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The Three Rs: Relationship, Reflexology and Rebirthing

by Anne-Marie Schuller(more info)

listed in reflexology, originally published in issue 36 - January 1999

Reflexology and rebirthing – partners who are made for each other. That is the idea that I assumed would present itself when I began writing this article. The link would seem a natural one once the background to each therapy and personal experiences had been recounted. My attempts to produce such an article were consistently thwarted, however, due to the realisation that these two approaches had evolved together rather more randomly, in my case, than it might first appear. I am neither a reflexologist nor a rebirther – my experience is that of the client and my own search for healing was a doubtful and hopeful affair, which hiccuped along the path of health. Given this honest appraisal, I thought it might be useful to document this process in more detail and then relate how the relevant ingredients were chosen and blended to make my specific healing potion could be examined.

The author, Anne-Marie Schuller

The author, Anne-Marie Schuller

Relationship

Integrating ideas and practices is not a new concept in health care. It's customary to think that certain therapies work in harmony with one another, leading to more positive effects than each approach could have resulted in alone. Conversely, we judge that some approaches should not be combined due to their seeming divergence.

But I ask – is this inevitably so? Is it really the case that combinations of therapies are always carefully structured, guided by a master plan of healing and enrichment? Or is it more likely that certain therapies work in harmony not because of the intrinsic value in the two practices but also because of other, less overt factors such as client-practitioner relationship, receptivity, timing and accessing higher energies? It is the factor of client/practitioner relationship that I wish to focus upon here for it is this relationship which will shape the nature and combination of therapies that are selected.

Initially, of course, a client may well seek out a practitioner who is known to work in a particular way because they believe that this approach is suitable for them. Additionally, a practitioner may publicise a particular set of therapies or treatments in order to attract an appropriate range of clients. But on meeting, this third variable of relationship becomes increasingly more important. The therapies and how they are given and received is an interactive process. Some practitioners recognise this factor and build their practice directly upon it and I know from my own work as a clinical psychologist that this is a fundamental element in my own practice.

The named approach is often, therefore, the passport to a journey, where what is healing or health is to be jointly discovered by both practitioner and client. The results may well be novel, astonishing or downright mystifying. But isn't this the only real way to embark on our quest for health? By discovering it anew, through actual experience rather than vicarious imitation? It is more precarious and a darn sight harder to prove empirically, but how much more creative.

Reflexology

I sought out a reflexologist when I had cancer. I had read that it was effective in overcoming some of the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy. As a foot massage of the reflexes of the feet I knew it could help the organs of my body by restoring vitality and by bringing back some balance to my groaning internal system. I went to reflexology looking for removal of physical discomfort. Sure enough, I became physically stronger and began to cope with the chemical poisoning more easily. I got more than I bargained for, however, and found that reflexology introduced me to subtle forms of energy and healing by acquainting me with the Chakras. This acquaintance was not provided for me by the techniques of reflexology alone.

Early on in my search for a cure for cancer I had decided that I would only work with practitioners whom I could trust and respect. I had been to a healer previously and had not returned. This was not because I was opposed to healing but because I could not relate to the healer herself. My continuing attendance to the reflexologist was just as much to do with how I related to her as it did to the mechanics of reflexology itself. I acknowledged that our relationship was one founded on this trust and respect. Without this foundation, reflexology would have been simply experience and not healing.

It was the practitioner who later suggested rebirthing. I had never considered it as I was unfamiliar with its principles. The adage "never judge a book by its cover" sprang to mind when I realised that I felt some hesitancy and distaste. There was something about this word that could so easily have stopped me from encountering some profound and lasting benefits if I had allowed myself to reject the process based merely on what it was called. That is not to say that the word is unrepresentative of what can happen but that words themselves are no substitute for actual experience. Incidentally, my practitioner renamed rebirthing as "connected breathing" and explained that it was a powerful healing method, utilising a simple breathing technique. By relaxing and releasing the breath, tensions in the body and mind could be dissolved.

I acquiesced rather than wholeheartedly agreed to her suggestion. Reflexology had been my choice and had brought about many positive consequences. I was loathe to leave it behind. And yet, it was the basis of our therapeutic relationship that enabled me to embark on a course of connected breathing sessions despite some reluctance to do so. Asking her afterwards why she had recommended this course of action at that particular time, she said her reasons would seem rather nebulous and esoteric. Intuition and a growing bond between us led her to feel that rebirthing would allow exploration of healing at a very deep level. So much for any master plan then!

Rebirthing

At the first "connected breathing" session I lay on the floor for approximately 3 hours – a time period of almost gigantic proportions to me. I noticed that my internal clock signalling activity clicked in after an hour and to keep focusing on my breathing whilst remaining motionless was a struggle. The practitioner encouraged me as agitation and near panic swept over me. The craving to get up and move became stronger and stronger to near breaking point, but again, with prompts, I remained attuned to breathing. The crisis passed and a huge sense of relaxation coupled with deep breathing began to unfold with no effort on my part. It felt as if I was being breathed. During the next few sessions a similar pattern emerged and to feel such expansive breaths was truly pleasurable.

I returned for more rebirthing some months later. I guess I was expecting a re-run of the previous sessions. I was wrong. From the first moment of lying down my head began moving, slowly and fluidly from side to side, teasing out the most receptive and relaxed position. Next, my right arm extended out gradually in a wide sweeping arc and came to rest near my head. My left arm followed suit. I was being stretched into the fullest position my body could achieve and with it came rhythmic breathing. I could not tell if I was subconsciously directing my body to move or if it was being directed by a force from outside of myself. What I did discover, however, was that when I was in this particular physical state, profound insights arose. Many were personal, some were universal. I came to understand how my emotions are governed by, rather than correlated with, the type of breathing I allowed. I became aware that my thoughts, feelings and actions could be changed by altering my breathing patterns. I had known about mind-body integration on an intellectual level before but to experience this concept so coherently on all levels of functioning gave me an awareness and wisdom that surpassed this cerebral cognition.

Qualitatively, I began to perceive life differently and I came to know how relaxation, exercise, diet and positive thinking worked together as dynamic components of an overall, unified system. I was reminded of the Gaia principle, with its premise that the earth and its inhabitants are all part of one living organism. Thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations are all elements of the human organism. All three elements require regular sustenance in order to effect equilibrium and harmony. In addition, I began to understand how my healing was not in isolation of the practitioner's healing. At certain times during sessions, I felt the energy I was feeling was also transmitted to her . It struck me that healing may well be essentially a systemic process based on collective giving and receiving. It is not a process that you have done to you. In that sense there is no such entity as a healer there is only mutual healing.

So, reflexology and rebirthing – partners who are made for each other if the client/practitioner partnership allows.

Further Information

For further details on reflexology and rebirthing contact the Association of Reflexologists Tel: 0990-673320 and the British Rebirth Society Tel: 0171 607 0531, respectively.

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About Anne-Marie Schuller

Anne-Marie Schuller BSc MSc C. Psychol is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist with many years experience in clinical practice, training and consultative work, within and outside the NHS. In 1995 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This experience has shaped both her life and her professional work and is chronicled in her book Patient Power – a psychologist's diary of breast cancer. She is particularly interested in proactive approaches to overcoming cancer and is currently involved with a number of other professional groups addressing this issue. Anne-Marie can be contacted on 01253 730827.

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