BILL: What wonderful anecdotes do you have to tell us about Ida?
JEFF: I never met Ida; I can’t tell Ida Rolf stories. (Ha! Ha!)
BILL: Well, you could…
JEFF: Well, I could try….
BILL: Okay, so how long have you been Rolling and how long have you been on the faculty?
JEFF: I’ve been Rolfing about 13 years and been on the faculty since 1988.
BILL: How did you get into Rolfing?
JEFF: How did I get into Rolfing? Pain and suffering. As you know I was a professor of philosophy, and I taught at Purdue [University] for 13 years. I went into philosophy, because I was mostly interested in the fundamental questions of human life. I wanted to know who I am; what is this; where am I going? And I figured the only place I was going to be able to pursue those kinds of questions was in philosophy.
I started meditating Zen-style when I was first a professor. Zen appealed to me, because it was an experiential, pragmatic, non-dogmatic, non-theoretic approach. During my first year of teaching, I developed back trouble. Six years later, I was at a Zen center for the summer, living there, and I had my first three sessions with Jan Sultan. What got me into Rolling was the experience I had from that first Rolfing F session. I felt as if I had meditated two or three days straight. When you do a Zen retreat you go off for seven days and get up at three in the morning, and you mediate til nine or ten at night: eighteen hours of straight meditation. You know, you get into some pretty wild spaces. Well, I had a samadhi-type experience from the Rolfing. I couldn’t believe that somebody could diddle around with my body for an hour and I could come out feeling like that. I was astounded! After my second session, driving away from Jan’s house, I thought, “God, this work is incredible; I think I want to do this”. And I decided right then and there that I was going to do it. It was that feature of the work, the body-samadhi, that caught my attention. Also, the work I was doing as a professor was trying to articulate a structure of change or more precisely the phenomenology of transformation. I had to disguise my inquiry in the language of academic philosophy, and I did it by talking about the structure of creativity. That’s the only way I could get my stuff published. When I was first Rolfed, I was just incoherently and vaguely coming to the understanding that the body was important to transformation. The importance of the body is implicit in every aspect of Zen, but it’s never talked about-at least not very much in American Zen. I was coming to the understanding that there is no transformation unless there is bodily transformation. I had a whole theoretical framework that I had already worked out in an attempt to talk about this. When I got Rolfed, it just snapped! The importance of the body. Then I started thinking and reading about it and getting more work. I started to realize the stuff I had worked out was already worked out at somatic level by Dr. Rolf. So I thought, “This just fits together”. And that was the other piece of it that got me going.
BILL: I became a Rolfer because I had an experience during the first session where I thought at that moment that Rolfing had sort of wiped away years and years of psychological problems. The piece that was missing in my understanding of it-at the time-was that I had been working on this stuff and the only piece left, that needed to shift, was the body. But disempowering myself by not realizing or acknowledging I had been working on it, I said, “Wow, I’ve gotten Rolfed, and all these years of self-hatred and imprisonment are gone! This stuff is amazing!” The reason I bother to mention it is you were Rolfed and you have a samadhi experience. I’ve been Rolfing eight years, and I’m beginning to understand this whole thing that I misunderstood at the time. And starting, just starting, to understand what it could mean to work on the psychology of a body with your hands.
ALINE: We just took a workshop apropos of this.
JEFF: With a psychologist or Rolfer?
BILL: With a psychologist. So the question is: what do you think of these astonishing experiences we have in the beginning of our Rolfing experience and careers. What do you think about the fact that you had a samadhi experience on your first session?
JEFF: Oh, God! I don’t even know where to start to answer that, Bill! The first thing that comes to me is that your experience shows something very important in all of this: that people get from Rolfing what they are prepared to get. You did all that psychological work, and so the Rolfing had an enormous impact on you. The same thing also happened to me. Rolfing brought my body up-to-date with the psychological and ontological work I had done.
I have noticed in my practice there are people who never get any of that, and yet they get decent changes, and they are happy. They get their back fixed; they get their neck fixed; they look better; they feel better; they have more energy. And I think theoretically, Rolfing can do it all … theoretically! But in the practical realm, I think you may need to pursue these things at many different levels. For some people, it might have been much more important for them to do the psychological work, the growth work, at that level and then the Rolfing will be much more impact ful. So I think people will get what they are ready to get, and I also think it’s inappropriate for us to push them to a place where we think they should be. If you see a person who’s been abused as a child and it’s absolutely clear to you this person’s been abused, is it your job as a Rolfer to Rolf them in such a way that that comes to the surface? I would say, “No, it’s not.” You work on what’s there and what’s ready to move, and then the person changes at their own rate. I think it’s unethical to do otherwise.
