Today’s post is all about happiness, and why FM Alexander believed that doing his work could make students happier in their daily lives.
At dinner tonight, I told my son that I was expecting a student this evening, even though it is school half-term holiday. He put down his fork and looked at me. “I don’t like it when you have students at night,” he said. “I like it when you have students while I’m here downstairs. Then I get to hear you laughing.”
“You hear me laughing?” I asked.
“Not just you,” he said. “Lessons sound like fun.”
An abundance of laughter is not what students expect when they sign up for Alexander Technique lessons. And sometimes they are surprised when they start having fun. But FM Alexander would not have been surprised at all. In fact, he devoted a whole chapter in his second book to the relationship of his work to happiness: why people experience a lack of happiness, and how doing Alexander’s work can reverse this lack and change it to abundance.
Why we are lacking happiness
FM wrote, “the lack of real happiness manifested by the majority of adults today is due to the fact that they are experiencing, not an improving, but a continually deteriorating use of their psycho-physical selves.”*
In other words, because the majority of us don’t use our bodies as efficiently or appropriately as we could, over time our bodies begin to feel the pinch of our less-than-perfect use of ourselves. We get aches and pains. We suffer irritations of body and mind. Our experiences of happiness become shorter and more fleeting.
FM is suggesting that our difficulties in being happy are a knock-on effect of our general lack of understanding of how to use our bodies and minds most effectively. And if we want to experience greater happiness, we need to attend to the way we use ourselves first.
How to turn lack of happiness to abundance
Alexander’s view is very simple. In order to experience a greater quantity and quality of happiness in our lives, we need to learn the principles of using our minds and bodies more efficiently and effectively.
He writes, “one of the greatest facts in human development is the building up of confidence which comes as the result of that method of learning by which the pupil is put in possession of the correct means whereby he can attain his end before he makes any attempt to gain it.”**
In other words, if we learn Alexander’s principles, if we actually take the time to think about how to use our bodies even in apparently simple acts such as sitting or standing, we can develop not just an intellectual interest, but genuine pleasure. And FM’s picture of happiness, repeated often in the chapter, is that of a healthy child using its body beautifully and naturally in an activity that interests it.
So, to recap, here is FM’s recipe for happiness:
· Happiness (or the lack of it) is a byproduct of how we use our minds and bodies;
· If we want to improve the quality of our happiness, we need to think about how we go about our daily activities, even something as ordinary as sitting;
· If we can control the means whereby we achieve our goals, we will have success. And this leads to that happiness of a child who is fully occupied in something it loves.
And if we think about these things, then my son – and all our children – will delight in hearing us laugh more often. And wouldn’t that be a great world to be a part of?
*FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.382.
** ibid., p.387, p.388.
Image by Afonso Lima, stock.xchng