My hotel room door in Malvern, PA
If you become still and listen, you will begin to notice a progression in the daily living of a journey. Sometimes, a distinct theme emerges. You know it’s happening, but you’re not completely sure about it. Then, as you allow it to unfold, without grasping for meaning or putting it into words, the true meaning reveals itself – after the experience has been felt. The realization that came to me in this progression of events was only possible because I consciously chose to engage a fear and connect with certain people. Their roles were crucial to my growth and I honor them. Without making a forced commitment and by simply engaging my senses, this is what unfolded . . .
On April 30, 2014, my friend and myofascial release lecturer Joan posted a quote. I read a lot of posts, but this one felt visceral. I sat with it, then posted the following on MFR Talk.*
Thank you Joan for this quote that kicked a pebble [boulder]. For those who have experienced power loss, this may resonate. Totally caught me off guard.
The quote was from a Vietnam Vet who had been a prisoner of war:
“You can never have a bad day when there is a doorknob on the inside of your door.”
It’s funny how inspiring words can mean something completely different, depending on context. My first thoughts as I read this man’s words: Well ya, you can and ya, I did – have a very, very bad day.
Sometimes I wish there had been no door handle. Then, every time I thought I had a chance to escape and felt the terror of the thought of being hurt, and then felt the burning fear of staying, mixed with the heart pounding thought of escaping . . . well, sometimes I wish I could have felt the soft sad powerless feeling of resignation. Just sayin’.
The next day, I left for Dearborn to help instruct the Myofascial I DVD course with my friend and lecturer Scott. My friend Peggy was my roommate and fellow instructor. Peggy has a lot of experience with John Barnes’ approach and we talked back and forth that night about our deepest pains and what was most eating at us and keeping us in the past. It was not a complaint session or a way to relive the past over and over. It was the kind of dialogue where it feels completely safe to bring stuff out of hiding and up to the surface where it can be seen, felt and resolved. This is the way of the John Barnes’ approach.
That night I sleep better than I thought I would in a hotel room. I have a dream that is highly symbolic. A road ends abruptly at a lake. Humph. Slight embarrassment as I have offered my passengers – two school children – a ride home. “Well I guess we’ll have to go back where we were and you’ll have to get home yourselves.”
The first day of the seminar, the strong energy of nervousness and expectation is moving around the room. I feel the pressure in the right side of my head building along with a bit of nausea. It’s not something I’m used to feeling. There are several people with head/nausea issues in the room. Once I realize this, I do some self treatment while the DVD is playing. My head, then legs tingle and soften in relief, but the headache persists. By the end of the day, the three of us need a quiet night. Time to take care of ourselves.
That night I have a dream. One of the participants from the seminar is treating me. It feels like I can let down my guard. I feel relief. The headache recedes.
In the morning, I wake up to hear the shower running. It takes me back in time to the motel room I was locked in. My captor is in the bathroom. I feel the heaviness of my body in bed. I’m terrified to move. I let the feeling go through me. Then my mind says “go for it”. I sit up and swing my legs around. I feel my feet touch the carpet. I sigh and the fear lets go. I get up and walk to the door. The steps feel half in and half out of my body. I reach for the door handle and pause. “Feel this” I say to myself. I feel my hand touch the metal; feel myself unlocking the door. The panic of not being able to unlock the door fast enough rushes into my chest and my senses move behind me to feel for him. I am acutely aware of the feel inside the room and whether it is changing. He is not there. I move to the present and feel the safety of this different room without him in it. I go back to opening the door. I open it and feel the cool air on my bare legs. I’m in my underwear and tank top. I poke my head out. The corridor is empty. I step out. I look down the corridor as if I am back at the motel. I am outside and considering whether I can make a run for it to the front desk. I’m naked and handcuffed in front, with the blindfold towel pushed up on my head. I feel embarrassment at having no clothes. I’m not sure I can bear the shame, so I visualize myself walking past the other motel room doors towards the front. Maybe I make it. Maybe I don’t. I come back to the present and step back in the room.
The second day of the seminar feels much more connected. The students are excited about what they are feeling and I feel good I’m able to fully engage in their excitement. Some are connecting with their own traumas and I provide space and facilitation for them to feel their healing. As John says, you can only take your patients as far as you’ve gone yourselves.
That night we head over to PF Chang’s for dinner. We are seated across from two of the students from the seminar. One of them is the one who treated me in my dream. Uh huh. . .
We laugh and have fun. A lot of bubbly energy is circulating. At the end of the meal, we each open our fortune cookies. Each of us receives a pretty profound fortune. No one has to reach for, or put meaning to the words. I’m not much for other people telling me what my stuff means, but, just like Joan’s quote, the words bring a rush of recognition. “Doors will be opening for you in many areas of your life.” Uh huh – those damn doors again.
