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Sep 01

Listening without judgement

By David Starr | ITM

Hi folks,

I recently had the opportunity to run a small workshop at the Victorian residential for trainees and teachers at the Maitripa Buddhist retreat in Healesville.

The workshop ran for an hour and a half. Fifteen people attended. Thank you all that came!

The workshop focused on learning some components of Non Violent Communication (NVC), and then integrating the skills into an empathic listening exercise. The listening exercise is described in this article.

I found that people responded quite positively to the workshop and I felt very inspired when Anne asked me to write a little summary about NVC for ITM. And just to mention: I have only recently become interested in NVC, and the impact it has had on my work and personal relationships has been quite noticeable.

A little on NVC

NVC is a language and communication model developed by the late Dr Marshall Rosenberg, which in his words “helps guide us to reframe how we express ourselves and hear others. Instead of habitual automatic reactions, our words become conscious responses based firmly on awareness of what we are perceiving, feeling and wanting. We are led to express ourselves with honesty and clarity whilst at the same time giving others our empathic attention.”

The great thing about NVC is that the other person we are communicating with doesn’t need to be knowledgeable about NVC or desire to relate to us compassionately. NVC is an indirect process that inspires people to connect to each other without the interference of criticism, judgement, accusation, evaluation, blame or punishment.

I have found that as long as the other person knows that your intention is to give and receive on a compassionate level, then they will want to join you in the process.

NVC is not a process to ‘get what we want’ from someone or to manipulate their actions. We use NVC to express our feelings, desires and requests in such a way that someone can choose to fulfil our requests and understand what it is we want –  “to arrive at a mutual desire to give from the heart …

The four components

There are four parts to NVC, which are the basis of the process. In any situation we can choose to stay in touch with these principles to either express ourselves or to receive others empathically.

The components are:

  1. Observation – What is it we are observing? These are ‘concrete actions’ that we are sensing. Observation is free from interpretation, judgement, evaluation, blame etc.
  2. Feelings – How do we feel in relation to what we are observing?
  3. Needs – What are the needs, values, desires and wants that create our feelings?
  4. Request – What could we request so that our needs can be met?

As an example, let me describe a situation I have used this process for.

I have just cleaned the house and my son has walked in from playing outside with muddy gumboots on and sat on the lounge. A response I may usually give could be regarded as being unconstructive and demanding: “Take those boots off now will you! What is going through your mind?”

But if I focus the light of consciousness on the four components of NVC, my response would sound like, “ Son, when I see you walk in the door with muddy gumboots on (factual observation), I feel irritated and puzzled (feeling) because I am wanting respect and the carpet to be kept clean (need). Are you willing to walk back outside and take them off then clean up the mud (do-able request)?”

Now, we are always free to choose if we are willing to meet someone’s request, and my son could say ‘no’, but if he sees that I am interested in connecting compassionately, then my need for respect and clean carpet has a much better chance of being fulfilled in a Non-Violent way.

The four components are the basis of NVC and can be used at any time. And it is very useful to use it on yourself to acknowledge what is ‘alive’ in you in order to gain more conscious control.

Empathic Listening exercise

This is the empathy exercise that was practised during the workshop. Please try it with a friend, partner or family member in a quiet space.

Sitting facing each other comfortably, choose who is person A and who is person B.

Person A speaks for five minutes to person B. Sharing whatever is ‘alive’ in them … whatever thoughts come up. There’s no right or wrong. It’s all about expressing yourself and being heard, which may be a personal story, or random thoughts are OK. You might talk about the current relationship with person B. Childhood interests, adulthood accomplishments, hopes, dreams etc. Must be five minutes. If you run out of things to say, both people must stay with the silence until something more comes up.

Person B listens to person A in complete silence and full attention.

Listening for the feelings and needs behind the words.

Needs can be expressed as hopes, values, wishes, desires, dreams, yearnings, things that are important to them.

Remember that giving someone your full attention is a gift to them. Notice if your thoughts drift to your own inner dialogue, judgements, comparisons, evaluations etc. Bring your attention gently back to person A. It is important to remain silent to give them the space to express and so you can sense what’s alive in them.

