“You can’t do what you want till you know what you’re doing.” – Moshe Feldenkrais
What is this mindfulness stuff you keep talking about Mike? And why is it important anyway?
Right! What’s the big deal? Your body hurts, you heard that Rolfing Structural Integration can really help resolve your pain, so why do you need to be mindful? Can’t you just go get Rolfed and be good to go?
Maybe. It depends on the person and what’s going on for them at that particular time. I’ve had a ton of clients over the years come in, go through a program we put together of pretty straightforward Rolfing in Austin work, get great results, and go on back into their lives happy and feeling much, much better. I’ve also discovered that it’s not always that simple.
Most of the time, the pain that motivates people to come in to see me is not the result of an accident, or a specifically-identifiable incident. Usually, bodies have just kind of “broken down” as the result of many factors – the aging process, chronic stress, bad habits, psychological and/or emotional states of being, etc. – and the pain has been creeping in for a LONG time. One day it’s just too much to work around or through anymore, the body says “Enough is enough,” the signal gets really loud, and help is finally sought out.
The unifying factor among the tremendous variety of people that seek out Rolfing Structural Integration is this: a habit. Those habits are killers, and they’re created for many reasons. Sometimes the pain itself creates a movement habit; you’ve been dealing with back pain for so long that you now don’t even notice that you chronically tense your back and shoulders to brace yourself for a possible spasm. Maybe you were in the military and you can’t help but to constantly stand rigidly at attention. Or you work at a computer 50 hours a week and have a slouch built into your posture. And then there are even trickier ones, the ones based on belief systems. Sometimes, for example, we believe that it’s just not OK to not be productive (Type A’s out there – this is one of you talking to you – this can be a big problem for your body over time), so we’re in a constant state of tension and movement, never doing the rest thing very well.
These habits become your software, the system running your hardware (aka your body). A lot of people get relief from Rolfing or other bodywork without going near the habits. But, if you’re addressing the physical impact of these habits through bodywork without bringing awareness to the habits themselves, you will most likely continue the patterns that created the pain in the first place, and the symptoms will probably return.
So, how do you “do” mindfulness, and what’s it look like in a Rolfing Structural Integration session?
Mindfulness, in a nutshell, is being in the moment and observing the moment. In my practice you could call it guided self-study. It’s not meditation, but it’s meditative. It’s a slower-paced, reflective state of self-observation and non-judgment toward your experiences right in the present moment. I act as your guide into your internal environment as we talk, do hands-on work, and learn about what arises as we go. I don’t know what we’re going to find when we embark on our journey, we’re discovering this territory together, but I know some typical sign posts as we go along. Your job is to simply report on your experience – things like physical sensations that arise, images, impulses, memories, or emotions that come up.
My job as a Rolfer Austin is to help you gain a deeper understanding of that territory, so I may ask simple questions as we go to help fill out the picture of what you’re reporting, or offer small experiments along the way so we can study the impact on your system. For instance, I may say something simple (and nice) like, “It’s OK to rest.” If you have a belief that it’s not OK to rest, your system will usually have a pretty quick response. In a state of mindful awareness, it’s usually pretty obvious what the impact of that statement is, whether it’s tension that arises somewhere in the body, a loud internal voice that says “No it’s not!” or an impactful memory of a time when it wasn’t OK. Then, we have an amazing piece of new information which probably wasn’t available to you in your normal day-to-day awareness. We know that it’s not just that your body needs to be fixed, but that you need to address a deeper part of your world that you didn’t know about before. And, you have a deeper understanding of why it is that your body is creating the symptoms that brought you in.
That begins the re-wiring of your software to a system with greater freedom and greater balance. That is the beginning of actual healing. Not just fixing the broken-down body, but understanding why it broke down in the first place. New information gives you more awareness about your habits, which gives you more choices and more power if you find yourself in that habit again. Then, you have the true fix.
If you’re interested in experiencing Rolfing Structural Integration and mindfulness for yourself, or if you have any questions, feel free to contact me anytime. I’m happy to answer your questions.