The Means-Whereby applied to Life

Posted by Jeanne Barrett on July 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

As an Alexander teacher, my intention is to apply Alexander principles, such as dynamic non-interference and thinking with the whole self, to the activities of living.  Especially in response to emotionally charged activities, it is deeply difficult to refuse habit and allow a new response.  The more important an opinion, activity or belief is to me, the more my use deteriorates.  I fix, I tighten, I revert to my same old worst case defensive me.  I am right, I am scared and I am over-stabilizing myself.  No elastic response is possible in such a condition.

The campaign to retire local zoo elephants to sanctuary is hugely (no pun intended) important to me.  I felt called to advocate and act on their behalf some years ago, and will continue until I can watch them happily adjusting to their more humane sanctuary conditions on a web cam.

It is very easy in this sort of politically overwhelming and dauntingly complex campaign to divide thinking into “us” and “them”, “us” being elephant advocates, “them” being the zoo industry.  This enemy thinking is hard to shake the more I know about the zoo industry and elephants.  I have hardened but not become more effective.

Suddenly, after years of fighting the zoo industry in thought and action, of feeling frustrated, hopeless, defeated, I realized that I have to think bigger, just as I would while teaching a lesson, or recovering from a major injury, or attending to a conversation.  I can insist on being right, or I can have a free neck.  A free neck generally indicates I am using my entire self more easily and clearly, and that I can allow solutions to occur that my habituated enemy response would have obscured.

How to shift the dynamic from division and blame to shared interests and co-operation? Or at least a productive conversation? All I can really shift is my own use of self.  If that is the sole change I can make, I will endeavor to do so ( with recognition that I may fail repeatedly).  My interest is in effective means-whereby for the elephants. In order to attend to them, I must attend to my instrument of self with clarity and quiet.

I’d like to give up being right or defining enemies for a free neck so I can allow the means-whereby to free the elephants.  Stay tuned for how this goes along.