Saturday, 1 February 2014

On 14:05 by Victoria Stanham   No comments
Stand in front of a mirror and look at your body. Describe it.

 Image courtesy of Ambro /
How many of your "descriptions" where simple observations and how many where judgments or interpretations? You can tell the difference if you check your feelings towards the items you "described". 

If you felt good or bad about a particular item chances are you were judging it, with a preconceived idea of what it should be like. 

However, if you were intrigued by it, if it was so new that you still hadn't a category to jam it into, you were probably just observing it, simply perceiving. Of course, your whole system was simultaneously trying to pigeon-hole it into some definition, so that life could be nice and stable and predictable again and you could get on with whatever you think was of real import to your happiness.

Those instants of just perceiving are priceless if you learn to catch them. 

I've suddenly been hit by them when catching an image of myself in a mirror that I didn't know was there. I have sometimes wondered "Who's that woman over on the other side of the room?" only to realize it's my own reflection coming back at me. It has also happened that I walk into a house whose one wall is a huge mirror and I try to walk past this woman who is coming straight at me. For an instant it's not me I'm seeing, it's something new, uncategorized. Soon I become annoyed with this undecided lady (judgment, judgment) who doesn't let me through and seems all frassled and confused and annoyed... and then we both break out laughing at ourselves.

A mirror is an antagonist in that it shows you yourself, just as you are, and that is mostly intriguing rather than terrible or wonderful; we are a mystery to ourselves if we take the time to observe. 

We are generally so full of ideas about what we are, and what we should be, that we can't see the image in the mirror for what it is: an image, a snapshot in time, one facet of reality. And when we do see it, we anyway rush to make assumptions about it and act on those assumptions.

Yesterday I took an instant to look at myself in my inner mirror. 

I've been harbouring a massive bout of back muscle tension for a week, something that as an Alexander Technique teacher I sometimes think I shouldn't be having... ever. Big mistake. It's there and it doesn't seem to want to leave anytime soon, no matter how much work I do on myself, how many hours of semi-supine, how many hot-compresses, massage, rest, I give it.

In the midst of all this reckless symptom hunting, I took an instant to look at myself in my inner mirror. This is the conversation that ensued:

Me: I'm feeling frustrated, because I have this back pain and I'm thinking it shouldn't be there by now. Could you reflect back to me what you heard me say?

Inner-Mirror: You think you are in pain and you're afraid it won't go away. Is it true?

Me: I don't know. I'm uncomfortable for sure, and that annoys me, angers me and depresses me.

Inner-Mirror: You think your discomfort is a bad thing. Is it true?

Me: I don't know. It could be part of a process of healing actually. I don't know.

Inner-Mirror: What is giving you more discomfort, your back tension or your thoughts about what your back tension means?

Me: Got the point. Thanks.

In conclusion, my back still hurts some, but I'm not worrying about it too much. I'm taking all the necessary measures to ensure my recovery (that keeps my mind at ease), but I'm leaving the results to time. I'm actually intrigued about my back tension now... what triggered it? where is it coming from? where is it going? was it there before I noticed it? 

Alexander Technique lessons are much the same in a way. The teacher's hands act as a sensory mirror against which your habitual muscle patterns of reaction become evident. If when this happens we take the time to be intrigued rather than alarmed, angry or annoyed, a whole world of possibilities opens up for us. 

And the journey has no beginning and no end, for we are but mirror images of the eternal.
Or as William Blake put it:

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.


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