Monday, April 2, 2012

At a Crossroads, What to Do?

The truth is, in every single moment we are at a crossroads.  As beings endowed with free will, whenever we remember this, we realize we are faced with a choice; in fact, the choices in any given moment are infinite. Sometimes, it can seem like we have very few choices, maybe even just one, two, or three. Sometimes the choice is very unclear, and sometimes, even when we are convinced of what the "right" choice is (when we know what we really want), we still find it difficult to stick to our intention.  What to do then?

It is now nearly 5:00am, and I've been pondering this question for hours now, regarding a choice I have made that I am convinced is the "right" choice for me, and considering how I will best stick to my intention. Eventually, after considering many options, I was led here to write about it, as I so often am, since writing is an important part of my Alexander practice.

Remembering the wise words of my esteemed Alexander teacher and friend Helen Hobbs (AmSAT, Cleveland), I would like to share some of the wisdom that she has gained through her many many years of study, mainly from her teacher Patrick MacDonald, who was a student of F.M. Alexander.  Last week, I was fortunate enough to have a series of five daily lessons with Helen.

In considering the Alexander Technique, we realize again and again that we must make a decision and then hold firm to that decision, renewing it again and again in every moment.  We must pay no attention to the result; only to the means whereby we are to achieve our goal. How to do this?

By absolutely refusing to do "the usual", and aiming Up.

That is all.
So simple.
So simple that it becomes elusive and slips away as soon as we've grasped it.
And then, we remember, and we practice again, by renewing our intention and following through.

I know that I want to go Up, above all.
Nothing else is as important to me as this Goal.
Sure, there are many other ways I could put words to this Goal--infinite words, actually.  But it doesn't change the fact that my Goal is to be Up.  Part of my "usual" is to make things much more complicated than they think and think and explain and analyze and get caught up in how things feel...until I'm lost in a maze of words and thoughts and ideas and feelings...and I've completely forgotten about the essential simplicity of what I want, which is to Be Up.

So I come back to that Goal, and I say "no" to "the usual".
Absolutely NOT!
This is a very strong, powerful, essential NO, as you can see.

I stop.
I refuse to forget... I refuse to do "the usual"... I refuse with my whole being to fall into habit.

Instead, I remember to open Up.
I remember my roots, I let myself fall, I surrender to this One Idea, I give Up.
I stay with what Is.
I remember, and I aim Up, with every cell of my being.
No "doing", no forcing, no extra effort.
Just remembering, just Being, just saying Yes to Up.
This is what I want.
Nothing else.

And then I find that I'm making too much of an effort in my remembering, in my aiming, so I ease up a bit, and remember to be gentler with myself.  I soften, I have compassion, and I modify my effort.  I let up a bit on my striving.  I take a break, and I wait.  I trust that this is the right way.  And then, I begin again.

Aiming Up with clarity of intention, while refusing to do "the usual" brings me great happiness.
This is the best of Me, and this is where and how I want to live.
No doubt about it.
And the more I practice this way, the happier I become, and the stronger I become.
I know that I can stick to any specific intention when I remember to practice in this general way.

When I look at it this way, my choices are no longer overwhelmingly infinite; there is only one choice: either to continue on doing "the usual", or to stop and remember to aim Up.

Realizing the simplicity of my task now makes it easy.

May we remember to keep it simple!

* photo by Stoonn


  1. I have a rule of thumb for myself in life: Never make an important decision while upset, depressed or confused. When I'm in these deplorable states, I also use A.T. direction to remind myself what I very simply want to do that I know is positive.
    Before the strategy of catharsis became popular in psychology, people went in a direction that was positive to get out of their problems. Many psychologists would say this is merely denial, but going in a positive direction truly does surpass self-imposed limitations. The difference is gathering oneself in unity and pointing oneself holistically.
    Because you can't go in both directions at once, resolving to move in a positive direction will get away from the "slump" the extent we can move our head first and allow all of our body to follow. Essentially, it's a refresh strategy, like reloading a web page that froze.
    Then after I have made a mere move in that new way, when I consider the thorny question, it's completely another question entirely that allows me to reveal assumptions and thus gain insight.
    This is very similar to David Gorman's work in "Learning Methods."

    1. Franis, thank you so much for these thoughtful insights.
      Unfortunately, we are sometimes put in a position in which important decisions must be made despite finding ourselves in a "deplorable" state (I speak for myself); the world won't always wait for us to make a decision when we aren't ready to make it. In that case, sometimes making the decision to NOT decide is the decision we must make. Making that decision will then have an effect just like any other decision, and then we are again presented with a different stimulus to respond to--yet another new decision to make. Perhaps that is what you mean by the question then becoming another question.
      I agree that resolving to move in a positive direction is essential, not merely denial; but I think we DO go into two or more directions at once, all too often (and I think this is what you mean when you point out the need to gather oneself in unity and point oneself holistically"). Before we can go in a new, truly positive direction with our whole being, we first must choose to stop going in the first direction.

  2. Absolutely - it's possible to go in confusing different directions. Faced with either/or or all/nothing choices, people usually try heroically to answer all of our masters at once, past, habitual and current masters - and it doesn't work so well... All the panic buttons can go off at once, pulling us in all sorts of directions simultaneously, sometimes with painful consequences!

    You're right about first stopping the wrong directions. You figured out that this is what I mean by "gathering oneself" and what I think you mean by "no." Because you must "gather oneself" to say "no." (Does anyone else know other means of "gathering oneself?")) To the extent humans can say "no" with complete and holistic conviction, it makes it also possible to say "yes" in a unique, conditional manner - without the habit that limits us.

    Yes, you're absolutely right that "no" is a decision as powerful than any other - so the question can become one of timing. What will happen if we put off the decision and make it by default? How about accepting the obvious "Yes" by default? What are the factors so we can design a way to an alternative, conditional yes that meets our needs better than the obvious decision facing us? That's where constructive thinking comes together with our ability to say "no."

  3. Hi Franis,
    Actually, I don't see how it is possible to say "no" with "complete and holistic conviction" in a way that can be sustained without simultaneously giving the corresponding complete and holistic "yes". I'm not sure what you mean by a "yes" that is "unique and conditional, without the limiting habit", unless by this you are also meaning a complete and holistic "yes". I guess I see the "no" and the "yes" as being essentially the same thing; they are either both conditional (and subject to reassessment/change when conditions change) or they are both unconditional (with the intention to be permanent and independent of external/internal stimuli).

    I don't see how this kind of a complete "no" can be made "by default"; nor a complete "yes", if what you mean by "default" is a falling back into habit, without making a conscious decision. Maybe I'm misunderstanding you (words can make things quite complicated at times!).

    I love your last question: "What are the factors..." I entirely agree with you that constructive thinking is an invaluable tool to be able to get to the point where we can really say "no"/"yes".


Your comments are welcomed with an open mind and heart.