“And when you understand a thing don’t grind over and over it….The moment you understand it, know that it is a part of you forever.”—Brenda Ueland
One of the great joys of my work is seeing how people respond to their early lessons in the ITM Alexander Technique.
When people experience, in seconds, how much easier they can be in themselves, delight and relief floods their face. This is often quickly followed by anxiety and the question: How do I keep this?
The answer they often come to is that they must remember exactly what happened in the lesson and then remember it as much as possible over and over again.
They are often baffled when, as a teacher, I don’t recommend this strategy as a constructive way forward.
In the ITM Alexander Technique, we work with the hypothesis that our movements are caused by thinking: by sending messages out from the brain to the muscles involved. Because I understand the processes and mechanics of movement, I know that my pupil is having this wonderful experience because they have had a change in understanding.
I also know that this new understanding may not be something they can yet articulate because it just does not fit with our usual way of thinking about ourselves or how we move. The beauty of this work is that we have a simple, observable proof of this change in thinking: how the student now looks and moves.
Oprah calls these moments “aha” moments. Archimedes yelled out “Eureka!”. There is magic in that moment when a spark lights our minds and a new idea or understanding illuminates the whole landscape of our mental world.
I don’t think my pupil needs to “remember” anything, because I can see in their appearance that they have had a new understanding. And this understanding has now changed their mental landscape.
The more they “grind” over it , the more likely they are to stuff this understanding into something they already know and by doing so extinguish the light and life from this new realisation.
But if they are willing to hang out in no-mans land of new and different, to accept that something has changed in them even if they can’t pin it down and put a label on it, that new understanding will attract more new understanding and they will continue to learn and grow.
The effort is not in “remembering”, the effort and difficulty is tolerating the discomfort and uncertainty of new and different.
As I trust more in “understanding” I have found that I need to worry less about “remembering” or even “memorising”. As I own ideas and concepts and develop my understanding, new behaviour flows easily from those realisations. So I wonder, Is there any part of your life that could be made easier if you focused on your understanding and trusted that a new understanding will lead to new behaviours?