Art, Heart, Earth – Horizontal and Vertical Directions


I dreamt about Don Burton last night. Walter Carrington and some other teachers were there too.  Don gave me an AT turn. It started seated, my head dropped forward onto a table in front. I was full of grief. He gently encouraged my skull into balance. I knew it was Don working on me. I could feel the subtle, powerful direction in his hands. He wasn’t dead, but very much alive and real. He worked on me for about half an hour in sitting and semi supine and in my sleep I knew I was restored.
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The Vertical and the Horizontal directions –

I had an insight the previous evening – that my vertical directions are open, clear and pretty balanced due to having inhabited awareness of the vertical directions for so many years. But the horizontal directions are incomplete!

In Alexander lingo we describe he horizontal directions as ’widening across the upper arms’ or ‘knees forwards and away’ both of which are fantastically useful.

However my insight is that the horizontal plane of awareness travels through our physical form at the heart. It is, for want of better words, a spatial beam of direction which travels out from the heart front to back, back to front. Like shafts of light, a portal, a road…  like the great horizon stretching in all directions connecting all things as far as the eye can see and as far as the eye can’t see!

The direction of our heart on earth, the heart’s horizon therefore include the past and the future.

If the heart directions are blocked, the blockages are going to manifest as anxiety, cortisol reactions, fear of the future, resentments from the past etc. In the same way that lack of freedom through the vertical planes is likely to manifest as back-ache, stress etc.

‘Direction’ is the art of the Alexander Technique – our ability to expand our thinking in all directions in a non-doing way that allows our selves to be free to move and to live whole-hearted.

The clogging of the heart plane direction is I suspect causing a huge rise in anxiety in the population. Drugs are often prescribed!

That the heart directions are often clogged or blocked seems evident to me by the commonplace destruction and throwing away of resources in our recent past and our mass anxiety about our future.  We have become addicted as a population to ‘the now!’ I believe this ‘I want it now’ attitude is a source of great unhappiness. Where lies value if we have no past or future?

So, the vertical directions of the Alexander Technique allow the head neck back to balance and inform the present tense – how we do what we do.

The horizontal direction travel through our heart, and include an awareness of past and future, creating a multi dimensional awareness. Time and life span are included in these directions. Perhaps we could say this is the why we do what we do.

So, what happens if we let our understanding of our Alexander directions develop through the heart? What if we release the stuff that is stored in our heart and allow the heart to be free?

Letting our bodies visit the horizontal plane regularly with sleep and semi- supine is good for our vertical health. I suggest we also visit the horizontal plane of awareness through developing our heart directions, and learn to see with the hearts eye, in a way that includes, loves and honours the past and the future. For how else are we going to learn to stop being so selfish and in so much heart pain as a population!

Past, present, future – art, heart, earth…

Don Burton, quoted from memory – ‘We as teachers need to make ourselves redundant! A world that no longer needs Alexander Teachers will be a good place to live, a happy world where people and not pulled down by fear, habit and resignation! Can you imagine it? It is not going to happen in my lifetime! Never make excuses – just teach, the world needs good teachers!’ (Don Burton, 1943 – 1996 – Anatomist, Alexander Technique Teacher, Physiotherapist)

Links to Body Magic and Breathe audio downloads.

(I am working on ideas for drawings for 365 Days of Ease Calendar 2021. If you’re interested perhaps subscribe to my blog.)

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