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I Once Was Lost... but Now Am Found
Copyright © 2013 David Gorman,
all rights reserved world-wide
Have you ever had one (or more) of those moments when you feel
totally whole and totally free? When everything seems to be
doing itself with utmost ease? When you are totally present
and at one with the moment? When amazing skill and coordination
is just flowing out of you?
Over many decades of working with people,
mostly performers, I've explored these moments of "optimal functioning"
hundreds of times, and I've come to see how almost everything
we need to know about good use and functioning is revealed in
Those experiences are one of the hallmarks
of Alexander Technique lessons, but of course they also occur
in other methods like Feldenkrais, etc., and in moments of performance
when a musician is "in the music" or a dancer "in the flow"
or an actor "in the scene", sometimes they occur at intimate
moments of sex, or even during a lovely sunset at the beach.
Recall those moments and you'll note that
most or all of the following things are happening, and they
are happening all together all at once:
— You experience a wholeness
and unity such that you have no parts;
— You experience ease and
freedom such that there is no effort and everything
seems to do itself;
— Your performance is high quality
and your ability to express your skill is up there with the
best you have done
— You are present in the moment, so
much so that often things seem brighter, more colourful, more
— You experience an expansion out
into the space around you, an openness to, and
a oneness with,
your environment, the others on stage, indeed, the world; and...
— You feel joy and delight, a sort
of yummy appreciation that this is really good stuff.
We've all had these moments. No one has to
tell us that they are wonderful. We'd like to live more of them.
But it's relatively rare because, while we've certainly had
the experience, we've usually missed the meaning of the experience.
To jargonize it, we've failed to reliably appreciate the
sensory experience we just had.
For instance, in those moments there is an
undeniable wholeness — I have no parts, I am just me all the
way to the ground and out into the room... And at the same time,
I'm not doing anything, everything is doing itself... And it
is all happening with total ease and no effort, and with a quality
that is a lot better than I manage when I've tried to do it...
Of course we like that experience and are
disappointed when it begins to fade. And we want to experience
it again. So, immediately after that experience fades, what
do we do to try to get it back? We go straight back into parts
to try to free ourselves, to release this bit and that bit,
to tell various parts what we think they should be doing, all
guided by the memory of that yummy experience. And we hope that
this will get it back for us. If that doesn’t work, we start
studying various methods or works in the hope that they can
show us how to "have" that experience more often.
Did you ever wonder why those moments are
so elusive and seem so “hard” to get back to? Is it that the
methods or the work is so difficult to master it takes decades
(it is called the “work”, after all)? Or is it rather that we
have completely failed to understand the significance of the
experience we had?
We got the “it’s good” part alright. It's
hard to miss that, especially in comparison to our usual "not
so good" experiences. But, we missed the bit that in wholeness
there are no parts. And we missed the part where the wholeness
does itself without us having to do anything. What could those
two together possibly mean but that we ARE whole! It
takes no doing to be whole. Being whole is easy and does itself...
It’s right there in the experience, plain as day.
Unfortunately, what keeps us from seeing
the full significance of that experience is we are still trapped
in the biggest habit which is invisible to most people.
That is the habit of trying to get somewhere better (to get
to better use, to being successful, being perfect, being loved...
you name it). The habit whispers that we are not where we should
be. We could get over there to the promised land where the grass
is greener, if only we could work out how. Then we’d
be OK and we could relax and just enjoy life.
We fail to see that our own system is showing
us every time we have one of those “optimal experiences” that
it already knows (and has always known) how to be whole without
effort, and that this goes with, and is inseparable from,
openness and presentness and oneness.
This is not a far-off land, it has happened
to us many times and is available anytime. Of course, it feels
good, but we fail to see what exactly it is that our own system
is telling us is GOOD. It's saying to you in the only way it
knows how, "Feel this? How's this for a good way to be?
Go ahead, go for it, just live what is happening now — be whole,
be easy, be present, be open... And just to make sure the message
is clear, compare this yummy wholeness, easiness, presentness,
openness, freedom, oneness to that "normal" effortful, horrible
way you feel so you can see how you are straining against yourself
to do more than you can do, or be better than you are, when
you are all parts and tension and reaction to the moment, full
of effort and trying".
