August 15, 1993
Bob: I just want to say that I’m really excited about the articles you’ve been writing for Rolf Lines, and it feels to me cutting edge material. I was blown away by your workshop. You’ve been a gadfly. You’ve been pricking at the membrane of the Rolf Institute and the faculty to always be looking new. How are you maintaining your excitement about this and what areas are you investigating, where are you going for your information?
Robert: Well, that’s a good question. I’m excited about almost anything that feels like cutting edge, so, recently I find channels to have more personal connections with people who are on the cutting edge in science. When I go once a month to news agents stand and spend two hours there to read all the scientific journals. But they give me adrenalin rushes when I see anything coming out. Just for one example that excited Peter. Schwind also when he saw it in the German newspaper just recently, a German scientist, discovered that the kidneys are a major center for our sense of balance in the gravity field just like the inner ear and nobody knew that before-we still don’t know how the kidneys are doing that, but it’s one of those things that I get a lot of adrenalin about it.
Bill: The Chinese said that three thousand years ago-the organic relationship between the ears and the kidneys
Robert: Ah Hey great !
Bob: At the Three day workshop you brought up the idea that the heart
Robert: That the heart is a gland. I like that very much. You know the mechanistic idea that the heart is a pump, that it has nothing to do with love and feelings and that all feelings are in the brain. Now they found out that the heart is not actually the central pump that moves the blood, that the blood moves already by osmotic tension from the cells and the heart works more like a pace maker-producing waves that are running on top of the river that is already flowing. And the heart produces a hormone which is widening all of the vessels in the body and is actually superimposed on the pituitary gland.
Bob: So, the heart’s now the master gland of the body in science which the Hindus knew many thousands of years ago.
Robert: I like it because it fits what any lover or poet already felt before. And it’s not in the books yet-in two years it will be in the text books about the glands of the body the heart will be included. And this gives me, like you, an excitement that basically we don’t know anything. We know very little bit.
Bob: The other exciting thing, one of the many exciting things that came out of your three day workshop, was the idea that multi-sensory input was important in changing the body image held in the motor cortex. You taught us how to interface directly into the way the mind, the motor cortex, gives us a loop back into how we should stand in space and you had very new information about how maybe we should re-orient the way that we Rolf.
Robert: This is something that Peter Melchior once wrote to me. He said that for a long time he had the suspicion that what we actually do as body workers is not change the body so much directly but change our mind about the body. So, that’s why I continue to study our brain’s organization of our self image of the body-how does the brain organize our body patterns? And the motor cortex is one cortical representation of it. That’s the thing that excited me so much to find a lot of really good guide lines for us Rolfers that actually fits to our experience. If we look at the motor cortex it leads us to put much more attention to the face and lower arm and hand because the face and hand are very huge and central in our brain’s body image.
Bob: Two-thirds. Two-thirds of the motor cortex is only interested in where the head is and where the head and face are in space and how the hands are.
Robert: So, if we leave them out like I used to do in my old years as a Rolfer then we only treated one third of a person’s body image, how I call it, or body/mind organization patterns. Other Rolfers have found out for whatever reasons they think are the reasons behind it that if you do more mouth and face work before the seventh session and if you include the lower arms and hands, you’ll get much more changes than if you wait for the couple of minutes in the ninth and tenth session. So, it fits quite well.
Bob: Because we are looking for ways that we can create ever more permanent effects into the body, and the brain can’t be left out. You have other information about learning, about the way that we learn.
Robert: The thing that we played with in the workshop was that learning happens best when you have multi sensory input. And the other thing was when it’s on a level of significance for the person whatever that means to them.
Bob: Which brings in the spiritual level.
Robert: And it means that whatever I do as a Rolfer to them has to be for their nervous system significant. It should have a meaning somewhere in their life context and their emotional value or our context should be in away so that they leave the session and feel like something unusual happened to them. And the question is how do I do that? I can do that with a lot of meta phoo phoo atmosphere, I can do it in a dramatic way, I can hurt them like hell, I can be unusually precise, or I can link it with emotional values that are very important for them. And if I don’t do that,- I miss, and they won’t have a big learning effect.
