The Act of Living by Walter Carrington
Reviewed by Kevin Ahern
Mornum Time Press has once again brought us a new selection of Walter Carrington's talks to teachers and trainees. As in the earlier book (Thinking Aloud 1994), we are given a look at the Alexander Technique as a process of growth and development, with a past, a present, and, hopefully, a future. Mr. Carrington, of course, has participated and witnessed a good deal of the first two time periods, and gives us all a fine example of the attitude and effort necessary to take us most fruitfully into the third.
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).