The Old Horse Chestnut Tree by Kirsten Harris, Pen on paper
Once upon a time, a long time ago, in the frozen lands of Scotland, a young woman found herself trapped in a dark and terrifyingly lonely forest. Sharp, searing thorns ripped at her back, pulling her this way and that, completely stopping her from moving. She was lost, stuck, scared and in horrendous pain. The harder she tried to break free from the fearsome binding wilderness the more it entangled her. She tried everything, even ignoring and suppressing the pain it inflicted, but it just gripped her tighter and tighter. She felt utterly lost.
One day whilst trapped in the forest she met a witch, who was really a wise woman in disguise. The witch spoke to the girl and gave her a very strange message – She told the girl to keep saying ‘I let my neck be free’ no matter what!
‘What strange words!’ thought the girl. ‘I let my neck be free!’ Oh well if that is her best magic spell I better give it a go – I have absolutely nothing to lose and you never know it might work!’
Days passed and the girl kept saying ‘I let my neck be free’ to herself over and over and over.
One day a beautiful shining magical sword appeared before her.
‘Pick me up and use me, I am the transformational sword of your thinking’ it whispered.
As she picked it up the girl thought she could see a tiny glimmer of light through the thick gnarled impenetrable branches of the forest.
She realised in order to reach the light she had to use the sword to get through the entangled forest, cutting through the twigs and branches one by one. Not only that, but she had to go deeper into the painful knotted wood and not be frightened of its fearsome voice and cry, but to listen to it, to face it with courage.
She picked up the sword with her mind’s eye, and started to use her thinking to cut pathways. Her body was the forest and her rapier like mind her way to free it from the painful strangle. She had to trust that her mind was brilliant enough for the task ahead. She came upon dead end after dead end. Dark places engulfed her, but she had no choice but to be brave and patient and keep moving forward into her thinking. The girl started to see the pain as her friend, a friend that was calling for her attention, guiding her mind as to where to travel.
‘Come into me’, it shouted, ‘step into this pain in your neck, let your neck be free, travel through this howling in your back, bare the darkness and see what happens. Keep stepping forward into my call for only then will I allow the light to appear. I cannot shout any louder for you to hear me. Pay attention, I am your friend in disguise.’
She stopped struggling staying still and quiet allowing her mind to be free in the darkness. Any desire to move or run away from the pain she learned to ignore, instead she wrapped her mind around it, exploring, spiralling, mentally dancing with the pain, letting her consciousness be it, feel it, find its story. Her tenacity started to pay off and slowly over time a clearing emerged in the forest that was full of light and shimmering beauty. The pain had disappeared in that place, and then the next and the next …
Little by little she started to find a path out of the entangled forest as she learned to follow and play in the the branches of her nervous system, finding a wonder world, a labyrinth of stillness, possibility, light and illumination.
The girl was uncovering her own enchanted tree in the magical forest of life. It was not the scary place the pain had made her think it was.
Pain had become her transformation and her salvation and she learned to thank it for the kindness its voice was really presenting and all that it was teaching her.
This is my story, my journey with the Alexander Technique as a 24 year old.