Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration – Vol. 45 – Nº 2

Volume: 45

From Anne Hoff: This interview was conducted in the spring of 2015, when both of us were in a class with Will Johnson on his view of embodying the ‘Line’ and its support for meditation practice. Part 1 of this interview, “The Work of ‘The Work’: An Interview with Ray McCall” was published in the March 2016 issue of this Journal.

Ray McCall

Anne Hoff

Anne Hoff: We talked earlier [see “The Work of ‘The Work’: An Interview with Ray McCall” in the March 2016 issue] about the ‘tension’ between one  group of Rolfers who are very orientied toward physical pressure and using that to change tissue, and others who are more drawn to the energetic taxonomy and subtle forms of work. And, of course, there are many  in our Rolfing Structural Integration (SI) community who do both. In terms of the divide between these camps, do you locate yourself somewhere on one side, in the middle, or do you flow back and forth?

Ray McCall: I like to think I flow back and forth according to the client’s body, and psyche. One of our goals is to teach a broad spectrum [of touch]. Some people need very direct, even forceful contact  to feel themselves, or to feel change . . . other people, if you do that, you override their nervous system and they dissociate. So I think people need to leave the Basic Training (BT) with the ability, at least to some degree, to work across the spectrum of contact.

AH: How do you recognize how to work with particular clients?

RM: By their response. You touch, you give input, and you see whether they contract, or whether they stay connected/engaged, and does the body respond? Does the body shut down? So – you listen.

AH: Talk a bit about some of the more subtle things you’ve studied and where you see their connection to the lineage of Ida P. Rolf.

RM: Certainly the craniosacral work. And then the work that I did with Bob Schrei in SourcePoint Therapy®: exploring a way to work effectively within the energetic taxonomy that was accessible and effective. And my whole meditation practice. [I think these have] reinforced my connection to the lineage, because when you really start researching and rereading what Dr. Rolf wrote, the whole energetic element is there. She was interested in it; she worked with it. So for me, it has expanded my perception of my work, and reinforced what I’ve always thought.

AH: When you teach, how do you bring these elements into the classroom so it’s still Rolfing SI? How do you help students assimilate these orientations?

RM: Well, that is one of the most complex, challengingquestionsorpartsofteaching.Part of it is that we don’t seem to have an agreed- upon definition of “What is Rolfing SI?”

So that complicates, confounds the issue right from the get-go. Historically, there is always the anecdote of Emmett Hutchins asking Dr. Rolf if he stood across the room and thought of the psoas lengthening and the interosseus membrane opening, and you saw it happening, and the person was integrating more into gravity, was that Rolfing SI? And the story I’ve heard is that she considered and she said, “Yes, I think so.” The conclusion that has been drawn from that is that Rolfing SI is defined by its goals and results, not by its techniques. So whether you use hard, direct touch or soft touch is not the point. I tend to agree with that point of view.

The downside of that view is that, then, the question becomes “What is not Rolfing SI?” And we have never taken on that question, not discussed it or dealt with it, or come up with an answer. Jeff Maitland framed the question with the following analogy.  If you have ice cream, you might have strawberry, or you might have chocolate, or vanilla, they are all ice cream. But when does it stop being ice cream and start being something else? So is sorbet an ice cream?

Most people say probably not. So if you are doing craniosacral work, is it Rolfing SI? I don’t think so. It has a different premise, it has a different way of working, a different way of evaluating results, etc.

