I Belong

sis and me

Back in 2009, about two years into my new career as a massage therapist, my sister and I attended our first myofascial release seminar together. My sister introduced me to John Barnes Myofascial Release back in 2004, hoping it would help me heal. It did more than that – it gave me my life back. Attending a seminar together meant a lot to both of us, but it was tough. As a patient, turned therapist, I was now in her territory. This was her career, not mine. She is an amazing therapist and I was not coming into this career to one-up her. I was coming in to help people as I had been helped. We are both very good at what we do, in our own way. We are also very good together, now that we’ve reconnected.

Here’s what I wrote about my experience . . . and then read in class . . . with my sister sitting beside me.

***

Hi tribe,

I wanted to share a realization I had this morning on day 4 of the Advanced Unwinding course here in Sedona.

I have been doing this work as a therapist for 2 1/2 years now. My sister has been doing it for over 10 years. This seminar was the first one we have gone to together. Siblings all have a history and a story. . .

When my younger sister is talking on day one of the seminar, it feels very intense. I feel her anger towards me. I’m taking over her space as an MFR therapist; the thing she had that was her own and she was really good at. I sit beside her and make myself as small and quiet as I can. I’m afraid of her. I remember my perception of how angry she was when I was kidnapped – I left and didn’t come home. And when I did, I felt my whole family was angry. I came home physically, but really I never came home. I felt the anger and interpreted that as “you don’t belong”. I have been homeless. John asks the two of us to come up with goals – both individual and separate tonight. Mine is to come home and to reconnect with my sister.

Day 2 and 3 of the seminar, I am thinking I should speak up. Lots of people have come up to us and are relating to our sibling story. Hearing my sister speak and seeing me remain silent.

Half way through day 3, I start becoming very quiet again. I can feel myself getting smaller and quieter. I want to become invisible. We go to Therapy on the Rocks so my sister can receive a treatment. I wait on the waterfall deck. As invisible as I was trying to be, another seminar therapist (also an older sister), comes down and tells me she’s been watching me be so quiet – holding myself together. She sees my shell becoming tougher.

I confide that I feel I don’t deserve to take up space; I don’t deserve to take up people’s time by speaking in class. Old thoughts of suicide are coming up. Thoughts I thought were gone. I picture drowning myself in the hotel tub or hanging myself. This therapist brings me out of my shell enough to see what I am doing to myself.

That night, we go to bed and I wake up at 4 am. I go into the small feeling again. I get very small and feel the anger towards me. Then a moment of grace happens. I realize that my sister was not angry when I came home after the kidnapping. I realize that I had left such a giant, gaping hole in my family when I was gone, that their love had nowhere to go. They were sending it out like a calling card to me so I could come home. And when I did, my heart was so closed the love was bouncing off me and back at them. The love was so powerful that it created turbulence. That turbulence, I perceived as anger. Really, it was love in disguise.

I pictured the gaping hole I had left. It was really big. Geeze, I took up a lot of space. My family needed me to take up that space, so I could do my part to hold them together with me and now there was this whole and only a thin thread holding them together now. This is when I realized I belonged . . . I was essential to the whole.

I then had another realization, from my time in the hotel room with my kidnapper. I realized my willingness to comply with him – to be raped and sodomized – was me opening myself and letting his stored-up energy – flow through me. I learned afterward that his girlfriend had just broken up with him the day before. He was desperately trying to love her, but she wasn’t receiving. So he forced it on me. My ability to absorb this turbulent anger/love was not me being weak. In fact his energy was discharged and I know this is why he let me go and didn’t kill me. In my greatest moment of fear, I finally had the courage to open my heart. How wrong my perceptions had been.

Now, lying in bed in the hotel room in Sedona, I feel myself and the gaping hole I left. I feel myself filling the whole. I feel my whole body warming and tingling. I am coming home. I am home. I belong. I feel and see this whole – my family, embedded in a larger whole – my MFR family – and a still larger whole – it looks just like a fractal.

I hear John’s words “just stay with that”. And although it comes and goes and feels very, very raw, I will do just that, for as long as I can.

Thanks sis, for waiting for me to come home. You’re the best.

Love,

Patti
***

After I had read this to the class, my sister and I hugged and cried. John had the whole class join together and embrace us. The feeling was amazing. I will never forget the feeling of connection I had that day.

Coming home . . . again

MFR III Gang 2014

The MFR III Gang atop Airport Mesa, Sedona, Arizona (photo courtesy of my friend Karen)

This is long, but it’s my journey from cocoon to butterfly and it took 3 years 🙂 Never give up. . .

