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Interview with Marjory Barlow

by Francis Oxford


In 1932 Alexander ordered his niece Marjory to leave school and attend lessons with him immediately. She did and never looked back. Now Marjory recounts 50 years of involvement by herself in the development of Alexander's discoveries.

Frances Oxford:
Let's start by putting you in context as a relation of Alexander's. Your mother was one of Alexander's sisters. Which one was she?

Marjory Barlow:
The oldest sister was Aunt Mary. She was very, very close to FM and she never married. They had a sort of telepathic communication so that if FM wanted her she would always get the message and come rushing to him. She was the eldest sister and I think she was the next in order to FM. I don't know quite what the order was, but I know that AR was a good bit younger and then my mother, Amy, was the second girl. Auntie May was the youngest girl. Beaumont was the youngest boy--he was the next in age to Auntie May.

Frances Oxford:
Alexander, FM, was the eldest?

Marjory Barlow:
He was the eldest child. The doctor was so dissatisfied with the baby as it was born that he more or less threw him aside and said, "Oh, you'll never raise him." My grandmother wasn't having that. But he was very delicate. She discovered that he couldn't take her milk, he couldn't take cows' milk--but he could take goats' milk. He had a very peculiar digestion from birth.

Frances Oxford:
Yet later on he became quite a gourmet?

Marjory Barlow:
Well, he had to be careful. He didn't eat a great deal, ever, but it had to be good quality. You see, they lived on a farm, in rather primitive conditions, in Tasmania. I don't suppose there were many doctors, certainly not anywhere near. So she managed it, you see: a very intelligent woman, an absolute darling. She was tiny. You wouldn't have believed that she could have had eight children and I don't know how many miscarriages. But I absolutely adored her. She lived until I was about seven and was a great influence on me. I always knew, when I was cooking FM's lunch at Ashley Place, that if he said to me, "I think I'd like some bread and milk for lunch" he was being careful and he'd have this brown bread with heated milk and a little bit of brown sugar, because everything had to be natural. The sugar, the bread, the macaroni, the spaghetti--everything. It had to be unspoilt, in its natural state. He was very fussy about that. And, of course, you must remember that I'm talking about the '30s when it was very much in advance of the thinking of the time.

Frances Oxford:
FM came to England first, and then his brother AR [Alfred Reddan Alexander] followed?

Marjory Barlow:
AR came more or less at the same time as my grandmother, Mary, and Amy. FM sent for them. He must have been doing quite well by then because he wrote to them and said that he wanted them to come over and spend six months and see King George V's coronation. So that was 1911.

Frances Oxford:
Was your grandmother widowed?

Marjory Barlow:
No, we never heard anything about my grandfather. At least, I heard about him from FM because FM had a tremendous love and admiration for him and he was always quoting him. He must have been a rather unusual character, but I think he had a drink problem--although my cousin, Maxwell, denies it strenuously. I think my grandmother left him in Tasmania and went to live in [mainland] Australia and then, of course, came to England when FM invited them. Then my mother met my father and got married. She met him in England after they had been here some time. And none of them ever went back.

Frances Oxford:
Had they intended to stay when they first came?

Marjory Barlow:
No. FM found them a lovely big flat in Ashley Gardens, just around the corner from Number 16. They lived there until my mother married and then she went and lived in New Malden, in Surrey, which was a village in those days. FM and his family were very close, all of them. I suppose because they'd been in such a primitive place. If any member of the family was in trouble, they only had to appeal to FM and, to a lesser extent, to AR. When FM died he left all his estate to two little boys who were the sons of his youngest brother, Beaumont, Uncle Mont, who was an absolute rogue, but an absolute darling and full of charm. Of course, when I was a child I saw a lot of FM because he used to come to tea almost every Sunday--he was very fond of my mother. By the time we moved to Streatham Hill he'd bought Penhill and was down there every weekend. I was at school and working hard so I didn't see nearly as much of him. But he used to do wonderful things, like on Derby Day when he would send a car for us and we'd all go to the Derby. But there was quite a gap from the time I was a small child to when I was about sixteen. I did see him occasionally, but he didn't really know me.

