Recently, at an evening workshop, a participant asked: “When do we dive deeper?”
Such a good question, an important question and a relevant one. The question itself reveals a hunger, a strong desire and a longing for something more: the desire for a deeper experience than what is usually available.
It shows that he knows there is more and is anxious to find it. This person had obviously come wanting to have a meaningful experience and was hoping to find a place of intensity, connection and richness.
But our urgency can have a tension in it as well. It can lead to irritation, disappointment, dissatisfaction and discouragement; a belief that this is not happening the way we think it should, that it doesn’t feel the way we want it to feel.
It reminds me of a personal experience I had many years ago.
It happened when I was just beginning to explore self-discovery and healing. I was very determined and anxious to learn and very impatient as well. I wanted to know about the workings of myself and especially how to release pain to be free and fully alive. I understood that past patterns were often held in the mind and the body.
I wanted to release everything of my past.
I signed up for and participated in dozens of workshops of every description: emotional release, encounter, centering, yoga, meditation and different types of body work. It was clear to me that the body stored memories and held distortions from past traumas and negative experiences.
I had heard about the technique of Rolfing and was interested and a little intimidated by the idea of it. It was known to release the deep muscle tissue through a very intense process. I heard that it was often very painful.
Well, if that’s what it took, I would do it.
I came to the first session with determination and a bit of trepidation. At first, the practitioner had me stand and turn in every direction, bending and reaching in different ways. She observed my body, measuring distances and taking notes. Then she did a bit of initial pushing and prodding. She told me where my areas of holding were and that I needed to do this work to release it. I would need from 10 to 20 sessions to complete the process.
I visited once a week and each time I’d lay on her table, she would mention the area of holding that she was going to work on. She would then proceed to dig into my muscles, sometimes using her thumbs or the heels of her hands, and sometimes her elbows. I would cry, scream and even protest but she would tell me that this was a “normal” response and was necessary to have the results that I was looking for.
After five sessions I stopped going. I simply could not confront the pain and agony of it. I was so tense the day of my appointment that I would look for any excuse to avoid going.
I felt like a failure and even called myself a coward.
I thought I would never be able to release my old patterns and would have to live with them for the rest of my life.
Several years later I ran into an old friend of mine. He mentioned that he had spent some of the last years being trained in Rolfing and also in a newer technique called Postural Integration. He invited me to have a complimentary session. I could feel my insides tense up instantly, as if the Rolfing sessions I’d experienced so long before had happened only days ago. But he was so encouraging that I said I’d give it a try.
A couple of days later I sat on his massage table and felt my tension building while I waited for the session to begin. He put on some calming music and turned the lights down in the room.
Wasn’t he going to measure my muscles? Wasn’t he going to poke and prod?
We talked a little about life and our experiences and then he asked me to tell him about what areas of my body I felt were stuck. He said that he would explore the different areas I mentioned with his hands, looking for my body’s messages, to tell him where and how he should work with them. After some time he asked me if I was willing for him to work on the area that was between my left shoulder and my collar bone. I felt pretty safe by then and told him I was willing.
I hadn’t understood in my previous experience that it was in my choice to invite someone in or keep them out.
At that moment a well of emotion came over me, as I realized how I had allowed myself, in my life, to have people trespass the delicate places in me without my permission.
I became intensely aware of that place he was touching, as if it was the only place that existed. I could feel a ball of tension underneath the surface. It was clenched tight and had been for as long as I could remember. My friend’s hand was there like a respectful visitor, waiting for an invitation to come in. At that point I took a deep breath and he moved his fingertips where his hand had been. He pressed ever so slightly and I found my awareness inside the muscle, receiving his touch as a request to go deeper. I responded with an aware and willing “yes”. At that moment his fingertips dropped down about a half inch into my chest.
The amazing thing was that he didn’t do it. I opened and let him in.
It was uncomfortable because the muscle was only beginning to let go but I could feel it softening and it made me feel so happy and free. We were working together.
I trusted him, but more importantly, I trusted me.
I love recalling that experience. I hadn’t realized it before but it is such a good analogy for what happens in our Relating and Deepening Communication workshops. As a facilitator, I know my job is to be present and aware and to create a safe and supportive environment. From there I wait to be invited in and in turn, invite another to go deeper.
I offer a simple powerful way of relating and connecting with another. That is my part of the invitation. This invites the awareness, the willingness and insight of each participant to go as deeply within as he or she is ready to go.
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Assistant Ed: Kristina Peterson/Ed: Sara Crolick