The message doesn't get any clearer than
But, of course, with our habitual inaccurate
(i.e. unreliable) way of understanding (appreciating) our experiences
we miss the real message again and again and default back to
the habit of thinking we have to do something (or undo something)
to get to that lovely yummy state, and so we react the same
way the next time we find ourselves in a present moment which
we don’t like. We have already pre-judged that moment to be
wrong and we start to try to do something with the parts we
are already caught in, in order to get to a better moment we
think we will like, a moment later...
It does not occur to us that our system has
just showed us exactly how to live in that "optimal functioning",
and how to live it right now. Instead, the habit sucks us into
taking the next step in the vicious circle by doing more parts,
making more effort, trying more trying, while narrowed to that
future better moment about to come. There we’d be happy to stay
in that better moment and wallow in its yummyness. But wait,
how come our strategy only works once in a while, and when it
does, that wonderful moment doesn't "stick" very long?
What we need is to realize is that the wonderful
experience is not the "result" of some path. It is
the path itself! It’s not the end, it's the means!
You, the conscious choosing you, need to
lead the way by living what you want first. You cannot “get”
the experience and then live in it once you have it That is,
you must inhibit the habitual tendency to try to "fix" the moment
(under the mistaken idea that it is somehow "broken" or a "bad
use" moment and therefore needs fixing by you). Instead, learn
from that yummy experience and follow the path by starting to
live, right now, what your own system just showed you about
the way it works.
That means choosing to live the whole you
just as you are in the moment of choice, whether you like how
you currently feel or not — in other words, start being whole
That means choosing to stop all the doing,
releasing, striving... all the stuff whose sole purpose is to
change something you don't like into something you'd like better
— in other words, to let your system do itself — be itself —
RIGHT NOW. How easy is that?
That means choosing to be present in the
moment as it actually is (for the simple reason that it
is, whether you like the present moment or not) and fully
and willingly accept it RIGHT NOW.
If you think for a moment, this is about
the easiest and simplest thing you can possibly do. In fact,
there’s really nothing at all to do. It is a challenge, for
sure, in the face of the habit, in the face of your feelings,
in the face of what you've been taught, but it is possible to
inhibit your reaction to the moment and follow the means-whereby
which your very own highly-evolved system keeps showing you
— which is to open up to the present moment, to your wholeness,
and to give your system a little bit of faith that it seems
to know what it is doing, and that it can do it really well
without your "help".
Remember the part of that optimal experience
where everything is easy and seems to do itself? What can this
mean but that your system is taking care of everything wonderfully
well, and you have nothing to do but to be present?
I can tell you that after you have truly
put this to the test for a while you won’t need faith any more,
you’ll have the experiences to know that you can trust it. In
fact, you'll no longer be thinking of it as trusting your
system or “using” your system. You will BE your system…
You’ll just be YOU… in the world... and not separate from it
nor from yourself.
The ultimate learning is not that you will
have finally figured out how to get back in touch with your
system and use it well, but you’ll realize that it was YOU who
were lost, and your system was trying to contact you and let
you know how to find your way back.
You once were blind, but now you see.
So give a heartfelt thanks that it managed
to wake you up and show you the way home and to show you how
utterly amazing and capable you are in such a beautiful, seductive,
and loving way.
There is a small biography
with some personal details about the author below.
Download a PDF file of this article in:
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About the Author
David Gorman has been studying human
structure and function since 1970. He is the author of an illustrated 600-page
text on our human musculoskeletal system, called
The Body Moveable (now in
its 6th edition and in colour), and numerous articles and essays, including
the book, Looking at Ourselves (2nd
edition in colour).
David has been working with performers (singers,
musicians, actors, dancers and circus artists) for over forty years. He is a
trainer of teachers of LearningMethods and of the
Alexander Technique and has taught all
over the world in universities, conservatories, performance companies, and orchestras;
for doctors in hospitals and rehabilitation clinics; and in training courses
for Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique, physiotherapy, osteopathy, massage & yoga.
Over the years, his changing understanding about the
root causes of people's problems led him to gradually extend his Alexander Technique
teaching into the development of a new work, LearningMethods (and an
offshoot, Anatomy of Wholeness about our marvelous human design), which
is being integrated into the curricula of performance schools in Europe, Canada
and the United States by a growing number of LearningMethods
Teachers and Apprentice-teachers.
For the last 6 years, David has been running online
post-graduate groups for Alexander Technique teachers and groups for those who
want to learn to use LearningMethods in their own lives and work, as well as
a group for those who want to go on to train as LearningMethods teachers.
Telephone: +1 416-519-5470
78 Tilden Crescent, Etobicoke, Ontario M9P 1V7 Canada (map)