Several years ago, before I trained in the Alexander Technique a friend who did an intuitive form of massage was working on my painful shoulder.
“Do you write Lists?” she asked. Lists, of course I wrote lists. I was contemplating creating a list of all the lists I was running for different purposes so I could manage them all better.
“Well stop it” she said. So at some emotional cost I gave it a go, and relied on my memory more for getting the important things done. Within a couple of weeks my shoulder was a lot better. Without realising it I had been “shouldering” the burden of all the many things I felt I was responsible for by adding them to an impossible collection of yet-to-dos. The world failed to end when I allowed some of them slip off my shoulders.
This came to mind a couple of days ago, rereading Ingrid Bacci’s story in the introduction to her book ” The Art of Effortless Living”. She was a high-powered academic, living the American dream, when she experienced a sudden collapse that left her largely bedridden for three years. As part of her recovery she discovered the Alexander Technique and the way our minds and bodies are intricately connected – two sides of the same coin. She now teaches it and I recommend her book to anyone, particularly those who feel an emotional unease with their life.
Reading her story brought sharply into focus that my list/shoulder incident had been just one instance of the wider issue that FM Alexander referred to as “end-gaining” versus “Means-whereby”. The to-do lists, the chasing endless external goals whatever the cost versus paying conscious attention to your body and what it’s trying to telling you, allowing yourself to let go of tension and your habitual ways of doing whatever you are doing, becoming comfortable in your skin.
The irony is that if you switch your focus away from the end-gaining, then easier, more effective ways take over that may help you achieve as much or more, but with less psychological and physical damage. Of course what you achieve may not be what you originally had on your lists ….