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Healing through AcroYoga & Massage: Trust

“…but a woman whose love has vanished,
who thinks now, too much, of roots
and the dark places
where everything is simply holding on.
But this too, I believe, is a place
where God is keeping watch
until we rise, and step forth again…”- Mary Oliver

 

If one can apply herself to any activity or process with the intention of emptying out into presence with what is real, and with staying true to what being love is in that moment, any activity or process can be a spiritual practice, maybe even an initiation. It is a chosen paradigm that resonates deeply and has served me greatly. When viewing life this way, events occur multidimensionally- affecting a being on many levels of being- and take on meaning that has a ripple effect throughout our consciousness. In my 5 year journey with massage and bodywork, and my 2.5 years of those 5 with AcroYoga, I’ve encountered incredible challenges, have been exposed to many psychological mirrors, and have had to expand a lot to be able to show up fully each day for the practices. And everyday, there is still a process to attend to. Many of the lessons and challenges that I encounter often show up in the realms of how to be in relationship, how to be present, how to value process over endpoint, for example- realms I believe hold a lot of weight and interest with many people. So many times I have found myself in conversation with colleagues or practice partners exclaiming over how the lessons learned in these practices can be applied to life- and that, we are actually more loving people if we do make these applications. I write this series to explore, to share, to muse over what I have discovered over the years in the hope that it will spark the readers’ own explorations, sharing, and musing. No doubt, the process will be more enriching this way. I specialize in flying, so in full disclosure, much of my experience will be from this perspective, though I will try to incorporate what I have learned from my partners where I can.

Diving right in: the first concept that gets a lot of attention in AcroYoga is trust. What is trust? In these contexts and in the largest sense, it is letting go, giving over to a space created by two people, which inevitably takes away some of our personal control. It is a sense of allowing uncertainty- not knowing what will come up next, but also knowing it will be held in safe space, and that we will handle it with capability.

For example, the first thing a new acroyogi flyer learns is that it takes a lot of trust to get onto someone’s feet and trust she will not be dropped by her base (or that her spotter “has” her)! The base often has to also trust that the flyer will move with awareness- so there is ease and safety in holding the flyer up. Let’s take the first pose most of us learn, which is “Front bird”- much akin to the position parents take with their children when doing “airplane”. The flyer has to lean his hips forward and give this weight to the base’s feet. The base then takes the weight (at the fulcrum of the hips), bending his or her knees and then extends through the knees and heels toward the sky. The flyer must hold a type of plank pose, only with uplifted chest and head.

Trust shows up, here, when the flyer “gives weight” to her base, literally and physically. The sensation of literally leaning my hips forward onto a bases feet, as they bend and receive my weight to push me up toward the sky takes trust. So many things could go wrong: the timing could be off, the base could tip me side to side, I could fall face forward; but with trust, the movement is possible and then so is the access to deeper trust. As trust grows between flyer and base, the practice is able to take on more and more risk, with more and more allowing and letting go. The process of getting there is what’s most illuminating: what gets in the way of our trust? Is there a way to build in safety along the way, so we can keep progressing? What do we need? Do we give ourselves permission to ask?  All of these questions could each be their own blog post (and very well may be :))

As massage practitioner, trust shows up as I also “give weight” to a client through the use of pressure. I lean into an unknown, quiet myself, and receive what is showing up. In that space there is co-creation, because what comes up will be different with each client. What comes up is what informs the work to be done in that session. If I come in trying to control, with my own idea of how a session should go, I could miss what is wanting to surface and the client may ultimately feel unheard- which breaks down trust. So, what emerges here is the issue of “control”- something I find often in the way of trust. The question becomes how am I not trusting myself, the client, the process? What am I trying to force, and why?

Lastly, how well one is able to receive a massage, that is, give his/her “weight” over to the therapist (once it has been deserved), is where I have found trust shows up most potently as a client. I am as much a client as I am a practitioner, so I will speak from my experience. When receiving massage,  I have been present to magic most when I give preliminary boundaries, i.e. where I am feeling the pain or tension, what my goal is for the session, and then literally let go of an outcome and give over my weight, (which can physically show up in the practice of not guarding or controlling my limbs when she moves them) practicing trust in my therapist. In my allowing, I am creating a space for the therapist to step into with me, again co-creater, where more is possible as we both discover what is true in each unfolding moment- I have found its not always what we thought it would be.

A most potent example I’ve had of this recently was when I was receiving a massage treatment for whiplash. I know the way I showed up for the session changed the way the session went (grounded, spacious internally), and I know that because this therapist practices mindfulness (again, a practice in trusting the present moment), we were able to meet in a realm where true healing happened on more than just the physical level. She was working on the left side of my neck and at one point passively rotated my head over my left shoulder- nothing fancy but indeed intuitively guided. At the time, I felt the significance of this action, but couldn’t put together why- only that it was some kind of completion of an action I hadn’t been able to complete at the time of my accident. My therapist also knew something significant happened- and she too didn’t know how or why, only that it had happened. We only both knew there was magic and healing. After the treatment, as we processed, she said that she had given up trying to “fix” the issue (because we had been working on this chronic pain for a while), which implies a letting go of outcome and a trust in the unfolding of what would happen. We had gone into the session to address the pain and tension in my neck- and allowed for whatever else was there to show up. And because there was space and trust, an invitation was made, and the traumatic energy that was underneath the pain in my neck was safe enough to surface. Days or so later, my brain caught up and I realized it was because when I saw that the car was coming toward my left rear end, I had turned myself forward and braced for the impact, literally not knowing if I would make it through that accident because of the high speed of the car. I couldn’t turn my head to the left to watch.

There are many pathways to healing, and the body- with its mysterious way of holding memory and trauma (literally our muscles and blood vessels constrict with any kind of fight or flight sensation) is a powerful gatweay into healing. Whether it be in the exhilaration of being held in the air by strong feet or holding and co-creating safe space between therapist and client; in any practice, if we allow, let go, lean in, our souls will lean toward healing like a plant toward light, seeking higher and higher organization. It seems that deep connection and coherence become available in the opening… the softening into practice.

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“In the Body of the World”- Eve Ensler

I post this video not only because I love Eve Ensler and all she stands for in the world, but also because it is a beautiful, urgent message and epitomizes the fuel behind my work. It is also how I discovered Philip Shepherd’s work. I hope it sparks something for you.

August 27, 2015 0 Comments
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“Inhabiting your body – reuniting with its intelligence – is one of the most potent political statements you can make”- P. Shepherd: How I came to articulate my calling in this lifetime

Credit for image goes to Philip Shepherd.