The other important piece is that our culture is in denial of the body. This goes back to Plato; I think he’s the culprit. He said the body is the prison house of the soul, that the mind is to body, as the pilot is to the ship. Descartes came along in the 1600’s and tried to lay the foundations of modern science and said the body is a soft machine. So, we’ve all inherited the theoretical framework that says the body is a thing we inhabit; and somehow psychological and/or spiritual understanding is something that occurs apart from that. Given the Platonic/Cartesian framework of our culture, how do I answer the question, “Who am I?” Well, I’m certainly not this body; if this body is a machine and it’s a thing. My essence, my true being, must be something other. And, so I think the exciting thing about the work is that Rolfing, besides being able to fix bad backs, opens up the inquiry into transformation by insisting that the body is fundamental to what we are as human beings. We can’t separate the human self and the human body. Spirit: I don’t want to get into that; it’s too big a topic. But, you know, body and self are one and the same thing. Bodies are not things. Our culture and our heritage says there are just a couple ways in which beings can be. You can either be as a thing, as a material thing, or you can be as a mental thing, or you can have being as energy. So we have a very limited set of categories for how to divide up all the kinds of beings there are in the world; and clearly, our experience as Rolfers shows us that our bodily being is not a thing; it’s not a material object in any straight-forward sense, even though it has to obey-to some extent-the laws that other material objects have to obey. It’s very hard to articulate what this is that we are. There are very important philosophical issues at the very heart of our work.
ALINE: A good material response, a kind of psychology that could come out of the body without having to move into family dynamics and concepts of self and identity. I think there is an enormous amount to explore without ever taking the step into psycho-dynamics, without ever being unemotional or unrelated to the organism in the room.
JEFF: I think we are on the verge of being able to state a somatic psychology.. I think Rolfing has in it the potential for creating a somatic psychology. Why couldn’t there be a psychology built on the principles of structure and movement? My sense is if we pay attention to structure and movement, we pay attention to gravity, and we clearly state our principles. Then there very well could be a psychology embedded in there that is unique to us. At this point in time, we’ve unfortunately imported bits-and pieces from the great psychologists, none of it’s been digested, or not very much of it. We’ve imported bits-and pieces of metaphysical notions and spiritual notions that are also undigested, not based on authentic experiences and lacking in understanding of the traditions and cultures from which they arose.
ALINE: And also psychological notions at this point.
JEFF: Yeah. Then we get confused about what we are talking about. So, I think it would be an exciting project; and I think Peter Levine’s work is absolutely brilliant and important for our work. He should get some sort of prize just for his distinction between emotional release and resolution. And there are other people in our community who have ideas about this, who also have psychological background. I want to see all those people get together, working this out.
BILL: Well, I think we’re closer than even that. I think it exists; I think it’s just a question…
JEFF: …time and money.
BILL: No, I think it’s a question of introducing it in a way that I think exists already…
JEFF: …Yeah , you’re right! Peter Levine has been working with the faculty.
BILL: Let’s talk about the resolution of the split within the Rolf Institute.
JEFF: Well, one of the peculiar places I stand in the Institute is that I didn’t know Ida Rolf, so I never trained with her. I don’t know what she said, other than what people reported to me and what I read in her book. I look at our community and wonder, “What’s the dynamic that got us here?” I don’t have a complete or simple an sy to it, but what I see is one group of people say ‘Ida R said this’; and somebody else says, ‘No, she didn’t s that. She said, “You could do that sometimes, but y couldn’t do it other times”‘. So there isn’t even clear about what it was that she really said. And even if she says it, because she said it, does that mean it’s the truth. There’s a little thing from the Buddha in the front of h book: ‘Don’t believe it because I said it; don’t believe because it’s written down; don’t believe it because it’s the sutras; find out for yourself”. And she was obvious that kind of person herself. Yet, on the other hand, we you look at the evolution of the community, what you fin are many people who somewhat sheepishly take on somewhat formulistic way of Rolfing and treat THI RECIPE as if it were a sacred ritual that can never b questioned-I’m exaggerating a bit!
