Integration: Epilogue

Now that you, fair reader, have navigated Integration’s four realms, your understanding of the term will have blossomed along the journey. Like the four blind men who feel an elephant, one reports its solid, another that it’s serpentine, etc…. The aggregate of their testimonies, however, allow us through a sort of conceptual triangulation to apprehend the true nature of the noble pachyderm itself. Likewise with the concept of integration, our understanding deepens as we consider diverse perspective. There remains a danger, however, in misteaking the menu for the meat, as it were:

True integration is not a concept, it’s an experience.

I follow a special diet so I don’t eat menus. Nevertheless I find it all too easy to conflate the two. Intellectual apprehension is a tool towards a deeper knowing; it is not the knowing itself. Use this preceding series as a tool, an instrument—a compass to guide you to the unassuming patch of earth, and as a spade to excavate the real treasure withal.

Einstein called the rational mind “a faithful servant” and then observed that “We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” We will probably always make this mistake, but maybe in 2015 we can do it a little less…



Integration IV: The Intersubjective Culmination

In the three posts hence, we have considered several different understandings of the term “integration.” In the final installment of this series, I intend to offer forth a fourth conception of the term; a culmination that in some sense integrates the prior three!

No individual subsists in isolation. We could say that this statement is self-evident & it would almost be fitting to relegate it to the dustbin of tired platitudes. But we often conduct our affairs as if we were entirely autonomous entities, like the island of Corsica. Attempt, however, to identify a man without reference to what he is doing, the space he is occupying, his orientation to another object, his political affiliation with the French government, etc… and we inevitably recognise this fundamental inter-dependency of all things, even Corsica, in fact—if nothing else, it depends on not being gobbled up by rising sea-levels. Contingency characterises existence. No aspect of our world does not depend upon another—
The whole depends on the parts,
The parts depend upon one another other
& one and another parts depend on the whole.
The various systems that we have considered in this series thus far—from (1)the levers, pulleys, & tensegritous-meridians of our physical structures, to the (2)interaction of our organisms with the material world, to the (3)internal congruence of our multi-faceted being—all demonstrate this pervasive contingency. In each of these systems, the emergence of an aggregate depends on the interplay of all the parts, just as all the parts depend for meaning on their context within the whole.

Given the breadth of inter-dependence in our lives, it is somewhat startling how often we altogether neglect the wider implications of this condition, particularly as it arises in our relationship to our surroundings. Adam Smith wrote that

No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.

Smith’s quote anticipates just such an intersubjective understanding of integration as I wish to offer in this post. In some sense, this broader scope was our perspective from the very start, only until now it remained implicit. Quite simply, as we appreciate ourselves persisting like herring in a sea continual exchange of information, we perceive a broader context of every action. Like omni-centric ripples emanating from ten-thousand single points, each action initiates anew a new causal cascade, all contained within the greater torrent.

The complexity of this exchange defies apprehension by our reason. And yet we sense the harmony of this great orchestra of inter-connectivity. Communicability of information & attitude through posture is what I call meta-kinetical relativity. It is a sympathetic vibration of sorts; like neighboring strings on a Stradivari violin, the one can scarce contain its own vibrations so that soon it disseminates its frequency to its impressionable fellow. It is a potential for outward expansion of harmony until the latter resonates throughout an entire concert-hall, an entire continent, the Milky-Way. Meta-kinetical relativity finds material expression in alignment & posture. But like the initial tremble of a cello-string that soon blossoms into the baseline of Le quattro stagione, this is but a sliver of a grander experience. To limit our ken to pure mechanics would be to tour the Sistine Chapel staring at our feet, or playing Scrabble™ on our iPhones.

Intersubjective integration arises when meta-kinetical relativity resonates beyond the body to inform the greater symphony. No longer are we isolated by the artifice of individuality. String Theory of modern physics postulates such interconnected resonance. Our fates are intimately bound by strands of reality. Imagining connective bands as strings on a hand-crafted violin, let us then take steps to sound in concert!

Take someone who slouches in the elevator, standing crookèd & sporting a nasty scowl withal. She might not appreciate it, but she’s continually broadcasting an attitude of dis-ease, discontent, & lack of vigour. As the strings on our proverbial viola, which can scarce contain their tremble & soon begin to buzz in resonance with their neighbors, sympathetic vibration dictates that all of us around her can’t help but pick it up on the sayd sloucher’s frequency. Or likewise might one broadcast the “mien of lord or lady,” communicating ease & dignity to her surrounding. Naturally it’s no one’s decision how another lives her life. But we do make choices for ourselves, & this decision is not without wider effect. Let us then each take care that our own note be concordant! This is the bloom of integration beyond the single subject. All melodies converge in a crescendo of intersubjective integration, a music whose stately billows wash over the sayd sloucher as an ocean wave that clears the sand in which some thoughful fellow had written the f-word, for example.

It’s rather simple actually (I just pretend it deserves four posts’-worth of wordy discourse for an excuse to muse about it): the better we feel in our bodies, the better we feel in our minds & the better everyone feels in general. We all have experienced that feeling good is often a sufficient condition for us to spread our joy through generosity to others. If there’s a moral principle to posture, it could be nothing other than this.

In short, seek integration on all strata! Step into your title as an upright & upstanding citizen, literally & figuratively! You can rest contentedly in so doing, knowing that you are compounding joy throughout the universe! Call the Traveling Rolfer today!


