Stopping is the new starting

illustration by Margaret Coote is done in pencil and shows a two-sprigged plant on the right side of the frame, with little stars in the sky behind it and a woman on the left hand side with her eyes squeezed shut and her teeth gritted, both hands pulling on one sprig of the plant shouting GROW!











Happy spring, Easter, and Passover past for all who celebrate. I personally am on a retreat this weekend titled “When life hits like a tsunami.”

This retreat is reminding me how many tsunamis I have survived. Probably you too. Some are from childhood, some are from yesterday, and some are from last year. Right now I’m thinking of my long time student Stephen Chinlund who passed away in 2020, and of the much loved wife of another student who also passed away suddenly just a few months ago.

I’m thinking of how many of us are still stumbling about, disoriented, knowing that another workshop or class is not going to change our state. So to be honest, I had a kind of empty feeling going into retreat. Which was perfect, because its Zen. Ha!

And yet, my students keep showing up for our work together. We are walking together and learning together, and growing. Maybe just a little more slowly than before, and that’s good.

It’s reminding me what it is that may have helped me survive, other than luck, that is. My love of movement, and my love of stopping, and of the relationship between the two. It’s something essential about the work I ended up “teaching”, honestly because it’s the only thing that helped me get through the eye of the needle, over and over again….

Stop, and listen with your inner ear into your heart and body, and into the world where you find yourself. Even if you have physical pain, emotional pain, brain pain from trying to analyze causes and conditions. Brain cramps! If I’m lucky enough just to be able to hold still, I can watch the cramp undo itself like a cat uncurling in the sun. I can tap into the wisdom of my body which has no words.

When you are really truly between a rock and a hard place, truly clueless after looking high and low for a solution to a problem that is screaming in your brain, heart, and body, stop. Whatever you are doing, stop. Even just for a moment.

Stopping is so confusing. It’s hard to say what it is, easier to say what it’s not… It’s not moving. It’s not trying to fix or solve. It’s not holding your breath in anticipation. It’s not getting creative… It’s not urgent, but your life may depend on it. You can’t make yourself stop, but you can get curious about what it might be.

In the Alexander Technique world, this word has special and sometimes esoteric meaning. It’s often been most clear, when I am working with another teacher, that just by their presence they help me notice something that I’m doing is not necessary. Sometimes I can stop doing it – it’s the most wonderful discovery when you find out it’s possible – and a miraculous energy starts to flow that bypasses any sense of effort.

The effort is in stopping yourself, so that something else can go through you. Even if it’s just water, blood, and air. It may carry you much further than you imagine.

Leave a Comment