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Body Harmony

by Susie Jewell(more info)

listed in mind body, originally published in issue 15 - October 1996

One of my first experiences of Body Harmony was when I was working as a staff nurse in Accident and Emergency. I was with a woman who had been run over on the Commercial Road in Aldgate. She had sustained multiple injuries which included a severely fractured skull. Her right leg had been smashed to pieces and an amputation had been planned if she survived long enough. First we had to ascertain the nature of her head injuries, so after we put her on a ventilator, we took her downstairs into the basement of the hospital, for a C.A.T. Scan. When the scan was complete, everybody went back up stairs leaving the porter and me to take her back to the resuscitation room. I was quite nervous as it was my first experience of looking after someone who was being ventilated by machine, so when the porter said “Susie, she’s leaking,” I replied “I’ll deal with that when we’ve got her safely back upstairs.” He insisted I look, thank goodness. When I lifted up the covers, the inflatable splint around her leg had deflated.

I was horrified, her leg was in pieces and there was profound arterial bleeding which was sending up a fountain of blood about eight inches high. I was not sure if she would survive the journey back to the A/E Department. I felt a wave of alarm and indecision, I had seconds to take action. Possibilities came to me, tourniquet, direct pressure, a mad dash to the A/E department, praying the lift would come quickly.

We were out of ear shot from the rest of the hospital. I felt a sudden calm and clarity, I remember breathing deeply, I put my hands either side of her leg. I do not really know what happened, my memory is that as my hands approached where the sides of her leg would have been, they appeared. It was like watching a film of the injury, in reverse. I saw bones re-align and knit, I saw blood vessels reunite, the arterial squirt stopped and even muscles and skin went back together. The porter who was watching exclaimed “....... what on earth did you do?” I did not really know and I was shaking like a leaf, so my rational brain came up with an explanation “Oh! I think I realigned the bone like they do in the operating theatres.” Later on that day, one of the Doctors asked me what I had done to the woman’s leg, I told him I had copied something I had seen in theatres and asked him why. He told me that when they re-examined her leg they had cancelled the planned amputation and I later learnt that she had regained the use of her leg. Somewhere I knew that my explanation was ridiculous and I kept the truth like a guilty secret at the back of my mind, refusing to discuss it with anybody. I had always prided myself on a good rational, professionalism, which of course included being able to explain my own actions.

Six years later I was attending my first Body Harmony training in Glastonbury when an Australian man stood up and told us how he had recently sustained severe leg injuries. When he was taken to Casualty he was told an operation would be necessary to reset the fractures. He asked if his wife, who was a Body Harmony Practitioner could do some work on his leg first. The hospital staff, humouring a very distressed man, agreed. His description of how she worked on his leg was disturbingly familiar! For the first time I felt safe to tell people the truth about my experience. I was relieved and excited. These people I was meeting were not crazy, or religious fanatics they were sane and intelligent people whose experiences of recovery and healing were outside of the usual accepted limits.

I attended the training with the intention of learning as much as I could about Body Harmony, I had already had fabulous personal health improvements using the technique and had decided to train as a practitioner. There was one aspect of my psychological wellbeing I had absolutely no intention of addressing in public. In fact, I had decided I was definitely not going to discuss it. I had in mind, one particularly painful experience which I was embarrassed about and was nobody else’s business anyway! The first session I received, one of the Body Harmony Teachers attending the course put his hands around my left knee. He coughed uncomfortably and said “Here, I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but I can see a picture of a little girl about three years old, with no knickers on.” I shall not regale you with the details enough to say my body had let my secret out. Don McFarland, the founder of Body Harmony once said, when describing the approach, “If you let it, the body will tell you its secrets. And having told them, will be free to move on. Body Harmony is about listening to those secrets.”