When I came home from MFR III in 2011, it was a bit of a rough entry. The turbulence was what I needed. It broke open an understanding of where my sensitive intuitive nature had been shutting down. I became aware of an old belief: if I stop feeling and anticipating what my kidnapper is feeling and going to do, something really bad will happen. I think I felt some level of control if I could sense what was going to happen next and brace myself for it. Then he did something I couldn’t imagine and I went to a place I didn’t know. I cocooned with this until I was ready for another intensive – my first as a therapist – in December 2013.

My left side bracing had been steadily increasing since 2011. In December 2013, I went to Malvern in hopes of resolving a chronic left foot problem which had pretty much stopped my ability to run. It was an opening, not a resolution. In June 2014, during Advanced Unwinding, John facilitated another opening and I got out of the trunk of the car. I also was pulled out of the back seat and watched it drive away. I felt a sense of completion. The experience of being kidnapped seemed a memory and not a current event anymore. I continue to feel the tethers disentangling from me.

At MFR III this year, my goal came from a sense of “now what?” I felt the urge to continue to integrate a newer feeling of lightness of being and becoming the foam on the wave – but I had left a huge void where the terror and shame had been. I knew I needed to fill it. I didn’t want it to back-fill with old beliefs again. This was too important.

The “now what” became clear, while assisting at Subtle Energy, prior to MFR III. Peggy, our speaker, asked us to ask ourselves what we wanted out of this time here. An answer comes to me – clarity. Then a message, a very clear voice says to me: the healing you are doing in this lifetime is clearing your karmic debt from every lifetime – all of it. This is what you are here for. I feel the enormity of this mission. It is a lot of responsibility. It is important to my essence. I also feel the result of this message. This feeling of actual joy I have been trickling into feels entirely foreign and new and right.

At MFR III, the night of our inner journey unwindings, I stay on my feet the entire hour and a half. I am flying expansively, driving up into the galaxy and diving back down to earth. Then I notice I have no voice. I have been completely silent throughout the unwinding. Sobbing, I go looking for it on the ground. As I crawl around desperately, my inner guide says “look up”. I do and a new sound of sobbing I have not heard before comes out. The sound leads me to standing and I walk through a door. On the other side I meet three spirits. The one says “Welcome home. We’ve been waiting for you.” I feel the middle one downloading information into my head. He says “don’t worry”, sensing my fear, “you will only access this information in your dreams.” I relax. They are still with me strongly now as I write this.

The next day, I am silent as we are out on the rocks. I listen to everyone talking about their insights from last night. I am so glad we don’t have to each say something like we did in 2011.

After class, I went to see my very first therapist at Therapy on the Rocks. She immediately caught on to my automatic anticipation of what was going to happen next. My trust in the process was bigger than my fear and I went into that still point from 2011. I let my kidnapper do what he had done back then and stayed present. Then I escaped to a safe place. I said to my therapist that there were some little bits left but for the most part, that was it. “Yes,” she confirmed, “they’re just breadcrumbs.”

Feeling more spontaneity in my movements, the group unwinding the following day became a demonstration of complete trust in my group, my intuition and the power of the unknown.

I let my energetic body lead and take me off the ground. I am falling, twisting, struggling not to come down. Just before I touch ground, I have the sense of being in my mother’s birth canal. I don’t want to come out. My left shoulder gets stuck coming out, frees itself and I emerge, newborn, lying on my back. I feel betrayed. I didn’t want to come down this time – in this life. Knowledge of what is going to happen in my future – knowing what I am here to do – I just want to crawl back up that birth canal and go back from where I came.

In an instant, I remember a story my mother told me about five years ago. She said that the first week I was home from the hospital, I got myself into snitfits and cried so hard I turned blue. She had no choice but to put my head under a tap of running water to get me breathing again. This happened more than once. She went on to tell me that by the time I was two, we would be out shopping and I’d be set off and she would hold onto my hand until I passed out and then put me back in the cart. As I got older, I no longer cried that hard. My voice had been pretty much silenced by then. But there was only resignation.

