February 2009


Ray Bishop, PhD

Ray Bishop, PhD

The following is the text of an article written by my dear friend Raymond J. Bishop. Ray did his basic Rolfing® training and his RolfMovement training at the Rolf Institute for Structural Integration in 1995. He did his advanced Rolfing® training with Jan Sultan and Sally Klemm in Seattle in 2000. Ray has a Ph.D. in musicology from UNC-Chapel Hill and has published numerous articles on bodywork and music, somatic metaphor, anatomy, and structural integration history and theory. Ray passed away in December 2008 and I reprint this article here with the permission of his life partner, Carlton.

The notion of the practice of bodywork as a meditative discipline may at first seem rather peculiar. Certainly, many seasoned bodyworkers meditate, rightly believing that regular practice of any of a wealth of meditative modalities will promote an increased sense of mental clarity and calmness, and may potentially enhance the experience of everyday life as well as the quality and depth of their work. However, accepting the idea that the act of doing integrative bodywork can be both the source of meditative insight and an ideal milieu through which we move towards higher levels of consciousness will for most require a shift in paradigm of a fairly high order. This perceptual difficulty will be further magnified when applied to those therapists engaged in disciplines that are thought of as intense and whose work is generally described as deep tissue manipulation, work such as the style of structural integration called Rolfing®. That such a modality offers a gateway to “the meditative” will at first seem contradictory in the extreme owing to a number of fundamental misapprehensions about the nature and intent of this and related integrative modalities. Furthermore, the idea that those who do bodywork may choose to do so in part as a selfish desire to attain an altered mental state may seem curiously at odds with the altruism which we associate with those drawn to healing touch modalities. Yet, we will argue for the virtues of this type of selfishness (Ayn Rand, notwithstanding).

Any effort to advance arguments such as those addressed here must suffer from the proliferating misperceptions of integrative bodywork as well as from the ever-present fear that such an argument will lapse into a New Age double-speak, a nebulous metaphysical languaging, which, once introduced, would inevitably weaken our argument’s credibility among those more technically minded. Despite all these potential pitfalls, this is precisely what we will attempt. Our approach is two-fold. The first prong of this sharply taloned yet gentle beast is to clarify the nature of the work through which we hope to attain this meditative state (the medium being much more than the massage) and the second is to suggest some reasons why such a relationship is not only possible but virtually inevitable once we approach the work with the proper mindset.
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Ray Bishop was a close friend and colleague of mine who passed away in December 2008. What follows is a memorial I wrote for Ray. With the permission of his life partner, Carlton, I am also having Ray guest blog with an article he wrote titled, Bodywork as Meditation. I just re-read this article and got back in touch with how much I love it. Sharing it with others through my blog seemed a natural way to honor and pay tribute to a brilliant man that I very much miss.
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