Life goes on, and our mental life goes on, and on. Where and how are we most usefully able to stop the flow? Rather than bringing life to a grinding halt, I want to ask you to explore the skill of pausing. A pause is a break or rest in a course of action. If you think of speech or drama or music the value of the pause is revealed. In these forms of expression which are laden with meaning and impact, then pauses become essential to allow for expressive communication. What has gone before, and what comes after, emerge clearly thanks to the pause. A pause allows transition even if it is not deliberate, even if it expresses doubt or hesitation. In relation to the practice of the Alexander Technique the pause is not only a basic discipline but also that element which confirms that what we develop with the Alexander Technique is not outward physical grace or prowess. We use and love our physical selves but the work is not about physical skill. It is of the body but not for the body. Pausing has a strong connection to thinking in that thinking is a reflective activity, living in the looking back and looking forward that belong to the pause. I want now to describe five qualities of pausing which form, for me, a loose sequence or series of transitions which give shape to my Alexander Technique practice.
There is the pause we bring about by actually stopping what we are doing, and then standing still, sitting, lying down. This has in it a primary response to stress and hurry. This physical stillness (though you are still breathing, still alive), as an achieved act is more interesting, and difficult to do than you might imagine.
There is the pause of not starting again, of not reacting to the stimulation that I become aware of.
The third quality of pause may happen on its own or may develop out of the conscious non-reacting. It is the pause of openness, of taking in what is new or unfamiliar, of being alert to what is original in yourself or your experience.
These three kinds of pause belong to that phase of the Alexander Technique process which is called ‘inhibiting’. The fourth quality of pause I wish to identify belongs more to the activity called ‘directing’. The mood shifts from openness, recognition, to welcoming, accepting, enjoying what has come into your experience, thanks to the power of the pause.
The fifth stage, or quality, relates, for me, to the deep need I have to find the world reliable and to experience common positive values and feelings in others. Out of pausing comes a deepened sense of responsibility for oneself (this is still an experience grounded in the physical) and this presence with oneself allows the outwardly directed faith in other people and the world to shine. Trust becomes an act of the self. The pause is not a self-sufficient state. It helps the movement from some kind of inner or outer excitement to some kind of inner or outer action. Thought becomes pause and pause becomes response.