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HANDS-ON TEACHING: Enhancing Body Awareness and Self-Regulation
An E-Book by
Paul Linden, Ph.D. www.being-in-movement.com
Hands-On Teaching Enhancing Body Awareness and Self-Regulation
Paul Linden, Ph.D.
First Edition 2012
CCMS Publications Columbus, Ohio www.being-in-movement.com
Hands-On Teaching Enhancing Body Awareness and Self-Regulation: by Paul Linden, PhD Published by CCMS Publications 221 Piedmont Road Columbus, Ohio 43214 USA 614-262-3355 [email protected] www.being-in-movement.com All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. Copyright © 2012 by Paul Linden First edition 2012
DEDICATION I am dedicating this book to three people who have touched my life. Peggy Berger, my wife, who has accompanied me on and put up with my intense journey into being human and Being In Movement. Bill Leicht, friend, Aikido teacher, peace activist, and originator of Peace Dojos International. Bertram Wohak, friend, Aikido teacher, bodyworker, and partner in creating an Aikido-based peace movement.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Dedication Notes 1 – Introduction ...........................................................................
SECTION 2—PRACTITIONER PREPARATION 2 – Methodology ......................................................................... 3 – Attention & Intention ............................................................ 4 – Being With ............................................................................ 5 – Sensing .................................................................................
3 11 17 27
SECTION 3—HANDS-ON BODY WORK 6 – Starting .................................................................................. 7 – Techniques ............................................................................ 8 – Afterwards .............................................................................
34 44 59
SECTION 4—HISTORY 9 – History ....................................................................................
10 – Conclusion .............................................................................
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Steve Scanlon and Patrick Carson, two students of Aikido and BIM, helped take the photos for this book, and I really appreciate their help. I am grateful to Steve Scanlon and Sandy Willmore, who modeled for most of the photos.
PRINTING & BINDING COPIES The e-book has been formatted so that you can print out a copy on standard paper and have it bound. The margins have been set so that you can print it either single or double sided, and it will still bind correctly.
READING THIS ON SCREEN A reader of one of my books book asked how one could conveniently flip through the book to find cross references when the book is being read on screen instead of as a printed copy. The simple solution is to open a second window and use the find function to go directly to the cross reference location in the second window. That leaves the primary window unchanged so you can keep on reading.
TRANSLATIONS If you are interested in publishing a translation of this book, please contact me at [email protected] or write me at the address below.
E-BOOK PAYMENT If you downloaded this from my website, then you have already paid for the book. Thank you. If you obtained the electronic file or a printed copy of the book without paying for it, I would appreciate it if you would send me the payment for the file/book. The file sells for $10 US for each copy. You could go online to my website and use a credit card to pay. The website is www.being-in-movement.com. Or you could send a check or money order payable to Paul Linden for $10 US per copy to the address below.
SERVICE MARK “Being In Movement®” is a registered, legal service mark and cannot be used without my permission. Though you are encouraged to make both personal and professional use of the material in this book, only people whom I have certified as practitioners of BIM may use the service mark as a name for their work. By using this
book and the material in it, you are agreeing not to use this service mark as a name for any presentation, teaching, writing, video, CD, DVD and so on that you may do.
SOURCE IDENTIFICATION However, by using material from this book in any presentation, writing, video, and so on, you are agreeing to inform your audience that the book is the source for the material you are using and that they can obtain more information about the book at www.being-in-movement.com.
WORKSHOPS & QUESTIONS For questions concerning the material in this book, please feel free to contact me. Information on professional certification in BIM and on a variety of BIM workshops is available at my website. If you would like information about having me conduct a workshop on handson body work, please contact: Paul Linden, Ph.D. Columbus Center for Movement Studies 221 Piedmont Road Columbus, OH 43214 USA Phone: (614) 262-3355 E-mail: [email protected] Website: www.being-in-movement.com
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Being In Movement® mind-body education is an empirical, educational process which focuses on the detailed awareness and understanding of the musculoskeletal structure in movement with the aim of achieving comfortable, efficient, effective, graceful and ethical ways of acting and living. BIM examines how the structure and function of the body in action shape and are shaped by self-concept and meaning. Through body and movement work, BIM models and teaches people skills of logic, language analysis and evidence-based thinking. BIM deals with movement and the body as being both and simultaneously biomechanical processes and processes of consciousness. BIM focuses on teaching the student how to feel and work with both the structure and the meaning of a movement. BIM includes both movement instruction and hands-on body work. The common term “bodywork” is usually used to denote hands-on body manipulation or treatment. I use the term “body work” to denote the hands-on educational process I have developed. BIM uses hands-on body work as a supplement to movement instruction. Compared to verbal movement instruction and visual demonstration of movements, hands-on work is often a more specific and rapid way of giving a student information about his or her body. I have developed many exercises to guide people to experience freedom, power and compassion. It is assumed that the reader of this book has gone through some of these exercises, whether in my other books (see the list at the end of this book) or in my workshops, and has developed some understanding of and skill in this process of movement awareness. However, some of the key exercises will be repeated in this book, since the more they are practiced, the better your hands-on work will become. This book will concentrate on two facets of the work – how to develop sensitivity to the client’s body processes, and how to use the BIM techniques of hands-on body work in helping clients improve. The root of BIM is the nonviolent martial art of Aikido, which I have been practicing and teaching for forty-two years. Aikido practitioners spend many hours over the course of years touching attackers, learning to discern an attacker’s movement and go along with the movement in order to control it. Eventually you learn to feel the attacker’s movements as he begins to intend to do them. It’s a physical process, with a mental taste to it. The same sensitivity to intentional elements of movement operates in BIM hands-on work.
In Aikido, we learn how to disrupt an attacker’s balance. Over the course of years, we develop an understanding of the complex processes involved in balance. In BIM, this same expertise is developed, but it is used to improve the client’s balance. The task for the BIM teacher is to use hands-on work to increase the student’s self-awareness and thereby wean the student away from dependence on the teacher’s hands for information about the student’s own body. The goal is to help people achieve free, easy, balanced muscle use, perception, and movement. An upright, balanced, stable, mobile, strong, and gentle way of moving. A powerful, loving, and aware way of being. The teacher develops this way of being as a foundation for teaching it to others. In a nutshell, power plus kindness equals life. This book also includes a chapter on the history and sources of my development of BIM movement and hands-on teaching methods. I hope that knowing something of the history will help readers grasp the processes and goals of BIM. To spare the reader some confusion, I should explain that the reason that I talk about upright movement yet in some of the photographs show myself slumping is that about ten years ago I developed Parkinson’s Disease. My body/movement/Aikido practice has kept me amazingly mobile, but my posture has changed (in comparison to the two Aikido photos on this page). I use three names for three different kinds of exercises. An exercise is something to do once or twice to understand some point. A practice embodies some key awareness and is worth repeating over and over. And a technique is a tool for long-term use in body work. And one last thing, English does not have a gender neutral pronoun, though the use of “they” is starting to fill that role. In writing, I use they often, and I also alternate using him and her. Fairness in language can be cumbersome, but this attempt will have to do until something better comes along.
CHAPTER 2 METHODOLOGY There are a number of general elements which underlie all the specific BIM techniques and instruction.
CARING & TRUST Much of my work has been with people who have experienced trauma, so I have become acutely aware of issues of trust. It is very important that students trust me enough to go into the experience of whatever challenge brought them for lessons. Part of that trust comes from the fact that I care about my students. Part of that trust comes from the fact that I state clearly that I don’t expect automatic trust and that I have to earn the client’s trust over time. And part of that trust comes from the fact that it is clear that everything I teach has the aim of increasing my students’ power and not mine. As one particularly clear example, I was once teaching self-defense to a woman who had been raped as a little girl. To give herself a sense of safety and support, she was holding my hand, just as a little girl would hold her daddy’s hand. And with her other hand, she was parrying my punch and counter-punching. If she hadn’t felt with one hand that I truly cared about her, she wouldn’t have had the trust and the courage to fight back and win with the other hand. In any BIM work, it is important that the instructor care about the student. BIM work focuses on substantive skill building, and a warm and caring relationship is a necessary foundation for the skill building process.
SAFETY In doing any teaching, and especially in hands-on work, BIM pays careful attention to issues of safety. The simplest level of this is the safety contract: the student should be told in advance what any exercise will consist of and what its purpose is. And it should be emphasized that the student always has the right to stop or change any exercise at any time. Too many people have experienced profound helplessness, and it would be very unhelpful for the student to experience helplessness as part of the search for empowerment. In particular, before touching, ask permission. When working with issues that arouse fear or anger, a second aspect of safety has to do with the practitioner’s safety. People who have been hurt can go into trance, confuse the past with the present, and lash out to destroy what they are mistakenly experiencing as a present threat. It is important that the student – and all of the “parts” of the student – agree not to hurt the instructor. One way to minimize the possibility of inadvertent harm to either the student or the instructor is for the instructor periodically to ask the student “What is the safety contract?” If the student hesitates or can’t remember, that is a sign that the student is in over her head and needs to slow down or stop the process.
MOVEMENT EXPERIMENTS I use movement experiments to teach the student how to discern, evaluate and change habits of thought, emotion, perception, movement and action. The lessons start with the student identifying a challenging and/or threatening stimulus in his life, and I create a minimal representation of the stimulus to practice with. It has to be minimal enough to be safe to work with yet real enough to arouse some feelings. These experiments are safe, controlled situations which function as solid metaphors for or limited representations of the real life events or problems the student is dealing with. Because the experiment is a safe, controlled situation, the student can afford to focus his attention on the process of his behavior rather than on the results. Real life, of course, requires one to focus on results. I have the student identify the body responses to the practice stimulus. I approach emotions as physical events in the body. Feelings are what those events feel like to the person doing them. The word which is the name of the emotion (sad, glad, etc.) is not the emotion itself. The body responses will usually be some aspect of the fight/flight/freeze/collapse pattern—what I call the distress response. The distress responses involve contraction or collapse of breathing, posture, and attention. It is often helpful to have the student amplify their responses to the stimulus; this is usually accomplished easily by asking the body to turn up the volume on feelings that are not “loud” enough to be felt clearly. I then teach a technique for creating a body state of expansiveness, power and kindness as an antidote to the distress responses. I have the student alternate the old and new response patterns and notice the somatic and functional effects of the old and the new responses. Which works better—in terms of comfort and task efficacy? Almost always, the student will note positive effects of the new response. We repeat the process with a graded series of increasingly intense stimuli – until the original life situation has been mastered. The rest of this chapter will go into more detail on the elements that make up a movement experiment.
CHALLENGE-RESPONSE MODEL Coming from a martial art background (I began Aikido in 1969), it is easy for me to see things in terms of attack and defense. Or, to say it more broadly, challenge and response. Beyond just coming from a martial arts background, there are good reasons for interpreting clients’ issues on the basis of a challenge/response model. Most obviously, there really are things which challenge us and which have important consequences. I have never had a client come to me and complain that everything was going well. The always describe some challenge—something which is not easy for them to master. The natural tendency when facing a challenge is to drop into the physiological distress response.
Chapter 2: Methodology
BODY AWARENESS Body awareness is a fundamental skill. It is by feeling her body that a student gains new information and the ability to change old patterns. Being aware of your body means: noticing, feeling, sensing, savoring— the rhythms, tones, qualities, shapes— of your breathing, your muscles, your posture, your movements— how you deploy your attention inside and outside of your body— how intentions shape muscle actions and movements— how all that is a response to what is happening to and around you— how it affects your abilities to respond to what is happening to and around you.
DISTRESS RESPONSE The body responds to any form of stress by contracting or collapsing. When people feel threatened or challenged, they typically make their breathing, posture, movement, and attention small, and this can take a number of related forms. It may take the form of tensing and bracing as a preparation for strength and effort. It may take the similar form of tensing and hardening in anger. It may show up as stiffening and constricting in fear. It may take the form of collapsing and becoming limp in defeat and resignation. It may manifest in numbing of specific areas of the body or in an overall state of dissociation. Or elements of these can combine. Making the body small reduces ease and effectiveness. Acting in a state of contraction is like driving a car with the parking brakes on. Doing any kind of movement when the breath and muscles are made small (whether tensely or limply) will make the movement effortful, inefficient and awkward. But beyond this, the contraction response reduces the ability to think flexibly; it reduces the ability to function calmly; and it reduces emotional sensitivity and empathy.
CENTERING The antidote to the distress response is learning how to construct a symmetrical and expansive mindbody state. • Speaking structurally, in this state the musculoskeletal system is balanced and free of strain. • Speaking functionally, this state includes stable, mobile and balanced movement. • Speaking in terms of intentional projection, this state involves reaching out into the world while simultaneously staying anchored in the self; it also involves forming movements/actions with clear intentional lines. • Speaking in psychological terms, this state is an integration of power and kindness. • Speaking in terms of information processing, students will ground their ideas in operational thinking and evidence-based decision making. • Speaking in ethical terms, this state involves an awareness of and concern for the effects of one’s actions on the wellbeing of others and on the planet itself.
INTENTIONALITY The key concept in BIM is intentionality. Intentionality, as I use the term, refers to the body-thought that precedes a voluntary movement. BIM sees movements as being built upon internal blueprints. The intention to do a movement structures the movement itself. The intention is a solid part of our experience. Just before we do a movement, we plan out the movement by projecting the shaped feel of the movement into our muscles. The shaped feel is an idea that has extension through space. Actions are lines through space, and the self is a volume.
BODY-BASED LANGUAGE I teach students to discern what they are feeling by showing them a process for searching their bodies and coming up with detailed and comprehensive statements of precisely where in the body there is something going on and precisely what they are doing at those locations. Bodybased awareness means pinning down thoughts, feelings, and intentions by defining them in terms of observable, physical response patterns and tangible physical sensations. This is a process of pinning down emotions through operational definitions. Operational definitions define ideas not by using other ideas but instead by specifying tangible, concrete, measurable events or actions. Body-based language also anchors people in the lived experience of the present moment. Rather than allowing them or encouraging them to go off into memories of the past or verbal/cognitive statements about their lives, physical thinking forces them to keep up a running pattern of self-monitoring, focusing on the current details of breathing, muscle tone, posture and movement. This forces people to feel their feelings by getting them to notice just exactly what they are doing as they do it. It also forces them to notice that their feelings are actions that they choose and do. It forces them to assume responsibility for themselves. Physical thinking helps people achieve more precise communication about feelings. The words we use to denote feelings are slippery and often mean very different things to different people. By specifying the physical content of emotion words, body-based language allows people to pin down the specific meanings they attach to the broad, vague words that name emotions. Concrete thinking also offers a clear and distinct avenue for creating internal change. Once people experience mental, emotional, energetic, intentional and behavioral patterns as lived physical configurations/actions, they can identify the physical configurations of undesirable patterns and then deliberately construct more positive physical patterns as replacements.
RESPONSIBILITY I often start talking about responsibility with a riddle. If I am punched in the stomach, why does it hurt? The obvious answer is “Because he punched you.” However, a martial artist would say ”Because I didn’t block the punch.” Both statements are true, but the second statement is more useful if changing oneself is the goal. The logical structure of the English language is no help. Instead of saying “You make me so angry when you do that,” I teach students to say “I do anger so much when you do that.” In other words, each person is (mostly) responsible for their own actions.
Chapter 2: Methodology
FOLLOWING THE BODY Most of the work is about containing out-of-control, overwhelming feelings and replacing them with a centered mindbody state. However, there is another face to the process of awareness and empowerment. This other face is about going into the out-of-control feelings, amplifying them, and letting them flow freely in order to study them. Going with the flow of feelings is a powerful way of finding out what is hidden inside you and what it means. I call this following the body. The process of following your body is a safe, controlled way to let go of control. Following the body is, in effect, a form of somatic free association. One focuses on one sensation in the body, or a group of sensations, and lets that naturally give rise to the next sensation, and then lets that sensation naturally lead to the next, and so on. That train of sensations will take one into feelings, thoughts and images that are meaningful and important. This process makes use of spontaneous, non-conscious, non-logical thinking to help a person discover what elements of empowerment he needs to practice next. Following the body is a way of navigating through the complexities of the inner self. The conscious intellect is only a small part of the self, and inviting the body’s awareness to be part of the work of self-awareness will allow a different manner of access to the self.
INFORMATION Another element in empowerment has to do with the logic of information gathering and communication. In BIM, it is very important to empower students to observe and experience their own body for themselves. If the practitioner behaves as the objective expert whose assertions about the student’s body are accurate and complete, that would teach the student that she or he is not competent to notice themselves. In BIM, the practitioner makes observations about the student’s body and movement. However, rather than simply telling those observations to the student, the BIMer devises an experiment the outcome of which will point towards one or another body state. The student learns how to notice and feel body events for herself. And the practitioner gains the benefit of having self-correcting processes in place. That is, if the student’s self-observations are markedly different from those of the practitioner, that tells the practitioner that either his observations of the student were in error, or else it provides a window into the student’s way of perceiving himself. By stating your observations, you would be suggesting ideas to your students and contaminating their ideas of what they are doing in their bodies. By not stating your observations, you can elicit uncontaminated thoughts from the students. By the same token, it is important not to make interpretations of the student’s behavior. Don’t make assumptions about the contents or meaning of a student’s experience. Even if you are right, you will be imposing your timing on the student’s processes of understanding. This is an important caution in BIM. People normally spend a lot of energy trying to infer what is going on behind the curtain of the other person’s observable body/self. We impute motives and feelings and thoughts in our effort to explain the other person’s behavior. I guess that’s okay in daily life, but in doing body work I find it very problematic. I prefer to help students amplify and bring into awareness what they are doing with their bodies, and from that they will then be able to tell me with more clarity what they are feeling, thinking and wishing.
