Saturday, 1 February 2014

On 14:07 by Victoria Stanham   No comments
Observe this image of a well known optical illusion:

What do you see first? A young lady or an old lady? How stable is each image when you choose to see it?

In my own case, I first see the young lady (I won't go into all the possible conditioning schemas that bring this habit about). Of course, I can see the old lady easily, but I have to make a conscious effort to "stabilize"the image, because I feel the pull (literally) of my eyes wanting to move and reconfigure my habitual worldview, my way of seeing things.

A few years ago I spent several months playing around with perception exercises like the one above. I would look at geometrical images like the following:

and try to "see" it (that is, construe the mental image) from different perspectives, stabilizing each new organisation/coordination of the form until I could comprehend its logic and repeat it on demand.

For example, at first I would see a star, that is, the concept star. Then I would remind myself that the star was made up of a conjunction of lines and so try to find its construction logic. My habitual construction was then to see two interlaced equilateral triangles. As a following step I would try to see the image as some other possible organisation of lines (a different construction logic) like, for example, a set of 3 bowties surrounding a hexagon, or a rhombus (diamond) with a 6 sided polygon across it, etc.

In each case the "end" was the same, to put together the full image; regardless of which way I chose to put it together, the image, to all intents and purposes, remained the same: a "star". The interesting thing, however, was that it didn't feel the same if I put the image together using one logic or a different one: seeing interlaced triangles or seeing bowties surrounding a hexagon, to my feeling, just wasn't the same! I reacted differently to the final product, the "star", according to how I had chosen to construe my perception of it!

How can this be?! It is alwasy the same image! The end remains the same! Why do they feel different then?!

Ah! But lo and behold, here we find our key point... What IS is always immutable, what changes is our perception, based on how we put together/organise/coordinate our perception; and it is this choice of how to interpret the elements that make up what IS that gives as our experience of the world.

Image courtesy of dan

Alexander Technique lessons are a laboratory for our perception of ourselves, something not unlike the visual perception game I set myself, but using our kinesthetic sense (our propioception).

Our kinesthetic sense is the most important sense when it comes to defining who we believe we are; it gives us our feeling of ourselves. This is the sense that informs us about how our body is in relation to space (internal and external), and how our parts are relating to each other.

The way we feel is something extremely habitual, conditioned, to the point that we don't "feel" is because it has become a constant, and we tend to perceptually register changes and not constants or absolutes.

During a lesson in the Alexander Technique we are constantly playing with our perception of ourselves. We want to discover what is our habitual way of perceiving ourselves, and that is only possible if, for an instant at least, we step out of that paradigm (we induce change into the constant). It is the experience of this perceptual change, of feeling different, that starts to reveal the organisation/coordination of our parts that we use habitually.

All our parts are there all the time, it the how we coordinate them with each other what gives us a known or unknown sensation/feeling, but the totality is immutable and always there (Lavoisier's law!).

What we want to achieve is conscious control of this coordinating capacity, so that we may be able to choose from which perspective we will face the world. Much like I was able to train myself to "see" one same figure from several different perspectives and then consciously choose before looking at the figure which coordinating paradigm to use, according to which experience of the figure I wished to have, we want to be able to do the same with our way of assembling our perception of ourselves in relation to space, the world, Life.


And you, have you had any experiences with your perception of yourself that has changed your way of being in the world?

I would love to know which experiences those were and how they affected you. I invite you to tell me about your experience in the space offered for comments below.

If you haven't had any experience of the sort and would be interested in experimenting with your perception of your bodily coordination through the Alexander Technique, we can arrange a lesson. Send me an email at


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