RELEASING OLD HABITS INTO EXPANDED STATES
Recent Grammy Award Winner Charlie Porter immediately after his first CST/Energetics of Performance session; January 7, 2019. Charlie's website for booking performances, clinics and private online lessons is:
“The first step in releasing an outdated habitual movement is to simply slow down the movement enough to allow yourself to be conscious of it.”
Starting a Session: Physical Reference Moves
As a practitioner who often assists clients with structural issues and chronic pain from injuries caused by repetitive stress, I often start sessions with physical reference moves. This technique gets people used to slowing down habitual movements enough to be more conscious of how and why they move in the ways they move. As a result, they are able to understand more about why they feel the way they feel as they move.
We often start sessions by having new visitors check their arm mobility by slowly raising and lowering the left arm; then slowly raising and lowering the right arm. We have them repeat this process a few times, asking them to notice the difference in the perceived weight of each arm and the range of effortless motion on each side as their arms extend upwards.
Most new clients we see come in with some form of limited mobility in their arms, due to the effects of overuse, old injuries and/or repetitive stress. These simple arm movements allow them to identify how rotator cuff, AC or clavicle issues and more - possibly dating back months even years that they may have forgotten about - might be limiting their arm’s functional mobility.
The old saying that assessment is the first step in treatment usually applies in these situations. Using slow movements to evaluate any part of one’s body will start the process of relieving physical stress; and in the process, start rebalancing the autonomic nervous system. Combining reference moves with a few gentle, hands-on neuromuscular suggestions will immediately have a soothing effect - allowing the client to release held tension and notice that they are breathing more easily than they did when they first arrived.
Learning to consciously track their quality of physical movement in these reference moves also serves the dual purpose of preparing them for evaluating the quality of more subtle energetic movement through the body later in their session.
Once the person slows down enough to be more conscious of how they feel as they move, this same evaluation can be used to assess ease of movement in other body parts or in other areas of the body. Examples might in include checking the lower jaw by moving it slowly from left to right, and then from front to back. This can indicate whether a jammed temporal mandibular joint (TMJ) might be causing pain or discomfort when chewing food - or for musicians, when playing a wind instrument (This is an issue in the majority of clients we see; musicians and non-musicians alike).
Another common example would be testing the ability of the hyoid bone in the throat to freely move from side to side and from front to back. This can indicate whether a shear lesion or compression lesion is contributing to delays in swallowing, which in turn can cause clarity issues in articulation when talking or when playing a musical instrument.
The value in these types of physical reference moves can be found in every area of the body: Do the fingers of the left hand flex into a fist more easily than the fingers of the right hand? Does the head have more range of motion when turning to the left or the right? Does the left leg feel heavier when lifted off the table than the right leg… and when walking, does one lead more with the left leg or the right leg? All of these possible reference moves and many more combine to provide one way to map the patterns of physical issues to be addressed in a session. Having the practitioner keep a record of progress in these movements over time can be helpful to track and reinforce the progress of rehabilitation.
Through neuroplasticity based neuromuscular re-education, the problematic physical lesions and asymmetries that are identified during a session can usually be quickly improved, if not mostly (or even completely) resolved. This results in more effortless breathing, more effortless full body movement, and especially important for instrumental musicians, enhanced full body resonance.
Energetic Extremity Scans
A more subtle but equally important level of reference scan involves the sense of energetic connection one experiences throughout the body. For example, does the left leg or the right leg feel more energetically connected to the torso and the rest of one’s body? Is the left arm or the right arm more energetically connected to the torso? If there is a disconnect in an arm, is the void felt more at the shoulder, at the elbow or at the wrist? One part of this full body scan that is often an important indicator of how to proceed in a session is the scan for the energetic connection between the head and the torso. Clients will often find that their head feels either considerably more connected to the torso than the other extremities, or considerably less connected to the torso than the other extremities. This is more often than not directly related to how well the client’s mental body is integrated to the physical and other bodies that combine into the totality of who we are.
It is interesting that during table sessions, guided meditations to aid mental body or emotional body integration will often greatly relieve the physical head and neck alignment issues referred to in medical circles as variations in cervical dystonia. Addressing a given repetitive stress misalignment from more than one access window, such as working with some combination of the mental, emotional or higher bodies, will almost always produce more comprehensive and long lasting physical relief.
