Posts Tagged ‘somatic experiencing’

Healing work in the time of COVID-19

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

I am, at present, working my way through a major overhaul of my practice space, policies, and procedures, with COVID-19 as my muse. As I write this I am not really sure when I will be allowed to return to “non-essential” practice, but I am sure that it will be before we have really brought this virus to heel.

Because this particular virus is able to hang out in some bodies without incident and in others with huge consequence, I have to treat everyone as though they could be unknowingly carrying some amount of viral load (including myself) and act accordingly. So far, that has meant staying home, but as we move towards engaging with each other in physical space again I am taking extra precautions as recommended by the FSMTB, the WSMTA, and the ABMP, who of course are getting their recommendations from the CDC and state and county health departments, among other reputable sources.

Here are some things you should know:

Your appointment times may have changed. If you booked your appointments before mid-April I may have had to nudge your appointment by up to 45 minutes to make it possible to thoroughly clean and sterilize between appointments. Please double check by logging on on to see your appointments or pay close attention to the reminders you are sent by their system for the start times of your sessions.

I will be doing more intake. I have updated my online intake form and you will need to look it over and “sign” it before you come in. I will call you the day before your appointment to run you through a short checklist of screening questions, and if there is any question about your health we will reschedule with no cancellation fee.

At the building, I will absolutely need you to wait until at least 10 minutes before your appointment to call up, as I will be disinfecting everything and it takes time. If you are on foot/bike, you can still enter the lobby with code 07743; if you are driving, please wait in your car until the designated time (within 10 minutes of your scheduled appointment start). When you get off the elevator I need you to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer at the door of my office.

At my door we will repeat those screening questions, take your temperature and blood oxygen level to make sure you have a high probability of health before we begin. And if you do, I will have you remove your shoes there before you enter the office.

I will be screening myself daily. Using the same questions I ask you, and the temperature and blood oxygen readings, I will make sure I have a high probability of health before I work with you.

We will both wear masks. Building management asks that we wear masks in common areas of the building, and we will wear them during your session. I will be changing out my PPE between clients. There is a nifty workaround for face-down droplet capture if wearing a mask in the face cradle seems suffocating.

My office will look different. I have swapped out upholstered chairs and wooden or porous surfaces for things that can be easily cleaned and disinfected. I have put things away and purged. It’s a bit more echoey. I have lots of hand sanitizer!

There will be specific places for your stuff, and you need to bring your own water now. It feels very weird to be so directive about things, but I think it will become an easy enough habit for us once we get going.

I make this agreement with you, and ask that you make it with me:

I am practicing social distancing as requested by our state and local officials and wearing a mask when in public spaces indoors or within 6′ of those outside my “quaranteam”. I wash or sanitize my hands frequently when outside my own home.

Within 14 days of your appointment I will not have been asked to self-isolate or quarantine by a doctor or local public health official, nor will I have experienced any of the common symptoms of COVID-19 or knowingly come into prolonged contact with anyone who has.

These statements are also true for people who are in my “quaranteam”.

It is my hope that with all of these precautions in place I won’t ever have to give your information to a contact tracing team, but if it comes to that, I will, and I expect you will do the same for me.

I am keeping a document to track office changes, new policies, and resources which you are welcome to check out, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have before you book an appointment. Additionally, here’s my COVID-19 Exposure Control, Mitigation and Recovery Plan. It will be available in my office and is here online to review anytime. Please be in touch, stay safe, and I hope I can see you in person soon.

Liberation is Possible!

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Twig Wheeler has done some lovely descriptive work with the ideas of Somatic Experiencing over the years. He did a one-man theater piece that demonstrates viscerally what many words of explanation would still struggle to convey. Here is an excerpt wherein slowing down and feeling/listening to his body yields a feeling of completion and illumination.

There is something about a supported yielding to the programs and preferences of the subconscious mind (or autonomic nervous system) that potentiates deep reorganization for us in a way that striving for understanding through language does not.

Old Wounds, New Progress

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

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

Movement is Life

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Movement is life.
All bodywork is about movement.
Energy workers (reiki, acupuncture, Shiatsu) seek to move blockage or stagnation in your energetic lines or fields.
Swedish massage is about increasing blood and lymphatic circulation on a cellular, tissue, and then systemic level.
Structural Integration focuses on fascial freedom, restoring glide to the relationships between fascial layers.
Rolf Movement® takes a step towards the role of perception in our physical relationships, and Somatic Experiencing rides the waves of nervous system charge and discharge as they roll through our bodies and our lives.
We all know the feeling of being “stuck in a rut” or trapped by routine. My experience is that sometimes bodywork can help move us through those periods of sluggishness into a more dynamic relationship with life. Structural Integration and Somatic Experiencing provide moments of clarity in our being. Sometimes a slight shift in perspective or a slightly new experience of self is all we need to get going in a new direction, or in the direction we were headed when we got bogged down.
I am, of course, happy to help when there is just a need for maintenance– a rut can also be a groove we are digging for the time being– and that is why I practice massage therapy.

The gift of Presence

Monday, September 20th, 2010

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.