Frances Oxford:
It was then, when you were sixteen, that you decided that you wanted to read one of his books?

Marjory Barlow:
I was in bed, ill as usual, and asked my mother whether she would lend me one of his books. I don't know what prompted my curiosity. AR, I think, without pressing me at all, had this idea that he would like me to go into the work. My mother picked out CCC (Constructive Conscious Control of The Individual). I don't know whether she'd ever really read it herself, but it was a piece of good luck because it made an immediate appeal. I think it was the philosophy. At that age you're looking for something: round about sixteen you're beginning to wonder what it's all about, especially if you've spent a lot of time ill, as I had. I was an avid reader--FM used to say it was a drug.

Frances Oxford:
Nowadays many people seem to have difficulty reading Alexander's books and yet when they were written many people were immediately struck by them. Why do you think this is?

Marjory Barlow:
One of my favourite authors was Walter Scott--enormously long sentences which go on forever and it was wonderful training. So I didn't have any difficulty with CCC. I didn't understand it the way I did later, but there was enough there to really excite me, particularly the evolutionary idea that he thought man had got as far with automatic, or natural, evolution as he could and that the next step was to come onto a more conscious plane and take control of his own destiny. This idea made a great impression on me. You see, I didn't realise what it could do for me from the health point of view.

I didn't see the implications of that. It was more the philosophical ideas that excited me, so I asked whether I could go and see him and my mother made an appointment. FM was absolutely horrified. He couldn't believe it. I was as thin as a rail--I was terribly tall for my age--and terribly rounded. He discovered that I'd got a double curvature, not one, but two. He said that the only thing that would save me would be to have lessons and that I must leave school immediately.

Frances Oxford:
Were you already in pain with your back?

Marjory Barlow:
Yes. You see, I wanted to be a pianist. And I couldn't sit for more than half an hour at the piano without being in terrible pain. My back was always hurting me. I wasn't allowed to do gym, thank goodness. I wasn't allowed to do games--I had a doctor's certificate every term. I wasn't even allowed to do homework. I had to do my homework during games time at school. So FM said that I must have lessons with him and that I must leave school at once. This was the spring term and I was supposed to be doing school certificate the following term. This horrified my father for a bit--he said, "What's to become of her if she hasn't done her school certificate?" But FM said, "Well, if she does my work she won't need it." Which was lovely and typical, and he was absolutely right.

Frances Oxford:
Your father was satisfied with that?

Marjory Barlow:
Well, he admired FM very much. He never really understood much about the work, but they were great friends. When my father used to go away on business to Scotland and places like that, very often FM would go, just for the holiday and to be with him. My father was an ivory merchant--the oldest ivory firm in Britain. But FM had said to my mother, which luckily she didn't tell me until after I was married, that he didn't think I'd ever make a teacher because I hadn't got the stamina. I was so hopeless.

Frances Oxford:
And yet when you went and had some lessons with him, you were persuaded that you wanted to train?

Marjory Barlow:
Oh, yes. Because of the wonderful ideas in his book. So I went with that firmly in mind. I wouldn't have bothered to see him otherwise, you know. My father wrote to the school to say that I was leaving and that was all fixed up. There was a sort of gap, before FM could fit me in, because he wanted me to have five lessons a week, from him. Lucky me. So there I was, at home, not going to school, bored out of my tiny mind, really. All I'd got to do was read and help my mother in the house, which didn't appeal. So my father rang FM and said, "Wouldn't it be a good idea if she did a short course in anatomy and physiology?" and FM said, "No, leave her alone, I don't want her coming to me with her head filled with ideas. I want her as she is."

Frances Oxford:
He feared that you would have all sorts of preconceptions?

