Larry Ball - a teacher of the Alexander Technique
Knowing, Experiencing and Practicing our Living Wholeness
|Address:||San Rafael, CA 94901|
THE EXPLORATION, STUDY AND PRACTICE OF THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
AS TAUGHT BY LARRY BALL
The following is a description of my vision and undestanding of F.M. Alexander's Technique and my teaching of it.
For many centuries we humans have known that striving for our wholeness is necessary for the education, healing and strengthening of the whole person.
Alexander taught us that the real significance of his Technique lies with the fact that humans function as a whole and can only be fundamentally changed as a whole. He taught us that we need to change as a whole person in order to fundamentally change our behavior, both within ourselves and in our activities in the world. Alexander called this the use of the self. For Alexander, our wholeness is the meaning of his concept of the self.
Alexander wrote that "It is what man does that brings the wrong thing about, first within himself and then in his activities in the outside world, and it is only by preventing this doing that he can ever begin to make any real change." Alexander wrote that "....before man can make the changes necessary in the outside world, he must learn to know the kind of doing he should prevent in himself and the HOW of preventing it. Change must begin in his own behavior."
Alexander's concept of the self - and the need to fundamentally change the use of our self - included everything about ourselves - known and unknown. Thus, Alexander taught that in fundamentally changing our behavior, we need to allow such change not only within our body and mind, but within every aspect of our wholeness. Otherwise, we cannot fundamentally change our behavior. And without a fundamental change in our behavior, we are incapable of preventing and undoing the misuse we engage in both within ourselves and in our activities in the world.
Each of us develop our own understanding of our wholeness. My own evolving understanding of my wholeness includes: my life energies (divine, universal, psychic, instinctual, physical and others unknown to me), heart, soul, spirit, sacred body, feeling, psyche (my consciousness and unconscious working together), human values, oneness with others (Thou Art That), life experiencies, nature and God. (I use the word "God" because it satisfies me. Other symbols for the unknowable mystery of life include, Tao, Atman, the Great Spirit, the Invisible. There are many from many different cultures.) And there is much of my wholeness that remains unknown to me.
For me, the primary significance and purpose of the Alexander Technique is to help educate, heal and strengthen the whole person in our striving for our wholeness in our lives. I believe this is precisely the work that Alexander was teaching us to carry out if we are to be successful in fundamentally changing our behavior and our use of our self.
The Value of Alexander's Technique
Alexander's work is a profound, practical, simple and effective, path of education through which we can more fully learn to allow Life (It's energies, joy, and beauty), and our own consciousness, help us to experience and express our wholeness in all our life activities. This includes, but is not limited to: realizing whole health; healing pysche and physical pains, anxieties and misconceptions; becoming more fully alive; creating from within our Selves; working toward fulfilling our potentials; moving and acting freely within our Selves and outward in the world with greater understanding, strength, balance, and ease.
The following words describe the fundamental nature and value of Alexander's work.
"The technique of Mr. Alexander gives to the educator a standard of psycho-physical health - in which what we call morality is included. It supplies also the "means whereby" this standard may be progressively and endlessly achieved, becoming a conscious possession of the one educated....It bears the same relation to education that education itself bears to all other human activities." John Dewey
" Good health is priceless and this technique lays the best possible foundation for good health. If one is mis-using oneself it must be an advantage to be able to correct this misuse." Patrick MacDonald (one of the first students taught by Alexander to become a teacher of his work).
In "Education of an Amphibian", Aldoes Huxley sets forth a detailed descrption of the benefits offered to us - physical, pyschological, spiritual, essence, the transcendent within each of us, and more. - by Alexander's work.
Huxley also stated, in the 1946 edition of Alexander’s “Man’s Supreme Inheritance”, Alexander’s first of four books, on the first page before the Preface to New Edition:
“It is now possible to conceive of an totally new type of education affecting the entire range of human activity….an education which, by teaching them the proper use of the self, would preserve children and adults from most of the diseases and evil habits that now afflict them…….I heartily recommend this latest and, in many ways, most enlightening of Mr. Alexander’s books. In The Universal Constant in Living they will find the ripest wisdom of a man who, setting out fifty years ago to discover a method for restoring his lost voice, has come, by the oldest of indirect roads, to be a quite uniquely important, because uniquely practical, philosopher, educator, annd physiologist.”
Professor Nikolaas Tinbergen was one of the recipients of the1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. In his acceptance speech Tinbergen described Alexander’s work. In part, he stated: “This story, of perceptiveness, of intelligence, and of persistence, shown by a man without medical training, is one of the true epics of medical research and practice.”
, Alexander wrote: ".....my experience may one day be recognized as a signpost directing the explorer to a country hitherto 'undiscovered' , and one which offers unlimited opportunity for fruitful research to the patient and observant pioneer". F.M. Alexander
The Alexander Technique
We have been given the gift of life. We are expressions of life through our wholeness.
