Men go forth to marvel at the heights of mountains and the huge waves of the sea, the broad flow of the rivers, the vastness of the ocean, the orbits of the stars, and yet they neglect to marvel at themselves. – Saint Augustine: Confessions, Book 10
Saint Augustine saw a lot of the ancient world. As a young man, his obvious talents insured that he wouldn’t remain for long in his North African birthplace, Thagaste. In his teens, he was sent to school in Carthage, a far more cosmopolitan center where there were a great many fascinating things for him to see and experience.
It was there that he read Hortensius by Cicero – a book that awakened in him a desire to find the “proper path” for his inner life.
Eventually he rose spectacularly in the ranks of the Church and came to see a lot more of the world. But despite the wonders of nature and civilization that he witnessed, he never let them pull him away from serious reflection on the state of his own being.
Today, the seductive tugs of external phenomena are far greater than anything Saint Augustine encountered. We receive instant news reports from around the world, multiple email, text, and phone demands on our time from friends and colleagues, an unending supply of entertainment delivered to us wherever we go – the list goes on and on.
Just keeping up with cute You Tube cat videos could easily fill all our waking hours!
But what about paying attention to ourselves?
We may not be interested in the kind of spiritual self-reflection Saint Augustine engaged in, but if we want to avoid the harmful effects of external stresses – back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injury and the like – we need to pay some attention to how we react to them.
The Alexander Technique, developed by the late F. Matthias Alexander is a method of paying this kind of attention to ourselves, and of directing ourselves in a way that minimizes the dangers of navigating today’s over-connected world.
It’s simple, practical, and, as its century-plus history has repeatedly shown, extraordinarily effective.
You may be primarily an outie, but the rewards of this inward turn of your attention and intention from time to time are huge – not least of which is developing a true Augustinian “marvel of yourself”!
Special thanks to Margaret Smith for sharing her extensive knowledge of Augustine’s life and times.
Image credit: sedmak / 123RF Stock Photo