Taken from: Aphorisms of Marjorie Barstow – Collected by Marion Miller and Jeremy Chance originally published in Direction Journal
The ‘magic’, if you want to call it magic, is your constructive thinking.
I don’t work on the table. I think the Alexander Technique is about movement. I like to work with my pupils in their daily activities… I don’t believe in giving lessons in silence because I want to know what my pupils are thinking. I am not making a mechanical person out of them: I want my student to know what I’m doing; know how they experience it; talk it over with them.
CONSTRUCTIVE CONSCIOUS CONTROL…
CONSTRUCTIVE: because we are changing something in ourselves
which is ineffective, harmful.
CONSCIOUS: because we become aware of what we are doing.
CONTROL: because we are redirecting energy and bringing freedom into the whole mechanism.
Our voices are talking to your thinking apparatus;
our hands are talking to your sense of feeling.
You don’t want to reproduce the feeling but the mental process.
Learn to laugh at yourselves: you always move better with a smile.
All you want is a little bit of nothing–but the trouble with all you people
is that you all want something. And that something is your habit.
Inhibition is the activity by which the old habit cannot take place.
You stopped that constructive thinking that wouldn’t have allowed
the habit to take place.
All you’ll get is the absence of what you had.
It is the delicacy of the movement that will give you your release.
When I find myself pushing, I have not taken the time to see where I am
before I start to move.
You didn’t recognise that you could move without the tension
you usually associated with forward and up.
If you memorise your feeling you’ll never change.
When I help her she relies on her feeling,
because then her feelings are freedom and ease.
I am not making a mechanical person out of them:
I want my students to know what I am doing;
know how they experience it; talk it over with them.
Nothing will move if you don’t engage their mind.
Once the pupil sees it for himself, he can make the change without any trouble.
You have to do the brainwork.
How we get ourselves into this mess I don’t know;
but this is a way to get out.
He was scared as he was keeping his mind on what was bothering him,
instead of looking for what to change.
Emotions are a part of your mental activity.
What are you waiting for?
You’re setting your head and waiting to get a right position.
Forget all that, it belongs to the past. As soon as you get a good experience, instead of using it,
you say “Oh–I usually do this and this and this.” And the new experience just washes away.
So you are learning less and less about your self,
and more and more about what is possible.*
You’d better talk about a ‘preventing’,
because if you talk about a ‘keeping’, you will stiffen.
When you give up–doesn’t that mean you were looking for a position?
The only time I fussed with you about feeling
is when you set yourself to feel right.
I don’t let you take all that time before you start because you’re trying to feel you’re right and that’s endgaining.
It’s only if she starts pulling down that her attention
needs to go to her head and neck.
There is no right place, there is just a little bit more ease.
Pupil: “My feelings are confused.”
Marj: “So long as your thinking isn’t confused, you’re OK.”
I don’t know why you are pushing there?
You’ve got some kind of idea–let’s see what your idea is.
You just start helping them from where they are and where their thinking is.
The people who are the most difficult to help are the ones who won’t talk.
Spend a little time in conversation finding out what the person is learning…
Pupil: “I move my head but I’m not sure.”
Marj: “You’re never sure. You move your head and you see what happens.”
Pupil: “I’m going to move my head and not pull down.”
Marj: “You let that little word ‘not’ slip in and your habit slips in.
Say instead ‘I’m going to move my head and see what happens’
and carry on your constructive thinking through the act.”
Marj: “Why aren’t you moving?”
Pupil: “I thought about not stopping my head.”
Marj: “There’s that negative thought–that’s why you stiffened.
That’s why I let you talk–you give yourselves away.”
You’ve got so many “nots” you’ll never undo yourself!
The head tilts a little as it moves up–I don’t know myself if the tilt forward moves the head up
or if the upward movement tilts the head forward?
You do have the experience that as you let your head move and body follow, your habits cannot take over.
Even those positions of mechanical advantage are movements.
I’m not interested in little pieces of tension–
it’s my whole head and my whole body.
She let her feeling decide instead of her thinking.
When you don’t feel some stiffening or pressure, you don’t know what to do.
He creates a feeling which stiffens the direction.
He puts the mental state at the end of the process–that’s upside down.
Your sensory mechanism becomes more and more reliable
but you trust your thinking first.
Thinking and moving are the same thing–don’t wait for perfection.
Maybe he was pulling his head back a little–but he got a little improvement.
You are not supposed to expect something–
you are supposed to be experimenting.
You can’t tell until you move it. You move it, then you feel it–and that’s what you notice. When you fix it–you’ve lost it.
I’m so practical, I shouldn’t be living!
I don’t want you to have a picture–I want you to know you’re doing it.
People love complicated things–but this is so simple, people think it’s hard.
It’s so simple it’s shocking.