There’s something about being able to ask for whatever we want that brings out the hopeful, powerful imagination of the child in us–when the world was full of magic and possibility.

As a massage therapist and Zero Balancer, I ask people what they want out of the session. What they want might be what they need, or it might fall short. Typical requests are important but often modest: I’d like my shoulder to move better…I want less pain in my back…I’d like to feel relaxed, not so worried.

Perhaps asking for a little means less chance of a letdown. After all, what does life teach us but that disappointment is a given? But this habit of accepting small gains prevents us from living fully, living our dreams. What if you could ask for more?

Learning and practicing Zero Balancing for nearly 20 years has taught me to ask for what I need, even if I have no clue how it can possibly happen. (This is one of the reasons why Zero Balancing never gets predictable, despite the fact that most sessions follow the same protocol or routine when addressing the body). In my own ZB sessions I have asked to feel my own strength, improve a close relationship, to support those fighting for equality and justice, and dissolve my terror of public speaking. To name a few.

Happy 90th Fritz Smith

Zero Balancing Founder Fritz Smith, MD. Photo by Giovanni Pescetto. Collage and mixed media by Amanda King.

 

Your wish or intention for your treatment–in ZB language we call it the frame, an energetic container that can amplify whatever is placed within its boundaries–is the wildcard that can take you from a freer shoulder to the outer reaches of consciousness. The frame frees me as your practitioner from the responsibility of fulfilling your wish. We are in this together. You and I have made a leap of faith, assuming that there is more power at our disposal beyond what we hold in our normal beliefs. In other words, by working with energy, we can manifest almost anything.

My clients have asked for: a clear mind so I can make better decisions…calm in the face of family drama…and the ability to heal from debilitating illness. One person even asked to be two inches taller. So far, he’s gained 3/8 of an inch and is pleased with this outcome.

You get the idea, dear reader, that you can ask for what you need, even if it defies logic. And even if the result is not precisely how you pictured it, you’ve been empowered by the opportunity to ask.

Of course, Zero Balancing is about touch, so we want a frame we can get our hands on. If you ask to relieve anxiety, I follow up by asking where you feel it in your body. If you feel it in your chest, I look for tension in the upper ribs or sternum. Anxiety may live in your belly, which guides me to check your lower back or abdomen. Or it may be lodged in your throat or head, which leads me to work carefully with your skull, jaw and throat. With your permission, of course.

With all this asking, the results can be dramatic, and surprising. Someone with a hip injury and balance issues feels like a hurricane can’t knock me down. A woman with chronic low energy discovers a new way to fill her tank by keeping her feet connected to the floor and the Earth. A person who’s afraid of heights has no trouble on a trip to Machu Picchu in Peru.

The real gift of asking for what we need is that it comes to us, sometimes later and in a different form than we expected. If you do have the opportunity to try Zero Balancing, either in person or via a remote energy only session, please don’t limit what you ask for.

© Amanda King
Salem, Massachusetts

 

In the first full week of the coronavirus pandemic arriving in Massachusetts, I witnessed friends, neighbors and clients willingly stop everything they were doing and stay at home to avoid spreading this disease to others.

For me, the week went down like a dance across melting ice floes, ushering in a dizzying progression of reactions to the coronavirus as it crept nearer. As a massage therapist, I was paying close attention, already feeling a shift: after my busiest January and February ever, March was eerily quiet.

