Bill: So what’s this about you writing a book?
Rosie: My four year project has come to an end, although I think the end is a beginning of something new! It’s all done and I’m really pleased with it. I think I succeeded in putting together the elements that were really dominant in my own heart and my own work. During my training, I did not get as much support as I might have under other circumstances for the healing aspect that I bring into Rolfing. I have realized recently that in order to be a Rolfer with integrity, I have to be an expert in structure, which I am. I’ve paid my dues in terms of training and studying and practicing in function, anatomy and physiology, body mechanics-stuff I love, and stuff that is absolutely a part of my work.
There are other people in our organization who I’ve learned so much from. But, Bill, I think I’m putting together something that is truly mine. Truly mine-it’s an incredible feeling! I recently got an endorsement for my book from Larry Dossey. He and I went back and forth with letters, and the whole process of working with him was wonderful. I don’t have it in front of me, but to paraphrase the endorsement, it talks about yoga and Rolfing as essentially processes of the spirit. When I read his endorsement, it brought tears to my eyes because he really got what the book was about: infusing spirit and healing as the largest container that we put our work in. Structure is not the largest container of our work; structure is a tool, a very viable, excellent tool that as Rolfers we have become expert in using. But the largest container is our relationship with the client and how we hold them during the time that we’re working with them. That includes elements of an interpersonal relationship, it includes elements of putting our own self-development absolutely on the line, and it includes elements of learning ways to hold back less and less as practitioners. Because when we hold back, in various ways, we limit the transformation potential of our work. If we’re holding back, we’re not modeling expansiveness, we’re not modeling freeing inhibitions, we’re not modeling intimacy. Those elements are factors in the healing equation for our clients, who come to us for a variety of reasons. It may look like back pain, it may look like a rotated sacrum, and there might be a bigger picture that we can tap into. Which I’m tapping into like crazy!
I’m really happy, Bill, I’m really happy doing this. It’s joyful! I’m not the only Rolfer having a great time doing our work, I don’t make any presumption like that. I think a lot of us are having a really great time. But the great time is the dance, it’s finding ways to come into my client’s process and provide my support in a variety of unique ways that speak to the particulars of the way the clients has learned to hold himself or herself, the particulars of the way she’s learned to guard herself. If her sacrum is rotated because of a psychic disorder, meaning she doesn’t feel safe on the planet, I can tweak her sacrum for ten sessions in a row, and that may help her feel safer on the planet, but I’m not sure. I want to address that, I want to address the psychic root of why her sacrum is rotated. It may be a mechanical injury, but maybe not, and I’m looking at the core issues that show up in the structure.
If I weren’t doing structural work, there would be no reason to align myself with the Rolf Institute. So lately in my workshops I’m calling this “intelligent energy work.” We touch a client’s body, speaking to the psychic elements, and moving things around with intelligence. It is not just “laying on of the hands.” If I were doing that, I wouldn’t be a Rolfer, there would be no reason to continue calling myself a Rolfer. So all of the process work is grounded in the structure. It’s heavenly! It doesn’t get more elegant than this, in my opinion, in my experience, because the physical body is what we’re born into. We live our lives through our physical bodies, everybody does, nobody is an exception to that-we’re all humans, we all have physical bodies. So it’s a wonderful tool.
Bill: There’s a couple of things I’m thinking about these days. I’m thinking about the difference between compulsive and impulsive, the difference between doing something because you’re driven to do it because it is perceived at a gut, soul level to have something to do with your primary wounds-acting to heal your primary wounds.
Rosie: This is compulsive?
Bill: As opposed to making a choice out of being whole. I don’t want this to be judgemental.
Rosie: I hear it as an observation, not as a judgement. It sounds like one is operating out of a limitation of choices, and the other is operating out of a multitude of choices.
Bill: Have you had an occasion in your working intimately with clients, working with yourself on the line, have you had an occasion where your own needs started to speak.
