Do nothing

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The Alexander Technique is about doing nothing, or non-doing as F.M. Alexander himself used to say. Instead of making things happen, you allow things to happen. That sounds impossible, how do you achieve anything in life without doing it? How can I, as a former physical therapist, teach non-doing?

Doing means planning: first I will clear up my desk, then I will write a blog, have lunch with my kids and go to a meeting. Life is a matter of organization. And whenever I fail my own planning, I get frustrated or stressed. I should have worked harder!

My first Alexander lesson: Nadia Kevan is standing next to me while putting her hands on top of my feet. She invites me to feel the table underneath my heels. She helps me to focus by just having her hands resting on my feet. I feel a bit uncomfortable: do I need to do something, do I need to feel something, should something happen? As soon as I stop worrying and concentrate on her words and hands, I can actually feel the table much better. She keeps reminding me that there is nothing to do besides focusing my attention. I have to admit that it is quite a challenge, not doing anything makes me feel vulnerable. But after the lesson I feel relaxed physically as well as mentally. Something definitely has happened!

Don't just do something, stand there
Marshall B. Rosenburg

Last week my mother went through heart surgery. Me and my father visited her in the intensive care while she was waking up. We hardly talked, I just put my hands on top of hers and stood by her for an hour or so. I could see that our presence made her feel more comfortable. Just being there was enough!

Both of my parents are in bad health right now. The last couple of weeks I have been with them a lot, trying to support them as much as possible. These weeks have taught me something that Nadia was telling me all along, but I did not really understand. Being present is more valuable than doing things. Being present allows me to stay calm and notice what is actually going on. Then I know intuitively how to act. Unfortunately, when I lose this sense of being calm, e.g. when I get frustrated, worried of stressed, then I want to make things right. I want to be in control, trying to make people do as I tell them to. I get demanding and even angry sometimes and, believe me, that is not a good way to get things done.

Not doing anything allows me to be empathic and in contact with others. That contact supports the other person more than when I take over control. Training myself in doing nothing is what the Alexander Technique is all about. When I feel at ease, I can handle any situation because I “know”  what to do. For today it means that I let go of my planning and drive to my parents again.