Monarch on Sedum

Photo by Amanda King

On Monday, March 9, remarkable to me now, I had dinner with three beloved friends in Somerville, all aware we were taking some risks, honoring a monthly rhythm of twenty years of sharing food and art projects. We hugged good-bye, not sure when we would see each other next in person. On Tuesday, March 10, my inbox overflowed with alerts from massage practitioners, our vet, the pharmacy and restaurants, about how they were preparing for COVID-19, specifically citing CDC guidelines and outlining their handwashing and sanitizing practices. We would all have the cleanest doorknobs in history. On Wednesday March 11, I adhered to these practices when I saw two bodywork clients in my Salem office, who both wanted to come and weren’t afraid. I was vigilant, cleaning doorknobs, light switches, the teakettle handle and my phone, anything any one of us might touch. Was it enough? I had no idea and found myself growing rigid with worry that I might unknowingly put one of my clients in danger. It goes without saying that massage therapy or Zero Balancing, a hands-on technique offered through clothing that involves lifting and stretching the person on the table for at least 45 minutes, require touching another at close proximity, breathing the same air. These bodywork treatments are wellness interventions for stress, pain and injury, not treatments for patients with respiratory infections, as acupuncture or chiropractic may be. I could not, with so many unknowns about this virus, safely treat and guard the health of my clients or myself, many of whom are over 50, a named high risk group.

That evening, March 11, I happened to see an opinion piece in The Atlantic from the previous day entitled “Cancel Everything: Social Distancing is the Only Way to Stop the Coronovirus.” This was an inflection point for me. The reporter, Yascha Mounk, had unearthed data from the 1918 Spanish Influenza outbreak in the US. At that time the health commissioner of Philadelphia, “…allowed a huge parade to take place… some 200,000 people marched.” Later, over 12,000 people died in Philadelphia. By contrast, in St. Louis, “public-health commissioner … Max Starkloff decided to shut the city down. …he closed the city’s schools, bars, cinemas, and sporting events. Thanks to his bold and unpopular actions, the per capita fatality rate in St. Louis was half that of Philadelphia.”[1]

On Thursday, March 12 dawned a new collective mindset: cleaning doorknobs was so Wednesday. In my area north of Boston, the majority of bodyworkers I knew had shut down, many of us closing our doors days before the governor or our professional associations advised us to do so. That we had such paltry guidance from these organizations sparked many a Facebook rant, especially as colleagues across the country continued to work. (Friends in rural areas were clearly a few days behind us in greater Boston). For me, at this time, with so many unknowns, closing was essential, non-negotiable. Most bodywork practitioners, unless you had a stash for an emergency, did not have access to protective equipment. In mid-March, few gloves and no masks could be purchased in pharmacies or online. Hand sanitizer had been out of stock for weeks prior, and was being sold on a black market. Luckily, I had squirreled away a few bottles in my office and a few at home.

On Friday, March 13, I picked up my car from the mechanic, went home and have been there ever since. As of Monday, March 16, I emailed or phoned clients to let them know I had officially closed my practice. Around that time I was also about to cancel a gathering of Zero Balancing practitioners to be held at my house on March 18, when I realized we could and should still meet. I sent a Zoom video conference invitation to about 50 folks across New England. I knew my friends and colleagues, massage therapists, physical therapists, acupuncturists, psychotherapists, yoga instructors, and chiropractors would want to share what was happening to them and see how others were coping.

Soon after I closed, the stay at home order and six-foot rule was instituted in Massachusetts. Our world had imploded in the space of five days, as it had earlier in so many other regions.

The grace in this situation was, I was not alone. My colleagues and I—and the world at large—were in the same rudderless boat: no work and no income for the foreseeable future. Now what?

Watching the news, while essential for information gathering, did nothing to calm us. COVID-19 stories, some true, some not, spread on social media faster than the virus. As I looked forward to the March 18 Zoom call, I knew I could support my peers, despite my daily roller coaster of emotions, thanks to the practice of Zero Balancing (ZB), which has become my guidepost in life. ZB, a method of touching the body on bones to access and align both the physical and non-physical parts of the person, combines Eastern philosophy of energy and healing with Western anatomy and physiology. Like acupuncture, one of its foundations, ZB shares principles that are rooted in natural order and harmony and are reinforced when anyone studies ZB on a regular basis. This has given me something to lean on, allowing me to stay stable, present, connected and clear. These principles include valuing all others, honoring timing and flow, and accepting what is. Saying what you are going to do and doing it.

