Bodywork as Meditation


Final installment of the article by my friend Raymond Bishop, Certified Advanced Rolfer.

Another dimension of this subtle and global sensing is a phenomenon called entrainment.¹⁵  Entrainment is the tendency of objects in close proximity to become interlocked and move in synchronicity. One reason that this occurs is that “nature seeks the most efficient energy state, and it takes less energy to pulse in cooperation than in opposition.”¹⁶   A frequently cited example of entrainment as it occurs in nature is the tendency of adjacent pendula, if released or activated at different times, to adjust their speed and amplitude so that they are soon moving in synchronicity.

An interesting connection here exists between this description and the writings of Dr. Rolf on the advantages of an ordered body. It also suggests one common view of why Rolfing works. The reasoning is that since bodies prefer the most economical and efficient manner of movement and since one of Rolfing’s primary goals is to create economy of movement, then, once the body learns this more efficient pattern (in other words, once these patterns are entrained), the body will “choose” this more efficient mode of movement and will tend to return to it automatically.
Keep Reading>>

Advertisements

Continuation of the article by my friend Raymond Bishop, Certified Advanced Rolfer.

The ideas of Tolle have a strong resonance with a much earlier esoteric philosopher, George Ivanovich Gurdjieff who integrated Eastern tenets with his uniquely confrontational approach to enlightenment. In his hagiographic study of Gurdjieff and his philosphy, John Shirley frequently affirms this mystic’s belief that we must go through the body to attain enlightenment.

For Gurdjieff, to be sure, the human body is the crucible of transmutation. An active work with turning attention to the sensations of the body – combined with taking conscious ‘impressions’ of one’s inner and outer state – is the beginning of the transmutation that creates a lasting soul.¹¹

Jennifer Hecht, the author of an ambitious consideration of the history of doubt in religious thought, offers another perspective on this somatic path to enlightenment in her discussion of renunciation as taught in the Hindu faith. She says, in part:

The Hindu notion of meditation is essentially that when we can manage silence and stillness, we get a glimpse of our real self. . . . To be at peace we must clear away everything that is not the true inner self. This ‘everything’ includes one’s own body in particular, because this is the source of so much useless, distracting, and redundant desire.¹²

Whether the body acts as the source of distraction as the Hindus believed, the means through which we attain “no-self”, or, whether it is the wounded raging ego gnawing on the bones of problems projected into the future or recycling from its past, as Tolle argues, any discipline that takes us deeper into present moment awareness should be considered a valuable resource for all wishing to experience themselves more fully. From somatic awareness spiritual awareness may soon emerge. So, any modality that evokes and teaches awareness has the potential of being in and of itself a means of approaching the meditative state. We can therefore reasonably assume that embodied SI work done in a fully engaged and cooperative manner can evoke this state not only in the client but also in the practitioner.
Keep Reading>>

Continuation of the article written by my friend Raymond Bishop, Certified Advanced Rolfer.

If we focus too much on muscular structures, we miss the larger fascial planes that morph and alter the dynamic relationships between these structures. Conversely, swimming in the fascia without a constant eye to the mutating coastline, the rocky shoals and obdurate projectiles where the fascia binds and adheres may feel wonderful, but, in doing so, we will widely miss the mark if our primary goal is improving fascial connections in relation to what Dr. Rolf and her students call “the line” (an organizational construct that runs through the central vertical axis of the body).⁵

This fascial sensing may seem rather abstract, but it proves to be the primary way through which we not only create and sense order but also access the meditative. But before we address the meditative state, a bit more about the nature of Rolfing. Another general perception is that what we do is mechanistic and goal oriented. Many bodyworkers read and learn that Rolfing is a protocol, a pattern of sessions, logically sequenced with a series of clearly defined goals and rigidly delineated fascial territories. They also learn that there are specific techniques associated with each session and pay considerable amounts of money for one of the numerous programs and accompanying manuals out there that detail highly specific protocols for these basic sessions. They also learn that there are movement cues as well as awareness and muscular retraining exercises that accompany each hour and carefully graft these to their sessions.⁶  Furthermore, interested students of SI will find that some styles have a more psychological orientation and  include emotional work and homework questions to be filled out by the client between sessions to deepen the emotional nature of their experience of the series.
Keep Reading>>

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.
Keep Reading>>