Bob: Or you can whisper into the body, was the image you used.
Robert: Yeah, you whisper also with your touch.
Bob: Also, you emphasized that the nervous system is interested in movement, that it really gets activated by movement, the active body movement was the third.
Robert: Participation. That’s actually something that I feel we Rolfers have. I also studied the Feldenkrais method as you know, and normally, Moshe Feldenkrais himself worked differently, but the normal practitioners, we learned to treat the client mostly with passive movement-where the client is passive and we move his bones. And that works too somehow but if you study the neuro physiological research, you know that learning happens much much better, especially motor learning, if the client is actively involved. You have a much bigger participation. The supplementary motor cortex is not involved, is not addressed, when you move somebody passively; it is actively involved when the clients are participating actively or, and this is interesting for the movement teachers, when the person is just imagining to move actively-even that is more powerful than being moved by a practitioner. So, we have active client participation already in our work-we have foot up and down, bring your elbow to the side, take a deep breath, and all of that. And I work a lot with micro-movements in the Continuum style work where I have my clients move much much more than I used to, participating in my sessions with very subtle and unusually precise micro movements. That also brings additional attention to the area where I’m working, so the work is very vital. But its not like you said in the workshop, it’s not going down the easy grain …
Bob: Or the path of least resistance.
Robert: Yes, so especially for new Rolfers, who often are shy to talk with their clients, or ask for movement. You have to learn the art of languaging in a way, where you get the kind of movement that you want, where they don’t make jerking movements. That’s something that I’m involving more and more-how do you lead the client to come up with the right kind of micro movement.
Bob: Micro-movements led us into the Continuum sense, and you were saying, in fact, that perhaps the most exciting place of movement for the body to begin was the interface, the place just where imaginary and real movement were happening.
Robert: Where you’re not sure if the movement is only in your mind, or if there’s actually an anatomical shift happening. In my mind I can fantasize circling atoms around each other, I have no problems, fantasizing that, but I’m quite sure that’s not what’s happening when I imagine doing it. But sometimes I’m not sure if the movement I have my attention on is just in my mind, or if it’s actually happening. So on that level, where the person is not sure if somebody from the outside could see something, that’s often the most interesting level to enter new patterns, and get out of the habitual ones.
Bob: A place of super-learning…
Robert: Yeah. The other thing about learning that I have been stumbling upon, and I’m not quite sure where this will lead my work, our work, is Ernest Rossi’s book The Physiology of Body/Mind Healing about “state-dependent” learning. I’m very convinced by the whole research done there that learning and behavior is very much “state dependent”- it means if you learn something, for example, I teach you a German beer song when you’re drunk, the next morning you might not remember it when you are sober. But when you’re drunk again, you will remember it. The same for all kinds of other drugs. The same happens with what I learn in a nice, relaxing Feldenkrais, New Age relaxation group environment: it’s available whenever I’m in the same environment again. So my clients pick it up faster, and they come to the session and stand more relaxed, but when they are under stress, it’s all gone, and they remember what they learned under stress. When I’m under high stress, I remember what I learned in the army and all other stress situations, but nothing of what I learned in a nice relaxation or massage session, or whatever other relaxation paradigm therapies are doing.
Bill: So we have to Rolf in the work place.
Robert: Yeah, very much. I’ve been actually very interested in your presentation today. Because I’ve been starting a little bit to make more interface with the workplace: I give my clients a recording walkman, well, I’ve only done it twice-and tell them to take it home and record a situation during their week that is the most stress evolving, like telephones ringing and kids screaming, or whatever, then bring it to me. And already that is a very good exercise for them, because they remain the witness when they are in the situation. When they finally bring the tape, I can use that then in the later sessions, eight and nine for example, to make an interface where they lengthen their line, relax their shoulders, connect with the ground, and do whatever they have been doing before under relaxation, when they hear the phones ringing, the kids screaming and all that stuff.