Ultimately, 23 people tuned in for the ZB Study Group Zoom meeting. Normally, when we meet in person, every other month at my house, 8 to 10 folks show up for chat, snacks, a quick lesson and hands-on practice. Many hadn’t used Zoom before and I logged on before our official start to help them connect, showing some a way to reach out to far flung family, friends and even clients. Each of us gazing at the checkerboard of faces on our screens, we took turns sharing how we were doing. One, a single parent, broke down in tears, mourning her lost practice, having no idea how she would support her family. Several others were holed up with partners and kids, wondering how they might stay healthy and serve their communities. One was deeply worried about her elderly mother in another state. We talked for 90 minutes. I was so moved by people’s honesty in sharing their grief and fears and their willingness to offer guidance.

Two women made a particular impression on me. The first, Valerie is a physical therapist, who had just returned on March 16th from a two-week vacation “off the grid” of ocean kayaking. Instead of registering shock at the world she had landed back into, she smiled calmly. She said that what got her through some of the most physically challenging kayaking conditions she’d ever experienced was to be completely in the moment. She was providing us with a gift, namely, to remain in our bodies, to address what is asked of us here and now. If we could do that, we would be all right. How easy to be ensnared in the web of ‘what if?’, calculating scenarios of how bad this could get or how it might end and when. Harrowing evidence popped up on our phone screens or on the news, multiple times a day, sending us spinning. Valerie guided us to change course. Be okay. Be.

Suzanne had spent the majority of her career in public health communications. A year or so ago, she’d experienced Zero Balancing and loved it so much, she decided to take a class. Soon afterwards, she’d enrolled in massage school, hoping to be licensed to practice later this year. She was in the midst of her second term when her Boston massage school shut its doors. “I’m in limbo right now,” she said. Nods from the checkerboard. But she also said in a calm, curious voice, “We are in a cocoon. We just have to rest there and see what we are called to do.”

When the whole country, the whole world, stops at once, we find ourselves at home. I considered the meaning of this cocoon and felt something register in my bones. What would or could we do with this unprecedented pause? A pause we were forced to make in unison, from Massachusetts to Maui, from Christchurch to China, from Brooklyn to Bellevue, Washington, while our economies tanked and our politicians flailed.

In Zero Balancing, we’ve learned to savor the pause. In a session, we pause regularly and take our hands off the person. In that time, we give her a chance to stop experiencing input from us and experience herself as whole, in a state of peace and flux from old to new. I prefer the word chrysalis, which holds the pupa (Latin for doll) “the life stage of some insects undergoing transformation between immature and mature stages.” This process is often characterized by complete stillness and can last weeks, months, or even years, depending on the species and climate. [2]

Before the video meeting with my colleagues, I had been feeling powerless. Anyone who’s reasonably well informed knows that each issue our world faces, most of our own making, seems insurmountable; taken together the planet’s avalanche of problems bury us. Racism, refugees, climate, poverty, pollution, injustice, political interference, propaganda, corruption, war. Now, perhaps, with the human race on pause, we did not have to do anything. We just had to stop.

As our group continued to share, it was clear that new patterns were emerging. We were meditating. Cooking meals we’d been dreaming about making. Sewing masks for local hospitals. Tending to our nearest and dearest. Having more time together than we’d ever imagined. Doing yoga. Cleaning out closets. Walking miles. Planning gardens. We were writing poetry, reading, and studying online as kids across the country who have access to technology were now doing. We were reaching out to friends and relatives, often after months of silence.

Yes, we were all on pause. At home, without income, forced to confront our mortality and fragility, individually and collectively. In the chrysalis for who knows how long.

I am hopeful.

May this time of metamorphosis serve you. May you emerge, dear reader, whole, and able to relish your full wingspan.