Another way to talk about it is, each of these modalities is a song. You can hear a different rendition of a song, and still recognize it as, for instance, “Send in the Clowns.” So when is a way of working no longer a rendition but a different song? When is something an ‘adjunct modality’? Rolfers like to produce results, so in their practices if they couldn’t accomplish what they wanted, they explored other modalities. So we went into craniosacral [work], we went into visceral [manipulation], we went into Somatic Experiencing®, etc. And people always say, “Well, when those things are done by a Rolfer, they are different” – implying better, more effective than when done by someone just trained in that ‘song’. That drives me a little crazy because – what makes it different, better, when a Rolfer does it? We never define what it is. I think to some degree we are self-serving in affirming our uniqueness, that if a Rolfer does it, it’s different/better. But back to your question of “How do you deal with that in a class.” I hold it as a broad spectrum of touch. Like someone may have trained and used muscle testing as his diagnostic. That’s okay with me, but I still want him to be able to explain to me what he’s doing, and how it serves integration and relating the body, the structure, to the ‘Line’ and gravity.

What is the fundamental tune/song of Rolfing SI? If we are going to use other modalities of intervention, we have to make sure we know when we are doing that. If we want to start singing a different song, we have a responsibility to inform the client. We may need to renegotiate the therapeutic relationship. And does what we are doing support, produce, the goals of Rolfing SI? At the end of the session is the body better related to gravity so that gravity is a resource rather than a liability?

AH: I find your metaphor of the song really interesting, because musicians nowadays make mash-ups of songs, right? Some of those are very melodic and pleasing, but it’s clear that they are two different songs put together and you recognize that. I think that’s the challenge when you have these other modalities and you do them well – finding out individually as a practitioner and us finding out as a community when are we just very nicely using a few different things and when are we actually integrating them into the SI vision.

RM: I had an interesting experience recently when I did one session and it was a very straightforward, tissue, direct-pressure, classical Rolfing session, and then the next client who came in, it was very much what I would call an energetic session. And the aha – and this is still a working premise, it’s not a conclusion – was that I felt like I was doing the same thing in both sessions, I was organizing the body’s relationship to gravity.  The energetic session was like in  a different octave, a different vibrational state; one could also say ‘played in a different key’. It was still the same song, but it had a different quality. I’m fascinated by this, and I have many more questions than answers.

AH: Say you’re teaching an Advanced Training (AT) and you have some students who have studied other pieces that they bring into their work, can you recognize whether they’ve ‘brought it into the song’ or whether it’s a different song that they’re melding in at the moment, but it’s not integrated?

RM: First and foremost, be it a Basic or Advanced class or a workshop, when I approach the table I ask students what they’re doing, what they’re trying to accomplish. In addition to what the student tells me, I have a felt sense in my own body. And what is the client’s response? Is his body becoming more coherent, more organized, or not? Sometimes students will want to do subtle work before they are really able to, and so they will be sitting there holding the body and nothing’s happening. If an experienced practitioner or instructor is sitting there holding the body, there’s a whole lot that’s going on. Students may or may not be able to see what it is, depending on their mode of seeing. Given all those factors, the litmus test is always when the person stands up and walks: Is the client more organized in gravity or not? Is there a greater expression of contralateral movement? If not, then you have a conversation with the student about that.

AH: So, do you bring any of the subtle pieces you’ve learned into the AT,  and  if so, how do you bring them in, so that students can contextually hold it in the Rolfing ‘song’?

RM: The agreed-upon syllabus is that 20% of the time, which is five of the twenty- four days, you can present what your interest, passion, or orientation is. In terms of the energetic approach, I find it is most effective in informing how people presence themselves when they are working. When we did the first peer workshop in Phoenix (Jeff Maitland and I put that  together), we asked the faculty that attended, “Do you do energetic work in your office?” Everyone said they did. When we asked, “What is it that you do, when you say you do energetic work?”, without exception, what they reported, is that they managed a state shift in their own being/presence/ body. So one of the ways that elements of the energetic taxonomy can be introduced is to consciously manage your own awareness – e.g. presence in the back of your body; a touch that lets the body shape your hands, rather than you needing to shape it. You know the catch phrase, ‘work locally, perceive globally’? So when a person has a hand on the body in a location, say the knee, you cue him to expand his awareness, perception, to include the foot and the hip and maybe even the space around the body. So those are ways that I incorporate those techniques.

