Doing Bodywork as a Spiritual Discipline

An exploration of the subtler, deeper pathways of communication with another through touch-pathways that do not create peace but, rather, disclose the peace that is already there, waiting to be discovered.
Pages: 3-9
Year: 1990
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Rolf Lines – (Genérico)

An exploration of the subtler, deeper pathways of communication with another through touch-pathways that do not create peace but, rather, disclose the peace that is already there, waiting to be discovered.


I know have chosen their profession as part of an ongoing process of transformation for themselves as well as for their clients. They meditate or pray, they encourage their own self-awareness in order to develop their spiritual riches, they continuously examine, test and revise their values, and often they participate in groups devoted to these interests.

A commonplace of spiritual teaching is that growth comes not simply from the entertainment of enlightened ideas, but from “practice,” the daily shaping of our activity in the light of those ideas. We manifest our ideas in behavior, we live them. “Practice” is the detail work of spiritual growth, the retraining of habits. It requires that in the twists and turns of our doings we keep a steady hold on the ideas that have captured our allegiance, while at the same time allowing experience to teach us not only whether they are true but what they mean. Suzuki Roshi speaks of this creative relationship between idea and action:

Zen is not some fancy, special art of living. Our teaching is just to live, always in reality, in its exact sense. To make our effort, moment after moment, is our way. In an exact sense, the only thing we actually can study in our life is that on which we are working in each moment. We cannot even study Buddha’s words. To study Buddha’s words in their exact sense means to study them through some activity which you face moment after moment 1.

Because we spend time at it and be-cause we care about it, bodywork is one of the important arenas for our spiritual practice. We have learned a particular professional technique which brings its own set of values, and we can use the work as a means for putting those professional values into the light of our more general spiritual values, and vice-versa. Also, the very physicality of body working our own bodies to interact with others’ bodies-is particularly advantageous for spiritual development, because we cannot be satisfied simply with the articulation of ideas. The work itself demands a thorough transmutation of idea into action.

The purpose of this article is to offer both a conceptual framework and some concrete steps for bringing spiritual discipline to bear on the daily activity of body work.


A working hypothesis of this paper is that the evocation of peace is the funda-mental act undertaken in bodywork and, in fact, in all healing processes. By “peace” I do not mean a state of inactivity or completion, but of “at-home-ness 2.” Peace is a quality that underlies and gives meaning to the infinite variety of human doings. When it is clearly present, activity has an artistic quality-of being there simply as manifestation or expression, the effervescence of one’s nature.

The alternative is action arising from desire, or need, or anxiety “attachment,” as the Buddhists call it. Attachment pits our personal coherence against an endless succession of threats or enticements and its mode of action is what we call stress (using the term in its popular sense, not Hans Selye’s more technical defini-tion.3) Sustained stress falls into the patterns of inappropriate musculo skeletal tension and imbalance that we work within the somatic disciplines and that we sometimes call “character” 4.

The coherence of the body seems to be determined by the network of tension in the myo fascial (soft tissue) system pulling the body in on itself and balancing the out ward, compression-resisting and space-enticing thrust of bone 5. Character can be seen as “extra” tension, holding me together more tightly than is necessary for support and action and creating more “me” than the situation calls for. The habit of attachment creates a “self” built out of repeated stress responses. Ida Rolf once mused about this building of a material image out of its mental counterpart:

A self exists in a real material body. In order to create a self-image, you have had to put material particles together in a particular way. An image is some-thing which is expressing itself in three-dimensional material. This is a very basic concept, for this is the reality which is restructured in order to change the image. The image is the result. The image may have been the cause from which you started, but at this point the image is the result.6

The emergence of self-image tends to deprive people of their capacity to realize truth. Psychotherapy particularly deals with our tendency to project, to impose on our surroundings the forms and colors appropriate to our character commitment. Projection is sometimes known as “judgment,” and the injunction to “judge not “is an invitation to let go of this tendency to rigidify experience into our character molds.