Lying on the ground, I grieve for what I have been through. I grieve for the enormity of responsibility for clearing my past karmic debt in this lifetime. Resignation turns into resolve. I say to my group urgently “I need my feet on the ground! I need my feet on the ground!” They let go and I feel them solidly. A new wave of crying. I can’t get up. “Bring your power back into your body,” I hear my inner guide say. I fill my abdomen up and expand out. I try to stand from my supine position. I can’t figure out how to do it. I contemplate going into channel 5 and sitting first. No. I have to stand from my own power. As I fill myself up more, a feeling of acceptance comes in behind the energy and accelerates it. This is what I need and I launch up to my feet from my back. And I fly.

There is some residual resignation and I say to my group, “well if I’m going to be here, I’m glad I’m here with you.” I feel their support and love softly embrace me.

After the group unwinding, we are instructed to go off on John’s property and find a special place for ourselves to be with our power animals. I am ready to go like a horse in a starting gate. We set off and I skip along down to the riverbed. Once there I am no longer skipping – I am flying. I realize there is no one in front of me. A realization hits me. I don’t feel chased – I am leading the way. Instead of fear, I feel exhilaration!

The last day, we do intraoral techniques and I trade with my raven friend. She is on my vomer and I feel the sense of being forced – tissue memory. I get up and I have disappeared somewhere. I don’t know where I’ve gone, but I’m not there in the room. I wander aimlessly, soft and vulnerable. I make eye contact with John and walk slowly towards him. I carefully move into his arms, barely holding on to him. “Can you soften into me a little more?” I let down my guard a bit more and connect. I feel the grounding come into my pelvis and legs. Ami comes over. She is pulling stuff out of the back of me. She says to John she can do some more work with me back at the house. I feel soooo disappointed in myself. I was doing so well! Barbara comes over and I sink into her. She lets me rest my head on her chest and I feel a mother’s love deeper than I have ever felt it before. It is what I need.

In the parking lot, saying good bye, I pull out a heart-shaped rock I found here in June and put it in her hand. I say to her that I need to stay connected to her heart as I go home. It is really, really important. I still feel her now, as the tears roll down my face. . . there are some older breadcrumbs. How do you connect with your heart deeper than you have in this lifetime?

Coming home . . . again is new. In 2011, I cocooned. This time, I am transforming and expanding.

In my hot tub I let myself unwind. I float into a position that feels like I’m in a womb. I feel acceptance of this part of the journey I am about to take – softening into the unknown, now that the terror has been diffused, I softly and without resistance, flow down the birth canal. As I emerge, I feel myself say “this is going to be so cool!” The once seemingly horrible events in my life are filled with an anticipated excitement of what the resulting transformations will be. It’s going to be fantastic!

I am listening to Destiny by Zero 7. As the song plays and I feel the support of my room mates my arms drift together until they’re a foot apart. There is tension between them. I feel the handcuffs. I can’t open or close my arms. Then a voice says “soften”. My torso softens and my hands drift apart – opening. Wow! They stop at a distance and I know they have further to go. I’m looking for another feel. My inner guide says “now move into who you really are”. I have the sense of shifting to the left in my head and mind. My arms open, like wings, and I expand out more.

Letting Go of the Past

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Back-O-Beyond Road; Cathedral Mountain

Taking my time. Not getting ahead of myself, I went into two seminars in Sedona. Actually, I was just coming to see Peggy. After a session with her in Malvern during a week of intensive treatment – my first as a therapist – my myofascial treatments took off. It felt like an hour-long dose of another dimension of myofascial release – a subtle level I was not familiar with. The session evened out the intensity of thought, feeling and emotion and dissipated my subconscious anticipation of letting go. It worked so well I made a second appointment with her and again – best group unwinding I’ve ever had, complete with new unwindings. So, when I saw she was offering Subtle Energy II in Sedona with John, I immediately signed up. But I couldn’t just go for a day and a half course and leave, so I signed up to repeat Advanced Unwinding for the four days prior to Peggy’s course. It was just an add on . . .

Once signed up, my friend Sue, whom I had met at Myofascial Release III posted that she was looking for housemates. A few easy steps later and we had a third, John, whom I had never met, but was friends with Sue. My level of trust had increased. We rented a house off of Back-o-Beyond, steps from the Cathedral Rock trail head. On arrival, after dinner, the first order of business was some treatment and unwinding in the hot tub under the stars.

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View from the hottub

This time, I would go into a seminar warmed up and maybe a little less terrified. That night, my new roommate John was in my dream. This is how I get familiar with people I don’t know. Timid in the dream at first, I decide I can open up, knowing I have a place to retreat to in my awareness. The divide is a thin veil of opaque material. The feeling is sensual with a wisp of shame. Old ingrained dogma.