 

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-cancel-everything/607675/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pupa#Chrysalis

 

 

 

 

Recently I had the privilege of offering Zero Balancing to two young men just out of their teens, college students who are exploring various complementary therapies as part of their undergraduate health care studies. Both athletes, they were full of excitement about their education and their futures. I asked about their health. One had sustained several concussions from soccer “a long time ago,” meaning high school. A lacrosse stick whack had broken the other boy’s wrist, causing chronic pain and numbness in his dominant hand.

So fit and upbeat, these kids could hardly hold any distress beyond their sports injuries, I figured. But as I worked, first on one and then on the other, I was surprised. My job as a bodyworker is to feel for tension. I could feel with my hands that their twenty-year old bodies had accumulated physical, mental, and emotional strains since they were small. I could feel it in the weight of their ribs, in the shallowness of their breathing, in the tension in the shoulder blades, in the stiffness of the arch of a foot. As I placed fulcrums–the touch tools of Zero Balancing designed to feel good (gentle traction, lifts, compressions, or pressure into bones and joints which I create with my hands and hold for three to ten seconds)–I felt each man deeply relax, unpack, and drop much of what he had been carrying, without either of us needing to know the who, what, why, or how.

After his session, the first young man said he was surprised at how quiet his mind had become. The other reported that after ZB his shoulders actually felt broader. “I feel more powerful,” he said. Neither student had experienced bodywork before, beyond the short, focused physical therapy treatments prescribed for their injuries. It’s not inaccurate to say they were amazed.

Of course, one ZB session will not undo a lifetime of pain–but it’s a start. What a gift to offer our children a chance to let go of both injurious events and anxious minds as they start their adult lives.

If we can free our kids, and allow them to live fully as the brave and generous beings that they are, imagine what a beautiful world we can create.

A young client of Zero Balancing practitioner Cynthia Allred.

 

© Amanda King, LMT, CZB
Salem, Massachusetts

 

While some people use Zero Balancing touch therapy for addressing aches and pains, the real treasure that ZB can offer is to the well person. With each touch (known as a fulcrum), ZB acts upon the body, the mind, and the spirit like a fresh wind or a clarifying river, opening areas where vitality was good but could be better, and smoothing the overactive mind to give every brain cell, and perhaps other cells in the body, a much needed rest.

Brain cells are busy. Throughout the day, I’ve noticed I am bombarded with distractions. These distractions, on the phone screen, on the radio, or in my own head, trip me up before I even take a step. Sound familiar? How can we grow or achieve our fondest dreams when we are caught in a tangle of news, messages, memes and minutiae which doesn’t advance our cause?

Many, myself included, find the container of a Zero Balancing session a respite from daily thoughts, routines and habits that keep us asleep to our own feelings and needs. To paraphrase my friend David Laden, a philosopher as well as a Zero Balancing teacher and Rolfer in Madison, Wisconsin–we cannot always be doing. To be really well we need to go deep within and allow our energies to restore and revitalize. Like a plant, we need to tend our roots.

Version 2

A Zero Balancing session gives us an hour to tend our roots–our bones. The ancient Chinese sages taught that the bones and marrow are nourished by the wellspring of the Water Element which is associated with the winter season. Perhaps by hibernating for the good part of an hour and by lying still (frowned upon in our achievement-centric culture), we nourish ourselves in the deepest possible way.  What’s more, this may have far-reaching effects.

“If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.”Thich Nhat Hanh

Countless opportunities for unprecedented growth are offered to us each day. Zero Balancing–which touches, clarifies and aligns the deepest parts of us so that our vitality is most fulfilled and effective–is one way to seize these opportunities, simply by doing nothing at all for an hour.

 

© Amanda King
Salem, Massachusetts

 

 

When I was young I hoped to find love. I never expected to find it in a seminar for manual therapists.

