Archives for category: Wellness

 

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.

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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
© November 26, 2018
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, a common belief holds that mutual respect and safety to be oneself fosters rapid and deep learning. As a result, at the opening of a ZB class there is presented the concept 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 overrides any tendency or propensity for snap judgments or prejudices or assumptions about the other.

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

In this way, because we all 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 experience spanning sixteen years (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, yet tacitly, 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
© October 3, 2018
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

Patience makes for an excellent therapist-client relationship. 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.

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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

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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 so 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.

 

© 2017 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.

© 2017, Amanda King
Salem, Massachusetts

Hand of Grace 2014My sense, 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.

© 2015  Amanda King

Salem, MA