Marjory Barlow:
That's right, yes. So I never learned. He said, "Later on, when she's had the work, if she wants to, she can, but not now."

Frances Oxford:
Later on you didn't feel the need?

Marjory Barlow:
It's not my way of going on really. Although I like knowledge, I like learning, knowing what I knew about the work by that time, it didn't seem to me that I needed to study anatomy formally, and I was much too busy. However, eventually I started having lessons with FM. I went up every day by tram from Streatham Hill to Victoria and was absolutely thrilled with it. It caused me quite a lot of pain, more pain, but different, in my back, as my muscles began to take up their job. Very often I used to go and lie down after my lesson, just because I felt so peculiar. I'd never complained, but FM understood that I really hadn't got enough to do, so he suggested that I should come in every day and work in the school--helping Irene Tasker by doing the shopping, buying the pupils' lunch, cooking their lunch, taking them for walks in St. James's Park. Not actually teaching the children, but being in the classroom. This was an absolute blessing because Irene Tasker, who ran it, wouldn't let me get away with anything. She made me inhibit and sometimes when I used to come up the long flight of stairs from the kitchen, with a tray of things, and she saw me pulling my head back, she would send me down to the bottom again. Although technically I wasn't a pupil in the school, I was treated just like one.

Frances Oxford:
That meant, in any activity you were doing, having to stop and think through the orders-verbal orders?

Marjory Barlow:
Yes, verbal orders, absolutely. Then, after quite a long time, I used to alternate between FM and AR. They were quite different in the way they taught, but they taught exactly the same thing.

Frances Oxford:
What were the differences in their approach?

Marjory Barlow:
AR was a bit of a bully by nature and he was very tough--very kind, but very tough on the thinking side. He knew, as one does, when a pupil isn't ordering. He was very meticulous about that, He would put you back in a chair at a horrible angle, stand in front of you and say, "Now come forward." I can't tell you what that was like. It was a wonderful thing really. You couldn't get away with anything. You'd struggle like mad to come forward and he'd say, "No, you're not thinking." And I'd get so angry, I'd think, "How does the damned man know whether I'm thinking or not?" I know now. I bad a wonderfully disciplined training that first year.

Frances Oxford:
How much had the state of your back changed?

Marjory Barlow:
So much that FM came into the schoolroom on my 18th birthday, somebody must have told him it was my birthday, and said, "I want you to come into the training class today"

Frances Oxford:
You'd had lessons every day?

Marjory Barlow:
Yes, work of some kind. I felt so marvellous because I knew I was changing, I knew I was building something up which was going to make me able to lead a normal life.

Frances Oxford:
Would FM give most people lessons 5 days a week?

Marjory Barlow:
Oh yes, that was the rule, which I kept to. I wouldn't take anyone if they wouldn't come five days a week for at least three or four weeks, depending on what was the matter.

Frances Oxford:
So that would be twenty lessons in four weeks and then they would carry on coming?

Marjory Barlow:
Oh yes. You'd gradually reduce it. That was the rule of the house, we all obeyed that. I did it until Bill started writing seriously and going down to our houseboat on Thursdays every week. Although I did go on for a while teaching right through Friday, it became a bit of a bore really and I was getting older anyway. So I eventually cut it down to three a week. By that time I was so much cleverer at getting it--I was so much more experienced. I felt bad about it, I must say. I liked that idea.

You see, you're up against the habits of a lifetime. If you can't keep renewing those new experiences day by day, you haven't got much chance. If somebody lived out of London they'd have to come and stay in London. FM was quite adamant about certain things. He wouldn't take them until they'd read at least one of his books. He said, "If you read one of my books, you'll see whether this line of thinking appeals to you." If they couldn't be bothered to read the books, he couldn't be bothered to teach them. Most people are in such dead trouble that they are prepared to make sacrifices. Some people came, like Bill, out of tremendous interest in the whole idea of it. He did have a recurrent dislocation of the shoulder which happened, I think, skiing, originally. I don't know that he even told FM about it. He says in his video that he went to him because he had a shoulder problem. But he never said that until later on in his life.