The mechanics

Body Harmony addresses deep tissue issues, subtle surface stories and energetic aspects of healing. The Body Harmony Practitioner works with the physical, emotional, energetic and etheric bodies together, recognising and listening to the relationships between them. Knowing the client is the expert on themselves and that their bodies have access to all the information and actions needed to attain their goals, the practitioners job is to listen. This is not a passive process but an active involvement both physically and at other levels. The practitioner, listening with their whole body – more often than not with their hands on the clients body – follows instructions. Practically this can entail an infinite number of body work techniques, for example working on the front of the client’s spine using deep tissue approaches or working two feet away from the client’s physical body, delicately following the contours of energetic boundaries. At first the practitioner needs to listen to the clients body in a similar way to a dancer meeting a partner for the first time, all the time asking how? where? harder? softer? faster? slower? until, to the observer they move as one. The listening and the beginners mind are maintained throughout the interaction, however, as the practitioner learns the language and signals from their client, the flow of their body work becomes increasingly synchronous. As each session is as unique as the individuals involved, and as unique as the moment in which it takes place, the resulting synergy is always an adventure which requires the practitioner to stay in the moment and take the full journey. It is never boring!

Sessions

In a session the Body Harmony Practitioner will help the client to become clear with what they want, by observing the clients body and listening to the clients words, both while he is still and moving. The practitioner observes structurally and functionally the relationships, agreements and contradictions between different parts of the body and between the words and the body. His observations are explained to the client so the client can use the information. The practitioner often works with the client lying on a large massage couch with thick foam to facilitate maximum comfort and potential for physical flow. Body harmony can also be done in all sorts of different positions. It is extremely effective and pleasurable in hot water where the client’s body is supported in a greater range of movement. This facilitates finding the easiest and most efficient route to the client’s goal thus increasing their trust in pleasure which has often been diminished by adverse conditions in the past. The practitioner uses a conscious touch which goes beyond palpatory literacy. Rather than listening in order to find out what is wrong and fixing it, he listens in order to find out what the clients body is specifically asking for, thus incurring multi level healing without limits. The client’s body recognising that nothing is being imposed upon it feels free to achieve sustainable results outside of the expectations of the practitioner. This means we do not experience clients repeatedly requesting work on the same issue or injury. When the client gets up and walks again or looks at themselves in the mirror the practitioner may draw their attention to some of the changes achieved in order to support the client continuing the process in their own time.

Clients can achieve their goals in one session. I have clients who have for example:- let go of fifteen years of irritable bowel syndrome, found the house they wanted at the price they wanted, let go of chronic back pain all in one session. As a series of sessions is not usually needed to deal with one issue Body Harmony is very cost effective.

There is no typical session so I shall describe some real sessions.

Leslie

I was teaching my first Body Harmony training in Bristol. One of my regular clients had complained of a headache during the break. I told her that the next demonstration I had planned was going to be working specifically on the base of the skull and the temples using one of the classical cranio-sacral holds and suggested she volunteer for the demonstration. We regathered and I asked Leslie what she would like from the session, she replied “I want to be able to see”. She had previously been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa a condition which meant increasing loss of vision, resulting in tunnel vision, followed by blindness. When she got up to walk so that we could watch her body in order to notice the nature of her movement she accidentally kicked some incense and a crystal on the floor. This upset her and she thought to herself, “I will not go on living like this”. As she walked, up and down the hall her distress was obvious, her left arm was rotated outwards to the point of discomfort. One of the seminar participants asked her how would it feel to change the position of her arm as she walked? Leslie replied “I would feel more vulnerable.”

She later told me that the suggestion had felt more like an instruction and she resented it. I asked her “Do you want to feel more vulnerable?” “No I do not!” was the reply. She feels this was the pivotal point of the session and the decision to take care of herself, rather than follow instructions became her priority.

She describes walking to the end of the hall and only being able to see three floor boards in front of her, she needed to follow the floor board in order to walk back to the massage couch without bumping into anything. She lay on the couch, I asked her body for permission to approach and when the path of least resistance meant it was easier to go towards her than stay where I was, I gradually came towards her head. Sitting myself extremely comfortably at her head, I took some deep breaths, checked my body for any tightness or compression and made sure that I was approaching Leslie with an attitude of respect and enjoyment. It is important that the Body Harmony Practitioner does not become too serious and intense as this can compress tissues as effectively as squashing them with a heavy object. I have found through experience that well-being is usually synonymous with flow and room for movement.