Rosie: Yes. That’s a great question. Last year when Larry was sick, I was coming to my office to see a woman I’d been seeing every week for a long time. I had a big blind spot about her codependent tendencies, and I realized in anticipation of my visit I had just come back from Stanford Hospital, and I had a very sick husband and I was feeling very, very sad that day-and in anticipation of my session with her, I realized that I always got bigger than her. If she was holding “Yea” much, I got “Yea plus two” big, if she was holding “X” much, I got “X plus two” big, I always got bigger than her to hold her. And during the session she was complaining about some elements of her life, and I’ll call her JoAnn, I said “JoAnn, from where I’m sitting, I see you complaining about things that you can change, and right now I’m suffering with things I don’t know how to change.” She said to me, “It sounds like you’re frustrated with me.” I said, “No, I’m not frustrated with you, but I have a vantage point right now. I see you suffering in areas that you can change.” I didn’t hold her, Bill, I didn’t get bigger than her. It was a complete breakthrough for me, because she called that night, and said that her back pain of four months had gone away. And you know I winged it, I followed my process, I did not require that I be there for her, because I couldn’t. It was a wonderful teaching for me, another example of how it really is true that when we empower our clients, they do such elegant work.
Is that the kind of thing you’re looking at?
Bill: That’s a good thing.
Rosie: I have another one that came up last week. The model in my book, a man named Glen, came for a session. I’m always so happy to see him. We do wonderful work together, and he’s a pleasure to work with. And I was so tired that morning, and me and my tiredness we were all happy to be there with him. Toward the end of the session we were doing some process, and I was rubbing my eyes, and I said “I’m really tired right now!” I wouldn’t have said that five years ago, I wouldn’t have felt safe enough to be who I am pretty much all the time. I feel that what I bring into the work about who I am, and not feeling like I have to be “On” for the client, the restfulness that I get in accepting who I am absolutely becomes an element in the work. If I’ve got twenty million tons of energy, well it’s going to be a twenty million ton energy session. If I’m feeling quieter, the session is going to be quiet. So I honor my own process, and my commitment to be of service to the client is so immutable, such a given for me, that I can go through a variety of ways of expressing myself, given my energy level, given my emotional state, that when I’m authentic I will give the best service to my client because I’m not trying to push my own river. I think it works, Bill.
Bill: So your book is about …
Rosie: Rolfing and Yoga, and it’s about living in our bodies successfully. There’s a ton in this book about Rolfing and Yoga, and I feel that I have used Rolfing and Yoga as vehicles to describe something bigger: making choices that enable us to have fairly concrete modifications in our health profile. For example, when a client gets up off the table and she still has a glitch in her knee, I want her to assume that she can walk in a way or sit in a way or breathe in a way or stretch in a way that enables her to re-own, reintegrate and reorganize her knee. I have resigned from the job that I have to go in and fix everything. My clients do so much of their own work.
This is actually touching upon another theme that I’m glad that I thought of: it’s called “the being element” of our work. From my teachers at the Institute I have learned superlative techniques, and the contribution that I am moved to make is about the “being” element of our work. For example, when you’re clients come in, and I’m going to refer to people who have done workshops with me recently, I’m amazed how many Rolfers I meet, who after years of training, bring in strong elements of doubt about there own work. My feeling is that when we value our being, our being, then we suddenly have to do less in our work; I call it “the dog and pony show.” If a practitioner comes in with a lot of misgivings about her capabilities, for example, she’ll do more to compensate for that. Bill, I have sessions where on an effort level I’m operating at zero; on an effectiveness level I’m operating at one hundred. I have worked very hard to get to a place where I can say this to you, and know that it’s not coming from self-aggrandizement on my part. This is the service that I’m providing.
If I can talk to you about these things that I feel so passionate about, reducing the effort and raising the effectiveness, and I can tell you how I do that, I have worked very hard to trust that I can do that and be of total service, and have no conflict about that. I’m putting it out there. If it weren’t working I would be altering my course, but it’s working beautifully.
I have seen people shed rotations in there spines, fixations in their vertebrae, rotations in their sacrum, I have seen them drop those away in an environment where they feel safe. Which is something that comes certainly out of no effort on my part, but a deliberation or a concentration or a focus, let’s say. I no longer discount that, Bill, I don’t discount it because I didn’t use my elbows to achieve it. And there’s that process work grounded in the structure.
Bill: This sounds unbelievable. I gotta get my hands on this book! Can your book be used as kind of a manual for giving clients extra movement cues, stuff that they can do on their own?