LANGUAGE ANALYSIS A key element in helping students gain control of their lives is examining how they use language to describe themselves and their world. Certain linguistic forms are very disempowering. For example, the following two sentences are grammatically similar but logically very different: That is a red pillow. That is a beautiful pillow. The first statement is about the pillow, and the second is about the person who likes the pillow. In other words, the first is a fact, and the second is a judgment—which is not binding on the hearer. Something similar often shows up in statements about purpose or meaning: A purpose or a value cannot exist separate from a being who holds the purpose or a value. Questions about purpose cannot be answered independent of the person who holds it. And what one person values doesn’t necessarily hold the same value for others. Once people understand that a purpose or a value is something done by a person, they will feel free to ask whether they hold the same purpose or value. A related language trap is: “My yoga/fitness/tai chi/etc. teacher told me this is the right way to breathe (stand, sit, etc.).” What is missing is: This is the right way to breathe for this task, in this context. So again, the student is free to choose among different situations. Without understanding how the judging function gets disguised in language as statements of fact, people risk getting impaled on someone else’s judgment or purpose. Without specifying purpose and context, we can’t know whether the way of breathing is a help or a hindrance.
HYPOTHESIS TESTING The process of operationalizing feelings lends itself to reframing somatic actions as implicit beliefs about the nature of the self and the nature of the world. This means that somatic actions can be looked at as hypotheses subject to empirical testing, and body work can be structured to provide feedback about the hypotheses a student is implicitly putting forth. It is important that the hypotheses be framed in such a way as that they are both verifiable and falsifiable. A verifiable statement is one which is capable of being supported by evidence. A falsifiable statement is one which is capable of being disproved by evidence. To be properly testable, beliefs must be capable of being both verified and falsified. It’s not enough to gather evidence to verify the belief. The belief also has to be phrased in such a way that it is possible to specify what evidence would show the belief to be false. Falsifiability is stronger than verifiability since it is a conclusive proof. In other words, if the belief is supported in one instance, that does not conclusively prove that it will always be supported; but if it is proven untrue in just one instance, that conclusively proves that it is not always true. The attention a BIMer pays to speaking in testable language is more than self-correction for her/him; it also is modeling for the client how to think and talk from an intellectually clear place. In particular, it is modeling that it is wonderful to discover that one is wrong about some assertion because that moves one toward more useful information.
Chapter 2: Methodology
PRACTICE The time between lessons is not dead time. It is practice time. The focus is on learning somatic skills in the lessons and then practicing those skills to deepen and broaden them. It helps to ask the student at the end of each lesson what she could take away from the lesson and practice or use in real life.
SELF-DEFENSE Generally speaking, almost everything I teach is protection of the self in one form or another. More specifically, the last stages of somatic work with clients often involve self-defense. When a client has been raped or assaulted, then we practice the self-defense that would work in the present if the student were to be attacked today as he was attacked in the past. And it is by creating SAFETY for themselvesin the present that they rewrite their relation to the past, in which they couldn’t defend themselves adequately. However, even when it is used as a metaphor, self-defense can be used to rewrite the relationship to past overwhelming events. As an example, I was working with a client who had been in a terrible car crash. I raised my hands as though I were clutching a steering wheel and ran at her yelling “Honk Honk!!!” She knew that it was just a game, but her body took it as real and fearful. I gave her a towel rolled into a whip and asked her to dodge the incoming car while whipping the towel at my headlights. She did that successfully, and then all of a sudden her whole body relaxed. What is especially healing about the self-defense movements I use is that they come from Aikido and are soft, smooth, and round. They “taste” very different from the movements of the hard martial arts, which are usually tight, abrupt and aggressive. The gentle power in Aikido movements convinces people that power can be life-affirming rather than brutal and destructive. Finding the right relationship to power brings mindbody wholeness.
ETHICS Broadly speaking, there are two very distinct ways of approaching ethics. The first is ethics as a set of rules handed down by an authority. Speaking in terms of rules, the fundamental rule for practitioners could be expressed as: Be aware of power differential between the client and the teacher, and use your power for the benefit of the student. Do not use your power for your own benefit. The second approach is through one’s own experience of an ethical dilemma that has presented itself. BIM approaches ethics in terms of somatic experience. It is easy to demonstrate that actions usually described as unethical evoke a distress response in almost all people. And conversely, if a proposed action evokes the body state of awareness, expansiveness, power and kindness, it is probably an ethical action. An ethical body state involves an awareness of and concern for the effects of one’s actions on the wellbeing of others and on the planet itself. A BIM statement of the ethical rule would be: practitioners will interact with all students from a body state of awareness, power, and kindness.
EXAMPLE An example of how I use this approach to body work is the way I work with defensiveness. Defensiveness is a feeling of creating a barrier between oneself and a threat. If I ask a client to do a movement which expresses the defensiveness, most often the client will cross their arms and hold them against the chest or stomach, while stiffening the breathing and tensing muscles throughout the body. Reframing the action of defensiveness as an hypothesis, we would get the statement: Creating a physical body-barrier is an effective way to keep from being penetrated. And that makes it obvious how to evaluate or test that strategy. I have people stand with their arms crossed over their belly to prevent me from poking them in the belly. When they rely on stiffness, it makes them so immobile that they are unable to block a poke, and so of course I can poke them easily. Next I have people stand with their arms held up about shoulder height and wide open, while relaxing and paying almost casual attention in all directions. Then in that position, I have them try to block me when I attempt to poke them in the belly. It always comes as a great surprise to them that when their arms are relaxed and held wide and their attention is wide open, they can move swiftly and effectively to block me when I try to poke them. At that point, I explain that the client has experienced a more effective way to maintain safe boundaries, and it would be helpful to deliberately practice this openness and use it in their daily life.
ATTENTION & INTENTION In learning to do BIM hands-on body education, it is important to start by refining your awareness of your own body. In particular, it is important to know how to employ your attention and intention.
SEARCH LIGHT: EXERCISE 3.1 Stand up in a comfortable, balanced posture. You’ll need a partner for this experiment. Have your partner put his hand up in front of your face about two or three feet (about a meter) in front of you. Then have your partner walk around you, moving his hand in a circle around your head. As he circles your head, have your partner describe aloud, moment by moment, where his hand is. This isn’t so necessary when his hand is in front of you, where you can see it, but it will help you track his progress around the circle when his hand goes behind your head. Your job is to pay attention to his hand. Notice that there is a palpable sensation of attention streaming out from you toward his hand. It’s almost like having a search light in the center of your head, a light which swivels to follow its target. And you may feel the stream of light as it passes through the different parts of your head, shining in different directions. This exercise is meant to sensitize you to the feeling of directed attention. Intention is related to attention. The next experiments will focus on how your muscles and your posture are shaped by your intention or will. PENCIL WANTING: EXERCISE 3.2 Put a pencil on the floor, and then stand about ten feet (three meters) away. Stand up comfortably. Look at the pencil. This is a magic pencil. With this pencil you can write your own ticket. Really. Whatever you write with this pencil will come true. You could have a solid
gold sports car or a swimming pool filled with chocolate ice cream. You get the idea. Wouldn’t you love to go over and get that pencil? Build up within yourself a feeling that this is really a wonderful pencil and you would really like to have it. Actually intend to go over and get the pencil. You have seen little kids visibly wanting to go pick something up to play with. It must be that kind of authentic wanting. You must feel it in your body. It is important to be clear about what wanting the pencil means. “Wanting” is not the same as “going.” Don’t actually walk over and get the pencil. Focus instead on the feeling of wanting to go over. It is also important not to become stiff and rigid. When I say not to actually move to go get the pencil, I don’t mean that you have to make your body absolutely motionless. Don’t freeze up and physically prevent your body from moving in order to focus on wanting to move. Just let your body experience the wanting and react to it naturally and spontaneously. A third difficulty in this experiment is that “wanting” does not mean merely thinking about getting the pencil. There is a difference between “thinking about” loving someone and actually feeling love for them. Thinking about is more of a disconnected intellectual picture, but feeling is something you do with your “heart” and your body. Relax, be natural and create an authentic feeling in your mindbody of desire for the pencil and intention to walk over and get it. Most people can create this feeling when they focus on it, though many need some personal guidance to home in on it. A fourth difficulty some people report is that they don’t really want the pencil and they cannot manufacture an artificial desire for it. However, learning to artificially create an authentic feeling, as an actor would, is a way of studying the self and its processes. Most people can figure out how to do this, though some need some coaching. What happens when you stand and focus on wanting the pencil? Take some time to let the feeling build. Once you establish this feeling, you will probably feel yourself “involuntarily” tipping toward the pencil. For most people, this movement will be a small drift toward the pencil, perhaps an eighth of an inch (about a third of a centimeter) or so, though some people will actually move quite a bit. Most people will feel as though a magnet were gently drawing them toward the pencil. (Some people will actually tip away from the pencil or move in other
Chapter 3: Attention & Intention
directions, and those responses often have to do with whether they feel they are allowed to move toward what they want or have to pull away from it.)
SQUARE IN THE AIR: EXERCISE 3.3 Stand up in a balanced, comfortable stance, with equal weight on both feet. With the index finger of your preferred hand, draw a square in the air in front of you. Keep going around the square, drawing and re-drawing it. Make the square about ten inches (twenty-five centimeters) on each side. As you draw the square, have the feeling that you are drawing it with deliberate intent, as though the air were thick and you had to cut through it to incise the figure of the square. However, it is important not to allow the deliberateness to leak over into tension and stiffness. Stay relaxed even while you are being deliberate. Now, as you keep drawing the square, pick a home corner. That is, pick one corner to pay special attention to. Say, for example, it is the top right corner, and you are drawing the square with your right hand, going around in a counterclockwise direction. As you come up the right side, be aware in advance that you are approaching the corner and will make a ninety degree turn to the left when you get there. Go around the square a few times, paying attention to your plan to turn left when you get to the corner. The next time you get to the corner, turn left as usual, but plan to turn right. That is, have the image, feeling, intention, that you will turn right. But turn left instead. What happens? What do you feel? Most people feel their movement get sludgy, unclear, gummy. Their hand may waver, the corner of the square may get rounded. Why should this be? Think about the pencil wanting exercise. Every voluntary movement is preceded by an intentional projection of that movement. In this exercise, you were projecting two different and incompatible intentions simultaneously. Your muscles responded to both, and your movement suffered because of that.
Have you ever driven down the street and reached a stoplight just as it turned yellow? Did you jump on the gas or the brake? Often I have felt my foot waver back and forth between the two while I was trying to decide which to step on. That is the same process of indecision creating jammed movements.
POURING JUICE: EXERCISE 3.4 Imagine that you are stuck in a sword-and-sorcery fantasy novel. You have been captured by the Evil Sorcerer. He wants to know where you have hidden the Ring of Power. Naturally, you are not about to tell him, and he is going to torture you to get the information. That’s the way these books are written. The Evil Sorcerer is stubbing out a burning cigarette on the palm of your hand to convince you to tell the secret. You are chained to the stone table in the dungeon, so you can’t fight back. What can you do to withstand the pain? You can redeploy your attention. One natural and common technique for withstanding pain is to suck all the awareness “juice” out of some body part. Try that. Suck all the awareness “juice” out of your hand and up into your shoulder. You can inhale and use the inhalation to pull the awareness up out of your hand, just as you would draw juice up through a straw. Keep the hand juiceless so that it won’t feel the pain of the sorcerer’s cigar. How does this make your hand feel? Most people feel their hands becoming lifeless, distant and unfeeling. Next, change to a different image. It is a warm, pleasant day. You are lying outside on the grass in the sunshine. And a little caterpillar begins to walk across your hand. A fuzzy, cute caterpillar. Send all your awareness down into your hand to feel with exquisite clarity and delicacy and enjoyment the shape and texture of the caterpillar’s movements. How does this affect your hand? To make this exercise more real, you could practice it with a partner, having him touch your hand, pretending that he is stubbing out the cigar on your palm. Then you could pretend that his touch is the sensation of the caterpillar crawling across your hand. What does changing the image do to the way you feel your hand and your partner’s touch on your hand? Beyond just the effects on your hand, notice the sensation itself of putting your awareness into your hand or of withdrawing it from your hand. Try inserting into and withdrawing your awareness out of other areas of your body. If you recognize that there are areas that you normally can’t feel easily, try putting your awareness into those areas.
Let’s continue with the process of projecting intention.
RAISING BY HALVES: EXERCISE 3.5 Stand up in a balanced, comfortable stance, with equal weight on both feet, and your arms by your side. Lift one arm to shoulder height beside you. Put it down and lift it again, but this time only half as high. Keep putting it down and lifting it up, but with each repetition, lift only half as far as the last time. At some point, it will be a very small movement. Keep diminishing the movement by halves. At some point it will be more a thought than an observable movement— but an embodied thought, a thought that has a tangible physical sensation to it. That thought/sensation is the feeling of intention shaping a movement through space.
Chapter 3: Attention & Intention
Once you have felt that clearly, then lift that intention upward to shoulder height, while allowing your physical arm to stay resting down by your thigh. Most people will experience a clear, tangible sensation of lifting something, whatever that may be. Now, lift your physical arm again, but as you do so, also lift your intention arm. Most people will experience that as producing a more clearly defined movement.
PUSHING THROUGH: EXERCISE 3.6 Stand up, and have a partner stand in front of you with his right hand held up in front of him, with the palm facing inwards (toward his left). Put your right palm on the back of his hand and push against his hand. Have him resist strongly. What happens? Usually, most people simply experience pushing against resistance and moving nowhere.
Let’s try a new way of pushing. Stand in the same position as before, facing your partner, but this time, hold your left hand up about eight or ten inches (ex centimeters) away from your right hand – the hand with which you are going to push. Instead of thinking of pushing against your partner’s hand, as you push think that you’re going to move your right hand over to touch your left (keeping your left hand stationary). What happens? Most people experience that their push becomes more efficient and that they easily move their right hand over to touch their left hand. How does this work? If you think of pushing against your partner’s hand, you are sending messages to your muscles to stay at a spot and exert pressure. However if you think of moving your hand over to touch your other hand, you’re sending messages to your muscles to move through space towards the goal. Having a specific goal planned out for your muscles enables them to move more efficiently.
Voluntary movement is a vector quantity. That is, it has a magnitude and a direction through space. Hands-on body work is not just pushing on a spot. Instead, it is a process of pushing through the skeletal structure, from joint to joint to joint, with a conscious extension of attention into and through the joints in the body’s structure. In addition, it is a process that has a specific, deliberate goal to reach. It is that directed attention toward a target spot that creates effective communication with the client’s body. If you push without a target destination, your movement will feel boring, lifeless, and effortful. If you fill your push with intention and thought and you have a goal to reach, you will move in a lighter, more energetic, more communicative way.
WRAPPING THE BODY: EXERCISE 3.7 By “wrapping the body” I mean covering the whole surface of the body with thought or attention. You can start with one arm. You could do this by doing the Six Directions Breathing exercise with the arm as the center point out of which the six directional attention reaches. Or you could feel the skin all around your arm and feel that your skin has many pores (which of course it does have). Inhale into your arm, filling it up with air (so to speak), and then exhale through all the pores on your arm (so to speak). Feel the cloud of air/thought wrapping your arm. Can you feel the skin all around your body? Can you feel a cloud of air extending an inch or two out from your skin? The utility of this is that it increases your awareness of your body, and that is the foundation for developing an effective awareness of a client’s body.
SWIMMING IN AIR: EXERCISE 3.8 An interesting extension of this last practice is to do slow movements in a standing position. Instead of only wrapping your body in air, start with that and then precede the motion of your arm with a stream of attention. That is, when your arm moves horizontally to the side, project in front of your arm, in advance of the arm itself, the feeling of the edge of a blade cutting through the air. Can you hold enough in your conscious awareness to apply this to your whole body? All at once? It’s difficult, isn’t it? However, once you achieve this, you will be able to influence your client’s body directly and in a very efficient manner.
BEING WITH In doing hands-on body education, to convey somatic information and promote change as clearly and rapidly as possible, it is important to touch into not just on the client. Another way of saying much the same thing is that you want to touch in the way you would touch a conscious being, not the way you would touch an object. We could call that being with the student.
TOUCHING LIFTING A SHOE: EXERCISE 4.1 Have your partner lie down on her back. Sit next to her, and lift her arm up, and put it down. What part of your partner are you touching? Her arm, of course. Try thinking instead that you are touching all of your partner on her arm. Does it make any difference whether you lift her arm with the awareness that you are touching all of her? Lift her arm again, but this time think that you are lifting a shoe or a piece of wood. Do you lift the arm differently? Try it again, but this time be aware that you are lifting a conscious, feeling being. Does your touch change? Do you lift the arm differently?