Listening with my hands I followed the path of least resistance, stopping and waiting for any barriers (places where it becomes harder to move ) to dissolve and pull me through. Until my fingers were on her sub-occiput and my thumbs on her temples. Again I checked my own physical comfort and felt for any movements. When I felt the tissues in her head begin to subtly move I met the pressure of those movements with equal pressure from my hands in order to support and facilitate the movement. I continued to do this and described what I was doing to the people watching, for about fifteen minutes. I then felt a lessening of the suction that was instructing my bodywork until it was physically easier to begin the journey back through the layers still stopping when the physical sensations altered.

Seeing that Leslie was still a long way away we chatted within the group and told stories until she suddenly sat up, got off the couch and started walking towards the end of the hall. Body Harmony is often about starting a process, like pressing ‘Go’ buttons, so it is not unusual for a client’s body to carry on changing for a considerable time after the practitioner has removed their hands. When Leslie reached the end of the hall and turned around, she screamed, which made us all jump as we had become quite comfortable chatting. “I can see you all, it’s like a postcard. Every one of you!” There was silence, we were all shocked, everybody looked at me but I did not know what to say. What I did say was just about the worst thing I could possibly say in the circumstances “Cor Blimey!” I replied. Leslie strode purposefully towards me, pointing at me and instructed, “Susie. Do not say that,” I apologised.

Leslie subsequently returned to the hospital to confirm the improvement and today, although she wears glasses, they are a fraction of her former prescription and she can manage without them. Her memory of what she saw when she turned round was seeing the first three floor boards then the next three, then the next three, then all of us, then the couch, and then behind the couch and the wall at the back of the hall! A remarkable woman and also now an accomplished Body Harmony Practitioner.

Kit

Kit, one of the International Body Harmony Teachers, came to see me one day for a session while she was in training about five years ago, when I was living in a draughty old house. The issue she had decided to address was the confidence and authority with which she worked. The topic was the seen and unseen worlds, what we know and what we think we might know. When doing Body Harmony sessions, the way in which information is received from our clients is sometimes very physical, for example noticing a vertebral rotation in the spine. This is easy to explain to a client and does not threaten one’s professional credibility. We also receive information in many other ways, such as seeing pictures generated from clients’ bodies or having ideas and concepts pop into ones mind. This as you can imagine can be more difficult for somebody in training to come to terms with, especially as Kit’s background, like mine was in conventional health education. “It would be so much easier if I knew it was for real and that I wasn’t making it up,” she said. Whatever I had said to reassure would have been meaningless in those circumstances as then I would have been asking Kit to believe me rather than herself.

“How would you know it is real,” I asked. “If I could put my hand through a wall and tell you what was on the other side,” she replied. Recognising Kit as the expert on herself, I knew she had just told me what it would entail for her to achieve her goal. Searching for a metaphor of putting one’s hand through a wall would have been insufficient as Kit was not wanting a metaphor for believing herself. She wanted a practical, sustainable reality in order to feel comfortable with her work.

“Okay,” I said, “Go and put your hand on the wall and tell me what is on the other side. and we’ll see if what you feel is dependable.” Whilst Kit was able to accurately identify the objects and their locations one could argue that when she walked in through the hall she had unconsciously noted all these things. What she would not have been able to notice was the draughts and hot air currents as this was her first visit to the house and she was in the living room by the time the front door was shut. It was a cranky old place and these could not be anticipated ! Amused by the pedestrian simplicity of the experience I suggested Kit put a brick in her treatment room to remind her that her perception was reliable in future sessions.

