Strange Bedfellows: A Monk and F. Matthias Alexander

David Steindl-Rast — Anatomy of Gratitude

I just finished listening to a podcast interview with Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk,  teacher and author beloved around the world. His TED Talk about cultivating gratitude as a way to bring joy into our lives has been viewed over a million times and his practice is increasingly acknowledged by scientists and physicians as a key to human well-being.

It’s well worth listening to and I believe teachers and students of the Alexander Technique will be especially drawn to his ideas. A basic process he talks about – his technique, as it were – closely parallels that of F. Matthias Alexander

For example, he says:

(I’ve emphasized a few key phrases.)
Well, for me, this idea of listening and really looking and beholding — that comes in when people ask, “Well, how shall we practice this gratefulness?” And there is a very simple kind of methodology to it: Stop, look, go. Most of us — caught up in schedules and deadlines and rushing around, and so the first thing is that we have to stop, because otherwise we are not really coming into this present moment at all, and we can’t even appreciate the opportunity that is given to us, because we rush by, and it rushes by. So stopping is the first thing.

But that doesn’t have to be long. When you are in practice, a split second is enough — “stop.” And then you look: What is, now, the opportunity of this given moment, only this moment, and the unique opportunity this moment gives? And that is where this beholding comes in. And if we really see what the opportunity is, we must, of course, not stop there, but we must do something with it: Go. Avail yourself of that opportunity. And if you do that, if you try practicing that at this moment, tonight, we will already be happier people, because it has an immediate feedback of joy.

Stop, look, go.

Seems an awful lot like Alexandrian inhibition, analyzing the conditions present, and then self-directing in a constructive way. Constructive Conscious Control, as Alexander would have said.

That’s particularly interesting to me, because with the advent of Alexander Freedom Directions*, more and more Alexander students have found them useful of “off label” projects such as dealing with troublesome workmates, emotional distress, and the like.

There are several other ways in which Brother Steindal-Ross’ thinking process parallels that of Alexander.  And like Alexander he has arrived at a fundamental understanding of the human condition which most people haven’t considered.

His method for achieving joy through gratitude comes out of his own experiences, just as Alexander’s process of improving the functioning of his physical mechanism did.  I’m tempted to say they both came up with a fundamental path that likely underlies all sorts of effective methods and techniques for self-development.

I’d love to hear about other examples of this basic 3-step process – please post your thoughts below and/or on Facebook

And I strongly suggest listening to (or reading) his entire interview with Krista Tippett, the host of On Being.

Thanks to my wife Anne Rickover for the title of this blog.  Her initial suggestion, which I wish I could have used, was: “From a Monk to the Monkey”


* You can learn about Freedom Directions, and Alexander Technique directions in general here.


Strange Bedfellows: A Monk and F. Matthias Alexander — 1 Comment

  1. Dear Robert,
    Your blog is talking about the same message that has come to me from the radio, and two friends. I want to tell the Universe that I have received the message! It is wonderful that the same direction comes in so many languages and cultures which means that it is for all of us.
    Keep us the good work. May your road be smooth, strangers welcoming and blessings abound.
    All the best in 2018

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