“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.” - Jim Morrison
A shift occurred. I can’t remember when it happened but now I don’t see the same way as I did before. I’ve acquired an appreciation for the body and its various forms, shapes, and sizes. Irregularities only exist when things are compared to charts and graphs that are composed from thousands of years of research on thousands of subjects. Not one body is perfect in its function and structure but I still feel as if I’ve seen perfection through how well a form is embodied.
Aside from the shift in perspective there’s been a shift in embodiment. I’ve been aware of the idea of patterning since I was a child but it hasn’t had so much a place in my thoughts as it does today. Growing up I saw what worked for people and what didn’t work in terms of physical activity. When I played baseball, for example, I’d swing like one of the pros I saw at Turner Field. I probably thought more about how I’d hit the ball than actually hitting the ball. Later on I would consider more the patterns existing in the mind and even later would I consider the patterns as they are with us subconsciously, both physical and mental. I would even say sometimes I’d explore the spiritual.
Observing patterns is not just a helpful activity, it’s a necessary one if I want to do the work well that I do now. The best way to practice though is to observe things in myself. We’ll go back in time. I was six. One day I was looking at my father, he was angry about something. That night I had a dream. I dreamed I heard someone shouting next door. I went into the house to see my dad pointing a rifle at my mom, my brother, and our neighbors. He was angry about something. Without skipping a beat I ran and jumped into a flying side kick like Bruce Lee in Chinese Connection. It must’ve been 20 feet but my foot made it all the way to the gun. It flew out my dad’s hands...but I kept flying. I went straight through the window on the other side of the room and immediately dropped 20 feet down to the ground. I woke the next morning and found out he was dead. He was sad about something.
Skip forward a few months. Our family just moved from Atlanta to Beaufort. We rented an historic home near the waterfront in downtown. I’m in the living room crying because I’m too scared to walk through the house alone. My brother and I believed it was haunted. I’d fallen asleep on the couch in the living room and had another dream. I was walking through a desert like place when I heard a scream. I turned to see our family’s tan Ford Taurus in the middle of the desert looking as if it had gotten in a bad wreck. The windshield glass was cracked and shattered. I walked closer and saw a person was sitting inside, not moving. It was my mother. Her head was bleeding. I banged on the door to wake her up. She wouldn’t wake up. Then I woke up. My mom had turned out all the lights and went to bed upstairs. In the dark I looked up from the couch to the dining room and saw green fog hovering over the dining table. That’s when I started yelling for her. It disappeared when she came down.
The fear of being orphaned accompanied me for a few years and it eventually subsided. The remnants of it though remained in my psyche and in my patterns of behavior. I spent a lot of time around my mom and as the years went by it didn’t always feel like it was because I wanted to. A lot of times I felt like I had to. If I didn’t, she’d die. I had to know she was safe and okay. It was bit of a burden to be that kind of monitor but it was a self-imposed obligation. I took to it and held on to it. The problem was not being able to let go and reach for anything else. I acquired an inability to expand or open up but I learned from others how to relate. Sometimes I learned from actors in movies how to act. I felt like observing characters in movies was a legitimate way to learn about human relationships until I saw Cable Guy. I learned from real people as well though. We still spent a lot of time on base so I got some patterning from the recruits as they passed us saying “Afternoon, ma’am” within a step of each other. I got some patterning from my grandmother, aunts, and uncles who helped provide us with a great deal of relief. What I would come to find later on is how much patterning I acquired from my mother. I’m always working, thinking about work, or looking for work. I go to the grocery store about two to three times a day. I sleep next to a line of papers and books. I say the word “sorry” a thousand times a day. I hold on to things for others, especially my breath.