Rosie: Oh, yes. You know what Gael Ohlgren said about this book? She said, “It’s not a book about how to Rolf, it’s a book about how to get Rolfed.” It’s a book about how to work with your Rolfer at the level of realizing the full potential of the work.
Bill: So, is it a book for Rolfees?
Bill: Is it a book for Rolfers?
Rosie: Absolutely, it’s a book for Rolfers and their clients, and movement teachers and their clients, yoga teachers and their clients, and health practitioners. Cleaning up the audience issue was one of the two most challenging aspects of the whole project.
Bill: So you’re speaking to all of us.
Rosie: I’m speaking to all of you. Bill, do you know who else I’m speaking to? I’m speaking to Rolfers who tend to objectify their clients, I’m speaking to Rolfers who wonder why they’re not getting across in their work. They’re doing the right techniques, so what’s that missing element that they may not even be able to articulate? Why the chronic dissatisfaction, or the frustration in not getting results? I believe I’m speaking to those practitioners as well.
I did a workshop recently where one of the participants was a new graduate, a new practitioner. He said to me at various times in the workshop, ” Do I have to wait to do this stuff?” I said “No, no.” It’s like saying, `Do I have to wait to nurture my clients, and be into it with my clients?’ Gael closed the ceremonies last year at the annual meeting with her brand new personal definition of Rolfing, that included the word ‘healing’. That was an historic moment for me, and one that I really celebrated with her, I celebrated that definition of hers. It’s about time we take all of our techniques and acknowledge them as techniques, and look at the bigger container, and put our self development on the line. Look at what we’re modeling for our clients, look at how we live in our own bodies. There’s a whole chapter in my book called “Getting it in My Body,” where I talk about my physical body as a very proactive element in the work that I do with my clients. If I’m not modeling it, the transmission will be limited.
Bill: I feel constrained at this point to say something, because I think you and I are of a certain age and have been doing this work for a long time, and so certain things get unsaid, because there’s just so much taken for granted. I see that there are certainly people Rolfing who don’t have the same context that we do, so I feel like it’s important to say something about intimacy and boundaries. The boundary issues is one that you can really hurt yourself by getting positional about it, you can really cut off your own aliveness and cut off your ability to contact somebody because you have certain immutable rules. And at the same time, you’ve got to have some very clear boundaries.
Rosie: In my relationships with people in my life, I think it is natural that some relationships will be deeper than others. I will have more rapport with you than I will with somebody that’s of a different ilk than I am. That’s the way it is. Among my clientele, there are some people who I go all the way with, there is no boundary issue.
Bill: There’s no boundary issue because you agree on boundaries at some deep level.
Rosie: No, it’s not even that. There are no boundary issues because nobody is holding back. Nothing sexual and nothing violent happens in my practice, beyond that, that’s about it. Let me say more about no boundary issues. We are working at each of our full potential in terms of the self-exploration, in terms of the amount of energy the client is exploring having flow in her body, in terms of going past beliefs, restrictions, fixations that may have limited her full self development. Boundaries are not an issue, because the holding back element does not even show up in the room. Bill, I don’t expect to work like that with everybody. When it happens, it’s a miracle, and if it happens four out of my four sessions that day, it’s wonderful. To paraphrase Michael Salveson, “When the connection is there, its a gift. You can’t force it.”
Because relationships are an organic, unique, individual process, there are other clients with whom the work will look more mechanical, with whom the session will be more traditional, so to speak, and I am not going to feel in rapture with that client, and that’s the way it is. So the boundary issue is not a function of my holding myself back and building walls; the boundary issue is a function of the natural flow that’s going to happen out of both of our potential to work intimately together. And let me reiterate that intimacy is not a sexual, violent, or any kind of abusive trespassing kind of process. So I don’t look at setting the boundaries, I look for the potential to work without those walls. For someone like me, who works like this, I feel so safe in my work. An that’s the point, because I have learned to be safe in my own body, my clients are not going to hurt me, they’re not going to poison me with their negative vibes, they’re not going to make me tired. I’m asking if you can look at it from a different perspective.
