Reported by: Mary Ann Gray Voorhies
This is what Thomas Hanna said to his student in his class of 1990.
We as students practice with each other so that we can experience what the sensations are like with our clients. This experience guides us how to help others. These are not just manipulative techniques. Our experience guides us. We do this so that we can learn to control our hands in such a way that we can almost tell the effect on the client. It’s important to understand what that other person feels. Become very aware. How can I help this person? This leads us into an understanding of what Carl Rogers came up with as an innovator in psychotherapy in relating to another person.
Instead of the one person imposing an authoritarian stance on the other person, we as somatic educators must learn unconditional positive regard for this person as though we were that person. It’s not that you pretend to love this person but to always have RESPECT for the person no matter who that person is. For if we have this attitude we realize that this person is me. Very few people do this.
There is a classic Hindu statement, tat tvam asi, which is the basis for Indian thought – a Sanskrit that means thus though art. It means that when the Hindu looks at the person young, old, sick, maimed, in the Hindu mind they are thought to think that “I am” that person. In other words, that person could be me, which is a sign of compassion. In the traditional Old English, a similar phrase would be “There but for the grace of God go I”.
When you work with your client, try to go into a professional mode in an abstract way addressing someone like yourself. And you are trying to create a certain experience for that person. We as somatic educators are creators of experience. We can have fun with it, create wonder and amazement, but what we are really teaching the person is to discover themselves. Not what they are, but what they can learn to do. When you work with your client you are doing something together.
Snap out of everyday perception and think of it as working with another person and teaching that other person to dance. Show them how it is an intimate relationship of feeling which is intangible. We are introducing a different reality, transformational in nature. We are not therapists. Not just there to take away pain. We do that, yes, but that is just the obvious part of it. We are learning to give that person freedom, autonomy, self-operating, self-balancing, self-controlling. It is somatic learning. That is how we are made. Our cortex never stops learning and we can reprogram it at any age.
This is not just any job. This is the dearest, most precious thing you can do. The most satisfying thing you can do with your life. It is more than healing. It is self-transforming. We are GIVING PEOPLE BACK THEIR LIVES. It is an ethical choice to have a vocation of this kind. You may be helping them to transform themselves and take control over painful muscular issues that have troubled them for many years. We represent a group of people that are very special, giving back control and autonomy. It is devotion, an intimate relationship between people.
It is a kind of religious choice to have a vocation like this. We are healthcare practitioners but much more. Normally people like this should be wearing robes and taking vows. There are moral and religious overtones. It is devotion, an intimate relationship between people. That we do this in the world is an ethical imperative. This is not just a job. We have enormous gifts to give to other human beings. Think of it: no drugs, no instruments, no machines, just you. You can go anywhere in the world and give people back their lives. We are on the frontiers. What is the limit? How much CAN we teach? WE TEACH WHAT NO ONE EVER THOUGHT WAS TEACHABLE, NAMELY HOW TO CONTROL ONE’S OWN PHYSIOLOGY. Because of the mind/body split, people thought that these things were not possible. One can change his own body. Mind over matter – yes, but in a special way. It is somatic!
I, the writer, feel that it is Holy.