Rachel Zahn (1943-2017), US teacher of the Alexander Technique who promoted Francisco Varela’s approach of how mental experience could be studied scientifically.
Rachel Zahn first received theatre training at the University of Maryland and Catholic University. She received a study grant from the American Conservatory Theatre and trained as a teacher of the Alexander Technique from the American Center for the Alexander Technique (ACAT) 1966–69. During the 1970s, she studied with Moshe Feldenkrais, Charlotte Selver, and Elaine Summers. She became an assistant to Judith Leibowitz at the Juilliard School of Music in New York and in 1973 and joined the ACAT, where she remained from 1972 to 1981. She received funding from the Ford Foundation to train actors in the Technique at Shakespeare & Company in Stratford, England. Zahn also trained as a Gestalt-Ericksonian-EMDR psychotherapist, qualifying in 1983. Inspired by the anthropologist Margaret Mead she also did intercultural research on global thinking, intercultural communication, and the mind–body problem; her 2009 thesis is titled ‘The relationship between global thinking and intercultural communication’.
Introducing Varela to the Alexander Technique community
Rachel Zahn was deeply inspired by Francisco Varela’s (1946-2001) approach of how science may study subjective experience. Varela argued that scientists study their subjects from a ‘third-person’ perspective (objective), whereas the person who is having the experience is having a ‘first-person’ (subjective) experience. Varela proposed a ‘second-person’ perspective who could communicate between the first- and third-persons, thereby validating personal experiences and making it available for study. She first introduced her ideas to the Alexander Technique community at the 2004 Congress. This was followed up by a presentation at the 2008 Congress.    
An examination of why Alexander teachers have difficulty in fully integrating the Technique into their lives was a second lecture she presented at the 2008 Congress.
She was instrumental in organising two symposia – titled ‘Embodied Mind Projects’ – for the purpose of bringing scientists and Alexander Technique teachers together. The first, ‘The Embodied Mind: a domain of second-person psychophysical experts’, took place in at CREA, Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, France, in 2012. The second, ‘Experiencing the Embodied Mind: High performance psychophysical expertise, subjectivity research, and brain-computer technology’, took place in Gargonza, Italy, in 2013. A report, ‘Discovering what we’re doing’, was published in STATNews.
- ‘Francisco Varela and “The Gesture of Awareness”’ by Rachel Zahn.
- ‘The Alexander Technique and the future of education and technology’ by Rachel Zahn is a sweeping overview of new trends, especially in education, new technologies for education, new understanding of body-mind integration, neuroplasticity, Francisco Varela, somaesthetics.
- ‘The emotional and intellectual evolution of an Alexander teacher’ by Rachel Zahn is on on maintaining psychophysical congruence while attending lectures, reading or expressing their points of view, suggesting that we need more than the Technique to establish psychophysical congruence.
- ‘The embodied mind’ by Rachel Zahn explains the process which was used for the CREA project, gathering ten ‘leading edge neuroscientists, philosophers of mind, psychologist and robotic engineers’ with then teachers of the Alexander Technique, partly for the reason of how the AT may accepted and included in discussions of cognitive science.
- ‘The challenge of a common vocabulary’ by Sarah Barker reports on her reflections following the 2012 ‘Experiencing the Embodied Mind’ meeting.
Obituaries and remembrances
- ‘Rachel Zahn 1943-2017’ by Lisa DeAngelis.
- ‘Rachel Zahn in memoriam’ by Barbara Kent.
- ‘A remembrance of Rachel Zahn’ by Erik Bendix.
Rachel Zahn’s website has been discontinued (alexanderscience.org).