In massage, which is one of my foundational studies and loves, touch is attenuated. Some practitioners even work through a session without removing their hands from the client’s body. In a massage this type of touch equals value, and it is what the person on the table craves.

In Zero Balancing, my other foundational study and love, the long strokes of massage on skin are replaced by the gentle staccato touches of the practitioner’s hands or fingers on the client’s bones.

Touch to the tarsal bones of the foot.

Touch to the tarsal bones of the foot.

Bones, Zero Balancing founder Fritz Smith, MD, discovered early in his over fifty years of teaching and practice, hold and transmit vibration. In touching them relatively quickly and firmly, using an approach called Interface, Zero Balancers seek to both access and free that held vibration back into the person’s system.

The best way to do this, Dr. Smith teaches, rather than to linger, is to be quick and clear when touching bone.

This clarity of touch pays dividends. Released tension once held in bone tends to recharge and animate a person’s entire musculoskeletal system. Often, after a ZB session, people report feeling more energized while at the same time feeling calmer.

Because this touch occurs on such a deep level, we hold it usually no longer than ten seconds. If an area is particularly tight or congested — say on the scapula, the lower ribs, or at the upper trapezius muscles of the shoulders and neck (yes muscle, but sometimes as hard as bone!) — often a series of even shorter touches or fulcrums are used. This allows the tension to mobilize and dissolve, leaving the person feeling deeply open and refreshed.

Long or short, one type of touch is not better than another. In working with the muscles, fascia or soft tissue, long continuous strokes bring great relief and elongation of the tissue. In working with the bones, tiny touches or brief, deep contact are akin to striking a beautiful bell and allowing its music to pour forth.

Amanda King
Cambridge, MA
© 2013

Advertisements

What do you give most of your time to? When does time move more slowly for you? When does it move quickly? How is it that time seems to speed up the older we get and leave us wishing for the leisurely days we used to enjoy?

Time, like anything, responds to our projections upon it. As we speed up, so does time. As we slow ourselves, noticing each sound we hear, each moment as it passes, so, too, does time take a breather.

Once we see how plastic and elastic time can become, we can use this to our advantage.

Photo by Amanda King

Notice how you feel when you are late for some event. How your mind races toward worry: I’ll miss the beginning; I’ll miss the event altogether; I’ll keep people waiting, and so on. As we speed up to get somewhere, or to get more done, so do our thoughts. As more thoughts cram each moment, the more that moment is buried and lost.

Zero Balancing as a time manipulation tool.

Learning to give Zero Balancing sessions, and receiving sessions from my fellow practitioners and teachers, I stumbled upon a secret benefit of ZB: it delivers you from the pitfalls of runaway time.

First, as you are learning and practicing the Zero Balancing protocol, getting from the lower body to the upper body seems to take an eternity. Because you, in the process of embodying new material, are compelled to give each step your full attention, time slows. Later, as ZB becomes part of your kinesthetic language, the way the Tai Chi form might be for another, time flows as you work, but now with an ease and grace. Time waits for you, as you pause for the body to integrate a fulcrum or series of fulcrums (balance points) which you have created with your hands.

Similarly, in receiving Zero Balancing, 30 minutes may pass in a blink of an eye, or a five-minute treatment may precipitate deep transformation so that you feel hours have passed.

How can this be possible?

Zero Balancing founder Fritz Smith, MD, explains it this way.

“When you introduce, through touch, two opposing inputs to the bodymind, the conscious mind can’t reconcile the two and the person enters an expanded state of consciousness.” Dr. Smith made this statement during last year’s Zero Balancing teacher training. He adds, in a recent video: “Through touch, we can take a person to a state of meditation.”

Perhaps this expanded state of consciousness exists beyond the confines of linear, and limited, time. Perhaps, once experienced and enjoyed, this expanded state may be reproduced more readily through Zero Balancing or other activities such as contemplation or meditation.

Who knows what might be possible as we explore our own experience of time, as we allow our minds to clear and enable each moment to be more spacious and enjoyable. Perhaps this is the way to press back on the weight of years that presses on us.

Through ZB, or other bodymind practice, we slip for seconds or minutes out of time’s reach and allow ourselves to realize it is just a figment of the material world.