Integration III: Intra-Subjective Equilibrium

Through the process of Rolfing® Structural Integration, we invariably arrive at a more refined awareness of our bodies. We furthermore begin then to take notice of factors & conditions that influence their state. Our bodies do not operate in a vacuum, but rather function in an unimaginable interplay of information, continually exchanged between a myriad inter-dependent systems. We recognise a crucial component in this eternal commerce to be our peculiar pychological conditions. Mind & body dance together in this exchange; inseverable partners in this perpetual polka. As one changes steps, so follows the other.

Rolfing® Structural Integration strives to expand our kinetic awareness. Yet the scope of the latter presents no limit to the former’s effects—mind & body are not the only partners in the ballroom. We recognise indeed the mind to be a mirror of the body. We also see the converse: that the state of the soma as an image of the psyche. This relationship, however, transpires amidst innumerable conditions & stimuli peculiar to every situation.

So mind mirrors body—& everything else, ad infinitum. The interplay within this mise-en-abimê is extraordinary: how often have we noticed tension in the jaw upon awakening from a particularly unpleasant fantasy featuring Siberian tigers & tax-collectors after having cared for a little-too-friendly neighbor’s bloodthirsty tom-cats? And we notice that it is an exceedingly rare occasion indeed that we meet the severe physical adversity of vicious house pets with unadulterated equanimity of mind.

It is not logically impossible to sever the psycho-somatic marriage & achieve complete autonomy for mind & body from one another (neither is a “triangle with four sides”, for that matter), but it is obviously natural. And I am not convinced it were even desirable. Life is naturally integrated, psycho-somatic. Reductionism in this matter would be…reductionistic, like arbitrarily partitioning pure water, or randomly compartmentalising the human body—which is not made of pieces—as one finds accomplished by any anatomy reference book. We divide ourselves conceptually, & then we pretend we came that way.

Integration is to reconcile this rift—to usher in a reunion of our fragmented selves. As we explore & refine our awareness of our physical structures, we concomitantly deepen our awareness of our psychological ones. “Man, know thyself!” was the immortal counsel etched in the stone at the Oracle of Delphi. Rolfing® SI provides a method for this great enterprise.


Integration II: Relationship to the Environment

In the first post of this series, I introduced an aspect of integration that I described as “internal congruence.” We might also designate this condition as intra-structural integration. In this second post, we will hear the next blind man’s testimony about the elephant of integration: I will offer another interpretation of the fruitful & enigmatic term, describing an integration that is inter-structural. This is to say that it is not within, rather between subjects.

When I reach for my cup of Columbian coffee on the countertop at quarter till seven on Tuesday morning, am I relating to the peculiar confluence of conditions of this singular situs? Or is my gesture outdated? Is the kinetic expression of my will to imbibe this pleasant draught mitigated by some rusty remnants of an obsolete habit? I broke my ulna in the third grade. Though time has mended the bone, a pattern of latent tension endured through the decades, insidiously rearing it’s rigidity in the interosseous membrane with any pronation. It took a skillful elbow in my ninth Rolfing® session seventeen years later to reinvigorate the ossified fascia of my forearm. I cannot claim I flatter myself that I am unique in my erstwhile affliction by a superannuated habit.

Integration with the environment means that such habits do not prey on my present-time relationship to my surroundings. Integration with the environment means relating directly to my circumstances—to the precise context & conditions. Returning to the earlier example, when rigidity in my membranes stifles fluid apprehension of an half-empty/full coffee-mug, I touch the ceramic only indirectly. My relationship is mediated by my past; tension isolates me from my surroundings. I don’t really touch the cup; instead I never escape the mummifying layers of ancient tension that divorce me from the material world. Rolfing® SI strives to re-establish an original union so that I actually touch the true cup & feel it’s fired clay beneath my fingertips.


Integration I: Internal Congruence

“Structural Integration promises structural integration in ten sessions!”

“Wait—what does that even mean?”

Through the course of the following four posts, I mean to broadly delineate several distinct yet inter-related understandings of the concept of integration. First I think it fitting to note that, when circumstances required that she coin a name for her method, Ida Rolf settled on the title of “Structural Integration.” If she was a narcissist, this was certainly not evident in the name she chose for her work—only following her death did her survivors begin to call the method “Rolfing.” Both being reasonable designations, we call it Rolfing® Structural Integration.

Rolf’s original name for her work encourages us to question we are to understand by “integration of structure.” In my conception, there are several different interpretations of this term, each of which provides a useful aspect & contributes to a fuller understanding of the method’s essence. Like the blind men & the elephant, let us therefore examine this behemoth of a term from four different angles such that, in final consolidation, we might find ourselves with a clearer understanding of the nature of “integration.”


Most basic & barbarous of all interpretations of the term “integration” is to conceive of its reference to biomechanics. “Are the blocks stacked?” we might inquire relative to a given structure. The Rolfing® logo depicts this concept. Integration emerges when the blocks relate to one another in a balanced manner. When our bones align in both stillness & movement, integration manifests. Trauma, stress & injury reveal themselves through tension in the connective tissue. The sayd tension pulls the skeleton into dis-integration, or deviation from this biomechanical balance. The Rolfer’s™ task is therefore to remove such inhibitions to optimal alignment. Integration presupposes relationship. In this understanding of the term, the relationship in question is that between the sundry segments of a supposed subject’s structure & the field of gravity as it acts upon them.

This blind man felt the elephant’s leg & quoth

It’s solid, like the trunk of an oak tree.

In the posts to follow, we will consider further interpretations of “integration” in order to deepen our understanding of our work.