For me, working with the Alexander Technique involves a willingness to ask questions of myself. Questions allow me the freedom and opportunity to notice when I want to change my path. I find that many of my questions arise from self-reflection and stimulate more reflection and more questions, and that coming back to the same questions again and again helps me to notice growth and change and also to reassess. “What is important to me in the long term? What is important to me in this moment? What am I doing? Why am I doing this? What is a good way for me to get closer to what is important to me? What am I doing to get in my own way?”
Or, “What does it mean to stop an unhelpful reaction within myself? How can I employ freedom of my neck and an overall length and width during this activity?” If I am grappling with a big question like one in the previous paragraph, bringing the question back to “what am I doing in this moment?” changes my thoughts about the big question and I often realize something unexpected.
Asking questions of others can forge a human connection and open possibilities we may not have thought of otherwise. Someone once suggested a question I could ask my child in the midst of a tantrum: “What do you need?” I remember vividly one instance in which I managed to do so: the act of becoming aware, stopping my automatic response, and redirecting my actions toward addressing the big picture had radical and unexpected results. My child stopped screaming, thought silently for a few moments and said, “I need a hug.”
I cannot think of a better way to value someone than asking them a thoughtful question and listening to the answer. What could be more important than a person’s needs, wants and goals? When I teach a lesson, my big-picture goal isn’t to spew information at my student, tell them what to do or try to change them. Any of these things can happen if I assume I know what my student is thinking or how they are reacting. What I really want, though, is to learn about what is important to my student, find out something about their reaction in different situations, and help them find a way to get closer to their goals. I want to find out what they are thinking that may be either helpful or unhelpful. What better way than asking questions? In keeping with what F. M. Alexander discovered about the unity of the self, learning more about our own thought process and that of our students is part and parcel of the whole endeavor.
by Heidi Leathwood
photo copyright Heidi Leathwood