AH: Do you find that most students are able to get it?

RM: The bell curve is alive and well. I would say there are approximately 30%  of our membership who are interested in the subtle/energetic taxonomy. Another 30% are oriented to a more direct linear approach, and then 40% are somewhere in the middle. Regardless of a person’s interest and orientation, if you, as an instructor, try to force someone to work in a way that he or she cannot relate to, it doesn’t go well. Students have to have a skill set that they feel confident in, so that they can then go out and explore the territory and learn. When you are out there doing the work, the energetic phenomena will present itself whether you want it to or not. So I try to provide some basic hooks to hang things on when they arise. I also feel that if I haven’t demonstrated or shown something that they go, “Wow, what was that?”, and if I haven’t given them something to aspire   to and want to learn about and grow into, then I haven’t done my job. So I attempt  to meet the various students where they are, and the reality is, you’re not going to satisfy everyone’s needs all the time. It’s necessary for students to take responsibility for learning the work.

I often say that Rolfing SI is a self-taught art. And it takes time; this is why Ida said it takes three to five years. Go out there and practice. One of the highest compliments   I ever received was when a student said, “You’ve not only taught us the ‘Recipe’, you’ve taught us how to learn to do the work.” It’s like the quote from Richard Feynman, the physicist, “I’m fine with not knowing. I’m much happier not knowing than having a false answer.” So students who want it concrete and linear may find my classes more challenging than those who are on the other end of the scale.

AH: Let’s talk some about the energetic taxonomy.

RM: In the energetic taxonomy you’re relating to the ground matrix and the substance out of which volume and three- dimensionality come. So if you’re relating to that reality, then whatever arose out of that is being addressed. I’ve always been fascinated by the Line. I’m trying to see how the whole system relates to the Line.

AH: Are you seeing the Line or are you sensing the Line?

RM: I sense it in myself; I either see or imagine it (‘imagine’ is different than ‘make up’). And I sense/see it in clients. I can see when the body is relating to the Line and

when it isn’t. The powerful thing that arose out of Bob Schrei’s and my conversations around SourcePoint is that the usual therapeutic relationship has the Rolfer and the client as a dyad: A-to-B, B-to-A. As the practitioner, when we relate to the place/ reality where the formless comes into form – it could be called the ‘Ur’ phenomenon, or the blueprint, or whatever – if I’m relating to that and also relating the client to that, then something very different happens. It creates a triad: we are relating to each other and I am relating both of us to the source of order and health. I don’t do that constantly in a session but that is my orientation, my intentionality. That is the context in which I hold the session.

AH: So is this ‘formless’ and ‘form’ the ‘emptiness’ and ‘form’ of the Heart Sutra? Or the Mahamudra ground that Will Johnson refers to?

RM: I’m not sure. The Buddhists talk about how form comes into manifestation on this pIane. The analogy is, first there is vapor, then there is mist, and then there is rain: the formless condensing into form In the various treatment modalities each one has a story as to what creates order, form, and health, these explanations are about phenomena after the event of manifestation. If you reference the place from whence those manifestations arise, it’s like you’ve gone to a . . .

AH: Source!

RM: Yes. And a more powerful way of working. And ‘powerful’ makes if sound like you’ve gotten a longer lever with which to move something, but for me, the experience when I work that way is it’s the Taoist ‘the effort of no effort’.

AH: This brings the question back to the ‘song’ of Rolfing SI, or the song of any modality. Is there a relationship between the long tide [of craniosacral work] and the Line, or are they different songs? Do they have a common source?

RM: Not to be glib, but one could posit that everything has a common source . . . we don’t really know. But, about the long tide and the Line. Back to how each modality has its story about how form, order, health come about. In the biodynamic craniosacral (BDCS) world they say that the long tide creates and sustains form, order, health. In the Rolfing SI world we say that the Line creates and sustains form, order, health. (Ida  Rolf  said,  “Man  is  something built around a line.”) They are different in that the long tide is not an energetic structure and the Line is. (More about the function of energetic structures in a moment.) This difference is why I think BDCS work and Rolfing SI are different songs. Both are periodic, vibratory phenomena, but it gets too complicated to go there in this context.