We can, then, think of peace as absence of “character”: as an easy, flexible state of balance that has the quality of re-siding in reality, grounding us in an accurate perception of, and a good natured relation ship to, reality. The effort of developing, enriching, polishing and de-fending the elaborate mask of self-image falls away, as does the uneasy fear of selling non existent real estate.

To put all this is theistic terms: peace is the primary cue that we are grounded in God: that our values and consequent behavior are “real” in the sense that they are manifestations of God. Stress is a manifestation not of God (at least not simply and directly) but of the fabricated character, or ego, or what Thomas Horacalls “self-confirmatory ideation.”7

Behind specific techniques such as body work, psychotherapy, and medicine, healing is the evocation of peace as a sustained condition. If stress is less “realistic” than peace, we might say that it needs to be seen through. Healing penetrates through problems to unmask the whole-ness, or peace, that is underlying them.

In order to reach through to peace, the healing presence reaches from peace, and therefore has no self-confirming axe of its own to grind, no emotional hooks out to get entangled in the client’s problems. In the vocabulary of transactional analysis, the healing presence refuses to play games, but steadily witnesses peace in the client. This witnessing is an act of love which encourages the client, too, to regard himself or herself from the aspect of peace, that is, with love and respect. Healing brings a shift in context: what is powerful and fundamental in the situation is not the problem but the underlying current of goodness or wholeness or God or “the Kingdom of Heaven,” which, we are told, is within us. As awareness of that grounding emerges more clearly, the energy of attachment to problems de-ceases.

We can use the word forgiveness to describe this process. To forgive is to assert a holistic view of the person for-given, to refrain from defining him or her in terms of problems, to step behind or” rise above the level of” the problem and to maintain that attitude in the face of the client’s “cathexis,” or compulsive attachment to it. When Jesus was brought a man sick with palsy (Mark 2:1-12) and “saw their faith” (that they, and particularly the sick man, were ready to transform their understanding), he told the man that his sins were forgiven. The scribes (scholars, those without faith, those who already knew and were unwilling to redefine the situation) were shocked at the implicit claim, whereupon Jesus told the man to take up his bed and carry it home, which he did. Jesus did not undertake a second healing (of the palsy) to prove the efficacy of the first healing (of the sin). He was showing that healing had taken place on both levels. He had “reached through” the problem to the peace, or wholeness(health) of the man, that is, he had forgiven, and the man had realigned himself to that perspective.

The healing presence is a kind of mirror in which peace reaches through to peace and our energies are swept up and focused by that process. Bodywork takes the body as its particular channel for this communication. We witness the body as peace not essentially with words but with touch: one body meeting another, one consciousness meeting another, with tactile forgiveness.

I do not suggest “believing in” the idea that peace is our fundamental reality. Belief will only get in the way of explanation. Spiritual practice not only informs action with idea, but purifies idea by testing it against action. That is why I spoke of the importance of peace to bodywork as a “working hypothesis.” If it is a sufficiently compelling idea, we can organize activity in this case doing bodywork-in its light so as to find out what it means.

I am deliberately not raising here some of the sticky issues associated with the idea that our ills can ultimately be traced to the loss of our grounding in peace (what about brutalized children? what about automobile accidents? What about birth defects?).It is obvious enough that characterization is a potent force in our lives and bodies and that peace is a basic value. This gives enough sense of direction to move ahead into “practice” and see what further light it can shed.

We need to be very careful about choice of words in thinking about the process of realizing peace, because we am likely to be tempted to use the thoughts and techniques of stress to find peace, and that does not prosper the venture but simply reinforces old ways. Spiritual teachers continually keep warning us that there is nowhere to go for enlightenment, nothing to seek, that we must come to under stand that we are already there. As Da Free John puts it, “the practices of this Way are not methods for attaining happiness, but they are the expressions of Happiness.8

In the following discussion, I will suggest three avenues for directing experience while doing bodywork:

(1)organizing one’s own body for peaceful touching;

(2)sensing the client’s body as an expression of peace; and

(3)establishing a form of communication with the client that embodies this peace oriented under standing of the situation.