I went into massage school a few years ago mentally excited to learn all about the body, and to be able to use my body instead of sitting at a desk in front of a computer (no judgment for those who do, just not for me) all day. I knew getting through massage school would only be the beginning of something, and would serve as a foundation, a place to jump off from, a sort of point of entry into the realm of healing arts- like a passport into another country- and that I’d most definitely be learning many other modalities. I didn’t know where I’d end up, though.  Part way through massage school, I came into contact again with something I remembered having contacted in high school when I worked with animals at a vet – I understood that when I put my hands on flesh, there is something more to this being than just gross anatomy, flesh, and bones. I knew something eternal was housed, something I was a part of, something universal, something beautiful, something I loved. And it broke open my heart in a good way. I wanted to serve it, love it.

For one of my classes in massage school I had to do a project- and it was pretty open ended- just so long as it had to do with massage. It was during this time that I began to articulate a knowing that I’d been putting together based on books I’d read, and experiences I’d had, and maybe some old knowing that was now just swelling up in my own bones- looking for expression. I did not end up with any sort of tangible, observable object, chart, or graph. I ended up with a bit of a rallying speech, a manifesto perhaps that I delivered with passion. It is simple, but operates on the understanding (premise) that we make sense of, and organize/integrate our outside worlds/experience via the most powerful of our senses-touch; that our Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) helps to organize our Central Nervous system (CNS), that, this organization impacts our realities in an outside-in kind of approach, that what our bodies experience, helps to create our identities/ego, and perhaps vis versa and that disruption in the flow between the two (i.e. separation based on the fact that we regard our minds as supreme “knowers”, and stop listening to our bodies or even regarding our bodies) contributes to a loss of self, and as I have more recently come to understand- a feeling of separation from the whole (the body of humanity and the body of the earth).  I will post it below so you can see what I mean:

THE PROPOSAL: BY REINTEGRATING BODIES AND MINDS, MASSAGE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

Let us assume the belief that all dysfunction within human beings stems from a loss of self. Whether it be manifested mentally or physically. It is my proposal that we as massage therapists and body workers, have the tools to harness the great healing power of reintegrating bodies and minds. In doing so, we are able to help people re-integrate with the world, one body at a time. It is my belief, that taken to a macro scale- this can change the world.

THE CONCEPTS:

  • All tissues and organs of the body develop from 3 primitive layers of cells that make up the early embryo:

1.     -Endoderm: Viscera

2.     -Mesoderm: Muscles, Bones, Connective Tissue

3.     -Ectoderm: Skin and Brain/Nervous System

  • CNS is organized and developed by the PNS (Outside- In)
  • Case of Schizophrenics shows us that the loss of connection between body and ego results in loss of identity; loss of connection to reality

THE SCIENCE:

  • Embryological Law: The earlier a function develops, the more fundamental; Skin is oldest organ of body
  • Piece of skin the size of a quarter contains:

1.         More than 3 million cells

2.         100 to 340 sweat glands

3.         50 nerve endings

4.         3 feet of blood vessels

5.         Estimate of 50 receptors per 100 square millimeters

6.         640,000 sensory receptors

7.         Tactile points vary from 7-135 per square centimeter

8.       Well over half a million sensory fibers FROM THE SKIN ENTERING THE SPINAL CORD by the posterior roots

  • “Gentled” Rats vs. “Ungentled” Rats: The latter is bewildered and tense, while the former is secure in any handler’s hands
  • Margaret Meade: New Guinea Tribes Study

1.     Arapesh: Suckling and fondling, lots of attention during nursing, children never put down, always carried, joy and devotion toward rearing children results in an “easy, gentle, receptive, unagressive adult personality; and a society in which competitive or aggressive games are unknown, and in which warfare, in the sense of organized expeditions to plunder, conquer, kill, or attain glory, is absent” (Job)

2.     Mundagamor: before child is born, much discussion on whether to let it survive, child rearing is not a joy, infants can sometimes be hung on a wall while mother works, only suckles when crying cannot be stopped- no touching or fondling, just suckling til suckling is over- infant has to fight for its food, which infuriates the mother- these people grow to be “an aggressive, hostile people who live among themselves in a state of mutual distrust and uncomfortablenss. They are cannibals.” (Job)

THE IMPLICATIONS:

– What if we raised our children with more mind-body awareness? What if our world leaders had more mind-body awareness?

-And for those of us already in the world: If we all receive the same information, but each of us interprets it differently- some positively, some with a negatively- based, say, on our history of touch, or lack thereof- is it possible, based on what we know of the power of touch in organizing information and reality, to override those negative experiences, and perhaps help people to be more loving, and less violent?

– I believe we have become a bunch of ‘heads’ walking around lost in our thoughts, completely cut off from our bodies; that this has allowed our government (and many other institutions) to get away with horrendous violations of human rights (from Gitmo, to the Patriot Act) without people causing a revolution in the streets. This is how we have war, how we have climate crisis—and yet we do nothing.

– I believe there is an urgency in our times, a consciousness that is urging us to wake up and take stock to avert something disastrous- some of us will get it, others won’t; and I believe that some of us have been called (consciously or not) to help each other wake up, to re-integrate people’s bodies and minds (to help create presence in this world where we have been so distracted), to be a part of the force trying to re-integrate us all into one whole again; to bring people back to earth, back to themselves, back to each other.

– I believe this re-integration of bodies with minds, with bodies to bodies, bodies to the world will help heal and save this world.

REFERENCES:

– Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin- Ashley Montagu

– Job’s Body- Deane Juhan

– Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair- Miriam Greenspan

THE END

Ok, so that was my first attempt to “get at” what I was “getting at”. Fast forward a year or so, and I’m in Structural Integration Training and my world is busting open again with this deeper and deeper affirmation, that, yes, the body is amazing, its well-being SO enmeshed with our total well-being, and our true potential as human beings. For some unexplainable reason, unlocking our bodies potential, somehow unlocks our spiritual potential and gives us access to our inner resources, and sensates us to resources outside of us also- it puts us deep in the seat of our bodies, our souls, and places us more rootedly into the palm of the collective consciousness, the All, the One. Somehow getting inside our bodies deepens our connection to the All, and somehow we get that WE ARE NOT SEPARATE from each other or the planet. Don’t ask me how this works- I can only explain it in terms of concepts- that what happens on a mircro level- i.e. our bodies, happens on a macro level- i.e. the Earth’s body (which I believe is a big generator of the All, perhaps THE generator of the human collective consciousness/Source/All…but then there is the cosmos and the universe…and that’s probably all part of it too…but I’m onto a more particularly human dilemma- which mostly concerns that the PLANET EARTH, our most sacred and primary body is  IN TROUBLE). And that when we heal ourselves, we heal each other, and the Planet Earth.

