Reflections Massage Therapy

Exploring rigidity January 28, 2012

Filed under: CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 11:39 am
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“For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” – James Baldwin

This quote has resurfaced in my life after almost a year and it just so happens to jive beautifully with where my mind has been these days. So, I thought I’d bring it in again, revisiting the notion of nothing ever being fixed. That’s what happens when nothing is ever fixed, we get to revisit old places and see what’s changed.

Last week my yoga teacher asked, over and over, “Where is your rigidity?” The third time I was in a standing forward fold in a completely different position than I’d ever been in when approaching that pose, and initially, after cursing the universe, I responded in my head “It’s in my @#$#!% hamstrings!” But, instead of shouting that into her encouraging face, I breathed and sunk deeper into the pose and it was then that I understood what she meant.

Where is your rigidity? In that moment, my rigidity was around doing a pose in a different way. It was in the fact that I wanted to move in a different way than she was telling me, solely because that’s the way I’ve always done it. I was out of the groove that I’d so diligently created by executing the same motion over and over again. My rigidity was in the fact that I was so focused on the discomfort of trying this pose in a new way that I failed to recognize the depth and openness I was finding in places in myself that that pose usually never accessed.

Sometimes rigidity can show up in the form of pathologizing. The most clear definition of pathologizing is to “Regard or treat (someone or something) as psychologically abnormal or unhealthy.” And we do this all the time in our bodies and minds. We fixate on pain or patterns, feeling that it’s wrong that they exist. And we fixate on changing them, making them be something else, making them go away. And often in the process of them, we make ourselves wrong, for having or experiences that which we’re pathologizing. But here’s the thing. Those patterns are there for a reason, they are your system’s way of managing its experience, and they are, in essence, a brilliant mechanism – a learned behavior or pattern. And we may not like them, or want them there, but they served a purpose at one time. Maybe they no longer serve us and then we enter into the work of letting go. But that’s awfully challenging when we’re so fixated on changing them. That seems contradictory, I know. But, let me explain. When we fixate on something, we hold it in place. We focus our attention on it, we get myopic, and we take away any space that thing might need to shift into something else. Because here’s the thing, and I know it’s not the first time I’ve said this here, everything’s always changing, all the time. Even that which we’re pathologizing. And by fixating on it, we don’t let it change.

So, my curiosity these days is around the small ways that we can make space for those things we once pathologized. Give them a little bit of room in some way to do things differently, and see what happens. Be encouraging of their shift, instead of judgmental of the reasons they’re there

Listen, as a control freak I am well aware that this is a daunting task. The idea of stepping back and letting something unfold as it will, as it needs to, with no say on my part, it’s frankly a bit difficult for me to grasp sometimes. Particularly as a massage therapist, I’m trained to think that I need to do something to a muscle or a joint to effect some change. But CranioSacral is teaching me that in fact sometimes the most powerful doing comes in simply listening, supporting and trusting that the body knows exactly what it needs to do to move out of a pattern. My most powerful doing is in being present with the entire process. And I have to tell you, that is no easy task.

So, I return again to this question of rigidity. Is my rigidity in thinking that I need to do something, always? Is it in not feeling safe enough to relinquish my illusion of control? Is my rigidity fundamentally in not trusting the very system that I am in contact with – be it my own or someone else’s?

A very dear friend of mine once said to me, “Don’t pathologize your neuroses.” Let me tell you that in and of itself is a practice. But here’s the thing. All of those things that we pathologize, all of those things that we make wrong, we learned them – either consciously or unconsciously. And as such, we can learn something else, some other way of being, of coping, of managing, of surviving, of existing and expressing. It is absolutely possible. After all, you did it once before.


both/and – on embodying dualities January 12, 2012

Filed under: CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 11:14 pm
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It’s been just over a month now since my last CranioSacral training and it almost feels that it’s taken that long to digest and integrate the profound work that was undertaken at the beginning of December.

