A friend pointed me to this excellent Ted Talk by Brene Brown. Apparently, I’m not alone in my struggle with vulnerability, and the data shows it’s good for us. Enjoy!
Posts Tagged ‘healing’
I had a great experience today in my own “healing process”.
I have been recently moved to tackle (again) a tricky knee I’ve been struggling with since about the age of 13 or 14. For the past year or so it has kept me from riding my bike and doing my yoga, as both activities created an all-day ache in both my knee and my sacroiliac joint which was distracting at best and truly painful at worst. I had arthroscopic surgery as a high school junior, I did Physical Therapy exercises both originally and again a few years ago, I tried to strengthen my core with Pilates, I have had excellent bodywork, and thought really hard about what the freaking deal was, with no real success.
Over the past few months I have been working with Michael Hahn who is an excellent Visceral Manipulation therapist here in Seattle. His work with the subtle connections of the finer fascial structures of my body have been fascinating and helpful– an extremely gentle session in my psoas/ilacus on that pesky right side felt like it was the beginning of a new possibility for that leg/hip/knee.
Michael encouraged me to go see Sue Knowles at Movement Systems Physical Therapy, and I felt ready, so I did.
I always enjoy a good opportunity to learn something new from a practitioner with a different skill set. With the first session, I got to try some new ways of standing and walking that were awkward, but interesting. I could also feel that what she was asking me to do wasn’t completely possible for my body– I knew enough to know I wasn’t doing it exactly right, but I did the best I could, and brought questions to my session today. She could see the difficulty I was having and after some testing and walking she began to do some gentle fascial work in my lower leg, asking me to let the leg melt down as she worked. (That’s something I would do!)
I tried, and could feel the resistance in my body. My Somatic Experiencing training tells me that resistance like that is containing something, usually something difficult, uncomfortable, probably something that once overwhelmed me and felt like it needed to be contained. I worked at it, feeling into that resistance while Sue continued to gently work my leg and foot.
I told her that there was a deep anxiety in that leg, and she agreed. She had me lay supine on the table for a bit more work, and in that position I continued to explore the resistance in my leg, the holding I could feel right up next to my bones. Gentle waves of sadness started washing through me; I mentioned them and Sue asked whether the knee had prevented me from doing things I would have wanted to do in my youth, or at other points in my life. “Yes, I suppose it did, but this feels more like vulnerability than loss”, I said. A couple of little tears worked their way out of my eyes, but I was maintaining curiosity, staying present with the desire to release my deeply anxious leg into a new way of supporting me.
Next she had me try a new exercise, a relatively simple hands-and-knees exploration of fine motor control in the hip, asking my femur to track straight back as I moved towards child’s pose with my sitz bones wide, and in trying to get there with her, I was suddenly completely overwhelmed with a distinctly young teenaged feeling of absolute confusion, fear, and misery. I was somehow facing my stepmom, the social realm, my own awkward existence and the need to justify it, and I had to stop the exercise to allow those feelings to move through me. Sue was kind enough to give me some space to do that, while remaining present enough that I didn’t feel abandoned or weird.
After a few minutes, I felt like trying again. This time, I could move into the exercise much more easily, the confusion and pain was gone, and my femur simply slid into place, going almost all the way down correctly where before I could only go about 25% of the way before being pulled off track.
That felt pretty huge to me. I have been abstractly aware for a long time that that leg contained some measure of my own sense of vulnerability, but being intellectually aware only goes so far. Having a skilled practitioner ask me to move in a very specific way that confused me, and allowing myself to experience my own vulnerability within that confusion, THAT might get me somewhat farther. I hope so, anyway; I’d really like to ride my bike to work again.
I’ll keep you posted. bk
I finally started reading this book a client gave me 10 years ago (I can’t believe it took me this long, but there it is) called Healers on Healing last night. One of the writers, Serge Kahili King, has a really lovely way of describing health. A couple of passages you might find interesting:
“…Let’s call health ‘a state of harmonious energy’ and healing ‘to harmonize and energize’. For sickness/illness/disease we’ll use the word ‘disharmony’, and for that which causes such a condition we’ll use the word ‘distress’, meaning excessive stress or tension.
…Basically there are only two things we can do about distress: either remove what is being resisted, or cease resisting it (change the reaction). All healing methods, even the spontaneous ones of the body, use one of these two methods…an ordinary individual uses the first method when he or she puts out a fire to avoid getting burned, while a nonordinary individual might use the second method and alter his or her body so that the fire doesn’t produce a burn.
…I am convinced that health is a natural state of harmonious energy that gets covered up or inhibited (disharmonized) by distress. Remove the excessive stress by action or reaction and health appears, because it was there all the time just waiting to manifest.”
One of the things I was taught in both massage school and my Structural Integration training was that when emotions come up for people during bodywork, the best thing that you can do for them is just to be with them, without judgment. This sounds so simple, but for the longest time I just had no idea what they were talking about. I wanted to make things better for people, not just “be” with them while they felt bad. I could see, when watching my teachers (Neal Powers, Peter Melchior) in S.I. training, that there was something going on beyond where they put their hands and how hard they pushed, and I got that it was their Presence that really helped move things for their models, but how to cultivate that presence? It seemed so elusive, and I was so distracted and restless.
Turns out, I needed to have a lot more of that kind of presence offered to ME first; I needed to experience the grace of someone just holding the energy of the room so that I could touch the edges of my own sensations without feeling like I was going to blow up the world with what I felt. Once I got comfortable with some of my own discomfort, this sense of Presence started to feel a lot more available to me.