Frances Oxford:
To go back to when you started training. Did you then stop helping in the school?

Marjory Barlow:
Yes, because the training was a pretty full-time job. Some people did have part-time jobs, but not many. Most of the people in that first training were people with independent means-- Lulie Westfeldt, Kitty Merrick, Marjorie Barstow, George Trevelyan and the two Maclnneses. Pat Macdonald's mother was a Rowntree.

Frances Oxford:
So you had all day at your disposal?

Marjory Barlow:
Yes, we had a two hour class with FM every day. Then we worked with each other or on ourselves. FM was very insistent that we shouldn't begin to use our hands until our use was at such a stable point that he felt we wouldn't do ourselves more than a little harm. Because he said, "You'd build into your teaching habits your bad use." I remember like yesterday the first day I was allowed to put my hands on somebody. I was terrified. He used to start us working, using our hands, with somebody lying down on the couch. Taking a head, that was the first thing. And very often he would put his hands over ours. Pat Macdonald used to do that a lot too.

Frances Oxford:
Did you do that in your training class?

Marjory Barlow:
Yes, you can feel whether they are tensing the hands. It's very useful. I was the youngest in the class, by quite a lot. I think the next in age was Pat who was about five years older. They were all at different stages. Some of them had been there from the first day, like Erika and George Trevelyan. The Maclnneses, I think, had been there at the beginning. Pat came later because he was still at Cambridge. He was two terms ahead of me. Marjorie Barstow was there from the very beginning.

Frances Oxford:
Presumably each of them had had a different amount of work before starting training?

Marjory Barlow:
Yes, some of them had had years of work, like Marjorie Barstow. She and her sister used to come over from the States and work with FM.

Frances Oxford:
Would that affect the point at which they were ready to start using their hands?

Marjory Barlow:
Absolutely. Marjorie Barstow had wonderful hands. Some people are naturally gifted with good hands. Other people's hands are like plates of meat--no intelligence in them at all. It takes time for the influence of their good use to get into the hands. FM used to say his brain was in his hands. These days some people start using their hands straight away. An awful lot of experimentation went on because we were pretty clueless, as everybody is. But because we'd had so much work from FM, and had done so much work on ourselves, we knew pretty well when somebody was taking a head back or doing something dreadful. And this was a cause of great difficulty, you know, because people don't like being criticised. I think that was why we separated into two groups really. Patrick was very critical and he knew when you were taking him wrong. But I think some of the others didn't like that critical approach--which to me was a lifesaver because I wanted to know. My particular group was Pat Macdonald, Kitty Merrick--Kitty Wielopolska she became--Lulie Westfeldt and later Charles Neal, because he was quite friendly with Pat. The other group, of course, was George Trevelyan, Erika Whittaker--Erika Schumann as she was in those days--and Gurney and Jean MacInnes. Marjorie Barstow did quite a lot of work with Irene in the school, so she wasn't really part of a group in the same way. They nearly all had flats so there were plenty of places for us to go.

Frances Oxford:
You said the two groups did evolve slightly differently in their understanding. You were talking particularly about the direction of the head.

Marjory Barlow:
Yes, that's right Pat was very clear that the releasing which led to the head going forward and up happened at the sub-occipital joint. But I think there was a tendency to take the head and neck together forward, as if the head went forward from the hump. You see, people don't have the experience that the spine in the neck is part of the spine. Because there's so much tension at the sub-occipital joint they behave as if the head and upper neck are one, rather than the head being this lovely balancing thing on the top. So I've got a lot to be grateful for to Patrick.

Frances Oxford:
When you were working in the class in the mornings, when FM was there, he would be giving each of you a bit of time and the rest of you would be working with a chair, or on the wall, working at the kinds of procedures that we use now?