RELAXING YOUR HANDS: EXERCISE 4.2 The way you tense or relax your hands determines how you will touch your client and how they will respond to you. Move one hand around. Flex and extend the fingers, move the hand at the wrist. Notice whether your movements are smooth or jerky. Are there some movements that are easier than others? Try the other hand. Does it feel and move just the same? With your left hand, take hold of the thumb of your right hand, and pull it gently, turn it gently, roll it around gently. Then do the next finger, going on until you have done them all. Next, rub the palm and back of right your hand, not too hard. A convenient way to do this is to rub the palm of your right hand with the thumb of your left hand while rubbing the back of your right hand with the fingers of your left hand.
How does your right hand feel now when you move it around? Most people will feel that their hand feels softer and their movement feels more fluid. Then work on your left hand with your right. As you do this, can you use your right hand in the new soft and fluid way? Does that softness of touch affect the way your left hand responds as it is worked with? BIM employs a very specific manner of touching. It is as gentle and supportive as when you hold a baby bird. It is as contactful and attentive as when you are feeling your way along a wall in a pitch dark room. It is as self-aware and other-aware as when you are smelling a particularly sweet rose. And it is as caring and as careful not to intrude as when you are holding a baby. This kind of touch will be neutral in the sense that it will not interfere with or add to the sensory stream of the client. Yet it can be very communicative as well. And it will be sensitive and perceptive in addition.
PERCEPTIVE TOUCH: EXERCISE 4.3 For this experiment you will need some object to touch. It should be comfortable to hold and have a shape and texture which would be interesting to touch. Sit in a comfortable position, with your eyes closed and hold your object. Touch gently, and explore the object. Pay attention not only to the object but also to the act of perceiving the object. Now make one small change. Touch with stiff muscles. Perhaps stiffen your neck or tense your abdomen. What does that do to the delicacy of your touch and the sensitivity of your perception? People usually find that their sensitivity decreases. To take in information about a client and to communicate information to a client, it is best to be in the state of calm alertness and compassionate power that is the focus of the non-hands-on facets of BIM.
Sometimes it is necessary to touch an emotionally charged area of the client’s body. It could be almost any part of the body, and there are ways to touch safely. (Needless to say, one should not touch the genitals or any body part the client feels too be out of boiunds.)
Chapter 4: Being With
NON-INTRUSIVE TOUCH: EXERCISE 4.4 For this experiment you will need a partner to touch. Try putting your hand on your partner’s shoulder, which is usually a safe and non-intrusive place to touch. Try placing your palm on their shoulder, in a gentle, perceptive manner. Now for comparison, try putting a closed but relaxed fist on the shoulder. And try putting the back of your hand on your partner’s shoulder. Most people feel that these two ways of touching are far less intimate or intrusive, You can also put a folded up towel an the spot you need to touch. Then you are actually not touching, and you can do through the towel whatever touch work needs doing.
PARTICIPATION What I am talking about is connection with a client. Connection is a sense of participating in another person’s body. What does this mean? To begin experiencing this aspect of connection, let’s extend the juice process (Exercise 3.4). ATTENTION PIPELINE: EXERCISE 4.5 Have a partner hold a three foot long (one meter) dowel with her left hand. You hold the other end in your right hand. Your partner should direct her attention to one end of the dowel and then the other. Can you detect which end she is thinking about? Most people will be able to feel the micro-movements that are part of aiming the attention at a target. Now switch roles. Aim your attention first at the close end and then at the far end. How does that feel? Can you feel in your own body the slight physical
changes that occur when you have a spatial goal? Bring your attention back to the close end. And withdraw your attention even further— that is, pull your attention out of the stick and up into your right arm. Now withdraw your attention further still, up into your right shoulder. Next extend your attention back into your hand, then to the close end of the stick. Then fill up the whole stick on the way to attending to the far end. And then extend your attention out beyond the stick, into your partner’s hand and up into her arm. Can you send your attention even farther, up into her left shoulder? There really is a feeling of extending attention through a pipe, and it gets more precise and clearer the more you practice it.
INTENTIONAL LIFTING: EXERCISE 4.6 Go back to working with a partner. This time before and while you lift his arm, lift your intentional arm. Let your intentional arm go first, but right away your physical arm follows and lifts your partner’s physical arm. Throughout the lift, keep clearly sensing/creating the sensation of your intentional arm lifting both your arm and your partner’s arm. What do you notice? Is it different from the way you would normally lift someone’s arm? Most people experience that the lift becomes physically easier and more graceful. Some people experience that they snag their partner’s intention, and he unconsciously chooses to lift his own arm as they lift it. Any movement you do can be done in this double fashion. You can will the spatial trajectory while you do the physical movement. Moving your own body that way will focus and refine your movement, and moving another person in that fashion will communicate to and elicit from them the intention to do the movement. Moving with intention takes much less effort than simply pushing physical mass around.
This extension of attention and feeling into another person’s body is what I call participating in another person’s body. I developed this skill in Aikido, and it became the basis for my hands-on body work. In Aikido, I use this skill to detect the subtle movement cues in an attacker’s posture so that I can disrupt his balance. In body work, I use the skill to detect the subtle details of a person’s movement difficulties so that I can improve his balance.
LIFTING ARM AGAIN: EXERCISE 4.7 This is similar to Exercise 4.1. Have your partner lie on her back on the floor. Sit down next to her, reach over, and pick up her arm. Then put it down. Nothing special. Lift her arm and put it down the way you’d lift and put down any object, a pencil or a glass for example.
Chapter 4: Being With
Now try it differently. This time, grasp your partner’s arm, very gently yet with full contact. Make sure there are no gaps between your hand and her arm. Let your fingers mold to your partner’s arm. Now, take some time to feel the arm you are holding. Feel more than that. Feel how the arm is part of your partner’s whole body, part of her whole self. Feel the whole body through the arm. After you grasp, wait a while to lift. Wait until your partner has come to terms with your touch and your grasp. You can think of this time as greeting your partner on her wrist and waiting for her to respond with a somatic hello. You will know it when you feel it. Once you feel that connection, then lift your partner’s arm, and put it back down. Most people will feel that the second time they lifted their partner’s arm with a feeling of sensitive caring and respect for the other person as a conscious being. The first lift may, by comparison, now seem hasty and dull. I like to think of these two ways of touching as being the way you might lift an ashtray versus the way you might lift a baby. The first lift is the way people often relate to inert objects, and the second is the way you interrelate with conscious beings. How would you rather be touched? How would you rather touch another human being? The inert touch will be draining and dehumanizing, just the opposite of harmonious and respectful. Touching with caring and consciousness will not only be more respectful but it will be relaxing and energizing to you.
If you send your awareness into your client, you will begin to feel how movement and power flow through the body from joint to joint. Touching into and connecting with a person feels like pushing the links of a chain.
PUSHING LINKS: PRACTICE 4.8 Have your partner lie down on his back. Sit by his feet, and hold his left ankle gently in your hands. Send your awareness through his leg, up through his torso, into his right shoulder. Set up a push/release rocking movement, and see if you can get the movement to go all the way up to his right shoulder. Then try to get the movement to his left shoulder. See whether you can make his right hip move to the right, then the left. Try other trajectories of movement.
The more you are sensitive to the whole structure you are seeking to move, and all the interconnections of all the parts, and the more sensitive you are to the intentions which shape the structure, the more economical and effective your body work techniques will become. SHAPING INTENTION: PRACTICE 4.9 Have your partner lie down on his back. Again, sit by his feet, and hold his left ankle gently in your hands. Again, send your awareness through his leg, up through his torso, into his right shoulder. This time, however, instead of setting up a directed physical pressure, start by setting up a directed stream of attention/intention. Just as in the Pipeline exercise (4.2), think through the pipe of your partner’s leg, up around his pelvis through to his right shoulder. You will know it when you have succeeded in creating that line. In order to best create a line of movement, you have to first project the line into your partner with your own attention and intention. Then once that is established, you can try doing the physical motion again, with this new intentional skill as the foundation. Does it feel different? Is it more or less effective than a “merely’ physical pushing in the direction you want to go? There is a way to practice creating intentional lines of movement.
SIX DIRECTIONS BREATHING: PRACTICE 4.10 This is a process of “aiming” your breath as you exhale. You exhale in different directions through your body, which generates micromovements and changes your overall way of holding your body. By practicing intending to open your body radiantly outward in a number of directions, you will develop the habit of keeping your body opened and balanced. Sit quietly in an upright posture. There is a simple way of supporting the pelvis and back that will make sitting much easier and more comfortable. You will need a bath towel
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for this. Fold the towel in half widthwise. Then fold it in half lengthwise. Then roll it up, not too tight and hard, but also not too loose. You can sit either on a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Now lean forward and get your weight off your sitbones. Raise your sitbones off the chair or floor a few inches, put the towel roll underneath your tailbone, and then sit back down onto the towel roll. It is important that the towel be positioned under your tailbone not under your sitbones. Your sitbones must still rest on the surface you are sitting on. Then come back to your vertical sitting posture. If you have the towel positioned right, you will feel your tailbone resting on it and the towel supporting your whole spinal column and torso. Most people feel lighter, taller and freer when they sit with a towel roll for support. They feel that the effort they usually expend on holding their bodies up simply isn’t needed. Shut your eyes. Inhale gently through your nose, and let your belly expand gently as you do. The movement of inhaling should be focused in the core of your body just below your navel, though of course your chest and back will expand gently as well. Then exhale through your mouth, relaxing your mouth and throat. As you exhale, imagine that you are gently blowing the air down your spinal column, out your bottom, to a spot six or eight inches (about fifteen centimeters) below you. Don't just think about this or picture it in your mind, but actually feel it in your body, do it in your body. Watch out for tipping your head up and rolling your eyes up toward the ceiling as you imagine the path the air takes down through your body. When people look upward, they are usually engaging in an abstract visual process of imagination rather than an embodied sensation process of imagination. Exhale down for half a dozen or so breaths. Then change the direction. Imagine/feel that you are exhaling up your spinal column, out the top of your head, to a spot six or eight inches above you. Breathe gently. Don’t purse your lips and blow, but just open your mouth, relax your throat, and let the air come out. After you have done about half a dozen breaths, then breathe out of your right side toward a spot about six inches to your right. Next breathe out of your left side. Then breathe to your rear out of your back, and next breathe forward out of the pit of your belly and the front of your body. For the last breath, exhale in all six directions at once, down and up, left and right, forward and back. Exhaling a number of times in one direction gives you enough time to really feel how to aim your breath in that direction. However, once you have practiced this whole sequence and felt how it works, there is a more balanced way of doing the exercise. If you feel ready for it, instead of exhaling in one direction for half a dozen breaths or so, exhale once in each direction and go through all the breaths in a seven breath cycle. Always start with the down direction because that is a way of stabilizing the body. Then exhale up. After that it isn’t important in what order you do the horizontal pairs, but exhale into the right and left directions and the backward and forward directions. Then for the seventh breath, exhale in all six directions. And then start the cycle over. You can do this exercise for a minute or ten minutes, or for whatever is comfortable and enjoyable for you. Once you practice this exercise and gain skill with the breathing, you will find it productive to aim your breath farther away. Experiment with how far you can focus your breath and notice what happens as you aim your breath farther and farther out.
You could also experiment with exhaling in lines between the six cardinal directions. Or you could experiment with exhaling the feeling of love. If you let the exercise talk to you, it will show you a lot of possibilities.
Being able to generate in yourself the lines of intention that lead to open and strong posture is the key to being able to insert similar lines of intention into a client.
HOLDING THE FIELD: PRACTICE 4.11 In this experiment, you will work with the whole field rather than a specific movement. You will again work with your partner lying in front of you. First, create the six directions intentional pattern in yourself. Notice that there is a central point in your body, a spot from which the six directions of projection are initiated. Holding your own balanced field of awareness, locate the same central point in your partner’s body. Reach into that spot, and then go outward from that spot to reach out around your partner’s body and create an equivalent field of balanced awareness around your partner. Keep a (relatively) unwavering attention to projecting the two fields of awareness (which are really, in a way, just one field). The English language fails at this point. Words alone can do no more than point at the experience of reaching into and outward from a spot in someone else’s body. The words do not themselves convey the experience. However, if the sequence of experiments has been successful, it will have led you to a skill which you will recognize as being what I mean by “holding the field.” What does that do? What does it feel like? Often the person lying down will feel very distinct changes in their body as you continue to hold the field for them. It can sometimes be as though you were doing the Six Directions Reaching for their body.
SHAPING: PRACTICE 4.12 In this experiment, you will again work with your partner lying in front of you. Create the six directions intentional pattern for yourself and around your partner. Now, in addition to the general field, you will work with intentionality in a specific spot. Pick an interesting spot in your partner’s body to work with. What do I mean by an interesting spot? It could be an area of excess tension or a segment of the body that is conspicuously mispositioned. It could be a spot that looks absent in your partner’s body awareness. And of course there are other possibilities as well. Once you’ve located a spot and have an idea of what is lacking there, send your awareness/intention into that spot and project the quality that is needed to achieve balance. If the
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spot is tense, project into your partner’s field the sense of relaxation at that spot. If the spot is pulled to the right, project into your partner’s field a sense of intention to move that spot to the left. And so on. What happens as you do this? Perhaps nothing, and that is OK. Perhaps there is some subtle or obvious change in the feeling or position of the body. It may take quite a bit of practice before anything noticeable happens. I guess I should address the question of what is really going on when you do this. Is it just some mundane though subtle process of non-verbal communication, or is there some life force that is being shaped and used? Well, how would you tell the difference between these two hypotheses? And is it actually helpful to talk about this, or is it more important to develop the skill, whatever it might be? I think it is best simply to use whatever language makes you most comfortable and gives you the best grasp of the process. DRAWING: EXERCISE 4.13 In this experiment, you will work with your partner standing in front of you. Create the six directions intentional pattern for yourself and around your partner. There is an experience that I came to after many years of practice. When I am alive in my awareness field in general, and alive specifically in my hands (think of the Wrapping experiment), I can move my hands around near someone and draw their attention with my hands. It’s kind of like pulling taffy. And by drawing their attention in just the right way, I can get their body to move into the shape I am sculpting with my hands. I can teach this relatively quickly in person, but I’m not sure that it can be learned from a verbal description. Oh well, we can only try. This whole process of perceiving imbalances and creating intentional projections to remedy them is what I did for years. I planned and created patterns. A few years ago, the whole process became much simpler. Something in me collapsed the whole process into simplicity. Nowadays, I just place my hands on a student, and my hands do the work. I can tune into what they are doing, but they don’t seem to need my careful planning any more.
RAT EXPERIMENT In 1971 I dropped out of graduate school in experimental psychology to study Aikido full time, and the nature of touch had a lot to do with that. I had started practicing Aikido a little over a year before, and I kept hearing about ki (life force or energy). I had been taught an exercise for flowing ki between my hands, and when I did the exercise I did indeed feel something, but I wasn’t sure what it was. Being a budding young scientist, I thought I should set up an experiment. After trying a few things which didn’t pan out, I accidentally stumbled upon a procedure which gave some interesting results. I built a long, narrow cage, with lines on the cage floor to divide it into three equal sections. (I used a different cage in the photo below.) I had an assistant put a rat into the cage, and I sat at one end of the cage, with my hands on either side of the cage. Every fifteen seconds for fifteen minutes, my assistant marked down where the rat was. For the
experimental condition rats, I held my hands open and I did what I had been taught as flowing ki. I sensed a ball of warm light between my hands. For the control rats, I held my hands open and simply thought about washing dishes or whatever. After two weeks, all the experimental condition rats spent on the average thirteen out of fifteen minutes sitting between my hands and grooming. The control rats wandered around, spending equal amounts of time in each of the three sections of the cage. Just to see what would happen, I then flowed ki with the control rats, and two weeks later, they too were spending their time sitting between my hands grooming. I showed this to my advisor, and he was stunned. He asked why they did that, and I said I didn’t know. I told him about the idea of ki energy and added that so far I couldn’t say for sure what was really going on. I suggested it could just as easily be olfactory cues or position cues. Anyway, all I could really say was that there was clearly some kind of interspecies signaling system and that it was worth studying. He told me to write up the experiment and put it in his mailbox. The next week he read the experiment report. When I spoke to him about it, he said he couldn’t believe the rats would just sit there. I can remember the interview clearly. I replied, “But you saw it last week.” And he said, “I don’t remember that.” At the time I wasn’t wise enough to understand what was happening. In retrospect, I realize he was threatened by the implications of the experiment and had to deny what he saw. However, I knew what I wanted to study, so I dropped out of grad school and spent the next nine years studying Aikido full time.
CHAPTER 5 SENSING Sensing the body is a key process in all the teaching I do, and there are three facets to this process: the facilitator feeling his or her own body, the facilitator sensing the body of the client, and the client sensing his or her own body. The facilitator must learn to feel her own body to be able to feel the client’s body and to help him feel it for himself. The following exercises are framed in terms of helping the facilitator learned to feel the client’s body, but the exercises can be used in all three areas of body awareness. We will start with exercises focusing on intentionality in the body, and then we will move into exercises focusing on sensing movement.
