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Quote of the Month: August 2014

by Ellen on August 1st, 2014

“I was on my way to Dictionopolis when I got stuck here,” explained Milo. “Can you help me?”
“Help you! You must help yourself,” the dog replied, carefully winding himself with his left hind leg. “I suppose you know why you got stuck.”
“I guess I just wasn’t thinking,” said Milo.
“PRECISELY,” shouted the dog as his alarm went off again. “Now you know what you must do.”
“I’m afraid I don’t,” admitted Milo, feeling quite stupid.
“Well,” continued the watchdog impatiently, “since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect that, in order to get out, you must start thinking.”

and as they raced along the road MIlo continued to think of all sorts of things; of the many detours and wrong turns that were so easy to take, of how fine it was to be moving along, and, most of all, of how much could be accomplished with just a little thought.
~The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster

The Phantom Tollbooth has been one of my favorite children’s books ever since the first time I read it. Re-reading it again, I was struck by this passage and how similar it is to the philosophy of the Alexander Technique. The watchdog’s comment about starting to think sounds almost like something one of my teachers would have said.

The idea that amazing things can be accomplished with just a little thought is central to the Alexander Technique. When we stop thinking as Milo does, we are liable to end up taking all sorts of detours in the way we use ourselves. As these detours pile up we invariably end up stuck in our bad habits, and it becomes nearly impossible to get out. The way out is exactly what the watchdog says – if you got into a pattern of use by not thinking, then to get out you must start thinking. Alexander referred to this as Constructive Conscious Control – the idea being that you must learn to consciously affect your own use and convert subconscious habits into conscious choices.

The watchdog is also right, by the way, in saying that he can’t help Milo – Milo must help himself. Your Alexander teacher is there to help you figure out how to help yourself, just as the watchdog helps Milo figure out what he needs to do. But in the end, the changes will only happen consistently if you want them to happen and you allow them to happen.

Forward and Up! is a Pittsburgh-based private practice offering quality instruction in the Alexander Technique in a positive and supportive environment.

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