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Stillness

A few years ago, I went to hear Paco Peña play during the Festival here in Edinburgh. As well as the flamenco dancers you would expect, he had with him a troupe of African dancers. Both sets of dancers were equally fine, totally different in style and yet had something in common, which I recognise from teaching Alexander Technique. 

Flamenco, highly stylised in its gestures, with it characteristic rhythms was contrasted with shaking dances from Africa. In both the performers achieved a stillness in the use of their head and neck which allowed for bodies and limb to move in co-ordinated rhythms to the music. Watching the performance taught me a lot about stillness and dance, and I have been thinking about it a lot, since I took up dancing last year and made 2015 into my year of dance.

Movement Medicine and 5 Rhythms, both dance meditation practices, have given me a place to develop my conscious control from an Alexander perspective, while exploring the non- and pre-verbal aspects of living, that deeply influence each of us with regard to what it means for us to be in the world.

Deep changes in being involve finding stillness. The ‘still point’ is where ‘the dance is,’ to paraphrase T.S. Eliot. My dancer who emerges on the dance floor is Alexander’s self that emerges in daily life, if I allow myself to really stop and allow my creativity, spontaneity a place.

It prevents a ‘hardening of the categories’ and encourages us to develop habits of process, where we meet people and events as we find them in their uniqueness, rather than as stock characters in an old and familiar play. This kind of freshness, aliveness to possibilities, allows for a direction of travel through life, where we integrate our actions with our breathing, trust not just our heads, but listen to our hearts and if we are courageous enough open them to the people who are around us. Which is often what needs to happen in therapy, where people who come, have often lost trust in others and themselves.

It can be no easy task learning to trust others. Part of my work as a therapist and as Alexander Technique teacher is to create a safe space and safe relationship where people can learn to feel again what has been, frozen, lost, hidden or never developed. In this finding the stillness, where we are ‘breathed’ as the mystics would say, we find a freedom and a potentiality not just in movement but in words and relationships, where we can speak of how it is, rather than get lost in conceptualisations that hide more than they reveal.

Stillness allows for the creative spontaneity, that allows us to adapt to the vagaries and vicissitudes of life; that allows us to dream new futures, see new possibilities, have hopes for a good life, a better life. In this, as always, it is the qualities of our relationships with ourselves, other and the earth, that are of most significance – and which can only be found in stillness, in the ‘standing now’ of the Greeks, before speech, as a prelude to speech, to the speech by which we care for ourselves and others.