Perhaps the most appropriate way a practitioner can develop bodywork as spiritual practice is to refine awareness of his or her own body while working. If we really mean that an easy, balanced, mobile body is the sort that is not only the happiest to live in but gets things done most effectively, then here in our work, where we care the most, is the essential place to practice what we preach. Be sides manifesting our work for ourselves, the sessions are where our clients witness our movement behavior and that is, for better or for worse, the strongest teaching we have to offer. In particular our tactile behavior, the way we give ourselves in touching, is the essence of what we have Ito “say” with our hands, underlying what ever specific techniques we may use.

We are looking for a style of self-use that will allow peace to express itself, particularly in our touching. I suggest dear lier that stress the tension of self-characterization-is an imposition on the deeper, truer state of peace, and that a healer’s function is to penetrate that “veil” in order to witness the underlying whole-ness. Since only peace can witness peace, this penetration must first be effected in oneself, and indeed when it is, one cannot help witnessing wholeness. One becomes what Thomas Hora calls a “beneficial presence,” shedding light effortlessly and without any special activity.

The strategies for habituating one self to a loving, peaceful use of the body while doing bodywork are rich and endlessly intriguing and rewarding. I will sketch here only a few basic ideas and suggestions and would strongly recommend that the matter be pursued further by a series of sessions with a professional movement teacher.9


The loving act of the healing touch is always in two directions simultaneously: in ward to peace and outward to peace. What does this mean to the body? In the in ward direction the body rests into its own structural support, gives itself to gravity, experiences weight, grounds it-self. In the outward direction it is expansive, without the excess tension that tightens and twists joints into held patterns. The expansive body throws its weight into action, gently or vigorously, bringing space into the joints. The expansive use of the spine is the core of this radiatory use of the body, which Ida Rolf referred to as” spanning.10


Expansive movement permits reverberation, 11 where movement anywhere is reflected throughout the whole structure and where the impact of the body’s action is also allowed to wash back through it, like the ripples spreading out from a stone dropped in a pond, reaching the edge of the water and rebounding with a reverse flow of ripples. A man hammering a nail, for example, will expand his whole body into the swing of the hammer and then let the impact of hammer on nail be absorbed by a flow of movement back through him. Reverberative movement is natural to the body, a part of effective and efficient action, and will happen as part of any action if it is not restrained.

Reverberative movement permits all the joints to be mobile and to participate in the control of action. In a body work stroke this will read out to both practitioner and client as a commitment of whole-ness and as a less pushing or aggressive approach than when joints are locked by tension. The act of touching becomes more receptive. The impact is not braced against but is allowed to send back its wave of response.


Expansion and reverberation are possible only if the body is adequately supported so that contact with the earth(foot on the floor, sitting bones on the chair, knee on the table) is under the weight being supported. 12 If the body projects out in front of its support, the spine be-comes a cantilever, which can work only insofar as it is stiff.

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To illustrate the relationship between expansion, reverberation and support in a typical bodywork movement: the back foot in touching the floor sends a forward impulse of the whole body into the hands. The body does not move as a block, buts ends a ripple of expansion as it moves, particularly through the spine to the head, which will nod forward in response. The front foot receives the weight and (in concert with its knee and other joints) can with the tiniest backward impulse modulate that forward movement and contribute to the control of the touch. Every joint participates in the resultant action of the hands; every muscle, superficial to deep, contributes itself to your contact with the client.

You can test the effectiveness of your support system by imagining a client on the table and holding your hands in a single working position for two or three
minutes. Aches will develop where you are holding unsupported weight. Shift the placement of feet, knee or sitting bones until the tension is relieved.