Holding on requires a bit more than just a strong will or mental stubbornness. It requires form. From my experience that form looks a lot like an externally preferenced human being. I’ll have to explain what I mean by that. If you know about somatotypes then you’ll probably understand how models like those can be used as tools for seeing a body and its intrinsic qualities. With somatotypes there are three different types of people: endomorphs, ectomorphs, and mesomorphs. People may be more like one than the others or they can be some combination of the two. Given a certain type there are other qualities which can be associated to that particular type of person. An ectomorph, for example, may have a naturally higher metabolism since they are typically leaner than the other two types. It’s a similar activity when Rolfers use internal and externally preferenced models. They say, like somatotypes, these types are naturally occurring and we have an innate predisposition to either one of them. It’s not a cut and dry science but it’s still very applicable in helping Rolfers determine how to approach their work in efforts to get a person to fully embody their type and live to its fullest potential.
An internal naturally has a relaxed and submissive posture outlined by exaggerated curves in the spine. Another quality is their preference for exhaling and letting go. Externals naturally have a more erect and energetic posture outlined by less curves in the spine. They typically have longer in-breaths than internals. There are long lists of musculoskeletal formations associated with each type but I’m not yet at a point of understanding to go into too much more detail about it. What I wanted to highlight here is that it's not just nature that inclines us towards one or the other. We can learn another type as well and end up wearing it on top of what qualities we naturally have. I only think this because of my own experience and exploration around how I am in my own structure. Through trauma after trauma I braced. I learned to brace since I was young and I’ve been holding my breath for a long time. I put on the external suit to keep myself going because submitting didn’t feel like an option. People call it things like “sucking it up”, “biting your lip, “picking yourself up by the bootstraps”. I used idioms like those to excuse not letting go and I used abuse like a masochist. Hurt inspired me and gave me power. It helped me keep my head up with the help of my traps and my ass tight with the help of my hammies. My diaphragm preferred to sit in my belly in order to make room for the lungs holding on what air I could causing everything to barrell out. I did my best to sit and stand as erect as possible in order to help support a life of discipline and self sacrifice...like the recruits...like my father.
I spent the bulk of my 20s on a regimented schedule. Everything was some form of training or preparation for something to come. I studied, exercised, studied, worked, exercised, worked, and would sleep because I had to. Those were my days...all of them. Occasionally I was given a bit of a leave when I was lucky enough to go AWOL for love. I’d usually end up missing the barracks too much and find myself with someone who didn’t feel right because the accompanying regimen wasn’t there to define me and give me purpose. That or the seriousness with which I would make my escape was too much for my partners. I don’t think they understood, nor I myself, that to be in love meant to let go of the safest place I’ve known since I was a child. It wouldn’t be easy and I wasn’t taking it lightly. I always came back though. I’d find my heart underneath all of that armour and lay it out on the table. Again, I spent most of my time bracing against doing that because I knew I was taking a risk. It’d get attached and it then would again suffer detachment when it’s source would fade or die away. It’d be left out on its own, bare and depleted. The regimen always felt like a sanctuary as well as my armour.
In receiving the work of Rolfing I believe my innate patterns have been uncovered mainly through breath work. Breathing is where I could embody letting go. All I had to do was exhale. The structural work also helped to uncover what’s underneath those external layers. What I kept finding underneath the tissue was the memories of my life and the behaviors around them that gave me purpose. I felt abandoned, used, rejected, abused, and those were things I held on to. They defined me and they gave me purpose. I ate them up like a hungry wolf eats fresh meat. It wasn’t just my father’s life that defined my own but he helped accelerate my exploration into how to live given the knowledge that things can wash away no matter how hard you hold on to them. I’ve learned better to let go and I think a great part of it has to do with getting my body to do it first.
Separation anxiety hits you first physiologically. I know this. Even if in your head you know things are okay your heart will still pound given a certain stimulus. I can tell myself a hundred times that it’s nothing but my body won’t silence the alarms and eventually I become more of what my heart is, fearful. When I address the breath it affects the heart and when the heart is touched it feels itself and starts to know itself as it is in the moment, healthy and strong, rather than the memory of what is once was before, frozen and shattered. It’s still a process and I still sometimes feel the weight of iron on my shoulders. The back and forth though is becoming less and less frequent with each year that passes and with each moment someone or something is able to touch what lies beneath.