A deep bow to Frank Ottiwell

frank1Frank Ottiwell was the main teacher who trained me to be a teacher of the Alexander Technique.  After I graduated more than 27 years ago, Frank continued to be my teacher, and also became a treasured mentor, ‘uncle’ to my daughter, and a friend who I was in awe of and admired and loved wholeheartedly.  I mourn his passing in August of this year, just past his 86th birthday.  I know how much i will miss being able to hear his voice, receive his warm and funny messages of his life, and his words that always encouraged me in my own life as teacher, artist and parent.

When I found out that Frank had died a few days ago, the sense of loss was so profound.  As I continued to think of him I found myself thinking of all that i had learned from him through his direct teaching and more importantly through his example.  Because I feel i owe so much of what i know as a teacher to Frank, it seemed the best way to honor and pay tribute to him might be to share some of Frank’s understanding of the Alexander Technique here.

From the opening address to the Alexander General Meeting June 11, 2009

It is interesting to have learned that when my computer appears to have gone haywire and I turn it off for a moment or two, when I turn it on again it has sorted itself out and is working just fine. The computer in my brain seems to respond to the same treatment—as Alexander discovered many years ago before the age of technology.

(on working with a teacher)   for me—the transformation happened in a couple of moments. I found it exhilarating and deeply satisfying as time after time she helped me to feel like the person I always wanted to be. I gradually learned not to judge or second-guess the amount of time stopping should take. My brain/nervous system knows when the time is enough. The solution starts to do itself and a total-pattern movement begins—a movement which is not looked for, a movement which is a surprise every time, but that on reflection is the most natural and appropriate thing to have happen.                                      

from an interview with Alexander Teacher Pamela Blanc

I keep being drawn back to the simplicity, the specifics and the discipline of the Technique—to the fascination of solving the puzzle over and over, and to finding the freedom to do it within the form. Alexander gave us all the clues, but in the end we still have to decipher the clues and solve the puzzle ourselves. The process continues to fascinate me—and to thrill me in those moments when it all comes together. Those thrilling moments are fewer than I would wish for, but when they come they seem to have been worth all the thought and waiting that has gone into them. I do regularly give thanks to FM, both for my working life and for keeping me silver in my golden years.

Frank continued his practice of the Alexander Technique until the end of his life.  He gave an interview to Alexander Teacher Ruth Rootberg on September 19, 2012

I was a very poor young acting student, with hardly the money for food or rent, let alone lessons.  But I did keep going back, and before long I somehow found the money for two or three lessons a week.  There was something that felt ‘right’ to me.  I must have been getting something that appealed to me at a very deep level.

I was immediately taken with the whole idea of non-doing.  At first I think I really took to the ideas behind the Technique, as opposed to getting what Forward and Up were.  That came along, but in the beginning , it was obviously a very deep feeling of, I don’t know – Life?  Yes, I think so.  The ideas of non-doing, wholeness and indirection struck an immediate chord with me, even though I had never heard of them before. 

i find that when I ask rather than tell, something ‘inside’ hears me and knows what I mean better than I do.  I don’t precisely know how to free my neck.  The most effective thought for me these days, when I feel tightness or holding ANYWHERE is: I wish I weren’t holding my neck so much.  I guess for me these days, it is all manner of inhibiting that keeps me going.

Each moment and action seems new when I am letting the action happen – letting it do itself and not controlling it directly.  Over the years I experienced many times, with a teacher, that if the Primary Control was finely tuned and active, whatever action I was intending would start by itself.  

So the gifts are endless.

And one of the things I’m glad about is I’m having this experience with the Technique, which is giving me a fascinating life.  I am never bored.  

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