Bodywork and Buddhism, Part 1

It happened again this week: I told someone I do bodywork and they asked if I fix cars. This happens less frequently than it did twenty years ago, but it invites me to provide an explanation.

The term “bodywork” came about because there has been such an explosion of new non-massage modalities. You’ve probably heard of many of them, and they all manipulate some aspect of the body. To simplify, acupuncture or acupressure work on energy meridians; chiropractors work on the spine; massage therapists work on muscles; cranio-sacral therapists work on cerebrospinal fluid; Rolfers work on connective tissue, and so forth.

Because my interest is less on fixing the mechanics and more on healing root causes, I learned a form of bodywork that manipulates nothing. It works by bringing awareness to what is held unconsciously in the body. It achieves this through an integrated use of touch and talk, along with attention to how the true self reveals itself through each breath.

These are mere concepts until you’ve experienced it. It took me five years to learn how to do it, so I know a one-paragraph description isn’t going to convey it to you. What matters to me in this discussion is that little phrase above: Rosen Method manipulates nothing to make the body change.

This is how I learned Buddhism.

I learned that if I show up without judgment and without an agenda, and I create the conditions that allow the client to do the same, then the body heals itself. After all these years, it is still astounding to me.

I remember being so confused and pissed off at the Buddhist teachings about having no “attachment” or “desire.” How on earth are you supposed to be human and not want anything or get upset if awful things are going on?

Now I experience entering that space regularly where landing in what is actually going on, no matter how awful it is, and being there with it allows a natural progression toward healing and wholeness. No effort is required. You just hand the process over to the billion-year-old wisdom built into the body.

Or, rather, the bodymind. I have to adopt that word to describe what we really are. I grew up with the concept that our mind is in our brain, and it sends messages to our body. Our body relays sensory information to our brain. The smart part of us resides in the skull.

Then science came along and corroborated what many of us knew anyway: we have “feelings” in our gut that turn out to be wise. We “know things in our bones.” Our hands do things we can’t possibly know ahead of time how to do. A revolution in scientific thinking occurred when it became evident that our different body systems (like the nervous system, immune system and hormonal system) actually communicate with each other. The whole new field of psychoneuroimmunology was born.

Thus, “mind” exists throughout the body. As Dr. Candace Pert said in The Molecules of Emotion, “The body is the unconscious mind!” That is why touching the body is touching more than a person thinks they are. And that includes something I have a hard time naming: spirit, essence, true self, soul? If I were to describe my personal experience of it, I’d say it’s the infinite Me that I find inside my body, and it includes all else.

I read somewhere that when a Buddhist wants to show you where “mind” is, he or she will point not to the head but to the heart. So what does “mindfulness” mean? To me, it means being aware with your whole bodymind. I’d rather call it “bodyfullness”–your body being full of you, and your awareness of that.

One thought on “Bodywork and Buddhism, Part 1

  1. Dear Anais

    I found my way to your website via the invitation from RWN, and I look forward to meeting you next week. I’m smiling reading here about “bodyfullness”. It invites a lovely shift in my perceptions.


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