Thursday, 16 March 2017

Less of Your Fierce Ambition, Please

During a lesson on 25th October 1999,

MB: This work is happy work. It should make us happy to do it. 

MC:  Somebody [Malcolm Balk] told me that the best way to spread practice is to be open and joyous about it...

MB: Yes, there is an inherent growth process. One has to be patient. 

Allowing, Everything Being Connected

While standing at the beginning of a lesson on 18th June 2001,

MB:  People don't seem to realize that you can't possess a person. You have to allow..... 

It has to do with the connectedness of everything. 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

More Wisdom than We Know

During a lesson on 1st October 2001,

 MC: This morning as I sat in Zazen I was thinking how to start working on the self as an indirect procedure. "Work on the self" already sounds too direct. It seems that it has to start with some understanding or realization...

MB: Yes, we cannot begin without some understanding. 

MC: Is that what the directions are -- to bring us back to realization of what's going on within our body?

MB: Yes, that's it. "All the laws and all the prophets." It's as the Bible says, "In that is all the laws and all the prophets." 

It is not that the directions "operate"; they are to remind us to realize what is going on in there. 

The power of the indirect!

MC: What do you mean by "the power of the indirect"?

MB: It has more wisdom than we know. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

In Praise of Keeping Still

During table work (in process of not moving a leg) in a lesson on 17th November 2001 asked about how one can work in this way in Zazen...

MB: When we're moving around we don't notice, but when we keep still after a while we begin to notice. 

Human beings are built to lengthen. 

MC: Are you interested in all the nuts and bolts of lengthening -- the anatomy of the spine, reflexes, et cetera?

MB: No, not a bit!

The problem is that we try to lengthen, to lengthen more than nature allows. 
That creates a strain, a pulling down. 

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Mindfulness of the Whole

While standing, at the beginning of a lesson on 17th November 2011,

MB: Let this (hands indicating the area between the costal arch) release in the back... That's it.

MC: I don't know what I'm doing.

MB: If you knew, you wouldn't do it. 

Shortly afterwards, during table work,

MB: Release right up there (into the armpit). 
I don't know why we all hold tension there. 

MC: It must be related with pushing the costal arch forward.

MB: Yes it must. That's where inhibition comes in. 

MC: You mean as a total activity? Inhibiting a total pattern of misuse? 

MB: Yes.

It's a Long Way to Tipperary...

During table work in a lesson on 17th November 2001, while MC was preparing to make the movemet of raising a leg,

MB: Release the wrists... we feel we have to hold it somewhere... we chase it around from place to place...

MC: ... which is something other than true inhibition.

MB: Yes, doing on some level.

MC: Sometimes I wonder whether I and my contemporaries are in the right ball park at all. If end-gaining vs means whereby is an either-or situation, and what we conceive of as inhibition is not true inhibition...

MB: As years go by one becomes able to inhibit at a subtler and subtler level. 
But you are going all right. I wouldn't argue with the way you are going. 

Not Needing to Get Involved

During table work in a lesson on 6th May 2002,

MC: How do you see this work fitting in with discoveries about the unconscious?

MB: It helps one not to get too involved.

MC: Could you explain?

MB: Delving into the unconscious, one could easily get sucked down into it... FM was aware of those things but didn't feel he had anything constructive to offer in that department.

MC: He was aware of the importance of reflexes. Isn't it broadly true that AT work is about integrating conscious and unconscious elements?

MB: Yes. 

MC: It is the unconscious mind that mainly makes our big decisions in life. The directions can't decide for us directly.

MB: No, only indirectly. 

Always Happy

During table work in a lesson on 3rd June 2002,

MB: I'm sure I've told you before what FM told me when he was already an old man -- "I'm always happy."

Not Too Much of Anything

During table-work in a lesson on 27th August 2001,

MB: FM was sensible -- he did not think the work was a panacea. He thought misuse was the cause of a lot of problems, but never thought it was the only thing. 

Too much of anything is a bad thing: even Alexander Technique! 

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Sidestepping It

At the beginning of a lesson on 16th July 2001, MB praised the way MC allowed self to be directed up as body moved downwards from standing to sitting in a chair.

MC: I may be good at working out strategies to allow movements, but am I making any progress in getting to the root of holding?