The first day of class, I slip into the room. I make myself invisible as I quietly weave through the room. It gives me space to soften and let the fast moving energy that’s circulating go through me. I notice it is easier this time around. I feel my way to a chair. My friend Ami, whom I was hoping to give a big hug to before I even left home, sits down beside me. Ahhh. When we start, Ami begins talking about her Mom who recently died. She breaks me open. Thank you Ami.

As the day progresses, I feel myself going within. I am shutting down some things, but I am still having fun with my friends. That night, I dream about a plane with no wings flying by my window, about to crash land. I look forward and all that is left of it are two rows of six seats with passengers strapped in. As the six seats slide to the ground, the passengers’ arms go up in celebration. They did it! They are ecstatic that they made it through a terrifying ordeal intact. Me too, I admit on waking.

That morning, I go for treatment at Therapy on the Rocks. Whenever I am in Sedona, I visit my second home. This is my original sanctuary. As I walk in the door, the bells on the door tinkling bring me into stillness. I breathe in the smell of oak, exhale and soften. As I walk downstairs, I feel my wall of protection soften. I don’t need it here. I walk past the indoor waterfall and look towards the reception area. Nancy is there. I am so happy to see her! I missed her. We hug. June walks out of the office, her twinkling eyes matching her smile. My heart opens even more and I spontaneously receive and reciprocate a warm hug. June has helped me through some big hurdles. I feel completely myself here and freely move around. I go out to the deck and look out to Oak Creek. It all feels exactly how I remember. I have been taking Sedona back home with me for nine years now. I am getting good at imagining it in fine detail. The smell, the sound of water moving and birds chirping, the brightness of the sun, the stillness amidst the flow.

sedona John's treatment room

John’s treatment room

I go into John’s room and then a therapist I have not met before comes in. She connects with me; becomes me and I trust her completely. I make new connections between my hips and shoulders in rotation. Decades of repetitive spinning and jumping in figure skating had muted this and twisted me in one direction. Feeling the untwisting, I recognize the “other” direction can feel good too. Relief floods through me. She works extensively on my upper back where I hold a feeling of responsibility for others. I hold their pain. I know this is not helpful, but it is automatic. She persists firmly at these gateways and I concede and let go. I hear her sigh at the weight I am holding, acknowledging the depth of it. I go deeper to get at more. I want to be as light as I can. I don’t need to hold the weight of the world anymore. It’s not helpful to anyone. It is uselessly weighing me down.

She says that this trip needs to be about me and not about taking care of anyone. I need to make my top priority to take good care of the love of my life – me. I nod in agreement. She is right. I let the guilt of feeling I’ve “had enough treatment” trickle away. I realize that when I back away from someone’s help, I miss out on what I need at that moment. I forget that my friends really want to help. I forget that the good feeling I get from helping is also the good feeling they receive too. When the giving and receiving flows freely, it is balanced and everyone gets what they need. There is no obligation or guilt – only a free flow of love in all its forms.

After treatment, I go back to the house and process the treatment by sleeping.

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My room on Yonder Lane

On waking, I reach out for help and post to the Facebook Chat the truth of what I am feeling:

“Coming into Advanced Unwinding and Subtle Energy II, a dream I had a week ago is exaggerating itself in waking time. Despite being surrounded by amazing people and dear friends, I feel I’m not supposed to be here; I don’t belong here; I’ve forgotten how to unwind (and yes, I understand my body knows how to do this); I don’t want to touch people because I don’t know what I’m doing; I am relieved when people stop touching me – and there is just too much movement and unwinding in the room for me to stay “here”. I am not “exactly where I need to be” either. Something doesn’t feel right. It feels dangerous and mistrustful. I love that I can feel all that; recognize it is fragments of the past and know the blossoming will be into a much richer place.”

Before going to class, I read responses to my post. Waves of sobbing burst unexpectedly out of me. I let it happen. I go to class and let myself be vulnerable. At break I find Kathy. I reach out and hug her and burst into tears. I am so happy she is here. The day softens more. I go to the place where I left off, at the end of my one week intensive/therapy for the therapist in Malvern in December. There is a part of me I can see on the ceiling of the motel room.

I wake up the following morning, feeling uncertain. I check in and sense the need to go for a run. I run up Chapel Rd. and branch off onto Mystic Trail.

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I feel the need to climb upward. I walk until I feel snugged up at the base of the mountain. Perching on a rock, I survey the valley.

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I feel like a mountain lion. A sense of safety surrounds me and I soften and give myself permission to cry.