Marjory Barlow:
That's right, anything we chose. Giving ourselves a stimulus, saying no to it, giving our orders and then either going ahead and moving or not moving. There wasn't much room at Ashley Place. There was the school in one half of the big double room and AR taught in the other half of it when the students weren't there and then there was the little back room. It had mirrors all around it and was the only place with a couch in the early days. We used to call it the "black hole of Calcutta." And then, of course, there was FM's room with Pip's [Ethel Webb] office off it and the door was never shut between their two rooms.

Frances Oxford:
He didn't have a couch in his teaching room?

Marjory Barlow:
No, no. If he wanted to work with somebody lying down that was usually when he would pass them on to one of the teachers and he would come and help. After they'd had a lesson with him he would pass them over, before he had the training course, either to Ethel Webb or Irene Tasker, who were his assistants. They had a sort of apprenticeship by having lots and lots of lessons and then watching him and being allowed to be in the room with him. That's how they learnt.

Frances Oxford:
Which must be the best way to learn?

Marjory Barlow:
It is the way. He evidently did that right from the early stages because he had AR and my mother working for him in Australia.

Frances Oxford:
Would you talk about the way that you worked as teachers alongside FM when you'd finished training and how you worked in pairs?

Marjory Barlow:
We were supposed to change partners every week or so, but Pat and I never did--we always worked together. It was like being one person when we were working together. Pat gave the lesson and I just fitted in. We'd had quite a lot of practice at fitting in because sometimes FM would have us in to his teaching room to help him with a pupil, particularly in the latter part of the training course when there were only the four of us.

Frances Oxford:
You would be using your hands on the pupil at the same time as he was?

Marjory Barlow:
Yes, that's right. He'd be taking the head maybe and we'd be taking the back, or an arm, or a leg, or something. Later FM sent Pat to Birmingham and I suddenly realised that I hadn't ever given a first lesson or given an interview. I went to FM and I said that I was worried about this. He said, "That's interesting, nobody else has bothered about that. I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll let you take all the pupils who can't come in office hours." I had a flat which I shared with his adopted daughter in Maida Vale, so for a year, throughout 1938, I'd work with FM all day and then I'd go home, have something to eat and take two or three pupils every evening. I really worked hard that year. But in the light of future events it was so merciful really, because in 1940 he went to America and I had to cope with the whole thing, the pupils and the training course. Waiter Carrington was my helper in those early days, after FM went, because he'd just got his certificate. Bill was still at the hospital--he wasn't qualified and he was coming up to finals.

Frances Oxford:
Who was left on the training course by that stage?

Marjory Barlow:
The Walkers--Dick and Elizabeth--and Bill, when he could get in. There were about 5 or 6. That regime went on until Number 16 was bombed, which was the beginning of the blitz. Then of course I had to stop--Bill and I'd only got a two room flat in Dolphin Square. It was quite impossible--everybody scattered because the bombing became so bad in London.

Frances Oxford:
You had been helping with the training class since you qualified?

Marjory Barlow:
Yes, the minute I got my certificate I went straight on going into the class, but working on people instead of being worked on. Except that if I got tired and sat down, FM would always give me a turn as he went by I did say to him at one point that I was so interested in the training, couldn't I do it full time and he said, "No, I want you to get experience in dealing with many different types of people."

Frances Oxford:
Which again was probably invaluable experience?

Marjory Barlow:
Oh, absolutely. Because, you see, I had the assurance that he was there, if I got into difficulties. I found that I had a lot of experience in putting things very clearly and simply to people because sometimes they either didn't listen or didn't take in what FM was saying. You need to repeat things in different ways and sometimes the pupils who'd had 3 weeks with him were in a bit of a muddle by the time they came to me because they didn't know quite what they were trying to do. If you have a pupil (or a nice long time you can sort all that out as you go.

Frances Oxford:
Could you describe how you give a first lesson?