© Amanda King

Cambridge, MA

In the time that I have practiced Zero Balancing, I have discovered a need of my own to create a focus for my learning. On one occasion, I might choose to see my client’s energy in terms of movement through body structure. Or, I might choose to focus my attention on limiting mind chatter so that I might be present and focused on the session for the good of the person on the table.

This week my practice is about letting go of any notions of weakness or fragility in my tools — my arms, hands, shoulders, as well as my legs and feet. My intent — to feel my own strength — not only allows me to erase decades of personal and familial conditioning, but it also gives me new confidence that I can work with anyone. By anyone, I mean my usual clients: men and women. Many people require a fair degree of contact so that they might feel that the tension they hold in their skeleton is not only accessed, but mobilized and released.

How did I uncover this strength ten years into my Zero Balancing practice? I studied this past weekend with ZB faculty member MIchael Oruch, who has developed a series of workshops for bodyworkers, Zero Balancers specifically, utilizing principles from Qigong. One takeaway from the class: a curve is stronger than a straight line. A curved hand, for example, held in position under my client’s back, has its own integrity. My hand becomes a bolster, a support and the structural foundation of a powerful fulcrum designed to catalyze and disperse deeply held tension. The client breathes, exhales and surrenders fully. Instead of collapsing under this increased weight, my curved hand holds steady, maintaining contact for the moments required. I do not strain, even under the weight of a large man or woman. My shoulders drop. I can smile as I feel their tissue soften under my hands.

Michael himself had a daily Qigong practice for many years before he came to Zero Balancing. He then attended, according to his own estimates, close to 80 workshops with Zero Balancing founder Fritz Smith, MD in the space of five years, observing the master at work. Fritz, who is not a big person, nevertheless, in my own experience, feels big when he is working on you. His curved hands and fingers, carefully positioned on a rib or cradling my sacrum, hold all of me while he works to free a particular spot. That is the magic of Zero Balancing and its greatest expression: to acknowledge and hold a person in his or her totality, even while covering a seemingly small territory with one’s hands. It is all about connection, clarity of touch and complete focus on the client.

Knowing that I am strong means that I can be a stable source of support for each person who seeks my care.

© Amanda King
August, 2012

Zero Balancing Session

Evaluating and balancing the sacroiliac joint in a Zero Balancing session.

“An intent to heal can get in the way of seeing.” Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul

In Zero Balancing, at the start of the session, we ask the person receiving the treatment to state their goal. Their goal, ultimately, can take a multitude of directions. Relieve the pain in my left foot.  Help me address my performance anxiety. I want to feel a deeper connection to myself and what is universal in me. 

Once stated — or framed, as we Zero Balancers call it — the intention for the session is clear, empowered and a mutual contract between the practitioner and receiver. The intention creates a rich and potent force that informs every touch in the ZB session that follows. How does this happen? Not with continued intention, which some hands-on or energy work prescribes. Rather, in ZB, once the frame is uttered, clarified and agreed upon, we let it go. We spend the rest of the session giving the person on the table our full and quiet attention. We clear our mind of random thoughts and chatter, and, in doing so, give with exquisite focus and purpose. For this reason, we do not talk much, if at all, with our client as we work.

One way in which Zero Balancers are able to clear our minds while we work is through our mode of touch. Known as Interface, this touch exists at the place of meeting between two beings, two bodies, and two energies. Interface Touch enables us to put our attention (that word again) on where our own working surface — fingers, thumb or palm — meets our client. In the beginning of practice, this takes work! As one becomes more proficient, one feels more, senses more, discovers more about the person in our care.

Because our focus is on our touch, and on the richness of the signals coming to us proprioceptively, we stay in the now. As we do — and this story is my experience after ten years of ZB practice — the frame or intention of the client is magically, mysteriously and often surprisingly addressed. The foot that was hurting and wobbly now feels light, yet stable like a suction cup on the floor. The bones that were aching feel seen, cared for and acknowledged. The worried mind is calm and contented. How did this happen? I have no clue and no control over the outcome. Nor do I want to, for I’ve discovered that the ZB I would envision for you is never as rich or as sweet as the one the universe provides.

© Amanda King, 2012

Amanda King
Cambridge, Massachusetts