Bill: Let me tell you something, it’s completely off the point, there’s a postural integrationist in Baltimore who has eight different tape tracks. He interviews you, finds out about your life, and then he gets eight different pieces of noise that are relevant to you. The guy who told me about this was a monk, so he got Gregorian chants, and he also had traffic noises, a particular passage of Beethoven he loved-eight different things-and you can’t separate it in your mind when its that many tracks. So he’s on the table, overwhelmed, and the therapist comes into the sternum and an overlay of those eight sounds, and among the tracks the monk began to hear his father yelling at him.
Robert: This is great stuff. I did only two tapes myself one is kids screaming in the swimming pool on the hottest summer day in Munich, the other is ringing telephones. I’m looking now for kind of moderated stress tapes. The other thing is, under Rolfing we have that already. That’s where I’m coming back from the super soft Rolfer that I might have been some years ago, to use stress as an empowering thing for people to widen their boundaries. I think that’s more available to them then, than when I’m only nurturing and supportive, especially if I want to have a big transfer into their everyday life, and not just when they come to the next Rolfing session.
Bob: We want to create true learning, something that has relevance.
Robert: But that will mean we have to go to people’s workplaces. I’ve been thinking also to offer one extra session to them, where I’ll get paid just to go to their house or workplace and make not only an audiotape but some video shots. Then I can use that video, where they imagine and see themselves moving through that particular door, for example. I often tell my clients to imagine some place in their life where they pass a certain door, or something that happens three or four times during the day, that they can use as an anchor to re-experience what you’re sensing right now on the table, with your shoulders relaxed. That works very well. So I have them on the table, at the end, I touch their feet with a board on my chest or thighs, and they imagine to stand. Then I say, `now choose one situation where you are mindful enough during the day, where you are not under total stress, when you leave the house or open your car door, where you could have two seconds available-and then I do a kind of future pacing, hypnotic technique-so tomorrow you might be in this situation and suddenly you will smile because you realize this thing worked, and you will remember to relax your shoulders. And for this process videotape might also be good, of their workplace, to use in the session.
Bob: You said that you give people polaroid cameras, so that they can have a work photo.
Robert: Yes, I have a camera which I give to some clients. They take it home and get a picture of themselves at their work station, in a habitual work posture. They also have to measure the height of the table and the chair. So for the eighth or ninth session, when I usually do some imitation exercises, they have it with them. And then I give the follow-up pictures as a present to them, and they can put it somewhere on their desk.
Bill: The problem with going into the work place, is that it’s an event if you’re in there.
Robert: In a big company like you are, yes. I mainly have self-employed people, I have a lot of the rich bunch in Munich who come to me, and they usually have their own computer workstation at home.
Bob: So actually insisting, perhaps, that you do a session in their home.
Robert: I haven’t done it yet-I’m moving in that direction. But it will be one session just to explore, and it should be very worth while.
Bob: Now you brought a new model of structure to the annual meeting, based on genetics. Do you want to talk about that?
Robert: It’s a bit dangerous. The other thing is it will be published in Rolf Lines anyway. I basically see Jan Sultan’s system of the external internal, I see it very much explainable now, even the things that were not so explainable to me, by more genetic reflex pattern. One would be, the startle reflex, where genetic flexor muscles are shortened, and the other is the Landau reflex with a chronic shortening of genetic extensor tissues, and I trace them out very much in detail over the last year, which muscles belong to which group and what they would do-and it pretty much comes out to Jan Sultan’s model, except for the lower legs and feet. But that is fine with me because that was something I was confused by in his description.
Bill: You created a continuity between the muscles in the front of the body with the hamstrings in a way that I had never seen before.
Robert: But that’s genetics. In the embryo they were one continuous flexor layer. Posterior muscles of the leg, including the sole of the foot, they used to be ventral, facing to the front, when we were very young, and then they did this medial twist. I think we Rolfers have to move to study embryological and developmental anatomy!
Bill: Well the thing that was really fascinating about that for me is the notion that with the migration of the limbs to our bipedal stance, you’ve already introduced the spirals into the body. Which ties together with the whole theme of Gael and David’s presentation at this annual meeting.
Bob: And the piece that was interesting for me was that the trapezius muscle and the sterno cleido mastoid were originally gill muscles in us, in early embryonic development-so they are emotional.