I believe Life itself is the primary source we have with which to know, experience and practice our wholeness in our daily lives. Life's energies are always available to each of us and provide us with unlimited strength and power,
I believe Alexander's work offers a profound, practical, simple and effective means by which we are able to more fully connect with and access this source.
From Marjorie Barstow, one of my mentors in my Alexander work, I have learned that the greatest gift, amongst many, of Alexander’s work may be the fundamental experience of the joy of being alive.
Out of this experience comes the abiliity to open the "doors of perception" of which Aldous Huxley spoke. William James wrote that most of us make use of only a small portion of our possible consciousness, Alexander's work helps us transform ourselves into making use of our deeper reservoirs of consciousness, wholeness and life.
The study and practice of Alexander's work helps us become conscious of our habitual misuse of ourselves; a misuse which interferes with the development of our consciousness and of our wholeness. The misuse of ourselves - psyche and physical - causes pains, anxieties and misconceptions. The misuse of ourselves causes us to fail to use strengths and powers of all sorts, which we have within our wholeness. In many ways the misuse of ourselves makes us less than what we are and can become.
Alexander's work offers us a means whereby we can prevent the misuse of ourselves and enable ourselves to allow our natural strengths and powers to continously develop our consciousness and wholeness.
We have the inborn strength and power to refuse to allow our ego minds to continue to have control of our wholeness and humanity. With the help of Alexander's ideas and Life's energies, we can learn to pause, perceive, reflect and allow more creative and harmonious expressions of ourselves in each moment of choice. Within this realm of being and non-doing we are far better able to participate fully and consciously in determining the direction of our own lives.
The examples of the help Alexander's work gives us are endless.
Our bodies are sacred.Our ignorance and misuse of our body in movement and at rest is pervasive and widespread. it is not a matter of posture or form. It is a matter of allowing our bodies to be one with Life, our consciousness, and our wholeness.
Alexander's work helps us become conscious of, experience, and learn to undo harmful psyche and physical pressures that most of us place upon our bodies: heads pressing into spines, rather than being allowed to frolic from the top of our spines; knees required to bear weight for which they are not intended, rathen than allowing them to be free to bend and twist with flexibility; sacrums whose strength and freedom of movement are unknown and ignored, thus preventing spines from being allowed to move as one with full strength; trochanter bones that are forced downward from the hip joint rather than being allowed to move freely to the side of the pelvis before beginning their journey to the knees; ankles that are stiff and heavy from being locked, rather than allowing ankle bones to articulate and move about as the body moves; feet that suffer the burden of supporting the weight of far too much of our body, rather than allowing every bone to radiate its own energies and vitality; arms that are held in place rather than being allowed to explore; shoulders that are pressed against upper torsos rather than being allowed to become wings; upper bodies that lie heavy on the lower body, rather than being allowed to do their share of the work of body movement. The list goes on. We develop spinal pains, sore shoulders, headaches, and other chronic ailments. We can no longer run because of pain in our knees. We have diffiiculty in performing our skills because of pain. We no longer experience the exquisite perceptions of our sensations and feelings arising out of movement, performance, labor, etc. We forget our primal connection with playfulness, the connection that allows us to be at our most human.
Then there is the reality of choice. Frances Wickes writes "From....experience comes the knowledge that choice acts in every moment - not a choice of this or that, but of living or non-living. The thought or feeling that is repudiated, the occurrence unregarded, is a choice of non-living. This same moment can, through choices of awareness, be made into a turning to instead of a turning away."
In our materialistic culture most of us are directly influenced into making choices that perpetuate our habitual ways of being and living. We generaly do not deeply nor thoroughly examine with our consciousness the choices we have in each moment of being and living. Having separated from our authentic and natural selves by the requirements of surviving in our culture, we find it very difficult to know what our wholeness wants and needs in our moments of choice.
Another result of our limitations in making choices, is the difficulty of allowing creativity to emerge from within our wholeness. Alexander's work provide an opportunity for the experience and practice of the "non-doing" that is required for creativity to emerge. I believe it is within this realm of non-doing that I am able to transform and become more whole.
Another example is in the area of knowing oneself. Living in our culture, most of us have not been educated to deeply and honestly examine ourselves in our assumptions, our motivations, our actions, our chocies, our movements, etc. Yet, such a practice is necessary to know oneself.
Thomas Merton wrote: "Life consists in learning to live on one's own, spontaneous, freewheeling: to do this one must recognize what is one's own - be familiar and at home with oneself. This means basically learning who one is, and learning what one has to offer to the contemporary world, and then learning how to make that offering valid."
For most of us, our community experiences and cultural education fails to help us address the issues Thomas Merton has raised. Alexander's technique offers fundamental help in finding ways to address and resolve these issues.
Each of these problems are within our power to address and resolve. I believe a solution lies in allowing life, our wholeness and our consciousness to help us. Alexander's work is the most effective and availalbe pathway I have discovered that can provide this help to each of us.
