by Nicholas Brockbank

Last summer I was in France with my wife's sister's family for a wedding. Her mother was visiting, too, from further afield. She was suffering from numerous ailments. She was taken to the doctor, who pronounced most of the problems were psychological. Depression was seen as the cause.

One of the most obvious physical traits my mother-in-law has is a pronounced stoop. She looks down at the ground much of the time and has developed quite a dowager's hump. She is also extraordinarily slow in her movements, and walking anywhere seems to be an almighty chore.

She is a keen Catholic. One of the purposes of her visit to France was to go on retreat. I drove her there, with my wife and her sister. We arrived late and there was much consternation that she might miss the vital evening mass. A lot of time was taken with registration and being shown her room.

To my astonishment, an old lady who ordinarily never moved faster than a human snail, looking down at her feet most of the time, seeming to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders, suddenly metamophosized into an unrecognisable creature. She changed into a short - for her - skirt and scampered down the corridors of a large residential complex, in order to get to the mass on time. Her face had become alive with pleasure and excitement. She positively bubbled.

Later, back in England, we watched a video made by my sister-in-law of preparations for the wedding. There was a lot of discussion about the opening dance. It was a conga-like affair, with couples linking arms and meandering in and out of the doors of the reception building. The families of the bride and bridegroom were shown trying this out. My mother-in-law watched. She was in her usual 'depressed' stance. There was a look of disatisfaction on her face. Suddenly, she announced that she would show them how it was done. She linked arms with someone, and then she went through the same metamorphosis as before. Her face and body lit up as she demonstrated the dance, again and again. She moved fluidly and easily. That section of the video ended with her standing straight and proud, beaming directly at the camera.

A month later, my sister-in-law and and her husband were visiting us in England. Eating supper in the garden on successive evenings, we watched the Evening Primrose flowers opening up. These go from closed bud to fully open yellow petalled flower in a matter of seconds. Watching them unfold is wonderful. As we gazed, I mentioned how like my mother-in-law's transformation this was. Everyone agreed.

I'm left with the conviction that our reality is largely determined by our thoughts; and that we can change in a moment, if we have enough reason to.

I wish I could convey to my mother-in-law how she is probably perpetuating her various ailments through the nature of her thinking.

The connection between this story and the Alexander Technique might seem slim but the point I wanted to make was that good use can be just as much the result of approaching life in a certain frame of mind as of actively trying to pursue it through inhibition and direction.

Believing we know what constitutes good use can have the effect of making us look stiff and forced, as we try to activate or manifest that concept.

Adopting a radically different outlook on life (by which I mean no more, really, than stopping thinking in an habitual way) approaches good use less directly. It nips in the bud the root cause of poor use, and allows something innate rather than thought-out to determine the end result.

This isn't meant to denigrate the Technique. There are lots of circumstances where a radically changed outlook on life would be neither appropriate nor desirable nor possible, whereas addressing use in a more direct fashion might


Nicholas Brockbank is an Alexander Technique teacher living in Sussex, England. He also trades stocks and futures and his other interests include gardening, writing, tennis, and travel. Nicolas has a number of other articles on the subject of learning the Alexander Technique on your own on his Web Site; These can be found on his page:

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