Meditation for Bodyworkers
Why is practitioner inner work so important?
I believe that it is time for us to augment our bodywork practice with our own inner practice so that we can sufficiently accompany our clients. Inner practice means developing tools for self knowledge like meditation, presencing, and spiritual development. Because we work so much with bodies, I believe that these tools need to be anchored in our own bodies. Also I believe that from our experiences as professionals we should be able to cultivate body centered tools to help our clients develop their own tools for self awareness.
We know that each person we see is more than a body with symptoms. Even the body conditions we address are much more complex than muscles, joints,connective tissue and bones. Every person we work with has a mental, emotional, spiritual life as well as a work, family, relational, community, and environmental life. Allowing for the fact that we are trained to work with the body and certain body conditions we know that all of these life factors affect our clients as well as ourselves. How do we responsibly create a space that is sacred and supportive to the full person we are working. I believe that it starts with creating such a space for ourselves and knowing ourselves from the experiencing our inner lives.
A profession suited to the growth of compassion:
Of all caregiving professions bodywork puts us closest to the client’s reality. Most of our clients come to us for some sort of relief from pain or stress. We are way stops in their life routines. If our sessions become routine, we are working mostly from what is called conditioned mind. Many bodywork textbooks and trainings teach routines, “fixing” protocols for various client conditions. Like protocols for medical emergencies, these approaches encourage bodyworkers to focus mainly upon symptomatic relief. Many clients are purely interested in that form of therapy.
How can our work as bodyworkers enable our clients to grow their own spiritual awareness? I practiced a spiritual discipline, vipassana meditation, for years that was centered upon continuous monitoring of bodily sensations. I was becoming a bodyworker at the same time, 1986. As I started my work as a Trager practitioner I was committed to finding a body-centered bridge to spiritual development. My years as a practitioner on Orcas Island was a time of experimentation. I guided my clients into their bodies and then found how to accompany them, using Trager, Reiki, craniosacral, Therapeutic Touch, and co-counseling.
I was concerned that the spiritual development grows out of the client’s own experience. I had worked with various spiritual teachers over the years who had imposed their beliefs and practice on students. I was convinced that all persons have their own internal spiritual guidance towards awakening.
My quest for a reputable method led me to graduate school three years. During that time I worked further with clients to develop this internal connection. My teachers and supervisors were immensely helpful as I reported these client sessions and my own understanding of spiritual awakening. Finally I settled on presencing, bringing clients consciously into the present moment, as the learning tool for client self development. I had ample evidence from my own experience that as inner guidance grows, external interactions reflect that growth.
In graduate school I realized that what we call “healing” is actually the flowering of spiritual development. I undertook a study of elder healers and realized that their own healing was inextricably linked to their own internal development. After my learnings in graduate school I continued to experiment with a number of techniques. I started to teach some of these techniques to bodyworkers. Advanced Side-Lying, Being Present with Your Client, Reiki for Bodyworkers, Presencing Your Life, Moving Beyond Caretaking, Ethical Dilemmas, Supervision for Bodyworkers, and Understanding the Enneagram.
In all of these classes I was concerned with two fundamental issues: client empowerment through presencing, and healing as a growth of body-centered awareness. Each of these classes seemed to produce profound realizations for practitioners and clients. I now know that the various forms of presencing produce the transformations. I continued my own meditations and other spiritual development tools for solidifying my own inner guidance and direction.
This class was developed over 3 years of graduate studies in theology. It involves somatic learning and the practice of presencing, focusing and willingness to be witness to the clients spiritual growth. Below is an article that introduces some of the possiblities involved.
Meditation for Bodyworkers; Meditation in Action
The purpose of this class is to give you a basic understanding of how to achieve a practice of continuous meditation. The practices you will be learning are not connected with any religion or cult. If you already have an inner life, they will not interfere, but only enhance, your practice. They do not require that you follow an external teacher or maintain a set of beliefs. You are being taught these practices so that you can experiment with them and watch what happens.
Meditation is not something we do in order to remove ourselves from the world or from our daily activities. Meditation brings us more fully into every moment of our lives… no matter what is happening. Many persons learn to meditate under certain conditions that are created with an environment that supports a quieting of the mind. However they soon discover that when they return to their regular activities, they find it very difficult to keep the benefits of meditation going; many forget to meditate and many find that they become stressed out because everything seems to interfere with their peacefulness.
We need to learn how to stay present in every situation. Life is not a battlefield of dangers ready to attack us, but many of us feel that way. You need to be present in order to live your life to the fullest. Don’t be deceived by schedules, activities, rushed communications, and transportation. You are not achieving a full life by chasing all these activities. You will find yourself wondering where did it all go? Fill each moment with your attention and you will find that you live your life more efficiently, more joyously, and more lovingly.
Exercises from Jack’s Book: Practical Presencing
During the class you will learn how to use your body awareness in order to feel a deeper connection with everything around you. You will start to unravel the mystery of intuition, and the part of your mind that is witnessing the present rather than being lost in the past doubts or the future worries. You will learn to practice presence when interacting with clients and other persons.
“FURTHER IMPLICATIONS OF PRESENCE IN MANUAL THERAPY”
(c) Jack Blackburn and Cynthia Price
It is suggested that bodyworkers and other manual therapists have a unique contribution to make in the practice and understanding of presence as a tool of healing and transformation. This uniqueness stems mainly from the fact that it is possible to learn to use touch as a way of facilitating and monitoring the effects of client presencing. Also, the presencing practitioner – by conjoining the client in presencing activity – can become an additional source of change in the client’s somatic experience. By joining with the client in attending to bodily sensation, the practitioner may precipitate an episode of shared presence; magnifying the client’s comprehension of internalphenomena – including the interactive nature of his/her thoughts, emotions and physical sensations.
Typically, clients are but dimly aware of their internal environment, particularly kinesthetic signals. Learning to be present in bodywork involves the process of bringing awareness to aspects of experience that are often in the “unconscious” realm. According to Thomas Hanna (1995), “It is only through the exclusionary function of awareness [into body parts] that the involuntary is made voluntary, the unknown is made known, and the never-done is made doable. Awareness serves as a probe, recruiting new material for the repertoire of voluntary consciousness.” This is important because it enables a parallel apprehension of the inner experience of self, which is a strong foundation for the therapeutic process in bodywork. The phrase inner experience of self’ refers to awareness of inner state of being – important for the ongoing, constructive process involved in the creation of sense of self (Greenberg & Van Balen, 1998).