Some of the first people Dr. Rolf picked to be teacher told me they had only been Rolfing for a couple year when she said, ‘It’s time for you to teach.’ So I try t imagine how that would have been for me when I was Rolfer for two-to-three years, for somebody to say “Okay now go teach it”. I would have been horrified. I think ho must it have been way back then when they were jus getting off the ground. Nobody really understood why this lady was saying. There are people now who are talking our language all over the world and not giving credit to Dr. Rolf for it; but back in those days, nobody knew. She was trying to get this group of people on-target and doing her work. So I figure what she did was creating this formula which we call The Recipe; and embedded ii this formula was a piece of genius. My supposition is shy was hoping that by teaching this formula enough the people would learn to see what was embedded in l Where she couldn’t quite find the language or whatever i took to get these people to see what she was seeing, shy created a recipe. What got taught was not a clew separation of principles, strategies, formulas, in the earl days, just formulas, strategies, and techniques, all con fused together. And these early teachers were forced in ti teaching something they didn’t totally understand yet Anybody who has ever been a teacher knows how easy it is to mystify what you don’t understand. So what go passed on was mystification, formulas, and information.
Most of us got into Rolfing, because we had these profound experiences, and we wanted to be able t( participate in this kind of process. And so we get a test of transformation and then we want to go out and do it too Most Rolfers are free-thinking, creative people. They’re tired of the old framework, and they want a new frame work. Dr. Rolf’s inquiry got solidified into a kind of sacred ritual. Most of us were touched profoundly by this work. We train because we want to participate in the transformational aspect of Rolling and be of service to the world We come to Rolfing, because we want to participate in Dr. Rolf’s inquiry. Instead of the inquiry, we got a fossilized recipe and the suppression of the inquiry.
So, it’s an interesting situation: it’s like you get a ritual; and then you apprentice to a great artist; and then at some point or other, you’re suppose to own it and go out on your own. I think what happened was that it got fossilized around a group of people; and the questions, inquiry, were not permitted. So, if it’s not permitted within the teachers’ group, then how could it be permitted properly within the membership? And so I see that maybe a lot of this is unconscious-there’s a kind of security in turning all of your authority over to somebody else. And since D r. Rolf’s inquiry was not permitted, a certain few teachers got to play the role (perhaps unconsciously, perhaps not) of truth-dispensers, hierophants, priests of the sacred ritual who decided who was pure and who wasn’t. How can you carry on a creative investigation under that?
In any community, of any sort, where you are given a ritual and never permitted-maybe “permitted” is too strong-but never given the tools by which to understand what it’s about, then you can never free yourself from it. Then you are always confused or look like a heretic if you ask questions. That’s why the Buddha said what he did. Like Dr. Rolf, he understood how followers substitute ritual and formulas for the inquiry.
ALINE: People were getting the tradition, not the…
JEFF: Yeah, at the time of the Buddha, they were getting a formula, a caste system, and theory without experience. You know, you couldn’t become enlightened if you were a woman. You had to be good to your man; and if you were lucky, you were reborn as a man; and in the next life, you could become enlightened. The Buddha understood how formulas and rituals substituted for truth and spirituality. He said, ‘This is screwed!’ He tried to get people to own what’s already there. I feel like that was at the heart of what Dr. Rolf was about. The heart of what Rolfing is about, is to get us to own what is already and always there. But somehow it got cemented real-quick into this formula, and then some people were unwilling to ever let the questions come. And then the more intensely other people questioned, the more intensely they were suppressed, until finally, the whole thing broke apart. So I think it’s about power/ego, unrecognized abuse issues, fear, and who’s in charge. Who’s got the truth. Also, I don’t think that we should forget there was a terrible mismanagement of funds, the discovery of which was a catalyst for the already existing split. It’s only by the grace of the “Rolf gods” that we are surviving that financial mess. However people whitewash the thing, I think the split is partly about one group of people wanting to undertake the inquiry Ida Rolf started-and another group suppressing the inquiry.
ALINE: That may be a very natural part of all groups of people: there’s an orthodox group of people who have that style of being in the world, and there are people who are the inquirers, and the two don’t generally get along.
BILL: Usually, it’s not the orthodox group who splits off; usually it’s the other way around.
ALINE: In the Hasidam of the Jewish population, that’s exactly what happened. They’ve become a radical group of orthodox people.
JEFF: Oh, that’s interesting.
ALINE: Yes, they split off, and they live in a little wild place and deny the existence of Israel, because the Messiah hasn’t come yet. It seems so natural for organisms to do this, and it isn’t surprising that we’ve done it also.
JEFF: Right. Oh, I want to add that when orthodoxy suppresses inquiry, it gets very sick. You cannot stand for truth, for Dr. Rolf’s inquiry, gather highly motivated and creative people together, and then suppress the inquiry without making everyone involved sick. Also an orthodoxy that suppresses its own truth is not even a true orthodoxy.
ALINE: Do you use Zen and metaphysics-how do you feel they come into your Rolling practice?
