Zen and Integral Bodywork
I've always been interested in spiritual training, although Chronic
Fatigue Syndrome prevented me from engaging in the more strenuous
versions. However, at one point I decided that I should investigate
the "it's all in your head" theory so many people were
telling me about. I went to several psychiatrists for this and also
started to train in Zen and receive Integral Bodywork.
Zen and Integral Bodywork are closely related, though the story
behind this marriage is an interesting one. At first glance, it's
hard to see how this could happen. Zen is a Buddhist system of meditation
focusing on enlightenment, while bodywork massages or manipulates
the body to release physical and emotional tensions stored there.
Integral Bodywork developed directly from Zen Bodytherapy (or Zentherapy),
a system devised by William Leigh, who studied with Ida Rolf, Moshe
Feldenkrais, and Tanouye Rotaishi.
Ida Rolf is the founder of Rolfing, which is a system of deep tissue
bodywork known to be very painful, but the structural changes it's
capable of inducing are phenomenal, as well as the release of emotional
traumas stored in the body.
This really does happen. After receiving bodywork, my posture improved
greatly as the tightnesses were worked out, and I even gained an
inch of height. Once, when my therapist (who is also my Zen teacher)
worked my right hip bone, I felt an immense wave of the purest sadness
I have ever felt in my adult life. Normally, I simply do not feel
the emotion of sadness. I never cry, and even tiny amounts of sadness
are very rare for me, so this experience was quite amazing. My feeling
is that deep down, I am disconnected from certain emotions and bodywork
is an excellent way of reconnecting with them. Another time, he
touched my side and released a fit of ticklish laughter that lasted
for several minutes, even though he was no longer touching me.
Another way to accomplish both structural alignment and emotional
reconnection is meditation. As one sits, slowly increased awareness
of both the body and the mind develops, and in both cases it is
often uncomfortable. The back hurts, the shoulders tense, anger
fills your being, or you get so restless you can't stand it. If
you can remain centered, relax, and breath through these things,
change can occur.
William Leigh also studied with Moshe Feldenkrais, and is the only
person to have ever been certified to teach by both of them. The
Feldenkrais system brings about the change in the body through movement
exercises rather than manipulation.
Finally, Leigh studied with Tanouye Rotaishi, a Zen master and
Japanese martial artist. He taught him his own system of bodywork,
introducing the Oriental theories of Ki (the Japanese word for "Chi").
Integral Bodywork, Zen, and all these systems do not seem aimed
at healing illnesses like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. For awhile I
thought that spiritual breakthrough would also result in a breakthrough
for my CFS, but eventually I began to look at the process more as
an aspect of my spiritual growth rather than healing my CFS.
There is, of course, often an emotional aspect to CFS. People with
CFS tend to be sensitve over-achievers who willingly take on the
weight of the world around them. According to Dr. Poesnecker (founder
of the Clymer Healing and
Research Center, which specializes in the treatment of Chronic
Fatigue Syndrome), this personality type combined with adrenal glands
vulnerable to burnout results in CFS.
Go to his website, www.chronicfatigue.org,
for many excellent writings of his on this subject. His healing
center has been treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for over forty
years, and in my opinion is the most knowledgeable institution in
the world when it comes to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, not only with
treatment techniques, but also theories about its cause.