INTENTIONALITY We create ourselves anew every second. We do our habitual intentions and we become what we are used to being. Learning to sense intentions is the foundation for BIM. PROJECTING SPOTS: EXERCISE 5.1 In this exercise, you will work with a partner and give her movement suggestions. You will help her develop the skill of projecting intentions from various parts of her body in various directions. Have your partner stand up in a neutral, comfortable stance. Touch her shoulder with your finger, and rub the spot lightly for four or five seconds. The purpose for rubbing the spot for a moment is to sharpen your partner’s awareness of precisely that spot on her body. Then with your finger draw in the air a line straight forward away from her shoulder. Ask her to want to move the spot you touched along the line you drew. This is clearly related to the other exercises you’ve done with intentional projection. Most people will move slightly along the line of projected intention. Notice that micromovement, and notice how your partner’s overall posture and balance shifts with the micromovement. Try rubbing the same spot and drawing a different line in the air, perhaps one aiming diagonally toward the right or one up toward the ceiling. Notice the differences in overall body balance caused by the different lines of intention. Straight lines moving in forward directions from spots on the front of the body will be easiest for most people to project. Lines moving out from the back of the body may be harder
to feel. Lines moving upward, downward, toward the side, or toward the back are also possible. Curved lines are interesting to project, and it is even more interesting to project two lines simultaneously from one spot or to project simultaneously from two spots. Your job in this exercise is to observe the postural and intentional changes in your partner. It is a way of building up skill in observing processes of will and balance. And of course when you switch roles with your partner and do the projections, you will be building up an internal, felt awareness of these processes.
This next exercise will be an opportunity to catch intentional projections on the fly, as it were. SNAPSHOT: EXERCISE 5.2 Have a partner throw a wadded up sheet of paper at the wall. And have him freeze just as he releases the paper. It should look like a snapshot of a person just after he threw a ball. He should maintain the movement even though it is stopped. This is artificial, of course, since in ordinary movement no one would maintain their movement form unchanged after releasing a ball, but this artificiality gives us the opportunity to study the movement. You job is to figure out where he would go in the next instant after the photo was snapped. Would he continue the momentum of the throw and fall forward? Would he catch his balance? What do you think? Try pressing very lightly on your partner in the direction you think he’s ready to go. If you think he’d fall forward, push him forward very lightly. If he slips easily and almost suddenly into a forward movement, then you were right. If he is hard to move, then you’ve guessed the wrong direction. Make sure to press on the body part that is the prime mover for your partner. Obviously, if you push hard enough, you can press anywhere and move your partner in any direction. Find the body segment which is the core of the movement for the person. It is important to make the distinction between momentum and desire. Imagine a person teetering on a cliff. His momentum may be moving over the edge of the cliff, but his desire would be to move back away from the edge. Your partner in this exercise may fall most easily in the direction she is going physically or in the direction she wants to go next, and the two directions may not be the same.
Chapter 5: Sensing
GET THE FEELING: EXERCISE 5.3 Feelings are not merely some mental vapor but exist as tangible physical elements in the body. We are very sensitive to each others’ feelings, but we often are not aware of just what physical elements we are sensing. Emotions are physical events in the body. Feelings are what those physical events feel like to the person who is having them. Try doing in your body the feeling state of nobility, and for comparison, try doing arrogance. Try doing sycophancy and love. Can you feel any differences or similarities in the elements of each pair? Try doing a childish temper tantrum and appropriate anger about some clear injustice. Try a whiny need for approval and a desire to please some person that arises from a deep respect for him or her. What do you notice about the pairs of emotions? Try various other emotions and notice how you do them physically. Now try working on this with a partner. Have her lie down on her back. Put one of your hands on her belly and one on her shoulder. Any placement will do, but these are convenient touch spots. Close your eyes, and have your partner do various strong emotions. Perhaps have your partner think of some highly emotional situation she has experienced. Have her focus on the emotion and let it build within her. Breathe and center. Open yourself to the delicate sensings taking place in your hands. Let your body be soft and open. What comes in? What do you notice? Can you sense the somatic changes that take place in your partner? Can you be aware of them as feelings? Can you put an emotion name to each distinct somatic state?
CLONING: EXERCISE 5.4 This will be an exercise in sensitive perception. This exercise needs to be done in a group. Have everyone stand up, and ask for two volunteers. They should stand side by side in front of the group. One volunteer should be designated as Number One, the other Number Two. The task for the group members is to offer one postural suggestion at a time to Volunteer Number Two. Each suggestion should be framed as an intentional projection—that is, as a line of intention originating from a specific spot on the body and going in a specific direction. Each suggestion should alter Number Two's posture to be similar to Number One's way
of holding himself. The goals are to be able to identify Number One's personal manner of being, translate that into discrete body instructions, and finally turn out a clone of Number One. What details can you perceive? How subtly can you tune into the volunteer's way of being his body? How specific and precise can you make your instructions? Once you get the hang of this, try it with different volunteers. Is it easier or harder with different people?
MIRROR POLISHING: EXERCISE 5.5 Work with a partner, and have her take the role of leader first. After a minute or two, you can change roles. Stand in front of each other with your arms out at about shoulder height. Place your palms against your partner's palms, with the hands vertical and the fingers pointing upward. The leader's job is to move her hands around, and your job is to follow, keeping your hands lightly touching your partner's hands. The leader should keep her feet in the same spot, not move across the floor. However, the rest of her body can move, up and down, to the side, twisting, and so on. The leader should not move in rapid, jerky ways. She should not use mere speed to make it hard for you to stick with her. You should keep your feet stationary and keep your palms resting lightly on the leader's palms. If you follow your partner skillfully, you will look like someone polishing a mirror. Actually, the leader will be the one polishing the mirror. You will be the reflection faithfully reflecting whatever movements the leader makes as she rubs the glass. Remember to create the mindbody state of softness, strength, kindness and spaciousness. That will make sensing your partner far easier. And then after a time, switch roles so that the leader will have the opportunity to practice following. If you are working in a group, have all the participants change partners so they can feel how different it can be practicing with someone else.
Chapter 5: Sensing
FOLLOWING A PARTNER: EXERCISE 5.6 This is an extension of the Mirror Polishing exercise. You will work with a partner again, but this exercise involves moving along a straight line of fifteen feet or so (about five meters). Stand at one end of the line with your partner, palm to palm as in the previous exercise. The leader should walk forward along the line to the other end, and then he should return to the starting point walking backwards. Your job is to move along with the leader and maintain a light but firm contact with her hands. As the leader walks forward to the end of the runway, you should walk backward at exactly the same speed and rhythm. That way her push forward won't exert any pressure on you. Don't resist, and also don't speed away and lose contact. As the leader walks backward to the other end of the runway, you should walk forward at exactly the same speed. Don't lag or you will have to reach out and lean forward to maintain contact. If you can sense his movement and follow it, you will have the feeling of being in the eye of the storm. The relationship will be undisturbed by the movement, and there will be a quietness. Remember that the state of softness and spaciousness will make it easier to do this exercise well. And after a time, switch roles. Now let's make it harder. Still walking in a simple forward/backward straight line, the leader can stop and start and reverse directions as she wills. Do you lag in your awareness and your movement? Does her shift to forward movement surprise you so that for a moment you are resisting it and pushing on her? Do you lose contact as she suddenly begins moving backward? Can you breathe, soften your core, arrange your posture for power and sensitivity, and merge into the dance of movement with your partner? Can you follow your partner—without losing your own center and autonomy, of course? There is a special feeling of soft yet firm awareness that allows you to bypass the conscious mind and just follow. The conscious mind, with its effort to perceive and understand, will always be one instant late. Can you find the more immediate connection, which proceeds from a more physical awareness than your conscious mind would create? Now let's make it harder still. The leader can move in any direction, turning, advancing, stopping and retreating, circling around, and so on—but not so fast that the exercise becomes impossible. Can you follow and maintain contact? To do so, you must follow just a fraction of an instant in advance of your partner. You and your partner may for a moment or two not know who is leading and who is following. That is true empathy and connection.
GRASPING WRIST: EXERCISE 5.7 This experiment will be similar to the ones you have just done, but with some interesting additions. You will again need a room with clear space to move around in. Put one hand out in front of you, and have your partner stand in front of you and grasp your wrist in both of his hands. Now, have your partner open his grip until his hands form a hollow tube around your wrist. Instead of actually touching you with his grip, it is more a symbolic grip around your wrist. Your partner’s job is to push, pull, lift, lower, or twist your arm—all without touching you of course. He can move around in any direction in the room, and you have to follow the movement and keep your wrist within his “grasp.” Try to stay right in the center of his circle and follow him without touching his hands. Now comes the hard part. Do the exercise without losing your center. That is, maintain an upright, vertical, balanced posture. Relax and breathe. Keep your hand in front of you, and don’t let your arm move off to the side. Can you stay centered and still perceive and follow your partner? Or, the opposite question, can you perceive and follow your partner well if you are not centered? To make it even more fun, you can do this exercise with two partners, one grasping each hand. The only rule is that they cannot move off in opposite directions. To expect you to stretch your arms out eight or ten feet (two or three meters) in both directions would be too much. But as your partners move in their own ways, can you blend with each and still maintain your own centered posture as a core?
Chapter 5: Sensing
SENSING MOVEMENT: PRACTICE 5.8 This exercise will focus on detecting and feeling how movements in one part of your partner’s body affect her whole body. Stand up, lightly grasp your partner’s arm and extend your awareness through her whole body. Have your partner move her other arm up and down, like a bird flapping a wing. Can you detect the effects of that movement in the arm you are holding. Have her pick other parts of her body and move them in various ways. Can you feel the effects of the movements? Try shutting your eyes and having your partner move various body parts, one at a time. Can you tell which part your partner is moving? Can you tell what movement your partner is doing? Can you sense what other movements are brought about in other body parts?
OBSERVING MOVEMENT: EXERCISE 5.9 Watch as your partner walks around while tightening or loosening some body part. Perhaps he can tighten his right shoulder, or loosen his left knee. Can you see which particular part of his body he is focusing on and whether he is tensing or making it limp? Can you detect the effect of the tension or limpness in his gait? Are there areas of his body which are easier or harder for you to see and comprehend? What do you discern if your partner focuses on more than one body part at a time?
STARTING This chapter will deal with some basic elements that form a background to the hands-on body work. It will go on to consider how you detect what the client is doing and what they need to change. That process is the beginning of work with a client. Detecting things segues gradually into changing the things you detect. The place to start work with a client is the intake form. I would guess that many or most somatic educators do not use intake forms, but it really is helpful to get some information in writing. So here is a sample form:
Name _______________________________________________ Date ______________ Street, City, ZIP -- Home address:
Employment ________________________________ E-mail ____________________ Home Phone __________________________
Work Phone ______________________
Cell Phone _________________________________
Emergency contact (name, phone number): List the names and ages of the people with whom are you now living and their relationship to you: Have you been or are you now in therapy or counseling or under the care of a psychiatrist? If so, when, with whom, for what reason, and for how long? Are you currently under medical care, or have you had any significant medical problems? If so, what are/were the medical conditions, and who is/was your medical provider? Are you currently taking any medications or using any drugs (including alcohol, tobacco and caffeine)? If so, please describe: How did you hear of my work? Who referred you? If an internet search, what search engine?
What is your reason for taking body/movement awareness lessons? What do you want to achieve? How will you know when you have achieved your goal? (Use the other side for more space.)
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BODY/MOVEMENT AWARENESS EDUCATION GOALS: The basic goal of body/movement awareness education is learning how to develop greater awareness of your Body as your Self. This awareness is the key to developing practical skills in movement and action. You can learn to move through your daily life in a way that is relaxed, powerful, graceful and comfortable. You can find an inner wholeness in which body, mind, energy and spirit are integrated. And you can improve performance in whatever you do. FOCUS: The best attitude with which to approach body/movement lessons is that of curiosity and desire for knowledge. If you pay attention to the process of learning, you will achieve your goals. If you are impatient to get to the endpoint and focus too narrowly on the goals you came to achieve, you may never achieve them. CHANGE: Sometimes, especially during periods of rapid or fundamental change, the lessons may seem confusing. And when working with painful aspects of your life, the lessons may be painful. Confusion or pain are only temporary sensations on the way to strength and skill. If any sense of discomfort or confusion comes up, please let me know so that we can adjust the pace of the lessons to make them less distressing. CONFIDENTIALITY: Information that you reveal in the context of the lessons will not be discussed with others without your knowledge and written consent. Your records will not be sent or shown to others without your consent. There may be an exception to the rule of confidentiality where there is clearly a situation of potential harm to yourself or others. If you wish that some information from your lessons be discussed with another person, you may sign a release of information form. COMMUNICATION: If you are under medical or psychotherapeutic care, it is important to communicate to your caregiver that you are undertaking body/movement awareness lessons. If you wish, I will send your caregiver general information about body/movement education or specifically discuss your lessons with them. You may wish to give them my website address so they can read about my work. DURATION: You are embarking upon a course of study which will allow you to change your life. Specific limited questions generally require only a brief series of lessons, while broader, more fundamental questions may require more extensive study. DECISION: How will you know when you are finished with the lessons? Generally speaking, that will be when you have learned and internalized new skills and resources with which you can handle the distressing situation which made you decide to start the lessons. A caution: you may not be able to determine that without feedback from outside yourself. TERMINATION: In order to tie up loose ends about the lessons, it is important to finish up with an ending lesson to review and put in perspective the learning which has been accomplished. In addition, it is important to consider what to do to maintain and further the learning and changes that have been accomplished.
OFFICE PROCEDURES LESSON FORMAT: The lessons are fifty minutes long and start on the hour (unless we specifically schedule otherwise). If you will be more than 15 minutes late, please telephone if you can. If you are 20 minutes late and have not phoned, I might leave the office. If you are late for a lesson, you will be seen for the time remaining in your scheduled lesson; however, you will be expected to pay for the full lesson time. MISSED APPOINTMENTS: If you cancel, reschedule or miss an appointment without twenty-four hours notice, I will need to charge for the lesson time. Of course, I will not charge if you have had an emergency such as illness, and I will try to be flexible. However, if it is simply that some non-emergency (as I would define it) had a higher priority for you, I will expect payment for the lesson. Cancellation of one lesson does not cancel other future lessons that may have been scheduled. Only lessons that you specifically request to be canceled will be canceled. Some students cancel and reschedule frequently. This is unfair to other students who want appointment times. Please remember that in scheduling a lesson you are undertaking a commitment to yourself and to me. If frequency of rescheduling becomes a problem for an individual, I will need to charge for rescheduled lessons. MESSAGES: I have voice mail at both the school and my home office. I will generally not answer the phone at the school since I will be teaching. If I don't answer when you call, the only way to make certain that I receive messages in a timely fashion is to leave messages at both numbers. (614) 263-1111 or 262-4384. You could also e-mail me at [email protected] PAYMENT PROCEDURES: Your lessons will not covered by insurance, and you will be asked to pay at the end of each lesson. Make checks payable to Paul Linden. PERFUME: To help people with allergies, I would appreciate it if you would not wear perfume or other strong scents to your lessons. QUESTIONS: If you have any questions or special concerns, please ask. I am here as a resource for your learning and growth, and your questions are important to me. WEBSITE: My website has a lot of information about the theory and practice of the work I do, including a number of downloadable articles. Go to www.being-in-movement.com
FOCUS OF TEACHING This book began with a paragraph describing the core of BIM, and it will be worthwhile to repeat that. As we move into considering the actual hands-on techniques, it will be important to keep this core focus in mind. The key concept in BIM is intentionality. Intentionality, as I use the term, refers to the body-thought that precedes a movement. BIM sees movements as being built upon internal blueprints. The intention to do a movement structures the movement itself. The intention is a solid part of our experience. Just before we do a movement, we plan out the movement by projecting the shaped feel of the movement into our muscles. The shaped feel is an idea that has extension through space.
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Though the work is intensely physical, the organizing principle underlying all BIM is not about muscles per se or about positions of the skeleton. It is about purposive action. What I am doing in hands-on body work is helping people clarify, deconstruct, and construct anew their intentions. And the intentions people form are about their goals and strategies of action for achieving their goals. People come for body work because something about their actions is not satisfactory. My perspective on this is that they are not constructing efficient and effective intentions. I usually start by helping clients experience what their current intention actually is, and then I often do something to confuse or interfere with their ability to hold that intention. That clears the way for them to stop doing the old intention, and then I can help them create a new intention. The new intention structures new actions, and in a movement experiment the client tests out the new intention and its resulting new actions. Through their own experience, clients will find out whether the new intention leads to better results. In general, what I am working toward is symmetrical, radiant, loving, and powerful ways of intending and moving. That seems to be the key to success in dealing with any area of life.
