Last week, my colleague Ivy Green and I taught a Rosen Method Bodywork intensive together. Those who attended are calling it “amazing,” “transformational,” and “so safe!” I’ve been contemplating what “safe” means, and how to create a safe environment for learning and personal growth.
“Growth” is a weak word for what we do. What we actually do is dig deep into the roots of people’s barriers to allowing their full, glorious selves to show up in the world. Even with “safety,” it takes courage to put aside life-long survival patterns and emerge with the truth of what you actually feel, think and need, what you actually have to offer. What makes this possible is the context.
At the heart of Rosen Method Bodywork is the conviction that if you meet someone exactly where they are, an inherent healing process will unfold. This “meeting” happens on many levels. Physically, it means contacting muscle tension enough for the person to feel what is going on in their body, but not so much that it feels as if you’re trying to undo the tension. Emotionally, it means acknowledging people’s feelings without trying to change them. You accept and welcome whatever is going on, as long as it becomes conscious through naming it. Naming in an atmosphere of non-judgment brings immediate relief in the form of easier breath, more presence, and more self-compassion. Plus, a doorway opens for deeper self-knowledge.
This is how we engage with what gets called “resistance” –a reluctance to come out of hiding. If “resistance” is respected, and if curiosity about it can be pursued, then we find gold: what really happened, what one really needs, how one can protect oneself without having to hide. The beauty of this approach is that no matter what shows up, it’s not wrong. It has information for us. This helps people let go of perfectionist patterns, or the fear that if they are not perfect or do things perfectly, they will be criticized or rejected.
A safe environment is created when the teachers follow these same guidelines. We don’t have to be perfect. We can make mistakes and course-correct. We can have emotional reactions to what is transpiring. Again and again, we heard our students say how much they appreciated our “transparency,” which to me translates as our realness. This is where vulnerability becomes strength. We really do believe in the Rosen Method process and feel grounded and supported by it.
The motto for the week became “person before program,” meaning that if anyone got lost, confused or overwhelmed at any time, they were to stop the proceedings and let us know. They were to reach out for connection right in the middle of a theory discussion or demonstration or anything. It was hard for our students to believe this, but they did it. The result was an amazing amount of safety.
What we’re after is embodiment, to actually occupy our bodies. And body changes happen. One woman whose arthritis had been bad enough that she hadn’t been able to make a fist got her range of motion back. I believe this happened because she accepted the suggestion that, during our creative project, she stop trying to figure out what to make but to let her hands do it. And they did! Another discovered that her exhaustion came from anxiety and disappeared once she got safe enough. Another ended the week with her face so relaxed that she looked 15 years younger.
Other changes ensue as well. Problematic relationships improve. Excitement replaces fear at new job prospects. People discover a key to what has held them back for years that they didn’t even know. We all learn that we do not have to be at war with ourselves.
My co-teacher, Ivy Green, has just published her book Relaxation, Awareness, Resilience, which is available on Amazon. It’s a gem of an explanation of how Rosen Method heals our separation from ourselves. The world needs this information.