MC discussed spiral asymmetry and anger and aggression probably linked to suffering testicular torsion in infancy...

MB: Holding is a way of not expressing it. You need a way of letting it go. 

MC: I used to enjoy karate training. What kind of way?

MB: This work is a way!

MB used the phrase "sidestepping it," which brought to mind tbe similar phrase "by-passing" used by Nelly Ben-Or.

MC: It goes against the grain for me to sidestep or by-pass.

MB: That [recognition] is part of the solution. 

Footnote: In retrospect, sidestepping it seems to be a practical corollary of the Buddha's teaching of emptiness. If anger does not exist as a thing unto itself, there is ultimately nothing to square up to.

What Are We Here For?

During table work on 16th July 2001,

MB: We are not here to be perfect. We are here to work.

MC: And, as you have said, the work has to be real.
What does it mean to really do the work, as opposed to kidding ourselves? Giving oneself a stimulus, saying NO, giving directions.... ?

MB: Yes, but on a deeper level being there in the moment to recognize the stimulus. 
People don't recognize a stimulus -- they just go on reacting blindly. 

Being wrong gives us the material to work on. 

The Secret of Zen for Our Time

For a chat after a lesson on 27th August 2001, Marjory remained seated on her chair while MC sat on the floor.

MC:  The Alexander Technique can easily be turned into not a little bit of nothing, but something...

MB: Yes, a feather in the cap. 

MC quoted Master Joshu saying that out of one hundred people who came to the temple, one hundred were looking for tea. In the Alexander world, similarly, people are looking for a sensory buzz. They want to come away from a lesson, not having got some more insight into a principle, but rather saying "WOW!"

MB laughed.

MB: But aren't we lucky to have this work and Buddhism? We should be so lucky! It is a source of great happiness! At least it makes me happy to do it!

For several minutes MB remained leaning forward in her chair.
MC was not sure whether MB wanted me to go. Decided to wait and trust the stillness.
After perhaps five full minutes, MB came back to the vertical and spoke of her doctor friend who thought that FM had "rediscovered the secret of Zen for our time." [See MB's 1965 Memorial Lecture]
MB remembered being at his house and admiring something on the mantlepiece. Her doctor friend gave it to her at once. 

Monday, 6 March 2017

The Whole Body Informed with Thought

On 1st October 2001, Marjory spent most of the lesson sitting on a chair by the side of the table, not putting hands on but using her voice to bring her pupil's mind  back, again and again, to the work of directing...

MB: Neck free, head forward and up, the spine to lengthen, back to widen, both knees up to the ceiling... Releasing up and out of the hip, and up and out of the ankle... Release the wrists.... Let the couch support you... Neck free, head forward and up...

MC: You don't get bored just repeating the directions over and over?

MB: No, because I am thinking them in myself! 

"The whole body informed with thought."

MC: Was that one of FM's phrases?

MB: Yes, all the good stuff comes from him!

I was very lucky. I spent so much time with FM. I was able to absorb it. 

Persisting, Deflatedly

While working with MC on the table, in a lesson on 27th August 2001.

MB: Changes in this work are so gradual. FM was a genius to have persisted in the way he did.

MC: [Expressed a doubt about getting nowhere]

MB: Alexander work won't take you in the wrong direction. The work has an in-built safety-valve. 
Working on oneself makes us aware of what we are not -- not perfect! 
That is why I say the most important quality for a teacher is humility. 
The work stops one from getting too puffed up! 

I use lessons primarily as an opportunity to work on myself. 
I try to work on myself all the time, but especially when giving a lesson. 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Saying No, Staying Back -- Not Letting Them Eat You Alive

After a lesson on 17rh October 2001,

MB: You have to be able to say NO -- otherwise they'll eat you alive! 
[Patting herself on her sternum]
One has to be able to stay back. 

Being Content to Be Wrong

In a lesson on 3rd June 2002, MC told Marjory of the Buddha's teaching known in Japanese as SHOYOKU, CHISOKU -- not wanting much, and being content.
MC asked Marjory if she saw a parallel with directing [wishing for the head to go forward and up, the back to lenghten and widen, et cetera], but not too greedily.

MB: Yes, being content to be wrong.