BOUNDARIES & ETHICS The practitioner must have very strong boundaries to do hands-on body work safely and effectively. In any helping profession, the basic boundary problem stems from the power differential between the client and the professional. The professional is an expert with the power to determine the nature of the interaction situation. Often, the client feels vulnerable and overwhelmed, and the professional is the person who maintains a confident, masterful manner. There is a simple formulation of professional ethics: use your power for the benefit of your client and not for your benefit. There are some specific boundary problems to watch out for. To begin with, there is the issue of pain that is felt by the practitioner. Pain can be contagious. In the process of being with clients’ pain and helping them let go of it, caregivers can themselves experience great pain. The very personal qualities which make caregivers caring, empathetic and nurturing also operate to make their boundaries permeable. The pain that practitioners may feel can come from three sources. Clients’ pain may bring to the fore similar issues and similar pains in the practitioner’s life, or the practitioner may feel anguish in confronting the horrors that many clients have lived through. A third possibility is that the practitioner may unconsciously mimic in her/himself the pain s/he sees the client doing. That third possibility may be a new thought to some people. However, one element in social bonding is an unconscious mirroring of other people’s body states and movements. We tend to take in the feelings that other people display. Some caregivers work in pain and continue until they become burned out and unable to help people at all. Other caregivers, in their attempt to protect themselves, become distant and unavailable, but in doing so become less able to help their clients. How is it possible to work with people in pain without either burning out or erecting rigid barriers? How is it possible to contain one’s own pain appropriately and not take on other people’s pain? Through the somatic integration of awareness, power and kindness, it is possible to work with pain without becoming overwhelmed by pain. In a nutshell, you would refrain from doing the somatic actions of pain and would do instead the body actions of relaxed alertness and compassionate power.
Doing hands-on work, you may experience under your hands somebody dropping into and reliving a painful, terrifying experience. If the practitioner gives in to the horror of what the client is experiencing, there will be two people terrified and no one to rescue either. The practitioner has to maintain a steadfast and kind presence to succeed in guiding the student through the painful experience and to an experience of their own power to protect themselves. Whatever the client may experience, the facilitator must be present, compassionate, and unmoved. In a similar way, the practitioner must be steady and unmoved if any sexual energy arises. With touch comes the possibility of sexual energy. Under no circumstances should a practitioner ever encourage or act upon any sexual feelings that may come up in either person. The practitioner must have skills of self-awareness and self-regulation to set aside—in a nonjudgmental way—any sexual energy. I recall one time I had a client who said that she felt she couldn’t work with me any longer. I asked her why, and she couldn’t bring herself to tell me. Finally she did say it. She found me so sexually attractive that all she could think about during the lessons was stripping my clothes off me and making love to me on the spot. I thanked her for her honesty. I said that I didn’t mind at all, it didn’t bother me at all that she was attracted to me, but my job was to help her learn and grow and I couldn’t do that if I were her lover. And that relieved all the pressure she felt. Clearly, your students must not be used for sexual purposes. There is no such thing, really, as a mutual, consenting sexual relationship between a professional and his/her client. That is because of the power differential. It would be very difficult, at best, for a body work client to enter a sexual relationship with his/her teacher as an equal, and if the student is not an equal, then the relationship will be damaging—to both parties actually. The way to deal with sexual energy in body work is to defuse it by breathing and centering and focusing on the work at hand. Another key ethical principle is that the practitioner should not set himself up to be the authority about the client’s body or movement. The practitioner does not gave opinions about the client but instead creates movement experiments which will give objective feedback to the client about what she is doing and how effective or ineffective it is. A particular expression of this has to do with the human tendency to interpret motives and meaning. It is very easy to observe behavior and infer what is going on inside the person doing this or that. We have a tendency to try to look behind the curtain to see what is going on inside the person. Many people are sensitive and can do this accurately. The problem with this kind of interpreting is twofold. First, there is no guarantee that you are interpreting accurately, and if you base your teaching on incorrect inferences, that will be harmful to the student. And even if you’re right, you may be bringing something to the student’s awareness at your timing and not at hers. It is best, I think, to avoid literary interpretations of the client. Instead of trying to make meaning of the client’s behavior, it is most efficient simply to stick to what the client is doing. Why the client is doing it will come out as the client learns how to self-observe with more clarity.
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Any assertion made by the BIM practitioner should be grounded in testable body actions. That is to say, it should be possible to specify what conditions would go to support the assertion and what conditions would go to disconfirm the assertion. Unsupported beliefs, literary interpretations, and all manner of seeing behind the curtain into the soul are not a part of the BIM system. It is important to work within the limits of your competence. In part, of course you gain experience by working with clients, and it is by working with clients who have issues new to you that you learn how to work in new areas. In addition, BIM training is modular in nature: you can use what you’ve learned as soon as you’ve learned it, but remember there may be important modules you haven’t yet learned. Be conservative – when in doubt about your ability to help a given client, refer your student to other professionals, possibly in other disciplines. One last thing about boundaries: maintain client confidentiality. This is a new idea to some people. For example, it wouldn’t be obvious to self-defense instructor or a yoga teacher not to disclose any information about a student. But when you’re doing hands-on work, it can be very personal for the client, and the client deserves to have his/her information safeguarded. On a practical level, it ensures that the client will feel safe in disclosing personal information to the practitioner. On the other hand, there are times when a client assessment indicates something that needs sharing with the primary caregiver, and in that case it is helpful to use a Release of Information form:
Authorization for Release of Information I authorize Paul Linden, PhD, to release/exchange information regarding body-movement awareness lessons for Client’s Name to/with the following practitioner: Name Agency Street Address City-State-ZIP Phone e-mail
Purpose or need for disclosure: Specific information to be disclosed: This consent to disclose may be revoked by me at any time except to the extent that action has been taken in reliance thereon. Date Print Name Signature
OBSERVING AND ASSESSING The previous sections in this chapter discuss background issues in doing hands-on body work. Here we get to the nuts and bolts of figuring out what a student needs and how to achieve it. As part of my initial contact with the student, I have them fill out intake forms, giving the usual information about names and addresses and so. Of course I also ask them what they are coming for, what difficulties in their lives prompt them to want to learn about their bodies, and what they hope to achieve. When they tell me what they want to achieve, that certainly does suggest what direction the lessons should move in. But not always. Sometimes it is apparent to me that what a client believes they want wouldn’t be a solution to their presenting problem. A similar question comes up at the beginning of each lesson in a continuing series. Often the direction we take in a lesson has been shown in the last lesson. It may be that a continuation of the focus is necessary to consolidate or extend the learning from the last lesson. Another way to start the next lesson in a series is to ask how the student feels about the last lesson. Or to ask what they have been experiencing in regard to applying the learning from the last lesson. Sometimes a student will come in and simply say that they want to clarify something that happened to them. Sometimes it will happen that a student will come in and say they haven’t a clue what to work on that day or even what it is that they want to learn. When that happens, I ask the student to walk around my office, and whatever my attention is drawn to in their movements, that becomes the focus of our work for the day – and it usually turns out to be an important, if unexpected, subject of study. Along with the student’s verbal information and requests, I am also taking in information about how the student sits, stands, breathes, and moves. And I’m comparing what I see and sense to an internalized “template” of centered action that I have developed through my forty years of practice body/movement awareness disciplines. Of course, it does not need to take nearly that long to develop the skills of observation – that’s why I’m writing this book, to save people years of time by systematizing what I found by trial and error. The template embraces body alignment; balance power and flow in movement; calmness, alertness, power, and love; and expansive, symmetrical and radiant attention. All these elements of centering are what was practiced in the body and movement awareness exercises described earlier and in my other books. When compared with the template, the body state of the client becomes systematically comprehensible, and what is missing in the student becomes the target of the lesson. It is important, however, to remember that this comparison is more a direct sensing or feeling than an intellectual process of going down the list of elements.
The principles of centered movement can be described in terms of a particular posture. However, being centered really refers to the quality or feel of movement rather than to a specific physical position. Moreover, the centered posture may be different in different tasks. The basic centered posture includes the following:
Chapter 6: Starting
Head erect. Eyes level and vision expanded. Back vertical. Shoulders relaxed and even. Belly relaxed. Hips even. Arms in an open curve. Hands and fingers open and relaxed. Knees not locked. Feet in full contact with the floor and with equal weight on each. Power comes from the legs and hips and is channeled through the spinal column to the arms and hands. Every part of the body is equally involved in every movement. Alert and relaxed awareness of oneself and the surroundings.
The feeling of centered movement can be described in terms of a balance and unification of qualities. OVERLY SOFT
limp weak fearful indecisive submissive spaced out dull sloppy leaden
relaxed/firm loving/powerful careful/determined flexible/resolute following/leading all-embracing/focused calm/alert casual/precise rooted/light
rigid brutal angry fixated domineering clutching keyed up stiff flighty
There are basically three ways of gathering information about a client and what direction a lesson or series of lessons should move in. The first, as was mentioned, is the report from the client on what they feel and do in their movements and in their daily tasks. The second is observing the client move or perform tasks, and this includes the body responses the client makes to reporting on their life. In observing the client, it is important to sense into the client’s body rather than just observing from the outside. Reaching into the client’s body will seem different when they are sitting or lying still and when they are engaged in task performance. What specifically do you actually look for or sense? Any deviation from the template in terms of position, awareness, or equality of flow. You’re looking for body areas which don’t seem quite right. That could be distortions in the person’s awareness of the map of their body— and strange as it may seem, this internal feeling is observable from the outside with training and experience. It could be areas of their body that are distant, numb, or are out of the person’s awareness. It could be segments of the body which are too slack or too tight. Or segments which bear excess weight or don’t share fully in weight-bearing. It could be skeletal misalignment. Or
parts of the body that don’t participate fully in the flow of movement. It could be an area that the client reports has odd or anomalous sensations. In any case, as you develop skill in observation, the segments of the body that need work will call out to you. How you use your eyes to observe your client makes a difference in what you see.
SOFT EYES: PRACTICE 6.1 You can learn how to keep your eyes relaxed. Sit up, and shut your eyes. Without moving your head, keeping your eyes closed, move your eyes as though you were looking up, down, right and left. What do you feel in your eyes? Are you exerting effort to look in the different directions? Try letting the movements of your eyes be soft and fluid. Move your eyes slowly and gently. It will help if you don’t move too far in any direction. Moving your eyes all the way to the edge of their range of motion takes more effort than staying in the middle of the range of motion. Start moving your eyes in gentle, soft, smooth, curvy lines. Make sure to let your forehead, cheeks, mouth and tongue relax as you move your eyes. Try some circles and figure eights. Feel how your eye muscles work to move your eyes. Is there some particular spot in the movement that is tense or hesitant? Let the places where you feel any strain soften and release. Once you are moving your eyes in this relaxed way, slowly and gradually open them— and don't grab the world with your eyes. Let your eyes look at the world softly, as though it's not really important that they see anything clearly. You will probably find that you can see just as much, just as well, but with more ease and comfort. Normally we concentrate our awareness in the center of our visual field. Soft eyes is the skill of balancing central and peripheral vision so that we can overcome our normal tunnel vision and pay attention to more of the environment than we usually do. Pick a distant spot to focus your eyes on, and keep looking gently at that spot. Make sure to keep blinking at a normal rate. Without moving your eyes, pay attention to what is already in the left side of your peripheral visual field. Now notice the right side. Now the top, and now the bottom. Blink occasionally. Now pay attention to the whole of your visual field, gently, without gripping the world with your eyes. Most people experience this as a soft, embracing and relaxing way to use their eyes. And when you look at a client through soft eyes, your attention will be drawn to the areas which will offer the possibility of useful work.
One of my pet peeves is the misuse of the term center of gravity. Many people say “the center of gravity is in the lower belly, but this is a misuse of the term The center of gravity is the mathematical average of the mass segments of the body, and in certain positions the center of gravity can actually lie outside the physical body.
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In this position, the torso and the legs can be thought of as separate, independent masses. The center of gravity is somewhere between the two masses, roughly where the star is.
What people want a term for is better named “the center of action,” by which I mean that area of the body which the individual feels (consciously or unconsciously) to be the place from which movement/energy reaches out to the world. It is the place from which the self feels that it initiates action. If the center of action is not lined up with the core of the body and with the direction in which force is being applied, balance will be compromised. And lessons teaching people how to achieve that balance can be very valuable.
TECHNIQUES This chapter addresses the specific how to of BIM hands-on body work.
POSITION The first consideration is the question of what position to place the client in. As a general rule, when I first start working with a client, if there are issues involving movement or task performance which are dependent on a specific position, I work with the client in the relevant position. For example, if someone has a problem that shows up when they mow their lawn, then I would most likely have them stand up and push something across the floor. On the other hand, I might want to steer clear of the actual problem until I have taught new movement awareness and skills. In that case, I might have the client lie down on the body work table. Personally, I am comfortable working on the floor. However, many clients are not comfortable on the floor, either in terms of culture or in terms of being physically able to get down and back up. I use a low (chair height), padded table to work on. In addition to removing the necessity for getting down and up, the fact that it is chair height allows me to use it with the client in a sitting position as well.
Having the client lie down is advantageous for a number of reasons. First and foremost, lying down removes the necessity for a person to maintain awareness of her balance in the field of gravity. Without needing to stay upright and not fall, a person can allow all the muscles to relax and not work. And that allows the possibility of readying the muscles for new actions. I usually have a student lie down on his back. If the head does not have something under it for support, the head will fall back, which will compress the back of the neck and exert a pull on the front of the neck and the top of the chest. So of course a pillow should be under the head. Actually, rather than using a pillow, I use folded towels. They give firmer support, and the thickness can be varied easily by using more or fewer towels. The idea is to fill in the thin spots. The chest is thicker than the head, so towels have to be used to “thicken” the head so it lies flat. By the same token, the knees are thinner than the torso, so a rolled up blanket under the knees will reduce strain in the hips and low back. And with clients who have especially thick torsos, a rolled up towel under each elbow will relieve strain on the shoulders and back. (For people who sleep on their back, this supported position is a very comfortable way to sleep.)
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A second position for hands-on body work is the side-lying position. As we go through the specific techniques, you will see that having the client lie on her side gives access to different segments of the body and allows different movements. In most cases, the client’s legs should be bent at the knees and drawn up toward the chest a bit. And there are three areas which usually need support. The head, of course, is one, and placing towels under the head relieves strain on the neck. Placing a hand towel folded in four longways under the waist offers support for the narrow middle of the body. In addition, placing a thin pillow between the client’s knees offers support for the third narrow segment of the body. (This well-supported position is comfortable for people who sleep on their sides.)
There is a third position that I rarely use, and that is having the client lie face down on the table. This can place a good deal of strain on the neck if the face is turned to the side. In order to
reduce this strain, it is helpful to place a folded towel under the chest. And a rolled up blanket under the ankles will reduce strain on the legs and low back.
There is a fourth position that I use very rarely, but it can be very helpful on occasion. With a low table, it is feasible to have the client kneel on the floor (with a pillow on the floor to keep the knees comfortable) and lay his chest down on the table, usually with pillow for support and a folded towel under the chest to reduce strain on the neck. This position offers access to the back and makes free movement possible.
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Two other positions are possible— sitting and standing. They both offer easier access to various segments of the body, and they are both more representative of daily movements and activities.
SHAPED INTENTION There are a number of actions being done at the same time by the BIM practitioner – as was indicated earlier in this book: touching and holding the body; moving it; and projecting shaped intentions into the client to elicit and support the new awareness and movement patterns being taught. The client’s shaped body intentions also come into play as the practitioner decides what to work on or teach as the client enters the office. I usually start by asking what the student wants to learn. Once they give me a hint (perhaps being unwilling to speak of it fully), I can observe what they do in their body, and that can be the starting point for body awareness training. Any problematic actions will be foreshadowed by conscious or unconscious loading of the movement plan into the muscles, and then the movement (or feeling) will be executed. By including the client’s intentions in the body work, both the choice of what to teach and the client’s learning will be enhanced. All the body techniques I use operate on the level of intention. Some techniques strengthen intentions and make their operations clearer. Some techniques induce physical confusion and prompt a client to stop doing an intention. However, in all cases, I think of what I do as teaching people how to choose what intentions to do and how to do them with more clarity.
HANDS-ON TECHNIQUES There are a number of hands-on techniques that I use, each one more or less often. Most of them I figured out for myself (and some of these I eventually found that others had also discovered). And some I learned from other body work practitioners. And the techniques are really ways of providing feedback to the client, not ways of doing something to the client. As in the photo below, I often improvise and use whatever objects are around to give feedback about the client’s body actions. In the case of the photo, I was rolling a tape roll to help an Aikido student perceive whether his two sides were equal and totally useable.
FEEDBACK: TECHNIQUE 7.1 This is not so much a technique as an attitude. The basic problem that the teacher addresses is that there are things students do that they are not aware of as they do them. In providing students with feedback about what they’re doing with their breathing, posture, movement and so on, it is important that the feedback have some objective component, rather than being simply the instructor’s opinion about what she or he saw. Without the objective component, the student would be learning to have more faith in what the teacher says than in what he feels about his own body. In addition, finding an objective indicator provides feedback to the teacher and keeps his observations grounded in reality.
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Teachers can use mirrors or video to provide feedback which is independent of the teacher’s assertions. If the work with an individual is being done in a group, the teacher can ask members of the group what they saw; most likely some members of the group will have noticed what the individual being worked with was doing. Another feedback method uses material objects to provide an objective measure of the student’s body actions. For example, if the student is sitting or standing, the teacher can help her feel the curves in her spine by holding a straight stick against her back. If a student is lying on her back, the teacher could help her feel which shoulder she is holding forward (toward the ceiling) by sliding a book first under one shoulder and then under the other. By noting which shoulder the book slides farther under, the student will be able to tell which shoulder is higher.