After the five minutes, person B then relates what feelings and needs they sensed in person A’s words, and person A can describe what feelings arose while speaking. Person B may also like to say what feelings and needs arose in them while listening. Allow a few minutes for this.

Then swap around. Person B speaks, person A listens in silence.

Repeat the cycle two more times, so both people have three turns at speaking and listening. Why? Because it takes a few ‘rounds’ of empathic listening for the transformative powers of non-judgemental attention to emerge.

The point of this exercise is to tune into the feelings and needs of someone else, which is something that we may not usually watch out for. Sometimes it is hard for us to express ourselves fully when we know we will hear a reaction. Asking the listener to remain silent gives us the freedom to say what is really going on. When we express what is painful for us we often wonder how the other person will respond, with either advice, criticism, assurance, sympathy, accusation or trying to educate, correct, punish us or fix us up.

(This listening exercise came from www.nvcworld.com ).

 

I have found that NVC is amazing and takes a commitment to learn to use in real life and I can only offer my testimony that it is something very useful. Thank you all.

Sep 01

The work that brings us together

By Anne Mallen | ITM , Training

This year’s schools residential may have been the best one yet.

It was the third year running that students and teachers from the Melbourne and Sydney schools have gathered at the Maitripa centre  in Healesville.

The turnout was big – 50 people.

The weather at the end of February was perfect, unlike previous years which have ranged from freezing to baking hot.

The food was fantastic again, and the accommodation seems to get a little fancier every year.

As usual, students from the Melbourne school headed by David Moore and the Sydney school headed by Greg Holdaway attended, along with quite a few teachers, plus  for the first time the head of the new Sydney school, Simon Fitzgibbon.

It’s really noticeable how much the students and teachers from the schools are bonding. There’s  a warmth there, and friendships and connections are growing across state borders.

It’s been a wonderful vision by David and Greg of a unified Alexander schools experience, where everyone is safe and welcome.

Caren Bayer taught us with her usual mix of brilliance and humility.

There was singing all together, and dancing and sharing and learning from each other.

The final concert was a heartfelt affair, so much so that even the staff at Maitripa decided to participate.

A particular thank you to all the soon-to-be teachers who ran workshops at the residential. They were interesting, fun and really useful. We loved learning from you and with you.

We’re looking forward to the next one.

 

By Rossella Buono and Anne Mallen

 

May 10

A mirror, a mask and an actor

By Julianne Eveleigh | ITM

Congratulations to Julieanne Eveleigh and Paul Hampton, whose work is is featured in a new book edited by Cathy Madden and Kathleen Juhl.

Here Julieanne tells the story of their collaboration

Paul Hampton and I have spent the past eight years cooking up and re-imagining a team teaching activity that introduces first-year acting students enrolled in a BA in Acting at Federation University, Ballarat, to the Alexander Technique and the Neutral Mask.

Alexander Technique underpins our teaching practice because it affords the actor in training time to attune the senses to appreciate the beauty and clarity of their three dimensional ‘self’.

We begin with the human design as the central organising principle that is key to all human movement. We frame this fundamental value that Alexander termed ‘primary control’ as a place of possibility – a place that is not restricted by unnecessary tension in either the body or the mind, a place where the imagination can respond with immediacy, creativity, and spontaneity. Alexander Technique provides a context for students to recognise the space between a stimulus and a reaction and gives them an opportunity to make choices and respond appropriately to the moment.

In 2015 Cathy Madden sent out an invitation to AT teachers working in a performing arts context to submit an outline. Paul and I decided that we would like to document the work we do with Neutral Mask and Alexander Technique in the first year of an actor training program.

Over a five-year period, we have been collecting student responses to our work that provide not only evidence of fundamental changes in these students’ psychophysical awareness but interesting reading, so we have woven their experiences and understanding of what they were experiencing into our chapter.

We have had the extraordinary privilege of working in detail with many students over the years, whose questions and insights have helped shape our teaching.

We also feel privileged that our work will receive a wider audience, to ensure that the rest of the world knows that the Alexander Technique is alive and kicking Down Under!

May 10

Let’s talk about ethics

By Kieran Stubbs | ITM

New teacher Kieran Stubbs shares his thoughts on some of the ethical questions that may arise during an Alexander lesson.