Robert: Yeah, emotional in quotation marks, I call some muscles emotional muscles, a proper name would be cranial innervated skeletal muscles, Since there are a few muscles that are not innervated from the spinal chord, the trapezius and the sternoclido for me they are almost one muscle, they used to be one muscle in early embryonic development and then they split, plus the muscles of facial expression and vocal expression-those four areas are enervated by cranial nerves, and I see them being more closely connected with the brain stem, they are kind of extensions of the brain stem, and I see them acting more precisely and fast to reflect the arousal states of the brain stem than your buttocks do, or your brachialis, or whatever. So that’s why I’ve been studying a lot of the nervous system in the last year, because I think it’s a big part of our work. If you see the good Rolfers, how they work, they don’t treat the person as if it’s a dead piece of meat, they treat them as something that can respond actively, that has a high level of self-regulation. For me the nervous system is not electrical circuits, like we used to think, it’s a much more complicated and chaotic system of self-organization of the whole body, the whole being. And I call that nervous system because I haven’t found another name, but we know it also includes neuropeptides, and the other liquids. What I mean is the wholistic body self coordination as a system, not just the one little piece. So I’ve been studying that a lot, and I think that’s an area we also need to include in our theory, not just in our hands and practice.
Bob: You bring chaos theory into Rolfing for the first time!
Bill: I guess it’s not fair to say for the first time-we’ve had chaos, but not as a theory.
Robert: Like many others, I’m excited about the whole revolution in science happening now. It will shake up Rolfing as much as any other field, and science, and art in the future also. I haven’t really found how to introduce the exciting concepts that I have studied in chaos theory into Rolfing. I have a few things, but they are too early to formulate. I have some beginnings that come through the Neural-Darwinism of Gerald Edelman, who has been coming up with a new way of how the brain works. He might be winning his second Nobel Prize now. This is kind of the hot stuff, that means the nervous system is constantly, actively reorganizing, that you are born with a certain set of neurons, but what connections they make is totally individual, so your brain’s hardware-not just the software-is different from mine. And it’s by a process of neuronal group selection that organizes certain cells to form a group, similar to the color groups in the skin of a zebra. And then those groups make connections, by the way and how often they are connected with each other. And that reminds me of a field which is called connectionism, in behavioral theory, it means that the main thing is not how something is represented in your brain, but to establish the right connections. This leads to where we have been talking before, that as a Rolfer, the main thing if I want to change behavior, if I want to influence a neural organizational pattern, is by helping to establish new connections between one pattern or representation and another. That’s a fascinating way to think about it.
Bob: Education, then, not manipulation.
Bill: So you bring all this excitement from these new things to the faculty, and you’re new to the faculty, so you get to play this role.
Robert: I became a faculty member and instructor a year ago, and I actually think this is partly because in the past I’ve been playing the role of someone who is questioning some of the most sacred assumptions in our work. Not the only one, but as a spokesperson of a few people, I’ve been questioning our assumption of the gel-to-sol model, our old assumption was that by applying pressure from the outside, the pressure itself, without any muscle tonus influence, would change the connective tissue there in a few seconds to become softer and more liquid. There is now evidence that this doesn’t happen so fast, or we would need tons of pressure to do that. This is one of the things that I’ve been questioning, and I actually realized that this is now different. Ten years ago this kind of questioning might not have been allowed, or might not have been possible. I feel like either the faculty allowed me to become a teacher because the Institute is in a very desolate state, that they don’t realize what they are doing, or it means, and I am actually convinced of that, that we are in a very mature state. As the Rolf Institute, if you come to our meetings and hear our discussions, it’s not anymore on the level of some other and younger New Age organizations in the health care system who are only telling each other how wonderful their work is and how valuable it is for this group of people or this group of people, but where we are questioning each other’s assumptions and continuing to work on critical questions. This is a sign of maturity, and I like that.
Bob: You had some questions about the way learning is actually conducted at the Institute, and you’re looking to create a new format in Europe?
