Beginning of Term 4
I’ve returned from the Easter break, refreshed and ready to embark on a new term. The holidays feel less like time away and more like an integral part of the course, just without active teaching. For me it’s where the learning settles and takes hold of the body, and somehow changes and insights have time to quietly make themselves known.
Over Easter this happened unexpectedly while I was standing at the bottom of a ladder. I was outside on a slippery, uneven wet surface, while someone else went up the ladder to clear a gutter of autumn leaves. Ladder-holding is not part of the curriculum. No-one has shown me directly how to do it in an Alexander way, and it’s not something I’ve done for a while, so it was a good place to notice the subtle but significant changes in how I approached it.
What surprised me was how naturally my body and mind started to work together to put me in the best place to support the bottom of the ladder. I barely had to think about the placing of my feet. They seemed to find a position that took into account the slope of the ground, the angle of the ladder and the opposing angles of my body. Without effort, I had secure but flexible footing, where I could move easily if the ladder started to wobble unexpectedly.
I noticed my hands working together with my arms and back, so that I wasn’t gripping the sides of the ladder but was well balanced. I had a firm, comfortable hold, something similar to the ‘hands on the back of the chair’ procedure we practise in the training. In the past I would have used maximum effort in my hands and arms to keep the ladder steady, probably locking my knees, clenching my jaw, holding my breath and keeping my feet too wide or too close for easy balance. With my new stance and hold I felt much more in control, and more confident to handle an emergency.
All the while I was conscious of what was going on with a heightened awareness. I saw my hands on the sides of the ladder, I was aware of my head, neck and back, and I felt the ground beneath my feet. I heard the bees moving in and out of the sweet-smelling wisteria above my head and felt the dry leaves from the gutter above drifting down onto me. But I wasn’t distracted, and knew my job was to hold the ladder firm for the person working above me.
Reflecting on my ladder-holding afterwards, I was encouraged that the training is beginning to take root within me and I’m starting to be able to use it in a dynamic multi-dimensional way. If it can happen when I’m standing at the bottom of a ladder made of solid wood, then over time it’ll work when I have a person in front of me, and I’ll know where to put my feet and hands without worrying about it. But I’m sure it was partly the fact that I was on holiday, away from the activity of the training setting, that enabled me to bring together elements of what I’ve learned over the past year and apply it in a new way.