The essay  was written as a third-year assignment for the School of FM Alexander Studies in Melbourne

Editor’s note: Essay questions are in bold type; Kieran’s responses in roman (‘normal’) type

 

Thinking Aloud by Walter Carrington, Chapter on Ethics p111 – 117

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by FM Alexander,  Chapter VI – “Unduly Excited Fear Reflexes, Uncontrolled Emotions and Fixed Prejudices”

This chapter by Walter Carrington raises a number of interesting questions, some of which relate to what we have read in Alexander’s books … and to our code of professional conduct. The reading opens up very relevant questions as to the appropriate limits of our work and what psycho-physical re-education means.

In no more than three pages give your thoughts on the following:

 

  1. WC states (Teachers) “are not justified in intruding into (pupils’) emotions, their thoughts, their feelings, their beliefs, their attitudes.” In the chapter by Alexander, he says that “Unduly excited fear reflexes, uncontrolled emotions, prejudices and fixed habits, are retarding factors in all human development. They need our serious attention…” Presumably for a person to change their habit of use, these factors FM enumerates have to change. Do you think it is possible to help people change their pattern of use without dealing with people’s emotions, thoughts, feelings and beliefs?

Kieran’s response:

I think if the work truly rests on the principle of wholeness, that there is no functional division between mind and body, or emotions and their ‘physical’ manifestions, then there is no question that a person’s emotions, thoughts, feelings and beliefs must be involved in any changes to their pattern of use. Use of the self is use of the whole self, so to exclude emotions, thoughts, feelings and beliefs would be to divide what is indivisible. The question is, do we deal with emotions, thoughts, feelings and beliefs directly, or indirectly? Do we confront people about their emotions or deeply held beliefs?

I think sometimes the beliefs or conceptions relating to or underpinning a pupil’s use of themself need to be addressed, but with consideration to their psychophysical condition at the time. If you, as a teacher, with a given pupil in their present condition, can directly speak to and challenge that pupil’s harmful conception, belief, etc which is resulting in a harmful use of themselves without over-exciting their fear reflexes, then it would be wise to do so, in accompaniment with a practical experience of them using themselves in that harmful way, and then a practical experience of them using themselves in a coordinated and healthy way, as guided by you, the teacher.

Carrington’s belief that we ought not meddle in the emotions and beliefs of a pupil appears to be more in accordance with maintaining a state of equilibrium during the lesson and preventing unduly excited fear responses at present and in the future, than in accordance with the student’s need to change their conception in order to fundamentally change their pattern of use and means whereby.

I agree with the intention here, however I think there is a danger of glossing over important beliefs or emotions which are central to a person’s misuse and experience of themselves, which ultimately serves only to maintain their state of equilibrium during the lesson and to teach them on a sensory/experiential basis (rather than on a level of conscious reasoning, accompanied by new sensory experience), which ultimately will be dominated again by their fixed beliefs once left to their own devices.

 

  1. If the answer is “no” how might we relate to these aspects without “intruding”? If the answer is “yes”, then how would these retarding factors be dealt with?

Kieran: Continuing on from the last question, I think the answer is to deal with these aspects gently and while maintaining a sense of safety and equilibrium in the pupil as much as possible.

We, as teachers, must also deal with them in accordance with the Alexander principles of inhibition, direction, wholeness, faulty sensory appreciation and primary control. For example, it is not our prerogative to tell someone their political beliefs are wrong, however, it may be useful to draw attention to how they use themselves in relation to ideas of politics and to notice their habitual responses and whether they are working for good or ill in regards to the organism as a whole.

It may be useful also to work indirectly with a pupil’s conception and facilitate correction of their sensory appreciation which enables them to discover their own incongruent beliefs for themselves; for example pointing out that any of a pupil’s given beliefs may be seen by them to be unreliable as their sensory appreciation improves, as they have a new perspective from which light can be shed on their beliefs derived from a condition of unreliable sensory appreciation.

 

  1. What does Walter Carrington suggest and what are your thoughts? Walter suggests a few things:
  2. a)We do not give advice or judgement we are not qualified to give.

Kieran: I agree with this, our job is to judge a person’s use of themselves and help them improve it.

  1. b)When their communication “goes beyond just the ordinary” (Carrington, Thinking Aloud pg 116), we ought to tell them they need someone to talk to, such as a psychotherapist.