The differentiation of expansion, reverberation, support (balance) and grounding is artificial and is simply for the purpose of sequential presentation. In experience these are four components of any action. Within the framework of this distinction we might say that balance sets up the condition in which one can rest into oneself, or ground oneself, without compression and that grounded movement is expansive and reverberative. This set of relationships is the mysterious supportiveness of gravity that Ida Rolf talked about, where the force of gravity seems to reverse itself and lift the body.13

There is a tendency to apply the term “grounding” in two different senses: in a physical sense as resting one’s weight into the body’s own internal system of sup-port (the musculoskeletal tensegrity system) and through it into the support of the earth; and in a spiritual sense as resting into one’s source of assurance or sufficiency. There is good reason for this ambiguity: these are two phases of the same basic mode of being. Grounding is closely related to meditation, which also generally insists on the balance of the spine as a precondition for expanded states of consciousness. Here is a meditative exercise that can help bring clarity into the relationship between support, reverberation and grounding:

Sit comfortably with your head balanced on top of your spine, with your chest open and released, your lower back easy and flexible. Become aware of your breathing. Do not manipulate it. Be particularly attentive to the moment of rest between expiration and inspiration (This may be a brief moment or along pause. Let it be what it is and simply be in touch with it.)

Let your awareness of this pause between breaths carry you into a sense of your grounding in depth-space, or peace.

As inspiration lifts you, continue deepening, resting into the lift itself.

If you get a sense of the active, creative interplay between the lift of the inspiration and your resting into that lift, you have a direct experience of the relation-ship between expansive movement and grounding and you can look for this same experience in body movements other than breathing. For example, doing the bodywork stroke illustrated above. In addition to establishing a supportive base and allowing reverberation of your body from that base into the touch, let yourself rest into the expansion-give your weight to the expansiveness of the movement.

Expansive, supported, reverberative, grounded movement is peaceful movement, whether it be large or small, quick or slow. It delivers us whole to our action, with delicacy in control and refinement in tactile sensitivity. It is not a style of movement, but the natural, “god-given” expression of our basic architecture. Its development is a matter of stripping away the overlay of mistaken learning rather than of imposing a pattern. For those of us who have chosen the body as our particular point of focus, it deserves the careful, evolving daily attention of spiritual practice.


What sort of attitude toward clients best serves the purpose of evoking their grounding in peace? The challenge is to find a way to get the focus of attention, both practitioner’s and client’s, off the problem level; and since touching is our basic transaction with clients, to touch problems only as the pathway for touching through to peace. For me the most practical step in this direction has been to develop a consistent awareness of each client’s breathing and to work as if I were touching the breathing itself. This process is also closely akin to meditation; like meditation it is at once simple, demanding, and rewarding. Watching and feeling, you stay in touch with where the client is in the breath cycle: beginning of inspiration, inspiration itself,- end of inspiration, “climax,” beginning of expiration, expiration itself, end of expiration, and “juncture,” the rest between one breath cycle and the next.

Focusing on breath means focusing on the movement (specifically, the reverberation) of the tissue rather than on its solidity. The hardness of tissue would seem the obvious place to focus awareness, sine it shows the hands where chronic tension is located. The more solid, dense and compact the tissue, the more it is calling to the practitioner for work. I am not suggesting a suppression of all this tactile information, any more than I would suggest closing your eyes and refusing to see structure, or ignoring the quality of a person’s voice. All these analystic cues and many more remain in the field of awareness, but they never define the individual.

Deliberately focusing the attention on breath, that is on movement, organizes your mind around wholeness, and the challenge is to keep discovering that the breath’s movement, expressing life and consciousness, necessarily expressing its grounding in peace. We find the breath movement particularly where its discovery is most needed, where the hardness is. We know where the hardness is, we are skilled at following its lead, but we focus through it, not on it.

For this purpose there is one moment in the breath cycle that is particularly significant: the juncture, or pause between expiration and inspiration. This is the breath’s silence, the stillness out of which the movement arises. It is a specific event in the sequence of breathing events and it can also be sensed as a dimension or quality underlying all the other parts of the breath cycle. 14

Test this now by placing your hand on your own ribcage and simply allowing it to ride the movement. Feel the tissue come out to meet your hand as you inhale, and then recede as you exhale. Follow it as it recedes, so that you deepen your contact right down into the juncture between breaths; this deepening is an act of consciousness which carries your hand with it. As the next inspiration comes, stay with your depth: meet the inspiration from that depth, follow the cycle around and deepen further into the next expiration and juncture; it is as if you am touching through the movement to the quality of quiet that is overtly manifest in juncture. Your contact, then is rhythmical organized by the breath cycle.

