For the bodyworker, there seems to be this fork in the road. If we turn down the road leading to the West, we find ourselves in a place known as “clinical” and “scientific.” Whereas if we choose to turn to the East, we find ourselves in places known as “energetic” and “spiritual.”
We set up camp, defend our ideology, and find identity along these roads. Those who followed the road east may find allies who find clinical work to be too sterile, academic, and even uninspiring [lacking spirit].
Those who turn to the West, find themselves influenced by like-minded individuals who find eastern philosophies to be whimsical, outdated, archaic, and simplistic.
Yet there are some of us, who find that there is no fork [in the road]! Both paths are not only valuable but complimentary. The paths are merely an illusion, a fragmentation, and therefore separating a greater reality into the illusions of clinical vs energetic.
Luckily, I have had the fortune to have teachers who thought that there might be a bridge between these two ways of seeing the world. They inspired me to look for connections between the physical and esoteric.
A seemingly troublesome question to some is this, “where is the human energetic system located in the physical body.” The simplest answer is that it is found everywhere and throughout the body. However, the unintended abstraction within this statement leaves the Western Bio-scientifically minded perplexed. The idea that it is “everywhere” is polarizing. It tells the energetically minded that they need seek no further and the clinically minded, that they haven’t. “Everywhere” is so many things that it can’t possibly be “everywhere.” By including every organ, tissue, and cell in the human body, being all inclusive, I suppose, it leaves very little to go on.
My first exposure to the energetic realm was, as a child, growing up with a witchy sibling. My first influence into the idea that points on the body that affected other areas of the self, was admittedly, the divination art of palmistry. Later on, though not much, I had a bandmate who was into the occult, raised into a Wiccan family. Again, this idea of an energetic body having some significance was intertwined with fortune telling and a conceptual framework that the universe was held together by some divine force.
I was both interested and skeptical of these ideas… and it wasn’t until a study abroad trip to west coast Africa that I had my first glimpse of this having a... well... a therapeutic value. My drum teacher, Raphael, was the village healer. He worked with only a handful of herbs. However, had a magick about him and his work. I wouldn’t understand, until years later, that the man who sent me only my quest to become a “healer” was what we might refer to as a “shaman.”
To be clear, Raphael taught me the “kee-dee drum, ” and that is all. He didn’t teach me a single herb or healing method, at least not in ordinary waking consciousness. However, he did convince me that I was to follow a healing path.
When I got back to the states, I searched for courses in the healing arts – any healing art would do. Just “a foot in the door” was my short-term goal. My first class on the topic of healing that I ran across was a course in a Japanese healing method known as, Reiki. Reiki is very popular among the new age crowd as well as bodyworkers. You’d be hard pressed to find a massage therapist who hadn’t at least heard of Reiki, taken a course in the subject, or many have been declared a “Reiki Master.”
The teacher I found, was kind of an anomaly, or so I thought. He was a Kenpo Karate teacher who taught a rather aggressive fighting style with multiple chances to kill one’s opponent in each sequence. However, he was also, a healer. He had studied a multitude of healing arts and was considered a “Reiki Master.”
Reiki was fascinating to me. It opened my mind to a therapeutic aspect of those otherwise bizarre and spiritual fringe ideas that I had heard about. Auras were things which could be healed. Chakras could be balanced. And yes, there were even energy points that had significance for healing. And truly, I had some very “spiritual” experiences in class and working with energy.
However, after a time, I find myself disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I had some very interesting, transcendental, psychedelic and even shamanic experiences. However, having trained with and practiced with many Reiki practitioners and so-called masters, I found that there was a lot of information that just couldn’t be substantiated with… well… anything! Furthermore, no one seemed to have even a basic grasp on physical human anatomy, physiology or pathology.
So, I went to massage school. In massage school, I learned a whole lot about the physical human body. I also learned quite a bit which had been absent from my energetic training. I was taking classes in polarity therapy, Ayurvedic treatments, reflexology, and yes, even more reiki. But in addition, I was learning about deep tissue modalities including myofascial release and trigger point therapy. Most people in my position would get a smattering of introductory courses spread out over a long period of time. I, however, took this opportunity to study everything with everyone at the same time. I was taking basic courses by day and advanced clinical courses at night. On the weekends I was in energetic workshops – truly immersed in this new world.
I began to notice this dichotomy. The people who thought that energetics were foolish and the people who thought clinical understanding was... well… missing the spiritual "root" to the illness. Luckily, I had a few energetics teachers who were totally into the clinical and clinical teachers who found energetics as fascinating as I did. Then it happened!
My basic massage teacher was talking about fascia… and within a week my shiatsu teacher was also talking about fascia. Somehow both these teachers, from far ends of the spectrum, where both interested in connective tissue, for completely different reasons. Soon after, my clinical massage instructor was talking about, well, you guessed it, fascia!
Within a few weeks, I came to a deeper understanding of this stuff. Connective tissue holds [bad] posture, holds [repressed] tissue memories and may be the place where the acupressure channels reside!
That was in 2001. Over the years that have followed, I have ebbed and flowed back and forth from more energetic times and more clinical times. All the while, I have been studying, correlating, and connecting concepts, teachings, modalities and traditions finding deep correlations between traditional and modern healing methods and various world views of the human body. The bridge that I have observed between those energetic ideas and those biomedical constructs isn’t just within the fascia [though that’s true also] it is the fascia itself!
Over this series, I would like to take you on a journey into, throughout, and all about the fascia.