the future for the real change that is to take place in human behavior" (Articles & Lectures, p. 147). He goes on to explain that, when he teaches a student, he first needs to get the student to the point where he is willing to "do nothing" (in the sense of refraining from the activity of sitting down, by saying "no" and refusing to do anything at all); and THEN he teaches the students to THINK the guiding orders/directions for himself which will coordinate the movement when he decides to move. Then, movement can occur by thinking in activity, just as you say, not by "doing" in the usual sense. Thanks so much for your input!


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