Have you ever found it hard to maintain your Alexander thinking?(*).   You’re going along just fine, your thinking is in good shape, then something happens and it just seems to blow your Alexander thinking way off course.

The analogy I like is the Beaufort Scale, which is a tool for measuring the strength of the wind.  It starts at 0 with complete calm.  At 4 (moderate breeze) the tree branches are waving; at 10 (storm) trees are blown down, and at the far end of the scale (12-hurricane) there is devastation at a level most of us have never seen.

The things that blow us off course and distract us from our thinking also come on a sliding scale of intensity.

At the zero end is complete peace, like that created in a lesson.  No phone calls, deadlines, emails, children, pets or cooking dinners.  You consider just one activity, maybe even only a small, manageable part of that activity.

It’s great for learning, and practising, but the real world is rarely like that.  In the real world you don’t get much below a moderate breeze.   If you’re walking you have to dodge walls, cars, dogs and other people.  If you’re using the computer it crashes or another email comes in.  And so on.  It’s a step up from the peace of a lesson, and it requires a higher level of mental discipline.

From there, the stimuli get stronger.  As you hit strong breeze there are things like other people demanding your attention, being late, tiredness, complex activities and doing many things at once.  At storm force you have things like competitions, public performances, anger, fear and illness.

It takes more mental discipline to deal with distractions higher up the scale.  More practise at sticking to the process for that activity at that level.

This is all well and good, PROVIDED you realise this scale exists(**), assign your activity its rightful place on the scale, and judge your progress accordingly.  I can imagine a universe where a student tackles a strong gale but assigns it a gentle breeze, and gets discouraged because it’s so difficult.  But you wouldn’t do that, would you?

(*) for the record, I have.  So has every other student and teacher I’ve ever talked to.
(**) FM Alexander talks about this idea, without the weather analogies.  What he actually says is,” success in gaining (their) end depends upon the manner of (their) reaction not to one, but to several stimuli of varying intensity.”    Universal Constant In Living, IRDEAT edition p.523

CNHC and ITM registered Alexander Technique teacher.

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Posted in activity, Alexander thinking, everyday life
5 comments on “DISTRACTIONS
  1. Sally says:

    I love the way you describe the Technique! I’m sharing with my AT students. . . giving credit, of course!

  2. Geetha.d says:

    Hi karen,
    you explained wonderfully about the stimulus.

    Whether Fm technique cant be explained in words?
    May be OR may not be who knows?

    It is quite surprising to me karan, that iam not able to write my experience on paper with the old idea OR With the new idea.

    Some thing iam missing while writing on paper.since, the next day what iam written and what is happening that present moment are not at all matching.

    Some times i get doubt,
    whether I(we) am thinking too much technically which is paradoxically not necessary.

    Fm told, ‘KNEES GOES FORWARD’ .

    But, iam confusion about what is knee? Where is it exactly?
    Do we know really where is elbow?
    Knees going to wards the sky , what is it?
    Elbows out?

    Do you have any information about what is the meaning of ‘KNEE’ ?

    • Hi Geetha,

      I’m wondering about the not being able to put the AT into words. Maybe it’s because you’re thinking too much, or maybe it’s because you are making such progress that your experience no longer matches your old way of explaining it. If so,it’ll take a little while for your ability to put it into words to catch up.

      About knees. The position is fairly easy to pinpoint, at least from an anatomical point of view. Bearing in mind that all joints are actually the gap between two bones, your knees are the space between the end of your femur and your tibia – ie. your upper leg bone and one lower leg bone. The easiest way to stick your finger on it is to go to the back of your leg, and then bend your knee. Where it hinges, that is the joint. From the front, if you feel your kneecap, which is the sort of round raised bit in the middle, the joint is behind that.

      The knee only moves in one direction, ie. backwards and forwards. We rarely, if ever, use the knee just by itself. It’s always used in conjunction with hip and/or ankle. It may also be important to keep clear in your mind the difference between the movement of the leg as a whole, which would result in the knee moving through space (eg. when you’re walking), and the bending of the knee joint itself.

      I’m not sure about the ‘knees go forward’, or the knees towards the sky, I’ve not encountered this. It sounds like it would be related to a particular activity.

      Hope this helps

  3. Geetha.d says:

    Thanks karen,
    for your kind information about the knee.
    I searched some of the knee pictures in the net.
    I noticed the hamstrings muscle are connected from sitbones to upper part of the tibia bone at the knee.
    I noticed keeping the head forward and up and spine up and sacrum down with the tibia(knee) forward making a good tone of the body muscles in some of the activities.
    And i noticed the same thing is happening to the elbow, and the elbow is located at upper part of the lower arm bone.

    Once again thank you for the information about the knee.

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