When this passes, I run back to the house feeling more grounded and reply to my post from yesterday:

“I love that in this group, being vulnerable and truthful about what I am actually feeling and thinking is seen as courageous – is encouraged.

Each response nudged me further and I still can’t believe I’m in such loving and supportive hands. Having support now, I still have to do the work 🙂

I am left with the question: how completely and deeply does one have to leave their body in order to endure something they didn’t know could be done to them? I am beginning to feel the deepness of my disconnection now. I am locating the emptiness in my body. On the other end, I can feel the swoosh up through my head when I left. I am starting to feel the intensity of the pain right before my awareness left. I know that I need to dial down my energy significantly today, if I am going to get to that still point. I don’t think I realized how still the energy has to be to access that “foot on the gas, foot on the brakes” pressure when you are at hour 8 of something that intense. I can’t believe I endured 8 hours before I left. Pretty stubborn I guess.”

I go to class and enter slowly and gently. I feel like an egg cracked open. I wrap my thin sweater around me, but it does little to block the feeling rippling through me.

I trade on the first technique with someone I know and this comforts me. Back in the chairs, as someone is speaking I look up and John makes eye contact. He gives me the “come up here” finger and I get up and make my way up to the stage. There is no anxiety about going up. I need this. Seven years of anxiety about getting on stage – where did it go?

As I get on the table he says “don’t try to over think this”. I chuckle and relax into my body before I have time to think. He starts demonstrating the yoke [yolk :)] technique. He compresses my shoulders together and up towards my ears until there is resistance. I hear what he is saying in the background as I feel him gently in my field, connecting, listening and responding to where I go. He mentions that we can hold a lot here. My arms gradually float up and cross in front of my face. I hit a still point. I feel a new connection between the lower and upper half of my body. I hear him say “here comes a wave”, then I feel a flood of energy and emotion pass quickly up my body. My arms float and move. Another still point. I hear John say “position of past trauma”. Another wave of emotion and I feel/hear myself quietly crying. There is a pause as I notice the feel of my arm position. John says “you don’t have to be in the trunk anymore”. I immediately see the lid. It was there all along. I take in a breath. I breathe out and another wave of emotion rushes through me lightly. “You don’t need that anymore,” he says. I feel the trunk and all it represents move off to my right. “Erase it from the chalkboard and throw away the eraser,” he continues. I do. My arms extend upward and I feel open sky. I feel the insides of my hands all the way to my finger tips and beyond. “That’s it,” he encourages. I breath deeply and quickly, pulling in what I need and breathing out the feel of a stagnant, stifling past. I breathe in spaciousness. Lots of it – as much as my body will take in. John continues to follow my softening in the back of my shoulders. He indicates to the group “why don’t you go try this now.” I hear the rustle of people as they go back to the tables to practice on each other.

Feeling less focus on me, I let my guard down even more. John sinks his hand into my chest gently. I feel his arm against the right side of my face and feel the new space where the trunk disappeared. In its place I feel love and gentleness and the sensual touch I had felt so ashamed of feeling just two days before. I rest my head against his arm. His hand moves, following my awareness down to my abdomen. The warmth makes it easier to soften. “Feel your belly filling with warmth,” he says. I let the warmth in. For a moment, I feel my abdomen. It is a fleeting glance inward, but I remind myself I felt it. It will come back. I put my hand on top of his so I can feel it and I come in and out of this space. I put my hands there as I write this and I feel the pressure in my throat and the tingle in my belly. Sadness.

John finishes up and I have time on the stage to myself to complete my process. I go down the stairs off the stage and Rob is there. He asks “did you ever wear contacts?” I say “yes”. “I didn’t recognize you.” I didn’t realize how different I looked since last time I was in Sedona, but I guess I do. I feel much different too.

I look up and see my friend Barb standing there. I know she is supposed to be here, even though she is not at the course. I get to practice the yoke technique on her. She is the sweetest person I know and I am honored to treat her. I cry as I’m treating her. We cry together. It is beautiful.

Back at the chairs, we do a visualization. I feel myself being pulled out of the back seat of the car, the car door closing and the car driving away. Wow! That’s new. “Keep going,” I say to myself. I’m getting as much out of this new feeling of the past leaving as I can. I see Kathy in her seat and we make eye contact. We agree to trade for this next technique, the mask technique.