JEFF: This is an important question. I get accused of all sorts of stuff now that I’ve been writing articles. Somebody accused me of not having the philosophical underpinnings to write in philosophy. Geez!
ALINE: Now, they know you’re a Ph.D.
BILL: So, you’ve been discovered!
JEFF: And other people are upset at me, because they think since I wrote about metaphysics, I’m not interested in structure. I am interested in the whole of what Rolfing is, from structure, “movement, physics, to metaphysics.
You know, most of what gets represented in our community as metaphysics is not metaphysics. That’s the reason I wrote the paper on metaphysics. I was trying to articulate what metaphysics is, and I don’t think I should in my practice do metaphysics or do Zen or do anything but Rolfing. I do my job as a Rolfer: I Rolf what’s there and then whatever comes up, I deal with it. So if it’s an emotional issue, and I can handle it, then I’ll work with the person. If I can’t, I’ll send them out. And quite frankly, I think the spiritual thing doesn’t happen much in our work. Spirituality is a very deep, long, difficult-I don’t know if “difficult” is the right word-but a deep process.
BILL: So, people don’t come to us for spiritual problems?
JEFF: Some do, but most don’t. I think they come for all kinds of problems: spiritual, emotional, physical are all intertwined. But I don’t think Rolfers are well-enough trained to get to the spiritual or the emotional. Most Rolfers are not trained in these areas, and you cannot substitute undigested “metaphysics” for training and authentic experience. One of our first concerns ought to be to “cause no harm”. But if you lay metaphysics undigested, phony metaphysics, or psychology on your clients, you can damage them. I have seen this happen over and over again. As Peter Levine has shown, if you confuse emotional release with resolution of trauma, you can damage people. Half-baked metaphysics in the place of authentic experience can also damage people.
ALINE: So you find they are separate. I want to ask how, in your own experience, your Zen practice has affected your Rolfing…that is, your actual doing-of-the-work … if at all.
JEFF: They are distinct, but not separate. Iterms of my effect on my clients, I think of it as sort of a practice of mindfulness. Because, as you know, unlike any other job, you can’t say to your client, “I’ve got a kink. I’m going to get up now and take a little walk and just hang out here and be back in an hour.” You have to be totally present with your client all the way through and be prepared for whatever is there. So I try to be whatever I can be, to be at zero, or neutral, to allow whatever has to happen for that person to happen. So if this other stuff comes up, I’ll deal with it. Or if they get going off on a metaphysical thing they read in their latest “flow and glow” metaphysical book, then I might start talking with them about that.
You know, I’ve got people who think it’s neat to leave their bodies. And one of the things I discovered is that Wilhelm Reich was right about the layers of repression in the body. You know that people armor their body, hold their emotions; but I’ve seen a good number of people whose bodies weren’t very armored. Yet they had a lot of dissociated emotional stuff. I realized these people weren’t in their bodies. I don’t know what that means exactly, but I couldn’t feel them there. And I would say, “You know, I feel your energy (or whatever you call that) is spread out around the room.” You find this a lot in fear. You know people’s energy is sort of spread out, all over the room, feeling out the room. I would say to them as an experiment, “Even if you don’t know exactly what this means, imagine you’re going to bring your energy back into your body. All of you is going to come back into your body”. And as soon as they would do that, I could feel them come back. And where they would come back to would be in their throat or their chest, but rarely into their belly or the rest of their body or deep into their core. And then I’d say, “You notice that in your chest?” and they say, “Oh, yeah” and they went out again.
ALINE: Did you notice that because there was a slight contraction there?
JEFF: I can feel it in my own body. All I have to do is sort of become a mirror-I learned this from Zen. When you go see the Zen master, he becomes a mirror for you. I’m not saying I am a Zen master, but one of the things I discovered that I could do was to mirror in my own body what was happening in another person’s body. I practiced this until I was sure of my own perceptions. I would say to the client, “Now, try to bring it down into your chest.”
“Oh, yeah, I can feel that.”
“Now, try to bring it down into your diaphragm or your solar plexus. Good, now go a little lower. Okay, that’s great. Now, you’re on the surface of your belly. Imagine what you’re doing is bringing yourself inside, between your belly button and your spine”.
Just trying to get them to the core. As soon as they hit that spot, they got a little taste-sometimes a big taste of body samadhi. They experienced being fully present in the present. So when the center opens, the core opens. You can’t just have the hara without having the core. They’re not separate. As soon as they came into this area of their own body-the belly and then at the core level they lit up throughout their whole body. I could feel the energies go down into their legs and feet and up through the core; and some of them would say, “Oh, my God, this is incredible!’
