I just watched a short “trailer” for Sounds True’s production of another Pema Chödrön teaching. This one is on shenpa, the Buddhist word for when we get caught up in our minds, especially when we are hooked on some emotion. What struck me most was how she used a pause in order to get unhooked. I wonder if Mio Morales hasn’t gotten the idea for his MJ Etude from this teaching?
In the MJ Etude, which is, as far as I can tell, one of the best ways to teach Alexandrian inhibition, you have a stimulus (in this case, a number) and a response (a movement associated with that number). At first there is no separation between stimulus and response. But at some point we speak the word “pause” without doing the movement. Later on, the word “pause” is interposed between the number and the movement. This process mirrors that which Chödrön gives in the short “trailer.”
I have been struck by the fact that when asked why they are taking my Alexander Technique course, many say because it will help them meditate better and/or help relieve anxiety. Of course this is true, but when they describe the course to other students, they say it is “like meditation.”
At first I was put off by this because on the surface, the Technique is nothing like meditation. There are no particular postures, there is no need to close your eyes or shut out the world, and it can be done anytime, anywhere. But then I realized what they were talking about was how both meditation and the Technique gave them a similar sense of wellbeing and distance from their anxiety.
This validates my long-held belief that the Alexander Technique is, among other things, a spiritual practice. After all, the Technique teaches that we are bodymind unities, and “mind” can include “spirit” in some definitions. I prefer to think of us as having at least four dimensions: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, and if we are unities, then all of them are intertwined and to influence one is to influence them all.