Robert: I’ve been participating with a very active group in Europe over the last year, we have been actively researching the whole training program, from pre-training to advanced, what would be the best format and the best content to produce the highest quality Rolfers. And I’m especially interested in modern learning theory, what we have learned about how the brain works best, and my strong conviction is that early active participation teaches better than preparing you for the active life and then throwing you into it and leaving you alone there.
So, this is all still in the making, but one proposal which we have been preparing now, which will be up at the European annual meeting, would be that there is much earlier active involvement. I think Ida invented this teaching method because for her time it was the most ideal condition-she was the only teacher who she trusted, so she had the auditors and the practitioners both in the same room. But now it’s different, and we know more about how learning happens, so that means the auditing phase can be much more actively used. For example, the auditors don’t need to be in the same class as the practitioners. They can already start with a program like our suggestion, to have 33 days for Phase I, which would replace auditing, spaced in three or seven time chunks, so it’s not nine weeks overall because then again the brain goes into overload and it’s very hard to teach, to pump in new information and excitement. But where they can go home in between, and come back for another three weeks, or another four days here, but we don’t want to make it too drawn out into too small segments. We do want to have intensity also, so we said like 33 days divided into between three and seven time chunks. How that would be done? Every year the teachers and the administration would decide where it fits best. In that period they would actually exchange the ten sessions with each other, would have time to go into the anatomy, combined with movement, get a movement teacher to come in several times, not just once, and actually work actively. Then in between, they can go home, digest it and apply it, with more body reading, palpation, literature, etc.
In Phase II, they would go home and have to do things there. They do three supervision sessions with a new category of Rolfer called supervising Rolfer, for which they get paid by the training money by the school. They would have to work in a workbook which we have to start assigning, and look at certain videos of famous sessions and lectures and report on what they saw. Then they come in for Phase III, which would be practitioning intensive, and that would be six weeks long, five days a week, and there they would have three models to Rolf. Then, they would have their preliminary certification in which they have a preliminary certificate which is good for up to eighteen months, and we call that Phase IV, Supervised Practice. There they have much more support than we’ve had in the past. In the past it happened that a Rolfing teacher comes to Europe and does a wonderful training, and then the show is over and people are out, and the teacher doesn’t even hear how the people are doing, whether they’re struggling or not with his stuff. That needs to be changed. So we have this Phase IV now where the students are actively working and making money but are still connected and supported in their learning process. The whole thing is a proposal for a pilot project, and if it goes through in the original meeting in Europe and with Boulder, then we will test it maybe in 1995 for one year in Europe. Rather than prepare people with more and more pre-training weeks, we want to continue with more of a post-training thing. So Phase IV would include sending in five client evaluations with pictures from one to ten, plus a report of themselves, and they would have five supervision sessions or tutorials with a supervising Rolfer, which is a category we need to create and train people to do that, and they could choose their supervisor. Then they would come back for a final certification class, which is a special six-day workshop, and then get their final certification. The whole thing would cost the same as now and would last about fifteen months normally. I personally feel quite good about the whole thing, and we did a lot of work on it. It’s also based on my conviction that learning happens best when you are actively involved, and not when you prepare for some action in a distant future.
Bill: That is unbelievable!
Bob: It’s rich, it’s a rich challenge.
Robert: This will change a lot. It’s work in progress.
Bill: The way we’ve been taught, we’ve been taught the recipe it seems to me, as a major filter because there is so much input. How do you determine what’s important? There’s too much information for a beginner, so you have a recipe. Now you’ve proposed a system where you’re not overloaded with information at the front end, so you can actually assimilate the information as you’re going along and, therefore, maybe wouldn’t be as tied to the recipe. Your Rolfing would be more specific.
Robert: One thing for this new pilot project, yes, people would be able to digest much more information input and I could give them literature to read in between the different phases. In their home study phase, Phase II, they have a workbook that tells them “In this week you read chapters 1-3 of a specific book. I want you to write a report on what you learned from this, etc.” So I can put in much more information.
