Tuesday, December 12, 2006


The late Marjory Barlow, an eternal Buddha, often said to me, “FM used to say that this work is an exercise in finding out what thinking is.”

“FM” was Marjory’s uncle, Frederick Matthias Alexander, founder of the body of work that endures the label of “the Alexander Technique.” But FM himself, Marjory told me, never used to call it “the Technique.” To him it was always just the Work.

When Marjory said “this work” I understood her to mean the work that she and I were doing together -- pursuing the truth. Sometimes after she gave me a lesson on the table in her flat in Hampstead we would sit together in Zazen in her teaching room. It was a natural progression into silence.

During a lesson, after some minutes of working on the table, Marjory would sometimes say something along the lines of “That’s it. That’s what we want. THE WHOLE BODY INFORMED WITH THOUGHT.”

The whole body informed with thought.

What Marjory, and what FM before her, called "thinking" does not mean thinking about, does not mean intellectual thinking. Thinking the neck to be free does not mean thinking about the neck being free. It means thinking the neck free. It is the kind of thinking a footballer does with his feet or a martial artist following the path of sincerity does with his fists.


“Think that state beyond thinking. How can the state beyond thinking be thought? Non-thinking. This is just the essential art of Zazen.”

Think that which cannot be thought -- freedom, spontaneity, oneness with all things, complete ease in sitting. How can freedom, spontaneity, oneness, ease... be thought? It is a target that thinking cannot hit. But we can aim ourselves in the direction of that target, with thinking that includes ever-deepening understanding of its own inability to hit the target -- non-thinking.

Thus, through the physical effort of sitting upright, and the mental effort of non-thinking the unthinkable, we allow a possibility of the target hitting us, of body and mind spontaneously dropping off.

In a recent email, Gudo wrote to me:

Not to do but to think is the typical Western thought... Your teaching, that Master Dogen instructs us to think in Zazen, is completely wrong.

But Master Dogen’s instruction is very clear:

Think that state beyond thinking.

It is not Mike Cross’s teaching. It is just Master Dogen’s instruction.

I think that Gudo’s words are, at root, the expression of his prejudice against HAKUJIN NO BUNKA, the white man’s [intellectual] culture, against which Gudo fought in WWII. He is prejudiced against thinking. Knowing that the enlightenment of Gautama Buddha cannot be grasped by intellectual thinking, because enlightenment it is a real integral state of awakening that includes the whole self and the whole of nature (or “the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system”), Gudo is not only wary of intellectual thinking but he is also prejudiced against thinking in general. He tars all varieties of thinking with the same brush.

Gudo himself has a very active intellect which he knows from experience has been prone in the past to lead him into delusion. So his antipathy towards “typical Western thought” might be just another case of the old mirror principle.

The reason I have spent the last 12 years in England, not in Japan, is that FM’s teaching and Marjory’s teaching on how to think in Zazen is just true. Gudo’s prejudice against thinking in Zazen is just false.

There is no room for compromise on this one, no middle way. Gudo’s teaching is part of a Japanese confusion that needs to be cut at its roots.

Marjory’s principle of thinking is true. It is just Master Dogen’s principle for Zazen.

I shall endeavor to do my bit to see that Marjory’s principle does not get lost.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

To collect wonderful original footage of Alexander Techers go to www.davidreedmedia.co.uk

-worth a look mike !

Tuesday, December 12, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thanks Dave. Yes, I recommend anybody who suspects that there may be even an iota of truth in my strange and angry ramblings on Zen & Alexander to check out the sounds and images of Marjory working and talking that you have so valuably recorded for posterity and are now making available on the web. I hope you are rewarded for it in all kinds of ways, including financially! You deserve to be. Very glad indeed to have encountered you on my blog.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006  

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