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  • Writer's pictureEve Bernfeld

What If Judgment...*

judge's gavel
Image by Carrie Z from Pixabay

1. What if judging myself (and the ensuing shame spiral) is just another habit that is not currently serving me? Could I approach my self-judgment using the tools of the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is a curious thing. It is not about learning to do something. It’s about learning to stop doing things. It’s about identifying and interrupting problematic patterns—from bracing my ribs to being crabby with my kids. And since these are highly automatic patterns, you can bet I get about a million opportunities to interrupt myself bracing my ribs and being crabby with my kids… again! So if it is also my pattern to judge myself for failure, Alexander Technique will provide me endless opportunities for self-flagellation. Can I NOT do that? Perhaps with the same tool I use to interrupt those other patterns. A firm (yet gentle) “No.” Sometimes followed by, “I don’t have to.”

A scenario: I’m typing a blog. I invite myself to stop. In the stop, my breathing starts again and I realize I was holding my breath, bracing my ribs and raising my shoulders. Then I find I want to weep or scream—why can’t I do this better?? And again, in that very moment, I invite myself to stop. Perhaps I say “No. I don’t have to.” And then my breathing starts, etc.

2. What if being lighter and freer and easier—that stuff I’m practicing through the Alexander Technique—is just another way of being? Not the best way to be. Not the only way to be. Not the be all and end all. Not the pinnacle to be reached. But just another way of being—like slumpy or rigid or excitable or stressed. If I stop being so precious about DOING IT RIGHT, but instead see what it’s like to try it, I may just find that I like it. That thinking myself lighter and freer and easier feels pretty darn good and I might substitute it for slumpy or rigid or excitable or stressed sometimes. Not because my teacher said to. Not because I want to be the best little Alexander doobie in class, but because it feels better.

Another scenario: After I say “No, I don’t have to,” I have any number of paths open to me. One path involves trying to DO my Alexander Technique and make myself sit up straight. Unfortunately, that is not the Alexander Technique. Another path involves the actual Alexander Technique and being curious about what happens if I think of a floaty balloon head and I invite myself to be “Soft & Tall.” Oh shit, the breathing starts again! Wow!

3. What if I am doing better? During times of stress, say a pandemic or my children’s bedtime, I often berate myself in this fashion: I’VE BEEN DOING THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE FOR 15 YEARS! WHY AM I NOT BETTER AT IT?? WHY AM I NOT CALM NOW?? WHY AM I NOT MORE PATIENT??

To which I am learning to reply: What if this is better? What state would I be in right now if I had not been doing the Alexander Technique for the past 15 years? Maybe I’m doing as well as I can be.

Perhaps you haven’t been doing this work for that long (perhaps you’ve been doing it for longer). But the time is immaterial. Let me put the mirror up to you. The next time you feel like you’re not doing well enough, ask yourself: “How well would I be doing if I didn’t have tools from the Alexander Technique or meditation or walking or yoga or poetry or video games or whatever?”

Maybe you’re doing as well as you can be. Maybe judgment is a habit that you can say no to, just like you say no to holding your breath. Over and over and over again.

* This blog grew out of several conversations I had with students on June 19, 2021. A fruitful conversation day.

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