The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close-up.
It’s a Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte. I first saw the island with Cameron while he was playing hookie with Ferris at the Art Institute of Chicago. He was having a moment then where he became overwhelmed by seeing the all pervasive nothingness as he noticed more and more of the numerous dots composing the framed scene. It was as if he was all of a sudden made aware of the reality of existence by seeing each and every molecule making up the reality before him. It wasn’t just a bunch of people, dogs, trees, boats, and water. It was a bunch of dots, thousands of them, and each one was just as important as the other yet so unique to itself that it could be given it’s own story-line.
If tiny dots are the pointilistic nature of things then it’s no stretch to imagine why we’ve assigned so much importance to the tiny dots that compose real physical matter. The bigger picture of reality depends on how our dots are arranged. If they’re altered, we are altered as well. As we’ve constructed ways to dive deeper and deeper into the depths of matter and energy we’ve created new levels at which to see and appreciate reality. With our eyes suctioned to a lens a question comes to mind. Are we still seeing the bigger picture? It seems like it’s a matter of choice. It seems there is an art to seeing and not ending up having an existential crises like Cameron did when brought face to face with the real components of our being. I believe there is a real art to seeing and Ida Rolf was one of its known bests. She created an entire school and program intended to not only improve the public's health and well-being but also to train people to see the bigger picture.
Like Seurat’s work the human body is a similarly fascinating composition of numerous parts but what we see when we look at a person’s body and how we experience a human being is very different. This is where “holism” comes into play. I thought about ending my first summary of the five principles of Rolfing with “closure” but I didn’t yet have as many thoughts about holism as I do now after writing about adaptability, support, palintonicity, and closure. It now seems appropriate to me to close with holism. Holism, theoretically speaking, is the integrated application of the first four principles. Though Rolfers may have any one or two principles in mind as priorities during sessions they are all in effect at varying levels during the entire course of a session.
When we talk more about applying this principle it’s easier to see the differences between working holistically and not working holistically. When we look at Seurat’s painting we don’t perceive a bunch of tiny colorful dots. We see an island with a bunch of happy French people. When we look at a person we don’t see just a composition of arms, legs, organs, hormones, and so on. We see a human being with associated memories and emotional attachments. We are definitely more than the sum our parts but manual therapy as well as other therapies may fall into such segmentation when dealing with physical or psychological issues. There is this mental magic we perform in order to distance ourselves from our ailments as if they don’t have anything to do with us. We see these issues as alien, parasitic, deformities, chemical imbalances, or even demonic. So we approach such things as unknown and potentially toxic. We put on our metaphorical hazmat suits (e.g. rubber gloves, doctor googles, scalpels, microscopes, etc) and start poking around.
There are times when simply unraveling the kink does just the trick but it’s more often that the kink itself is a result of something bigger and seemingly unrelated. That’s why when I, as a Rolfer, come across an issue in the tissue I feel encouraged to keep a soft gaze and see the whole person rather than one spot. In turn, I see a lot more by looking at, touching on, and talking with the whole being who is ultimately the best clue to what I'm really trying to address. It’s like the difference between trying to see where smoke is coming from by standing in the middle of a forest when as opposed to a seeing from a watch tower. The art of seeing is holism. It’s learning how to climb the watchtower in order to get a better view of the entire forest, also known as the “client”. That’s the nature and power of taking a holistic approach to therapeutic touch. Nothing goes untouched, unseen, or unappreciated and each part is further supported by the improved health of its surrounding structures. If I keep digging at symptoms then I may find myself still in the woods putting out the same fire over and over again until it finally spreads.