When you touch flesh as if you were touching through it to the underlying consciousness, you are witnessing peace; you are treating the body as if it were a manifestation of that peace, as if in that depth dimension we are, our bodies are, continuous with the underlying spirit. This is practice. The flesh under your hands is real flesh, and it is spirit. “The kingdom of heaven is within you” and within your client.

By contrast: when your attention is focused on the hardness or density of your client’s tissue your inevitable reaction is to harden yourself, to push, and implicitly to agree with your client’s conviction as to the importance of muscular holding in self-definition. Your vocabulary will probably support this aggressive attitude. If you tell yourself (and/or your client) that you are attacking, clearing, fixing or cleaning the problem, you are affirming it. If you speak of your client’s tissue as junk or gunk or knots or wires, even in the privacy of your own thoughts, you affirm those qualities. Some affirmation may be necessary to establish common ground with clients, to as sure them that your healing perspective is inclusive of their sense of themselves as suffering or limited. But some verbal forms of affirmation will tend to push a client deeper into that fixation while others will tend to induce healing. I am not suggesting simply a different way of speaking, but a different way of thinking and of giving your attention.15

The client’s problems do not fade from view when you witness wholeness; on the contrary they emerge into the light. In a mysterious way they stand not simply over against, or in contrast to, peace, but also as an expression of it. Witnessing wholeness emphasizes this continually so that transformation is not felt as change-from this state to that-so much as it is felt as realization, putting the problem itself into a different and more inclusive context.16

In the shift of attention from the “material” of flesh to its movement, from problem to wholeness, there is no need to throw anything away. Structural analysis, anatomy, kinesiology and all the rest of the “physics” of bodywork are still there and they go on developing as the perceptual tools of the trade.

Here are some practical steps for developing the discipline of touching breathing while you work:

1. Keep the focus of attention on the breath movement of the tissue that is directly in contact with your hands in other words on feeling that movement. Let the deepening of your contact follow the deepening of your awareness, down into the juncture of your client’s breath. This is not something imagined. You will probably feel a shift in your conscious-ness, or brainwave pattern, as you do this, your mind becoming quieter and more one-pointed.

2. If you cannot feel the movement of the tissue where you are working, watch the breath and deepen your con-tact on expiration as if you were feeling it. This will not only synchronize you with your client’s breathing rhythm, but will train you to feel breath in parts of the body where its movement is more subtle.

3. There is no need to try to force your attention to the breath all the time. Touching breathing is a demanding discipline, though a pleasant one. Let it grow. There are no doubt times when your relationship to your client needs to be different, such as when you are talking, or observing. The more you practice working with the breath consciously the more you will be able to be coordinated with it when your attention is elsewhere. Bring the focus back to breath when you come into areas of your client’s body that are particularly sensitive. When a client winces, zoom in with your awareness to the precise point of contact and feel for the breath.


Healing as the evocation of peace is not a process of one person doing some-thing to another. It is useful sometimes to think and train as if that fiction were true. Practitioners of structural integration, for example, may focus on the textural changes in the fascia under their fingers or elbow as if it were simply a mechanical structure responding to their pas-sure. But if this “doing” framework is .not clearly embedded in another context, where the practitioner is seen simply as a contributor to a process carried on by the client, a power relationship will be established that will inevitably be diminishing to the client. This is not to say that fascia does not respond to mechanical pressure, but that as live tissue, the expression of consciousness, its response is a choice made by the individual.

In the Divine Comedy Virgil and Beatrice know the way and serve Dan teas guides. Without them he would simply remain lost. But the journey itself is entirely his. Every event of the story takes place in Dante’s consciousness.
Similarly in bodywork. The practitioner may know a route but cannot make the journey for someone else. Every event in the story takes place in the client’s consciousness. Usually clients do not come with a clear understanding of this, but in the manner of a visit to the automobile mechanic, where someone fixes some-thing. Practitioners need not only to hold clearly and intently to a holistic attitude but to communicate to clients that “the work” is a client’s work.

