“No Somnambulists or Visigoths:” Refined Perception in the Context of Rolfing® SI

One aspect Rolfing® Structural Integration that appeals to people is its promise of progress. While the effects of conventional massage often do not extend far beyond the end of the session, any Rolfing® session leaves lasting ripples in its wake. Rolfing SI seeks progress over time.

We implicitly expect such progress will be pleasant. Conversely, we tend to regard unpleasant experience as an indication that something is wrong. But this is not always the case. To demonstrate why pleasant experience is not the best measure of progress, consider the metaphor of a pizza with anchovies:

At any moment, our wonderful nervous system receives & processes an unfathomable quantity of information through our several sense organs. The whole metaphorical pizza represents this informational glut. But we never actually taste more than a single sliver; one minuscule fraction of the entire pie. While this might feel like a disappointment, it is actually to our benefit. Why? Because it mitigates indigestion. We must process experience just like we must digest pizza—too much & our bellies burst…or our brains. Digestion is a necessary precondition for us to make use of any substance, comestible or otherwise. In the case of our nervous system, staying within our digestive capacity demands a process of vigorous discrimination in order to determine where to invest our limited attentional resources. This radical filtration necessarily winnows out all but a small sliver of input (i. e. that which it deems relevant to our survival & hedonistic interest.) The rest of the pizza is relegated to the dustbin of the subconscious. Just don’t throw the anchovies out with the bathwater!

Through Rolfing & Rolf Movement® Integration, we use awareness of the body as a practice to train attention. As we develop this capacity, not only do we become more somatically attuned, but we also become more resilient. This is because with more subtle perception, we find ourselves able to identify & rectify imbalances at progressively earlier stages, thus precluding further trouble down the road. Somatic awareness is therefore a crucial measure of progress in the Rolfing process.

Attention is a skill & like any other skill, we develop it through practice. As our attentional horsepower builds, we find our perception becomes finer & finer so that naturally we notice things that erstwhile escaped our ken. This is to say that we increase the capacity of our conscious minds so that we are able to digest a higher proportion of the total information that our nervous systems receive. This means we get to enjoy a bigger slice of pizza. However, as our slice widens, it comes to encompass whatever toppings & condiments that happen to fall within the pizza-wheel’s trajectory. Significantly, as our awareness expands, we do not get to choose what we find.

It might be an anchovy,
Perchance a portobello,
Belike a clove of garlic,
Maybe just some marinara sauce
Or a wayward shaving of Parmesan.

The point is, we get whatever is there. This is how bad news can be good news: when we notice unpleasant sensations, those are what is true at that time & it’s a sign of progress that we are finally noticing them. So we are simply seeing what was already there. Carl Jung said

Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will rule our lives and we will call it ‘fate.’

By recognising these sensations, we are thereby able to respond appropriately. If we fail to feel these things, we’re sleepwalking. Sufi mystics say God pervades all things, & that:

God sleeps in the rock
Dreams in the plant
Stirs in the beast
And awakens in (wo)Man.

God’s state of consciousness according to the Sufi, then, represents the breadth of human experience—the whole enchilada, to mix metaphors of world cuisine. Vegetables & minerals don’t eat enchiladas. Of course, they don’t know what they’re missing….and neither do we if we’re asleep.

No Somnambulists or Visigoths!

Those might be the words on the sign outside Saint Peter’s Pizza-Parlour. In other words:
If you’re happy & you know it, clap your hands.
If you’re despondent & you feel it, stamp your feet.
But if you don’t know what you are, then don’t do anything because you can’t.
It might be that as one’s awareness stabilises, one can no longer sit for indeterminate amounts time, contorted in global flexion like a hungry chimpanzee, fixated on a computer monitor as if it were a termite-mound—the poignancy that we now feel such painful sensations withal demands periodic activity. Or maybe we can’t even wear Danskos. When we hear the body’s cries, we can respond to them. If we lack this awareness, the cries fall on deaf ears & we expose ourselves to injury down the road.

Ultimately, life consists of the aggregate of our experience— no more, no less. As our perception increases, likewise does the richness & poignancy of life. We experience life in a higher bandwidth—higher crests & lower troughs are equal expressions of the same expansion. Sometimes it’s pleasant, sometimes it’s unpleasant, sometimes it’s neutral. But the crux of the whole thing is…it is at all.


“No Spiders or Visigoths” from Life is Beautiful


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