view over London from a plane

Returning to London Heathrow

The small matter of having to write my PhD (on a topic unrelated to Rolfing) means that I am behind with my blogging, my yoga and indeed much of my social life (my consumption of chocolate has not suffered). So I apologise for my quietness of late; I am still offering appointments as usual (in both London and Luton), but I’m being careful to carve out periods of time for daily writing, reading, and weeping into a box of Ferrero Rocher.

September was a superlatively busy month – I completed a 6-day Rolfing supervision course in Munich, working with talented international teachers Harvey Burns and Rita Geirola, and a sparky group of my Rolfing colleagues from Germany, Italy and the UK. Four of us shared an aspirational loft apartment (a.k.a. the Big Rolfing Haus), drank tea and got over-excited by the local supermarket, and a trip out to the alternative Freitanzabend (Free Dance Evening) provided an unforgettable (we’ve tried) final evening.

I then spent a further five days in Washington D.C. attending the Fourth International Research Congress, courtesy of a scholarship from the Ida P. Rolf Foundation and the Rolf Institute Research Committee. My report about the Congress will be published in the December edition of the Journal of the Rolf Institute, and I hope to share further thoughts on this blog in coming months. The Congress brings together all the big names in fascia research (many of whom are Rolfers) – people such as Robert Schleip, Peter Schwind, Tom Myers, Brooke Thomas, Paul Grilley, Tom Findley, Jaap van der Wal, Serge Gracovetsky and Leon Chaitow – along with researchers and somatic practitioners from around the world. Aside from the jetlag, it was a stimulating experience that has given me new ideas to play with in my practice, as well as tons of references to research projects and academic papers which are developing the scientific case for Rolfing’s efficacy.

"Feminism says relax' poster

Pretty funny.

Last month I also organised the ‘Relax Rooms’ at the 2015 Feminism in London conference, and offered introductory Rolfing treatments alongside three other talented women therapists. I was involved last year as well, and on both occasions it has proved a very interesting challenge. The work that I do (and my way of working) does not readily translate into short sessions, and my time-keeping (see: above; my whole life) is not strong at the best of times. I try to give my clients the time they need within the constraints of my schedule (and theirs), and I believe that talking can be an important part of the integration process for some people (clients need to make sense of the work they receive, in their own terms). The work that we do as Rolfers is focused on the body, but talking and thinking are also a part of a holistic approach: to suggest otherwise is to recapitulate the mind-body dualism that holism surely seeks to avoid.

neon 'Jazz' sign

Rolfing: Unexpectedly Like Jazz.

Returning to the conference, I liken these short-form Rolfing sessions to a kind of Rolfing ‘jazz’: away from the rigours of the ten series, they sharpen my intuition and my improvisational ability. I always notice the positive effect of this when I return to my clinic. And like jazz, it only works when it’s rooted in a strong ‘classical’ training: anatomy, touch skills, and experience.

I’ll finish with one of my favourite quotes from Ida Rolf, which appears in Rolfing and Physical Reality:

You are looking for a new pattern in thinking and you will get it primarily from experience.

It could just as easily have been written by Wilfred Bion, the subject of my thesis (one is his most important books is called Learning from Experience). It speaks to me about what is both so challenging and interesting about the work that Rolfers do. Only this week, a client asked me how much of the work we do is improvised. The answer is: almost all of it, in a certain sense. We work within a framework (the ten series) that we trust (because we have experienced it, and studied it, and observed hours of sessions given by different teachers) and keep seeking to understand, the whole of our working lives. It provides a protocol, a series of questions and themes, and a roadmap; it helps both the practitioner and the client to locate themselves within a process. It offers refuge, a word I use in the way that Buddhists use the word: a place of commitment and trust. But it doesn’t tell us what to do, moment to moment. A rose is a rose is a rose, as Gertrude Stein once wrote, but that doesn’t mean all roses are identical: finding the spirit of the session within the protocol of the session is different with every client. It means that Rolfers can approach every session with a degree of confidence but not with complacency: the thinking doesn’t stop.

On which note: back to the PhD…

(My thesis is about the work of British post-Kleinian psychoanalyst, Wilfred Bion, in relation to literature. If you’d like to hear me talking about Bion (you know you want to!), you can listen to this podcast, ironically titled ‘Making the Best of a Bad Job’ (the title of Bion’s final essay before his death in 1979), which was home-produced with a smartphone and some gaffer tape, and in a spirit of unwavering brinkmanship, as part of my participation of the Critical Waves project. My thanks to Dan Smith for vocals and sound production, and to Pod Academy.)

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