I lay on the table and Kathy melts her hands into my face. Slowly I sink into my new spaces and wait for things to surface. I float around for what feels like a while. I am sort of there. I realize this and let myself become more vulnerable. A wave of emotion passes through me and I express it. It subsides. I breathe new breath in and out. Then I suddenly feel myself on the ceiling of the motel room. I gasp inside. I was not expecting this. Back in Malvern I could see that part of myself that had left up on the ceiling. I had tried to coax it to come down. All that trying had failed. Not focused on how it was going to happen, I find myself now face to face with myself. I have no visual. The blindfold is still on me. But I can feel myself there. A quiet voice says “let it in”. I soften my chest and feel the gentle, warm mist of me float into my chest. It is soft and innocent and loving. It feels really, really good. I get up feeling amazed and Kathy lays on the table. I feel more in flow with her. I feel more connected than I have ever felt. I listen and go where she goes and wait where she waits. I have no need to make anything happen. I completely love and trust her essence to guide her. I am simply a witness, happy to go along for the ride. What fun!

Back at the chairs, as John is talking, the realization of what has occurred erupts from me in waves. A thought enters my mind: “I’m not in the trunk anymore. I can feel free space.” Tears burst out of me. I feel the intensity of acceptance, then slowly settle. Another thought bubbles up: “I got back the part of me that had left me in the motel room. Let yourself feel it Patti.“Another eruption of tears. My body trembles and softens more and more. I feel completely vulnerable; soft yet glowing. It doesn’t feel scary. It feels right.

Weeks later, I am still letting go. The anxiety of not enough time to enjoy freedom is lifting. The car is not coming back. I can’t stop smiling inside.

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John, me and my roomies Sue and John

Opening Doors

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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.

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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.

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* 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.

Healing in a Dream

Sea of People. Photo taken at my first Michigan/Michigan State football game.

Sea of People. Photo taken at my first Michigan/Michigan State football game.

The first time I received healing treatment in a dream was two years into my myofascial treatments. Speaking with others, it seems it is not uncommon. Therapists or anyone else appear in dreams and treat you. It feels real. On waking, the benefits of the session are felt just as they would in a waking session. Here was my first treatment dream . . .

I am in a dark hallway that appears much like a school hallway – sterile floors and walls. John Barnes is there. He says “come with me” and takes me aside as if there are other people there and he is herding me to a place where we won’t be disturbed. He has me sit in a chair and has me hold up my leg. He applies pressure to the sole of my foot and my right leg starts to unwind, pushing out against his pressure, shaking and moving. “That’s it”, he gently encourages. He does this for my left leg next and again it unwinds and pushes outward. I notice that a recent strain in my calf in real life is releasing as I do this.

I feel some relief (my legs have felt weak and shaky since my last MFR session four days ago). Then John sits on the chair and directs me to sit on his lap, my back to him and proceeds to wrap his arms around me – pinning my arms to my sides in a bear hug. He applies pressure and I immediately feel uncomfortable – trapped. I start to resist and then feel a tremendous surge of energy pouring out of me and I feel John pulling it out of me too. He is whispering in my ear “come on”, but with some urgency in his voice like a combination of ‘get out of there you dang stuck energy’ – and – ‘keep doing what you’re doing and don’t stop.’ I feel the energy exiting and trailing off. Then he says “okay” and I get up. We are done and walking side by side.

Someone in front of us calls him and we are interrupted. He stops to speak with this person. I turn, put my head down, and walk the other way. I think to myself ‘why can’t you stick around to say thank you.’ I am feeling a very familiar dejected feeling – I don’t deserve any more time – it was right to be interrupted. Just then John calls to me and says, quite matter of fact: “if you don’t tell them, no one will know how you did it”. He smiles playfully almost – like a challenge. Right then I get a thought that says “of course!” Your experiences of suffering and healing can be an example for others, so they can create their own maps.

—-

I woke up and felt stronger and more relaxed. My legs felt great and my purpose fully energized. Cemented in my mind was the feeling of the pressure of John’s arms around me and the surge of energy being freed from my body. To me that is the essence of this work: re-starting stalled self-healing by engaging the client’s barrier and gently encouraging them to let go into their own internal healing process.

NB: This dream came when I was debating whether or not to take my first series of John Barnes’ Myofascial Release seminars. I had felt alienated at my first seminar as a student and was having serious doubts about conforming to a certain way of doing things that was not my own.

What the feeling in the dream helped me realize, was that I was going to need the experience of being in a safe community of people coming up to my barrier, gently sitting at it and not swallowing me up so I would become lost. Holding gently, then setting me free. I would need to feel a sea of unique people connecting in synchrony – creating something powerful that could not be done solo. I would need to experience the sense of a community healing together.

