“Talk about a man’s individuality and character: it’s the way he uses himself.”
This is one of my favourite quotes from F.M.’s teaching, and it is one I have contemplated on and off for 20 years or so!
AT is the practical study of how we react to the world around and within us – this is what F.M. was referring to as “the way he uses himself”.
The way we “use ourselves” is the product of so many things: physiology, parenting, role models, peer pressure, activities we enjoy, activities we don’t, injuries and recovery, work and play; in short: a lifetime of experiences of ourselves and how we relate to the world about us. It is also a question of choice, though: whether we react unthinkingly in accordance with how all this experience has conditioned us to behave, or whether we choose to stop for a moment and refuse ourselves permission to do that, but instead make a conscious choice to allow for something different, unexpected, new (and perhaps better?) to happen.
If, like me, you enjoy people-watching, a good way to explore AT is to observe the way people around you react to everyday things: if something surprising happens, do they laugh? Shout? Clam up? Freeze? Criticise? Lose their balance? Lose their cool? Spring into action? Are their reactions useful, appropriate, proportionate? How much control do they seem to have in that moment?
If you were to assess their “individuality and character”, what would their reactions reveal? What do your reactions reveal about you?