Are we REALLY open-minded?

Or would we rather believe our beliefs are 'the right ones'?

One of the biggest viral YouTubes of the last few years is Tim Minchin’s address to graduates of the University of Western Australia, in which he exhorts them to “be hard on (their) beliefs.  Take them out onto the verandah and hit them with a cricket bat.  Be intellectually rigorous…”

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For the Hobblers Out There

“Moving through life with freedom and ease” is a line often used in ITM Alexander Technique marketing material.

If you’re struggling with an injury or chronic condition, and so moving without very much freedom or ease at all, that little slogan may really rub salt into your wounds.

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Wimbledon Special: a 'process mindset'

Johanna Konta beat Simona Halep to reach the semi-finals of Wimbledon yesterday: the first British woman to do so since Virginia Wade in 1978.  Her playing was brilliant, but so was her BBC interview immediately afterwards.  “I definitely felt very clear on what I was trying to achieve out there.  Regardless of whether it was going my way or not I felt I really stuck to my true self and just tried to create as many opportunities as possible...”  “I felt quite consistent in my general approach...”  “I just continued to trust in the fact that what I was doing was going to bring me good things.” 

Asked when she had started believing she could be a champion, Konta replied, “Ever since I was nine years old.  I’ve always believed in my own ability; I’ve always dreamed big.  But again, I’m much more process mindset orientated, so I don’t give myself too much time to dream, and focus more on the work.”

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Handbrake Warning

Though we all need to move, we often visualise our bodies in somewhat fixed terms.  We may even have been told to arrange them in particular configurations: “chin up - stomach in - chest out - tuck that tailbone under…”  Many fitness instructors and educators assert that there's a 'right place’ to 'put' your head/stomach/chest/tailbone (good luck with 'putting your tailbone' anywhere, by the way).  Do you believe there’s a ‘correct’ place where you ought to ‘put’, ‘keep’ or ‘hold’ your head?

Meet Bob.  Bob believes there is a 'right place' to 'put' his head, so he’ll absolutely 'put it' wherever he thinks that is – and then strive to keep it there.  As soon as he thinks about keeping anything anywhere, he'll employ muscles to do so.  Muscles don't just move joints.  They can also prevent joints from moving; which can make them (and their driver) pretty tired, sore and stiff, after a bit.

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Sit Up, Sit Down - or Just Sit

Man and chair.  A match not always made in heaven; but there are people out there who seem to believe that chairs be the work of the very Devil. 

Oh yes, some chairs are apparently out to get you.  What’s needed, if you have back pain, is a Good Chair.  Some enterprising bods even create super-special chairs guaranteed to prevent or ‘cure’ back problems - yours for only £5,999.  I’d almost prefer a bad back… 

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'Self drive'

What a great effort learning to drive seems at first: remembering which pedal is which; knowing what gear is next and how to find it without making a ghastly crunching noise; remembering to check the mirror, indicate before turning, etc, blah.  Yet, after a while, you master the various combined skills and it’s no longer difficult.  You reach the stage where you can do it all without anxiety - and even think of other things as well.

So ‘natural’ does driving become, in fact, that occasionally you may realise you can’t remember driving the last few miles; you just seem to be here.  Freaky. 

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When the Dog Bites

“When the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad…” For the luckier folk, their painful memories and ideas aren’t bad enough to affect present-day life too adversely.  For others, some dark thoughts really hang around, cause trouble and generally make life hell. 

The physical expression of mental distress is very often tension of some sort.  Severe tension can lead to all kinds of further unpleasant conditions: headaches, back problems, high blood pressure, auto-immune disease, to name but a few.

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Zero Settings

So you're just standing there minding your own business when something somewhere starts niggling.  You wriggle around a bit to try and ease it up, and it kind of works, briefly; but the discomfort keeps returning and even worsens, over time, until...

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Super Powers

Did you know we all have super powers? It's true. Believe me. I come up against them quite often; my own, and other people’s. We don't need a Hulk body or a Spock brain. We may think we have no particular strengths, but boy, oh boy, oh boy…

I'm talking about the astounding, incredible force of our beliefs.

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Anti-Thinking Thinking

What is it with this practically phobic response to the idea of consciously directed thinking?

“Eeuw, all that ‘think yourself happy' shit,” or, “oh, yeah, right, ‘what you need is to take a dip in the river You’, har har,” or, “that’s just phoney” - or even my beloved late parents’ favourite: “It sounds very… American (there was no greater insult than this, while they still enjoyed Gershwin, Copeland, Burroughs, Williams, and Sgt. Bilko).”

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Doing, Undoing and Not Doing in the First Place

1. Doing.

Certain activities are hard going or even painful.  You can’t figure out what the problem is.

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The Knotty Problem of Awareness and Articulating

How can we prevent ourselves doing something we don’t want to be doing?  How is this possible when we don’t even know what it is we’re doing?  Why would we want to open this whole can of worms anyway?

To take the second point first: what happens in Alexander Technique lessons (and between lessons if we, ahem, do our ‘homework’) is that we start to become more aware of some of the things we’re doing.  Over time, we not only notice more and more, but we can learn to articulate to ourselves what these things are.  By ‘things’, I mean unnecessary tension and the thinking behind - the cause of - this tension.      

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