Back at the hotel, I sleep fitfully. I pick up my ball from the bedside table and lay on it so I can feel the inside of my body. I have a lot of short dreams. I do not remember them. In the morning, while getting ready, a statement enters my mind. I feel a surge of energy from my pelvis. It feels very powerful. So powerful, I type the statement into my iPhone:
Don’t assume that a woman who has been raped is a victim or a survivor. She is a renegade.
The feeling follows me through day 3 of the course. I am sensing the wonder in the group as they begin the feel new sensations under their hands and in their bodies as they practice the work. We have an odd number of students, so Peggy and I trade off pairing with the students for each technique. None of the techniques we are doing require us to take any clothing off. The students are prepared, dressed in shorts and sports bras or tank tops. I am not. . .
We come to the last part of the seminar, where the students pair up and put the techniques they have learned into a treatment. This way, they can feel the flow of what a real treatment would be like.
Scott asks me if I want to go up on stage to be a body to review the types of techniques and if I have shorts. I say no and he says he’ll get one of the students to go up. I mumble something about “I’m not going up there in my underwear” as I walk to the back.
Then I remember I had volunteered to pair up with a student for this last treatment. As they pair up, I see that one group has three people. I feel relief and begin doing the usual instructor tasks. Scott comes over and says “why are you two up?” I reply that there is a three person group. He replies “no, one of you needs to pair up.” I say I’ll go and walk over to the three person group and retrieve one of the students. I feel the heat rising in my face. I know he is right. I am attempting to squirm out of what I am about to feel.
My partner goes on the table first and I treat her. We’ve connected before. Something pretty intense came up for her earlier in the day. I continue to facilitate from where she is in her own process. She is open, vulnerable and beautiful in her healing.
She finishes and we switch up. There is a standing assessment first. I take my pants off grudgingly. I am not taking my shirt off I decide. “What do you want me to treat?” she asks. “What stands out for you?” I reply. She immediately zones in on something and we start. As we progress, I hear Scott’s voice in the next row “no, you’re beautiful!” The woman who treated me in my dream is saying something about how she doesn’t like how her body looks. She was a body builder. She is now pregnant. In my opinion, she’s radiant. Scott’s right.
The words seep into me and my feet curl in. I feel the air on my legs and am acutely aware I am in my underwear. I don’t want anyone to see me. My legs follow, tighten and begin to bend up. I go back in time to being on the motel bed naked. The feeling of shame is rising up between my legs and into my pregnancy stretched belly. I feel a hand touch my abdomen and legs. It’s Scott. He is taking gravity out of my legs and they finish curling up. My abdomen quivers and the feeling of shame rises into my chest. My head goes back and I start to cry silently, my eyes squeezing shut, holding my breath, my chest rhythmically pulses with my crying. His hand goes to my throat and jaw. I start to cry with sound. Waves of it. I hear myself. I sound really upset. I let the feel of the sound go through me and it brings me in under the sobbing. I feel something caught in my throat and reflexively cough it up. It’s a gagging cough that reminds me of when I throw up and it goes up into my sinuses. Scott puts a blanket over my legs and I start to shake quietly. I let the waves of emotion flow through me. He is still dialoguing with the entire group as this is happening. The group is connected and everyone’s releases are impacting each other. I feel the translation of his words to the group and myself at the same time. When we are done I open my eyes. My partner leans her head down. “That was beautiful!” Sheis teary and tremulous. I feel her words. Normally a statement like that would embarrass me and I’d shut down. With the shame felt and released though, I quietly feel the truth in what beautiful really means.
I sit up and see two guys staring at me. I turn around to my partner and jokingly say “where are we?” I take a minute to reorient and then quickly transition out of treatment mode and return to instructor mode.
The goodbye’s and hugs are warm and heartfelt. I am excited that I have a list of therapists wanting to join a study group back home. The drive home is full of energy and once the energy has passed, I feel the need to sleep. Back at home I go back to mom mode, but only on the surface. The past few days are not buried. I do not need to hide them from my husband and kids. They get it.
The next morning, I have scheduled at treatment with Dave. Before I leave for treatment, I post this on MFR Chat:
“I wrote this down the morning of day 3 of the MFR I course I was instructing at in Dearborn:
Don’t assume that a woman who has been raped is a victim or a survivor. She is a renegade.
26 years ago today, I was abducted. I felt like a victim. Through MFR, and only MFR, I came home to who I am. John’s approach has revealed something more powerful than I could have imagined.
Wherever you are in your journey, know that, if you stick with it, you can reconnect with your true nature. It takes no special knowledge or tools. Just a continuous persistence to lean into the authentic healing approach John and his trained therapists provide.