Kieran:  I agree in part, though there is an inherent judgement involved in making this suggestion which implies we are qualified to judge what the “ordinary” is and whether someone has gone beyond it.  I think a knee-jerk or unempathic judgement in this connection can just as easily induce a state of anxiety in a pupil as can a confrontation or misguided engagement with their values, emotions, etc.

We would do best as teachers to listen empathically, and skilfully bring the conversation back to the work, and applying the principles, so as to avoid coming across as judging the student as having beliefs or emotions which displease you as the teacher.

Maintaining our own equilibrium and the safety of the student is a precursor to making referrals to, say, a psychotherapist, which may indeed be necessary, or family or friends, but you must also take into account all information available as to whether these recommendations will likely result in harm or good to the pupil.

  1. c)Walter suggests we maintain clarity on what we are teaching and work in that domain – Alexander principles and whether or not they are stiffening their neck, inhibiting, etc.

Kieran: I agree with this on the most part, though there are times where beliefs and conceptions need to be addressed as they are inseparable from a pupil’s use of themselves. Timing, conditions and how this is done is they key.

 

  1. In regard to “unduly excited fear reflexes, uncontrolled emotions, prejudices and fixed habits” and “individual errors and delusions” how does FM propose that we approach these “retarding factors”?

Kieran: Ultimately by restoring reliable sensory appreciation, and in doing so, fostering a sense of confidence in the pupil’s learning environment.

 

  1. If you can accept that some types of beliefs are harmful to a person’s use and others not harmful, pick an example of a harmful and a non-harmful belief.

Kieran: Firstly, I cannot categorically say what is a harmful or non-harmful belief, because it depends on the person, and on other factors, as to whether or not a given belief is harmful to their use of themselves at a given time. A belief may be harmful one day, it may not be the next, it may be for one person, but not another.

An example of a likely harmful belief is the belief that a person’s spine ought to be totally straight, or that their feeling sense is reliable when it is not.

An example of a likely non-harmful belief is that they look better with their hair long as opposed to short.

This is based on the definition of harmful as being such that it causes discoordination or interference with the pupil’s primary control and ability to respond to stimulus in accordance with their conscious intention.

 

  1. If a pupil is undertaking a procedure or treatment or doing exercises that are clearly impacting badly on their use, what is a teacher’s responsibility? If you decide that it is appropriate for a teacher to give advice in such a case, how could this be done?

Kieran: I believe that if the teacher takes due measures to understand and analyse the conditions present and the perspective of the pedagogy informing such exercises or treatment, and ascertains that the effect is worsening their use and therefore function in the long-term, then I believe it is imperative as the teacher to articulate this to the student at a time that is appropriate and with skill and attendance to fear reflexes, and with due consideration to that student’s conceptions and any likely negative consequences of those being challenged.

Something like “this is the perspective of the Alexander principles and this is what I would recommend, however you must decide for yourself what your best course of action is” would be a good line to take, as it does not disempower the student, nor take on more responsibility than the teacher ought to.

 

  1. What light does the AUSTAT Code of Professional Conduct shed on these questions and matters raised in this chapter?

The following excerpts from the AUSTAT Code of Professional Conduct, section A:”THE TEACHER-PUPIL RELATIONSHIP” pertain to the above questions.

  1. A teacher should clearly explain the nature of the work and procedures to be followed during the course of lessons and ensure that the consent of the pupil is obtained. In the case of a pupil under the age of 18 years the consent of the pupil’s parent or guardian should be obtained.”

Kieran:  The relates to explaining the necessary scope of the work and that it includes addressing fixed ideas, beliefs etc, and it is not uncommon for pupils to experience emotional states at times during the work.

  1. A teacher should not make any kind of medical diagnosis of or prescribe treatment for a pupil unless qualified to do so. Recommendations to other appropriate qualified practitioners may be made where the pupil’s problems or difficulties appear to be outside the scope of the Alexander Technique.”

Kieran: This relates to concerns being beyond the scope of the AT, and/or interfering with the re-education process. I think the key is in the word prescription, the AT teacher (unless otherwise qualified) must only make recommendations from the body of work that is the Alexander Technique as they have studied it/been trained.

