Archives for posts with tag: stress-management

 

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

 

 

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

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 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

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