by Brett Hershey
Along the hall of the Academia in Florence leading to the famous “David,” there are six “Slaves” that Michelangelo left behind unfinished. While the perfection of the “David” is breathtaking, I drifted back to the imperfection of the “Slaves.”
The figures are half-free, half-trapped in their giant slabs of marble. Apparently, the project lost funding (long before Kickstarter!) and was abandoned by Michaelangelo. Captured in their struggle, they offer a clear, existential metaphor.
A metaphor to which new, as well as life-long students of the Alexander Technique, can relate. Alexander Technique releases us from our habits of excess tension and collapse, freeing us from the stone, as it were. It allows a renewed ease, poise and coordination. Especially in the hands of skilled instructor, one can experience wonderful, even addictive, moments of blissful release.
However, it also can make us painfully aware of the parts of ourselves that are not yet free, or that have slipped back into the rock. Instead of the exquisite sensation of liberation, we are now (maybe for the first time) conscious of our excess tension and collapse, which can feel awful, hellish, even existentially damning.
This is, of course, the human predicament: caught between the harsh dualities of this incarnation. And as a wise teacher once said, we are either freeing ourselves into life or retreating back to our prison.
Most of us our born free, and there are some who manage to stay free. But it’s a tough planet and most of us tend to succumb to the encroaching stone. We can try to ignore or numb the pain, but often these measure don’t last. The suffering gets louder, or to carry the metaphor, harder.
It’s disheartening to find our bodies poorly organized, entrenched in tension and collapse. Despair, even panic can set in when we are unable to do anything about it. Fortunately, F.M. Alexander discovered a way out, that works, time and time again. His technique, like an owner’s manual, shows how to carve ourselves from the stone.
the journey’s rigor depends on the strength of the habits, the will and creativity of the individual as well as the quality of the guides available. It’s not always easy, but I know of nothing so effective at improving the use of ourselves.