  1. During the course of a lesson in the Alexander Technique, a teacher should not introduce other practices or disciplines, even if he or she is qualified to do so, except with the prior consent of the pupil involved.”

      Kieran: A teacher may have other skills, such as counselling, NLP, physiotherapy or psychotherapy, for example, which complement the re-education process. These should only be used in connection with the Alexander Technique and by those qualified to use these skills, and the pupil must be informed and consensual.

 

 

May 10

Upon reflection…..

By Derek Smith | ITM

A mirror is an inanimate object, a piece of glass silvered on one side.  Its function is to reflect back light that hits the mirror surface, providing a ‘mirror image’.  Put a frame around it, cut it into shapes, engrave the edges with designs, hang it on a wall, put it on a stand – all these can be added in the pursuit of style, appearance, fashion, etc., but the function remains unchanged.  It reflects what passes before it.  Light is the only requirement for it to function, light emanating from an object before it.

Add a human observer to the mix and a different dynamic begins.  The observer brings his/her own baggage to the observation.  What they see is what they are looking with, not what they are looking at.  Judgements, opinions, perceptions, ideas, knowledge, experience – everything about the perception of an image that enables different observers to interpret the same image in a variety of ways.  A useful observational tool for an AT teacher and pupil.  The mirror is mute witness to all this.

Though perhaps for not much longer.

A recent edition of New Scientist had a small article, about 8cm of one column, titled ‘‘Mirror’ keeps music and posture right’.  It reports on the Musician’s Mirror, which can be programmed so that it ‘provides an audible warning if it spots poor posture’.  Just 125 words, but weeks later, I am still working my way through it and the conclusions, so far, are not good.  What do you think?  My response follows.

The Musician’s Mirror is yet another example of a symptomatic, ‘end-gaining’ reaction to a situation.  Wait until something happens then do something about it.  There is no attempt made to determine the cause of the ‘bad’ posture, or what steps can be taken to maintain ‘good’ posture.

The use of white noise and notes made to sound out of tune as the audible warnings of ‘bad’ posture are, in behavioural terms, confusing.  Are people being punished or is this ‘escape learning’ aka ‘negative reinforcement’?  Punishment is designed to weaken a response (’bad’ posture) that produces an aversive stimulus (white noise, discordant sounds).  Escape Learning is designed to strengthen a response (‘good’ posture or at least the avoidance of ‘bad’ posture) that removes the aversive stimulus.  The reactive, symptomatic nature of this Mirror system means that an event (‘bad’ posture), has to happen first and the response that results looks like punishment to me.  Hardly a positive strategy for change.

And how is ‘posture’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’, determined?  Is it left to the individual using the Mirror or is there some form of universal ‘good’ that is applied and if so, how is that determined?  What exactly is ‘posture’?  In the context of the Musician’s Mirror it is no more than a position.

Then I read that the user can ‘highlight the parts of the body they want its software to focus on’.  Not exactly a psychophysical, holistic response to body use, and there is a lot of ‘doing’ and ‘trying’ and the adopting of positions.

All in all an unsatisfactory system and one more example of the Magic Bullet Syndrome, where a person seeks a quick answer, external to themselves and preferably not involving any work on the person’s part, to an issue that is ‘internal’ to themselves.  Personal responsibility for a solution is thus transferred to someone – or something – like the Musician’s Mirror.

However, unlike most New Scientist articles, this article does not include a response from anyone else, either critical or supportive, so it is left unquestioned.  But it is printed in a respected journal and that carries weight.  I am left pondering how to respond to articles like this.

Fortunately the blameless, silent, non-judgemental mirror is only indirectly involved.  Adorned with software and technology perhaps, but continuing to function in the only way it can.  Its ‘use’ is perfect.

It provides an opportunity for reflection and for me as an observer, it’s not just about images.  Thank you, mirror.

 

May 10

When tensions arise during training

By Karen Nankervis (Admin) | ITM

The ongoing research project by two overseas Alexander teachers, Ellen Bierhorst and Maria Vahervuo*, to study important psycho-social changes set off by the Alexander Technique has the potential to offer much food for thought in regard to the training of Alexander Technique teachers. Already some preliminary findings should provide opportunity for meaningful discussion.

