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Monthly Archives: July 2012

It may be hard to believe, but sometimes I forget about Rolfing and how helpful it can be.  It’s especially hard to believe considering I am a Rolfer.  This is what I do all day, every day.  But you see, I have this weird thing in my brain about Rolfing: I think it can help just about everything, for just about everyone.  Except me.

Someone tells me how their knee’s been bothering them; I think to myself, “I can help with that.”  Someone tells me how they feel out of whack and off kilter; I think to myself, “I can help with that.”  Someone tells me how they get headaches a few times a week; I think to myself, “I can help with that.”  Someone’s freaking out about work and their house and their boyfriend; I think to myself, “I can help with that.”  Then, I break my toe, sprain my shoulder, get emotionally wrapped up into a giant-multi-colored-extra-knotted ball of string and I think to myself, “Whatever am I going to do?!?  Who could possibly help me with this!?!”

And so, last week, I found myself with said broken toe (my first broken bone!), and sprained shoulder (thanks for nothing, yoga), and emotional ball of knots and I finally (finally!!!) remembered that Rolfing might be able to help me.  So, I called up my bud, Dave Sheldon, a Rolfer in Boulder, and asked if he could fit me in.  He said yes and I walked into his office with a laundry list of complaints.  It was one of those sessions (do you do this?) where you go in, planning to mention just those two or three things that are really bothering you, and by the time you’re five minutes into the session you’ve listed 23 things instead.  “AND my roommate’s dog is driving me crazy!  AND my sister’s coming to visit next week and it’s stressing me out!  AND my sacrum feels all wonky!  AND I’ve been wearing flip-flops for two weeks now and I’m sick of it, but I can’t wear any other shoes without my toe hurting and I can’t exactly walk into the bank barefoot, can I?”  And so on, and so forth.

Then, the funniest (and at the same time the most natural) thing happened.  I got on the table and closed my eyes, and Dave started working.  All of a sudden, it felt like all these layers were falling away from me.  Like I’d been wearing a suit made out of 23 layers of tissue paper.  So light that I hadn’t thought to take it off, but enough that it was affecting the way I looked and that rustling noise was really getting to me.  And one by one, Dave gently cut each layer away, and let it fall to the ground.  Some layers were wrapped tightly around my foot, keeping it stable, but I didn’t need those anymore.  Some of them were wrapped all around my shoulder, all the way down to my wrist and around my ribs and spine.  I didn’t need those anymore either.  Most of them were wrapped around my heart, or my solar plexus, or my throat, or my head, getting me caught up in unnecessary worry and fear and distress.  I didn’t need a single one of those tissue paper layers.

And I realized there, on the table, why it was that I fell in love with Rolfing in the first place.  Dave wasn’t taking away anything that I needed, or anything that was inherently me.  And he wasn’t adding anything to me, either.  He was simply uncovering the real me, and giving me permission for that to be enough.  I didn’t need any of this tissue paper to make me stable or pretty or to cover anything up.  I was perfectly me, without all that other stuff.  He was reminding my shoulder and my toe that they already knew how to recover from an injury quickly and with ease.  He was reminding me that worry and fear were good intuitive signals to listen to, but there was no reason to walk around spinning in them all day.  And the greatest part was that he did all that without saying a word.  He worked with the physical tissues and the energetic patterns and gently unwound them until there I was, just the way I should be.  And when I came from that centered, more-me sort of place, I realized, my sister and I had shared a house (and usually a bedroom) for 16 1/2 years.  We could probably figure out 3 days just fine.  Oh, and my sacrum felt better, too.

It was funny.  When I walked into his office, I didn’t feel like someone other than myself.  But when I walked out…the change was drastic and clear.  I’d walked in like a papier-mâché doll of myself and walked out as me.  And that right there is some good shit, yo.

As promised, here’s a guest post from the talented Stephanie Lee Jackson, of Philadelphia, where she’s a massage therapist, Reiki practitioner, artist, and mom.  Enjoy!

 

Recently I interviewed a colleague, Kathy Fleetwood, about her Reiki practice. She lit up. “It’s changed my life,” she declared.

Last year, Kathy’s mother came down with something that doctors tentatively diagnosed as Parkinson’s. She lost weight, was too exhausted to work, ached all over, and walked with a shuffle and a stoop. Kathy flew home to the UK over Christmas, and gave her two Reiki treatments a day for ten days. A month later her mother was back to normal. The doctors couldn’t say what had happened.

Kathy’s brother is a heroin addict. He has come close to losing a leg from systemic infections. Kathy has given him Reiki when he needed a fix, and the cravings ceased for a day or two. She credits the Reiki for the fact that he still has his legs.

“It’s not coming from me, it’s the energy,” Kathy says. Reiki has been popular in the UK for over a decade; it is widely accepted there as a treatment for all sorts of ills.

In the U.S., Reiki is now being used on cancer patients in respected treatment centers:

Reiki is often described as a treatment that helps life energy to flow in a patient—an explanation not generally accepted by scientists. Barrie Cassileth, chief of the Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, calls the energy theory “absurd” but says light-touch therapy can have a “great relaxing effect” on cancer patients “who are constantly poked, prodded and given needles.”

I have been using Reiki in my practice for over a decade. I cannot give any scientific opinion about its efficacy, because with the number of different techniques I use, it’s impossible to say which are getting results, or whether it’s the integration of therapies itself which is effective. So all I can offer are my observations, as distinct from my beliefs, which change from year to year. (Belief, for me, is a tool for enquiry–if I subscribe to this philosophy, what are its effects in my life? What about that one? Next year, let’s try Buddhism!)