Fast forward a few more months, and I’m sitting in the Landmark Advanced Course- and I’m getting that its all fine and great that I’m healing myself, and I’m taking care of myself on the micro level- which, honestly, is enough for many of us. If we can get right with ourselves, we have done a life’s worth of work. But Landmark is hammering it into my mind, that EVERYONE ELSE MUST GET IT. Meaning, I can’t stop at just healing myself. And for some reason, after getting over the overwhelm that this causes in an individual, and understanding this doesn’t mean I have to “take care” of every single person in the world, as in- deplete all my resources til I have nothing left to give- no, I must only learn how to enroll the world into a new consciousness (M-L-K- “I -have- a- Dream”-style), use whatever goddess given gifts I’ve been given to lead anyone and everyone who’s willing to listen, to their own self-empowerment; trust that true self-empowerment is only ever in alignment with lifting up others- because one gets that he/she is part of the All; that we are all the same thing and that no one is free until we all are- I am exhilarated. And terrified…

The culmination of this course, my experiences in bodywork/massage, my own research, and then stumbling across Philip Shepherd’s Manifesto spoke directly to who I am and what I want to stand for in the world: Unity in body and mind, humanity and earth. Wholeness. Connection.

Here is a man articulating this concept, in his own way, but nonetheless on to what it is I’ve been trying to articulate and “get at” in my own processes, and making his life about it. His understanding has contributed to mine, and will undoubtedly be integrated into whatever next step I take.  I hope it inspires you as much as it inspires me.

Without much further ado:

Manifesto The Embodiment Manifesto
By Philip Shepherd,
Author of New Self, New World

The Revolution and the Blind Spot

I believe that humanity can survive the crises that are mounting around us – but that our ability to make it will depend on us forging a new kind of clarity.

Specifically, we need to shed light on the story we tell ourselves about what it means to be human. It’s a story almost too familiar to question, yet it provokes fantasies of limitless growth and power, and puts us on a collision course with the realities of our world.

I believe that story is the single greatest danger to our survival. 

I also believe that the single most dangerous effect of that story is the way it estranges us from our own bodies, and makes that feel normal.

It is clear to most people that the way we are living is not sustainable. It is clear in the damage we are inflicting on the ecosystem that sustains us; in the Armageddon of species extinction; in the pressures of a growing human population on the earth’s finite resources; and even in the stress we carry in our bodies day in, day out. We try to lessen our impact by changing our behavior, and such changes are important – but their effect is dwarfed by the sheer scale and momentum of what we face. If we are to come into harmony with the world, we need more than adjustments to our way of living – we need a revolution in our understanding of ourselves. To make matters even more challenging, the revolution that is needed sits firmly in our culture’s blind spot. This has always been the nature of revolutions. In our case, that blind spot involves our relationship with our bodies.

It was once considered self-evident that the earth was the center of the universe, and that everything else – the stars, the planets, the sun – revolved around it. Our experience supported our flawed knowledge: standing on the earth, you felt that you were at rest – not hurtling through space at over 18 miles per second. The Copernican Revolution changed all that by identifying the sun as the center of the solar system. It was a paradigm shift that made sense of the movements of the heavenly bodies, and disclosed the harmony of the system as a whole.

Today it is similarly understood that the head is the center of the psyche, and that every aspect of the self – our thoughts, our emotions, our desires and senses – is set in orbit by what lies within our cranium. In this case, though, our knowledge supports our flawed experience: that is, we learn from our culture that the head is our center, and as we incorporate that knowledge it orients our experience. This socially-ingrained, head-centric way of being is contrary to a host of ancient cultures that experience their center in the belly – Chinese, Mayan, Incan and Japanese, to name a few; it discounts facts of our own physiology – that we have a second brain in the belly, for instance; and it turns a blind eye to history and the roots of language, which show that eight thousand years ago, Europeans too experienced their center in the belly, and that it took millennia for that center to migrate up through the body to where it resides today.

Living in the head and experiencing all our thinking there creates a basic distortion in our perceptions, because it disconnects us from the life of our own bodies and from the life of the world around us. We become alienated spectators, distanced from ourselves, our lives and our world; furthermore, we start managing from on high what we cannot experience, because head-centric thinking incites us to trust in the agendas of control, systemization, judgment and acquisition. But being off center and out of balance ourselves, we can only create more imbalance with every willful impulse. Even as we seek to behave ethically, our main focus is on changing our material actions; we almost neglect the necessity of changing our relationship with our material self. This is our blind spot – and it is a towering liability, because our relationship with the world can only mirror and express the relationship we have with our own bodies. Having estranged ourselves from the body and deafened ourselves to its wisdom, we find ourselves also estranged from the world, and also deaf to its wisdom.

We cannot endure the mislocated center of the self, and nor can the world; we need a revolution as radical as the one that brought to light the true center of the solar system. We need a revolution that will challenge the rule of the head and bring us home to the hub of our being. We need a revolution that is at once deeply personal, and as boldly political in its implications as were the insights of Copernicus. And just as Copernicus helped to disclose the harmony of the heavenly bodies, the emerging revolution will disclose the true harmony of this heavenly life on earth.

The Manifesto

Inhabiting your body – reuniting with its intelligence – is one of the most potent political statements you can make.

Disembodiment is tacitly modeled and promoted by every institutional hierarchy in our society – whether corporate, political or religious. Each of them is shaped around a top-down ‘command and control’ power structure run by the head of the organization, with executive power consolidated at headquarters – which might be head office, the nation’s capital or the Vatican. The implicit message embedded in these hierarchies is that the head should rule.

When we internalize that message, we reinforce the hold those hierarchies enjoy. That is, if the head rules the self, hierarchical power structures feel like the natural model of governance; so we are thereby conditioned to accept that ‘heads’ of business, politics and religion should rule our society. If we reject the leadership of a particular ‘head’, we will seek to replace that individual with another ‘head’ – unable or unwilling to consider other ways of organizing human affairs. Of course, head-centric governance may be the only viable system for a populace that lives in their heads. Creating a workable alternative would require a paradigm shift in our experiential ‘normal’, one that replaced ‘headism’ with the sensitized unity of a fully embodied intelligence. As a new ‘normal’, that would change everything.

Such a revolution begins to take root in each of us with the simple recognition that we have internalized the hierarchical message – that its top-down power structure lives in us and rules us. In fact, the growing gap we tolerate between rich and poor is a direct expression of the gap we tolerate within ourselves, between our heads and the parts of the self that sit below the head. We assign executive power to our personal headquarters – ensconced in the cranium – and grant it decision-making over the rest of the corporeal (or corporate) self, otherwise known as the body. And just as the executive power of an institutional hierarchy believes in its own superior intelligence, so does the head – imposing its will on the body, overriding its subtle genius, and obscuring the world’s harmony. In reality, the body is no more mindless than the factory workers or city councilors or lay priests at the bottoms of institutional hierarchies. Every cell and system of the body participates in our thinking. The head excels at abstract thinking, but the body’s genius marries us to the living pulse of the world – just as the pope is concerned with ruling the people, but a lay priest is attuned to their moment-by-moment hopes and struggles.