Basically, what is the Alexander Technique?

An Alexander teacher can work with a colleague (workswap), or

An Alexander teacher can give a lesson to a private pupil, or

An Alexander teacher can work with a trainee on an Alexander teacher training course.

In essence the teacher is sharing an “up” experience with the other person.

The first two events above are usually short-term arrangements, but for an Alexander teacher trainee it is a three-year commitment with a Head of Training.

During the three years, both the Head of Training and trainee will change. What happens if this arrangement is no longer appropriate?  Most other study situations are purely verbal, but for Alexander Technique training with the needs for hands-on work there is a much closer tie between trainer and trainee.

If, during a training, certain psychological/emotional changes in the HoT and trainee make this relationship no longer compatible then there needs to be an out for the trainee. This is not to say either the HoT or trainee is “wrong” or “right”, it simply means a trainee should not stay in a situation that is no longer appropriate.

The Head of Training does not “own” a trainee for the three years of training.

Where tensions do arise, various possibilities should be explored. The trainee might need a break from training. The trainee may need to continue study for a time with another experienced teacher who is quite independent form the original HoT. The trainee may need to transfer to another Head of Training to complete the course.

The above is dependent on the trainee being a suitable candidate for a three-year teacher training course. This should be sorted out between the HoT and the trainee in the first term, which should be probationary.

When FM started his first teacher training course in 1931 he was not the only person to work with students. We know from the writings of students in those early training courses that there were times the students sought help from other experienced teachers. The writings and interviews with people such as Lulie Westfeldt, Erika Whittaker, Patrick Macdonald, Marjorie Barlow, Walter Carrington and others are well worth study.

The main aim with an Alexander Technique teacher training course is to provide a trainee with the skills – verbal and hands on – to be able, once graduated, to share with a person new to the Alexander Technique the “up” experience.

A Head of Training who is too “possessive” about trainees denies those trainees the breadth of experience needed to develop appropriate teaching skills.

AUSTAT, the professional society, has a duty of care, and a moral obligation:

to provide a choice of training schools for trainees, to monitor the standards of these training schools, and to assist a trainee, a future Alexander Technique teacher, to complete a training by facilitating a change to another training school if necessary.

Rosslyn McLeod is an Alexander teacher from Adelaide and director of the film FM Alexander and the Alexander Technique.

*Ellen Bierhorst and Maria Vahervuo’s research is called the AT Story Project and details can be found online.

 

May 10

Factory opens for business

By Simon Fitzgibbon | ITM

Simon Fitzgibbon has started a second teacher training school in Sydney called the Factory of Mechanical Advantage

Discounting teenage stints of washing cars and stacking supermarket shelves, teaching the Alexander Technique is the only job I’ve ever had.

My journey from school leaver to teacher trainee was short and uneventful, but upon entering Kri Ackers’ training course in Sydney in the early ‘90s, the Technique became my life. It soon took me to London (where I studied further with the Carringtons), and on to Madrid, Spain, where I lived for 20 years.

Although teaching English was the easy path to economic stability, I wanted to teach the Technique. The gamble paid off, in spite of the initial language barrier and being in a country where few had heard of the Technique. A full practice later morphed into a teacher training course, which I ran from 2008 to 2015.

My next move was to return to Australia (with my exotic Spanish partner!), and after a year spent settling in, we have now started a new training course in Sydney: The Factory of Mechanical Advantage, or FMA for short.

Why?

The answer that makes me sound noble is that I believe this school will enrich the AT community, both in Sydney and nationwide. To quote Kri from a recent email to AUSTAT members, I “specialise in teaching the unique craft of using the hands to activate the natural lengthening mechanisms within the human body”.

This hands-on skill distinguishes the Technique from all other modalities and is what I aim to impart to my trainees. It is not a gift bestowed upon the few but, as with all subtle endeavours, it requires years of guided instruction and practice to develop.

When I was training, we would often hear it took three years to become an Alexander Teacher and another 10 years to get any good at it.

One is not useless before then but, like any other trade, one is not an expert when they’ve finished their apprenticeship. For this reason, I aim to provide, in addition to a teacher training course, ample post-graduate support and training both for our graduates and other interested teachers.