We can all do this.”
Posting this gives me the energy and renegadeness I need for this treatment.
I arrive at my appointment. I tell Dave I feel stirred up; my hands and feet feel stiff. He pokes at the top of my shoulders and the pressure reinforces just how tense I am. I sit and he does some seated treatment as he tells me some stories. This relaxes me and I enter my body more fully. Next I lay on my back on the table. After some time, he does a cross finger release at the base of my throat. It’s where something was stuck yesterday at the seminar. The tears come. The sound comes. It is lighter than yesterday. As the treatment progresses, I start to move and unwind. I feel myself sitting, hunched over with my head hanging. I feel my head being pushed down into the table, like a dog forced by its owner to smell its own feces. I feel intense shame and wonder why this feels so familiar. I can’t place it. I let the feeling of heat rushing through my head and ears go through me. A quiet voice deep inside me says “enough”. A light energy floats up through my torso and I move away from this place and off the table.
“What do you need?” Dave asks. I think to myself that I need a kleenex and I pull one from the box and blow my nose. I need a pause. Then I close my eyes and go back into my unwinding. I feel my feet on the ground and sense the need to move. It feels like something in me is doing the walking and I follow. I walk to the treatment room door. It is the motel room door. I’ve been here before, but I feel more of it. My hands; the cool handle; my head; my chest. I am sort of afraid, but not as much as before. I am sad to leave this place that has become so familiar in my thoughts and emotions. But I want to move on. I cry out the sadness and open the door. I feel the rush of cold air. I feel completely exposed and naked. “Keep going,” Dave says. I walk tentatively through the breezeway between the treatment rooms and the house and come up to the door to outside. I pause. I think ahead “do I need to get out of here?” It doesn’t feel like it. “keep going,” Dave says. I continue through the breezeway and stop when I sense the door to the house. I am crying harder now as I lean my forehead against the door frame. This is my house. I know what I have to do and wrap both hands around the door knob. I turn it to the right slowly, feeling terror rush through me and push. It doesn’t open. I can’t get in! My legs are shaking now and I’m crying harder. “Only you can do this. I can’t do it for you,” Dave dialogues. The feeling of desperation passes and I try turning the knob the other way. I push with my body. At first the door doesn’t give. Then pop! Startled I lean back. Stunned, I absorb that the door is open. I step into the foyer and listen for my mom and dad, but there is no one home. No one is home for me. I sob harder and have to lean over with my hands on my knees. A wave of nausea hits and I cough and gag and crouch lower. It passes and I slowly straighten up. “What do you need,” Dave asks. I feel his gentle presence approach me. He moves in slowly and I very softly lean my head on his chest, curling my arms into myself like a child. He gently embraces me. I cry softly now and feel the warmth and comfort of his caring nature.
He represents my parents. They were so devastated by what happened and I remember my mom hugging me frantically and crying at the hospital. I was comforting them. Now I am getting what I need.
Dave and I walk back to the treatment room and he does some structural work on my pelvis. It’s stiff there after the unwinding. It’s a layer of restriction that’s been hiding the emotions. Now that it’s done it’s job, it can let go – and it does.
On the way home I feel energetic. Usually, part way home, I feel sleepy. Not this time. I decide to stop in at an MFR colleague’s office. She is hosting the first MFR study group that I’m in charge of running. As I talk and organize with her, I feel a new flow. Much less pulling back and hesitation in my actions. I feel more spontaneous. It feels fantastic.
I realize, in retrospect, that this door themed journey is just what I needed. The fear of literally and symbolically opening doors is not so extreme. Seeing a door handle on the inside of my door is not so frightening . . . it is starting to feel good . . . the Vietnam Vet was right. Yes, doors are opening for me and I’m not so afraid to see, feel and act on the opportunities.
N.B.: the next day I receive a package in the mail. It’s from Scott. He has sent me shorts with the words “Please help release me!” printed on the butt. I think it’s hilarious. Then I think, wow, how’d he know what was really happening inside me on Sunday – enough to send me shorts? I read the note and realize some larger arrangement is in motion . . .
“Patti, Thanks so much for doing such a good job assisting me at fascial pelvis in Ottawa! I hope you or your patients get a kick out of the shorts. Love, Scott”
He’d sent the shorts a week earlier at our last seminar together and they were just arriving now. He has his own story about why he has shorts in his treatment room. Our two stories met at just the right time.
* MFR Insight is a Facebook group open to those interested in the John Barnes Myofascial Release Approach. Patients, therapists and those interested in the approach can share information, insights, stories, ask questions, etc. Requests to join are subject to approval.