We usually try to make the Line (an energetic structure) socially acceptable by saying that it’s a precursor of the spine and incorporated into the spine. So how does the Line function as an energetic structure in its own right? The closest analogy I’ve come to is this: if you had a piece of paper and you had iron filings on it, and you held a magnet under it, you would see the filings align with the (invisible) force field of the magnet. The magnet is physical like a spine. So take the magnet away, shake the paper to unalign the filings. Draw a picture of a magnet on a piece of paper (you now have a visual symbol of a magnet) and hold it under the paper with the iron filing on it. ‘Magically’ the iron filings again align in the force field of the (now) nonexistent physical magnet. The visual symbol (picture) of the magnet is analogous to an energetic structure.

In the development of the embryo, you have the primary streak, which then turns into the somites, which turns into the notochord, which turns into the spine. These all arise, if you will, out of the energetic structure of the Line.

AH: It seems like there are relationships between modalities, and that the exploration of those relationships might help clarify where there are overlaps and where there aren’t. But back to formlessness, and to Will Johnson’s work, when you sit in meditation and your Line is present, that seems to open the body in a way that phenomenologically you can begin to feel the  emptiness of the body.

RM: I am not exactly sure what you mean by the “emptiness of the body.” I would probably say the emptiness of everything. But that is a much longer conversation.

AH: Say a little bit more about presence as you work. The first time I saw you work, you came into a class I was in, maybe Unit 3, and you did a demo that was very palpable. You didn’t speak a lot, but there was definitely presence enveloping the space of you and the client, not detachment but a very engaged, in-the-field-with-the- client presence.

RM: So when you said it was “palpable,” how did you experience it? How did you know that was happening?

AH: There was a stillness in the field. During some demonstrations, when a teacher is working, students are in the back, whispering to each other, “What’s he doing?”, or whispering to the assistant instructor, “Tell me what he’s doing.” I don’t remember any of that going on. There was a sense that people were impacted by the presence, and were respectful of it. The room was holding the container that was extending from the presence of what you were doing with the client. And there was this palpable depth and stillness that could be recognized and that elicited a certain respect.

RM: There are several ways to talk about it. One way would be that the field entrained those in the room. I think I have a pretty powerful field when I work. When I teach a class, I instruct the students to hold space for the demos. So I verbally cue people to do what you saw. And their doing it in the room without being told – it’s interesting.

So the client is there for the students, to be of service for their learning; I think the most important thing for them to learn is how the practitioner relates to the client. I listen, and I do consider it a sacred event, so I relate to it that way. And this goes all the way back to what I said [in the first part of this interview] about that weeklong meditation I did before assisting the first time, which was the best preparation that I could have done. First we have to be present with ourselves. So whatever arises, we can hold/ manage/allow, not act out, etc. In being present with ourselves, then we can be a clear mirror, we can be present for others. I don’t need something from them. I don’t need them to get better, I don’t need them to look a certain way. It allows me to give them the space and the freedom to have their experience. And I think that’s part of that quality that I think you were describing. I mean, I never thought or talked about it this way before; but there’s that quality within myself, there’s that quality between myself and the client, and that quality with those in the room.

AH: You’ve taught workshops on seeing, right? What drew you to making that a topic for a whole workshop?

RM: Well, from the very beginning, we’ve always talked about seeing, and how very important seeing was, and that Dr. Rolf could ‘see’. That’s why she did the amazing things she did. But we never directly taught the skill of seeing. It was always a concomitant skill set. And so for years I’ve been trying to figure out, since it’s important – it’s essential – I’ve been trying to figure out ways to teach seeing. And the workshop in Phoenix with Jeff Maitland was our attempt at that.