And I would reply, “Can you feel how it went down into your legs?”
And so I did that for a couple of years before I started saying I could do it. The world seems to set things up for you. I knew a professor at Arizona State who liked to have me come talk to her holistic health class. I would just pick a few students, ask them to stand, and we would do this thing about getting into their bodies. Everybody got into their bodies; it was great! People got a taste of embodiment, presence, or body-samadhi. For about a year and a half, nobody failed to get into their bodies. It was perfect. I thought this was great: I could create a whole new training. And then about a year and a half, two years down the road, a lot of people had trouble doing it; not everybody could do it. As soon as they would get in, they would leave. So I started exploring that and found that they always came into and then quickly left the place where the block was. If I could get them (with their permission) to stay there, then the emotional content would start brewing and coming up. So a completely unarmored body could still be out of touch emotionally.
If they could stay present at that place, then the emotional issue would arise and then it could be integrated. Then they could go to the next place and integrate that. But a lot of people just weren’t ready to do that work. They’d say, ‘Well, I feel like I’m in my body, now. How am I?
And I’d say, “Well, do it again”.
‘Oh, yeah, now I’m in my throat again.’
“How does that feel?”
‘They would say, “I don’t know”, but I could feel their sadness.’
But they couldn’t deal with it. So then I had a choice: now do I carry this forward or do I finish this session? I gotta be a Rolfer here. If these people are not ready to do this, it’s not my job to push them there. I now realize that what was missing in my understanding was what Peter Levine has so brilliantly worked out.
So, did that answer your question?
ALINE: Yeah, in certain respects.
ALINE: This leads me to a question about what I call “Ida’s meta-teachings”. By that I mean the values implicit in what we do, and it seems Rolfing has to have some of those. It’s not so much principles, but values. What would you say are some Ida’s meta-teachings and what do you have to say about them?
JEFF: This is the philosophy of Rolfing, what I call Somatic Ontology. There are many ways to say it, depending on the tradition from which you come; but I like the word “freedom”. I think Rolfing is about human freedom, about liberation. When most people think about freedom, they think about political freedoms, such as the ability to go from Colorado to New York without somebody arbitrarily pulling you over and asking for your identification. If you’re white, of course, you have more of these freedoms than if you’re black. This is unfortunately still true in many areas of our country. These freedoms are important, but there is another kind of freedom: the freedom to be, not just the freedom to do all these things-all of which are important-but the freedom of being. So, I think freedom is the fundamental value of Rolfing. If we do the work well, then we give people a level of freedom they didn’t have before. You know, this freedom could manifest as something simple like “I’m not in pain any more; I’m not a shrew to my husband; I’m not hollering at my wife or kids anymore, because I feel better.” This is a kind of freedom. That’s the transformational part of Rolfing. It’s part of what we mean by “integration”. And I think this is our fundamental value. It would be interesting to see what other people feel. But that’s what got me: that first Rolfing experience was “Oh, by messing with my body, in some way I was opened up and freed at a level I was already working at and allowed me to hold onto my experiences of Zen at a deeper, more profound level, because my body wasn’t fighting anymore. And that just spilled out into everything else in my life.
ALINE: Some people say Rolfing maintains there is a “right” way for us to be and that it’s implicit in the way we work-maybe this is Rolfing poorly understood or poorly taught. Are we telling people there’s a “way” they should be?
JEFF: See, I think that’s all rooted in this whole notion of The Recipe as a formula. Ithe old days, they used to talk about a template. I’ve been reading a chapter from Don Johnson’s new book. You see, I’m a sort of second or third generation [Rolfer]. I didn’t know what the hell a “template” was, but if you teach a formula and you say you do the same thing to everybody and there’s a form you’re trying to impose on everybody; then, yes, it looks like we are trying to force everyone into the same mold. We look like we are trying to teach the-right-way-to-be… and who are we to say that? However, look at what we do. We look at the human body as if it were a peculiar sort of architectural structure that moves in space and time and has to deal with gravity. And we ask ourselves many real, basic questions: What does this body need to function more appropriately in gravity and to be more organized more appropriately in gravity? I think there are certain fundamental principles that guide our work; and if you Rolf according to these principles and you’re clear enough about all the differences ipeople, then the art of the work is learning how to strategize for all those different people and bring more balance and harmony in their bodies. As I said earlier, we make it possible for people to own what potentially is already there. We shouldn’t be forcing people into a mold, but simply by our work, allowing them to open to their own level of freedom and integration in gravity. If we do our jobs well, if we work with the level of integration our clients can own, if we are attentive to the unique needs of their structure and work according to principles and not formulas, then we will not be in the disguised authoritarian business of imposing our will on others. Structural integration in gravity is fundamental to human freedom.