The question about the recipe, I’ve been asked if I still teach it: Yes! I think it would actually be a danger to go too far ahead into what you could call free-style Rolfing, where you work only on where you think, according to your latest knowledge, the main leverage points are in the system. I’ve done that, I dropped out of active Rolfing membership for a year and practiced in the Poona Ashram in India in 1980 when I was an active disciple of Rajneesh. I practiced what they called rebalancing sessions, mainly one-shot sessions, and it was free-style bodywork everything was okay-a wonderful learning field. And I learned a lot in that. If I do one shot sessions, I still think this is the right attitude. But if people come for a series, I found out that the danger of doing free style Rolfing is my sessions become more and more similar to each other. I could see it in the other free style body workers around me, they would verbally say they treat everybody different, but watching them through a curtain. They would be always doing they same stuff, and I saw myself doing the same thing. I did a workshop on cranial-sacral therapy, so I did cranial-sacral with everybody, and year later I did spinal mechanics with everybody. Whatever my latest, newest fad of understanding is, I keep repeating that with the clients.
Now that’s great, but I think it has two disadvantages if you throw out the recipe as a guideline. One disadvantage is again in learning theory, the nervous system adapts the sessions become similar and they are not anymore significant after a while, because even though you work differently, it doesn’t feel different to the brainstem of the client. My fifth session feels like the third session, and it doesn’t reach them anymore. Whereas, if my client then goes to another body worker who touches him in a different style, suddenly something happens, because it’s again the shift and they haven’t adapted. So adaptation is something we need to look at-of the brainstem, of the whole nervous system. That’s the danger I see in free-style Rolfing, I see it in myself. Theoretically it could be different, but it’s just psychological that your sessions don’t have significant differences anymore. Whereas in Ida’s recipe, if you just followed that, you would have significant differences: suddenly in the sixth session, you lie them for the first time on their belly; in the seventh session you go up their nose! So you would not have the danger of the high adaptation of the self-regulation system. The second disadvantage is that our understanding of the human body dynamics is less than 50% of what could be known one million years from now of everything that might be involved in organizing posture and movement of this whole complex thing by the way, we have two hundred thousand motor neurons, that’s what I learned, it’s not 50 thousand, it’s two hundred thousand motor units which can be monitored individually by this huge complex organism. This whole thing is organized without our understanding of all the factors there, even if I know all the spinal mechanics that I know now, and all the cranial sacral stuff, I’m operating as someone who understands 10%-30% at the most. So I think we should have a mixture of following a guideline that takes us in the ten sessions, even if I didn’t want to go there according to my latest intuition and workshop knowledge, it takes me to the major knots even if I don’t like it, or to the soles of the feet in the ten sessions, and then mix that with whatever it is my intuition and latest workshop knowledge to focus my attention. But those Rolfers who are what I call free-style Rolfers would say ‘oh, this is old-fashioned! I want you to work only where it makes rational sense.’ This is a danger. Other things, like the recent discovery we discussed before that the kidneys now have a totally new function that we didn’t know, the heart being suddenly a hormonal thing-they come out every year, and the rate of new discoveries per five years is increasing. So even for us Rolfers, I think we have to be humble enough, and if you are humble, then all your intuition and rational analysis can at the most count up to 10-30% of all the factors that might really be going on there.
So my style is to give students a recipe, especially beginning Rolfers, and I’m finding out as much as possible about what the original recipe meant, and then combining that with rational logic and making some shifts there, like including the lower arm and hand and face work much more because we know more about the nervous system than Ida may have known consciously in her day.
Bill: When you mentioned working in Poona, it occured to me that in truth, none of us really know anything about you. We don’t know where you came from… we know you’re German, the first German Rolfer actually.
