The Further Reachings of Rolfing….

Pages: 15-19
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Rolf Lines – (Genérico)


Dear Colleagues,

I have been feeling compelled to share some observations and ideas I’ve had relative to the nature of the work that we do as Rolfers, so here goes…

After fifty or one hundred Rolfing sessions, it becomes increasingly clear that a particular pattern of tension is continuing to manifest because something has still not changed. There is a deeper imbalance, a particular orientation that has not yet been touched or affected. These deeper dimensions cannot be changed by a Rolfer’s hands alone. They are too deep and too elusive to be touched.

Looking at a person’s structure reveals much more than the history of their relationship with gravity. Patterns of myofascial tension and compensation are intricately connected to particular patterns of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, perceptions and experience. Body, mind and spirit are different facets of the same thing, so work on the physical form will certainly have many effects on many levels. But what are those effects and what are those levels? What else do we have our hands on besides fascia? What else besides anatomy? Asking ourselves questions like these is essential in grasping the full scope and potentiality of Rolfing.

An inquiry into the answers to such questions will naturally lead us into the somewhat shadowy realms of psychology and metaphysics, for these are the dimensions of experience that must be explored both to understand persistent, reoccurring patterns of imbalance and to appreciate the full implications of our work.

All systems tend to have a weakness, a blind spot. I hold that ours is in failing to understand the full meaning of the changes our hands precipitate. We know what to do to balance a body, to return it to a basic harmony with it’s environment. We don’t pay much attention to how or why it got that way. This is the weak spot, the gap that many of us have been drawn to fill for ourselves in our own varied ways. The most complete and effective transformations must take all aspects of a particular system into consideration, otherwise, any change that occurs will be bound and limited by elements of the system that are not affected.

I think that it would be very useful for us as Rolfers to begin exploring the further reachings of Rolfing so that we can begin to recognize, acknowledge and encourage more wide-reaching transformations. If we’re really interested in the whole person we need to keep looking for the larger picture.

For the time being, it may not be our job to concentrate on these wider realms in our ten session work with clients or in our basic training. We already have a big job to do. However, the clearer we can be personally as to what is happening there on our Rolfing tables (and when we are receiving work ourselves), the more encompassing and evolutionary our work will tend to be. The embodiment of our vision is central to the continual development of Rolfing. Embodiment necessitates the integration of deeper and deeper aspects of ourselves.

Unwrapping and dissolving one’s deeper disharmonies is an extremely difficult and gradual process. First of all, they are for the most part unconscious and automatic, so much a part of the fabric of our personal existence that they are unseen and unquestioned. Secondly, they spring from a universal and primary ignorance about the nature of reality that tends to be all-pervading. The vast majority of obstacles and barriers we run into while guiding a body back to balance exist because of what is not seen, not seen completely, or misunderstood.

Where there is unconsciousness there can be awareness, where there is ignorance there can be understanding. Awareness and understanding are the keys here for changes to happen at fundamental levels in a natural and balanced way. They are particularly necessary in dealing with two different but related areas of our lives, areas affected by Rolfing, but only indirectly. The first is the psycho-dynamic, our personal history and early development, and it’s specific impact on our body and mind. The other has to do with phenomenalogy, or the nature of reality itself. The first has traditionally been the focus of psychology, the second the concern of philosophy and religion. But many physical problems are psychological problems and most psychological problems are ultimately spiritual problems. All interconnect and are woven into one. Both the psyche and the soul must be integrated along with the physical body for there to be wholeness.

As professionals and as people interested in the whole person, our perception and knowledge must continue to grow and expand so that. we are able to include more in the arena of our expertise.

We know, for instance, that a person’s mind can only expand so far in terms of their self-image and beliefs before they begin running up against the tensions and limitations anchored in their flesh. Likewise, a Rolfee’s body can only open to so much freedom before they will begin running into the inner barriers in their minds; and what’s more, the development and functioning of their minds is based a lot on their experience and relationship with reality.

So patterns of the mind and the being as well as patterns of the flesh must be addressed. I’ve come to believe that these more hidden dimensions are affected only circuitously through physical manipulation and more directly and effectively by increased awareness and understanding.

It seems to me that the first steps in a personal exploration along this path have to do with seeing where we stand in relation to awareness and understanding in terms of our own experience, work and lives. This requires a tremendous amount of dedication and honesty, for the possibility of self-deceit is immense.

The first main barrier to cross is believing and thinking that we are already aware and we already understand. So the most useful attitude to cultivate is one of acceptance of our own ignorance, dropping all our assumptions that we know or understand anything completely.

This cleansing of the old will leave one feeling open, empty and fresh. We become a clean vessel that awareness can come into. Awareness itself is simple, fresh and clear. The old assumptions and habitual perceptions of our minds tend to cloud its purity and channel it into certain prescribed pathways. Letting go of our minds in this way allows a finer, more lucid awareness to manifest. This kind of open-mindedness is most useful in observing our state or situation, and in seeing our clients in a fresh light. Awareness will allow us to see more clearly, deeply and objectively. It is the first step in bringing more into our field of consciousness.