STARFISH: TECHNIQUE 7.2 A number of the techniques were named by my students in my first BIM teacher training. This is the first one. It was so named because starfish have five limbs, and the human frame could be looked at as similar: two legs plus two arms plus one head equals the five points of a starfish. This technique has the student lying on her back in a comfortable position, with the head supported by a pillow or a folded towel if needed. The practitioner touches one limb gently and waits and exerts a very very very gentle pull outward away from the body core. Take twenty seconds or a minute or more to pull. Make sure that the lifted knee is supported.
What is this technique about? Remember that the basic focus of BIM is on intentionality. Remember too that the basic distress response is to contract or collapse. If the practitioner
pulled hard to force an opening, that would result in an even more forceful contraction or a totally devastated collapse. Fighting the client’s intention would provoke a strengthened intention. However, with a very gentle drawing out, the tenderist hint of a suggestion, the invitation to open up becomes acceptable. First one limb is drawn outward, then the next, and so one. I first experienced something like this in the table work of the Alexander technique. As I learned to duplicate their technique in my own way and absorb it into my theoretical and technical framework, I found the technique very useful. I have worked on a number of Alexander teachers, and they have each remarked that what I am doing in my work is identical to their work except for being altogether different,
JELLOFISH: TECHNIQUE 7.3 Taking their cue from the Starfish exercise, my students originally named this technique Jellyfish, but as they watched me do it, they realized that it really should be Jell-O fish. With your partner lying on her back, comfortably supported, put your hand gently and contactfully on her shoulder. Set up a minimal, regular, soothing rocking motion. Reach through her shoulder into her body and involve both shoulders and both hips in the rocking. Most people find this very soothing and quieting. The gentleness and smallness of the movements makes them nonthreatening and acceptable as possibilities – possibilities pointing in the direction of greater ease and greater comfort with greater mobility.
GOING WITH: TECHNIQUE 7.4 Have your partner lie on his back, with proper support. Gently lift one arm, and feel for an unfinished movement. Unless the muscles are totally relaxed and balanced, there will be some stiffness, or slackness, some feeling that the arm is poised to move in some direction. Ever so gently, support the arm as you move it gently and precisely in the direction it, perhaps unconsciously, wishes to go. This is a process of helping the body move. As you support the body in its chosen direction, harmoniously and patiently lifting it up and moving it, the body begins to perceive what it has been doing. And in sensing what it has been doing, the body will automatically begin to change its patterns in the direction of balanced and free movements. This is a key principle of the Feldenkrais Method® of somatic education, one of the movement disciplines which I have studied. Feldenkrais was an accomplished Judo practitioner, and the principle of going along with is a key element in Judo, as it is in Aikido. In my perspective, in body work, going with is a means of bringing clarity to the process of intending.
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HELP/RESIST: TECHNIQUE 7.5 Have your partner lie on his back, with proper support. Gently lift one arm, and move its shoulder back and forth. Unless you happen to have picked out the one person on the planet who is truly relaxed and balanced, you will undoubtedly feel that there is one direction or another in which the shoulder will move more easily or more stiffly. Move the shoulder in its direction, slowly and carefully while asking your partner to exert just a little bit of effort to help move the shoulder. Then as you move the shoulder in the opposite direction, ask your partner to help. Keep moving slowly first in one direction and then in the other, and with each movement in a direction, ask your partner to help, Next, keep moving slowly first in one direction and then in the other, and with each movement in a direction, ask your partner to resist, If they have trouble changing to resisting, you can point out that resisting is just helping in the opposite direction. Next keep moving slowly first in one direction and then in the other, and with each movement in a direction, ask your partner to either help or resist, in a random sequencing, saying it slowly and giving your partner time to create the intention to resist or help. Now comes the fun. Speed up saying help or resist, saying them randomly, so it becomes difficult or impossible to keep up. And as your partner becomes unable to succeed, suggest that he give it up and just relax. Almost always the person will stop intending the specific movements you requested as well as his habitual muscular actions, and his shoulder will become very free. Needless to say, any other body segment could be the focus of the technique. What is this exercise about? It is a confusion technique. It is a way of raising into conscious awareness the process of intending a movement, and then releasing that intention.
RANDOM RHYTHMS: TECHNIQUE 7.6 This is another confusion technique. After doing a minute or two of the Jellofish technique, you can keep the gentle rocking going, but instead of rocking in one simple direction that the person can follow, start rocking in random directions that your partner will not be able to follow or predict. Many clients have an instinct to try to do the movement for the practitioner instead of letting the practitioner do the movement for the client. But the random nature of the rocking directions frustrates that instinct. And again, by raising the urge to do the movement to conscious awareness, but feeling the impossibility of doing the movement, it will be a relief for the student to give up doing. When a student gives up the urge to do, he arrives at a comfortable state of quiet presence. That is a restful, healing state, and it is also the foundation for effective action. People are kind of like the old cathode ray TV tubes, in which the picture was re-painted line by line on the TV screen many times per second. In a similar way, we have an image of ourselves, and we continuously re-intention that image and thereby stay who we are.
By eliminating our ongoing commitment to some part of that image, we arrive at a pause in which new possibilities can be intended.
ROLLING JOINTS: TECHNIQUE 7.7 There is an intimate connection between the orientation of the upper arm and the set of the chest and upper back. You can feel this in your own body very easily. Stand up with your arms hanging by your sides. Now, rotate your arms so that your palms face straight back. Elevate (puff up) your chest, and then collapse (cave in) your chest. Which goes more easily with the direction of your hands? Then rotate your arms so that your palms point straight forward. And again elevate and then collapse your chest. Which goes more easily with the direction of your hands? Most people feel that caving in the chest goes most easily with the palms facing to the rear, and by the same token puffing up the chest goes with palms forward.
Lets make use of this in a hands-on technique. If you have someone whose habitual posture is to stand with the shoulders rolled forward and in toward midline of the chest, this will be helpful in allowing them to experience a more open and free posture. Grasp one upper arm, fairly close to the armpit, in a gentle and attentive fashion. Roll the upper arm inward toward the chest even farther, and then in a continuous movement, circle the rolling so that it goes in the opposite direction into an outward rotation. Be careful not to do this as a movement confined to the arm, but reach through the arm, through the shoulder, into the core of the chest. So
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when you rotate the arm outward, you are bringing the chest along in the movement. Do the other arm as well. The result will be that the chest opens up. You can do much the same thing in the opposite direction if you need to open up the upper back and reduce the elevation of the chest. You can also do essentially similar movements with the leg and the lower back or the belly area.
GAPS: TECHNIQUE 7.8 Here are three similar techniques. They all rely on the practitioner’s being able to “taste” gaps in the client’s body perception field. People generally devote more or less attention to different areas of their body. However, not living equally and fully in the body as a whole can lead to various problems. For example, if a person pays attention more to his right side than his left, that may cause him to put more weight on one side as he moves and create strain in various movements. Distance: I usually have the client lying on her back for these exercises. When I sense that some area of the client’s body is distant for her in comparison to some other area of her body, I will touch both spots and ask her which is more distant. Occasionally, a client will ask, “Distant from what?” However, most of the time, a client will know just what I mean and be able to say which spot is more distant. And the act of noticing that distance brings more attention and awareness to the spot, which brings it closer to the client. How does one develop the ability to see a client’s attentional organization? As you practice the Six Directions Breathing technique and discover how to notice the way you perceive your body, you will begin being able to sense a client’s body field. Absence: I may notice an area which is absent in the client’s perception of his body. To help a client notice this, I touch outside that area with one finger and draw a line across the vacant spot and beyond it. Most often, the client will notice that in some sense my finger “disappears” as it enters the vacant spot. Or saying it another way, the client will notice that he has an empty perceptual spot on his body. And again, noticing the perceptual hole will begin to fill it in. Darning: I have never actually darned a sock, but I believe that the process is to draw a line of thread across the hole, over and over again, in slightly varying directions, until the hole is filled in. There is a body work equivalent to this. There are often gaps or discontinuities in people’s body awareness. Darning is another way to help the student fill in the hole. The practitioner can place his hand on the hole, and shift the pressure subtly back-and-forth across the hole from one edge to the other, in varying
directions, until the edges of the hole begin to knit together with the threads of awareness across the hole.
BOUND SPOT: TECHNIQUE 7.9 In most instances, people have bound spots in their movements. That is to say, areas of their body which are held stiff or motionless. As a general rule, people are not aware of these spots. What is absolutely normal for an individual becomes totally invisible to him or her. The first task is to make the invisible visible. I generally hold and move the stiff spot minimally and gently, and then I hold the equivalent spot on the other side of the body, and move it. By doing so, I bring into awareness the stiffness on one side compared to the freedom of movement on the other. For that matter, this strategy of comparing one side to the other is useful in studying just about any posture or task. Simply by being aware of it, change begins. However the other hands-on techniques for releasing tension can be used as well to free up the movement.
MOVING BREATH: TECHNIQUE 7.10 A simple technique is usually difficult to learn, and I’m not sure how easy this one will be. Have your partner lie on his back on the floor, and sit next to him, facing him. Let your awareness reach into your partner, into the core of his body, and gently grasp his arm or shoulder. Now choose a spot in his body for you to focus on. Direct a small, gentle movement from your gripping point to the point in his body. Push or pull very lightly on that point (like the Pushing Links experiment. There is one difference here: time your movements to your partner’s breathing. As he inhales, gently pull outward, and as he exhales, push gently inward. Generally clients find it very relaxing when the movements of the practitioner are in tune with the rhythm of the client’s breathing.
LEGGISH: TECHNIQUE 7.11 Human beings are bilaterally symmetrical, but we don’t learn symmetrically. That is to say, if I do hands-on work on one leg, the experience and knowledge gained by that leg don’t automatically get transferred to the other leg. I guess, to say it more accurately, the brain does not automatically apply new knowledge to the other leg. However, there is a way to get the knowledge to transfer from one leg to the other, or one arm to the other. Or any one body part to another.
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Unfortunately, it is a rather corny joke. The only excuse for it is that it works. After doing some hands-on work and helping the client experience some positive effect on one limb, I start talking “theory.” I explain that the body has messaging systems inherent in it. Which amount to a language of the body. Then with a flourish I ask, “And of course you know what language your legs speak, don’t you?” And when the client looks baffled, I say “Leggish.” And then I continue by saying, “Unfortunately, we don’t speak Leggish, nor do we understand the language, so all we can do is introduce your right leg, the one we worked with, to your left leg and ask your right leg to share his new knowledge with the left leg.” In some way, by calling attention to the process of communication in the body, the new knowledge does transfer to the other leg. What might have taken the first leg an hour to learn can be taught to the second leg in just a few minutes. When would it be useful to employ this process of transferring knowledge across the body? A simple application would be to saving time and making instruction more efficient. The transfer takes much less time than the original teaching. Another, less obvious, application would be to working with pain or injury. Instead of risking discomfort or damage to the area which is in pain, you can do the touch and teaching that the painful area needs on the other side of the body where there is no pain. And that learning will cross the divide to the part witch especially needs it.
KIATSU: TECHNIQUE 7.12 This was the first form of body work that I ever learned or used. It was taught by Koichi Tohei, a master Aikido practitioner. I rarely use it nowadays, but it’s handy to have in my bag of tricks. To practice it, have your partner lie on the floor on her back, with pillows for support. In a sense, this cannot be practiced, only used for real. If your partner has a tight and painful muscle, palpate it and identify the knot in it. Press hard into that muscle with one knuckle, extending your attention into the muscle. Have your partner focus on his breathing, taking care that he keeps his breathing soft and smooth—that is the key. By keeping his breathing free and open, the whole body will relax. By receiving the pain in a tense manner, the pain will be increased. By receiving the pain gently, the pain is lessened, and there is a release of the knot in the muscle.
The next two techniques will be somewhat different from the techniques we have practiced so far. All the earlier techniques have been focused on releasing constriction so that movements could be free. The next two will be about balancing the body for effective action.
OCCIPUT: TECHNIQUE 7.13
If I asked you to raise your head, what would you do? Most Americans would raise their chin, but when you think about it that’s raising the face and lowering the occiput. (The occiput is the part of the skull right above the base of the neck in the rear.) Raising the chin and constricting the back of the neck is actually part of the fear/startle response. The opposite of that is raising the occiput and thereby lengthening the whole spinal column. When I guide a person into this movement using my hands and holding their head very gently, the obvious movement is of the occiput upwards. However, in my sensing, I’m reaching down through the spinal column into the pelvis. Though I’m holding the head, I’m reaching into and adjusting the set of the pelvis as support for the spinal column.
Have your partner sitting on a flat surface. (Chairs typically have a slightly tilted surface. In that case, you would have the person sit on the more level forward edge of the chair.) Very gently, hold the rear of her head very gently and both of your hands. Very gently, very gently draw her occiput upwards, while reaching into and feeling the effect on the pelvis. If you are successful with this, there will be a lightening and a freeing of her whole body. If you have achieved that freeing, a next step in helping the student keep that lengthening even while he is moving and acting. A convenient exercise is to continue the lengthening while tipping the student’s torso forward. When the torso leans forward, “upward” is not straight up toward the sky but forward and up on a diagonal. If you gently pull along the line of this
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diagonal, that brings the students wait forward over his feet, and that is the first part of rising to a standing position. Anybody who is familiar with the world of somatics will recognize this as the basic process of the Alexander Technique. I have, however, reoriented the way I do the exercise to focus on the pelvis. As a martial artist, my orientation is around the use of the pelvis and legs for mobility, stability and power.
PSOAS LEG LIFT: TECHNIQUE 7.14 Have your partner lie down on the floor on her back (a soft carpet or a blanket will make this more comfortable). Sit facing her, by her leg. Put one hand under her knee, and put your other hand under her calf. Lift her leg up in the air about six inches (about fifteen centimeters). Ask her how that felt. How did you lift her leg? Let’s try another way of having her lift her leg. Using your hands, gently lengthen the underside of her leg and guide her to reach out just a slight bit with her heel. Now have her raise her leg again.
What did you feel? If you were successful, you will have had the feeling that her leg was lighter as you lifted it, perhaps even that it floated upward. Rather than having her use the quadriceps to lift her leg, you guided her to use her psoas (a deep internal muscle). This sense of initiating movement from the hip joints and from deep muscles in very important in learning to move with relaxation, power and balance.
This last technique, Tracing, is very different from the other techniques. Clients often come to release stuck patterns of movement, and in order to change a stuck movement pattern, it is frequently necessary to trace it back to its roots. Tracing is a process of somatic free association, a way of becoming aware of the origin, meaning, and current function of the stuck patterns.
Generally, stuck body patterns have a component of powerlessness and contain some unfinished action. When people can feel in their muscles what unfinished action they have been needing to take, by approaching the situation from an integrated state of power and love, they can successfully perform the action that they were previously unable to complete—or choose and accomplish a new and better action—and thus resolve the body pattern. For a complete description of how to do tracing, see my book Winning is Healing. This section here will not teach the complete process of tracing. It will focus on the hands-on aspects of tracing. TRACING: TECHNIQUE 7.15 Tracing involves two elements of hands-on work: amplification and comparison of sensations. Amplification is the process whereby a client is guided to make a whisper of a sensation louder, clearer, closer. Mostly amplification is done by verbally reflecting back to the client what he has reported as a sensation or experience. Upon occasion, however, touch is a very valuable way of focusing a client on a body experience. For example, a client might report that he is feeling pressure on one shoulder. I might touch his shoulder in various spots, while asking whether I was touching the exact spot where he felt the sensation. By doing this, I’m making more precise the client’s awareness of what the sensation is that we are seeking to understand. Once we have the spot located, I could touch with varying degrees of pressure, asking whether one degree or another is familiar and seems to be a replay of the original pressure. In this example, by comparing different spots and different degrees of pressure, I’m helping the client figure out which spot and pressure is most like the original stimulus configuration. And by helping the client notice what he feels, I am putting a sensation under the microscope of awareness and making it larger and closer – so that it can be studied.
AFTERWARDS What should happen after the lesson? That question applies to both the practitioner and the client. I would suggest that the practitioner write notes about the lesson. I keep notes, focusing especially on posture and body sensation. It can be important for many reasons to keep fairly detailed notes about what you teach and how the student responds. The notes can help you achieve a perspective on the overall progress of your lessons with an individual. If the student is under medical or mental health care, sharing the notes with a student’s caregiver could help them understand what the student is learning. In addition, on occasion it can be helpful for a student to read the notes and get a perspective on just what has been happening in their lessons. Sometimes this is very helpful because emotionally powerful material often evaporates from people's awareness as soon as they leave a session. At the end of each lesson, I ask my client what they can take away from the lesson and use. As a general rule, I try to make sure that each lesson brings the student into contact with a core idea, focuses on a concrete experience of that idea, and includes an exercise the student can use to maintain and enhance his experience of a better pattern of action.