When you internalize the top-down mode of being – whether knowingly or not – it keeps you in a divided state, creating imbalance and disharmony. Such a state feels normal enough, because you are relentlessly habituated to it by the story that surrounds you – a story told by the language, the architecture, the hierarchies, the customs and even the icons of your culture. The standardized symbols for washrooms, for instance – icons that have been refined over decades so that you can effortlessly recognize yourself in them – show a slightly oversized circle for a head, and a body below that isn’t even connected to it. Once you internalize the pervasive message that ‘disconnection is normal’, you lose the ability to sense your own wholeness, and eventually even forget what wholeness is – mistaking it for sitting up in your head and ‘listening to the body’ across the divide that separates you from it. When you cannot center your sense of truth in your wholeness, truth itself becomes fractured – and in its place you can only substitute a sense of ‘should’, which is provided by your executive powers of decision-making. In this way you uphold and refine what is in effect an inner tyranny – polishing the set of ideas, political and otherwise, by which you ‘should’ live. These ‘shoulds’, divorced from your wholeness, are shaped by the messaging of your culture and its head-centric hierarchies.

There is a second, more socially damaging outcome brought about by a top-down mode of existence: being estranged from your own sense of wholeness is anxiety inducing – and such anxiety is the foothold by which those who wish to wield power keep others off balance. That is why they stoke anxiety so deliberately: the more anxiety we feel, the more control we feel we need. Every social hierarchy promises to provide you with more control in exchange for being ceded more power. Through ads and messaging, corporations offer you ways to control your cravings, your lawn, your entertainment, your finances, your shape, and even your anxiety itself. Politicians offer to control crime, the economy and social unrest, and to defend your right to accumulate more and more capital. Religious institutions offer control over sin, your afterlife, your guilt and your sense of virtue.

Ultimately, our head-centric way of being keeps us in a stressful, self-perpetuating loop:

• top-down living disrupts wholeness;

• a lack of wholeness induces anxiety;

• anxiety makes us yearn for more control;

• and more control is promised by top-down management – both within the self and within society – even as it further disrupts wholeness.

As this frenzied cycle goes round and round, it corrodes our sense of connectedness.

The foremost message of our hierarchies – that the head should rule – has been deeply implanted into our psyches, leaving us off balance and bewildered. At the same time it has left us in thrall to reason, blind to its utter impotence regarding what matters most in our own lives. Think about it: you cannot reason your way into the present; you cannot reason your way into love; you cannot reason your way into a harmony of being. More than that, though, living in your head keeps you from truly feeling and flowing with the currents of your own being; it fragments you on the most personal level, so that even as you obsess over refining your ideas about how best to supervise your progress, you sabotage any possibility that you might respond to your circumstances with your full and unified being.

Top-down hierarchies – whether in your society or your self – maintain their power by disconnecting you from the guidance of the world and the richness of the present, features that can speak only to your wholeness and which lie beyond all ideas. Returning to the body’s alert wisdom – the very foundation of your vibrant being – and restoring it to a place of preeminence effectively deflates the influence of those who wish to barter for your power. Doing so, though, requires the journey of heroic surrender that is illuminated by the myths of the world: surrendering the tyrant’s place of rule in the head, you allow your center to drop through your body and come to rest in the ancient hub of being that lies below your navel. Relinquishing the frenzied realms of spectatorship and oversight, you return to the calm and clarity of the present – fully participant in your own life, and in the life around you. By yielding the head’s need to control, you discover a harmony that is not yours to possess, but yours to feel and live and enhance. By yielding within yourself the head’s obsession with order, you discover grace.

The most direct political statement you can make, then, is to reclaim your embodied wholeness. Attuned as it is to the mindful present, attuned to the frail, robust, transient beauty of life, it will also attune you to an understanding of justice that lies beyond dogma or self-interest. This is not about asserting control, but about achieving harmony; not about substituting a new set of ideas for an old, but about living the wordless truth of the moment; not about getting ahead, but about embracing your life, in all its mystery and urgency and love. And it begins by walking away from the entrenched habits of top-down living, and reclaiming the sensational, clear, ever-shifting genius of your full and undivided being.

If you take that first step, your whole life will change. And the world around you will follow.

Being the Change You Want to See

Learning how to liberate yourself from the frenzied treadmill of the head is far from easy – it requires a skill set that is not readily available, and goes against the grain of our culture’s messaging and conditioning. On the most personal level the process may feel as monumental as the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, because it threatens to change everything: old, stuck pieces of yourself topple and make room for a newness of breath and ease and clarity, and a dangerous awakening to the deep, true passion and calling of your life. Opening to the world you find not obstacles, but guidance; not indifferent geography, but companionship; not resources, but a living web that shares your own ancestral origins in star matter.

We cannot align with the body’s subtle genius by adopting new ideas about ‘how to be’. In fact, to be directed by ideas – however progressive – is to be ruled by the head. What is needed is a new experience that will put us in touch with our being so that it can speak to us about all that is. We need a practice that will help us beyond ‘listening to the body’ and instead enable us to listen to the world through the body. The task is not to make the body do new things that are good for us, but to surrender the tyrant’s place in the head and yield to our embodied wisdom – which belongs to the world as much as to us, and knows the whole so intimately that it recognizes its expression in each individual particle.

Many exercises are available to help us, and many are needed – you cannot simply wish your way back into a unity of being. One exercise that is central to my own work is called The Elevator Shaft. It is designed to bring you home to your true center – the place in which all the orbiting concerns of your life are brought into coherence, and the harmony that guides the world is disclosed. To begin the exercise you need to locate your perineum. It sits in the center of the pelvic floor, amid all those parts of yourself our culture warns us not to discuss in polite company. You locate the perineum by engaging the muscle that you use to stop yourself from peeing. Once you locate it, relax and bring your attention to your breath. Allow the wave of the in-breath to deepen into the body until it makes contact with the perineum, and then release the out-breath from there. Be patient with this.

Now imagine within your body an empty shaft that runs from the top of your head down to your perineum. The back of this shaft includes the spine, and the main part sits in front of it. At the top of the shaft, up in the head, locate the center of your awareness. This is ‘the elevator’, and you can experience it in any shape or form that feels right to you. You’ll find that you can actually move it around inside your head – back and forth, or side to side, or even in a circle.