Jan [Sultan] told me once that part of the reason he came up with this internal/external dichotomy was because there were many times when he got worked on that he got taken apart. He’s clearly an external, but the formulas and strategies that were being applied to his structure were designed for internals. So, that’s the danger of a formula. The accusation is somewhat accurate for the past, but I don’t think it’s correct for where we are headed. If you teach and think according to principles, then you can empower people, because then they can ask questions for themselves. They can say, “Hey, you said … and that didn’t work. So what’s the deal here?” If you teach formulas, you say, “Always do it this way and never do that;” and you come back and say, “it didn’t work; I did what you said”. Well, the disempowering implication is, you’re not good enough yet …or come back and learn the advanced recipe. By the way, the idea of an advanced recipe as an advanced formula is a contradiction in terms: it’s not possible to create an advanced formula. If you Rolf with an “advanced formula”, then you’ll do things to people that will cause structural problems. The other disempowering implication is, since the client didn’t change from the work, the client must be resisting, that something is wrong with the client.
ALINE: You’ll be happy to know that of the 150 people whom I’ve talked to, hardly anybody is doing the advanced series.
BILL: Hardly anybody is?
JEFF: I’m not real happy about that because of what it says about the advanced training. Because of the suppression of Dr. Rolf’s inquiry prior to the split, the advanced work was taught formulistically. I bet the reason they’re not doing the five-series is because they got to the point where they experienced the contradictory nature of an advanced formulistic recipe; their understanding is working. So they’re trying again to figure out what to do, and some people are throwing the whole thing out and saying, “It’s crazy”, and others are following it rigidly, and the rest are trying to do the best they can. What ‘s interesting is that the early attempts to teach the [advanced] five-series, the positions, for example, the position, were taught as if they were principles. They’re not principles. The positions are strategies, just like putting somebody on their side or on the bench. All of those are part of a strategy for getting something to happen. So if you assume that you must for all structures do a z-position, then what about bodies that don’t do so well in the z-position? This is especially problematic if you assume-as we all have for years-that the z-position is designed to open up the core or to “blast” open the core as some misstate it. If that is your intention with the z position, then you will surely create problems for those clients who need a different approach. The z [position], by the way, is not just about the core. Now that the suppression of Dr. Rolf’s inquiry is no longer part of us, the advanced work has finally become coherent-and truly advanced!
ALINE: There’s a spirituality inherent in the body, and you don’t necessarily have to elaborate on it, but the very act of being mindful and of moving, of working with someone to get more sensation and to be in their body more. Maybe what spirituality has to do with life and being in life and being the vehicle you have to be in life. If we have a notion of integration, then we’re already in this realm.
JEFF: Yeah, I agree; except I wouldn’t call the body a vehicle, because that’s part of the Platonic/Cartesian metaphysics of disease.
BILL: It also gets into what I have called the “meta teachings of Rolfing”. The belief system of our culture is: things don’t get better and the aging process is one of deterioration. The thing about Rolling that shredded my belief system was… I was better! I am better than I had ever been; and as I become older, I’m still better. Obviously, there are things that are deteriorating-I can’t deny it and the fact is, I am more present; I am more authentic; and that’s the meta-teaching of Rolling for me. Perhaps this is not different from your concept of “freedom”.
JEFF: Right. We all have our own ways of articulating that. And the reason it’s difficult is because the conceptual framework of Western thought separates those things. It says the body is one thing; spirit is another; mind-self is quite something else. The only tradition of the West that understood the importance of the body to transformation was alchemy, and that was pretty crazy stuff. You know they even had a word for it; it was “meta somatosis”. So, yes, you cannot separate the liberation of the person from the liberation of the body; and you will feel better than ever even as you age!
BILL:…Means before bad breath.
JEFF: Right! That moment before bad breath when all was pure. No, it really means spiritual illumination of the body. So, when the alchemists talked about the transformation of base metals into gold, that was also a way of talking about the transformation of the whole body-self. Lead was the untransformed human being, and the gold was the transformed human being. There was metallurgic alchemy; they were really trying to change base metals into gold. They thought everything was in process; everything was transforming; everything was moving to higher levels; and gold was the highest level for metals. They believed they could speed that process up. They did plant alchemy in which they took plants with healing properties, potentized them, and made them more powerful. I call the third group “philosophical alchemists”. They were the ones who felt spiritual practice demanded -this transformation of body. But it is interesting how this undercurrent of philosophy never reached the universities. When people talk about medieval philosophy, they talk about Saint I Aquinas, Saint Augustine, John Duns Scotus, and people like that. But, look at the alchemists: they’re hard I to understand. Do you know the word “gibberish”? “Gibberish” comes from an alchemist named Gerber.