Giving up our assumptions and prior knowledge doesn’t mean negating or throwing away what we already know and perceive. You can always bring them back. It only means setting these things aside to allow our minds and senses to function unhampered by the past. Awareness is a creature of the present moment. It is always fresh, always new, always open to whatever presents itself. It is a real friend and guide for a Rolfer.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of seeing and recognizing only certain things in certain ways. Our minds can become habitual and automatic in such a short period of time. Before we know it, we begin selecting information and conceptualizing our experience according to remembered past situations. This is helpful at times, but it can also blind us to how the moment is actually unfolding. Cultivating pure awareness is the antidote to old, stale ways of seeing human bodies and the world. We become open to any possibility, so our potential for seeing is greatly enhanced.

(In my own practice, I have found that what works best for me is studying anatomy, taking 6-days, learning different models and ways of conceptualizing body structure and function, but then dropping everything from my mind before I begin a session. I try to avoid believing that I know where the client is at and what should happen. If I can become empty enough then both my perceptions and actions seem to be accurate, needed, and effective. It’s really just opening to the discovery of the moment. The results for me have been continually fresh and renewed ways of seeing human beings, bodies, the recipe, and myself. For me, a regular meditation emphasizing awareness has been essential. I like just sitting with my eyes closed and being aware of “what is”. Whatever is in the field of awareness, you are aware of that. If your thoughts wander, you are aware of your thoughts wandering,etc. With time, awareness will clarify and deepen and become a valuable tool with which to work with people).

When there is awareness there can also be understanding. They both augment and support each other. Understanding includes intellectual interpretive processes, but also extends much further. To be complete it must illuminate not only our heads, but also our hearts, bellies, and the very cells of our bodies. This kind of understanding is not a content of’the mind, it becomes an alive, dynamic, transformational force; a flow of perception, insight and comprehension.

As with awareness, a similar process is called for in the development of understanding, i.e. initially taking the open position that we may not really understand our experience in a way that is as accurate and inclusive as possible. Again, what we already believe we know and understand is a main stumbling block in taking our understanding further. Our minds want to know everything, but in trying to know something in the usual manner we are in a sense killing, preserving and storing it for future reference.

Furthermore, because each of us is invested in viewing the world from a certain fixed orientation, we tend to automatically and unknowingly channel our understanding in ways that support our pattern of fixation. In other words, because each of us has an unconscious that has attachments and motivations our capacity for understanding tends to be bound by our own needs.

So, rediscovering the real nature of things as they are requires never taking for granted that we really know anything. It also necessitates an extremely open, accepting and non-attached attitude that is pure and motiveless.

Genuine understanding is a process that occurs spontaneously when the barriers to it are removed. It’s generation is a natural function of the mind. Continually drawing on stored information, or desiring to maintain a certain status quo, will inhibit the mind’s functioning and prevent true understanding. When the mind is empty, clear and aware, understanding will occur effortlessly in precisely the way in which it is needed and called for in the situation.

The effects of understanding on imbalanced myofascial patterns are subtle but powerful, far-reaching and not to be under-estimated. Understanding sheds light on parts of our being that tend to exist in darkness. As these deeper aspects of ourselves are brought to light, they are also brought into focus. What was thick and opaque becomes clarified and transparent. The shadows of ignorance and misunderstanding begin to dissipate and dissolve. Letting go of chronic holding patterns becomes easier as they are untangled, sorted out, and seen objectively.

As I mentioned, the transformative actions of awareness and understanding must be applied both psycho dynamically and existentially so that the individual’s physical integration will be multi-dimensional.

One way to organize the content of our understanding in the beginning is to apply it in looking at certain timeless and universal categories of experience issues or challenges that we all must face and deal with as human beings; life experiences such as emptiness, effort, support, vulnerability, aloneness, death, love, security, hurt, trust, pain, pleasure,self-image, deficiencies, identity, etc. Every human being has both a history and relationship with each of these experiences and many others like them. And each of these phenomena have a marked and often specific effect on the consciousness and hence the physical body of the individual.

Time and inspiration permitting, I am planning to explore several of these issues in more detail in future issues of “Rolf Lines”. The basic manipulative/educational work that we do is obviously essential and must continue to be developed and refined. But it is my firm belief that the continuing evolution of Rolfing will depend less on our technical skills and more on the depth and accuracy of our own collective and personal perception and understanding of the whole person and the human potential.

Best Regards,
Bob Ball
Certified Rolfer
Traverse City, MIThe Further Reachings of Rolfing….

To have full access to the content of this article you need to be registered on the site. Sign up or Register. 

Log In