In Brazil, Lael Keen really pushed that sense of Presence to the forefront of the Rolf Movement training– greatly assisted, I think, by her training in and experience with Somatic Experiencing. Perhaps it was just that I was ready, after all of my own personal work, to see how she did it, but I watched with fascination as she showed us how to use our own nervous systems to settle the clients’, how to drop in at a level where people can feel you there at a comfortable distance, one that allows for a sense of being gently held without any expectation or need. It was revelatory.
My Somatic Experiencing training adds depth to this notion of Presence by acknowledging subconscious nervous system activation. In S.E. we parse out the sensations of the body from their associated emotions, and beliefs so that one has the opportunity to experience them all as discrete strings instead of giant knots of overwhelm. The role of the practitioner in this process is, more than anything else, to be Present with the client and to hold the space for them so that they don’t feel overwhelmed again– it is incredibly helpful to feel the edges of a container when you are testing your own sense of what IS, and to have that container be a compassionate, resonant human is a real gift.
I have a long way to go to master this fine art, but I am grateful to have been shown at last where I can start, and grateful for the odd opportunities (such as appendicitis) to experience my own need for another person’s Presence.
I have just arrived home from a lovely family camping trip out on the Olympic Peninsula, cut slightly short by the urgent need to have my appendix surgically removed. A midnight trip to the Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles, WA, determined this, and after a quick and clean laproscopic surgery, I spent about 30 hours in their care while I grappled with the incredibly vulnerable feeling of unfamiliar pain, dizziness and nausea (pain meds do that to me). I’m not particularly skilled at allowing myself to be vulnerable, but there are some situations in which you have no choice. I believed them when they told me it would get better, and it did. I trusted the kind nurse who looked me right in the eye when I told her I was scared and said, “It will be ok.” I rallied myself to get up and walk because they said it was going to help, that nothing but getting up was going to make getting up any easier, and they were right. Now I’m on my own couch, occasionally getting myself up to take slow, hobbling loops around my own garden, wondering how long it will take before I am able to take some of this experience back into my work with me. Hopefully not too long.
One of my clients told me once that when she had had a surgery years ago, she did a lot of mental preparation for it, trying to prep her body for the necessary but invasive medicine it was about to receive. She also said that she had decided to attach some other stuff to the little part of her that was being removed– pieces she thought she might like to let go of, like resentment or anger over things she couldn’t change. As I lay there in the ER contemplating my own surgery, high on Dilaudid, I was trying to imagine any of the more metaphysical elements I might want removed along with my appendix. I decided that fear, the kind that holds me back, but not the kind that protects me, was welcome to hitch a ride with that inflamed little organ. It’s a nice idea anyway.
Tonight they burn the “Man” in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, an event I have been attending about every other year since 2002. It is essentially a big shared ritual recognizing the same desire– burn what is not serving you in a big giant fire and go on with your life a little bit lighter. I’m obviously not there this year (thank goodness), but I do hope that you all are able to let go of whatever you don’t really need in some small way tonight as that big fire blazes in the desert.
Feeling grateful for what I’ve got! Bevin
Last week I spent three days as a doula, helping a friend give birth. It was exhausting, extremely challenging, at times demoralizing, and ultimately hugely rewarding when baby finally made it out.
I’m left with a loud echo in the chamber of my think tank: How do we empower without calling up shame? If I am told that I have the power to change, or to affect change, or that I can have a different experience, and I don’t know how to change or embrace that experience, I’m left feeling like the inability to change is somehow my fault or choice.
My Rolf Movement training tells me that our beliefs, often shaped in formative experiences long ago, guide our current experience in a profound way, and that our beliefs also limit our experience. As a Structural Integration Practitioner, it’s my job to help you hold those beliefs gently while opening up to the possibility that new experiences are also attainable– that while your beliefs are not wrong, there are other truths to be held as well. This can be as simple as learning to use an ankle that was once twisted badly and then favored unconsciously ever after, and as challenging as re-evaluating and nourishing your entire self-image. From personal experience, I can tell you that opening into new truths is extremely challenging, and when accomplished, extremely gratifying.
I notice that for me, I can be conscious of that ankle when I’m well rested, can be kind to my self most easily when general circumstances are mild and I’m feeling physically well– these are naturally expansive situations. When things start to get a little rougher, when sleep is at a premium and the situation is more demanding, I revert to what I know and tend to dig in, to contract.
These days I notice the contraction from a relatively neutral place, a place where I can generally be kind enough to know that I’m doing the best I can, and that I will learn from this experience if I am open to learning later.
Birth is one of the most powerful experiences of opening into pain that I know of. You are literally contracting so that you will expand, a confusing and difficult trial that takes a great deal of faith to withstand. If your basic trust in the rightness of the universe has been deeply shaken, this is a faith that may be out of your reach. If you have withdrawn from your body as a means of basic survival, then dropping back in to allow it to take over might be next to impossible. Birth is the crucible of belief systems, burning away intellectual impositions and getting down to what you REALLY hold true. It will transform or reinforce your personal truth like few other things, a uniquely awe-inspiring and reductive grind that puts you in communication with your elemental self: step forward, hunker down, or both.
Thankfully, in my office, it’s nice and warm but there’s no fire under you. You can choose to engage in this dialogue or not, and to take all the time you need to get the results you desire. Change is hard, but satisfying, and I’m here to help as best I can.
The Four Noble Truths
1. Life is suffering;
2. Suffering is due to attachment;
3. Attachment can be overcome;
4. There is a path for accomplishing this.