“The Awakened Body”
The essence of awakening is making what’s currently unconscious, conscious. This matters because what’s currently unconscious is not always benign, and often has palpable effects in your life.
The idea is this: the more you bring awareness to what’s just at the periphery of your ability to notice, the more you’ll bring the unconscious into consciousness, and the more you’ll have the ability to make intelligent choices about your previously unconscious patterns and habits.
The Alexander Technique is uniquely positioned to support this endeavor because of its emphasis on bringing to light previously unconscious habits of muscular gripping and tension, as well as the attitudes and frames of mind that bring about this tension.
The Alexander Technique has had profound effects on my own meditative practice and I love teaching Alexander Technique to meditators because they so often get sudden breakthroughs from it and appreciate the sense of freedom and spaciousness it lends their practice.
I’m going to write a series of articles and create some videos about the benefits of the Alexander Technique for meditators. To give you a taste of what’s in store, here are the three biggest lessons the Alexander Technique offers meditators:
Excess musculoskeletal pain is a big barrier for many Westerners learning to meditate, especially when we couch potatoes try sitting on those little cushions on the ground. The Alexander Technique teaches us to let go of excess muscular tension and relieve much of this pain.
It also provides a bridge between Eastern teachings of meditation and our modern Western disembodied culture. The traditional teachings come from a particular context and culture of embodiment that is very different than ours, so we need some remedial embodiment training (i.e., the Alexander Technique) to get the full benefit of our practice.
The Alexander Technique also shows us how freeing our body simultaneously frees our mind from unconscious attitudes and emotional blocks. This is a striking and immensely valuable experience; I highly recommend you get some hands-on Alexander Technique to experience it for yourself!
The experience of bodily freedom most characteristic of the Alexander Technique reveals much about the essence of Buddhism. For instance, the first “no-self” realizations I had were in the context of Alexander Technique lessons, and over the years I’ve realized that the ground-level sensory experience of my ego is largely composed of thoughts and muscular tension “con-fused” into a “mind-in-a-meatbag.” The spacious nature of awareness revealed in these moments releases bodily tension and heals emotional wounds to an extent that is difficult to imagine unless you’ve experienced it.
So, keep an eye out for these upcoming articles! I’ll also be scheduling some workshops to teach all of this at the Philadelphia Shambhala center and other meditation centers around Philadelphia. And in the meantime, here are some of my videos on related subjects.