I have had only one direct personal encounter with Walter Carrington. It occurred nearly twenty-five years ago, when I was first having lessons in the Technique in Boston. The teacher with whom I was working arranged for Walter, who was visiting, to give a lecture/demonstration. There were probably less than twelve people present. Walter gave one of his judiciously rambling talks on the Technique at the same time as he gave short individual turns to each of those present. While he was working with me, I realized partway through that while continuing to talk to the group in general, he was also speaking to me about the very specific hands on work we were doing. The integration of skill and understanding involved impressed me deeply. I wondered how one could develop this.
These continuing talks give us clues. It is clear in them that Mr Carrington, after six decades as a teacher of F. M. Alexander's work, gets up every day ready to explore and reflect on whatever life presents to him that day. In his teaching, reading, speaking, and other "acts of living," he patiently and good naturedly observes what goes on with himself and with those with whom he works and considers what it means in light of his previous experience and knowledge. Any new connections he makes are then applied to his next experiments in teaching and living. The primary beneficiary of all this work is Walter himself, as it should be, since, as he points out, each person's primary responsibility is to their own self. But each of the rest of us, in reading and pondering Walter's musings, can find not only example but good, solid practical fuel to inform our own ongoing process of exploration of the inextricably fused principles and procedures of the Alexander Technique.
"My work is in the wide sense educational, but it cannot by any stretch of the imagination be labeled a 'system,' for that implies something limited, complete, calling for the employment of direct means in the gaining of ends; whereas in my technique the procedures are carried out by indirect means which lead the pupil (or teacher) (my parenthesis/KJA) from the known (wrong) to the unknown (right) in experience . . ." (F. M. Alexander in The Universal Constant in Living).© Kevin Ahern. Reproduced with permission.
© 1999. Kevin Ahern. Reproduced with permission.This edition © Mouritz 2005-2014. All rights reserved.
These essays are more profound than their construction suggests; they assume an easy familiarity with the reader, with difficult concepts conveyed with the simplicity and directness of fairy tales, and like them, they encompass the deepest truths. They also have a subtle beauty of language and rhythm of speech that makes rereading a pleasure.
Consider ‘lengthening in stature’ a phrase that Alexander used, Carrington points out, not because he considered it unimportant to lengthen the spine, or the whole back, or to lengthen up the front (he was well aware how subject to stress the larynx was). It was, he observes, a deliberate inexactitiude, so that when we ask ourselves and our pupils to lengthen in stature we’re being deliberately vague and imprecise, if you like, for the very, very good reason that we want to cover everything and not leave anything out.
He is wise on using the Technique in activity and the way that riding for example creates a condition in which more response is needed, more effort, more coordination, more sensitivity, more direction... The difference between this and the Technique is that when it comes to preventing misuse we have to say so much of the time ‘less, less, less, stop doing, do nothing’ because misuse has got to be eliminated before it makes any sense to try and build something up. But the point does come when less, less, less will not really get you anywhere at all. Progress in athletic performance comes through increasing the demand on yourself while ensuring the full, intelligent, conscious response to the demand – that the direction, coordination and balance are meanwhile correctly maintained.’.
These are not books written in any way as a substitute for Alexander’s own books; they are intentionally and resolutely not. They are thoughtful reflections to be considered in conjunction with FM’s works. I have already read both these Walter Carrington books many times over and found something else of interest in them each time. They have also helped me to understand better Alexander’s
© Francesca Greenoak. Reproduced with permission.This edition © Mouritz 2005-2014. All rights reserved.
As presented here, Walter Carrington gives wonderfully crisp definition to a very wide range of Alexander Technique topics. The book contains 29 transcriptions of talks given by Carrington to Alexander Technique teachers-in-training over a period of several years. These are amplifications of passages from one of F. M. Alexander’s four books.
Although perhaps not best suited for beginners in the work, for teachers and student with some experience this can be a very valuable resource of insights and fresh approaches to the many subjects on which a student of the Technique is likely to ponder.
Starting with Thinking to do, through talks on Sciatica, The feet (my pet topic), The length and the width, Walking, and, finally, The Act of Living, these talks provide an illuminating view on these and other subjects that perhaps only Walter Carrington can provide. But I gush . . .
I’ almost embarrassed to pick two nits with this otherwise excellent volume, however . . .
As described above, all Walter Carrington’s talks presented in The Act of Living were developed from passages from F. M. Alexander’s works. It would have been helpful to have those passages as well as the follow-on. There may well be a good reason why this wasn’t done. More’s the pity.
If it weren’t for the page of back matter describing the electronic design of the book, I wouldn’t have mentioned it, but the leading (the space between the lines) is uncomfortably large. Truly a nit? Well, yes.
© Dan Arsenault. Reproduced with permission.This edition © Mouritz 2005-2014. All rights reserved.
© John Naylor. Reproduced with permission.This edition © Mouritz 2005-2014. All rights reserved.