In any Zero Balancing workshop, instructors hold a common belief that mutual respect and safety to be oneself fosters rapid and deep learning. As a result, at the opening of a ZB class the teacher presents the principle of holding each other–including oneself–in the “highest personal regard.” In other words, before we put our hands on each other, especially when we have no prior knowledge or relationship with the person we are about to touch, love and respect override any tendency for snap judgments or prejudices about the other.

Version 2

Evaluating the pelvis in Zero Balancing. Photo by Kim Lindner, Time Bandit Photography.

In this way, because all of us in the room agree to do it, we let go of the norms that rule most social or professional gatherings. How often have you been in a group where you scan new faces to see who you might trust and call friend and who feels strange, risky or even phony? It seems to be human nature to huddle with those who feel sympatico or like-minded while discounting others who seem just that–other.

In my Zero Balancing training since 2002, (and I’ve noticed that over time, I seem to be getting better at H.P.R., so it is a practice!), in groups from Boston to Chicago to Baltimore, I join others in consciously acknowledging that we all have hearts that have been overlooked or trampled at many points in our lives. If we are going to make any headway in our work of learning and practicing a therapy that works with bone-held tension–hence the deepest parts of ourselves–we had better feel not only safe, but also loving towards those with whom we engage. Love, after all is a potent healing agent, and love is the glue that bonds parents with their children, life partners, and other deep and lasting connections.

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved and uncared for.” –Mother Teresa

“Highest Personal Regard” offers a chance to experiment with loving those you might discount, disregard or shy away from. Its request is to respect others for their humanity, their intelligence, and their sensitivity, for as I’ve learned the hard way, even the toughest looking people have soft and tender hearts.

 

© Amanda King
Salem, Massachusetts

What Bodies Are: Collage by Amanda King

Recently, after a deep massage, I went through what I would call an emotional storm. It started the next day and was exacerbated by a disturbing dream in which someone I loved called to tell me she was in the hospital, but her voice trailed off before I could find out which hospital. I woke with a pervasive feeling of crisis and dread which I could not easily shake. These feelings were as familiar as breathing–or not breathing–bringing me back to a period two years ago when my elderly parents, who lived in another city, experienced a string of medical emergencies, falls, fractures, ER visits, and the like, causing me to drop work and sleep to drive many times the 200-mile distance to their aid. That period ended after what I can only call a series of harrowing shocks and losses, and my husband and I finally settled back, after my parents’ bittersweet passing, to “normal life.”

Then the process of grieving began, which took its own toll: heaviness in limbs, heart and lungs; difficulty smiling; new, deeper pouches under my eyes; grayer hair; the feeling that life might punch me in the gut again when I least expected it.

Slowly, and with the help of many gifted practitioners–a grief counselor, Zero Balancers, acupuncturists, a specialist in flower essences, a polarity therapist, and massage therapists–my heart and limbs felt lighter and I began to feel like myself again.

Until this week when, after the most recent massage–offered by a strong and sweet young woman just one year out of massage school–all the tumultuous feelings returned.

Returned? Or released?

How beautifully our bodies store in their many layers and depths emotions and sensations we are not ready to process. Then, in a moment of quiet and safety, they can bubble to the surface of our skin and our consciousness.

In this case, I felt the massage, one of the deepest I’ve requested, scraped residual sorrow out of my cells.

My teacher, Dr. Fritz Smith, the founder of Zero Balancing, likes to say that every session is like a wrapped present: you never know what you will find. This was certainly the case for me in receiving work from this lovely young woman.

