Mr. Alexander in his Own Write: On Reading his Four Books

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F. Matthias Alexander, posing in front of his portrait, perhaps contemplating the wisdom to be found in one of his books

Within days of my first Alexander Technique lesson, I was experiencing so many dramatic changes in my body – most spectacularly a gain in height of almost an inch – that I just knew this strange new process was something I was going to pursue as deeply as I possibly could.  I scheduled regular lessons and immediately set out to read everything I could find on the topic.

I managed to get a couple of F. Matthias Alexander’s books from the library and prepared to plunge right in.  And almost immediately fell soundly asleep!

This happened every time I started reading one of the books.

There was something about Alexander’s writing style and my inability to grasp his ideas that pretty much soured me on his books.

This continued into my 3-year Alexander Technique teacher training course in London.  Whenever it was time to discuss “The Books” I’d discretely slip out for a nice cup of tea at a nearby cafe.

After I had been teaching for a few years, I finally read them – aloud to myself, cover to cover, as part of a voice project inspired by my work with the Tomatis listening therapy Method.  That turned out to be a valuable exercise on many levels, particularly the discovery of so many gems of wisdom tucked away in unexpected locations.

Still, it didn’t occur to me to recommend the books to my students.

It’s now some 30 odd years later and twice in the past week I’ve been forced to reconsider my position.

First, Jane Avery, a student of the Technique in Nova Scotia, posted a wonderful account of her experiences with Alexander’s work on Face Book, including reading Alexander’s second book, Constructive Conscious Control (CCC) early in her lessons.

Here’s the start of what she wrote:

I remember when I first began my lessons six years ago and, later, embarked on exploring AT literature. Of F.M.’s books, I started with ‘CCC’. Alexander’s words filled me with a new kind of anxiety; not the dreadful variety I’d been used to living with and which had driven me to AT in the first place, but the sort that awakened excitement and possibility. I knew at last, after decades of seeking anchor in superficial pursuits, practices and useless or harmful ‘cures’, that I’d finally found my fit. This was IT for me. It clicked. F.M. and I were kindred spirits, although he was, of course (and remains), so obviously a genius unparalleled. (You can read her entire posting here.)

A day or so after reading this, I did a podcast interview with my friend and colleague John Macy who had recently read through all of Alexander’s books, including two he took with him and read every day while on vacation in Europe.  John is definitely a good time kind of guy!

In the interview, I asked if he ever recommends Alexander’s writings to prospective students and he said, “Yes, Use of the Self.”  He went on to give several compelling reasons which you can listen to in the interview:

So…whether you’re an Alexander Technique student or teacher who hasn’t explored Alexander’s writings – or have never had any experience with the Technique and would like to learn more about his discoveries – consider taking the time to explore at least some of his writings.  Personally, I would recommend starting with Use of the Self.  It’s the shortest and most accessible of his books.

And, should you happen to share my earlier narcoleptic reaction from reading them, you can always use them as a safe alternative to sleeping pills.

I’d love to hear about your experience!

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You can order Alexander’s books from Amazon.com here and from Amazon.co.uk here.  Either way, your orders will help support this and my other Alexander Technique websites.

 

 


Comments

Mr. Alexander in his Own Write: On Reading his Four Books — 8 Comments

  1. I too had a very difficult time reading FMʻs books during my training. Before my training, I had no idea he had written anything. That is how little any of my teachers talked about the books. I think itʻs just not the way I learn. A few years ago I had an interesting experience in my group classes for actors. I had been using Michael Gelbʻs book as a text, because many of the students are not native English speakers and I thought FMʻs writing would be too difficult. In the second year, I gave them one chapter of “The Use Of The Self” – Evolution of a Technique, its all there….and THEY LOVED IT. When I asked why, they said that his writing was full of emotion and that helped them understand why he cared so much about things that others donʻt even notice. If you go back and read it, it is true. Especially in his writing about his own working process, which is something that actors can certainly understand. They were willing to struggle with the text because of itʻs emotional content.

  2. I was lucky enough to have Walter Carrington read them out and comment on them during my training course which helped a lot but I have had a very similar response to them as Rob’s ie falling asleep.

    Thanks for the post and encouragement to have another grapple with the them all rather than just the Use of the Self.

  3. Pingback: Alexander’s Dream | Body Learning Blog

  4. It’s really a nice and useful piece of information. I’m glad that you shared this useful information with us.

    Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

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