The holistic attitude involves what spiritual teachers call humility, or beginner’s mind. In the present context humility includes a refusal to build one’s professional identity on knowledge, which is to say on clients’ ignorance. There are, in fact, parts of the work in which we practitioners cannot participate indeed the central, most essential part of the work, the client’s shift in consciousness. In order for us to be effective guides, we need to call this process to the attention of clients and then ask them to communicate to us about what is happening there.

We are, of course, talking about all this with respect to the essential business of bodywork, touching. If clients can be induced to play an active role in establishing the level of intensity of contact, telling when they am resisting, when the work is not deep enough, and when it is exactly right (something they can usually learn to recognize quickly and easily) they see that bodywork proceeds by acts of release on their part, not by acts of pushing on the practitioner’s part. With this awareness, work on the table can connect more clearly with daily life, where they can also find innumerable occasions for acts of release. They may also learn a great deal about their general patterns of resistance, response and communication if they are asked to feel themselves with refinement and to assume full responsibility for taking the work deeper.

Of course for this communication to be effective the practitioner must respect the messages he or she receives. When a client reports that the intensity level is creating resistance, the practitioner must be both willing and able to shift the con-tact to a level that is appropriate to the moment, respecting both the client’s feelings and the practitioner’s skilled sense of what is needed.

Eliciting constant feedback of this sort provides practitioners, too, with a powerful on-going education. It gives clients the tools and the responsibility for demanding that the work be precisely appropriate and that it be delicate, deep and steadily present. To the extent they are successful, not only can pain be eliminated but the work can be deepened at those moments when the practitioner, for whatever reason-distraction, in accurate sensory feedback, or simply lack of developed skill-is not reaching as deeply as the client needs.

Here are some practical suggestions for enhancing communication. They are particularly oriented to structural integration but I hope that with adaptation they can be useful as well to other somatic practitioners.

With children a simple “tell me if it hurts” may suffice, though it is always better if clients are asked to give positive as well as negative feedback. Telling is very different from squirming, tightening or crying. This simple instruction to a child, once it becomes clear that I do honestly intend not to hurt them, almost invariably puts a child into an easy, trusting relationship even with work that has intensity of feeling. Sometimes a client will use color cues: red for resistance, yellow for good solid contact, green for “go deeper;” sometimes this system goes into elaborate refinements or orange and yellow-greens.

But often verbal cues seem cumber-some. The lifting of fingers (for example thumb for “go deeper,” index finger for “perfect,” pinkie for “take it easy”) provides a surprisingly subtle and quick system of communication. The quality of finger movement itself conveys much and people may give a coherent, precise message with movements of more than one finger at a time. Another signaling system that has been very successful with some clients is to mirror the “phrasing” of a slow stroke(its tendency to deepen to a climax and then withdraw) with an opening and then closing gesture of the hand.17

Such systems can, of course, create shallow work if what the signals mean to the client is simply “no,” and if to the practitioner going deeper means hurting. For me the response to a “take it easy” cue will usually involve a slight momentary easing back of contact but more importantly a change of pace, a more careful attention to breath-movement and to the ease of my own body. In this shift of consciousness I reconnect with my source of peace. My aggressiveness, the old unconscious habit of sensing resistance and fighting it, emerges into greater clarity and is softened. This is practice, spiritual-bodily practice, a kind that is particularly appropriate to touching. The working situation has purposely been designed with a feedback device so that this shift in my consciousness is persistently called for. Each shift weakens the hold of habit, some times leading into new understandings. Overall the result is accumulative and progressive.

