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Learning from the Masters

by Allan Rudolf(more info)

listed in bodywork, originally published in issue 13 - July 1996

Lauren Berry was one of the most gifted body therapists I have ever known. If there were a Hall of Fame for body therapists, he would most certainly be enshrined there. Although he was a physical therapist, he was basically self taught, learning from living people and also from studying bodies at the morgue (where he had taken a temporary job). He regarded human beings as marvellously complicated engineering structures, and thought of himself as an engineer repairman. His work involved a whole array of methods – some were joint popping techniques, others involved shifting soft tissue, cartilage and even organs. His ability to visualize the mechanics of the body and the sensitivity and precision of his hands was what made him so unique.

In the mid 1980s when I was living in New York City, I would sometimes travel to California just to take seminars with Lauren. He had a very passionate following of devotees who resided in the Western part of the United States. I was so enthusiastic about his work that I organized a special seminar for him in New York. I wanted his work to get spread all over the U.S.A.

This New York seminar was a huge success. I was able to attract a large group of skilled, professional body therapists, and Lauren was in top form all three days. I looked forward to future seminars in New York. After the seminar, he and his wife invited me to their hotel room for a drink. I accepted their kind invitation, and as I entered the room, his wife offered me a drink and began chatting with me in a friendly manner. All the while Lauren was watching a television show – "Hawaii-five-O" and totally ignoring me. I was confused by his rudeness, and Lauren's wife was becoming more and more embarrassed. Finally, I left, hoping for but not receiving any sort of acknowledgement from Lauren. Lauren seemed deeply engrossed in his TV program. Two days later I received a call from California; Lauren had been rushed to the hospital, his brain rife with cancerous tumors. In another few days he was dead. He was only about 70 years old when he died. Obviously the scene in the hotel room was the beginning of the cancer affecting his behavior.

I forgot to mention that Lauren had always smoked like a chimney and also drank heavily.

Moshe Feldenkrais, one of my other master teachers, probably needs no introduction to the readers, since he is well-known through his work, his writings, the work and writings of his many students, and from the various Feldenkrais training programs taking place all over the world. He spouted many pithy sayings; one which really described the essence of his work was "We are all brain-damaged." Moshe's work involved educating, through movement and touch, the brain and nervous system.

My mother subscribed to a journal for elderly people, and I remember once reading an article in this journal about Moshe Feldenkrais in which he was quoted as saying that he would not be surprised if he lived past 130 years of age because of the effectiveness of the system he had developed. Feldenkrais actually was about 80 years old when he died.

Of course, Moshe was best known for his extensive work in the healing professions. What is less known about him is that he was a chain smoker and also ate a very unhealthy diet. He lived, in many ways, an unwholesome life style.

Both Moshe and Lauren were health professionals who, in my opinion, were suffering from the delusion that because they were health providers, this would provide them with health! They thought that they were somehow protected from the ageing process because they protected others. Moshe in particular seemed to believe that if people followed his program they would be basically healthy regardless of their lifestyle. To me it proves that even geniuses can be fools.

When great innovators fail to take care of themselves, this is a triple tragedy. First, there is the personal tragedy of not living as long, healthy, productive life as possible. Then there is the tragedy that they cannot contribute as much to the world as they should of their knowledge and techniques. But the third is the most profound: those followers who study with the great masters often look upon them as "gods", and unfortunately follow their example in failing to take care of their own personal health.

An example of this type of over-identification with the "guru" comes immediately to mind. I am acquainted with an octogenarian founder of one popular school of body work who does not drink coffee, but drinks tea instead. The students of this master trainer tend to follow this same pattern of behavior, eschewing coffee for tea. Not in itself a bad example, but showing the strong case that the life of the teacher too often sets the tone for another generation of body workers, influencing both personal as well as professional habits.

What we can learn from this discussion of great masters is that as body workers we all need to watch all aspects of our behavior, since we may set an example for others. Taking care of one's personal health is an important goal for all of us. Let us not make the mistake of assuming that since we help others that we are immune from damages caused by unhealthy living habits.

In a future column, I will discuss how I take care of my own personal health. . . . ideas which may be useful to you too.

 

Dear Allan,

I enjoyed your piece on Lauren. As one of his apprentices I appreciate when his work is discussed intelligently. To bring you up to speed on "The Work"...After Lauren's passing, a group of us (his assistant teachers/ apprentices) formed a non-profit teaching corporation (The Institute of Integral Health, Inc) to continue passing on the knowledge. This was done with Lauren's wife's, Lorreta, full support and encouragement. We felt there was so much involved that as a group we could do so responsibly. Where as individuals would not have the constant monitoring and being called on misinterpretations.Thus not diluting the work and injecting our personal twist into the teaching. Several of us teach small workshops outside the Institue and students are sponsored/apprenticed into the training so that a senior practitioner is nursing them through the learning process. If you've any questions, please ask away.You might find it interesting.
Hasta Lumbago, Taum
www.taumsayers.com

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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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