It also helped me to understand on a corporal, visceral level how the soft tissue–muscles, fascia, internal organs (heart, lungs, guts)–absorbs and cushions the daily shocks and frustrations of life. Psychiatrist and trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk writes about this extensively in his book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma. “One of the ways the memory of helplessness is stored is as muscle tension or feelings of disintegration in the affected body areas.” p. 267. He goes on to write: “One of the clearest lessons from contemporary neuroscience is that our sense of ourselves is anchored in a vital connection with our bodies. We do not truly know ourselves unless we can feel and interpret our physical sensations; we need to register and act on these sensations to navigate safely through life.” p. 274

Zero Balancing teaches that the soft tissue, also home to acupuncture meridians, typically stores emotions felt–expressed and unexpressed–while bone, the deepest, densest tissue in the body aside from the teeth–frequently holds experiences from early childhood when bones are so plastic and forming, as we take our first steps, for example. In childhood, our soft tissue is soft, not yet hardened into a protective layer that so many of us over a certain age share. In childhood especially, things “cut to the quick” because physical muscular barriers are not there. In my own Zero Balancing sessions, I have uncovered long-forgotten memories and sensations from pivotal childhood moments, along with other experiences that affected me to the core.

Which brings me to my point: how wonderful to let go of grief, anguish, anger, frustration, humiliation or whatever else your loyal tissues may have packaged up in literal human Ziplocs.

Sometimes you can let go by yourself–through running, yoga, meditation, boxing, etc. But sometimes, like I did, you need a helping hand.

 

© Amanda King
Salem, Massachusetts

People in crisis are a handful. Often, they need not only your hands, but your ears, eyes, and undivided attention. They need time and patience and compassion. How can anyone let go of their burdens without these things?

My great joy in being a massage therapist and bodyworker is not just loosening a muscle. It’s loosening a life pattern, detangling defenses and soothing a jacked-up nervous system. This takes patience and consistent willingness to be with my client as she is, without the desire to put her on the fast track to physical and emotional stability.

In working with several clients, I had to set aside my personal frustration with their distractability, chronic lateness, bad moods, grating tone, and seemingly self-absorbed behavior. I also chose to listen without rushing them to the table, whatever the day’s schedule. Had I discounted them or dismissed them on this basis, I would have lost connection to human beings I greatly admire: people who have endured great pain, peril, betrayal and calamity, and who are fighting to right the ship of their lives.

How can I judge a person on a first impression? I long ago learned the danger of that. My most treasured friends are people I might have labeled “difficult” or “self-absorbed” or “too nice,” had I not waited for them to reveal their beautiful hearts to me. On the massage table, whether clients seek massage therapy or Zero Balancing, people drop their defenses and release their peccadilloes. They become still and trusting, cautiously testing the waters of their own deep inner sea.

I stand by as a grateful assistant, a Carol Merrill or Vanna White who, with a touch, shows them the right window or door leading to undiscovered treasures: a joyful body memory of swimming as a child or being held by a parent; or a well of grief under a rib that now can be drained; or the epicenter of some mysterious pain or chill in a hip. Afterwards, they breathe easier, or laugh, or yawn after weeks of insomnia.

Version 3

It is a tremendous privilege when I am lucky enough to witness this unfurling over time. Repeatedly, I observe remarkable transformations as people discover their inner strength and vitality. One woman who believed she was destined for a wheelchair after several surgeries rediscovered the strength of her legs. Another plagued with anxiety and the need to rescue others tapped into her own inner calm and clarity around her boundaries and role. A third stood up to her abusive boss, showing courage I’m not sure I would have.

In each of these cases, I could have considered these folks drains on my body and my heart. However, in witnessing rather than ‘fixing’, I simply give them time and space enough to shed the stuff that’s holding them back, which life rarely seems to do.

 

© Amanda King
Salem, Massachusetts

How do I know that I need bodywork, specifically Zero Balancing?

I had the experience recently of “limping along,” restricted in my low back, calves, shoulders, chest, and other places too numerous to mention. Some of this tension was purely physical, to be sure. I work as a massage therapist, seeing two to six clients each week day, which inevitably involves some heavy lifting. Heads alone can weigh up to 25 pounds. But a fair amount of the tension I was carrying–it sometimes feels crushing–has to do with emotional stress. At this point in my life, I’m losing friends to cancer. Four women in their fifties have died over the last five years. My aunt, my second mother, I fondly called her, had a fall which proved fatal. Both of my parents also recently passed, after several years of my helping them through growing and ever worrisome medical needs.