Second, I realized that I had an unrecognized need to share my experience of healing – specifically to help encourage others to engage in their own experiences of healing. The way John says this “if you don’t tell them, no one will know how you did it” – he is matter of fact about it. In an “of course this is the next step” kind of way.

At the time of this dream I had only met John once. I have had very few dreams where I have felt like it was physically real, so when I do, I listen to them. It’s my mind’s way of telling me – listen up! This is really important!

What’s most important for me in any dream is not the analysis of the content. It is the feel that drives what I do when I wake up.

Intellect vs. The Void

There are places a patient goes, that only they can go. Like all new experiences of healing, I went into a habitual pattern at first. Then, with the guidance of the therapist, with a few nudges, was able to go into a space sense I had been unknowingly avoiding. This one is different, because it involved what I will call a reverse nudge – the therapist let up the moment I began to pull him in. It made me acutely aware of my dependence on him to go with me into a fearful place, when really my power lay in going in on my own. The level of sensitivity at the fascial barrier created a physical reminder of presence without invading and without making it a crutch. I knew I was completely safe to go into the feeling of being blind to what would happen next. It calmed my need to anticipate; to grasp.

It is important for the reader to know, this understanding is in retrospect. My perception at the time was to blame the therapist because he wasn’t staying at the barrier. There was a two year gap between the blaming and the understanding. MFR therapists are centered and know the blame has nothing to do with them. They remain centered – ready for the first feel of a shift in the client. A shift that they follow so the client knows “this is a healing path”. A healing path was completely foreign to me but familiar to my therapists. The consistency of being continually, yet gently, nudged towards the path despite the extraneous complaints from my intellect, was essential to me “feeling the path” at progressively deeper levels. My desire to get better and a deep knowing that this was working, was what kept me at it and kept my criticisms mostly to myself (not that it would have mattered to my centered therapists).

In the following email entry, notice the ego judging and the shift into actual healing.

It went down this way . . .

I’m sitting in John’s room in Sedona for the first time. Actually I’m pacing and then 4 SES’s (Skill Enhancement Seminar therapists) come in and I have to sit on the table. After what seems like an excruciatingly long time John comes in. I feel that he is making himself very small for me. This is all I feel ’cause I’m not in my body – only noticing everything outside of me – always alert to danger. After assessment and a few fruitless attempts in various positions he has me on my stomach with his hands directly pressing on my diaphragm. I hear him instructing the other therapists to put their hands on his and push down. Intense fear – more than I feel I have ever experienced surges in me and then is gone. I lay motionless. Then I hear John give this whooping sound like he’s cheering at a ball game and then the door opens and closes. I hear one of the therapists say “in all my years I’ve never seen John leave the room”, then lots of murmurs. He comes back in a few minutes later and starts working with me again. Not long after he asks everyone to leave. I am not afraid but I’m sure my body speaks this because just as I feel I am getting somewhere he stops. Just when I am about to deep dive into the very nasty places I desperately want to go, but not by myself . . . then the feeling washes over me that I am hurting him. That he does not want to go with me to this place. A voice in my head says “you’re on your own kid” and a dark vacuous void surrounds me. I’m the only one who can go here. No one can go with me. No one can help me. It is only me. But I am not strong enough and so I feel only a drowning void – the very same feeling I felt when I could no longer memorize the number and direction of turns the car that was taking me away was making. No one knows where I am. I don’t know where I am and I have no reason to believe I will be alive this time tomorrow.
———-
This was my first taste of the drowning void, but it was enough to set off a series of progressively deeper dives into the feeling over the next several years. In 2007, being at the edge of the void again, I went into it, despite my intellectual defenses retaliating. They didn’t seem to be as strong as they were after being recently challenged (Mind Games). Even so, I attribute my new, easier dive into the void to the superior competence of my therapist and the idea that he is “making” me feel the void.

“I tell you all this because, even in a phone call, you are able to bring me into that void. Where I need to be. But you are also able to stay with me and follow where I need to go. This is unique in my MFR experience and I feel it is very healing. Thank you for making me feel the void. Thank you for going with me to these dark places. When I am able feel this I also feel the intensity of living and it is beautiful!”

A centered MFR therapist is a centered MFR therapist, yet my mind continues to insist on comparing them hierarchically.

The following week I feel safe enough to go in without Dave . . . with no one for my ego to latch onto, I feel my own power.