Marjory Barlow:
Where to begin? After I've had a look at them and seen that they're pulling their backs in, or whatever they're doing, I get them to stand in front of the chair with their feet apart, hip width apart, and then I say to them, "Now look, I'm not going to teach you what to do right--together we're going to find out what you're doing wrong, so that gradually you'll be able to stop doing these things. They're harming you very much." And I say, "The only thing I want you to understand is that, whatever I ask you to do, I want you not to do it straight away I want you to be thoroughly disobedient."

That's how I start. So I do a little bit of work on them, get them a little bit more organised, and then I say, "Now, I want you to sit down, say no, and I want you to trust me and just let me put you into the chair. All you've got to do is put your knees forward and away from each other" I give them plenty of support with my arm along the back, just keeping the head going a little bit, and they land in the chair. I then do a little bit more work on them, organising them a little bit more and then I say, "Now, I want you to stand up," and sometimes they make a little jump and I say, "No, now remember, say no, and let me do it for you. If it goes wrong it'll be my responsibility: all you've got to do is to hofd that idea that you're not going to try and get out of the chair and let me do it for you." And 99 times out of a 100, I take them up and they just rise up and have an absolute look of amazement on their faces.

Frances Oxford:
So what you're really starting with is inhibition?

Marjory Barlow:
Yes. That is lesson number one. Nothing can happen: nothing could happen for FM, you see, until he'd discovered about saying "no." Then I put them down on the couch, very slowly, telling them what I'm going to do at each point and making them say no to helping me. I get them lying down, get their legs out and then each time I go to move a leg I say, "Now I'm going to move your leg. Say 'no.' " I tell them the story of FM, how he discovered the work and that brings in the ordering. I tell them what the orders are and I say, "Now those orders, or messages or directions, whatever you like to call them, are meaningless at the moment, but, as we work, meaning is going to come into them because I'm going to be giving you, with my hands, what those words mean, the direct experience."

Then, having got them lying down, knees up, feet on the couch, I put my hands on the knees and I try and move the legs--and, of course, they won't move. So I say, "Now this time I want you to think of your neck being free, your head going forward and up, your back lengthening and widening, and I want you to think of your hips being free." And I touch where the hips are. I wait a minute and I probably go through that again, neck free, the head to go forward and up, the back to lengthen and widen, the hips to be free and then I move the legs and, of course, they move, just like silk. I say, "Now, what happened? I didn't do anything different." And that is their first experience of orders being effective. That's the second thing I want to get across, in the first lesson.

Frances Oxford:
So right away, in the first lesson, you've given them the whole sequence of those primary orders?

Marjory Barlow:
The whole bit. Yes, absolutely.

Frances Oxford:
And, in fact, when. you're there at their knees, you're not giving them an experience of the neck being free and head going forward and up because you're down by their knees?

Marjory Barlow:
But I'm watching it.

Frances Oxford:
And you're making sure that they, therefore, are really thinking for themselves?

Marjory Barlow:
That's right.

Frances Oxford:
Something which at that stage can only be verbal because they haven't got any experience really?

Marjory Barlow:
Yes, they don't know what it means. They're just saying a lot of gobbledygook to themselves--but, in fact, they've had an experience that it makes a difference. What I want to build up in them is that no change can happen if they don't say no and that giving orders does make a difference. It may not immediately work, but sometimes it does.

Frances Oxford:
Have you described to them, in that first lesson, the things that they're doing wrong with themselves?

Marjory Barlow:
To a certain extent. I don't go on about that too much because it's so overwhelming, there's so much wrong with everybody. I'm much more interested in trying to make them understand the method by means of which they are going to change. And I say to them, "Look, there's only one place you can change and that is at the moment of the receipt of the stimulus. It's your only place of freedom. There you have a choice. If you react straight away, you will do what you've always done."

Frances Oxford:
Could we talk a bit more about the verbal directing? You've explained very clearly how in your first lesson you're getting them to say the words to themselves.

Marjory Barlow:
That's right.