Now allow that center of your awareness to begin a smooth descent through the shaft. This is not an exercise in imagination – it is about actually feeling that centre moving down through your body, the way a pearl might float down through a jar of olive oil. It’s important to feel its journey without gaps or jumps. And if you should find at any point that the elevator stalls out and seems unable to drop further, understand this as a gift. That is, you have disclosed a little shadow or block in the body – part of your Berlin Wall, standing between you and the core of your being. If you offer that shadow your full acceptance and your love, it will warm and soften and melt back into the whole, so that the elevator can continue dropping.

By supporting the journey of your centered awareness with patience and loving attention, and maybe even following it down your body with your hand if that helps, you’ll find that the elevator can continue its descent until it arrives at the perineum. When it does, when the center of your conscious awareness comes to rest there, simply pay attention to how different the world feels, to your sense of wholeness, and to any emotions that might stir to the surface. By remaining at rest on the perineum, you are allowing all the scattered bits of your life to come into relationship with the core of your being, integrating and harmonizing. The more often you return to the core of your being, the easier the journey becomes, and the more natural it feels.

You can practice the Elevator Shaft exercise virtually anywhere and at any time: in a grocery store or a boardroom, while partying with friends or lying alone in bed. Practicing it helps not only you, but those around you. The influence of anyone who is grounded, clear and present spreads out gently and slowly, like ripples in a pond. By returning to your own center, you help others do the same. You also come to understand that only in feeling the present as a whole can you be ushered into your own wholeness. It is an understanding that promotes compassion, responsibility, and the instinct to nurture. It is an understanding the world desperately needs. Let the revolution begin.

© 2012 Philip Shepherd All Rights Reserved

August 4, 2015 0 Comments
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Structural Integration- Session 10 (5/2012)

Now that the client has the full capacity for alignment, session 10 in the Structural Integration progression is about helping the client to find his/her vertical and own it. As a culmination of the work, session 10 addresses the body from the ground up, focusing on the multiple diaphragms and joints of the body. Yes, we have more than one diaphragm. 🙂 The diaphragms addressed in this session are the arches of the feet, the pelvic floor, the thoracic diaphragm (the one we breathe with), the hyoids (the chin), and the top of the head. The joints are put through tracking techniques to observe, educate, and get the body to feel what proper flow of movement in alignment feels like. The idea is to get the client’s energy moving freely through these diaphragms and joints. Lastly, if there is any small “clean-up” work to do, or any last little hold-up in the system, that can also be addressed in this session. It is interesting to note that emotional releases are still possible in this session, as sometimes, the one last little thing that is holding up the system is discovered- that which is not serving the whole- and is hopefully freed.

The movement of energy through the diaphragms especially seems to be what ultimately gives the vertical lift once all else is released (I would wager a guess that this is because the body is hydrostatic). Conscious, full breath, now has the capacity to expand into our pelvic floor and up into the top of our head. Upon inhalation, all of the diaphragms pull down, while the diaphragm at the top of the head pulls up. It follows that the vertical created upon inhalation, from pole to pole, nicely corresponds and/or creates an appropriate visual as to what our spine should be doing upon inhalation, and perhaps in general. I have noticed now that if I can’t get a full breath, it is usually because some part of my spine and/or pelvis and head are not in alignment. There truly is an ease of standing upright and breathing once this vertical is found- this ease, and feeling that everything has just “let go” being an indicator that the vertical has been acheived.

The word “found” is used because not all people know what standing vertically feels like, as the habit has possibly been quite the opposite. Again, part of the 10th session is education so the client can feel what “vertical” is in the body. Again, the fact that the client has to choose to truly seek out this verticality and to own/take up the work of the 10 sessions becomes very apparent. I realized that some people may not ultimately be ready to (or want to) inhabit this new way of being, as it means stepping, not only into an unknown space, but perhaps a more empowered way of being. There can be frustration and resistance. There is no judgement in this as all people must make journeys at their own pace, and maybe the Structural path is ultimately not the one to be chosen. Others, on the other hand, will be more ready or certain, and so will consciously continue the process of integrating a new posture and way of moving in the world into the nervous system. This usually takes the form of being able to better catch when out of alignment and to be able to find the way back to vertical again, and again, until hopefully, it becomes the default way of being. Either way, it is a personal process, one in which we should be gentle with ourselves. There can be a tendency toward wanting to be perfect and getting upset with ourselves when we aren’t. My teacher has often encouraged a sense of humor and curiosity in this process, as it goes a long way.

A few classes back, my teacher stated something to the effect that maturity is expressed through order. As the sessions progressed, I understood what she meant as I began to see/feel a beautiful maturity expressed in my classmates and myself- a wholeness perhaps, or a container, through and upon which deeper inner work could be expressed and grounded. In her book, Ida Rolf mirrors this sentiment saying, “Evolution is matter moving toward more effective order.” She goes on to say “True verticality, the goal of Structural Integration, is more than a figment of the imagination. Indeed, it is very real; it is a functional phenomenon, a line around which the body’s energy force fields balance. Again, these energy forces are not abstract; they manifest in real myofascial material structures. Through its vertical stance, the organism is no longer earth-bound; the vertical expresses an energy relation between earth and sun. In its own way, the vegetative world also glorifies the polarized vertical; its upward striving is material evidence of vital polarity. Whenever life differentiates toward a greater, more complex degree of order, the upward thrust becomes more apparent and more significant. As order evolves, a gravity/antigravity structural organization defines itself, and this basic polarity, rooted in the earth, expresses in terms of vertical lift. (Rolfing, 285-289)”

It seems that through the work of Structural Integration, we learn, energetically, how to be more grounded, while we reach toward the heavens, or rather, our true potential. It is helpful to have a solid foundation in our physicality as we strive to experience our life in subtler forms. The power of the ten sessions, therefore, lies in its invitation, and its ability to support whatever it is that we reach for.

August 4, 2015 0 Comments
Healing

Structural Integration- Session 8 & 9 (3/2012)

By Session 8 & 9 in the Structural Integration progression, the core is finished being unraveled, and it is time to begin integrating all the information the client’s body has received over the past seven sessions. While some integration was started in previous sessions, 8,9, and 10 make a point of it. Many questions are asked, and the resultant work of the sessions seeks to answer them. First, it is important to decide upon postural analysis, gait analysis, and other movement analysis if session 8 will be an “upper” or a “lower” (upper body or lower body). Session 9 will be the opposite of what session 8 turns out to be; i.e. if session 8 is a lower, session 9 will be an upper and vice versa. At this point, the analysis is global, taking into account the client’s entire body system and asking the question, where is there still a hang up, and what is the root of it? Which regions or parts still look like they are not communicating with the whole? Where is the client not moving with integrity, that is, from the core? By session 8, more often then not, it is the client’s lower body (below the lumbar-dorsal hinge) that still needs attention, especially when working from the understanding that it may need to be more integrated if anything above it is to hold. Once this is decided, the rest of the sessions seek to answer the question, what needs to be done to allow the client to live more fully in the body they were intended to have? What’s possible? It is important to note that perfection is not the point, but rather, the emphasis is on speaking to the way a client lives and moves in the world, and helping him/her to do this more fully. Because of this, the sessions involve a good deal of education regarding what integrated movement looks like and feels like in the body. It is imperative that the client be very engaged and present in his/her body during this session (as in all) so, with the help of the practitioner, he/she can become aware of aberrated movement, better understand the relationship of limbs to core in movement, and work to re-educate the body on what integrated movement feels like. The hope is that, now that the (superficial fascial) sleeve and core of the body have been unraveled, the client has a greater capacity for this integrated movement, whereas before, it may not have been possible because his/her structure was literally obstructing this. It is interesting to note that often integrated movement will feel strange or almost “wrong” at first when a client takes it on, as the body is still used to aberrated posture and movement. It takes a bit of faith and an adventurous spirit to keep experimenting with and seeking out this new balance.

