Are you Driving your Car? (The audio version of this post is also available just below.)
When teaching The Alexander Technique, I notice how amazed people often are that a small change in the way they think about movement can create a whole new experience of how to move.
This is true, for example, of how many people think ( consciously or unconsciously) about movement at the hip joint. They operate from an assumption that the hip joint is much higher in the body than is, in fact, the case. You try on a pair of trousers in a shop and your ‘hip’ measurement is actually across the top of the pelvis. Consciously think of the hip joint ( ball and socket) being at the very top of the leg instead, and then walk with this new idea in mind, and your experience may well change to that of a long back and very short legs. The new experience does not match the old one!
As people adopt new ways of thinking about movement, movement itself can become much easier. They actually start to feel better. One Alexander Technique student commented:
‘I haven’t felt this good since I was taking ecstasy!’
(I did momentarily wonder whether ‘ Alexander Technique for rehab.’ was perhaps a new marketing opportunity but I didn’t pursue it!)
Thinking is much more powerful than we realise. Look at the chemical factory that can go on in your body, all linked to your thinking. When you get stressed about someone or something, your levels of chemicals such as cortisol, adrenalin and histamine are elevated. Stay stressed in this way for long enough and it can lead to a build up of free radicals and inflammatory cytokines. You actually produce stress on a chemical level in your brain and blood stream – the kind of chemicals that play a role in heart disease and ageing. Your body will not be grateful to you for this kind of treatment!
Thinking loving thoughts, instead, elevates levels of chemicals like dopamine and serotonin – keep thinking in a loving way and you increase oxytocin in your bloodstream, clearing away damaging free radicals and cytokines. Instead of injuring yourself, you impact your health in a favourable way and your body really benefits. And you do all of this with your mind!
Habitual, uncontrolled thinking, then, can be downright unhelpful, if not, at times, dangerous.
Take this a step further and look for a moment at prevailing ‘thinking’ and how it manifests in the world we live in. Look at the imbalance between rich and poor; consider what most nations spend their money on ( do we as a planet really need so many weapons?) Is it really OK to have so many people in the world without the basics of food, shelter, water?
What would it take to change things? It would take a change in the way we think. Once a situation becomes ‘ unthinkable’ , it changes because enough people demand this change.
We all have free will, which means we all have the freedom within us to perceive what happens in the world in any way we choose. A ‘tragedy’ happens. How do we respond? Thoughts are powerful – they create change within us and they also create change out in the world. They are subtle and they flow out from us and add to some collective idea or consciousness out there.
So what do we add our thought-power to as we watch the latest tragedy unfold? Forgiveness and understanding? The finding of a win-win solution to the problem? The potential of a peaceful outcome? The wonder of life itself? …. Or do we jump in and align with the usual media approach – judgement of the perceived perpetrator / doom and gloom/ condemnation / anger/ imagined threat?
It is a choice and our combined thinking can perpetuate the old imbalances in the world or move us to a new way of thinking. Astronauts tell us that once you have seen the world as ‘our planet’ , men and women become members of one world and nationalistic differences cease to have meaning. It’s all perception.
So why don’t we just get on with changing everything? The main reason I have seen is that people don’t think they can. They don’t have any concept that they are powerful, contributing to all this. They don’t even think that they are in charge of their own lives.
Sometimes, when I work with people, I will become aware of a visual picture of something which reflects their state of being at that time. A common analogy is that of ‘life’ depicted by a car. Whenever I see this, I ask people where they are in the car. After all, the car is an image of their life, so you’d think they’d be in the driving seat, right? I have yet to have someone tell me that they are doing the driving. Often, they are not even in the car! Commonly, someone may be holding on for dear life to the windscreen or roof, or a half open door. Or sitting in the back, assuming someone else somewhere is in charge of where this life is going. The ride never seems smooth because the car is buffeted and thrown about by all sorts of outside events. And nobody is there to steer this life smoothly through the challenges and adventures that inevitably present themselves. And yet there is nobody else available to do the steering.
The only human available is the one in the physical body, thinking all the thoughts and yet assuming somehow that he /she is not actually in charge! And like attracts like so the chances are you will be drawn to others who are on a journey like yours. Erratic, from this perspective, can look normal. And although your and everybody else’s thinking contributes to some bigger ( even world) view, ultimately you are driving your own life-car, not anyone else’s.
If you do not like what you hear or see going on in the world around you, you don’t have to get involved and become an active participant in it. Even if others are driving their life-cars like dodgems at the fairground, you don’t have to. It’s a choice, whether that is conscious or unconscious. We all have free will. You make choices for you – others may decide they want to experience things differently. It’s OK – you are not responsible for them, only for yourself, for your own thoughts, responses, decisions. Others will wake up to their own contribution to all this when they are ready.
And this is only a beginning. Once you accept that you are somehow in charge of your own life, that you can drive this life-car of yours, then things get very interesting. You start to realise that there is more to you than just ‘the thinker’, that you are also the observer of all the thinking that goes on.
We’ll explore this more in Part 2………………………… Thank you.