Part of why Cranio gets me all jazzed up is because it’s full of all kinds of interesting information (at least I, an anatomy nerd, find it interesting) about the human body. And I like to relay that information sometimes, so I’ll pass this one along to you, dear reader. Your mandible (the jaw bone) fits into your pelvic bone. That’s right. I said it. Everyone’s is unique to themselves, but each person’s mandible fits snug into their pelvic bowl. What?!?! Yup.

Now this happens to me a lot in Cranio training, I learn something about the body and then can’t get it out of my head. And this time, I am so fascinated by that design that I can’t help but ponder what the intention is and what the ramifications are that a place that is the facilitator of self-expression directly correlates to the core of our core, the basin in which all of our undigested experiences are held. To quote Stone: “In the pelvic basin at the bottom is the sum total force accumulation of sensory tension and emotional frustration.” I’ll give you a moment with that thought, but I will also say, this is no coincidence in my book and here’s where I go with it.

We hold an enormous amount in our pelvis, that’s not news to anyone who has attempted to do a yoga pose or hula-hoop. Our hips go on lock down, perhaps as an attempt to keep us upright, keep us stable, keep us moving through the world at break-neck speed, in essence keep us able to keep doing what we’re doing – regardless of whether or not it is actually serving us. And like-wise, what do you do when there is something that you need to say and you can’t say it for whatever reason? Clench down your jaw, grit your teeth, bite your tongue. Again, allowing the status quo to maintain, for better or worse. All of which result in capping off the top end of a chain that stems from holding deep in the core. Even if you haven’t actually been present at the birth of a child, I’m sure you’ve got some grasp of the birthing process and the screaming that often takes place. Think of that. The woman is trying to release something from her pelvis and her jaw loosens to allow her mouth to open and whatever agony she may be feeling in the moment to escape by means of a tribal scream. Release.

Do our jaws correlate with our pelvi (I’m not actually sure that’s the correct pluralization but I’m going to roll with it) to give us a means of releasing the experiences that we hold in them? Perhaps. It’s certainly something to think about.  Perhaps it is once again the brilliance in our design shining through that we have a built-in release valve. And a way to access trauma indirectly. Since the jaw reflexes to the pelvis, one might hold tension in the jaw that is a referral from the pelvis, but that also means that by working the jaw one could access a part of the whole that may be too activated to receive direct work. How brilliant is that?!

But I think there’s something deeper to it. I think there’s something in this design that speaks to embodying dualities. How, you may be asking, can I make that jump? But, hear me out. The north pole and the south both, up/down, top/bottom – we of course contain dualities (as a side note, I’m choosing not to delve into the possibilities of multiplicities rather than dualities – that’s a whole different entry), but this correlation of mandible and pelvis illustrate not only how those dualities are embodied, but how they relate to one another, how they communicate and connect and share the burden and joy of their roles in our design. And I think this is an important thing to consider when it comes to dualities – the ways in which they support each other. I won’t get into the clichés of light needing darkness in order to help it shine the brighter (see previous post), but I think you get where I’m going with this. So here in the body we have a beautiful example of two areas that are both highly charged and can be enormously sensitive, helping each other out.

I realize that I get really fired up about weird stuff, but I’m going to just throw it out there to you: maybe while you’re out walking or sitting or settled nicely into pigeon pose (or trying to convince your hip flexors to get on board to do a tele turn), invite your awareness into your pelvis, see what’s happening there – no judgment, just witness. And then move up to your jaw and see what you notice – move back and forth between to two with curiosity visualizing the shape of your pelvic bowl and your mandible. I have a feeling that amazing things are possible when that channel is connected. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to both give voice to your pelvis and give deep core support to your voice.

And maybe still there is the possibility of a deeper embodiment of duality and embracing of “both/and” rather than “either/or.” I think there is something intrinsically related to release and ease when we can open to the dualities that are inherent in our systems and recognize that there’s room for all of it. Sometimes creating space for something just means making connections.




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