Applied Wishful Thinking

In a talk from 1974, Walter Carrington says "... although we're thinking of moving structures, we're really not so interested in moving structures as we are in the willing and wishing behind the movement."


He goes on the explain that in fairy tales, the focus is on the wishing, without concerns about how the wishing is going to carried out.

In Alexander lessons, the focus is on learning to maximize coordination and reduce excess effort and tension in muscles by thinking more clearly. You could say this skill is "applied wishful thinking".

Our voluntary actions are based on our thought process, and the decisions we are making. Our habits may include voluntary and involuntary processes. We address the voluntary component of our actions and behavior.

Alexander spent over 60 years self-experimenting and teaching his method. He taught himself and his students how to use meaningful and accurate thinking to guide action.

In lessons, I use my hands to make adjustments to my student's alignment and balance. More importantly, I teach her a methodology using thoughts, taking the form of words and concepts, to "steer" her action. I cannot take over someone's brain to change her muscle tone, but I can teach that skill. Hands-on work defines the words for my student, so that when she thinks the words outside the lesson, she can access the new, improved distribution of tone.

My father has taken lessons with me on and off for over 15 years. At one lesson I asked him to reach up for something as if he was getting a plate or glass down from a higher shelf in a cabinet. He struggled to raise his arm above his head. I saw that he had shortened the muscles at the base of his skull, effectively pulling the back of his head and his upper back in the opposite direction his hand was extending. I asking him to think of not pulling his head back and down towards the floor behind him, and he observed that his arm felt lighter and he could reach higher.

"You changed your thought and it changed your coordination" I explained.

"Are you telling me that just thinking can change me?" he challenged.

"What do you do if you are thirsty and want a glass of water? You think and you move, don't you?" I asked.

"I guess I do. I never really thought about it, but yes, I think and then I move."

"I am teaching you different thoughts that generate a different way of moving. It begins with thought, just like your habit. You don't need to micromanage every little movement when you go to get a glass of water habitually. All you need to think is 'I am thirsty' - and you don't always need to think the language or those words to know you are thirsty. Once you have decided to get a glass of water, you go through immeasurable movements, from walking to the cabinet, grasping the pull to open it, holding the glass of water, filling it with water from a faucet or a bottle, lifting, drinking, swallowing. All that happens without micromanaging each moment.

Thinking different, specific thoughts, such as those I am teaching you, helps all your actions happen with less effort and more efficiency.

The skill I am teaching you is thinking. That way of thinking is the means to change your coordination."

The idea of wishing is intended to offer a context for an easy quality in our thinking, that doesn't add performance anxiety, or a tendency to over-rely on bodily sensations.

Try this:

1. Lay down on a firm, comfortable surface with enough books under your head so that if you were standing up, your head and neck would not be leaning behind your upper back. Bend your knees so both feet are on the floor. Rest your arms at your sides palm face up or down; or bend your elbows and rest your hands, palms face down, on your lower ribs or abdomen.

2. Keeping your eyes open, look straight in front of you at the ceiling, and stay aware of your upper peripheral vision.

3. Think or say these words:

  • I am allowing my head to release away from my body, towards the wall behind the crown of my head.
  • My head continues to release off the end of my spine and my spine follows as it lengthens.
  • My knees release to the ceiling
  • My shoulders widen away from each other.

4. Think/hear the words and wish to let them happen, but do not actually "do" what the words describe with your muscles.

5. Spend five to ten minutes thinking/hearing the words in sequence. Afterwards, observe any changes in your state of being.

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