It might be objected that all this communicating and taking of responsibility will itself disrupt the receptive internalizing that bodywork clients characteristically fall into and greatly enjoy. Since peace is the objective, why bother it with any demands at all? My experience is that communication about depth and response, particularly with nonverbal signals, does not have to disrupt that delicious quiet-ness but can be a protection of it. Bringing the conscious, voluntary part of the mind into an actively responsive relationship to deeper bodily processes is, in itself, a healing and balancing activity, a form of meditation that gives a powerful dimension to the work. This is an active integration of extrinsic and intrinsic levels. One of the things bodywork can accomplish is to help overcome the assumption that activity is stressful and that the only relief is “relaxation”‘ or lack of activity. Peace is as much a part of vigorous doings as it is of stillness. A client who is deeply sensing a response and is communicating information from that depth is opening channels that will serve in many other situations.


Becoming conscious of one’s sup-port, movement and grounding while simultaneously being attentive to a client’s breathing may seem like a tall order. Add to it the things you already do in your work and it may seem downright impossible. The purpose, after all, is to evoke peace. Can you really under-take all this without being driven to distraction?

Yes, if you see that creative on going work with oneself is an appropriate part of “technique” and if you sequence the process of self-transformation, keeping an open relationship between the whole and the part being given your momentary focus of attention. By “open” I mean arousing a sense for the whole to remain present contextually, as background, while “practice” applies itself to one part at a time.

For example, the examination of your support and how it affects your own tension level might be a project that takes part of each session until a shift in your behavior has become habitual. Another part of these same sessions might be given to awareness of the client’s breathing and an exploration of how your touch can interact with it. Then for a time you might see how support relates to this breathing awareness. Then shift to the expansive use of your own spine and to how that affects your touching. And so forth, frequently cycling back to re experience and deepen and integrate parts with one another.

Some awarenesses are easier to explore initially outside sessions. Grounded reverberation, for example, may be most clearly experienced where nothing else is calling for attention, as for example in the breathing meditation I suggested earlier. Sessions with colleagues where the purpose is specifically to examine some aspect of the working process can simplify the situation.

The kind of self-transformation we are talking about here is a reprogramming of our most deeply reinforced habits. That does not mean that new ways must necessarily come in a slow step wise fashion but that they may, so that allowance is made for time and repetition.

I suggested earlier in this paper that there is a danger in spiritual practice of trying to follow the ways of stress in order to reach peace. Seeking for “change” is likely to lead us that way; so is the use of words like “seeking,” “follow” and “reach,” which put peace always beyond the present moment.

Dwell for a moment on the words quoted earlier: “the practices of this Way are not methods for attaining happiness, they are the expressions of Happiness. “The assumption is that we already reside in happiness, which is fundamental and “real,” and that our unhappiness is comparatively superficial, an illusory overlay. We can check out the truth of that proposition only by staking our lives on it since only “practice” in its light will reveal its meaning.

To clarify what we are doing in spiritual practice we might do well to revive the old word “purify,” which has fallen into disrepute because “pure” came to mean boring, rigid and sexless. The ancient root [Indo european pu, Latin put are]means to cleanse, which implies that some inessential overlay is removed from the real substance. Purification is taking the bushel basket off your candle so that “it give the light unto all that are in the house”(Matthew 5:15). The Gaelic form of the word “pure” [ir] means “green” or “fresh.”

Purification is the impulse behind the specific technical suggestions made in this paper: not to impose yet another load of obligations and duties but to open our-selves to the freedom of acting from the depth of peace.

The evocation of peace is the fundamental act under taken in bodywork and, in fact, in all healing processes.

We are looking for a style of self-use that will allow peace to express itself, particularly in our touching.

This is where the force of gravity seems to reverse it-self and lift the body.

The flesh under your hands is real flesh, and it is spirit.

Healing as the evocation of peace is not a process of one person doing something to another

Clients see that bodywork proceeds by acts of release on their part, not by acts of pushing on the practitioners part.

The shift of attention from the “materail” of flesh to its movement, from problem to wholeness.

The loving act of the healing touch is always in two directions simultaneously.

Peace is as much a part of vigorous doings as it is of stillness.


1. Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind(New York and Tokyo: Weather hill, 1970), p.89.