Ultimately, though the previous sessions’ work is not any less profound, it is the last three sessions that set Structural Integration apart from other bodywork modalities. This is because it truly takes the deep tissue work to the next level in helping to foster a new consciousness within the client. Structural Integration doesn’t just create a new capacity within the body, it also assists the client in using this capacity. It assists the client in learning to own and independently further his/her intrinsic inquiry into what it means to be more aware and conscious within the body. The last three sessions, moreso than the previous seven, really bring it home how 50/50 this work is; success is half reliant on how well the practitioner executes the session work, while the other half is reliant on how aware the client chooses to become in the process.

My experience giving and receiving these sessions felt very exploratory; playful at times, intuitive at others. The sessions are very free-form in that one can start with a plan and then ditch it for a new one once discoveries are made. There is a way in which the practitioner is like an artist developing an eye for what integrated movement is, what is possible, and then helping to “sculpt” the body into alignment. A lot of these sessions tend to involve brief work on the table, and then getting up so the practitioner can look at how the work effected posture/movement. It can also involve the client sitting and/or standing while the practitioner works on two joints at a time, and asks the client to experience what certain movements felt like. If movement is not coming from the core, it is important to gain awareness and then practice movement until it is. All of my practice partners, and myself, ended up being “lowers” for session 8- so much of the work focused on relating pelvis/core to legs and then pelvis/core to the upper body. Session 9, then, resulted in being “uppers”, which focused more on how the arms and head related to the core, and vice versa. Part of the fun was in using any number of techniques to accomplish these goals of relating.

Lastly, it was really brought home to me, that in order to teach others what integrated movement is, I would have to continue my own journey with it.  While some of the psychophysical work has already been interwoven into our coursework, I have decided to take the work deeper and attend additional continuing education in May and July. In the meantime, I will also be learning the in-depth five-body system (developed by Robert Masters and evolved by my course instructor Althea Northage-Orr) the psychophysical work came from. It is my hope and excitement that this additional work will deeply inform my Structural work as I go along.

August 4, 2015 0 Comments
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Structural Integration- Session 7 (2/2012)

Session 7 in the Structural Integration progression focuses on aligning the upper body, bringing about a second completion within the 10 sessions- that of the core. The upper body within this session consists of the shoulder girdle, which is made up of our clavicles and scapulas (shoulder blades as most people know them), our arms, the sternum to which the clavicles attach, and then the neck and head. The shoulder girdle is literally like a yoke placed over our ribcage and imbalance here not only greatly affects our upper back and chest, but also moves up to the neck and head. For example, some people are very “glued” down in the pectoral muscles, which are attached at the clavicles. This drags the clavicles down, which then in turn drags the anterior neck, and the rest follows. The neck and head placement is also greatly affected by our thoracic (the spinal section where our ribs attach) spine, as many neck/head muscles attach here- some going all the way down to the pelvis (the erector spinae longissimus). If there is an aberrated curve in the thoracic spine, it is bound to aberrate the cervical curve, putting lots of strain on the neck muscles. Also, it is important to note that the cervical curve mimics the lumbar (low back) curve- aberration here translates through the whole spine. So, in earlier sessions, the lumbar back was addressed, bringing it more into alignment and changing the relationships between the spinal curves- oftentimes clients will start to feel discomfort in their necks between sessions because their lumbar spine has been moved into alignment, while the cervical spine is still hanging out there. Session 7 completes the work, bringing the head (the top of the vertical column) into alignment with the pelvis (the bottom of the vertebral column).

Perhaps the most fascinating (and perhaps notorious) hallmark of this session is the inner mouth and nose work. There are many important muscles within the skull, affecting the alignment of the head/neck, that cannot be released other than from the inner skull outward. For example, releasing the root of the tongue effects the hyoid muscles under our jaw, which is closely related with our cervical vertebrae. Building on that, there are muscles on either side of our jaws called the pterygoid, which, if they are too tight, can pull the jaw out of alignment and cause TMJ. We can release the pterygoid through manual manipulation within the mouth, but can only release the other end by entering the nose and releasing it indirectly via the sphenoid cranial bone. Entering the nose in this way also releases our third diaphragm (the first is within our pelvis, second is the one we breathe with), which then allows the head to “float” up into alignment. Lastly, after the oral and nose work, the facial muscles in general just have a new energy about them and are allowed to express more freely.

It is hard to avoid how personal this session was for me, as it has been the most revealing. I am not sure if it is due to the culmination of the other sessions it represents, revealing the depth and profundity of the work, or the fact that it was the most healing for me to receive it. During this session, I had an emotional release, which allowed me to go deeper into healing an old trauma I had experienced. It was profound to me that not only did my partner sense and know what the trauma was (intuitively/energetically) way before I did, but also that my body knew- way before my mind caught up. It wasn’t until I was standing up after the session for postural analysis did I start to cry and at that moment had no idea why. Afterward, I was struck by the accuracy of my partners insight, that she picked this message up from my body, and that my body spoke this truth in the first place. It was as if my body got in the drivers seat in that moment and said, I know its scary to speak this verbally, so let me; I will tell the truth. It seems the truth of our wounds are in our bodies, and in one way or another, they will find a way out. I guess we choose if it will be in a healing way or a destructive way. Later on, as I processed the content of the release, I felt a supreme gratitude to my body for, again, restoring my faith that it is on my side. It was right there for me, ready to help me heal, keep me on that trajectory, reminding me that always, always we move toward healing if we just let ourselves. It is as natural a trajectory as a plant moving toward the light. It is part of our make up; it is in our cellular intelligence. And for me, this is profound. I feel blessed to be learning a modality that can bring people into such deep healing.

