When Our Beliefs Are Just Muscle Tension

I heard something hard to swallow from an Alexander Technique teacher — that all of our beliefs are just unnecessary muscle tension, and that when we let go of that unnecessary tension, we let go of our beliefs.

I’ve always had strong beliefs — beliefs that frequently changed but were firmly held at the time and inflicted on others.

I grew up an Australian Seventh-Day Adventist preacher’s kid in love with the civilizing mission of the English-speaking world (in particular the examples of liberty set by England and the United States).

In college, I flirted with Marxism for a couple of years and then converted to Judaism — a return to the best of my values from my childhood.

So now my life is Alexander Technique and the more I study it, the more easily I hold myself neutral in the sturm and drang of life.

I don’t think that any of my fundamental beliefs have changed in the past three years. I still hold to one all-powerful eternal morally-demanding deity who gave the Torah to his Chosen People Israel so that they can touch the world with ethical monotheism. What’s changed is that I can now say that sentence without tightening.

In my Alexander Technique teacher training course, I notice that virtually nobody outside of the teachers and the third-year students can speak without constricting themselves. The more difficult the topic, the more they tighten and pull down. When they’re speaking out of their most firmly held beliefs, they’re almost rigid.

By contrast, those who are poised in their bodies tend to be poised in their thinking and their speaking. Those who are stiff in their thinking tend to be stiff in their bodies. Those who are stressed and anxious and angry are always tightening their necks, tipping their heads back, and compressing their torso.

I’ve learned that I don’t have to agree with a statement 100% to find it useful. The idea that our beliefs are unnecessary body tension is incredibly useful. It allows me to pause for as long as I want between a stimulus and my response.

I believe that is freedom.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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