Mornum Time Press
Mornum Time Press

Alexander Technique Publications

The Act of Living by Walter Carrington

The Act of Living by Walter Carrington


by Walter Carrington

Foreword by Tris Roberts

Introduction by Glynn MacDonald

Edited by Jerry Sontag

Hardcover, 186 pages, ISBN 0-9644352-3-3

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About the Book

For almost 50 years, Walter Carrington has walked into the teaching room at 18 Lansdowne Road in London, sat down in a chair, picked up one of F.M. Alexander's books and begun to read aloud. The point at which he stops reading and begins sharing his thoughts, observations and experiences of the Alexander Technique with the assembled audience is the point at which this book begins.

The 29 talks in The Act of Living range widely in subject, from breathing and the balance of the head on the neck to the pain of sciatica and the effect of gravity on our lives. Whether he is speaking about the bones of the pelvis, or the man who wants to change without changing, Walter Carrington gives the reader an inside look at this educational technique for changing habitual behavior.

The Act of Living serves as a gentle reminder for teachers of some of the thoughts worth considering in a lesson; it helps students quicken their understanding of the fundamental principles of the Alexander Technique. The book is invaluable for anyone interested in directing his or her energies towards a freer, more spontaneous exploration of the world in which we live. It will change how you see, think and feel about yourself. 

The Author

Walter Carrington was born in 1915, the only child of the Rev. W.M. and Hannah Carrington. He was educated in the Choir School of All Saints, Margaret St., London and St. Paul's School. He first had lessons with Mr. Alexander in 1935 and joined his Training Course in 1936, qualifying as a teacher of the Technique in 1939. From 1941 to 1946 he served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force, after which he returned to work as an Assistant Teacher, and then carried on the Training Course after Mr. Alexander's death in 1955. He and his wife, Dilys, are Directors of the Constructive Teaching Centre Ltd. in London and he is a past Chairman of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (S.T.A.T.).
Mistakenly selected, when young, for specialization in mathematics, Tris Roberts (Foreword) found himself, before the war, working in a Life Assurance Office and training, unsuccessfully, to become an actuary. The war brought a sharp change in direction, as he worked for a time in the accounts office of a hospital and studying at Chelsea Polytechnic in the evenings for a combined honours degree in Zoology, Physiology and Chemistry. During a first year (1946/7) as a graduate student in the Zoology Department at Edinburgh, he was invited to join Otto Lowenstein in the Glasgow Zoology Department to work on the neurophysiology of the otolith organs in the skate. In 1950, he was asked to set up experimental neurophysiology in the Physiology Department also at Glasgow. Thereafter, his lifetime study became the role of the labyrinth and other proprioceptors in balance, posture and locomotion in man and other animals. Dr. Tris Roberts is the author of three books: Neurophysiology of Postural Mechanisms, London: Butterworth. (1967, 2nd Ed. 1978); Understanding Balance, London: Chapman & Hall, 1995 (A completely revised assessment of the evidence presented in NPM above); and Equestrian Technique, London: J.A. Allen, 1992 (a textbook based on a distillation of the writings of the classical masters of equitation, with explanatory appendices, reflecting a lifetime extramural interest). He has written numerous papers and three teaching films. His hobbies, in historical order, include: gliding (pre-war only), dinghy sailing, swimming, squash (all now more or less discontinued), horse riding, and scientific writing (both still active).

Glynn Macdonald (Introduction) has taught the Alexander Technique for twenty-five years. She is a past Secretary and Chairman of The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (S.T.A.T.). She has taught in the major English drama and music schools and has lectured throughout the world. Her television and radio appearances include Back to Work for the BBC, Does He Take Sugar, Woman's Hour and The Time, The Place and Saturday Morning for CBS. She works at Shakespeare's Globe in London, and has written The Complete Illustrated Guide to Alexander Technique, published by Element Books and Barnes and Noble.

Jerry Sontag (Editor) is publisher and editor of Mornum Time Press. Jerry is also a teacher of the Alexander Technique, having trained at the Center for the Alexander Technique in Menlo Park, California from 1982 through 1985. He has a teaching practice in Berkeley & San Francisco. 


From the essay Change without changing.

β€œIn life there's a great deal that people would prefer to ignore and not be conscious of. People really don't very much want to be conscious a lot of the time. We talk these days quite a lot about changes of consciousness and how by drugs and narcotics and various things of one sort or another you can change consciousness. But the fundamental problem is that the majority of people are not all that keen on being conscious, fully conscious, all the time. Consciousness can definitely seem to be too painful. 

I remember an old pupil of mine who was in quite a high position in an insurance company. He was known for being very conservative, very, very staid, very conventional. I was giving him a lesson one day and he said, "You know, a groove is a very comfortable thing." And he was expressing, quite obviously, a deep feeling that he was having. He realized that in the work I was doing I was trying to winkle him out of his groove, and he didn't want to be winkled out of that. He wanted to be able to pursue his course of life as before. He didn't want to change.

And on the whole, people don't want to change. They're very, very, very reluctant to change. They come, of course, for lessons on the understanding that this method is going to open up a way for them to change, but the change that they want is a change in which everything can remain the same. They want to change without changing. They haven't got the actual experience of what change is like. When they actually get the experience of it, most people are rather frightened of it, and certainly they don't like it. And so they adopt all sorts of defenses and affectations and evasions and so on that as a teacher you've got to battle with and work your way round if you're going to keep the impetus to change. And I'm speaking of change now in the wider and general sense of consciousness and conscious awareness.

In all of these attempts at change, it is essential to keep in mind that the challenge for change is with the physical aspect of your self-it is your breathing and your circulation and your digestion. It's the habits attached to your postural mechanism, to your muscular habits. And then, even more important than muscular habits are your neurological habits, because all the nerve pathways and all the inter-connections whereby energy flows from one nerve center to another are very largely habitual. The energy flows along habitual lines. It's like water running in an irrigation system in fields. It runs along habitual lines because those lines have become so familiar. That is how the energy flows.

Now, we are seeking to change people's manner of use of themselves. We are seeking to bring about changes not merely in their thought and their feelings on the larger scale-their habits, their social habits, and all that side of it, all the side I was referring to with the man from the insurance company-but also the absolutely personal habits insofar as it affects the use of the self and the whole working of the neuromuscular system. And to change all that, to begin to change it, to begin to make any change, any impression on it, is really quite an undertaking. It's a pretty daunting task as you can see when you see how much there is to be changed.

But imagine if somebody doesn't want to change, if they are really against change, afraid of it. You've got a hard task on your hands. It is a hard task. But to have any chance at success, you have to look at how people use themselves. You are not going to be able to make a significant change in yourself or in others until you address the whole problem of how people use themselves. That is really the crux of this whole business.”