In assessing how energetically connected the limbs and other extremities are in a client, I encourage people to rate the amount of connection they experience between each extremity and their torso on a scale of 0 to 100: 0 being when the leg, arm or head feels completely disconnected - as if it were not there; and 100 being a perfect connection where the leg, arm and/or head actually feels like a fully integrated part of the torso. Clients often report a range of somewhere between 30 to 70 percent connection of the extremities to the torso when a session begins, which usually improves to between 80 to 100 percent connection to the torso by the end of the session. These ratings of energetic connection will usually - but not always - correspond closely to the degree of functional physical mobility of the given limbs.
An example of a common disconnect between physical mobility and energetic connection in extremities occurs when sensory neurons in an area or extremity seem to have less function than the motor neurons in the same area or extremity. Simply put, this means there is a disconnect between ones ability to move a part of their body and ones ability to feel the same part of their body move. This can occur in people experiencing peripheral neuropathy, for example. The fingers may move with close to full physical range of motion, but the feeling of connection between the fingers and the hand or arm may be greatly diminished.
People I work with who are predominately oriented in their mental body (often self described as “stuck in their heads”) generally feel a low percentage of energetic connection between their head and their torso. They also often suffer from physical head misalignments, such as sagital shift (a shift of the head forward from the rest of the spine), lateral shift (a shift of the head off one’s centerline to the side), and torticolis (the head tilted to one side). Many other head displacements are possible.
Notice to Academic Graduate Students: It could be a fascinating project for an aspiring musical scholar to write a doctoral paper tracking case studies of cervical dystonia symptoms and their corresponding NLP VAK modalities and NLP timelines in musicians. For those readers who are not familiar with NLP, you might want to explore it a bit… it’s remarkably powerful work.
More Connections Between our Physical, Mental and Emotional Bodies
It is interesting to note that the side of the body that has a predominance of physical lesions (areas that are physically blocked or congested) is more often the same side where the person feels their legs and arms to be less energetically connected to their torso. This side is also often where a client may carry unresolved emotional lesions as well. Please refer to my blog post on Emotional Integration for more detail.
Clients who are more connected through the physical, mental and emotional "bodies" usually feel much more connection between their head and their torso. Their head is more apt to be squarely oriented and closer to the midline of their body. By the conclusion of a typical table session, even someone who had reported an unusually low energetic connection between their head and their torso will typically have improved the connection there to the point that they often describe feeling their head as being “more their own,” or being “more connected to the rest of themselves.” They often describe their head as "floating over their body."
The Calculus of Life Meditation
When clients have additional follow up sessions, we often move on to more advanced work that literally takes this integration work to higher levels. One of several popular approaches my clients enjoy is a what I have named the “Calculus of Life” meditation.
The “calculus” here is based on a fundamental principal in life, and a bedrock in the work of Moshe Feldenkrais. The calculus is simply that conscious differentiation can lead to new levels of enhanced integration. This meditation involves taking the time to carefully differentiate and identify the unique size, position and availability of one’s mental and emotional bodies, relative to their physical body and individual timeline.
This is usually a highly dynamic meditation. Identifying and assessing the state of thesesubtle bodies can be a life changing learning experience. As part of the process, voids, displacements and other lesions in the client’s field may need to be addressed in order to aid the integration process. The sequence of work in this meditation is determined by a combination of variables, including the nature of the setup work performed in previous sessions and the degree of receptivity the client brings to the process.
In this work, as in most other practices, when someone has had as much as they can process for the day, an obvious “off ramp” appears and the session is complete. People who come in stating on their intake form under “session goals” that they are looking to relieve the feeling of being “stuck in their heads,” usually take to this meditation immediately.
Truly getting to know each aspect of our greater whole independently from the other aspects as they collectively contribute to the totality of who we are allows us to come together into a more integrated, unified being. I prefer to conduct these intense sessions in the late afternoon, as it’s typical that after these sessions, the client - even those who self identify as insomniacs - will sleep for 10 to 12 hours straight through as they begin to process the work. The insomniacs sometimes check in weeks or months later to tell me that they are still sleeping through the night!
Other Powerful Meditations for Expansion and Integration
This meditation is just one example of many powerful approaches I use in working with clients. Others include the “Unified Chakra Meditation,” the “Five Element Cleanse to Gaia Merge Meditation,” the “Circulation of Light Meditation” and the “Quick Conduit Meditation.”
The more you can balance your autonomic nervous system by strengthening its parasympathetic, the easier it will be to integrate the effects of these meditations into your everyday life. Practicing long, deep, slow breathing and avoiding stimulants and depressants (such as coffee and alcohol) in the period leading up these practices is encouraged.
More on all this coming soon in future blog posts...
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