To weave in another piece, I had also just read a chapter in Ida Rolf’s book that reinforces this idea of a healing trajectory, as it discusses why and how this work seems to shift people into a deeper state of being. In it, she posits that perhaps we have an indestructible blueprint of an energy body in addition to our physical body, around which our matter can be organized and draws its intelligence from. When our bodies are misaligned and disorganized, there is a confusion that expresses itself on a molecular, energetic level in our bodies and translates into how we hold ourselves in space (and it seems to be relational- that how we hold ourselves also translates to the molecular level). She posits further that, Structural Integration, in releasing the fascia to return to its natural place of balance, seems to allow our matter to re-organize itself around this energy body- blueprint, thereby allowing us to come more deeply into balance or beingness. I have found that my experiences (and many of the experiences of my classmates and practice partners) speak directly to this hypothesis and confirm not only the depth of this truth, but also brings forth the question of what is made possible through harnessing this great capacity of ours to heal, grow, and live more fully. In closing this note, I thought this quote appropriate:

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you”- Gnostic Gospel

August 4, 2015 0 Comments

Structural Integration- Session 6 (2/2012)

In session 6 of the Structural Integration progression, we “speak” to the nervous system more directly than in previous sessions due to its focus on the sacrum. The sacrum has been called the “seat of the soul” due to the fact that it houses a vital nerve plexus which has major effects on the autonomic nervous system (again implicating that any aberration here can effect the ANS). In session 4, we started the core work by coming up into the pelvis from below, in session 5 we released the major pelvic muscles, and in session 6 we begin to move out of the core and into how it relates to the upper body via the spine. According to Ida Rolf, the sacro-lumbar junction is key to how a spine will function. Any aberration here, and the rest of the spine is affected. One of the most common aberrations at the sacro-lumbar junction is found in the anterior pelvic tilt posture (the psoas is also involved with this posture, and release of it can greatly reduce it). In this posture, not only does the pelvic basin lose its ability to properly contain abdominal contents (often causing a “potbelly” look), but there is also increased pressure at the sacro-lumbar junction. It seems to be a common place for disc failure- as it can become quite compressed. Session 6 frees the sacrum and elongates the spine in such a way that compromised discs in the vertebral column can heal themselves. In releasing the sacrum, we address the gluteal muscles which can rotate the sacrum, the hamstrings which can pull the pelvis and therefore the sacrum from below,  the tissue surrounding the coccyx, which is at the very end of the sacrum, and lastly our spine, which connects at the top of the sacrum. When the work is done, we should see movement ripple from the sacrum up through the spine as a person walks via the erectors (the large muscles that run parallel on either side of our spine and suspend us upright).

The biggest take away from session 6,  for myself and my classmates, seemed to be the incredible lift in the trunk of the body via the spine elongation. Many of us literally looked taller and leaner, as if somehow our abdominals were pulled in. I noted within the next few days that my belly looked pulled in (seeming to finish the psoas work from session 5) and the vertical of my body was more obvious. I also felt greater lift and ease of movement. A lot of focus was given to how to walk in a more integrated way in this session also. I literally am learning how to walk again- picking up my thigh/knee and placing my foot on the ground, heel, ball, toes, and feeling like I can glide more instead of stomp. Before, it  was a lot of work to get myself to walk properly, stand properly, sit properly. As the days pass, I can feel my body becoming more aware of itself in space, and how it is learning to re-settle itself properly back into alignment naturally (which I notice most in static postures), as if remembering a whole new consciousness that maybe it just forgot, or never learned. It is helping to restore a faith I didn’t know I lost in my body. I, like many, became so used to my body’s shortcomings, the things I felt it couldn’t do- yet struggled to make it do- and blamed myself when it “failed” me. I realize now I couldn’t have achieved that perfect posture no matter how hard I tried- because my body literally wasn’t free to. With proper function gradually being restored, I realize it is something I didn’t even “know” I had lost. Something so overlooked in our culture and undervalued, and yet fundamental. But my body knows, and it is happy.

August 4, 2015 0 Comments

Structural Integration- Session 5 (2/2012)

It has been said that session five is the heart of the Structural Integration ten sessions. It is fitting, it seems, on so many levels. Session five is all about the psoas muscle- which has been described in the session 4 posting. It is one of the most important muscles to address as it is what keeps our pelvis balanced from front to back, and side to side. Without balance in this muscle, and therefore balance in our pelvis- we cannot achieve true alignment. When the pelvis is rotated or tipped forward or backwards, it forces our bodies to compensate above and below. We may begin to have low back pain, which moves its way up to our necks. We may have one psoas that is too tight and pulls one of our legs higher in the pelvis, thereby making our footing uneven. It is also important to understand that it is the counterbalance to our abdominal muscles, and is the primary initiator in moving our legs to walk. When our abdominal muscles are too over-developed, say from repetitive crunches, our psoas can weaken, and stop picking up its proper load- thereby leading to pelvic imbalances and subsequent discomfort and misalignment. Also, after this session, the distinction between movement being intrinsic or extrinsic becomes more noticeable. Many people have weakened psoas’, which can cause other muscles not useful to walking to become involved. These muscles have less power than our deeper, intrinsic muscles (i.e. the psoas); and therefore, we spend more energy walking and further our imbalances as less powerful muscles try to compensate. Once psoas is released, one starts to notice the power and energy to walk and hold oneself upright comes not only with more ease, but also seems to initiate from somewhere deeper within the body- this is a good thing! In addition to these important functions, the psoas also houses an important nerve plexus that relates to the overall health of many of our vital organs. As Ida Rolf explains in her book Rolfing, “the lumbar plexus is a spinal plexus embedded in the psoas, permitting intercommunication between the lumbar plexus and the spinal nerves which emerge from the spine where the psoas attaches. Connections from the lumbar plexus to the autonomic system are extensive and intimate. Restricted movement or other mechanical interference in the psoas thus affects the general metabolic level, since this is monitored by the autonomic system as a whole” and the implications go on (pg 112).

Receiving this work had quite an effect on me. I would say that I felt small progressions and new, incremental awareness’ with each previous session. However, the change created in this session somehow made all the other session changes click in and finally settle. As if, they had been preparation leading up to and allowing this major change to happen. I have had chronic issues with the right side of my low back. I have a hip imbalance, in which my right hip rotates downward, causing a lot of strain and compensation patterns in many other parts of my body. I have done stretches, gotten chiropractic work, been obsessive about my posture and body mechanics- but nothing would work until my psoas was released. Suddenly, it was less energy to walk around and I noticed it the most in my massage work. I usually had the most pain after I gave massages, but after my psoas was released, I was able to hold my body in better positions, and spare my back. What a relief! Now, I just need to release the other muscles that have been hanging on for dear life trying to compensate! They are still not quite sure they should stop over-working. That will be the next session, I believe. In addition to the physical relief, there was a profound sense after this session of having entered and “taken a seat” more firmly into my body. I felt more empowered and like I could conquer the world. Big energy release. I felt really out of it that evening as I adjusted to the newness in my body. Weeks later, I can still tell my back is better than it was.

