This is the final blog I am sharing about four of the most important people in my life and the lessons I have learned from each of them about love. Their birthdays are within 10 days of each other in June. This blog is about my closest friend, Meade Andrews. Many of you in the Alexander world know her. She is an extraordinary teacher and woman and has influenced the Alexander Technique community, profession and world in significant ways. Meade has been my most powerful and influential teacher, and, she is my best friend. She is my soul sister, soul mother to my daughter and a part of our family. Twenty five years ago she began teaching me in ways that have shaped the rest of my life.
Meade was my first Alexander Technique Teacher. She taught me more about my self than any teacher I have ever had and she did that under the guise of The Alexander Technique. For those of you who don’t know what that is, the Alexander Technique is a radically simple and profound method to discover hidden patterns of tension and holding that keep us from being free, fully open and evolving. The technique is simple and the benefits are life changing.
I am not the same person I was before I met Meade and learned the technique. I have more choice now about how I respond to situations and events. I have the ability, and a method, to say no to ways of being that are destructive and harmful. I have a process that helps me understand what lies between me and my freedom and I assist others in discovering that as well. The Alexander Technique is the foundation of all my work and how I am with myself as I come into contact with others. The work helps me be present in every moment to truly see what is happening and what wants to emerge.
The most important thing Meade taught me was how to look at my self with eyes of compassion and tenderness. She taught me that being human is to be vulnerable, open, soft and available. Lingering in time with my self and another person, to allow what wants to unfold and open at its own pace, is how we blossom into who we have the potential to be. Meade fundamentally understands this process and assists everyone she works with to grow into more of who they are.
Meade also taught me what integrity is. Through her example and assistance she showed me that I have a choice in every single moment. She helped me to see that even though at times the right choice may not be easy, it is essential. Meade taught me how to see what is essential and that by making those choices my soul would grow instead of diminish me. And finally Meade taught me what a soul sister is and how love endures all.
Three of my most powerful learning moments happened with Meade. Each of them significantly changed my life. The first time I went to the Alexander School in Philadelphia and entered the AT training program I did not know anyone. I went for a weekend workshop to see if I wanted to join the AT training program. The second night of the weekend the work was devoted to activities, a classic model for teaching the work. As usual, I volunteered immediately without knowing what I was volunteering for.
We were to choose any activity we had difficulty with. I chose speaking in front of people which used to be big fear of mine. When I got up in front of the room full of complete strangers I was flooded with insecurity and fear. It was painful, awkward and awful. I stood there feeling completely naked and exposed. I have no idea what Martha Fertman asked me to do in those moments. All I remember was going over to the side of the room and sitting by myself in shame and humiliation when it was over.
After a few moments Meade came over and sat beside me without saying a word. She softly put her hand on my heart and within minutes I began to weep. I let go and had no idea what I was letting go of or into. With her gentle hand on my heart I knew I was safe, and, that it was essential to let go. I don’t think I had spoken a word to her before, during or after that happened. It wasn’t necessary. She knew what was happening and she was holding me through the process. I would have sat there alone and embarrassed if Meade had not come over. Because she did come over and place her hand on my heart, she transformed the event into a profound moment of healing that would continue for the rest of my life.
I now speak well in front of people. I enjoy being with others and speaking clearly and courageously from my heart and mind. I know how to stand in the presence of others with all of my softness and vulnerability and be completely strong and supportive of and with my self. I welcome opportunities to be with people and in front of people sharing what I have learned. I now bring my full self to those moments with courage and confidence and strength. Meade began that process for me.
The second memory happened at an Alexander Technique workshop in Vermont. Meade was working with me in front of the group and I felt like hiding. I told her I was uncomfortable and she asked what I felt like doing about that. I said I wanted to hide behind the lamp in the corner. She suggested I do that and see what happens. When I went behind the lamp a flood of emotions welled up inside of me. I was immediately reminded of how I always tried to hide from my father when I was younger. I was always afraid of my father and rarely felt safe when I was growing up when he was around.
When Meade had me go behind the lamp it became clear to me how the pattern of hiding was ruling my life. My old fears were deeply ingrained in me. As I was behind the lamp the crushing reality of that pattern and those feelings welled up in me. It was deeply painful and transformative at the same time. Becoming aware of what rules our lives is painful. To see the truth can be excruciating and, at the same time, is the door to healing. We can not change a pattern of behavior and fear until we become aware of it. That moment behind the lamp began a history of un-doing a pattern that had ruled my life and gradually opened me up to trust and feel safe for the first time in my life.
The third memory is of a garden. Meade was working with me and asked me what I was noticing. She asked me not to respond to the first thought, or even the second thought. She had me patiently wait and see what may come. An image came to me. A garden. I had never had a garden or planted anything before and I saw a beautiful garden in my mind’s eye. I had no idea what it meant but that moment changed my life. After that time I went home to South Carolina and planted a small garden in my back yard. That garden led to another and another until my whole yard was transformed. When I had children I realized that tending a garden was a metaphor for how I wanted to raise a family. I carefully tended and nurtured the soil of my children so that they could grow into who they were meant to be. Without that moment I am not sure if gardening would have been a part of my life or if I would have realized what was important for me about parenting my children. I learned everything from an image that was gently coaxed to my consciousness, allowing me to develop into the mother I became.
As I said, Meade is my daughter Hannah’s soul mother. Meade has always gently tended to the soil of Hannah’s life and nourished her with tenderness and great care. She does that without condition, year after year after year. And Hannah loves Meade totally.
These memories, Meade’s inherent wisdom to see deeply into another person’s being and understand the depth of feeling people experience is precisely what makes her an outstanding and insightful teacher and mentor. Many years ago when I met her I thought I wanted to model my teaching and life after her strong sense of integrity. I believe I have done that. Because of Meade’s teaching and example I have a sense of integrity that I carry with me in all my teaching. I respect others in ways that allow them to blossom. I would not teach that way were it not for Meade. Before I met Meade I had a clear sense of what was right to teach and what others needed to learn. I believed it was my job to teach others what I thought was important. Now I know the teaching is about allowing the beauty of the person to unfold and be revealed to themselves. It is not about having someone do something right. Teaching is transforming. I am transformed at least as much, if not more than those I am teaching.
These examples of Meade’s influence sound so simple. So little. And they are. The simplest moments I have found are often the most profound. I believe that the majority of what I need to learn in life is dramatically simple and easy. I complicate and make things so much harder than they need to be. Meade has taught with the wisdom of an adult and simplicity of a child. Her work and her life is a testimony to the ability and beauty of being whole and becoming. It’s a simple as that. If you have not had the opportunity to work with Meade, I highly recommend you do. She is one of the greatest teachers of love and life and a gift to us all and,
my best friend,
soul sister and
part of my heart and family forever.
With love and gratitude for you Meade,