Applying AT principles to effect major change

Posted by Jeanne Barrett on June 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

This blog has been thus far dedicated to applying Alexander principles to recovery from injury.  Since my recovery has proceeded to a satisfying point, and given that life provides continuing opportunities to learn and grow, the focus of this blog thus changes, with Alexander principles as the primary ingredient.

I live literally across the street from the Woodland Park Zoo. I have been aware for many years that the three elephants confined in the zoo (Chai, Bamboo and Watoto) are unhappy and unhealthy.  I have been reluctant to become personally involved in this situation because of my habitual mode of avoiding emotional distress in reaction to animal misery.  But, I woke up one night and knew that I must assist the elephants.  It was not a decision, it was a knowing.  The following day, I emailed one of the very dedicated people who have been advocating for elephant release to sanctuary and offered my help.

The Alexander Technique is about exploring the unknown in our response to stimulus, and finding the means-whereby to accomplish any intention without diminishing the instrument of self.  The Technique offers skills in using the instrument of self in a new and unfamiliar manner, and in responding to stimulus consciously.

The stimulus of the project of effecting release of the elephants from zoo to sanctuary immediately evidenced an end gaining response in me.  I wanted relief from my extreme emotional discomfort related to the knowledge that Chai, Bamboo and Watoto were suffering.  I desired quick results to relieve my own discomfort.  But, as an Alexander teacher and student, I recognized that a process, a means-whereby was necessary, and that this was an opportunity to apply principles to activity in an entirely new way for me.  A wider view than my own was needed, and a willingness to explore beyond my habit of emotional guarding was key.  A trust in larger co-ordination, beyond my own flawed psycho-physical organization, was essential.

And so, I am learning, very painfully, new coping skills.  I had avoided heartbreaking details because I thought I could not survive them.  The temptation to narrow and shorten in response to very upsetting information has eased somewhat as I recognize  the bigger priority of the elephants’ dreary reality and the need to help them with all the energy and attention I can bring to bear.  My heart is shattered, and I am learning to live with a shattered heart, and to use myself well even with a very broken heart.  Not easy, but necessary.

Thus, remaining open to new experience, having a clear intention, and refusing to end-gain my way to a desired result has provided a wider field of means and awareness.  Help has arrived from previously unknown sources.  Writing on the elephants’ behalf and speaking on their behalf  has required me to make the best use of myself, despite the daunting aspects of this project.  I can’t afford to let fear and emotional dismay narrow or shorten me.  I am learning new skills in accommodating extreme emotional distress, to communicate clearly without the end-gaining urgency of anger, to accept that a political process requires a frustrating amount of time, and to know that my only choice of any consequence is to use myself well.

The means to achieve my intended goal of elephant release to sanctuary are as yet mysterious. There are many other dedicated people who have worked hard for many years to effect this elephant release to sanctuary.  My determination is only deepened by the incredibly daunting obstacles.  If I can remain open to new experience, be active without end-gaining, relinquish the need for desired outcome right now (this is the most difficult aspect as the elephants are, again, suffering), and trust that the means will reveal themselves,  then perhaps I can be effective in contributing to this productive change.

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