Structural Integration- Session 4 (1/2012)

Session four in the Structural Integration progression begins the journey into the deeper core muscles. Most of us, when we hear the word “core” only think about our abdominal muscles. However, our core truly consists of all the musculature and fascia that attaches above and below the pelvis- making the alignment of the pelvis key in core work. So, in addition to our deep abdominal muscles, we look at the muscles of the leg where they attach at the pelvis. Session four addresses these muscles- specifically the adductors (our inner thigh muscles) and the lower attachment of the psoas muscle which attaches to our lumbar vertebrae, passes over the brim of our pelvis and attaches at the top of our femurs (thigh bones). After, we work our way up from the inner foot, leg, and thigh, we move up to the pelvic bone- specifically working our way from the sit bones (ischial tuberosity) to just the middle of the inner thigh (at the ramus). The intention of the work is to release adhesions, giving more room and length to all the attaching musculature and fascia so they can go back to where they belong, work independently, and not be “glued” to their neighbors (which causes irregular movement, among other things). As one can imagine, this can be a sensitive region to work on for a person, physically and emotionally. Much care is taken to explain where we will be working in this session, the anatomy of the region, and the intentions. Very careful and slow work.

Interestingly enough, this session was much less painful than my partner and I imagined it would be. Afterward, I was amazed with how much my legs felt balanced from the top inner part of my thigh to the top outer part of my leg and hip. I actually felt like I was standing more squarely under my pelvis, and that my legs were more squarely under me. Some of the back pain I had that day- which is partially due to my hip imbalances- started to subside. Other classmates reported that their skin felt a little raw after the work- but that it went away within a few hours. My partner reported the next day that other parts of her leg- where we didn’t work- started to feel sore; as if they were either letting go of overcompensating, or finally learning to pick up more of their rightful load. My practice partner at home reported that he’d been working on trying to get his feet to splay out less for years, and that after this session, he noticed that they splayed out less.

Each body will integrate and feel differently, at its own pace, with each session. It is just important to be with and in our bodies as they go through the changes, noting any new awareness that comes along, and integrating it into our daily awareness of how we hold our bodies in space.

August 4, 2015 0 Comments

Structural Integration- Session 3 (12/2011)

If you want to reclaim an inch of your height- session three in the Structural Integration progression may be your remedy! 🙂 With its focus on pulling the ribcage up and off the pelvis and lengthening the “lateral seam”- or the sides of body, rather- many of my classmates literally reclaimed an inch of their height. Session three also acknowledges the body as three dimensional- not just back and front- and focuses on integrating this lateral aspect into the whole being before going deeper in later sessions. The integration accomplished in the first three sessions (though they only engage mostly superficial fascial structures) is a completion on its own for this reason.

Due to increased height and length in the body, the emotional component of this session can sometimes deal with whether or not we fill up our own space or shrink into ourselves.  Funny enough, looking back, I did engage with this issue. Often, I don’t like to disrupt harmony between myself and others and will sometimes sacrifice my own needs or desires to maintain it. I think, well, as long as I am the one taking the brunt (silently suffering), I don’t have to worry or feel bad about anyone else’s discomfort. I had a revelation that I am included in what we call “harmony”; if I am part of a group, my well being is part of the harmony of the group; I matter and deserve to take up my own space. The issue came up loud and clear in two separate arenas of my life and continues to knock on the door of my awareness.

This personal experience really brought home to me again that the psycho-physical relationship (mind-body) is a reality and once we start to change our bodies, our minds and spirits inevitably follow suit. Fascinating. It is why I have fallen in love with this work. Ida Rolf’s book Rolfing illuminates this relationship from the very first page.  I want to include an excerpt that exemplifies my meaning- bear with me; its long but worth it:

“At the age of ten, Johnny roller-skated down a flight of concrete steps, bumping down the last six on his derriere. Since he broke no bones, Mama thought no damage was done. But at eleven, Johnny could no longer keep up with his contemporaries in athletics. He couldn’t even sit cross-legged. By fifteen, his knees were hurting; by sixteen, he was getting very heavy-hipped; by seventeen, he was sent to a doctor to find out what ‘disease’ was affecting his knees and his walking. Eventually, the doctor obliged and gave it a name. At thirty-five, Johnny was trying to get rid of the ‘disease’ by psychotherapy. Pity the poor psychotherapist.
In the meantime, what has happened to Johnny’s personality? When a boy can no longer challenge his peers physically…what happens to his self-image? When he feels inadequate and insecure, both consciously and unconsciously, what kind of compensation does he make down through the years?
Endless psychological problems have been blamed on insecurity. Unnumbered mothers have wept on being told, ‘Johnny feels insecure; you didn’t give him enough love as a baby.’ This means that Mama must shoulder the guilt. But Johnnies without number have felt insecure because they were insecure, and no mama appeared in the picture at all, nor did any guilt. To Johnny, one leg felt longer than the other, not because the bones were longer, but because the time he fell down the stairs… he rotated his pelvis. One hipbone therefore is slightly forward of the other and/or slightly higher; one leg seems longer. In addition to the primary problem, compensatory distortions have occurred throughout the body- he is round-shouldered and knock-kneed. Papa’s communications to him are predominantly ‘For god’s sake, boy, can’t you stand up straight?’ In point of fact, Johnny can’t. He only knows that he doesn’t feel right. The psychiatrist will call him insecure, and that’s precisely what he is. For when your two legs are not properly under your body, you are insecure, and you’ll act like it and feel like it.
Inevitably, the bedeviled individual will cope with this insecurity by some kind of compensation. Whether he becomes brash, loud-mouthed, and resentful, or apathetic, withdrawn, and timid depends on other factors. In either case, the family may well send him to a gym or in some way try to build up his body. And he does get sturdier. He weighs more; quite possibly he can wrestle or box, though not very well. Perhaps the weight settles around his hips, as though the flesh wanted to splint the insecurity at the joint. Nonetheless, gym or no gym, at the deep level the joint is still no more secure than it was. Johnny’s dividend from the hated gym- his new potential for wrestling another kid down- does not change his subconscious realization of his own insecure stance. On many planes, his ‘I’ senses this.
Is the remedy for this particular Johnny to be found in psychotherapy? No, not at this time. The remedy can be found only at the level of the insecurity, namely in the structural deviation of the pelvis. New security accompanies a restorted balance in the pelvis. Nothing else does the job. When this has been done, Johnny within minutes reports, ‘Gee, I feel different.’ And within hours, the relaxation of his emotional personality becomes apparent even to the neighbors.” (Rolf, 25-26)

August 4, 2015 0 Comments