“I went into the void again at my “favourite” time of the day 2:00 a.m. For the very first time I felt the power of it. Almost instantly my belief that alone = powerlessness fell away and I realized, with some shock, the enormity of what I had done to survive. There was no luck involved. I survived because I was fully capable of surviving. I am living right now because I have lead myself here.

I will listen now, with deep respect, to that voice, that feeling that knows how to conquer what seem like insurmountable obstacles. I will not doubt it.

Thank you for guiding me, gently, to listen.

This is so cool!!”

Dave’s response is characteristic of a centered therapist.

“As I have said in the past, you do the work, I just kind of hang out.

Your words touch me deeply and help with my healing.”

Mind Games

The Thinker, photo taken at Musee Rodin, Paris

The Thinker, photo taken at Musee Rodin, Paris

There is a dance of trust that happens, between patient and therapist. The therapist’s job is to remain centered, no matter what the patient is sending their way. This helps the patient tremendously as it demonstrates the therapist’s commitment to healing. It also creates a clear and constant mirror for the patient, so they can bring their own avoidance patterns to light. With hands on therapy, this dance goes beyond the trauma of the mind. It directly reveals touch-based trauma like no other form of therapy. It is unavoidable. And it is absolutely essential to healing and forming healthy, intimate relationships.

The following exchange that occurred after treatment, is an example of how the mind can create a barrier to healing. At this point, I have developed a substantial level of trust with my therapist. I have been seeing him monthly for over a year. Even so, my thoughts are determined to create a persona of Dave that makes him incompetent in my mind and therefore, not able to help me further. This judgment goes very deep for me, but I have had a lot of healing happen with Dave, so instead of playing along, I question my thoughts. They don’t coincide with my gut and I know it, despite my initial accusations to Dave. There is a critical time after treatment, where the physical space allows my guard to come down further than in treatment. I give myself enough room to sit with the feelings behind the thoughts and realize I am afraid and attempting to run away.
Here’s the exchange. . .

Hi again,
I had to reread your last response. I don’t feel you are shutting me down – directly. I feel I am sensing you shutting down and that makes me feel like backing off. Does that make sense? Is this real or am I misreading? What do I do with this – real or not?

And I definitely don’t want to see anyone else right now. Unless you kick me out of course. I’m tired of running away. I’ll take terrified over isolated any day 🙂

****
Hi Dave,

Also, I’m getting this feeling that I’m going to hurt you (not physically) if I let all this stuff out. Am I using this as an excuse or is my gut instinct correct or all out of whack. I don’t know what feelings to trust. I’m acutely aware of everything about you as I’m in treatment so my gut is telling me there’s a level of shutdowness I’m feeling from you. What do I do with that if that’s the case?

****
Patti!

You can’t hurt me, I am big enough to take what ever you have to give. You have permission to do or say what ever it is you need to do or say. When you are ready.

You should always honor your gut, but sometimes when we have been shoving stuff down for a long time it is hard to distinguish our true gut feelings from our fear. What is the worst thing that would happen if you just let go?

It is possible that your concern about me is an avoidance tool. I make no judgment. If you truly feel that somehow I am shutting you down, maybe I am not the right therapist for you right now. I don’t think that is the case, but if it is, there is always {gives the name of a female therapist} as an alternative, I’ll be happy to give you her contact info.

I only want what is best for you. Sometimes we take a couple steps back before we go forward.

See you next Wednesday?

****
Dave,

I hear what you are saying.

I confess I am super paranoid about hurting other people. It took me 16 years to make 1 friend I could trust outside of John to say anything to and then I was emailed a “we need to take a break” letter while I was away in Sedona. That was a year and a half ago. I have not recovered yet. Life has only taught me that getting close to people means having your heart ripped out. I believe what I have learned is not right, nor is it constructive. My hope is that you can show me different.

****
Patti!

Perhaps you are mistaking my being with you or me trying to stay out of your way as me shutting down.

MFR is about gentle nudging, maybe I was too gentle.

If you ever think I am shutting down, let me know. You have permission to say or do what ever you want.

I am glad you are not running away.

See you Wednesday!

Remember, more steps forward than back.

Dave
****

After this exchange, I break through an old pattern. In my next treatment, I leave the accusatory thoughts outside the treatment room. Now there is space where my thoughts were and I can sense when I am leaving my body. I come back in on my own and am in there deeper than I have been before. Without the false mistrust, a whole new level of healing begins.