Qualities of Attention

Part of what you are practicing with learning Alexander Technique is a new way of using your attention and thinking. If you remember back, it was a little overwhelming when you first learned to blow a now-favorite musical instrument or when you learned to drive a car. As you practice, new ways become much easier to sustain, no matter how strange it felt when you began.

write down your wishes and leave them hereMost people favor a certain way of using their attention and exaggerate it because it is the only attention style they know. There are many variations on applying attention. Perhaps now your attention works somewhat like a searchlight or field glasses – whatever you direct your attention to takes up all the capacity you have. If that were the case, a great deal of effort would be required to redirect this kind of all-absorbing attention. The same would be true of having a butterfly-like attention span of only a few moments. Your ability to appropriate the quality of your attention is stuck – no matter what the pattern it’s stuck in.

The brand of attention that the use of A.T. cultivates could be described as a widening of the field of what is going on at one time; a multi-tasking ability. You also learn to shift your attention lightly, easily and precisely. These are qualities that most people find unusual.

Secretly, there are also more effective and strategic moments for when to apply the process of A.T. rather than just generally whenever you can remember to do it. Some people find that a little thought to making what you’re doing easier is best applied before intending to act. Try experimenting as you start moving and during pauses as you continue doing the action. The preventive strategy behind this works because once a habit starts and assumes full control, it is more difficult to stop it. So the way you start what you are doing determines how you are able to continue doing it.


Naturally Beautiful Use

Rarely, some grownups have “full Alexander ease” in every
move they make, without studying Alexander Technique
or ever knowing about it.


I’ve developed an eye for spotting those people. They stand out like beacons in a crowd for me, well, especially if they’re carrying something on their heads. I make a point of getting to know them, if they’ll let me and if I can.

However, being able to do something for yourself, and being able to teach someone else how to do it for themselves is a separate skill. Most of those people with beautiful innate effortlessness have no idea why other people do not have as easy of a time learning to do things as they do. They can make lousy teachers.

I have watched some people with great natural use go
into the A.T. training program. Their biggest challenges
were to learn how to communicate and to use their
attention, observation & compassion. It was still a long
learning process for them to become teachers – even
though they had “great hands” from the start.

Some of the best A.T. teachers that I’ve had lessons
from or worked with were those who were wounded or
misused themselves and recovered. These teachers had
much motivation, appreciation and compassion about the
issues involved in traveling toward mastering their “use.”
Some had to come a long way into becoming more
functional, perhaps much farther than another trainee who
starts teacher training without being in pain from “misuse.”

A.T. is not a perfected bone structure ideal or ideal
formula of “how to move.” AT is about how to move toward
ways that are easier for you from wherever you are now at.
Someone with twisted bone structure can still do that well
enough to teach. A.T. has been taught from a wheelchair.
Otherwise, professional associations for A.T. would only
allow teachers to join who were a “perfect example” of
an ideal physical specimen.

For some, standards of excellence increase in relation
to percieved differences as you improve. That’s why
teachers often discuss how far they have come and some
deplore how far they have yet to go. Turns out that
it doesn’t matter if people never arrive at the
transcendant goal of improving their use absolutely
because, the important part is they’re on the path.

What’s wrong with making statement like, “I’ve learned
that?” Does that statement necessarily imply an end to
learning? How would you know the relative truth of
that statement if you haven’t met in person whoever
said that?

Good use isn’t all that rare to spot, once you learn
to notice it. The other day I had to be driving slow
past someone squatting on a construction road worksite
who was measuring something. I watched this worker
come up off his heels from the ground to standing in
the most beautiful way – and squat down again. He must
have done that move a hundred times a day. He found
the easiest way to do it on his own.

Was it in Direction magazine that I read about the men
who work as porters in India who work 10 hr. days in
constant “monkey?” Some chiropractor did x-rays of
these men in this profession and found that most of
them had no spinal degrading that starts in Westerners
after age 18 – even though these porters were over forty!

It’s very rare in our society that people would want
to and do sustain good use in how they move – but some
people can do just that, whether they learn it or do
it naturally.