There is also a selfish reason for wanting a training course: I enjoy training teachers as it gives me the opportunity to continue learning and improving my skills by working at a level of subtlety not possible with private pupils.

As a teacher, my focus is on the basics — chair work, table work, hands on the back of the chair, whispered ‘ah’ — which I consider the most effective way of meeting the real challenge of our work: learning the Technique.

I find that once learnt, applying it to different activities is a relatively simple matter, variations upon a theme. Conversely, attempts to apply the Technique before having a solid practical understanding of it lead to confusion and inconsistent results. The ‘Technique’ easily becomes a series of activity specific ‘tricks’ instead of a global skill that can assist any activity.

Words can never convey the subtlety of experience we are aiming for; thus, a teacher must be able to give the student the experience. Later, from this shared experience, teacher and student can build up a vocabulary, a common language, to discuss the theoretical aspects of the work. This process helps the student understand both what we are trying to achieve and how to get it for themselves.

As a teacher trainer, my focus is essentially the same. Trainees develop their understanding through practical experience (learning the Technique) which then forms the foundation of hands-on work (a specific application). This foundation allows them to, over time, build up the requisite skill and sensitivity in their hands to encourage similar changes in their students.

To achieve this in three years of training, my school is small by design. There is a maximum of six trainees at a time, with 2-3 experienced teachers always present. This way I can ensure that each student receives sufficient daily experience of the Alexander Technique to assimilate the changes necessary to incorporate the Technique into their daily lives and to develop the characteristic Alexander hands.

Our current staff are Simon Fitzgibbon (director), Marietta Simarro, Kri Ackers and Bradley Newman. Between us, we have almost 100 years of full-time Alexander Technique teaching and teacher training experience.

We are open to visits from prospective trainees and trained Alexander Teachers interested in post-graduate work.

We look forward to sharing some work with you!

 

May 10

AUSTAT’s new guidelines

By Michael Shellshear | Governance , ITM

AUSTAT is a small society representing about 150 full teaching members give or take. In our small community, most of us know each other through shared trainings, ventures and through our dedication to Alexander Technique. Nevertheless, AUSTAT is an incorporated Association under NSW law and, as such, we are required to act with a fair degree of formality.

Societies like ours are expected to act with transparency and fairness. This is called “due process”. That can be hard sometimes, especially as so many of us hold strong opinions and are involved in the very issue that requires decision-making.

To assist all of us in benefiting from “due process” Council has approved a set of decision-making guidelines for itself, standing committees and for all “duly appointed” officers of AUSTAT.

 

The decision-making guidelines are as follows:

Councils and Standing Committees should ask:

  • Is there a conflict of interest that needs to be declared? [Council members who might benefit or have any personal interest in a decision have been declaring a conflict of interest and stepping out of meetings for several months now. This is recorded in the Council Minutes and in the Conflict of Interest register.]
  • Why is a decision required? State the issue. Does it need to be made into a motion and seconded?
  • What are the pros (cost benefits) and cons (loss to AUSTAT) of motion?
  • Is research required? Are there standards, benchmarks to assist decision making?
  • Who are the stakeholders around the decision?
  • Have all stakeholders been consulted adequately?
  • What is the timeline, budget requirement and implementation requirements?
  • If the decision is not made-what are the knock-on effects to the Constitution?
  • If the decision is made what are the knock-on effects to the Constitution?
  • Is the decision in the AUSTAT members’ best interests?
  • Which part of the AUSTAT Constitution/bylaws does this relate to?

 

Council hopes that, by establishing a rigorous “due process”, we will be able to make well-considered, effective decisions that serve the membership.

May 10

Reducing paper

By Karen Nankervis | Admin Articles , ITM , Public Access

Here are some quick tips to help you reduce the amount of paper in your home and work space :

1) If you get catalogues in the mail, email the company and unsubscribe. Then anytime in the future you want to order, you can simply look online for products and ordering information.

2) Don’t print your email. If you need to keep something, save it electronically.

3) Owner’s Manuals — once you unpack your item and determine that all is well, visit the manufacturer’s website and download the manual. Create a folder on your computer named OWNER’S MANUALS and store in there.  If your item comes with a printed manual, see if it is available online and save, or scan it and store it electronically.