Setting it up that boundaries are my framework, for me is the wrong way to do it. Working around boundaries, as parameters and guidelines, that doesn’t work for me. I have watched Rolfers who are my teachers, who I have learned so much from and to whom I owe so much of my expertise, I have watched them work with clients in a process that I have identified as “objectifying the client.” In the lectures and the demonstrations, they talk about the client, they refer to the client, they look at the group when they’re working with the client, and what we see is a Rolfer tweaking the bones and tweaking the soft tissue, we do not see a Rolfer (and I’m not talking about all Rolfers, I’m talking about some instructors) moving into the client’s physical body and stopping there. The ability to de rotate a vertebrae is a wonderful thing to learn, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to do and I am so grateful to the people who taught me how to do that. And if I’m de-rotating a vertebrae to the exclusion of considering that this vertebrae may be rotated because the client lives in a we talked about this earlier in the conversation about not feeling safe on the planet then those boundaries, those “don’t get to close to the client, don’t let my client feel like I’m coming too close” are not on behalf of the client’s transformational potential.
So, setting up boundaries as a professional may not be the best way to approach this whole thing. And I bet this is going to push people’s buttons like crazy, because we’ve trained insetting our professional boundaries. My clients aren’t going to walk all over me. My self is not that fragile. My integrity is not at risk that a client is going to walk all over me.
Bill: So you have to handle your sex and violence needs outside of the office.
Rosie: Ha! Exactly!
Bill: You tell somebody who doesn’t have some kind of equilibrium, who is not completely familiar with the twists and turns of their own needs to work without boundaries and it could be disastrous.
Rosie: Wouldn’t it be ironic if the resolution to many of those issues were grounded in the practitioners physical body. When I embody all the Rolfing has to teach, when my physical body exemplifies, embodies all that Rolfing has to teach, I’m supported in the gravitational field, energy flows through my body uniformly, my breath flows, I’ve attained a certain level of physical health, the mind/body connections have been laid-I’m going into my sessions grounded in my physical body, I propose that that is an element that enables a practitioner to work in this way. If I go in and my belly is tight because I’m guarding myself, if I go in and my butt is tight because I am holding in all of my emotions, if I go in and my spine is rotated and counter-rotated, and all of those structural situations we’ve learned to work with, because I am not feeling safe enough to let energy flow through my body, I won’t be able to do these things we’ve been talking about.
So let’s say, and this is the most ironic and beautiful way to bring this together. Our physical bodies enable us to interact with each other at this level. It’s perfect. I’m coming into sessions with my body actualizing the very expression that we s Rolfers claim to be teaching our clients. And I’m not saying rat’s the whole picture, but it’s a big part of it. Ida Rolf spoke bout Rolfing as a vehicle for transformation, that what we’re learning in our own physical bodies enables us to transform. In my personal opinion, one of the places that transformation shows up is in relationship: my relationship to myself, my relationship to the earth, my relationship to the people with whom I live and work. If I’m going to bring my Rolfed body, my energized body, my grounded body, my balanced body into my sessions, I think the boundary issues become much less of a threat and much more of an opportunity to work with our clients at this level.
Some days this is the way it is, and some days I may feel less energized, less present, and I’m going to make peace with that too. These are not imperatives, these are models.
Bill: In your book then, do you hand hold people through the process of learning how to metamorphose their perspective from the objectification of the client to the interpersonal perspective of being totally present to your client?
Rosie: I do, Bill, and that was one of the most exciting parts of this process for me, because at various times in my training certain male instructors really tried to get that part out of me, they tried to make that part of me go away. Obedient student that I was at various points in my training I tried to comply and I couldn’t. I had a teacher tell me in 1983, ” You can’t love your clients, that’s not right.” So I tried not loving my clients, it lasted for a couple of weeks maybe. So I feel like I’m way out on a limb here, and I love it. I really should say in fairness that there have been other women instructors who have been very much models for me of loving the client, so I’m not reinventing the wheel here, I’m just putting it out in a way that I feel very strongly about. By virtue of the blend of yoga, that really to me is the same as Rolfing. I’ve worked hard to put my signature on it.
But yes, there’s a lot in the book about working in this way. At one point in the book I define healing as an environment in which all who are present are healed. That means that I am going to work with the client in a way that allows me to join the client on her transformation journey, and once I join her, my own process is alive and vibrant in the session. I’ve learned I can’t do this at the expense of the client, that’s one of my cardinal rules. I’m not going to get better at my client’s expense. But if I join the client in her transformational process, and my own being is touched at that level, well that’s great, I think that’s what the work should be in terms of it’s full potential.