Robert: I trained in 1978, when I was 23-don’t tell anybody. I studied psychology before, and I didn’t have another profession before becoming a Rolfer. I wanted to become a psychotherapist, but I found out that the body is much more interesting. So I finished psychology at the University as a Diplome Psychologe, which is somewhere between Ph.D. and MA in the American system. But I didn’t practice as a psychotherapist, I went straight ahead into Rolfing. Then I was very much on a spiritual path, quite actively as a Rajneesh Sanyass in disciple, until I had some major learning -experiences after the Oregon disaster of that movement. Maybe that also explains a bit of my over-exaggerated role of asking rational questions about everything, and even doubting my own intuition a lot, because the whole thing felt very emotionally good for me with the Rajneesh, and later I found out there were some other things. happening politically in the organization that I would not support anymore. I’m now asking more-questions. So that’s why I’m coming to the Buddha statement about not believing something just because it is said or written or comes from a famous person or from an inner deva voice, and why I even, if my hands tell me I feel what the charismatic teacher told me I would feel about the cranial sacral pulse, I’m not convince that in objective reality, or let’s say in outside measurements, the same is happening as in introspective anatomy. That’s some of the history that explains why I am quite comfortable in enjoying things and going with intuition, but also using my rational mind to scrutinize what’s happening.
Bob: Your path lead you into Feldenkrais technique, and that has influence you a great deal. What are some of the other major influences that you bring to your work?
Robert: I think Feldenkrais explains a lot. This is something where I have to be very thankful to Jan Sultan, because in my practitioning he told me that he was already very inspired when he trained, to go into chiropractic or osteopathy and Ida told him ‘I suggest to you to stick to Rolfing for five years and really get your feet down on the ground there, and when you have a solid foundation after five years, then you can expose yourself to something which has a similar kind of depth.’ And that was very helpful to me, because shortly after my training in 1978, I got the chance to do the last training that Moshe Feldenkrais did, and that would have been very tempting to me, but I remembered those words and stuck to Rolfing for five years. I did the advanced training in Rolfing, and then I had a chance to do the Feldenkrais training, which was the first one that they had after Moshe’s death. And there were many things which I like much more about our community and work, about our training, but the whole thinking style of the Feldenkrais work, where you think more about the nervous system and about having more options rather than going for a Platonic ideal that you kind of compare everybody to, has influenced my life and mywhole thinking much more than I was aware of. If you see my practical work today, if you see most of my theoretical work, anybody who knows Feldenkrais work says ‘well, that’s where he comes from’, and recognizes it. But actually I don’t see any conflict. I’m very much a Rolfer, I feel very much at home in the format of Rolfing and the goals of the ten sessions, and I use anything that works.
Bob: You reap a point of Hubert Godard.
Robert: Yeah! I love this guy. I just taught together with him for four days, and I’m highly inspired by his line of work and his thinking. I was very happy that I could convince this guy to give us a promise that he would be available for continuing movement education for Rolfers in Europe starting in 1995. People interested in studying with him could enroll in something like five 3-day weekends over a year, and then do work in between. I also was lucky enough to get him in two very great lectures that he did on his work, on videotape, that will be available at the Institute pretty soon. Actually if you read my article in Roll Lines, which comes out soon about my two neurobiological types, the short flexors and the short extensors, relating to startle reflex and Landau reflex, there is a lot of similarity with his typology of the Up and Down people. There were a lot of things where we were very inspired by each others work. So he’s the guy for me to study.
Bob: You also have a book that’s been published in German, and you have accompanying picture cards.
Robert: It’s a whole set. It’s too bad it’s not available in English yet. The few publishers that have contacted me, or that I have contacted, find the format a bit too unusual for them. It’s a set that looks a videotape, a bit bigger, and has three things in it. The main thing is 25 nice cards, like some expensive Tarot cards, and each card has a nice picture drawing and a few lines to suggest a certain exercise: the first card has a picture of a head-ball dancing on top of a fountain, and it says’ imagine your head being balanced on top of a fountain’, that’s the whole card. It’s an invitation for the reader, and my clients, to take the card and place it somewhere at home, again integration into active life. So they place it at their workstation or on the desk or bathroom door, wherever they will see it even if they don’t remember to think about it during the day so they remember the exercises.