Some phenomenae I have observed in my practice:

  • If I start doing Reiki while a client is talking, they usually fall silent, sometimes in the middle of a sentence.
  • If they aren’t talking, they often fall asleep. Suddenly, with a slight snore.
  • Their muscles will sometimes release along an entire fascial pathway, with an abrupt jerk or shudder.
  • They feel heat coming from my hands.
  • During or after a session, they report a cessation of pain and anxiety, profound relaxation, and the occasional vision, color display or ‘spiritual experience.’
  • Over time, they describe a progressive increase of energy, positive motivation, and decrease of chronic pain.

All of this is mild, anecdotal, and easily explained away by the placebo effect. Any claim that Reiki is a cure for all ills is greatly exaggerated. But the placebo effect is an effect–it is the body’s response to the mind’s reassurance. All of our minds need more reassurance than we usually get.

What I have found is that Reiki imbues my work with reverence. It causes me to stop and contemplate the fact, as Kathy says, that I’m not the one in control here. It reminds me to observe myself, observe my clients, to acknowledge how little I know, and motivates me to discover more.

In other words, it’s a ritual tool for getting my ego out of the way.

So I have no quarrel with skeptics who dismiss Reiki as so much BS. I do not know whether I am channeling healing purple light through my palms, and I have no way to prove it one way or the other. I do know that we’re all going to die sooner or later, and Reiki won’t change that. The best I can do for my clients is to help them make their finite time more pleasant, and possibly more conscious.

This question came up three (yes, three!) times in one day in my practice and I found it odd.  So I started asking the same question of friends for the following few days.  Ready for the question?  Here it is:  On a scale of zero to one hundred, where would you say your heart is?  Let’s calibrate the scale, shall we?  Zero is drawbridge up, moat filled with alligators, and an armed gunman on every parapet.  Not to mention the reinforced concrete walls, the electrified barbed wire, and the cannons loaded and ready to fire.  Oh, and dragons; lots of dragons.  On the other end of the spectrum at one hundred, what we have is more open and welcoming than a puppy dog.  You’re more vulnerable and less protected than a baby.  You’re an overripe peach, without skin.  Anything and everything that wants to get in is getting in, and you’re not even going to raise a tiny baby fist in protest.

I hope that for all of us, this is a question where the answer changes hour to hour and day to day, based on the situation.  Obviously we’re not going to go argue about the cable bill with our hearts at 100.  And hopefully, when you hang out with your bestie or your favorite pet, your heart’s not in full-lockdown mode.  But, on average, say for the last week, where would you put your heart?  I don’t really care where it was when you were 3.  Or where you hope it will be when you’re 90.  Or if it wasn’t for that stupid ex-husband of yours, it would be at 70, but now it’s at 31.  Tell me where you’re at, right now, in this life you’re currently living.  Or better yet, tell yourself.  Are you on the open and vulnerable side with 50 or above?  Are you closed and protected with 49 or less?  Much more importantly, do you feel comfortable moving around on that scale?

Once, I read about a study which showed that a heart which oscillates between beating fast and beating slowly is healthier than a heart that stays at a constant, calm rate.  (If I could find that study for you now, I would link to it, but alas; my 92 seconds of googling came up with nothing; I got frustrated, and I decided to just write this post instead.)  This report I read made the point that while we typically assume it’s better to be calm and even keel all the time, this is just not true.  Getting all worked up, whether it be physically or emotionally, is actually better for your heart, as long as you also have periods of rest and relaxation where your heart rate comes back down.  Living this way allows your heart to learn a sort of flexibility so that the highs aren’t so shocking and exhausting when they happened.

I feel like this applies to pretty much everything.  I don’t like air conditioning because I want to be hot in the summer.  It’s summer!  This is when you’re supposed to be hot!  I like to work out super hard, then sit on the porch talking with friends for hours.  I tend to get carried away when I cook and I have to remind myself that just because you can put every single one of the spices in a meatloaf doesn’t mean you should.  And at the same time, I’m perfectly happy eating plain crackers for dinner.  Go to extremes, then find middle ground.

Same goes for your emotional, energetic heart.  Your life experiences and your current outlook have led you to whatever number you came up with regarding the openness of your heart.  No biggie.  No need to judge yourself, or flaunt your number.  No number is better than any other (except 9, which is just the coolest number on the planet, but not any extra cool for this exercise).  What’s more important is, can you move from that number, when it’s appropriate?  26 may be a super comfortable place for you right now.  Safe, but not on full-lockdown.  Guarded, but you’ve got a good reason for that.  However, when the love of your life appears, do you have the ability to open up a bit more?  Can you get to 54 so they can squeeze through the door?  And if 78 is where you normally hang out, do you know how to draw things in a bit, when necessary?  Can you hear criticism without it destroying your whole week?  Are your boundaries well defined and well protected, in case an ill-wishing marauder comes your way?

If so, hooray!  You’re like a heart olympian!  If not, what stretches can you do to increase your emotional flexibility?  Imagine scenarios where your heart moves towards the bigger numbers along the spectrum.  Picture your heart lowering the drawbridge, putting the dragons out to pasture, and taking off the suit of armor.  What have you been missing out on, that can now come in?  Now go towards the itty, bitty numbers, put that chain mail back on, and grab your sword.  What challenges can you meet face first, with your heart protected like this?

Going back to your original number; is that something you’re happy about?  Are you comfortable there?  Does that rating of openness serve you well?  Again, if so, then super-duper!  If not, now may be a good time to point your nose towards the end of the spectrum you’d like to be closer to.  One day at a time, one decimal point at a time, make an effort to get your heart to a number that better suits you.  And remember, while it might be scary, it’s probably not a bad idea to Love Love Love.