What the student should do after a lesson depends to a great extent on what the content of the lesson was. If it had a simple movement focus, then the question would be how best to maintain and utilize the new body information. In many cases, nothing much needs to be done other than utilizing the new body pattern. For example, I had a symphony trumpet player come to me for a problem with how he used his lips when he played. Watching him play gave me the information I needed to discern where he was moving improperly, and I showed him a better pattern. He came to me for just one lesson, and when I chanced to meet him six months later, he told me that after the lesson, he knew what he had done that hadn’t worked and what to do to correct it. With a simple lesson focusing on clearly delimited physical elements, maintaining the new learning can be fairly easy to achieve. For physically or emotionally difficult material, it is helpful to give the student homework, or as I prefer to call it, homeplay. That sounds lighter, and more fun. The main point to get across to the student is that the time between appointments is not dead time, where you stand around waiting for the next session. It is time for consolidating and putting into practice what was learned in the body work. One thing to explain to the client is that old environments will call up old behaviors. Flicking the switch to turn on one’s bedroom light, for example, is such a well-learned behavior that the student will tend to revert to her old posture as she puts up her hand to flick the switch. So an example of homework would be to stop for a few seconds before turning on the light and use that time to remember and re-create the new posture. A few questions can help:
What have I learned about myself ? What new skills do I want to maintain? Can I commit to an ongoing practice? What will I do? Why will I do it? Where will I do it, and when will I do it?
Well, this is the end of the sections on how to do BIM hands-on teaching. I hope that breaking the material down into logical, small chunks has helped the reader gain skill and confidence in this approach to hands-on teaching. I’m sure the next generation of somatic educators will take this approach to human beingness in productive directions that I can’t even imagine now.
HISTORY Every once in a while, someone asks me how I came up with this somatic work. And they usually find the explanation illuminating. So…… Here comes a brief history of my process of development. As you’ll see, lack of talent in movement combined with obsessive persistence in trying to understand movement led me to some surprising places. Before I ever got to movement, I studied a number of things that profoundly influenced my approach to movement. How did I begin? I used to think that the whole train of events started with my exposure to Aikido. However, I recently realized that the seeds of what I am doing now were visible much earlier. When I was in high school, I kept a philosophical journal, and one thing that I pondered was the interface between the perceiver and the perceived. It became obvious to me that the perceiver doesn’t just take in the data from her/his surroundings. In some sense, what is perceived as true depends to a great extent on how the perceiver is constructed. At the time, I couldn’t pin down just what that meant, But now, much of my body work involves giving people a stable musculoskeletal structure as a foundation for their lives. Freeing the posture promotes clear perception and rational thinking. The second seed was a ‘60s joke. I once said that my ambition was to create a new science called psychoballistics. In other words, when you blow your mind, where does it go? Given an escape velocity and the angle with which your mind takes leave, it ought to be possible to figure where your mind would land after being launched. And in a sense, that is just what I have accomplished by seeing how intentions act like rails in the air, specifying for the body a precise pathway for a movement. In high school, I became interested in philosophy, and majored in that in college. However, I realized that in two or three thousand years of discussion, the philosophers had not arrived at many universally accepted “truths” and I figured I didn’t have time to wait for philosophical bedrock to be found. In retrospect, now I would say that the philosophers generally did not aim for or create quantitative measures to verify or falsify their hypotheses. So I jumped ship, left philosophy, and enrolled in a graduate program in experimental psychology.
AIKIDO It was 1969, and I was in the bookstore at the University of California at Berkeley. I was there to buy a textbook on brain physiology for my graduate program in experimental psychology. I meant to pick up the book and leave, but I walked down the wrong aisle of the bookstore. There the shelves were piled with books for a course on the psychology of meditation. I registered for the course, which was taught by Dr. Robert Frager, a psychologist who had recently returned from a stay in Japan, where he had studied the art of Aikido with the founder, Morihei Ueshiba. What the instructor said about Aikido didn’t connect for me. It was the middle of the Vietnam war, I was strongly against it, and all I could think was “What a waste—to spend time learning how to hurt people.” But then on the last day of the course, the instructor showed a film
of Ueshiba fighting six American soldiers simultaneously. Ueshiba was in his late seventies at the time. He didn’t do much to the soldiers, but they couldn’t put a finger on him. He was never quite where the attackers expected him to be. I watched and something in me responded. The next day I dropped in at the Aikido club, stepped onto the mat, and began the practice. In retrospect, I realize that I had seen a film of a very special person. He was calm, perceptive, and purposeful. Though at the time I didn’t understand quite what I was seeing, I recognized that Ueshiba was awake, and that prompted a small awakening in me. At least, it woke me up enough to know that Aikido was a path I had to follow. I knew in some way, in some sense, Aikido would be a conduit for the answers I had been searching for in philosophy and psychology. The founder’s calligraphy for Aikido was my primary influence and my laboratory for the word “Aikido.” Notice the power and the grace in his studying the self in movement. It was through Aikido that I brush strokes. gained a movement vocabulary and a concrete philosophy of efficient, effective, ethical functioning. There was one other thing that was significant in my development of my style of practice and teaching, and that was the fact that I was certainly not a talented athlete. Just the opposite. I was very uncoordinated and before Aikido had never participated in sports. I have often observed that people with talent can master an activity easily but find it hard to comprehend how the same activity can be difficult for others. Talented movers become teachers, but they teach best other talented movers, and they do not teach well people who are very unlike themselves. When I started Aikido, I was taught by and practiced with talented martial artists. They performed their techniques and taught them in an intuitive, non-cognitive fashion. They couldn’t understand why I couldn’t reproduce what they demonstrated. Since they perceived and comprehended Aikido movements as wholes, it never occurred to them that it would be helpful to me for them to break down Aikido movements into parts. I needed what they did not—detailed step-by-step instructions. It didn’t help that the Japanese style of instruction was resolutely nonverbal and non-analytical. The upshot was that I was left to devise my own ways of teaching myself Aikido, and what I came up with was an experimental, analytic process for jumpstarting my movement abilities. In effect, I came up with a linear, reductionistic, mechanical method of developing the capacity for intuitive, holistic, spontaneous action. I have since found in my teaching that there are many people who benefit greatly by having the detail-oriented teaching that I devised to help myself. Though I never intended to become a body practitioner, I started applying the exercises I had developed in my Aikido practice outside Aikido. I eventually developed the system of body work which I call Being In Movement® mindbody education, and BIM has been the focus of my professional work for the last thirty years. Though Aikido is my movement home and my lab Aikido also provided set of movements to use as a venue for teaching/learning and a concrete
Chapter 9: History
experience of how balanced movement feels in your body as you do it. And by extension, that experience helps me see what is lacking in other people’s bodies and movements. In particular, Aikido enabled me to spend hundreds of hours sensing my body, other people’s bodies, and how those two domains of awareness interrelated. Looking back on my early days of Aikido training, I realized that I gained a number of concepts/experiences. Though I didn’t label it as such or even notice it as such, Aikido training pointed me at the utility of having a challenge/response model of learning. People come for self-defense instruction because they feel they cannot succeed at the challenge of being attacked. Through training, we build up a response pattern which is energized, balanced, rational and free. I have noticed that whoever comes for my body teaching has some area of life which they cannot deal with as well and as comfortably as they wish. So that area of difficulty can be thought of as “an attack.” Aikido was an opportunity to study the contraction or collapse of the distress response. The body responds to any form of stress by contracting or collapsing their breathing, posture, movement, and attention. The Aikido strategy of yielding and going along with was obviously more efficient and more effective than standing toe to toe and fighting power with power. Aikido pointed me at the notion of harmony as the foundation for maximum effectiveness with minimal effort and at the cooperative mind/body organization which would lead to that. The key to BIM lies in what I learned in Aikido about perceiving the human body. I’ll tell you about four seminal moments in my Aikido practice. About forty years ago, I was practicing in the Aikido club at the University of California at Berkeley. It was summer time, and we were practicing on a red wrestling mat. I was a new blue belt, and I remember looking at my partner and saying: “I know that I’m supposed to go along with you when you attack, but I don’t know what to go along with.” That became my koan. For the next six years or so, I focused my efforts in my practice on detecting what my attacker was actually doing as s/he attacked. I started with relatively gross observations. The attacker was shoving forward with one hand. He was pulling back with both hands while turning his body counter-clockwise. She was moving her right arm in an arc from high to low to strike me on the head. I tried to detect the trajectory of the attack and make my defense movements follow the same trajectory. Whatever I observed, I tried to blend into and move along with, like a butterfly riding on the shoulder of an ox. I spent a lot of time puzzling over how Aikido defense techniques can be logical extensions or developments of the attacker’s movements (as differentiated from selfdefense techniques designed to oppose or stop the attack movements). Gradually, I began to discern subtler and subtler movement patterns as I watched various attackers. One would attack with his chin held high, and that extra-deep curve in the back of his neck would reduce his balance, making him less stable toward the rear. Another might execute a grab for both of the defender’s shoulders with one of his shoulders lower. I spent a lot of time trying to make my muscles soft so that my own inner tension would not cover up my awareness of the attacker’s pulls and pushes. That small idea eventually blossomed into sensitivity to and awareness of body structure, body alignment, and movement organization.
A key element for me began to be the vertical line through the body. I began to realize that it was around this line that the balanced skeleton was organized and that maintaining this line of balance during action was the key to efficient, graceful movement. Later on in my practice, I also realized that the vertical line is the meditative line in Aikido. Leaning off the vertical usually signals some psychological over-involvement. Anger and effort tend to lean forward, and fear tends to lean backward. I also began to realize that disrupting the attacker’s vertical line was a key to an efficient throw. I found that the body awareness I was developing in Aikido could be practiced outside of Aikido itself in all the activities of daily life, and it improved every action I performed. Eventually, that sensitivity to body/movement became the foundation of the body work I do. The second seminal moment occurred as I was practicing for my black belt test. One of the people I was practicing with commented that my sensitivity was exquisite, but I could never finish an effective technique because I was too yielding. I had a realization that I needed to do something that worked. I thought I would exert control on my attacker for my black belt test and then go back to the sensitivity practice that was my habitual focus. But by the time I passed my black belt test, I had realized that sensitivity without power wouldn’t work for self-defense. Or for almost anything else, for that matter. Without enough power to achieve safety, I would be a doormat or a goner. Eventually, when I started doing body work, I recognized that a root cause of many difficulties that people face is their powerlessness and inability to act effectively to control their environment. The third seminal moment occurred around the same time as my black belt test. With all the body awareness training I had put myself through, I noticed that when my movement or my technique was critiqued, I tightened up and resisted the correction. I realized that somehow it made me feel less than when somebody pointed out an area in which I was failing. And I also realized that that was restricting the data flow and impeding my learning. So I set about dismantling the physical constriction and replacing it with a physical openness and freeing, and it turned out that I could hear and comprehend better when my body was free. I realized that muscular/postural freedom is a foundation for effective thinking. Later on that became a focus of my body work, especially in the areas of conflict resolution. The fourth and in some ways the most important moment occurred one day while I was teaching a class as a new black belt. I noticed that when people were grabbed by the wrist, they often lost balance toward the grab. That was pretty simple, I thought. They looked down at the grab, tipping their heads toward the grab, and it was the displacement of the weight of the head which caused the loss of balance. (An adult’s head weighs about sixteen pounds, about seven kilograms. You can think of the head as a basketball made of bone and filled with oatmeal. It’s heavy.) So I told the students not to tip their heads, and I was mystified to find that even though their heads did not tip, the students still lost balance in the same manner. But I noticed that they looked down, but when I asked them to look straight ahead, they still lost balance in the same way. Finally I realized that they were thinking down. That was my Rosetta stone. I realized that thought structures muscular action. I spent the next ten years devising experiments for myself to develop my awareness of attention and its effects on movement. For example, I practiced walking forward while sending my attention leftward or rightward, and I could feel the differences each projection made in my
Chapter 9: History
balance and my gait. I realized that posture is the concrete manifestation of the shape of the self and the key to a very concrete and practical process of meditation. It was out of this realization that my approach to body work arose. All the puzzles I focused on became the core of my body teaching. Expressed succinctly, I was learning how to teach people to cultivate: A mindbody state of symmetry and expansiveness – of attention, posture, and movement - reaching out into the world while staying anchored within the body. A mindbody state of awareness, calm alertness, and compassionate power as foundation for efficient, effective, ethical action. Independent thinking: the ability to apply somatic and language analysis skills to evaluate situations and actions for themselves.
ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE The next influential piece in my body awareness training was the Alexander Technique. One day I was teaching an Aikido class emphasizing the vertical line of body organization, and one of my students remarked that was very similar to the Alexander Technique. I had never heard of it before, so I searched out some books on it. What I read impressed me, so I found an Alexander teacher nearby and started lessons. Alexander was a Shakespearean orator in the early part of the last century, and at one point he began to experience vocal difficulties. After going to the people who could help and not finding any help, he set about figuring out his own way out of the difficulty. He realized that the difficulties he was experiencing must have come from something he was doing that was interfering with his voice. He sat in a circle of mirrors so that he could see from every angle what he was doing, and he found that just before speaking, he was pulling the back of his head slightly downward and to the rear. He reasoned that moving his head forward and up ever so slightly would inhibit the tendency to compress. As he became able to do that, he solved his vocal difficulties, and he also found that it freed up every movement he made. Head forward and up, back lengthening and widening became his guiding principle. He taught that the head leads and the body follows. He ascribed people ‘s pulling the head back and down to what he called “end gaining.” That was his term for what is described in other systems as over-attachment to the goal of the movement with the consequent muscle tension and lack of attention to the process of doing the movement. Alexander’s primary way of working was a hands-on process of reeducation. With a very gentle touch, the Alexander teacher pulls outward on the inward muscular contraction. If the pull were strong or abrupt, that would elicit resistance. But when the pull is gentle and feather light, when it whispers to the muscle, then it is felt as inviting not demanding, and the muscles will follow that suggestion. By drawing the body outward, an Alexander teacher opens the client’s body into a state of freedom and balance. From Alexander lessons, I gained the hands-on body work technique of pulling gently outward to release contraction. That fit well with the Six Directions attention and breathing meditation I had already developed.
I did not succumb to the idea that movement initiates from the head. I think Alexander was utterly brilliant in his ability to start from zero and craft a fully developed body awareness system. However, some of what he is doing is effective metaphor rather than biological reality. I was once giving a BIM lesson to a well-known Alexander teacher, and her emphasis on the head leading was interfering with her perception of what her body was really doing. I had her get down on all fours on the floor and crawl forward. I asked her why her body was moving forward, and she replied that it was because her head was extending outward in that direction and her body followed. That was certainly true of her attention, but I explained to her that the physical reason her body moved forward was that her gluteal muscles were contracting and shoving her knees backward against the floor, which resulted in a forward thrust. End gaining, I eventually came to see, is a particular instance of the general process which I call the distress response. The distress response, as described in Chapter 2, is a contraction or collapse of the attention, breathing, posture, and movement when facing a challenge or a threat. The head forward and up and the back lengthening and widening was an antidote to the “smallifying” of the distress response. In that sense, Alexander’s way of working is a particular instance of the more general process of radiance of attention and the somatic expansiveness that generates. In contrast to the Alexander Technique, Aikido focuses on the legs and pelvis. It is the core muscles around the hip joints that create and control movement. Those are the strong muscles in body core, and in Aikido, the hands/arms do not create movement but serve mainly to connect people (or objects) to the defender’s hips so that s/he can move them easily and effectively. Focusing on the core of the body results in a kind of stability that is more martial.
FELDENKRAIS METHOD® OF SOMATIC EDUCATION Moshe Feldenkrais was a soccer player, a judo practitioner, a research physicist, and a hand-to-hand combat instructor for the Jewish underground which fought to establish the state of Israel. Feldenkrais developed his body education approach out of Judo. Judo is a cousin art to Aikido, and like Aikido, judo’s movements focus on the hips as the power source for movement. Also like Aikido, Judo throws are based on going with the flow of the attack movements to create a throw. The Feldenkrais Method® (FM) of somatic education is an educational system which uses guided movement to increase body awareness and improve the ease, balance, grace and effectiveness of action. It does this by helping students become aware of their existing patterns of action and guiding the students in the discovery of additional possibilities for action. Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) lessons are the verbally guided group method, and Functional Integration® (FI) lessons are the hands-on individual method. Awareness is the key to the process underlying the Feldenkrais Method. What students become aware of is the position and feeling of the body itself and the efficiency and comfort of movements. Through the exercises, students learn how to investigate their movements in a nonjudgmental way. They have the time and opportunity to feel how they habitually move and to discover the unconscious ways in which they constrict their bodies and limit their movements.
Chapter 9: History
These unconscious tensions and restrictions waste energy. They produce strain and fatigue. Bringing these restrictions into conscious awareness results in an almost magical transformation. As people feel what they are doing, they will have the natural, automatic experience of choosing easier, gentler, more relaxed and more efficient movement alternatives. There are two things that I learned from the Feldenkrais training and incorporated into BIM bodywork. The first is the strategy of going in the direction of the excess muscle tension. In good Judo as in Aikido, going along with the attacker’s flow of power results in a throw. In hands-on body work, when the Feldenkrais practitioner goes with the contraction, the muscle relaxes. The second thing that I learned was the concept of function. Moshe Feldenkrais was an engineer, and the Feldenkrais Method is just the kind of thing an engineer would come up with. It focuses on movement functions, which are goal-oriented movement sequences. It helps people examine how movement flows through the body, sequencing and linking the body parts. It teaches people to differentiate the parts and then use them as an integrated assemblage. To improve a function, it removes extraneous elements and supplies missing movement components. In the third summer of the Feldenkrais training, I had an aha! experience. It was brutally hot, and I was waiting outside a grocery store for a friend to bring out some drinks. A dog came up the steps into the shade, And just before he started turning in the way that dogs do as they lie down, all of a sudden I knew which direction he was going to turn in. His left ear flopped down, and I could see the muscular ramifications of that through his left shoulder and the left side of his body. This way of seeing movement linkages in the body was beginning to be familiar to me in Aikido, but it was in the Feldenkrais training that I practiced applying it in doing bodywork.
