“Wow, look at the size of that tree!” said Brian. “Come on, let’s climb it,” said Julia. It was one of those rare summer days, perfect in every way, when you are with friends in the country, with time to do nothing. And you feel like you are 10 again.
We’d had lunch, toured some wine estates, and were now exploring a public garden, filled with indigenous fynbos, and that one giant Ficus tree. Within moments, Julia had climbed the enormous trunk and was making her way up a side branch. Responsive as usual to Julia’s enthusiasm, I spied a branch that looked just right. It curved off another making a gentle angle, a back-rest against which to lie. I climbed up and settled myself down along the branch, only to find it was anything but comfortable. It had nobbles all over that stuck into my back, the angle of the branches was wrong, it was too narrow. Nothing about the branch was fit for my purpose. And it had looked so wonderful from below.
The others had by now climbed up and were sitting in various spots around the tree, some more precariously than others. I was too lazy to move myself and chatted with the others until we all fell silent. Within about five minutes of having climbed up I found myself falling asleep. I realised with surprise that my branch was in fact after all the most comfortable spot in the world. It fitted me perfectly, was smooth as can be, and the angle was faultless, just like a beach recliner.
How often do we rant against the difficulties of life, the peculiarities of others, the discomforts of our living arrangements?
That tree taught me something so valuable: if you relax and don’t fight against the world, it becomes exactly what you want it to be. We can be amazingly flexible and adaptable but instead find ourselves chafing against the world by tightening, holding ourselves stiff, taking up an attitude, sticking to our opinions, expecting things to be different … all to suit us!
The Alexander Technique teaches us how to be responsive rather than reactive, to allow rather than push. The result is that we become easier, in fact more human, as I did after those few minutes of letting go in that tree. Normally I would have jumped down in protest, but because of the day, my friends around me, my laziness, I stuck it out and found myself giving in to the shapes of the tree. How easy life can be if we remember this.