Magdalena

Magdalena is a woman in her early thirties who came for a session whilst I was teaching in Spain. She had taken two trainings and had wanted an individual session for quite a while. Her goals were to ‘find her couple’ ( a partner), fall in love with this man who also would want a family and to have a baby. She told me this was impossible as she had never had a boyfriend and had multiple ovarian tumours. I asked did she mean cysts and she said no. I remember thinking “Gosh! that’s an awful lot she wants from one session” and reminding myself not to impose my limited ideas of what is possible onto my client. I decided if that is what she wants, that is what we go for.

When Magdalena walked I noticed a hesitancy, a shortening in her kidney area and a bending forward from the waist. She also flicked her fingers as she walked. When she lay on the couch I asked if she minded if I took her shoes off. Richard Hughes who was working with me began work on the side of her neck, working to free the Trapezius muscle and surrounding area. I began listening to her feet. She had open sores which were bleeding where her shoes had rubbed against her skin, she also had multiple scars and callouses from ill fitting shoes over many years. When I put my hands on her feet and listened I began to cry from the sorrow and pain emanating from her feet, as well as from imagining the internal pain these external wounds suggested. I did not suppress the expression of my emotion as my body, whilst in session, was a physical suggestion to her body and I knew they would be talking to each other.

I looked up and saw that Richard was also crying because of the feelings he was experiencing from working with her neck. “I’m becoming a soppy old git,” he laughed. Laughing and crying we continued. Next I listened to the area around her ovaries, my fingers were drawn in up to the proximal joints I felt them encircle small oval, rubbery lumps which following instructions I pulled up to the surface underneath her skin and then through her skin. I did not have handfuls of little rubbery lumps as I pulled them through the skin, I could feel them and yet there was nothing visible to the naked eye. Richard and I then swapped places, he worked on her feet and I worked around her head and neck. By the end of the session Magdalena was also laughing and it felt delightfully decadent when she threw her shoes away. When I returned to Spain a few months later my organiser informed me that Magdalena had a new boyfriend who was madly in love with her and wanted her to have a baby. Magdalena had returned to the hospital where they had told her that all of her tumours had disappeared and it was now possible for her to become pregnant. Magdalena, however, was not sure if this man was really who she wanted.

The original orchestrater of Body Harmony is Don McFarland, a Doctor of Chiropractic and specialist in dance and sports medicine. He is known all over the world both for his teaching and his enthusiastic thirst for new information. He continually updates himself and is reputed to have over eighty qualifications in different healing techniques. When Don talks about Body Harmony he sometimes refers to working outside of the bounds of respectability which can restrain and limit us. To me this is both challenging and seductive as I seek to free myself from my need to be approved of and embrace my love of wild nature. Whilst doing this work I have indeed stepped outside of my expectations into the enchanted world of my dreams where I have experienced a deeper reality and happiness than I ever dared hope for. This experience is not unique. As Body Harmony Teachers we are an extremely varied bunch. What we have in common is usually multiple trainings in different healing techniques both in the world of conventional medicine and the more esoteric and shamanistic disciplines. We have different spiritual and religious backgrounds, knowing that our job is to follow our client’s agendas and not to impose our beliefs upon them. In England there are six qualified international teachers with backgrounds in the arts, health, education and business.

The Organisation

The organisation of Body Harmony is as you can imagine organic and constantly changing. Whilst seeking to maintain high standards and protect the public we also attempt to minimise hierarchy. For a practitioner in training to be authorised to call their work Body Harmony they must have at least a hundred hours training and be sponsored by at least two international teachers. In order to qualify as an International Body Harmony Practitioner it is necessary to complete at least a thousand hours of training in more than one country and to be sponsored simultaneously by at least four international teachers. To become a teacher requires the accreditation of the majority of teachers at an international event involving Don McFarland. All members are expected to keep up to date, take and where appropriate teach seminars at least once a year, keeping in communication with the Body Harmony Continuum and their work public.

The currently accredited teachers based in England are Susie Jewell, Kenneth Toreson and Richard Hughes, Bristol. Tel: 0117 9446630. Kit Ford-Young, Keinton Mandeville Tel: 01458 223852.

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About Susie Jewell

Susie can be contacted on 0117 944 6630. She is an accredited Body Harmony teacher.

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