Life for someone in her early fifties has these sort of personal stressors–so many of my friends share similar stories–not to mention the daily calamities and world-threatening trends, natural and man-made, we read or see on the news. I suspect that my tension, which as I mentioned gives me a personal experience of what it must feel like to be a black hole, sucking my outsides in in some kind of force of nature grip, is the direct result of my literally feeling small and powerless in the face of these events, tragedies and losses.

My point is, my stress is not just in my gray matter, even if it starts there. It reaches its tentacles in the form of signals and stress hormones into my tissues. As these flow, I lock up. And I need someone to pry me loose.

Why don’t you stretch? Why don’t you meditate? Or run or swim? You may be well wondering. I do all these things, plus eat well (when I can) and sleep. I also recently cut out working six days a week.

However, there is no replacement for having someone “reach underneath my tension” as a friend and fellow practitioner calls it, and gently yet firmly create space to allow a flow I only enjoyed on a regular basis when I was a kid.

Receiving ZB from Michael Oruch

Blissed out

Lying on the table during yesterday’s Zero Balancing session in Michael Oruch’s studio and sanctuary in the Bowery in Lower Manhattan, I went from limping along to laughing in a matter of 30 or so minutes. I felt met and tended to on such a deep level–at my marrow–releasing waves, maybe tsunamis of grief–yet all the while feeling completely safe physically and emotionally. Toward the end of the session, (which is offered through clothing and requires no oil or lotion) during which Michael worked my ribs, sacrum, lumbar spine, hip joints, ankles, feet — places numerous and intractable, try as I might I could not open them with any amount of movement or stretching–I realized I no longer felt small or powerless. In fact, quite the opposite.

This relief and aliveness was undeniable and also, for me, a hallmark of Zero Balancing sessions I’ve received from other practitioners. Walking down the street afterwards, I could say without hesitation that Zero Balancing is one of the best things in this world.

 

© Amanda King
Salem, Massachusetts

aqua-treasure-2015When I receive Zero Balancing myself, often in the course of the session, something strange happens. I stop breathing.

This is not the usual holding my breath. It just stops, as if I no longer need to breathe for the ten or twenty seconds that it seems to last. During that time, a paradox, really, because time dissolves to leave only now, I can feel myself shimmering or slowly undulating, as if my being is suddenly floating in a delicious underwater sea. Eventually, the feeling of scintillating seems to cease of its own accord, and my breathing restarts.

I call this non-breathing time Being with a capital B. In ZB, we also have a name for it, more specifically descriptive: APNEA, or no breath.

Why does the apnea happen? No one, even ZB developer Fritz Smith, M.D., knows for certain, but he has an intriguing theory. When a ZB practitioner touches a person, feeling for held tension in a rib or a scapula, beneath the soft tissue, that tension starts to disperse. Imagine moving a stone in a dammed river–a trickle released builds and its momentum pushes more of the clogs out of the way, feeding the river’s flow.

In Dr. Smith’s book, Inner Bridges: A Guide to Energy Movement and Body Structure, he writes: “In the energy body, the moment-to-moment vibratory needs stimulate the respiratory mechanism. The body’s need for vibration can be most quickly met through the vibration of air molecules.” (p. 157)

Breathe forcefully through your nose. Notice the air enter your nasal passages, the labrynthine twists and turns of the sinuses, before the oxygen reaches your bronchial tubes and the alveoli of your lungs. The movement of the air itself, countless molecules, creates friction as it moves–slowly or rapidly through the nasal tunnels. Is friction a source of nourishment for the body? Perhaps.

Releasing energy back to its full flow by releasing tension held in bone tissue may allow our Chi or Spirit to be nourished to the degree that breathing is suspended–and with it–conventional time and space.