Bill: I’m eager to get my hands on this book! The Institute and the community has reached a point where we’re really putting stuff out, and I’m very, very pleased.
Rosie: I don’t think this book would have worked ten years ago, Bill. I don’t think that was the wave at the time. When I went to the annual meeting last year, and you and I spoke about this at length. I actually remember having a slightly defensive attitude about what it was I wanted to say, because the year before the presentations were dominated by these very smart, scientific men who were making contributions from a left brain approach. I spoke with so many people after that meeting in 1992 who said, “What was missing out of that?” Wouldn’t it be interesting if the dominance of the scientific approach coincided with the period of our Institute when our family was really doing a lot of breaking up and trying to find ways of coming back together.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if this lid being blown on the healing element of our work coincides with the collective healing of our organization. Maybe we’re ready for this now. The mending of our family is not done, but I believe we’re moving in the right direction. I’ll take a huge risk and tell you that some of the ways that I have seen Institute members respond to other members, I think our Institute could learn to work with a lot more love. The idea that ten years ago someone told me I couldn’t do that is so absurd to me now! There is just no way in the world I would consider such audacious advice now.
Bill: My mind went in various directions when you were talking about healing, and in my feeling of it, I feel that a lot of the healing has happened because it’s appropriate. The current configuration is the appropriate one, it’s the configuration that allows the fullest self expression of all involved, and that’s spectacular. If there’s a concomitant diminishing of hostility as well, then it’s happened, then the healing has happened.
Rosie: This will be a transformational element that we bring to our work with clients, and the nature of our service will have gone to another level, in terms of tapping into the transformational element of our working, one of the original building blocks of Rolfing. Maybe this is a full circle.
Bill: Well, it’s certainly true that the transformational element was really big for that first generation of Rolfers, and I do believe the element of transformation is something that has been dropped out. I think it’s been dropped out for a number of reasons, but I think that your approach and what you have to offer here really can open the question back up in a meaningful way. Because the idea of transformation started off as late adolescent bravado-“I’ve got the answer” kind of thing-the thing that’s missing from that picture is that each of us is constantly in a state of transformation, and if you’ ve “got the answer” then you’re not in a state of transformation!
Rosie: Bill, I’m so interested in my clients sourcing the answers for themselves. Here’s something that will be very tricky to explain. At various points in my training, there were people who, because they were the teachers, and I was the student, I didn’t count. And it broke my heart to be in a learning environment that was so pedantic.
Bill: Well, I’m sure Ida was like that too.
Rosie: Okay, so a precedent was set. An environment in which the teacher encourages the student to make her own self-discoveries-it’s the Socrates method. A teacher has to be safe enough, secure enough in her own power, knowledge, and position to be able to empower the student. One of the issues that has come up for me in various points of my training are power issues: I’ve watched power issues, I’ve projected power issues, they’ve been projected on me, I’ve observed them among teacher and student and things like that, and I propose that we can all learn, including with our clients, in an environment where there’s just plenty of power to go around, where we don’t have to scramble for it. If I want to work with you and I’m trying to usurp your power, I’m coming from a place where I don’t have enough of my own, and that will really affect your learning, your processing, your transformation. If I come to work with you, and am completely willing to empower you, then I am not on the line as your savior, as your practitioner, as your guru or anything like that.
We’re working in an environment as a team effort where I encourage you to make your own self discoveries, because that’s what you’re going to take out of the sessions. I say to my clients, “I’m with you for one hour out of the week. What I do in this one hour is nothing compared to what you can do on your own in seven days time 24 hours, minus one hour.” I want my clients to make those discoveries. That is the best this work has to offer, whether it be through movement work or breath work or yoga, nothing makes me happier than to see my clients make discoveries that enable them to take this work and live with it 100%, to its full potential. And I can’t do that if all I do is push flesh and bones. The education versus therapeutic debate, which is as old as the hills in the Rolf community, well I’ll be the hundreth person to say that the potential for us to educate our clients is so untapped! As long as we continue to not tap it, in terms of our service to our clients, we have not provided a service that enables them to maximize the potential of this work.