Historically Western culture has failed to recognize the ability of our wholeness to help us know ourselves and live a truer, healthier life on earth. Instead, Western culture generally limits such efforts to our mind, to our ego. In our materialistic culture our hearts, souls, spirits, feelings, pysche, sacred bodies, oneness with others, our human values, our nature, and our connection with the unknowable are generally given short shrift and often dismissed as non-existent.
Through your Alexander work new experiences of your wholeness emerge from within you. Once experienced and explored you are able to begin to learn to allow your wholeness to express Itself in your choices, actions, movements and healing. These changes allow us to choose, act, move and heal more fully and wholly as humans on the earth. These changes help us allow harmony with oneself and nature, even in the midst of a human world that has broken away from harmony with nature.
Your lesson does not end at the close of the hour. Rather, the lesson begins. For it is up to you to explore, experiment with, and determine for yourself the value of Alexander's technique in giving you the help you seek. Your experiences in each lesson give you motivation to accomplish this. In doing so, the energies, knowledge and understanding provided by life, your consciousness and wholeness grow and evolve. In doing so, you transform yourself.
About My Teaching and History
I began studying the Alexander Technique in 1976. I graduated from the American Center for the Alexander Technique in San Francisco in 1979. At that time the school was under the direction of Frank Ottiwell and Giora Pinkas. I was a member of the school’s teaching faculty assisting Frank Otttiwell from 1981 to its closing in 2004. While a student in the school I worked with Patrick McDonald during his yearly visits to the school, as well as with Walter and Dilys Carrington during their visits and workshops. While a student and teacher in the school I worked extensively for over 10 years with Marjorie Barstow, both in San Francisco during her yearly visits to the school, and in Lincoln, Nebraska. Marjorie Barstow and Frank Ottiwell are my mentors.
I have taken Alexander at his word and have attempted to be a pioneer of the work he began: to explore, to observe, to listen and to discover the truly unlimited knowledge and understanding his work offers. During these years of study, exploration, and practice I have found an open doorway to and greater understanding of the gifts the Alexander Technique offers.. Alexander's work has helped me to live a more wondrous, joyful and healthy life. This work has led me to a great improvement and understanding of myself within my deepest self and in the world.
I teach in San Rafael.
I am happy to answer any questions and discuss this work with you.
Cell: (415) 377-0449
I offer the following quotes from a few of the the sages I have studied that give further insight into my vision and understanding of the value of exploring, studying and practicing the Alexander Technique.
People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.... Joseph Campbell
Energy is eternal delight. William Blake
I have no doubt that most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make use of a small portion of their possible consciousness....much like a man who, out of his whole bodily oganism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger.... We all have reservoirs of life to draw upon, of which we do not dream. William James
Comments on my teaching
“As a student of movement for over 25 years, I have accumulated countless concepts, tips, and exercises that are meant to help me move and function better. But all of those things go out the window when working with Larry. He cuts through the fog and helps me see and experience that I already have everything I need to be free and whole right here, right now.
Matt Stevens, Linguist and Alexander Technique Teacher, AmSat
“Larry was one of my teachers at the Alexander Training Institute - SF. After graduating in 2003, I went to him for continued training for two intensive periods of study. Larry offers a very unique philosophical perspective on the Alexander Technique, which I believe guides his teaching. But I didn’t go to him for philosophy; I went to him for the experience of his touch. Under his hands, I felt harmony, the mystery of my body’s own potential to heal itself, and a sense of intrinsic movement and vitality. It would be an exaggeration to say that I could feel cellular movement, but that’s the type of metaphor that rises to mind when working with Larry. His quiet touch provides deep wells of space that were particularly important to me during times of distress. Studying with Larry will not give you simple answers. You will instead experience the mystery of life in the body. As a teacher, I often reference his work.
Elyse Shafarman, Alexander Technique teacher, MA. M.AmSat teacher
“ I can’t thank Larry enough for the inspiration his lessons have given me. I have been trying to resolve the contradiction between doing and non-doing for years, ever since my earliest workshop with Marjorie Barstow more than 30 years ago. The shift of verbal emphasis Larry teaches in the words “let the universe do it” just dissolves the problem. A miracle really. And what is even more fantastic is that in lessons Larry stays with the sensitivity of touch that allows ‘it’ to do itself. Wow.”
Marion Miller, Alexander Technique Teacher
“13 years ago Larry was my teacher at Alexander teacher's training school. Today he is my mentor. Larry's work opens a corridor of enlightenment that can only be found when one truly surrenders to the energy and balance of natural things.”
Alan Bolton, Alexander Technique teacher AmSAT.
“My lessons with Larry have been deeply healing and revealing for me and I've appreciated them enormously.”
" As I write this I feel the echo of working with Larry just a few hours ago. And I feel re-opened in a new way - to my self and to my surroundings. Better not to say too much. Only to know that the direct experience is what matters and the quality of the vibration is much subtler than my ordinary materialistic experience. Right now I feel l like a buoy in calm gentle waters. This is in large part of just having worked with Larry."
David Page, Alexander Technique Teacher, AmSat