2. Tonal music provides an analogue of the relationship of peace to activity. The tonic is not simply the ending and (usually) the beginning of a composition, but it underlies and gives meaning to movement through other tonal regions. If the sound were to remain on the tonic, there would be no movement; on the other hand if the link to the tonic were lost there would be chaos. In either case no music. Movement to other tonal regions is not away from the tonic, but within it, a play of activity that allows the tonic to manifest its richness.

3. Selye defines stress as “the state manifested by a specific syndrome which consists of all the nonspecifically induced changes with in a biologic system,” or more simply as “the rate of wear and tear in the body.” (Hans Selye, The Stress of Life [New York McGraw-Hill, 1956], pp. 54, 3.) The word “stress”derives from the latin verb stringere, to draw tight; “tension” from tendere, to stretch.

4. Wilhelm Reich, Character Analysis (New York Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1949).

5. For the relevance of Buckminster Fuller’s tensegrity model (R.B. Fuller and E.J. Apple white, Synergetics [New York: Mc Millen, 1975]) see Ron Kirby, “The Probable Reality behind Structural Integration(Bulletin of Structural Integration 5:5, 1975)and Stephen M. Levine, “Continuous Tension, Discontinuous Compression: A Model for Biochemical Support of the Body” (Bulls 8:1, 1982, p. 31).

6. Rosemary Feitis, ed., Ida Rolf Talks about Rolfing and Physical Reality (New York: Harper and Row, 1978), p. 138.

7. Thomas Hora, Existential Metapsychia try (New York: Sea bury, 1977).

8. Da Free John, The Bodily Location of Happiness (Middletown, CA: Dawn Horse, 1982), p.186.

9. Here are some disciplines that are compatible with the general physical principles presented here. Practitioner lists are available from the addresses indicated.

Movement Enhancement: The Center of Balance126 East Fern Avenue Redlands, CA 92373(714) 792-8134

Rolfing Movement Integration: The Rolf Institute P.O. Box 1868Boulder, CO 80306

Aston-Patterning: Aston-Patterning Consultants, Inc. P.O. Box 114Tiburon, CA 94920Alexander Technique:

Alexander Technique142 West End Avenue New York, N.Y. 10023

Feldenkrais: The Feldenkrais Guild P.O. Box 11145, Main Office San Francisco, CA 94101

10. Ida P. Rolf, Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures (New York: Harper and Row,1977),p.39. Spanning is also described in Dr. Rolf’s statement that “in a balanced body, when flexors flex, extensors extend” (p.63).

11. For a more extended discussion of both somatic and musical reverberation see Alexandra and Roger Pierce, “Pain and Healing: for Pianists. Part II,” The Piano Quarterly11:23 (Summer 1983).

12. See the “rocker principle” in Heather Wing, “Rolfing Movement Integration: Movement Education for Everyday Life,” Somatics IV:2,1983, p. 19 or Bull. S. 1. 8:1, 1982, p. 3.Bodyworkers would do well to study this paper with care.

13. Rolfing, p. 30.

14. For the musical analogue, see Alexandra Pierce, “Juncture,” in Spanning: Essays on Music Theory, Performance, and Movement(Redlands, CA, The Center of Balance, 1983),pp. 1-12.

15. To those whose bodywork is painful, let me say clearly that I believe, from long personal experience and experiment, that pain is not only unnecessary but counterproductive. There is in fact no need for touch to create negative affirmation. When touch evokes a pain or fear reaction it intensifies the very state of contraction it is there to help release and then goes to war with that reaction, intensifying it further. If client and practitioner collaborate in finding the appropriate level of contact the work deepens and becomes more effective.

16. You can see this mystery operating behind the statement that “perfect love caste the out fear” (I John 4:18). On one level love and fear are polarized as opposites; but in a more inclusive context fear itself is an expression of love. Similarly the injunction to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling-for it is God which work the in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12).

17. This gesture originated in the exploration of climax in musical phrase. See “Climax in Music” in Spanning, pp. 47-71.Doing Bodywork as a Spiritual Discipline

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