freedom for life

The Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre has been offering Alexander lessons and workshops since 1994.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Burning Down The House

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The smoke alarm went off. I got up, thinking it must be telling me that the battery was coming to the end of its life, but that I had better check anyway. Then I smelt smoke and went to the kitchen to see flames coming out of the dishwasher. I approached to see if there was anything I could do, decided there was not and went to call 999. Speaking to the woman on the end of the phone, I was aware of freeing my neck and consciously choosing the tone of my response. Once I had put the phone down, I calmly put on a jumper and some shoes and left the house, as the smoke began to gather above me on the ceiling; it was time to leave. 

Waiting for the fire brigade to arrive, and then while they put out the fire, I was again aware of my neck and back working to keep me breathing and grounded, accepting of the situation, clear and focused, as I started to plan and sequence what needed to be done.

At times I found myself starting to be feel trembly and then I’d just settle myself back into being calm and thinking, where thinking, as Heidegger pointed out, is ‘a form of thanking and therefore of being grateful’. And there was much to be grateful for: first and foremost for being safe and alive, and then for the kindness of neighbours, previously unknown, who appeared with synchronistic magic, with offers of tea and a coat, immediately as I wished for them. 

At the end of the incident I was talking to the chief of the fire crew and I thanked him and his crews firemen and firewoman. He was visibly taken aback commenting that few people thanked him or his crews at the end on an incident. That surprised me but then thinking about it since then, I think it was my ability to stay centred and be practicing thinking as a form of thanking in real time, which is conscious control in action, that allowed me to be present to him and his crew, the jobs that they do, and the lives that they save; by being there rather than being wrapped up in the loss of my beautiful home.

The stress came later, as I struggled and kept myself awake. But gradually I stilled myself into dreaming, awaking as free as I ever have been with my heart open to the world, as a new level of psycho -physical integration emerged. What has happened since, which is the nature of this work, is that I have become even more aware of those habits whereby I try to interfere with this emerging way of being. I am aware of how I want to go back to what was familiar and yet I am also aware that I do not want to, which is how it is on the threshold of opening to new levels of internal freedom. As I work through the external challenges of the coming months in terms of the flat needing to be repaired, redecorated and what remains of my stuff cleaned and restored, I am aware of the internal challenge to further surrender to that psycho-physical attitude where I keep myself open and accept what is. Something summed up rather beautifully here by Tom Cheetham: 

‘We need to keep our internals open. I can think of no better way to express that freedom from hard-heartedness and dogma that is one goal of the human struggle. It is a psycho-physical Quest to be open to the world. Not curved in upon ourselves, but open to the tastes and textures of the world as Manifestations of the Real.’

Tom Cheetham  Green Man, Earth Angel

Richard Casebow

Back in the mid-1980s, I started to suffer from severe sciatica that often made walking and working difficult. At the time, I was training in London to become a Chartered Accountant and I left, as I was spending increasing amounts of time off waiting for the pain to subside. Around this time, I also became depressed, as my prospects seemed to darken with little hope of a normal life. In seeking help I found my way both to a psychotherapist and then to an Alexander Technique teacher, both of which helped enormously. The therapy with forming a life plan and understanding myself, encouraged me to dream of the life I have now. The Alexander Technique gave me the practical tool to help realise it and to allow me to rehabilitate myself to lead a full normal life.

The link between Alexander Technique, Psychotherapy and the art of living intelligently became something that has fascinated me ever since and is something I have continued to explore myself and with pupils and clients since. This blog is my attempt to elucidate the links, as well as to talk about Alexander Technique pure and simple and the benefits of therapy.

I founded the Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre in 1994, Counselling Conversations came later after I became a practising therapist in 2003. Professionally I act as the Treasurer of the Personal Construct Psychology Association and sit on the board of the UKCP’s house magazine The Psychotherapist. When I am not to be found working, there is nothing better I like to be doing than spending time on a Scottish hillside, exploring the arts or just spending time with friends and family, including the family cat.