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Bert-Ola, My New Friend and Teacher

by Allan Rudolf(more info)

listed in bodywork, originally published in issue 22 - September 1997

Werner Erhard, the founder of EST, once said that if you put a rat in a maze with cheese in the centre, the rat will keep trying various possibilities until it eventually figures out how to get the cheese; however, most human beings often will forever keep repeating patterns over and over again despite there being no cheese (a metaphor for happiness) at the end. I notice this with some clients.

Life can be difficult and often the difficulty stems from the inability to change one's behaviour, to take a chance and do something different.

One very common example is when two people are stuck in a poisonous relationship, have little in common, different life goals, are constantly fighting and yet remain stuck in this non-functional relationship. They are like two birds in a cage, constantly battling yet neither bird is willing to leave the cage despite the door being opened.

Another example, closer to home, relates to work. The number of hours most adults devote to work is usually more, by far, than is devoted to any other activity and yet how many people truly find their work satisfying? When clients come to my practice, the first thing I do is take a history, and I also further talk to my clients when they come for each of their appointments. So I am privileged to learn about their private inner lives. One often recurring, sad pattern is the lack of satisfaction at work. So many people feel stuck in their work and can't wait for weekends and holiday time. Work is boring and full of drudgery.

For me, personally, this has been an important issue. I always wanted my work to be exciting; I believe strongly that the line between work and play should be blurred. I started my career teaching economics at a University and after five years the excitement was wearing thin and boredom was setting in. I was fortunate in discovering Rolfing at that time and became so enthusiastic about it that I switched careers and became a Rolfer. Deciding to become self-employed, giving up a regular salary was a scary decision. When I first became a Roller I wondered if I would ever have enough clients to support myself. In retrospect, it was one of the best decisions I ever made and further impressed upon me the value and importance of doing what I enjoyed.

Of course, it has been difficult for me to keep up the initial enthusiasm year-in and year-out. I never suffered from a complete burnout, but every once in a while the excitement would definitely wane. I did find a solution to this. I would continue learning and adding on to my repertoire of body therapy. One way would be to study with other Rolfers (or Dr Rolf herself) and incorporate my new learning into my work. Another way would be to study other disciplines and offer my clients a choice of therapies.

So over the past twenty-five years I have studied The Feldenkrais Method, Polarity Therapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Berry Work (a type of bodywork named after Lauren Berry), Nimmo Trigger Point Work and a few others. For a while I offered these alternatives to my clients while keeping my main practice, Rolfing. Over the years I've dropped almost all of them but they served the purpose of stimulating me and have indirectly deepened my approach to Rolfing.

Recently I've confined my need to explore to Tai Chi and I've written about this in two previous issues (Positive Health Issue 17, January/February 1997 and Issue 19, April/May 1997). Suffice it to say it has had a profound effect on my work and I am going back to China this summer to continue my Tai Chi studies.

Most recently, I've met a new teacher who has a unique method of body therapy I went to Northern Sweden to study with him and hope to continue learning from him. I go to Sweden regularly to teach and also have some private clients there. Two of my clients were kind enough to introduce me to a body therapist for whom they have had enormous respect: Bert-Ola.

Bert-Ola and his wife Kersti came to visit my apartment in Stockholm and we agreed to experience each other's work. I found his work to be gentle, powerful and unique. Just as important, on a personal level I felt very good and warm feelings towards him and his wife and I believe this was mutual As an aside, neither Bert-Ola nor Kersti speak very much English and I can't speak Swedish.

Over the years I've experienced many therapies and nowadays it is quite rare that I get excited about a new therapy I try out. However, Bert-Ola's treatment immediately stirred up my enthusiasm.

What does Bert-Ola's treatment consist of?. Basically, it involves a quick manipulation of just about every joint in the body (especially the vertebrae) which needs to be adjusted. There is a click when the joint is repositioned and a feeling of release. Many clients feel that they can breathe better after Bert-Ola adjusts their sternum.

The brief description I've given seems to describe what an osteopath or chiropractor would do. However, Bert-Ola's work is done in a different manner, which results in a far gentler adjustment. I personally never enjoyed the chiropractic or osteopathic adjustments and I've found them far too jarring for my tastes. (This is not to say that they are ineffective.)

Bert-Ola believes he is the only person doing this work. He learned it from a fellow railway car worker while repairing railway carriages.

This fellow worker, Alvar Hagglof, used to work on people who lined up to see him at the end of the day, after he finished his railway carriage work.

Bert-Ola was kind enough to be willing to pass on his knowledge to me. So I went up to Northern Sweden to study at his clinic. He is a superb teacher (if only I were as good a student). His ability to teach was more than matched by his and Kersti's hospitality: they made me feel like friend and family.

So I expect to spend the next year mastering Bert-Ola's work, spending more lime with him: I suspect that this will eventually become an important part of my work. However, I am still not totally confident that I will be able to learn it.

It is not so much going for the cheese in the maze that makes my life interesting, but more like finding new mazes to play in.

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About Allan Rudolf

Allan is a Rolfer and Feldenkrais practitioner and trained with both Dr Rolf and Dr Feldenkrais. He now lives in China and is not contactable.

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