ALINE: I must read him!
JEFF: Yeah, it’s worse than my stuff! Ha, ha!
ALINE: Actually, now that you mention it …I was reading your most recent one….
ALINE: Yes. The place where I really went “Oh!” was a concrete example of working on the foot and seeing something change in the eye. That’s a line! That example was incredibly helpful, and I suspect the more you ground it like that, the more your readers will…
JEFF: Well, that’s where I’m headed. I intend to be more concrete in my articles.
ALINE: That approach fits people’s experience. I’m always wondering, “Well, what is this idea that you’re working here and its effects there … and how?” So, that was just something I had never connected with it.
JEFF: It’s sort of wild to me; when I started teaching, I realized I was still teaching from a formulistic place, and it was driving me nuts. I watched myself starting to repeat formulas in my teaching, and I thought, “Geez, I can’t do this”. And then, like you, I started to ask myself, “What is the essence or idea of this session?” I had this big fat recipe book, and I looked through it (like you) and said, “What the hell is this session about? There has to be some fundamental something-or-other that guides what ft’s about.” I got a handle on the strategy/principle distinction, and I got into the notion of lines and seeing constant patterns emerging around lines. I explored the idea that perhaps these lines were somehow at the heart of what we see when bodies get integrated in gravity. And I wondered if these lines were part of what I was looking for in asking, “What are our principles?”
And when I taught a workshop called “An Introduction to Advanced Rolfing” with Jan, he had a set of principles, and I had my set of principles. And my set of principles were about these lines. And to make a long story short, Jan and I asked ourselves during that workshop, “What will allow this person to take the work of the next session and what are the principles behind the work?” At the time, my confusion was that I was still too focused on lines. Jan realized something must be done to “clear the decks” in the advanced work before attempting to introduce a new level of integration. We realized that a fundamental principle of our work is that you must prepare the body to receive order before you put order into it. We call this the Preparatory Principle. Preparation usually has very little to do with lines. Even in the advanced work, many bodies are going to need a whole job of decompensating and preparing the body at a level different than you would of in the first session of the ten-series. Other people come in and you just need to do a little of it, and then you can start working for a new level of order. So there are many variations in preparation. The same is true for a three series. A person comes in and you see what you want to do [and you ask] if the body is ready to accept the order you want to affect. Well, yeah, maybe it is. So maybe you don’t do much decompensation; but if it’s needed, it’s needed before you start to establish any new levels of order.
ALINE: Can you use a synonym for “decompensation”? What does that mean when you’re looking at a body?
JEFF: Yeah, other words for that one would be helpful.
BILL: I know what it means to me: it means you contact the person.
ALINE: Right, that’s what I think it means. But were I to read about “decompensation” in Rolf Lines might wonder “What does this mean? Is it bringing the client into a congruent pattern?” The word used by the psychologist we studied with this weekend was “presentation”. He pointed out that you don’t want to Rolf the client’s presentation. They’ve learned to put themselves together in a certain way, and as the Rolfer, you actually want to disturb their presentation a bit … so you can see what is actually there.
JEFF: That’s absolutely correct. They may have to look worse before they look better: congruence before order to clear the decks so you can see what is really operative in this body. You know how it works for the first session of the ten-series: basically it’s the session to open the body. Now, I remember asking Peter [Melchior] about this. I said, “You know, it’s really interesting, I finally snapped to what this first session is about. It’s about preparing the body for order.”
He replies, ‘Yeah, that’s interesting. Ida used to do both together. She tried to do both the work of preparing the body and the work of the second session and discovered it wouldn’t work. So she pulled them apart.’
Being too focused on lines and being mislead by the old mistaken formulistic way of beginning the advanced five-series with a Iine session, I missed the importance of what we are now calling the Preparatory Principle for beginning any advanced series. A line-session or a cranial, top-down session will not properly prepare a body for the advanced series. In most cases, it’s a serious mistake.