KARATE I chose to study Karate (pronounced Car-ah-tay with even emphasis on all syllables) as a means of improving my Aikido. Aikido and Karate can be thought of as two languages, and by learning to speak the second language, I came to understand my first language better. The martial arts have their roots in the centuries of military conflict that took place in Asia. Under the stimulus of practical necessity, many different combat activities were analyzed and systematized, and the fact that there was constant fighting meant that this development and refinement took place under the stringent, practical conditions of the battlefield. There is a difference between internal and external martial arts. External arts are those which base their training on learning how to execute movements with strength and speed. Internal arts are those which base their training on delicate sensing of the inner mental energy which underlies movements. External arts tend also to be hard and linear. Hard arts are those which meet and destroy attacks with direct force. Soft arts are those which yield to an attacker, go along with the force of the attack and use it against the attacker. The feeling of an art that moves in straight lines will be different from that of an art that moves in spirals and circles. Karate is an external, hard and linear art, and learning it gave me insights into Aikido. In particular, I learned how to move with a crisp precision, which carried into and improved my Aikido and indirectly my body work.
SMILING HEART One of the tools that I use both in Aikido and body work is the Smiling Heart exercise. In Aikido (and in other martial arts as well), there is a focus on the hara. Hara is the core of the body, in the lower abdomen. It is said to be the source of power. It can also be thought of as the pelvis, hip joints, and legs acting as the source power in movement. There is a stream of thought and practice in Aikido which focuses on cultivation of the hara. Many years ago I took a workshop with Stephen and Ondrea Levine. One of the exercises they taught focused on the area of the heart as the seat of compassion in the body. As soon as I experienced that, I realized that much of Aikido was heartless. At least the development of compassion is not an explicit goal of practice. As soon as I experienced it, it was clear that the Smiling Heart exercise was the missing ingredient in Aikido practice. Power without compassion is destructive. And compassion without power is ineffective and useless. And when I began to work with abuse survivors, the ethical use of power became a very important area of teaching.
PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE When I mentioned earlier that some things I studied before I ever got to movement profoundly influenced my approach to movement, I was referring firstly to my BA degree. I am probably one of the few body educators with a background in language analysis philosophy and philosophy of science. For example, when I ask a client what he feels about something, and he says “Sad,” my response would be “No, sad is the name of what you feel, but what you are actually feeling is something in your body. Where in your body are you doing SAD, and what are you doing there?” Awareness of the difference between the sign and the thing that the sign points to is crucial in my approach to helping clients develop awareness of the body and their feelings. I define emotions as physical events in the body, and feelings are what those physical events feel like to the person who is doing them. I usually use a particular example to make the point. I ask a client if they would rather eat the menu or the food when they go to a restaurant. The menu is a verbal description of the food, and in the same way, SAD is the verbal shorthand for the emotion. That understanding of how language functions is straight out of philosophy. My favorite branch of philosophy was the American pragmatists and their instrumental view of language. They were given to saying that the cash value of a word is what you can get done by using it. Aside from the inherent practicality of a martial art, I came from a conceptual background which was focused on the practicality of language. A key element in BIM is operationalizing thoughts, feelings, needs and purposes. Operationalizing means defining abstract ideas by concrete, measurable processes. Let’s take “liking cherry pie” as an example. When you say “I like cherry pie,” what do you mean? You could define liking cherry pie as enjoying eating cherry pie and frequently having the urge to eat some. This kind of definition focuses on your feelings, that is, your subjective mental/emotional relationship to cherry pie. Of course, in daily life, this is precisely what we mean when we say “I like cherry pie.”
Chapter 9: History
However, in testing our thoughts and actions for accuracy and efficacy, this kind of definition will not work. How would you check whether someone likes cherry pie if that meant measuring the strength of their feelings about cherry pie. You can’t directly measure the strength of a subjective urge to eat cherry pies. Language which focuses on practical details that can be checked by practical experiments will work better. You could define “liking pies” as “eating a four ounce slice of cherry pie at least one time per week over a period of three months.” That is an operational definition. It defines the concept by some concrete details that can be measured in a practical way. A person either does or does not eat that amount of pie that frequently, and that can be measured. (Of course the amount of pie, the number of times per week and the length of time are subject to discussion, but whatever the actual numbers might be, a statement based on something you can observe and measure will allow you to get a practical handle on the idea of liking cherry pie.) Using operational language to discuss feelings and thoughts makes them solid and available for study. An hypothesis is essentially a guess or prediction about what will happen in a certain situation. This specific guess can be tested. In movement experiments, I teach students to examine posture and movements as expressing beliefs or expectations about life. In order to help students break free of the weight of their counter-productive habits, I help them reframe their actions as hypotheses and then test those hypotheses. This is an eye opener for many students. If they take the perspective that a movement comes from and expresses an underlying belief, then they can test the truth of that belief by seeing whether the movement is in fact adequate. Often, students experience that what they do doesn’t actually work well and realize from that that what they think and feel isn’t an accurate representation of the way the world really is. Note that the method of moving toward better understanding of some area of life is ideally a process of verification and disconfirmation not solely a process of confirmation. A specific assertion can be conclusively verified. If I say, “The dog is sitting on the couch,” that can certainly be verified. If I look in the living room, and I see the dog on the couch, then my statement has been proved absolutely true. However, the concept of falsifiability is also important in testing hypotheses. Verifiability and falsifiability are related but very different. A verifiable statement is one which is capable of being supported by evidence. A falsifiable statement is one which is capable of being disconfirmed by evidence. Verifiability alone is not enough. To ensure that assertions are good maps of the world, they must be phrased in such a way as to be falsifiable. Non-falsifiable statements cannot be subjected to testing because, in essence, they are not actually making any claims about the way the world is. A non-falsifiable assertion is one that is stated in such a way that every possible turn of events serves to confirm it or that no possible turn of events would serve to disconfirm it. Take for example the statement “When I do the rain dance right, it will rain.” That is non-falsifiable. The idea of right is a fudge factor. If the statement had been “When I do the rain dance, it will rain,” that would be falsifiable. If I were to do the rain dance and it didn’t rain, then the statement is conclusively shown to be wrong. However, the fudge factor would allow me to say every time it didn’t rain, “Oh, yes, I did the dance wrong, but the statement is still true.” However, if an assertion is phrased in such a way that by definition it could never be wrong, then it isn't really making a specific claim that events in the world will turn out one way as opposed to another, and so we cannot use it to effectively guide our actions in the world.
Once an assertion makes a particular claim about how the world is, then we can test the worthiness of the assertion by seeing if the world is or is not that way. This is discussed in more detail in my other books, primarily Winning is Healing. The point is that working with the body offers the opportunity to test our implicit beliefs and in so doing improve ourselves—if we understand the logic of hypothesis construction and testing.
COMPUTER PROGRAMMING It surprises people when they hear me say that computer programming profoundly affects my Aikido and my body work. Shortly after college, I worked for a professor of Library Science at Columbia University. As part of my job, I learned to program an IBM 360 mainframe in the SNOBOL language. Getting the code to say precisely and specifically what I wanted the computer to do was a challenge. When you give humans a suggestion to follow, you don’t have to dot every “i” and cross every “t.” Humans bring a fund of background knowledge to every interaction. Computers, on the other hand, do precisely and only what you actually say. Having an entity replying to a question you actually asked not to the question you meant to ask is very salutary. It makes you pay attention to what you’re actually saying. That specificity was one of the streams of influence that made me essentially a pointillist as a teacher. I find that the broader and deeper my sense of the details of a person’s movement, the better my work with them is. The other way in which computer programming has made a difference is that it got me used to functioning with decision trees. A decision tree is the result of branching choice points. At point A, I can go to B1 or B2. At B1 I can go to C1 or C2. The dividing either/or points form a cascade of decisions which look like a tree when they are drawn on paper. When I execute an Aikido defense technique, the years of practice have developed in me a rapid series of if/then choices of what to do. It’s something like this: if the attacker punches, I go here. And if he kicks, I go there. If he punches and withdraws the punch, then I move in. But if he hangs his punch out and doesn’t retract his arm, then I go there. When I am doing body work, there are similar choice points. If my client gets angry when he talks about his father, then I go into one direction. If he gets depressed, and I go in a different direction. I imagine anybody doing work with the body or the mind would do much the same thing. But having that as an explicit choice cascade makes it more efficient and effective.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION At a certain point, the thought presented itself that if I were going to be taken seriously, I would need an academic degree. So I earned an MA and PhD in Physical education. In one sense, that was a good match. I learned anatomy and physiology, which enhanced my understanding of the body. Kinesiology and biomechanics gave me a better sense of the physics and musculoskeletal foundations of human movement. Studying how to measure and
Chapter 9: History
test people’s posture, movement, and task performance were helpful as well. Even now, when I do Aikido or body work, the sense I have of what’s working under the skin informs my work. I often am asked how a Philosophy student winds up with a degree in Physical Education. My answer is that body work is to philosophy as engineering is to theoretical physics. In another sense, Phys Ed was the wrong place for me. I was concerned with body education, and they were concerned with sports and fitness. One$day,$before$class$started,$a$bunch$of$us$were$sitting$around$waiting$for$the$pro7 fessor$to$come.$$They$were$asking$me$about$my$involvement$in$traditional$Western$sports,$ and$I$had$to$say$that$I$had$never$taken$part$in$anything$that$they$played.$Hearing$that$I’d$ never$ played$ soccer,$ football,$ baseball,$ basketball,$ tennis,$ etc.$ etc.$ etc.,$ they$ asked$ what$ I$ was$doing$a$Physical$Education$program.$I$replied$that$they$threw$balls,$and$I$threw$peo7 ple.$ They$ chewed$ on$ that$ for$ a$ moment,$ and$ then$ said$ that$ I$ was$ okay$ since$ I$ did$ some$ throwing$activity.$$ For$a$long$time,$I$had$been$jotting$down$ideas$about$movement$on$3$x$5$cards.$In$my$ PhD$program,$I$was$told$to$teach$a$course$titled$Movement$and$Self7Awareness,$so$I$pulled$ out$my$3$x$5$cards.$I$extracted$from$the$thousand$or$so$cards$around$thirty$cards$with$the$ key$ ideas$ and$ exercises$ I$ had$ developed.$ I$ organized$ them$ in$ a$ logical,$ ten7class$ progres7 sion$and$jumped$into$teaching$the$material.$It$was$the$first$time$I$had$ever$taught$anything$ but$Aikido,$and$I$was$amazed$to$find$that$I$had$discovered$a$very$powerful$teaching$meth7 od.$Students$were$beginning$to$practice$at$the$end$of$ten$weeks$what$it$had$taken$me$ten$ years$to$figure$out.$By$the$end$of$my$PhD$program,$four$years$later,$I$found$myself$teaching$ primarily$outside$of$Aikido.$I$was$teaching$the$movement$process$I$had$developed$to$peo7 ple$ who$ for$ many$ reasons$ wanted$ to$ learn$ to$ move$ better.$ That$ became$ my$ professional$ focus.$And$the$more$I$taught,$in$diverse$applications,$the$better$I$understood$what$move7 ment$offered$as$a$tool$for$self7examination$and$growth.$
MEDITATION LECTURE In 1969, I attended a lecture on meditation in Berkeley, California. It was a nice lecture, but it was what transpired during the question and answer period that profoundly influenced the way I would teach when I started teaching a number of years later. It was during the Vietnam war, and after the lecture, a radical student stood up and said: “Everything you say about inner peace sounds wonderful, but what are you doing about stopping the war?” The lecturer stopped, smiled, and said, “I’m not interested in stopping the war.” The whole audience gasped! He waited just the right length of time, and then he said: “Every war that has ever been fought was stopped at some point, but a new war comes along after that. I’m interested in starting peace, and that is an entirely different task.” Not stopping the negative, but starting an incompatible positive—that was a profound insight and has affected all my teaching.
HUMOR Very often humor or fractured logic is helpful in creating boundaries and learning to handle pain. Life and death and torture are pretty serious stuff. However, I have found that engaging people in playfulness, very bad puns, and complex trains of non-sequiturs is quite helpful in breaking down the rigid thought patterns involved in powerlessness. Confusion, after all, was a great Chinese philosopher. Escaping the chains of the serious creates new possibilities and facilitates finding a new and better relation to the world. The old Pogo newspaper cartoon taught me a lot about humor. When I was a freshman in college, one of my dorm mates had a number of the books of collected daily Pogo strips, and that started me reading the strip. Down through the years, I was able to collect all the published Pogo books, and I’ve read and re-read them many times.
These six frames were published in a collection of daily newspaper Pogo strips. Gone Pogo, by Walt Kelly. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1961. Page 22.
Chapter 9: History
There is a joke I often use to make the point that though our language encourages us to speak as through mind and body were actually separate and different, that is a very weird way to use language. It’s just as weird to say that mind and body are connected. In a certain sense, mind and body aren’t really connected at all. For two things to be connected, there must indeed be two things. But I think it is most helpful to approach the mind and body as one. Q: What’s the difference between a duck? A: The one leg is shorter than both of the other one. That is a very strange way of speaking about a duck, and speaking of the mind as different from the body is equally strange. It is true that being able to talk about mental aspects and physical aspects of the unitary self is useful, so I think the language of mind and body can be helpful. But we have to be careful not to let it mislead us into thinking there really are two things. Life is a good news/bad news joke. The good news is that through pain and suffering we grow in wisdom and spirituality. The bad news is that there is more good news coming. A student of mine was very shaken when he tuned in to a sensation in his body and all of a sudden re-experienced ritual abuse. When the experience was over and he was present again, I looked at him and asked, “How many ritual abuse perpetrators does it take to change a light bulb?” He couldn’t believe that I was actually saying that. “Thirteen. One to screw it and twelve to chant.” He cracked up laughing and couldn’t stop laughing for minutes. The laughter broke him free from the terror. It’s a pretty tasteless joke all right. But it worked. The point of humor is to help people shift states of consciousness, and the mark of a good joke is that it is helpful in that task.
CONCLUSION BIM hands-on body work and BIM movement education form a seamless whole for me. I move back and forth from one to the other as the contingencies of a particular lesson require. BIM embraces a number of basic principles, and these principles govern both body/movement teaching and hands-on work. BIM can be taught without touching the student. One time I had a student who felt very mistrustful and didn’t want to be touched by a man. I did effective no-touch body work for six months, and then one day she announced that I could touch her. And I have often had mental health professionals in the USA study BIM because they could use it with their clients without having to touch them. However, though BIM can be taught without touch, BIM hands-on work cannot be taught without the rest of the system to draw from. There is one particular difference that is significant: the BIM movement education can be taught to large groups, but I can touch only one person at a time. The hands-on work is much more rapid as a way of communicating with one person, but the group classes are more rapid in the sense that they can communicate to many people at once. I hope that through this book interested readers will be able to understand the inner logic of BIM hands-on work. In the last few years, after more than forty years of practice and teaching of body and movement awareness, the work has boiled down to a simplicity. This is the book I would have liked to have read when I first started figuring out how to do body work.
BIOGRAPHY & WRITINGS PAUL LINDEN is a somatic educator, a martial artist, and an author. He is co-founder of the Columbus Center for Movement Studies and Aikido of Columbus in Columbus, Ohio USA. He is the developer of Being In Movement® mindbody education. He has a B.A. in Philosophy and a Ph.D. in Physical Education, and is an authorized instructor of the Feldenkrais Method® of somatic education. He has been practicing and teaching Aikido for forty-two years and holds a sixth degree black belt in Aikido as well as a first degree black belt in Karate. His work involves the application of body and movement awareness education to such topics as stress management, conflict resolution, performance improvement, and trauma recovery. Papers by Paul Linden are downloadable for free from the website. Books by Paul Linden, all but two are downloadable from the website: • Embodied Peacemaking: Body Awareness, Self-Regulation and Conflict Resolution • Teaching Children Embodied Peacemaking: Body Awareness, Self-Regulation and Conflict Resolution • Reach Out: Body Awareness Training for Peacemaking – Five Easy Lessons (A free download. Also available in German, Spanish and Portuguese) • Comfort at Your Computer: Body Awareness Training for Pain-Free Computer Use (Paper book) • Winning is Healing: Body Awareness and Empowerment for Abuse Survivors • Winning is Healing—Basics: An Introduction to Body Awareness and Empowerment for Abuse Survivors. Also available in German as a paper book titled Das Lächeln der Freiheit • Feeling Aikido: Body Awareness Training as a Foundation for Aikido Practice • Breakfast Essays: Brief Writings on Body Awareness and Life • The Loon Den and Other Strange Rooms (children’s book) • The Adventures of Dirk Steel, Investigative Reporter (children’s book) For more information, go to