4) Rather than cut multitudes of recipes out of magazines, go to the magazine’s website and download the recipe to your computer. Save any you love online into the same spot. There are a few recipe collator websites available like Sesame, Yumprint and BigOven.

5) If you receive annual reports from investments, etc, visit their website to either discontinue them or change to email delivery. Very few of these types of reports are ever read!

6) One very important thing to discard when you are reducing the paper around you, is your fear. Ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst thing that will happen?’ What would I need to do if I needed this paperwork again? Storing electronically means that the piece of paper still exists, just not cluttering up your space. Cloud storage like Dropbox can then move it off your computer.

Any other ideas?  Please share them with me!

 

May 05

AT Connect – Jana Boronova

By Anne Mallen | AT Connect , ITM

The lovely and talented Jana Boronova is originally from Prague but now living and working in Melbourne

What first drew you to the Alexander Technique?

I had my first lesson out of curiosity really, and because of my mother.

Mum found out about the Technique and booked lessons with Paul Baxter, a UK teacher living in Prague at the time. I think he was the only teacher there then.  Mum absolutely loved the lesson and got so much out of it and kept talking about the Technique and lessons and that made me really want to try it.

I remember walking out of my first lesson thinking: “I have no idea what has just happened but I want more of that”. I think I had about 20 lessons with Paul and then unfortunately he decided to move back to UK. So I stopped there for a while.

But I have to say that we have a bit of a book obsession in the family, so I got to read a lot of books on AT and Mum and I kept talking about it quite a bit, both feeling that was something which really resonated with us. I did try to read some books by Alexander himself at that stage but only managed the Use of the Self. I gave up on Man’s Supreme Inheritance after a couple of few chapters.

Why did you decide to train to be a teacher? And what were you doing before you trained?

The decision to train was kind of coincidence really. Somehow it had never occurred to me I could train to teach the Technique when I was having lessons. So it was not until at least five years later, when I was stuck in a job which I liked but felt I did not have much new to learn there.

I was working for an American Study Abroad company and we were organising programs for US University students coming to do a term or two at the Prague Charles University.

Basically me and a colleague of mine were in charge of their cultural program – taking them on guided walks around Prague and on trips around the Czech Republic as well as to various European cities for the weekend etc. However, I felt I needed a change.

That was when I first came to Australia – I was invited by a friend whose mum emigrated to Australia after the Second World War because they were Jewish and she needed somebody to stay with her for two months at her farm in Yarra Valley while her daughter was travelling. I absolutely loved it.

Eva, my friend, was this wonderful 90-year-old woman and we instantly took to each other. So naturally after my return to Prague I decided I wanted to come back to Australia. This was when I started looking up various courses to be able to come on the student visa, as that was the only option really.

And then one day, my mum sent me the link to David’s school. I suspect she wanted to have an Alexander teacher on hand. The more I thought about it the more it made sense to me.

For me the Technique has always been about movement. As I have always been quite an active person, I thought it would beautifully complement most of the activities I have been passionate about – namely snowboarding/skiing, swimming and yoga. And it has. My swimming technique has changed for the better dramatically, I enjoy teaching Alexander yoga, which is so much more gentle and makes more sense to me then the Iyengar yoga I used to do before I came to Australia,and thanks to learning from and  working with an American teacher, Eric Bendix, I found an almost lost love for skiing again and realised how much the Technique has to offer when we decide to learn something challenging and potentially risky.

What do you love about the Technique?

I see the Technique as a kind of a safety net – when I am getting in trouble I know I can draw on it and use it to make my life easier. I remember when I first met Vivien Mackie at the school I was so in awe of the youthful energy she had about her. I felt really inspired. For me the Technique is the underlying principle, something I can build on and it gives me a sense of having control over my life.

Do you have any ideas to share with other teachers?

The thing I have been quite struck by in the past six months or so is that a lot of people from outside the Alexander world think the Technique is quite static.

I have had a few encounters in which I had people telling me something along the lines of: “Oh, yes, I know the Alexander Technique. You guys don’t move too much.” I was so surprised by the impression we, as an Alexander community, give to others.

Movement was what first drew me to the Technique, so it is absolutely incomprehensible to me that people think we are not about movement. I think it would be good to somehow work towards changing this misconception.