Archives for posts with tag: Zero Balancing

 

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

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

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In Zero Balancing touch therapy, there is a concept of a donkey lean. Why a donkey? Politics aside, donkeys, as observed by ZB founder Fritz Smith, MD on many trips to Mexico, lean into one another for comfort, stability and support. This comes in handy when a donkey is climbing a steep trail or when another big animal can share the load. In Zero Balancing, the donkey is a metaphor for the parts of ourselves that respond to the world according to instinct, the parts arguably more in tune with inner and outer nature. In exploring a donkey lean, we ask students to partner up and lean into each other – either back to back or side to side – so that both are unstable without the other. It usually takes some negotiating to find the place that feels good, sure and stable to both people. Once there, both can lean and let go, lean and relax and understand on the level of instinct what it means to trust.

Trust is the foundation of touch in Zero Balancing. Just as we negotiate the balance achieved in the lean, we Zero Balancers negotiate with our clients touch that offers the best support, comfort, release of tension, and pleasure. Touch that feels good, unequivocally, is bound to be therapeutic. 

© 2014 Amanda King
Salem, MA

In the days when Zero Balancing first appeared, people were not sure what to call it. The name ‘Fritzing’ was suggested, after Zero Balancing developer Fritz Smith, MD, an osteopathic physician and Master of Acupuncture. He rejected this moniker, not wishing to bring undue attention to his person and to enable ZB to grow and flourish independent of his authorship and personality.

‘Structural acupressure’ was his name for the work, which combines principles of Eastern approaches to energy healing and Western understanding of body structure, anatomy and scientific inquiry. It was only when a person receiving the work exclaimed that she felt “balanced to zero” that the current name was born.

What is balance but internal harmony and equilibrium? What is Zero? A complete abstraction, whereas nothingness defies quantification, by definition. In our world of stuff, how we long for open, empty space. In our cluttered minds, how we long for peace from thought. Imagine a blissful Zero, without the need to know, or judge, or understand. Imagine your ideal of balance with yourself and within yourself. In a moment, the slate of life is washed clean, and new possibilities, ones never before considered, arise.

Another reason why the name Zero Balancing is quite right for the work of bringing us back to ourselves.Image

©Amanda King, April 2014
Salem, MA

How many times have you imagined that your bones, and the tissues around them, are brittle? When material, living or inanimate, is brittle, breakage is imminent, like ice crunching under your feet. As we age, we expect our bones to stiffen, to lose pliability and elasticity, hence becoming more prone to breakage. While some flexibility is lost with age, how much can we attribute it to our BELIEF that old equals inflexible?

ZB founder Fritz Smith, MD at work. Photo by Giovanni Pescetto

ZB founder Fritz Smith, MD at work. Photo by Giovanni Pescetto

Something happens during a Zero Balancing touch therapy session that causes me to question this prevailing wisdom. At times, with a touch, as I engage structure and energy, bone tissue seems to warm and melt under my fingers. Massage and other manual therapists describe similar reactions to their work: tissue, once dense or locked in position, warms and becomes soft. It literally melts under the skilled touch of the therapist.

Bones, the structural underpinnings of the body, may be more susceptible than other tissues to becoming rigid. Our culture easily equates softness with weakness. How many times have you been told to stand firm? To be unyielding? To hold steady? These beliefs, while based in language, affect us to the core: our bones. We stiffen and resist change from without. If our stance is threatened, we reinforce our already rigid structure all the more.

Imagine what might happen if you were to let these beliefs go. If, of a moment, you could release your bones from the work of holding you in place. How would you and your skeleton handle the aging process?

“I was sure I was going to get arthritis in my hip because it often bothered me. It hasn’t hurt at all since I’ve been coming for ZB.”  

Might you absorb shocks more easily of your bones and joints could absorb and transfer life’s impacts rather than be cracked by them? This is not to say that Zero Balancing or other bodywork helps bones to become unbreakable, but that with conscious touch and release of old beliefs, they become more likely to bend.

© Amanda King

August 2013, Salem, 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