My secret agenda of the book, the part that I am coming out of the closet with, is this book is about the full potential that Rolfing has to offer. I believe that I have done that, and that’s what I spent four years working on. The full potential of the work is not only a structural process. I want to see that my clients make a shift in their interpersonal relationships, because when my body becomes a safer place to live, I will interact with you differently. I will interact with you more successfully, more harmoniously, more lovingly, because I bring a body that is living in less of a resistant field, or a nonresistant field in relationship to you. You better believe that that’s going to have an effect on our relationship. That whole idea of living in a nonresistant field runs through the book, almost every page. I’m not talking about a state where people get so mellowed out and so psyched out that they become dysfunctional. On the contrary, this is a profoundly functional place from which to live.
Bill: Should there be a biographical part to this? How long have you been Rolfing?
Rosie: I’ve been Rolfing for ten years, and when I went to the Rolf Institute in 1983, I had been doing bodywork professionally for twelve years before that. So I’ve been doing this for over twenty years, full time. When I went to the Institute I had been teaching yoga for twelve years, and I just had my mind blown when I saw how yoga and Rolfing were complimentary.
Bill: You were an Iyengar teacher?
Rosie: I used to be an Iyengar teacher. That was a really important part of my training. I don’t consider myself an Iyengar teacher anymore. Iyengar yoga is analogous to the part of Rolfing that focuses only on structural change. Iyengar teachers are prone to teach their clients to hold the correct posture. I am not interested in my students holding their posture, I’m interested in my students exploring their bodies in the postures. So if we go into a forward bend, it’s not simply go into a forward bend and hold it, it’s go into a forward bend and find out what your body has to teach you. I have recently redefined the success of yoga as a process of listening to our bodies, what our limits are, what our capabilities are, and to dance in that space where strength and balance and flexibility are all moving at once-it’s very fluid. My work is much more fluid than Iyengar teaches his senior teachers to work.
When I went to the Rolf Institute ten years ago and Stacey Mills taught us healing meditations I thought, “Wow, I came to the right place!” For a couple of years I worked the recipe diligently and precisely, and maybe it’s my Aquarian nature, but I had to bust out pretty soon, so I’ve been busting out for a long time. The work lends itself to such creativity, and I feel that creativity is part of that inhibition. I’ve been talking with one of my clients lately, asking her if she ever cuts loose, because looking at her, the way she talks, the way she moves, everything about her is so controlled. My sense is that this is a liability for her, not an asset, which she actually volunteered, and, Bill, I have so much energy! I have a lot to give. That’s why the boundary is not an issue for me. I get my needs met outside the session, so that when I come into the session I’m in service. And the whole idea of being in service means I’m not going to let myself get waisted. My health is much too important to let that happen-it’s not worth the dollar amount I could get to do one more session. That’s why I rest and do yoga and get my body worked on, it’s what I need to do to continue the service.
The effort of working to keep a client at arms length requires an effort on your part, a labor that will not only make you more tired, but will chip away at the potential of the work. This is back to the boundary issue. If I’m going to work with you, I will work and have our energies blend as much as I am able. If I have blocks come up, then I dance with the blocks, breathe with the blocks, maybe leave the room and get some water. I want to work energetically. The effort of keeping you at arms length will devastate me, it’s so difficult to do that, there’s such a cost to that in terms of my own structure, my own breath, in terms of working at a doing level as opposed to a being level. If you come into a session with me and I have to keep myself at arms length from you, I am not valuing myself as an element in this transformational process; they’re mutually exclusive. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to do, I’m saying it’s not a cost-effective thing to do.
Bill: I know, and sometimes I can’t get through that, so then I suggest they go somewhere else, or else that they shower, or whatever it takes.
Rosie: Even having a client shower, this is a wonderful example you brought up. Even having a client shower as a way to eliminate a resistance in the field. I’d much prefer to ask them to go take a shower than to work with this unacknowledged chunk of resistance in the field. Any resistance in the field is going to limit my work and limit the client’s response. Any resistance in the field, whether it be my own work, or doing some verbal processing with the client, it can take so many different forms, all of that enables us to drop down to the level of being together, where we’re looking at decisions or beliefs that the client has made that has kept her fixated on a variety of levels, whether it be spinal or psychic or psychological. We have to look at the elements in the field if the work is going to be energetic.
Bill: Well, Rosie I can’t wait to get my hands on your book.