Jan calls one of the preparatory strategies for starting an advanced series “radial decompression”. You know, you have to get the periphery opened up so the body can integrate and sustain any new level of order. So you open up the arms, lower arms, the forearms, and the lower legs. And the rib cage. It’s a deeper level; it’s dealing with membranes, periosteum, and working at that level. I’d been doing that, but I hadn’t put it together right, and I was still confused. And when Jan did that, it was like, “Oh, yeah, that’s it!” So when you get an advanced body, a body that had a lot of work, obviously you can’t go diddling with the surface again. And a line-session is almost always totally inappropriate. So where is it in that body that it needs to be decompensated? Look at the forearms; feel them if you can’t see it. Look at the lower legs. Check the rib cage and work all of these areas at the membrane level. The body needs to be decompensated, opened up at this level in order to be able to absorb and adapt properly to any attempt to introduce a new level of order. If the body is not properly prepared, your work won’t take or some other place in the body will manifest strain.
ALINE: Another question. How did you learn to “see”, and do you have a way of teaching it?
JEFF: Yeah, I think I do have a way to teach it. What I realized in the last couple years of trying to figure what these principles are, is the reason “seeing” is so difficult for people is because nobody has given us a clear statement of the principles of Rolfing.
ALINE: Like, what we are trying to see?
JEFF: Exactly! What am I supposed to be looking at? You know, I’m not the only person who has asked this question. Jan and others have been asking these questions for years, but it was his inquiry that has sort of popped me to a point where I could start seeing to a clearer level. It was like I got the permission to say, “Oh, I could ask this question; it’s not heresy!” So when I started to think about these principles and tried to see if I could reduce the session to a principle, like the second-session line or the third-session line, then everything fell into place around that. By the way, these lines are indices of order, not principles as I first thought. As the lines of transmission are eased through our work, lines of order, i.e. horizontals and verticals, show up in the structure. Palintonic lines are expressions of order. Palintonos describes the geometry of order that is unique to Rolfing. Palintonos is unity of opposition, or oppositional balance of the spatial organization of the body.
A clear statement of principles is what gives us clear eyes for seeing. In order to see, we must know what we are supposed to be looking at or looking for. We must know what order or integration in gravity looks like. We also need to know what it feels like. And then we need to know the principles by which this order comes to presence in a body through our hands. The Palintonic lines show up when the lines of distortion or transmission are eased. So it is very helpful to know how these lines show up; how and where to address the tissue or movement patterns in order to see a whole line of support and spatial order manifest in your client’s body.
Palintonos means literally “stretched back and forth”. It describes everything Dr. Rolf liked about the German word “Spannung”. It means unity of opposition in the appropriate span and stretch of the body in gravity. It articulates our concept of spacio-temporal order in gravity.
We realized a number of our fundamental notions about how to Rolf can be formulated as a principle called the Palintonic Principle. For example, you cannot derotate a vertebra or the spine until you have established back/front balance. This may be why chiropractic adjustments don’t hold. To say side/side balance is not possible without back/front balance is to say something about how to sequence the work and about what appropriate spatial order looks like. This is palintonicity!
BILL: In conclusion, what would you, as chairman of the faculty, say is needed from the membership at this point in time?
JEFF: I would like the membership to look at what we are doing. The issue of disempowerment that came up in the [1991 annual meeting] Faculty-Membership Forum is an important issue. I think disempowerment has been apart of the Institute from the get-go and finally may be at a place where we can crack it.
I would like to see people enter into a real dialogue around issues. You know, The Forum letters remind me of people just dumping their emotional stuff. It saddens me to see all the pain expressed in those letters, which (for the most part) seem to reactivate the trauma that has been the Institute and only recreate the pain-re-injuring through reactivating the trauma. I don’t read much coherent discussion. I’d like the membership to start entering into this dialogue, and we are indeed trying to create lines of communication both ways, so the membership can participate with the teachers. We’re working on Bill [Harvey’s] post-advanced training proposal, which will provide more avenues for membership, more opportunities for people to teach.
I would like the membership to open up to the possibility of a creative, new kind of Institute that is emerging. My perception is that what they don’t like is not what exists now. It used to exist and what we are trying to do is to change it and clean up the mess as we go, but it’s a slow process. But please recognize we are trying to change it. Much of the criticism belongs to what the Institute used to be prior to the split. People are criticizing the past, but the past left! We are not without problems, of course; but the whole arena of the Rolf Institute has changed-I believe for the better.
What looked like inactivity on the part of the teachers was the suppression of the life-force of Rolfing: the suppression of Dr. Rolf’s inquiry. The split allowed the suppression to be lifted and the authoritarianism to be cleared away. The creativity of many people had been driven underground. With the lifting of the suppression of the inquiry, a great deal of cooperative, creative energy has been released in the faculty. The trust is growing, and Rolfing is evolving in a number of exciting and wonderful ways.
I only ask that the membership look at what we are doing, participate with us, and enter into the dialogue.
July 20, 1991In Profile… Jeff Maitland