21. Sitting Down

I want to ask you to explore the act of sitting down, something you no doubt do a good number of times each day.  It might be interesting to estimate how many times on an average day.  I am asking you to bring to consciousness an action which probably, normally, hardly exists for you.  When you do it your mind is probably elsewhere, or nowhere in particular, or focused on what is in front of you on a desk, or screen, or plate.  The Alexander Technique asks you to bring an action to consciousness, or more strictly, your preparation and anticipation of the action, so that you can then fully let go of that consciousness into the movement itself.  For the Alexander Technique student the act of sitting down comes alive because it is the transition between two other active states – standing and sitting.  Normally standing and sitting, in themselves, are contentless, a mindless position or condition in which you do things – talk, eat, relax, work.  Now, sitting down is a movement into the unknown, or rather the unseen, the space behind you, the space which is not the busy demanding space in front of us, where things happen.  The Alexander Technique is directing our awareness into this space behind, so that it becomes part of what gives us shape, definition, support.  Often, as we sit, we actually start falling and then have to stop ourselves falling, both because our attention to the world in front is so dominant and also because we associate going lower, which happens in sitting down, with collapse, abandonment of control.  In the practice of the Alexander Technique we give our attention to maintaining the experience of ‘up’ even as we go back and down.  Picture the trajectory of your head as you sit down in a normal dining chair.  It goes in a curve, if you imagine it from the side, with its final position being below and behind its original position.  The thought which guides this movement, for a student of the Alexander Technique, is that the head leads this movement.  The head leads, taking the spine with it and allowing the big joints of the legs to freely fold, and the quality of support from the ground to be experienced, until the contact with the chair is felt.  So sitting down is no longer falling into the unknown, hoping the chair will be there, tightening in fear in case it isn’t.  No, the thinking ahead allows the action of sitting down to be part of a free-flowing sequence in which you stay connected to your environment.  It is not an interruption at the end of which you emerge with no idea how you got where you are now.

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