I’ve suffered for years as a teacher trying and failing to teach a form (i.e. the FM Alexander Technique). After spending a week with my nose buried in a pile of books in the hopes of creating a Somatics course syllabus for a batch of unsuspecting SFSU students, the insight that I lacked for the previous 13 years suddenly arrived. It’s not about teaching people a technique, it’s about teaching people – moreover, the skills to notice and work with themselves. When this is done, there’s no need to entertain in the teaching room. Massive amounts of energy are saved.
This is so obvious that I’m sure you already knew it and are wondering at my density. If you had asked, I would have said that I knew it to be true, and was of course already working in this way, but it is only in this weeks of flu and fever dreams, reading page upon page of creative bursts from a pantheon of pioneering thinkers, that I have finally put my finger on the pulse of my own rigidity. I see you, my perfectionist self.
When I think back to lessons with Frank Ottiwell, every moment was fascinating. Intensely so. Time both sped up and slowed down. The light in his studio was special rendering the leaves on the potted tree extra sharp. Of course, we students were all trying desperately to learn something about Frank (He eats Oatmeal!!!!). But he kept your attention pinned to the subject at hand, the Use of the Self, or really yourself. (Let’s admit in this social media performance of life, that we are all self-fascinated). Somehow for those precious 40-minutes he managed to stay interested in us as well, or at least our mighty human struggle with habit, and the rare flashes of unfettered intelligence. Any artifice would be harshly (but not unkindly) brushed away. We worked incredibly hard to fall off the precipice of doing into non-doing. Frank taught the Alexander Technique, but he was really teaching us about the ourselves.
I might have finally learned this from him.