AH: How did it go?

RM: Aaahh . . . for some people, it was life-changing. There was one person, just being seen resulted in her having a whole experience of her core that she had never known existed before. No hands-on work; just being seen. This comes out of Goethe and phenomenology. It’s covered in some detail in Jeff’s newest book, Embodied Being. [Editor’s note: Ray McCall’s review of that book is in the March 2016 edition of this Journal.]

AH: It’s so interesting when you say that what evoked change for that person was being seen.

RM: That seeing someone is an intervention.

AH: Does that mean that we’re usually not seeing someone?

RM: Well, I don’t think you can see someone if you have an agenda. So in classes, when we’re looking at someone to try to figure out what to do in a session, we have an agenda. So we’re already looking through a filter that distorts what we see. We already have something we think the person has or doesn’t have, so s/he feels judged and feels like an object. The degree to which we can see someone is the degree to which we are willing to be seen. So if we can be – and this goes back to presence – if we can be present, without an agenda, then we can let the person’s reality form our perception. It’s like when we touch someone, can we let his or her leg shape our hand? Can we let his or her reality shape our perception?

AH: In the trainings, there’s work on how we language. Like instead of saying to the client “I need to fix your right shoulder, it’s too high,” we elicit their body’s participation by wondering “What would it be like to feel your shoulder here?” while indicating with our hands. What you are talking about seems like even a further step, where you’re not imposing at all, but you’re inviting that being to have the space to speak to you.

RM: To express who it is, in the way it wants to. Which for me is the goal of Rolfing SI.

AH: And so rather than looking at the body as something we have to shape into a Line . . .

RM: It already has a Line; it has to relate to its Line. Or maybe the Line is not  there – I saw someone who had had a tragic car accident, whose Line was outside the body.

AH: You could see it, or sense it, or what?

RM: I don’t see it the way I see the door or, you know, a statue, it also happens with my eyes closed. So it’s a kind of knowing, and one of the things I’ve had to do over the years is to give myself permission to know things without knowing how I know them.

AH: So how do you work with students, and their different ways of seeing?

RM: I’m trying to teach seeing by having them look at relationships and how these relate to the midline. It is my experience that in order to see you have to be present. You have to let go of the agenda. You have to be willing to put your hands on and let whatever you thought you were going to do totally go out the window. And what I stress over and over and over, my litany/mantra, is “test, intervene, retest.” So I want people to do a diagnostic, I want them to do the work, and then repeat the same diagnostic, in the same way, in the same taxonomy. That’s the way you teach yourself how to do the work.

AH: We were just in a class together with Will Johnson. His books all seem to speak to the idea that when a person is present, aware of his or her Line, something ‘spiritual’ can happen, a change in state.

RM: It certainly is a change in state of conscious. And if in fact (which I do believe) the Line is the energetic structure out of which the form arises, if you relate back to that primal beginning, you’re going to have access to that out of which the Line arose. Wow. I’ve never said that before. That’s interesting!

AH: Yes, it is! Thanks so much for this rich and inspiring discussion.

Ray McCall has a master’s degree in structural linguistics. He completed his basic Rolfing certification in 1978 and his advanced certification in 1981. He joined the Rolf Institute® faculty in 1997. He teaches Basic and Advanced Trainings and continuing education workshops both in the U.S. and overseas. He has also trained to instructor level in biodynamic craniosacral therapy. He is interested in how change happens and how form manifests out of the formless. He is also interested in making old cars look good and go fast.

Anne Hoff is a Certified Advanced Rolfer in Seattle, Washington, a teacher of the Diamond Approach® to inner work, and the Editor-in- Chief of this Journal.

DIAMOND APPROACH is a registered trademark of The Ridhwan Foundation in the U.S., Europe, and various other countries.Energy, Geometry, and Presence[:]

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