Then there is a book that accompanies it, which has a short introduction into modern bodywork approaches, quality is more important than quantity, and those things. Then it has for each card about two more pages of questions you can only answer if you have been playing with the exercise for a minute, of information about body, gravity, nervous system. It’s written for lay people, and usually finishes with a quote by Ida Rolf, Matthias Alexander, Moshe Feldenkrais, Ron Kurtz. At the very end it has an introduction into four modern body-oriented approaches for the lay people, and I compare those four systems that I just mentioned. So it’s not only Rolfing. Then there are two audiotape lessons, which I worked on for a very long time and I like them very much. They are spoken by someone with a very nice voice, who the company selected for a very high payment, a radio spokesperson. It has a word sequence and some music behind it.
That’s something I’ve developed to give to my clients as a present after the tenth session, because I often feel like acknowledging the bond we had and giving them something to take home. I used to give them some kind of affirmation cards, which were very nice, but they had nothing to do with bodywork, so that’s why I also developed these cards. But the strange thing is, if I do it now, and the whole thing has my name on it, it’s in a different relationship context because the hidden meaning of the whole gesture often is for them “look how great I am”. So that’s why I use the book and the whole tape now more with other people. But I have copies of the individual cards, and I give them at the end of a session sometimes when it fits for them to take it home. I’m looking for American publishers for the whole thing, because it’s very valuable.
The other thing I’ve used is the little vibrator timer, which I give to my people. An American company has that, it’s called “MotivAider”, and it’s a little pocket thing, the size of a very small wallet, and you can time it very easily, within a few seconds, to remind you just by an inaudible vibration about anything. It vibrates for three seconds, and you can set how much it vibrates so it doesn’t scare you but is still strong enough. And when a client tells me they would like to think about the exercise, but they are always angry with themselves because they forget in the midst of the action, then I give them this little thing for a week, and they can set it for every hour, or every three hours, or every fifteen minutes, they have their little friend to vibrate them in the pocket, and they smile and they breathe through relaxation visuals or whatever it is that they want to remind themselves to do.
Bob: Sensory restimulation to learning.
Robert: Yeah. It would be nice to have a company that would make them available for less money, but I haven’t found that yet, so I just have two or three to loan to my clients together with the cards.
Bob: Do you have any new scientific information from your magazine articles and books that …
Robert: Actually, I’m not a scientist, I’m a pseudo- want-to-be scientist. The only thing I do is keep my connections to scientists. Whenever I have a scientist somewhere in my periphery, I invite them out to dinner, and steal and grab wherever I can. I believe a lot in collaborative effort. I think the age of individual heroes is gone, even in the Institute or anywhere, heroes live only a very short time. And what counts, and what moves us much further is a cooperative effort where everybody “steals” from and inspires each other. That’s what I see happening in the Rolf Institute, and we are not an individual hero organization ourselves, even though we might like to feel that. We profit by influences from other people, from Feldenkrais, even from the kinesiologists’ research, and we feed back into their research. That’s how the whole thing is moving, and I’m sometimes frustrated with how inefficiently the communication happens between us. I’m very much for faxing everything-even unfinished class notes to other colleagues so they can say’ hey, you’re working on the same lines as I am.’ And where I’m not publishing something to just get my name big, but to increase our speed of learning. So I’m very frustrated with how slow our Rolf Line business is. If I have an idea, I see it published eight months later! That’s how long it takes for it to reach Munich, and then before somebody can respond it’s three years from now. By then, everything I have written is totally ridiculous. We have to find another format to interact, even in the faculty, and ;n the whole membership.
Bob: It’s all happening so fast these days, we certainly saw that here at the meeting.
Robert: Yeah, this was a great meeting! I liked it very much. My suggestion for the faculty is also that we would only meet once a year for a six day gathering, where there would be enough time also for us to do just two days of organizational things, that would be ideal, and then have four days to exchange practical work and bounce ideas back and forth. Then have in the interim period, because I’m often frustrated with how slow our decision-making process is-it took me two years to finally push it through that practitioners don’t have to sign that they cut their beard, before they do the seventh session in the practitioning. It was still in our contract. I formulated it several times, pushed it on the agenda, and it took two years. We’re very slow in our time-efficiency as an organization. We will not survive if we keep the same inertia. So my suggestion is that the faculty have phone conferences in between meetings and I am also for the idea of a computer network so that we can all be in communication with each other within seconds… (end of tape and end of interview).