Frances Oxford:
As they continue and have had more experience of what those words mean, does the way they direct change?

Marjory Barlow:
Oh, yes. FM used to say, 'This is an exercise in finding out what thinking is." And meaning does come into it. But you've got to be very careful because the work we're doing is a direction in which they're going and the danger is that they have a good experience and they want to hang on to it. We want to hang on to it. We all do. And you've got to have eagle eyes on what they're up to. When I've finished that lesson, I get them up, taking it slowly and making them inhibit and order, and then I say, "Now, there's no homework." I give them a copy of my lecture, because I think it's probably a good introduction and not too long, and then I say, "Now, I want you to think about what I've said, but I don't want you to try to remember what happened or remember what it felt like or anything like that. Leave it alone until you come tomorrow." But, of course, I say, "One thing you can do, notice how you never say no. How you rush from one thing to another and you never have a pause. Just notice that."

Frances Oxford:
Do you also ask them to notice what they're doing with themselves?

Marjory Barlow:
No, not at that stage, it's much too soon. Later on I suggest working at certain times of the day. FM used to say, "Try and think about this a lot when you're getting undressed, when you're getting ready for bed. And then when you get into bed, lie for a little while and give your orders. Same thing when you wake up in the morning, don't rush out of bed and have your breakfast and read the paper because it'U be 11 o'clock before you think about your neck."

Frances Oxford:
So as they progress through lessons you would be encouraging them to think of inhibition and think of their directions in their...

Marjory Barlow:
In their daily life. There are two ways of working. One is to set aside time to do what I call "pure" Alexander--the other is trying to apply it and think about it as you go about your lawful occasions.

Frances Oxford:
Lulie Westfeldt, in her book, makes a comment that she thought that Alexander was not good at teaching people how to work on their own effectively and that pupils would feel dissatisfied that they'd had this wonderful experience with him, but then they didn't know how to take it on their own.

Marjory Barlow:
I never had that difficulty with him because I never found that he refused to answer a question. And I spent such a lot of time with him out of office hours when we talked endlessly about the work: if I stayed to a meal, or over lunch, or over tea--and I always found him very clear. The trouble with Lulie was that they had this awful misunderstanding and she was really very angry with him by the time she wrote the book. It was such a shame because they were very fond of one another and he'd been so wonderful to her.

Frances Oxford:
You have talked about "working on oneself" both in the training class and throughout life. Could you describe a little more exactly what "working on oneself" means?

Marjory Barlow:
There is value in just sitting, having got down into the chair in a reasonable way, and giving your orders, just getting those messages going. Because nobody can do that inner, ordering work for you. The teacher can help you get things undone and give you good experiences, but that inner work everybody's got to do, just as FM had to. Now one thing he used to say to us, "If you suspect you're in a mess, don't try and improve statically. Sit in a chair--give yourself a stimulus to move--say no to it-get your orders going--and then move. And you will-find that, as you move, so you will come out of whatever it is." It's when you go to move that the thing manifests. He used to say, "One of the best ways of working on yourself is walking. As you walk, giving the orders."

Frances Oxford:
Then you are in movement.

Marjory Barlow:
The great enemy is fixing, holding, trying to keep it. He used to say, "It's not having it that matters, but it's knowing how to get from where you are now to something a bit better." It's knowing the road, knowing the path. AR used to emphasise that too. As you go on working, so you get a more stable, good, use of yourself. But your reactions are just as liable to go wrong at any moment whether you've been at it six minutes or a lifetime, as I have. So one's in the same position as one's pupils. That's why I like the idea, not of me teaching a pupil, but working with somebody and together finding out.

Frances Oxford:
You said AR was very tough on thinking.

Marjory Barlow:
FM really discovered quite a different way of thinking. It's not what we mean by thinking. He used to say, "You will discover, this is a way of finding out what thinking really is." And, you see, to keep a thread of three or four orders going is quite an achievement for us. Because we're so distractable.


 

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