In the practice of the Alexander Technique we speak about, and try to use, a particular quality of thinking and awareness which is called ‘directing’. It is one of the small number of key Alexander Technique special words, or special uses of ordinary words. ‘Direct’ and ‘directing’ are simple, rich ideas: at their heart is a sense of straight, honest, plain immediacy – nothing getting in the way. It is interesting that a ‘direction’ can encompass the act of setting something (perhaps yourself) on its way, the path you are going to follow, and the place you hope to reach. It includes the whole flight of the arrow from the aim, the bend of the bow, the flight and the bull’s eye. In the spirit of the Alexander Technique we try to take all the narrow, forceful ‘demanding’ out of the activity of ‘directing’. Even as a thought, we order by guiding, we guide by pointing, we point by preparing. We are animating our body by thinking but not letting that thinking dissipate in movement. We come back to the idea of preparing.
I find it interesting that the words ‘dress’ and ‘address’ have a connection, in their origin, with ‘direct’ and ‘directing’. They are all to do with straightness, order. We ‘dress’ timber, making it straight and regular, we ‘dress’ crab to prepare it for the table, we ‘dress wounds’ to protect and heal. This is the quality we are bringing into our thinking with what we call ‘directing’ – a lively preparatory activity which brings us into our bodies, and works through the structure of the body as it allows us to move. In the performing arts the director is the one in immediate touch with and guiding the people who are on and around the stage. I know from my experience at stage directing how easily I become drawn into what everyone is doing, trying to demonstrate this gesture, and move that person over there. The director I most clearly remember working with, over thirty five years ago, was a highly regarded professional who hardly ever moved from his chair at the side of the stage. He stayed quite still, giving minimal but significant indications, controlling and guiding by quiet but total involvement. So, similarly, the guiding thinking we call ‘directing’ expresses the reliance of the Alexander Technique on avoiding unhelpful effort – not getting in the way, not rushing, not trying too hard.
So the way the thinking enters into the body is to help it not to be something which restricts, gets in the way. So the impulse is to let go of something, to open up, in our physical structure. This same quality then appears in the way the preparation flows into a movement, the movement felt as something which is allowed to happen. The whole sequence of the movement from preparation to completion is animated by the unhurried energy of the directing. Like my picture of the quiet, guiding theatre director, our directing works with the fundamentals which keep us open and ready to perform particular movements in particular situations, just as the members of the cast were helped to be responsive by the director’s wide focus. I have not gone into the content of the directing, into what these fundamentals are, which our thinking can help live in us. Think of it for now as that quality in our bodily structure which would allow an unbroken thread from preparation to destination – nothing getting in the way.