the Looking Glass, (with apologies to Lewis Carroll)
Alexander See in the Mirror?
A talk given by Shaike Hermelin as part of
A Tribute to
held in London in
published in STATNews, September 2011)
It is probably safe
to assume that without the mirror and FM's discoveries, we
would not be meeting here today. However, the general trend
among teachers, and even in some training courses, is either
to ignore the mirror completely, or to give it a very minor
place in the teaching of the Technique.
We say "seeing is believing", for
the eyes constantly convey information to the brain.
We do not exactly see with
the eyes, but through the visual cortex at the rear of the
It's about the size of
your fist, and there sits a collection of information,
memories, our imagination, dreams, etc, which have a
connection with vision.
Even when the eyes are
closed, the cortex continues to see and work.
From our point of
view we are dealing with the use of the self.
The problem is that we don't quite "know" ourselves,
even though we may be certain that we do.
So there are many
different aspects to knowing and seeing.
Often we look without seeing and see without looking.
Alexander said we mainly look in the mirror because
we are concerned about some tiny blemish.
But how we stand and contract our neck, we may not
see. So we
can make a mountain out of a molehill, while ignoring what
is really important.
A pupil said to me
"When I look at my back in the mirror it looks quite
unfamiliar to me".
When I ask pupils to stand in front of a mirror and
say "What do you see?" they may not notice anything, and
moreover may feel embarrassed. (I find that people have
great difficulty looking straight into their eyes in the
mirror). As we look,
I can draw their attention to the fact that their head is
tilted to the right or left, that one shoulder is higher
than the other, that they are leaning more on one leg than
the other, etc.
In other words, we
have lost the "map" of our own body in our brain.
We have lost the sense of where up and down are, of
depth, and the connection between front to back and back to
calm conscious looking by itself can start to bring about a
We can "see" where we put everything, for
instance, in a drawer at home or at work, but we don't "see"
the neck, such an important part of the body.
If we can't see it, even in our mind, it means we
have no communication with the part that connects the head
to the body.
To talk about the neck without seeing it is like
talking about a place without actually having been there.
Alexander spent nine years observing himself, until
each part of his body became clearly connected in his brain.
This is the original job of the brain—
to "look" after ("see") the rest of the body.
renews and strengthens the connection between the cells of
the brain and the related parts of the body.
All our lives we are engaged with external objects.
Much of our education is based on learning and
memorizing from books, sitting for examinations and
receiving the relevant certification—and of course it's
important to acquire a profession.
But our habits of life—this connection between the
head and the body—are still left untouched.
Because the eyes and
the brain are connected, each part of the body can be seen
by the brain— as Alexander said "One after the other and all
himself went straight from the doctor to the mirror.
What did he expect to see? (What an indication as to
the type of person he was — he turned to mirror while
looking for an answer to his problem.)
At the beginning he
saw nothing, but continued to look, as he wrote "very
is what defines looking in the mirror —"very carefully" and
without an aim.
And then he started to see.
time he reached a dead end, as he wrote in The Use of the
Self —"I went back to the mirror" and he found the correct
way to continue from there.
The last phrase occurs about fourteen times in the
book. "I sat in
front of the mirror days, weeks and months, observing myself
and giving directions. One
day I found myself stnding up effortlessly."
When someone came to Alexander and complained they couldn't
do something, he said "You cannot do it your way, but I
offer you a completely different way.
All you have to do is to listen to me".
If we don't look, we rely on feelings, and we now
know we cannot rely on feelings.
The moment we consciously look, we are not reliant on
our feelings and we let our brain wake up without judging,
Alexander looked in the mirror
for himself and not for us.
In The Use of the Self he
wrote about the process he underwent so that we can
understand what we have to go through.
He gave us the plan. As
Alexander said, "If you want to do what I do, do what I
He also said, "From the
moment a person comes into a room and walks towards a chair,
I can see the whole history of his misuse".
Alexander talks about incorrect conception.
In other words, the instrument that is my body
doesn't convey to me the right information, and therefore I
am unknowingly misusing myself.
Therefore the first thing we have to do in raising
the standard of sensory appreciation is to sharpen the mind
through the visual connection.
When we look, the change doesn't happen immediately, because
of what Alexander calls "our wandering mind".
But if we look slowly, carefully, and with no
intention, we allow time in our consciousness to change the
old pattern. Then something starts to happen.
So, the brain makes
the decision, organizes the means, brings the primary
order which enables the force of life—that
which is above thinking—
to flow. We
don't do the flow —we
cannot do it. We
can by thinking activate the primary control and then the
force of life can work for us, giving us energy, joy and
health. All we
have to do is to enable it to work for us.
Shaike Hermelin 2011