Saturday 29 December 2007

Demystifying AT

Alexander's philosophy of "the Self" led me to believe that developing a more sophisticated use of my physical Self through his technique would lead to a deeper psychological and spiritual awareness. I was therefore hoping for great things from AT.

After 13 years of personal AT lessons, I enrolled on a three-year full-time teacher training course. I wasn't just looking to achieve physical improvements.

There's no doubt that, on the physical level, I changed significantly. It wasn't exactly a smooth transition, however. I went through periods of aches and pains, mainly brought about by trying to "do". There were times when I really thought I understood the AT process only to discover later that I had it all wrong. This mirrors the experience that Alexander had when he was trying to understand his own use.

On a psychological level, the change in poise, posture and attitude that AT brings about affects people's perceptions of you and that, in turn, changes the way you perceive your own life and increases your self esteem and happiness. I never had any major issues with self-confidence but my former stress levels caused me to appear a bit too assertive and overbearing. Now, I think people perceive a happier, more contented Jeff and instead, they tend to see me as amusingly eccentric. I'm pleased about that. Of course, I'm still the same person inside! AT can't change your personality: only your behaviour.

One of my hobbies for the last 19 years has been studying esoteric and existential philosophy: more specifically, the nature of human consciousness. This led me to a new scientific theory of consciousness and as a consequence I have spent time getting to know some of the religious views about it . Not wishing to subscribe to any of the major religions or (in the case of Buddhism) philospohies, I have always looked within my own being for a deeper understanding of mind. This was a factor in making AT look like a good thing for me to do.

The late Ray Evans, director of the Alexander Re-Education Centre training course had a profound spiritual dimension (connected to his mastery of Yoga and his Christian faith, I think). I was hoping that some of this might rub-off on me as a result of AT. During my private lessons with Ray, I used to ask him to tell me about the spiritual benefits of AT. The most I could get out of him was a knowing smile and a platitude such as "you will have to discover that for yourself, Jeff".

Alexander came from a humble though strongly Christian family. I've often wondered if his avoidance of spiritual matters in relation to his work was driven by a need to avert conflict with the (then) powerful forces of the Christian Church, some of whose most influential leaders he had befriended through his work. Walter Carrington, who effectively took over from Alexander after his dealth in 1955 also came from a religious background. I understand that he chose AT over a career as a Jesuit priest. Only time will tell whether he changed Alexander's message by overlaying his own spiritual beliefs on his teachings.

The conclusion I have come to is that AT has no automatic place in a spiritual or religious context. It requires no act of faith to develop good use, other than to trust the Technique enough to let go of your habits. That's not to say that AT can't help you develop a higher spiritual awareness - if that's what you are seeking - BUT spirituality is absolutely not a prerequisite nor an inevitable outcome of developing good use. To portray AT otherwise would, in my opinion, bring the Technique into disrepute within the professional circles in which we are increasingly moving.

I have become more spiritually attuned over the same period of time that I have been an AT teacher. That's a coincidence.

1 comment:

  1. I'm just testing that comments are working because I've been emailed by a friend who had difficulties ....Jeff