While this phenomenon is interesting to describe, it’s much more enjoyable to experience. In fact, it is so much a part of Zero Balancing, that it is taught in the foundation courses.

© Amanda King
Salem, Massachusetts

Hand of Grace 2014My sense is, as a bodyworker, that healing possibilities through touch are infinite. Professional touch, while geared to provide a consistency of experience to the client, also allows for that person’s individual response to a multitude of factors, including pain sensitivity, pressure, etc. In approaching a new client, for example, I ask her if she is used to touch, therapeutic or otherwise. If not, I approach such a client with greater awareness so as to provide an experience of the potentials of touch.

In massage, for example, my goal is to recede and to allow the client to feel himself on a multitude of physical levels – skin, muscle, fascia, nervous system, fluids, and, for me, most importantly, bone. Bone is the primary focus of my touch in the work I do known as Zero Balancing. Bone, being the densest tissue in the body, and the deepest, is believed and felt to provide a thoroughfare for the strongest flows of energy in the body. The body is an electromagnetic wonder and Zero Balancing’s founder Fritz Smith, MD has shown students over and over that firm touch applied to bone with clarity of attention yields increased and smoother flow. The best method for measuring the skeletal level flow is to feel it operating within. For many, especially those receiving Zero Balancing for the first time, it is a revelation.

“I never knew I could feel this way.”

“This is the first time I had the feeling of living in my bones versus the spaces between my bones.”

Most people describe a tingling, an aliveness, a soothing and pervasive calm that is as satisfying as, but noticeably different from, the giddy, endorphin-laced feeling that follows a full body massage.

Clarity in one’s bones starts to translate into clarity in one’s life. Thoughts, emotions, impulses, physical discomfort, movements and vitality tend to become easier, richer, more spacious, and smoother. Life, once pommeling and punishing, becomes more of a dance in which the person feels connected on multiple levels to a greater whole.

Structure&Energy2-2013Our human skeleton has a verticality that makes it a conduit of both mechanical and electromagnetic forces, what the Chinese taught are universal flows of energy. We are lightning rods, and as Jim McCormick, Five Element Acupuncturist and longtime Zero Balancing practitioner and teacher notes, “We are connected to everything else through our bones.”

One touch, as I myself have felt, can illuminate connections within the body. I remember one particularly amazing ZB session I had where each scapula was clearly linked with the opposite foot, transcending physical and neurological relationships. This discovery was deeply healing for me, a discovery of feet on the ground and wings in the air. For other people, creating or actually rediscovering connections leads to improved flow, strength and support. These relationships can be equally powerful between one person and another. Touch can facilitate this kind of bridge building.

In ZB we experience that bone holds tension, often caused by forces of muscle, tendons and joints acting upon the bone. Bone-held tension is also the result of the insults and impacts of early childhood, when bones are still growing, molding and morphing, unprotected by any muscular “armor” we may form later on. This information, this personal history, can be accessed, and perhaps even decoded, through the skilled touch of an experienced practitioner for the sole benefit of the client. The deepest, earliest, most inaccessible parts of us, are suddenly opened and illuminated, not through thoughtful questioning, but through clear and respectful touch.

Memories long forgotten often emerge vividly during Zero Balancing, and, likewise, during any touch therapy that accesses bone. I myself have experienced this many times, to my own astonishment. Many insults, once cleared, with or without verbal processing, enabled me to transcend established patterns in my closest relationships. The results are many. I feel safer with others. I am more able to be present and listen to others, ignoring and quieting the chatter in my head. I feel my feet more solidly on the ground and this stability makes me a better support for others. I can laugh at myself and at  life. All benefits sparked by the catalyst of healing touch.

When we consider how so many of us are at a loss for how to improve our pain, our lives and our relationships, perhaps it’s time we look at one of the lowest tech, lowest cost, lowest risk methods we can try.

© Amanda King

Salem, MA